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Jesus’ Teachings for the Second Half of Life

Friday, June 24, 2016

Two Halves of Life: Week 2

Jesus’ Teachings for the Second Half of Life
Friday, June 24, 2016

Most of Jesus’ teachings are completely incomprehensible from a first-half-of-life perspective. Just read a few, and you will get the point.

Leave all things and follow me”
You have to have it before you can give it away. You have to know yourself before you can move beyond yourself. Most people therefore just glaze over when they hear such impossible idealism.

Take up your cross”
By and large, young people are not yet ready to understand “the cross.” It becomes a piece of jewelry instead of a real agenda for life. People in the first half of life are about growing up, not growing down. Most people are not psychologically capable of truly grasping the full need and importance of letting go until their fifties or sixties, and many not even then.

Messages about letting go, surrendering or giving up of control, repentance or metanoia (turning around)
In the first half of life, you can’t let go or turn around. You’re rightly focused on creating a name for yourself, finding a spouse and job, accumulating money and possessions. But you must eventually let go so you can fall into your True Self that was always there, but that you were just not ready to meet.

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”
The first half of life uses the dualistic language of good guys and bad guys. The illusion is that some are all good and some are all bad, and the delusion is that we’ve got to kill all the bad ones. The first half of life is where we’re taught to separate from evil (see Leviticus 16-25). Paul says “Jesus became sin” (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus became the problem; he became the broken, imperfect one. He entered into solidarity with the sin of the world rather than stand above or apart from it. Jesus absorbed evil. He didn’t think for a moment he could kill it. He let it wreak its havoc on his body to transform it there, rather than perpetuate violence on others.

Forgive those who’ve trespassed against you”
I don’t think you can do any such thing by mere willpower, by first-half-of-life morality. Your little self can’t will the hurt away and truly forgive an offender. You have to move to the larger place of Spirit. Not willfulness but willingness, where another will, another grace, another Spirit does it through you, with you, in you, and as you. And then you find yourself forgiving largely in spite of yourself.

Teachings about not seeking power, prestige, or status symbols
You have to have those to get started. I’m not surprised that a well-dressed, thirty-year-old man wants his titles and diplomas on the wall. I surely still carry some status symbols, but it doesn’t mean much now. If you’re my age and you still need external symbols of prestige to tell yourself and others that you’re important, you are not far on the spiritual journey. Once you’ve met the Holy One who calls you beloved daughter or beloved son, you know you’re foundationally chosen, special, and beloved, and you don’t need outer symbols to prove it.

Do not seek or collect possessions or wealth
The church historically hasn’t been a good example of this. I don’t know why we picked and chose among Jesus’ teachings. But I think it reflects first-half-of -life morality. The church just wasn’t ready to follow Jesus all the way with his second-half-of-life wisdom. Frankly, we needed things external to the soul because we had not yet found our soul.

Gateway to Silence:
Take up your cross and follow me.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Two Major Tasks of the Spiritual Life (CAC: 2004), CD, MP3 download.

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