Essay in Honest Faith in Our Time – Exerp
From James M. Robinson, Essay in Honest Faith in Our Time (J. Harold Ellens editor), pp. 150 152
After quoting Sermon on Mount from Q which talks about loving enemies like God does, without resort to pay-back justice, Robinson says: “This is a completely new revelation of God… This has led to Jesus revelation of a new kind of all-forgiving God…”
As I have said before, Jesus stands in the tradition of the prophets. His teaching was in a continuum with the prophets, but on the other hand he came to complete the insight of the prophets. He was able not just to stand on their shoulders, but to see further than they saw. That is why he did not think he should behave like Elijah and start killing those who stood against his work. That is why he did not hesitate to edit Isaiah 61 and leave out the apocalyptic bit announcing “the day of vengeance of our God.” That is why he could edit out that piece in the Torah about “an eye for an eye”. People in his day had difficulty accepting the whole truth of what he had to say about God because they too recognized that it was a new teaching. It was new wine, and not meant to put into the old wineskins.
Of course this new teaching requires, to use Herb’s words, a leap of faith. And it also requires leaving behind some “precious” old baggage. But let me make one suggestion: it ought to be easier for us to make this leap in this universe now understood as a thing of unimaginable space and time with billions of galaxies as big as our Milky Way Galaxy. We can’t even comprehend the size of this universe let alone the greatness of the Creator. I want to suggest that the old religious images of the God of the little matchbox-sized cosmos, coming down from a heaven which was just up there a bit above where the birds fly, and getting into a rage with the antics of pair of humans who have stolen a bit of stuff from God’s garden, does not do justice to how great God must be as a Creator of billions of galaxies. In our galaxy alone this earth appears to be smaller than a grain of sand, in the universe it is billions of times less than that – But then we suggest that these old religious images of God getting utterly pissed off and demanding payment to the utmost for his outraged honour…. this is all a terrible image of some celestial Scrooge or Shylock.
I think of my great grandfather (father of my grandmother) in England, picking a few wild herbs on the river bank for his widowed mother, a herbalist, wandering onto the estate of the Lord of the Manor. This lordly bully has the 17 year-old arrested, and then sentenced to be sent as a convict to Australia never to see his mother again… and for such a petty offence. But the God of this match-box cosmos is much more annoyed that this… the sentence for one puny mistake is upon all generations of these humans to come and eternal hell if they don’t meet all the conditions of salvation by blood atonement – what I am saying is that since the reality is that humans came into this world with the wilderness conditions of Africa, into a very imperfect environment, with much to learn about managing this earthly estate, why would not the Creator who knew all their circumstances and limitations and ignorance show a little patience and love in their stumbling to get on their feet and go forward.
In the setting of this big God of this big universe, why is it so hard to take a leap concerning a scandalously infinite generosity that behaves toward everyone with the kind of unconditional generosity that Jesus indicated? Life is all about being loving and generous toward others (Love is all there is!). So take the leap which even this suggests and accept that above all and behind all there is an infinite love and generosity. Does such ignore evil? Rather, it is the infinite Light, the divine laser that will eventually burn out all evil from every object of such love.