“Without a cause”

Matthew_513_28This afternoon I was reading an account of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and the words “without a cause” stood out like neon:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:21,22)

I suspect everyone thinks and feels that they have “cause” to be angry in the moment, but was that really what Jesus said or intended? It seems to contradict the life He lived. Particularly His words later in the same chapter:

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5: 43,44)

The latter is a worthy goal yet difficult to achieve if we are holding a personal “cause” so closely that we justify our anger.

But what does the text say? What do the oldest available manuscripts say? I pulled a book off the shelf to find out. Out of 24 different manuscripts “without a cause” is absent from seven, including the oldest.

Manuscript name, includes “without a cause”?

1. Papyrus 67 [P67] “Barcelona” (AD 125–50): No
2. Coptic [copsa, meg, bo] (third–fifth century): Yes
3. Old Syriac [syrs, c] (third–fourth century): Yes
4. Vaticanus [B] (AD 400): No
5. Sinaiticus [χ] (AD 400): No
6. Sinaiticus [χ2] (after AD 400): Yes
7. Old Latin [ita,b,c,d,f,h,k,l,q] (fourth–thirteenth century): Yes
8. Vulgate [vg] (fourth–fifth century): No
9. Ethiopic [ethms] (about AD 500): No
10. Ethiopic [ethTH] (about AD 500): Yes
11. Georgian [geo] (fifth century): Yes
12. Armenian [arm] (fifth century): Yes
13. Peshitta/Palestinian [syrp,pal] (fifth–sixth century): Yes
14. Bezae Canta [D] (AD 500): Yes
15. Washington [W] (AD 500): Yes
16. Old Latin [itaur] (AD 700): No
17. Byzantine (Byz [E S]) (AD 600–800): Yes
18. Paris [L] (AD 800): Yes
19. Old Church Slavonic [slav] (ninth century): Yes
20. St. Gall [?] (AD 900): Yes
21. Tbilisi [?] (AD 900): Yes
22. Greek Lectionaries [Lect] (AD 900–1576): Yes
23. Family 1,13 [f 1,13] (eleventh–fifteenth century): Yes
24. Miniscule 1292 [1292] (thirteenth century): No

This isn’t a new discussion (That’s how I knew which book to check), it’s been debated for more than 1000 years and the debate will likely continue. My conclusion? I see the statement “without a cause” in verse 22, answered by verse 44 – 46:

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?”

If I apply that message, it doesn’t allow much room for “cause” against anyone.

Refugees: Defining moments

Appreciative of all those posting about refugees over the past few days and particularly those focused on the responsibility of Christianity.

I was moved to tears last April when I heard Patrick Kearon’s speech.

Hearing portions of it again, with the addition of images, music, and stories, brings those feelings back. I agree with his sentiments:

“This moment [of being a refugee] will not define them, but our response will help define us.”

Personal experience with refugees, right off the plane, and with those working to rebuild their lives, having escaped war and the horrors that come with it, has shaped my outlook on life.

There is some Mormon specific terminology in his speech but otherwise, it is simple Christianity. A Christianity I think even an atheist can appreciate.

Laos to Nashville: One-on-one experience

Laos_1980I had my first experience with refugees from Laos in 1980. I’m the boy in the photo on the left. My mother was involved in helping several families, who had been living in refugee camps in Thailand, resettle in Nashville. At age six, in some ways, my job wasn’t much different than her’s. Be myself and be a friend.

They had to flee their country because their lives were in danger. Some of their family did not survive.

As an adult I’ve been fortunate to know many former refugees. Today most are well established citizens because someone, years earlier, was willing to help them navigate the challenges of assimilating into a new world.

I share this with the hope that it may benefit those with concerns about refugees today.

There is a Lao saying, “Ten mouths speaking are not as good as seeing with one’s own eyes; ten eyes that see are not as good as what one has in one’s hand.”

One-on-one experience makes a difference.

 

“Love’s Austere and Lonely Offices”

This evening, I’ve been reflecting on the last two lines of the poem “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden. The character in the poem is an adult looking back at the cold winter mornings of youth, recognizing the lack of gratitude shown towards the family patriarch in what the author calls a house of “chronic angers.” The poem concludes with the lines:

“What did I know, what did I know of Love’s austere and lonely offices?”

The line “Love’s austere and lonely offices” is so pathetically true. Love is simple in nature yet there is a tendency to make it something glamorous, something beyond its scope. Something it cannot and should not be. At times, love is austere; it is stern and unadorned. It is silent, hidden behind the scenes.

A friend edits the ending of every fairy tales she reads to her children, adding; “and they worked really hard on their marriage, and lived happily ever after.” She is opening their imaginations to the story between the pages. The real life story of the silent heroes we call mom and dad.

For a child, love’s lonely office includes not understanding why “no” and “not now” mean “I love you.”

For a married couple love’s “lonely offices” are they places they stand without regard to personal pleasure. Because of love, friends and extended family never come first. Because of love, time and resources are sacrificed for things that hold little interest. Because of love, both will fret over whether or not they have done the right thing.

It is love that allows them to disagree passionately without fear that an opinion held too strongly will break them apart. It is love that allows conflict and love that keeps all other opportunities for romantic interest out of sight and out of mind.

Love’s eye is not blind. It is selective. It weighs truth in the balance and understands that no collection of flaws and quirks are superior to the man, woman, or child they have chosen.

Certainly “love’s austere and lonely offices” are not the only offices held in marriage, but they are the sacrificial offices required to keep the flame of love’s temple alive.

Thankful for the Everyday

The common comforts of an American life are nearly immeasurable. Gratitude for everyday things means imagining life in their absence. For some it doesn’t take much imagination, only memory of the days before now. Nothing exists without the small, and nothing is too small to appreciate.

“As long as I’m with you I’m not lost”

Lonesome Road by Cory Voglesonger

Years ago as my grandparents were driving through the mountains of North Georgia, my grandfather at the wheel and my grandmother at his side, my grandfather made a series of wrong turns before he realized he was lost. After trying several different routes he was not only unable to determine where they were headed, but he was eventually unable to get back to where they had been.

After all attempts had been exhausted he turned and said, “We’re lost.” My grandmother replied, “I’m not lost.” “What do you mean you’re not lost?” he asked. She said, “As long as I’m with you I’m not lost.”

The recognition that being together means never being lost is a profound truth. It was a characteristic of their marriage of over sixty years.  Location didn’t matter. Time didn’t matter. Being together, side by side, patient with each other, and knowing that those we travel with are far more important than when or how we reach our destination was what mattered.

After making a few course corrections they eventually found their way back to familiar roads. Throughout the rest of their lives together they continued to travel across the back roads of Georgia with their children, grandchildren, and other family members, occasionally getting turned around but never lost.  Their travels are a metaphor for their life together.

Are we truly lost when those who matter to us most are close by? My grandmother didn’t think so. Her nine little words, “As long as I’m with you I’m not lost”, speak volumes. They are also a reminder that kind words, spoken well, can last forever.