Got tied up and missed yesterday, sorry. Today is going to be a frustrating post, I imagine. It’s a conviction of all humans, and it’s one we generally feel terrible about.
Just a bubble off plumb
If you know me you know I have a slight compulsion problem; I have some OCD tendencies. If I am in a restaurant I will fiddle with the flatware until it is parallel and evenly spaced. If I walk into a room and there’s a mini-blind out of place I have to fix it before we can move on. When I clean I clean. If I see a picture on the wall off-level I have to fix it. I have a need for things to be in order and under control or I get uncomfortable. It gnaws at me when things are out of balance, and it becomes all I can see. Without a doubt this is getting worse as time goes on, and I think it has to do with the loss of control we get in our break-neck paced world today.
As a result of this I force myself several dozen times a day to say “this doesn’t matter” so I can try to soldier on to something more productive. That leads to me having a lot of time in a week to ponder the nature and the processes involved in that discomfort that comes of not fixing the thing I think is wrong. What I’ve learned above all is that the discomfort is a one-upping measure. It’s a simultaneous judgement on the “sloppy” person who allowed the situation to be created and on myself for not correcting it. It’s like a double demerit. How crazy is that?! Before you answer that…
The past few days I’ve written about our irritability, our poor communication, and our isolation. The effect of these is that we keenly monitor the actions of others, looking for any possible signs that they are going to infringe on our island. We keep score on a massive scale. Oh, sure, we say the Our Father and ask that God forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, but that’s such a waste of breath because we largely mean absolutely none of it. We don’t actually believe we have sinned against anyone else and we surely don’t really forgive theirs against us. As the old sage Garth Brooks sang: “We bury the hatchet, but leave the handle stickin’ out.”
That’s why I like the version of the Our Father that says “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”: it really drives home that what we’re talking about is a perceived breach of our space. And that is what Christ meant in the verse; the word He used was “debts”, but not the financial kind — He’s speaking of moral debt. He’s talking about wrongs we make up among ourselves. We’re all the 6-year-olds in the back seat drawing the invisible line no one is allowed to cross. Other people are just way too quick to tromp on our stuff, and they need to be punished for it. But our space extends as far as we can see, so we aren’t trespassing on your land, anyway, you are on ours. Our whole society is engrossed in a simple border dispute with the rest of humanity (who crossed our invisible line). But I guess in this nation there’s no such thing as a simple border dispute, hm?
Too close to home? Yeah, it is for me, too. I try my best to not keep score, to truly forget, but man is it hard and boy do I fail a ton. With that let’s jump into finishing out 1 Corinthians 13:5…
God keeps no record of being wronged
Ha. What about the stiff-necked Jews who got told they were going to die in the desert because they griped too much? That’s not keeping record? What about the people killed for the golden calf, that’s not keeping record? What about all those poor Egyptians who died because Pharoah’s heart was hardened? I don’t know… seems like scoreboarding to me. But, as always, let’s go to the original language.
The King James says “thinketh no evil”, and the Aramaic reads “neither entertains evil”. That’s a different meaning, huh? How can the NLT be so far off? Let’s check the Greek. The verb “thinketh” is λογίζομαι, logizomai, and it has a very interesting root word that you know: λόγος, logos. If you’ve gone to church longer than me you’ve heard this word a thousand times because it is the word John used to reference Jesus, the living Logos of God. Logos is the “spoken concept” or, perhaps more clearly “a mental concept that has become physical through having been spoken”.
Logizomai is logos in action in an interesting way that the Aramaic makes clear: it says “entertains” rather than “thinketh”; consider that. When a concept is spoken what happens? It is heard. And then? Then it is either ignored or processed. “Entertains” gets that across because it means you are now considering the concept. The real translation of logizomai is “deliberate, consider, or reckon” which, while it is technically thinking, is a different kind — it denotes a focus, a mulling over. It’s the concept taking action on your mind. So what’s the concept here?
The verse says “evil”, but in Greek it’s κακός, kakos, and in Aramaic it’s דביש, d’biysh. The former eventually became kaka in most languages, and we of course know that word means, um, crap. Kakos refers to something worthless, and offensively so (poop applies, no?). The latter means evil, but it’s actually referring to the first or primary evil, and the picture of this is waste, garbage, excrement because it is offensive and is one of the first thing we learn to be offended by. So the Corinthians verse says “does not contemplate worthless and offensive things”. If you think about how I described scoreboarding earlier this is right in line: it’s saying we shouldn’t let the meaningless things that offend us take up room in our minds.
Free at last
In this light the Biblical stories I called out are not scoreboarding; that wasn’t God acting on meaningless offenses. These were incidents of deep rebellion against Him and He followed through on what He said He would. The truth is that we don’t know exactly what made their transgressions so severe, but we know from a week of me rambling that it was not a rushed or easy decision for Him. He forgives us without limit, He helps us to grow, and He keeps nothing in His mind of our little transgressions.
If He can so openly Love us, then shouldn’t we find a way to extend some to each other? If not Love, then at least some slack? If not forgiveness then at least humility? Must we walk around looking for a reason to get offended? Must we so viciously hold others to the strict ideals we give ourselves immense latitude to miss?
As we wrap up this tenth post and the fifth verse of the chapter I wonder if we can make it through the next 5; if we can bear the openness or if we will shut down and rule this all stuff only other people have to worry about. I pray not. I pray He can hold the door open a bit longer so when I wrap this up we can all hear what it is He said that put me on this road in the first place…
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