Saturday, March 24, 2012

"You are also in the body . . . "

I somehow followed a chain of links to this evangelical blog a few months ago, and I've often found it provocative in the best Christian sense of the word, in that it has provoked me to consider my faith in far more challenging ways than I usually do. This, for instance, stood out for me today: 

Of the dozens of things that Christians need to be thinking and saying about [Trayvon Martin's murder in Florida and the failure of law enforcement to charge his confessed killer], some are awakened by what the Bible says in Hebrews 13:3, “Remember those who . . . are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”

In the context, this probably refers to persecuted fellow Christians. But notice the nature of the argument: You also are in the body. The appeal is to heartfelt empathy with the mistreated, because you have a body . . . .

This is a cry for Christian whites and blacks and Asians and Latinos to feel the human flesh on their faith in Jesus. Trayvon’s flesh. His dad’s flesh. George’s flesh. His dad’s flesh. That kind of getting in their flesh will yield a long night’s groaning.

The emphasis on the body here feels very Catholic to me, in spite of the fact that many of the Catholics I know, myself included, would do anything to avoid a long night's or even a few minutes' groaning. Nevertheless,

Jesus said, “Take up your cross daily.” That means daily reckoning my old self dead. 

Therefore, we are called every day to slay the selves -- our own selves -- that seek to be justified (even if that seeking is not accompanied by the kind of impulsivity and bitterness that leads to actual dead bodies), and to immolate our often-misguided and self-serving desire for righteousness with the Body of the One Who is truly righteous.

. . . O what a difference it would have made if George Zimmerman had thought: “I have a gun. For Christ’s sake — for the sake of love — I better not follow this young man. I might wind up using it. Law enforcement is on the way. I have done my duty. Lord, I pray that this man will be treated with respect, and that justice will be done, and that your name will be great in this place.”

Evidently that was not his prayer. Now we face the consequences.


ex-new yorker said...

I honestly don't understand this... I mean, the part about "feel[ing] the human flesh on their faith in Jesus." Not good with figurative language sometimes, I guess. I might understand this, though: "to immolate our often-misguided and self-serving desire for righteousness." I had recently been thinking about how I'd tried to calculate out how much I "had to do" for some people I find difficult, and how much I might find (to my relief) really shouldn't be done for them because it might be harmful to us. The idea of just honestly asking God, OK, tell me what you really want me to do for these people, I have no reason to fear if it turns out you want me to be open to them in certain ways. It honestly felt kind of freeing compared to basically trying to find reasons God wouldn't want me to do what I happened not to want to do anyway. I am not sure the connection to what you wrote is valid, because as I said, I didn't understand the "feel the human flesh" part. I guess my mini-epiphany or whatever it was had to do with recognizing that God has all of our interests in mind and I shouldn't fear what some other person also currently inhabiting a mortal body might do if I am trying to serve Him in how related to that person. You know? Maybe you don't know if I'm not being clear.

Pentimento said...

You make an interesting point, and so does the author of the post I linked to. In fact, one of the interesting things about his, I think, is that he means us to take membership in the body of Christ literally, which seems a very Catholic, sacramental idea. Many saints have noted that there is no human encounter in which one doesn't encounter Christ; in other words, He is in everyone, and everyone is, in some way, in the Body, which puts flesh, so to speak, on the commandment to love one another. That love is so hard to figure out -- how to do it, for whom -- and it is one of the truly radical, counter-intuitive, and counter-cultural things about our faith.