One of my favourite TV moments comes from the Dr. Who episode, “The Age of Steel”. As the 10th Doctor rescues (again) humanity from full-scale conversion into Cybermen, he proclaims “Human race. For such an intelligent lot, you aren’t half susceptible. Give anyone a chance to take control and you submit. Sometimes I think you like it. Easy life.”
Something about that rings true to me. It seems sometimes that we are paradoxical creatures; both ferociously protective of our freedom, and yet often eager to have our decisions affirmed by a higher authority. Whether it’s a system for “getting control” of our diet, exercise, household clutter, scheduling, prayer time, social life… there’s an app for that! And we’re often quite happy to pay for the privilege of being told what to do. So long as we choose the trainer/guide/guru who will be doing the telling.
I wonder about the lawyer who comes to Jesus asking about the law. And about the young mother who asked me “Can I borrow a copy of the book of rules for Anglicans? What do I need to do?” And about the confirmation class who look to me with eyes that ask me to sum it up for them, so they can graduate from church already.
My weekly bible study group was very quick to see in this passage a transition from child-like to adult faith. Here we saw both challenge and invitation: figure it out. Keep figuring it out. In every time and every place, you will need to figure it out all over again.
What does it mean here and now to love God, and love neighbour? Be guided by ancient truths, and holy books. But figure it out. And then grow some, and learn some, and be ready to figure it out again. Because the holy books are as full of questions are they are answers.
I know that I get complacent. I think I know where I have interpreted these commands “correctly” and others have erred. Hand in hand with the call to figure it out, is a call to remember that my brothers and sisters are going to reach different conclusions. That in my own life, from one season to the next I am going to reach different conclusions. (And that doesn’t even necessarily mean that I was wrong… or that I was right).
If Jesus is going to keep asking open ended questions (how can this be?) then we are going to keep finding ourselves someplace other than the easy life of easy answers.
But once more, we meet in Jesus a God who firmly insists on offering more than we could ask or imagine. Love God. Love your neighbour. What will that look like, in the midst of Ebola, and Isis, and shootings in our Capital, and municipal elections, and the daily grind/joy of parenting, and the ongoing effort to simply live together with other people in community? God only knows. But here we are together, figuring it out.