Certain uncertainty

At various times in my life, I have thought it would be nice to live in a black-and-white world…where there is only one right answer to any particular question…where there are no doubts about belief…where you can go to a book and get a specific answer as to how you should behave. Sometimes it seems as though that would be so very comfortable…and so comforting.

But I also think it would be stifling.

The reality is that the world we live in is full of options–which means it is also full of questions. It’s always growing…always changing. And that requires me to do the same.

Yes, I could live in absolute certainty. I could make decisions based on what I knew at one specific point in my life and say that those decisions are good for all times. But that would be like looking at my 2-year-old granddaughter and expecting her to be making the same decisions when she is 21 as she does now.  I would be sad if she had not learned more during those 19 years! Her understanding of what life involves should have changed…and so should her relationships with others…and her abilities.

I’ve come to understand for myself the truth of the saying that the only constant is change.

If it weren’t so, we would still be fearful of so many diseases that we have learned the causes of and how to treat. We would not understand the inter-relatedness of decisions we make with the environment. We would not have the ability to connect with family and friends around the world. And on and on…

So…

I am content to live in certain uncertainty…to be willing to struggle with difficult questions…to recognize that any particular set of laws was written for a specific time and set of situations–and to look for the ways in which they can be appropriately applied in my own time and set of situations.

And I am content to live in the certainty that the only way to deal with the uncertainty of life is to do the best I can to live on what the One I follow said were the two greatest commandments: (1) to love God with all my being, and (2) to love my neighbor just as much as I love myself.

To the least of these…

The lead-off story on our local news tonight was about the children who have been killed this year by parents or caregivers. In some of them, the children have been victims of revenge shootings…or have been caught in the middle when one parent was trying to kill someone else.

But in one of them, the child was killed when the mother’s boyfriend jumped from the bed onto the child’s chest.

Really?

Yes, I know kids can get on our nerves. They can be demanding…they can’t always articulate what they want or what hurts…and it’s sometimes difficult to get them to stop crying.

But parents and caregivers are supposed to be adults…and adults are supposed to be more patient. They’re supposed to provide children with the love and care they need to be able to grow up healthy.

I know that doesn’t always happen.

But when and if they can’t, they need to find others to help. Sometimes family members know there are issues and step in; other times they don’t know until it’s too late.

Children depend on adults.

When did we stop understanding that? When did we become so focused on our own personal needs and desires that we began seeing children as distractions?

If we cannot help our children thrive, then what will happen to our next generations?

In my own faith tradition, Jesus tells us that what we do to “the least of these,” we are doing it to him.

What are we doing to him?

Scribes and Pharisees…

There have been so many thoughts swirling through my mind these last few days as I have read the news stories (and comments) about the clerk in Kentucky who is refusing to issue marriage licenses because of her religious convictions. Some of them make me angry…some make me sad.

But as a follower of the one who was called Jesus, there is one scripture that keeps coming to my mind. Jesus seemed to have a running feud with those who were the religious leaders of his day. Not because he disagreed with their authority. In fact, he seems to recognize their authority to be teachers and interpreters of the law…and honors their concerns. The Pharisees were leaders who cared deeply for the implications of the Torah and who sought to understand it. The scribes were learned men whose business was to study the Law, transcribe it, and write commentaries on it.

But they were human, as are we. And by the time of Jesus, many of them had become rigid in their interpretations…and seemed to live as though the rules applied to others, not to themselves. They loved being seen…being recognized as being pious (holy)…

And that’s why I find myself struggling.

I don’t doubt that this clerk has strongly held religious convictions. But her own life seems to say that those convictions apply to others with whom she disagrees…not to herself. There is much in the Bible about divorce…yet she has apparently been married four times. There may very well be valid reasons for those divorces–but they are not scriptural.

Jesus called out the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees of his day. He encouraged his followers to listen to what they taught, because there was validity and worth to those teachings and the best of them encouraged ongoing interpretation of them. But it was the teaching, not the example that he encouraged them to follow. And–as was often the case–he challenged them…and us…to focus on the things that build people up and help them become who they can be:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.”–Matthew 23:23

May we all learn how to focus on those weightier matters…justice, mercy, and faith.