September 25, 2011

Growing pains?

Last night I dreamed that for some reason I was being asked to sacrifice my eyes. In the way of dreams, the storyline makes no sense, but this sacrifice would somehow benefit my husband. Our friends who live nearby were pressuring me and telling me what I would lose if I was not willing to do this. In my dream, I was trying to ignore them.

Waking up from a dream like that is often like the bell that keeps ringing after the rope is no longer pulled, or like the aftertaste from drinking something with artificial sweetener. It rattled around inside my head as I got ready for the day. Then I read these verses . . . 

And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (Matthew 5:41–42)
The key word in the first line is “forces.” Even at that, I can see myself being willing to go the first mile, but the second? I’m not too good with beggars either. If literally stopped on the street, I shake my head. I look the other way when driving by those who sit on the side of the road with cardboard signs. Most of the time they seem to me as if this is their “day job” and they have a car parked around the corner.

I’m better with those who want to borrow something, but not much. It has taken me years to lend anyone my books, partly because I love the books and partly because I’ve had a few that didn’t come back. However, God is teaching me that He is my supply. If I need anything, He will provide it.

Actually, no one has ever forced me to go one mile. This is a description of something the Roman soldiers were doing in Jesus’ day. They had heavy gear and would grab someone from the crowd to carry it, often for a long distance. Nevertheless, there are other things that people or situations demand. We have guests this weekend. Hospitality means setting aside regular schedules. However, going that distance is not difficult. Jesus isn’t talking about the easy stuff. He uses the word “forces” which means being pressed or compelled into service.

On the other hand, beggars and borrowers abound. I’ve lots of opportunities to be obedient to the lifestyle Jesus describes concerning them. Yet I’m not impressed by those who sponge off others when they could be working for a living. I also know that enabling the dishonest is never a loving act. How can I know who is really in need? It seems that great discernment is required.

Besides that, these verses are sandwiched between a section on making and keeping oaths and one on loving my enemies. No one should ever read this or any other part of the Sermon on the Mount and think these are more “rules” for Christian living. We are not able to live like this apart from the grace of God that changes hearts. Instead of “rules” to be followed, this is the high standard of God that shows me how needy I am. Jesus calls for a radical lifestyle from His followers, but thankfully also offers radical grace to do it.

Lord, You continually challenge me to trust You in the circumstances of life, both in the expected daily stuff, and the unexpected. I have no idea if someone plans to force me to do anything today or any day, but I’m glad that You used a nonsensical dream to show me that I do not have a very good attitude about going the second mile or giving up what is mine to someone who needs it. I agree with You. I also know that grace abounds for those who are in need of it . . . and here I am — again in need.

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