In today’s gospel reading (Matthew 8-35 -10 8-23) Jesus sends his disciples out into the world. It is a scary place where Jesus’ message that the kingdom of heaven has come near will be opposed. This reading occurs in our calendar at a time in the UK there is a significant easing of the lockdown restrictions with shops allowed to open and churches preparing to open their doors to private prayer from Monday. There is a lot of fear as we move from ‘stay indoors; save lives’ to ‘stay alert.’
As I’ve reflected on this long and uncomfortable reading it has struck me that this reading reminds us that the Christian life is not easy. Jesus message of what the kingdom of heaven looks like in the command to love your neighbour as yourself is a hard one. It is easier to criticize, hate or just ignore those who don’t look like us, or were raised in the same culture, or speak another language. We have seen a lot of that in the news and on social media this week. Loving ourselves and loving our neighbour is hard.
Loving ourselves sounds easy but who are we really? It is a hard journey to find out who we really are and not who we pretend to be. That journey can be painful as we unearth those parts of ourselves we would much rather hide.
To love our neighbour we have to also have to spend time with that person and listen to their lives and their worries. Not our worries but theirs. This means coming out of a place where we are comfortable and moving into a place of vulnerability and uncertainty that is never easy.
In Jesus’ pep talk to his disciples he is really clear that sometimes the world outside our safe places is hard ‘see I am sending you out into the midst of wolves.’ There is a realism here. Jesus’ message of love and care will be opposed. But there is wisdom ‘be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.’ So educate yourself, be strategic, engage your brain but be kind and look for the best in people.
So how do those of us who are not shielding get back into the world outside our front doors? It isn’t going to be easy but we can make a difference if we keep Jesus at the centre.
The reading is here: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=86340552