The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Patching Cracks

 

March 28, 2018



A few weeks ago, I made a peanut butter sandwich for my son for lunch. He took his sandwich with him to his room, where he ate and played. Because he’s a typical four year old, it didn’t take long before he forgot about the sandwich and wandered off to do something else. When he remembered his lunch, he returned to it and found that the dog had eaten his lunch, which he had left on the floor in his room.

Frustrated, he came to me crying over his lost meal. I made another sandwich, which he took with him to his room. Sure enough, 30 minutes later my son came to me crying and complaining that the dog had again eaten the sandwich, which he had left unattended in his room.

He was very angry at the dog, so I did my best to explain to him that if he left his plate on the floor, the dog will eat it every time. It’s what dogs do. It would be strange for the dog to not eat food left unattended. It’s in his nature. A dog will automatically try to eat food it finds on the floor.

I’ve discovered that there is a great deal to be said for imitating this tendency. Not eating unattended food, specifically. Rather, it’s a great deal easier to live out a set of beliefs if they are part of who you are, rather than just using your willpower.

Recently, I have spoken with quite a few people about the difficulties involved in following the teachings of Jesus. Some of them seem downright impossible. For example, In Matthew 5, Jesus talks about the rule against committing adultery.

He says that it’s not enough to not actually cheat on your spouse, but that you have to go so far as to not look at women lustfully. If you do, he says, you’ve already committed adultery in your heart. This is a tall order, and as a rule, it seems unattainable.

The rest of the teaching is a similarly difficult, relating to anger, bragging, revenge, and other very human tendencies. I’ve known quite a few people who struggle with following these teachings as though they are rules to obey, which in a way they are. Rules are often hard, if they weren’t, they wouldn’t need to be rules at all.

Rules are difficult because they tend to run contrary to our nature. I don’t need to make a rule commanding my dog to eat food he finds on the floor. He’ll do it no matter what. It’s in his nature. I think what Jesus is aiming at in his teaching about adultery, along with the other teachings that appear to be impossible to follow because they run contrary to our basic nature, is to become a different kind of person.

I don’t think Jesus is telling folks to white knuckle the rest of their lives when dealing with attractive women. Rather, he is talking about becoming the kind of person who only looks at his wife in that way. This isn’t an instant thing. It involves heart change. It involves becoming the kind of person who doesn’t indulge in lustful thoughts. It is a process of spiritual transformation.

I’ve met musicians who have spent their whole lives studying and playing music, who can hear a song and analyze it automatically. These folks don’t need to try to do it, it’s en-grained in them. They haven’t always been that way, they have transformed into the kind of persons who do it. In the same way, God doesn’t necessarily call us to lives of following rules, though that is a very simple version of it. He instead calls us to be transformed, with His help, to become the kind of persons who act right by nature.

 
 

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