Monday, December 12, 2011
That great, noble Ideal: how great the temptation of the being Principled
“and lead us not into temptation,”
How often have you and I mumbled that at night as we began to doze, never questioning what we were asking God to quit doing; actually where we might headed towards a gross overdoing.
The love of God does lure us towards a commitment to some ideal, some value to which we need to be committed. Unfortunate, in our humanness we are always tempted to go beyond, to exaggerate it beyond all sensible measures.
I saw it always when I was working with the obsessive-compulsive disorder. Take “cleanliness.” A noble virtue, said to be next to godliness. Obsess about it more than two hours every day and it is no surprise how raw the mind and body can get…
It is so true in war. Bravery is a great virtue – and then there is that lust for advancement, recognition, medals. Out of my German wanderings somehow a story pops up. This officer was being praised for his daring. “And it cost the lives of twenty-six good men,” was the response. Those too familiar with Vietnam may be offering their own illustrations.
In moral matters, how often have we felt the urge to admire, only to find that some have been lured by their sense of oughtness into hammering square pegs of ideals into protesting round holes. In matters political, how often have we celebrated holders of lofty principles, only to find them seduced by visions of power.
I think young Saul of Tarsus would understand this all too well. He had been an over-achiever as a scholar and then started in as a partisan of religion tradition. He probably had heard all the flash words with which we are familiar: morality, truth, tradition, country, family – all the “threats to.” On the way to accomplishing a coup by arresting refugees of the Jesus Way in Damascus, he had a flash.
Paul found his own way to theologize about life: no salvation by – feel free to write in your own highest (or is it lowest?) drivenness.
“but deliver us from evil.”
I will say one thing for Jesus as a thinker: he had a sense for unforeseen consequences.