Jesus is setting forth a very different view of the world today - a different way of being in the world for those who would be his followers. We are not even supposed to look at someone with lust, with desire. No divorce, except because of unfaithfulness. Tomorrow we will hear Jesus tell us that we are not to not respond to our enemies, to not seek revenge. A very different world indeed.
Our readings begin pretty easily with the end of the tale of Naaman and Elisha and Elisha's servant Gehazi, who acts wrongly and is punished for that transgression. The readings take a difficult turn with the verses from 1 Corinthians where the sainted Paul instructs his followers to reject, to ignore, to push out of the community those who have sinned (in this case a man who is "living" with his father's wife). Having had this verse put into action against me by certain conservative members of my seminary class, I have a particular heartache over this passage. And then we have Jesus telling us to put aside those human desires that get in the way of our making the kingdom happen, of our being a part of that kingdom.
Jesus is telling us to move away from our lesser selves and toward our better selves. This is a daily challenge, even a moment by moment challenge for many of us. But all three of these passages should not be taken in a literal manner, but as metaphor, as a hoped for goal to which we all need to strive. Challenging, yes. Impossible, maybe. A goal, absolutely: with God's help.
Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.