I used to find this passage from Matthew disturbing... threatening almost. That phrase whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same..... I found scary because, shoot, when haven't I broken one of the "least" of the commandments? When, by my actions, have I been an example of the wrong way to do things, thereby teaching others? "I'm up the creek without a paddle" I used to think. "There's no way back" I would think. I felt condemned by what Jesus said.
But there is a second part to that verse that scared the beeswax out of me.... Jesus ends that verse by saying about those he condemns that they will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.... And there is my salvation, there is my release valve.... those who break the least of those commandments are still in the kingdom of heaven. Still in, not excluded.
Who in this world hasn't broken "the least" of the commandments? Who hasn't modeled inappropriate behavior for others to mimic? Certainly we want to strive for better, but we are all also human and make mistakes. Part of the good news in today's Gospel selection is that we are still in the kingdom of heaven, even with our faults and mistakes and failures. This loving and forgiving God wants us in that kingdom, but also wants us to strive to do better.
Perhaps not so far up the creek as I thought.
Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. Al Rights Reserved.