Infestation

In decrying injustice, we tend to focus on the tall nails – the people with power that misuse it. In the end, though, these people really do not amount to much, because the power accumulated in love is so much greater than the power that they can scrape together here on Earth.

Rather, it’s the “scraping together” that is so hard to overcome. It’s like a disease of a certain type. We have these gifts all around us to use in healing the wounds left in us by selfishness. These gifts include food, air, light and companionship. The disease is to consume those gifts and do nothing with them while others do the work of bringing love into the world.

Anyone that has had the flu knows what it’s like to host this kind of activity. Jesus’ teaching on the matter reflects that reality. At the end of the parable of the talents, he commands [ESV Matt. 25:30]:

…cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This metaphor is the prop for conservative political philosophy. Indeed, the only coherent definition of “Conservatism” holds that institutions are extremely difficult to create, and are the first thing to collapse when resources are wanting. Therefore they must be conserved at all cost against the locust-like masses.

Unfortunately , the trap that has snared so many Christian Conservatives is built right into the parable of the talents. It is the convention that money is the measure of value, and so we weigh the contributions of our companions by the wealth they have accumulated. As explained in The Soul Comes First, however, Jesus’ reference to wealth was intended to be ironical. The parable was offered to a collection of disciples that didn’t have two minahs to rub together on the road to Jerusalem. Jesus didn’t inspire them with wealth – he inspired them with courage, purpose and faith. The disciples were being cautioned to mind that investment, and seek to expand its reach.

If on the cross Jesus took sin into himself to heal its effects, how would infestation have manifested in the project of Christ? Today I see it in ministers that substitute rigid rules for compassionate and creative problem-solving. It manifests more subtly in the queen bee that organizes social pressure to protect husbands and ministers threatened by those that seek to put love before convention. But it is also in those that come to church on Sunday seeking forgiveness for the sins they commit every other day of the week.

In my own case, I’ve been struggling for some time with another manifestation of infestation – a purely spiritual manifestation. In the great struggle against selfishness, there are personalities that live by the zones in which pressure builds. They siphon away energy, creating little kingdoms without contributing to the creation of a world guided by love.

Addicts call theirs “the monkey on my back.” In my own case, it’s been described as a fairy that chops at the side of my head with an axe. It’s been a source of injury to me. I’m not certain that was its intention, but in trying to manage my influence on the community I love, it’s drawn in all kinds of sin. Inevitably, it’s become infected itself.

Down at LA Ecstatic Dance yesterday (my last dance with them, unfortunately), Ataseia got me on the massage table and tried to push it out. He was really conscious of the process, pulling its roots out of my back and arms to push it up into my left shoulder, and then through my neck and up toward the crown chakra.

The immediate benefit has been a greater sense of connection to the left side of my body. But I’m not ready to let it go yet. It’s tied to one of those kingdoms I mentioned, and now that I’ve got it up in my mind, it’s time to cast some light into that realm. They’ve had their reasons for hiding, but now it’s time to put their talents to good use. While the rulers of that realm will resist the loss of autonomy, I’ve found that most subjects will embrace enthusiastically the opportunities presented to them.

It’s not the last such problem I’ve got to deal with – there is something wound about my waist that doesn’t respond to reason.

I offer this today to stimulate similar introspection in others. Each of us has a world inside, and some of those worlds are rich enough to support independent personalities. To discipline them to loving is necessary to our own immersion in Christ.

Sacred, Healing Heart

A sin is a sin because it leaves a wound in the spirit of our victim. That extends not only to other people, but to God himself. In both Genesis and the history following entry into the Promised Land, Yahweh cries out against the agony of his association with the people of Israel.

The Law was intended to guide the Chosen People into a path of righteousness – a way of living that kept sin from entering into our relationships. The challenge, of course, was that Israel was surrounded by people that lacked that same discipline. The relationship with God was insufficient to protect them from the sins of others.

In the books after return from exile, a common exhortation among the prophets is that the Gentiles must be allowed into the covenant with God. This flew in the face of Hebrew tradition, which passed the heritage through mothers. But it was intended to entrain a process that would eventually manifest in the spread of righteousness across the face of the earth.

And then comes Jesus to bear the sins of the world.

In common theology, this is seen as an act of retribution. In Christ Alone expresses this with a beautiful gratitude:

Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

But this is to think with the heart of men, not with the heart of God. Jesus tells so many parables of evil-doing that is forgiven by the grace of God. In every case, those stories reveal that it is not retribution that God seeks, but reconciliation.

The truth is approached in the last two lines of the stanza, particularly when seen in the light of Jesus’s promise to those that suffer [Matt. 11:28-29]:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

When offered, this was almost certainly seen as a promise to the few that heard, but on the cross it became true for all willing to receive the healing grace of the father. Jesus opened his heart to all of the sin of humanity, each of us finding a place in the tissue of his compassion. The sun shone its light into its chambers, and brought healing there.

This surrender has its dark side: Jesus, bearer of a perfect, spotless heart, allowed sinners to take up residence in it. He embraced the world in his love, knowing that to love is to give power to others. While his will washed against the tide of sin, he knew that some would use that power to hurt others – turning his power against his own heart.  Thus his declaration of its humility: he knows that his heart cannot heal us without empowering us to create suffereing.

To complete the work, then, his heart will be broken: some among those he loves will have to be cast out into the darkness. As he says about the power of loving in the parable of the talents [Matt. 13:12]:

Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.

But for those that have, to “pick up your cross” is not to bear the burden of sin. It is something far more joyful and hopeful. It is to offer yourself as a tool for the healing of others. It is to allow the love that fills you  to pass through you to those that suffer with fear, filling them until they, too, fear no longer.

It may seem unfair, to be required to heal those that hurt us. Only keep in sight the outcome of his agony  carried for these millennia (again from In Christ Alone):

And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ