It says that increasing the chances of our success, survival and joy at the cost of another person’s success, survival and joy is perfectly justified as long as we aren’t directly hurting the other person. It says that my personal happiness is of greater import than sacrificing for another whose bad decisions probably got them in their current situation anyway.
But the Gospel is different. It’s dumb. …At least when we compare it to what we think of as wisdom.
In Luke 10, Jesus tells a pretty famous parable. In fact, all the good stories are famous. All the stories that tell us to go above and beyond, to love without limits, are right there on the nightstand of our culture, collecting dust. They’re there so we can point to them occasionally; so others might notice them, that it might seem that they inform our lives.
But we all know,
when reality strikes
we can’t be so coy about how to live.
Love is a good ideal to reach toward,
but we don’t see it as practical.
If you see a bloodied, beaten victim on the side of the road, you pull your kids close and tell yourself it’s not your job to get involved. You need to be at that other place to do that other thing, and he might be dangerous, and, even if he’s not, what if the robbers who attacked him are lying in wait for you?
We’ve rationalized away our call to love and wrapped it up in a nice little common sense bow. Then Jesus comes along and messes everything up with this love your neighbor thing.
Love doesn’t make sense. It calls us out of our comfortable excuses and compels us to act in the face of what might well be rational fears. It actually calls us to put ourselves at risk at times for the other.
1) In short, love isn’t primarily concerned with our well-being.
What kind of love takes chances like that? We know this guy in Jesus’ parable got beaten up by robbers, but what if it was a drug deal gone bad, a drunken bare-knuckle brawl, or maybe this guy was sleeping with someone’s wife and got delivered the package of punches he paid for? God gave me a glob of gray matter and I’m supposed to use it, and that brain is telling me to cross the road and look straight ahead. To tell myself that it’s not selfish, it’s smart. It’s not unloving, it’s reasonable. Yeah, love begs the question, ‘What if that was me?’ but, bub, that ain’t me.
...But what if it was?
No, Jesus is just not logical. I know we like to look to him as the sensible voice of the Godhead. We don’t like to say so out loud, but we sort of see him as the go-between for an overbearing Father. But Jesus is God, and he takes away our blessed right to strike evil when it strikes us, replacing it not with when someone strikes you on the right cheek: run the other way, or pray for those lousy suckers, but he tells us to present the other cheek to them. “Perhaps you’ll find this cheek more to your liking, sir.”
2) Being the good guy, being like Jesus, means not resisting evil, but overcoming it with love.
There’s a reason goodness is presented as a fruit of the Spirit. It’s unnatural to our experience. We can stomach goodness if it’s primarily to those we deem deserving, or those we can think of as more needy than ourselves, as if we are stooping low to help. But not the enemy. The guy who lazed around all day and showed up an hour before quitting time doesn’t deserve the same pay as the guy who worked all day in the blazing sun. But that’s exactly what God gives.
3) God’s goodness means everyone gets the same amount and kind of love and acceptance.
…But that’s the very way of thinking that saved us. The undeserving. Made worthy, not by our goodness (we have none perfect enough to be worthy of perfect acceptance) but God’s perfect goodness given us as a gift.
This dumb goodness overcame the world. It delivered hope to the utterly hopeless. It presented love to the wholly unlovely. The foolishness of God lovingly lays waste to the wisdom of men.