By Rev. Jim Innes
"Put your Bible away for a while!"
Advice from a priest to a friend whose zealous thirst for scriptural direction was underminding his attachment to everyday life. He became critical of himself and others, and decision-making became onerous and guilt driven.
His solution became the problem. His search hid the truth. Because too much scrutinizing and we become overwhelmed. Too much advice, and we become confused. Too much religion, and we disregard reason.
Tom's journey into the Bible entangled him in a forest of moral constraints. He got sucked into a cesspool of absolutes. As much as black-and-white thinking can be helpful in some situations, Tom grew calloused, making choices from an analytical formula about right and wrong.
I will jump on the bandwagon to sing a song about appreciating degrees of grey, understanding relation complexity, and living from a place of give.
When contextualized (understood from within the historical context), the Bible is about moving openly from relation to relation, carefully managing priorities, most charitably depicted in the stories of Jesus. A man whose character enabled God's life-giving presence to become the core of who we are. A man who lived to connect, not divide.
What gives life to others is what gives life to ourselves! Put your Bible away if all you'll do is hit people over the head with it. No one is in (the 'right club') while others are out. We live under one flag, representing, in my mind, only one rule, the golden rule; treat others as you'd want to be treated.
'Right'-eousness is not divisive but unifying, not constrictive but expansive. As a priest, I am regularly asked what the 'right' behavior is (on this or that). My answer generally follows, "Wherever (or if ever) there is such defined truth, you will inevitably find yourself lifting others up."
Yet, as I say all this (and that) about the inclusive nature of the Bible, I am ironically being judgy and disruptive. Which, in my own defense, reveals the delicate balance between callousness and the prophetic. And I think we must cut ourselves some lack. We can never be 100% certain that we are not falling into some 'rabbit hole' of self-interest.
This raises the importance of intention. For example: "What is my intention towards you, and what is your intention towards me? Are we on the same page trying to connect, or is one of us trying to disconnect? Do you care for me as I care for you, or do I care for you as you care for me? Am I here to raise myself above you or do my best at being present to your needs also?"
As I see it, to be at our best, we will stop looking for the problem and start living into the solutions.
It is much more fruitful and fulfilling to use our energies in some manner of self-awareness. It is too complicated, stressful, and tiring to spend too much time figuring out what is and isn't right.
Rev. Jim Innes is the rector of St. John's, Grand Bend with St. Anne's, Port Franks.