Matthew 10:24-39 The Two Foundations
“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! Whom to Fear
So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. Not Peace, but a Sword
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
Beyond the Golden Rule
The ability of the human brain to store, retain, and recall enormous amounts of information is miraculously impressive. Unfortunately, sometimes information gets permanently stored that we would love to “dump.” For instance, have you ever suffered an ear worm? If you’ve never heard of an ear worm before, it’s not some disgusting little creature. It’s that song you hear that you can stop hearing, playing itself over and over and over…and over in your head.
Here is one of the mysteries of the universe: Why do we forget how to do algebra, or where the extra lawn mower blade is stored, or the day of a dental appointment, but we can always recall with perfect clarity the good-bye song of that purple dinosaur Barney? Or the Mickey Mouse club theme? Or the Veggie Tale theme song, like Larry the Cucumber’s unforgettable operatic ode, “Oh Where O Where Is My Hairbrush?
Why do we willingly invite such stuff into our brain? Why do we actually learn all the evolutions of the “Charmander” pokemon (Charmander, Charmeleon, Charzard. I hope there aren’t any more evolutions – I’m so behind the times. There is only one reason we do this: Parents open their minds and hearts and wallets to such silliness because we love our kids. Childhood is the time for setting a place at the table for the imaginary friend, for playing dress-up, for singing the same song or watching the same movie over and over and over . . . and over . . again. We love our children, and because we love our children we cultivate and celebrate their creativity and craziness. We do not expect four year olds to like what forty year olds like. Good parents let their children do childish things, and we sacrifice our likes and dislikes for our children. We eat Happy Meals. We watch Veggie Tales. We decorate the driveway with chalk art. Why? Because those are good “kid things” to do.
There are many different kinds of love. The language of Greek has three different words for love, each meaning a different type of love. In English, we distinguish platonic” love from “romantic” love.
In the ongoing attempt to categorize, count and control all life experiences, noted philosopher Pitrim Sorokin has suggested a “love scale”— five ways to measure our love and our loving.
Intensity: how committed are we to those we love . . . how vulnerable are we? How emotionally intimate do we get?
Extensity: how far does our love reach? How many people does it take in?
Duration: how long does our love last? How is our fidelity and constancy?
Purity: how unconditional is our love? How unselfish?
Adequacy: how deep does our love go? How generous are we? How ready are we to bridge differences, to forgive after betrayal and rejection?
In today’s gospel reading Jesus asks his disciples to consider a more upscale discipleship: to step up their understanding and practice of loving and what it means to follow the greatest Lover who has ever lived.
Jesus does this by revealing that discipleship is going to entail a lot more than just showing up. When Jesus prepared to send his disciples out on their inaugural mission journey, he gave them “authority over unclean spirits” and the power to “cure every disease and every sickness” (Matthew10:1). Jesus instructed them to go to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”—that is, to their familiar fellow Jews, and to proclaim “the good news ‘the kingdom of heaven has come near’” (Matthew 10:6-7).
Who could blame the disciples for thinking, “Hey, this discipleship thing . . . it’s a great gig!” Power, prestige, and a message that was bound to catch the attention of others. What wasn’t to love about following Jesus?
Suddenly Jesus delivers some news about the downside of discipleship. As he continues to enlighten his chosen twelve on just what it is they have been chosen for, discipleship begins to sound less desirable, a lot more daunting.
In Matthew 10:17 Jesus describes the likelihood of problems with local officials: little things, like, well, they will “flog you in their synagogues and you will be dragged before governors” Jesus predicts that The potentially fatal enmity between families is introduced in 10:21, but the focus on the family (trouble in the family, at that) does not yet extend to the fate of Jesus’ disciples themselves.
In this final section of his missionary discourse, Jesus gets specific and elaborates the true nature of genuine discipleship. A faithful disciple is one who will “take up the cross and follow me.” The “cross” a disciple “takes up” here is not some nuisance, some ache and pain. As in, “‘How’s your arthritis?’ ‘Oh, we all have some cross to bear.’” Jesus, instead, is saying that the cross they will bear is public disgrace, shame before the entire community, being dragged through the streets and using instruments that will torture then kill, a death both excruciatingly painful and agonizingly slow.
Jesus has raised the bar of loving someone to infinite heights by the God’s sacrificial love on the cross. Forget the Sorokin “scale of love.” There is no measurement deep or wide or long or intense or pure enough to calculate that kind of love. Jesus changed the rules of right behavior forever.
When humanity was first organizing into clans, then cultures, then civilizations, the best behavioral model we could come up with was the Iron Rule” Does anyone here know the definition of The Iron Rule? The Iron Rule encouraged a commitment to the preventative: “Do unto others before they do unto you.”
Eventually The Iron Rule was scaled up into a more refined Silver Rule. The Silver Rule is what is called in Latin the rule of lex talionis: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” The Silver Rule is what governs too much of our planet today, especially the Middle East.
It took the revelation of God and long years wandering in the wilderness for men and women to finally open their hearts and spirits to the upscaling power of The Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Here, at last, was a focus outside self-promotion or self-fulfillment. If the Iron Rule built clans, and the Silver Rule built cultures, it was the Golden Rule that built the best of Western civilization.
Yet there is one little problem with The Golden Rule. Who does it put at the center? Who pivots the universe of The Golden Rule? That’s right. YOU. The Golden Rule is self-referential and narcissistic: “(YOU) do unto others as YOU would have done to YOU.”
That is why today no one in the world of finance and commerce runs a business according to The Golden Rule. The captains of corporate culture, the real rulers of this twenty-first century world, govern according to The Platinum Rule. You have in your wallet a credit card that trumps a gold card: The Platinum Card. The Platinum Rule, which is gilded with silver self-promotions and golden self-aggrandizements, proclaims: “Do unto others as THEY would have you do unto them.” Burger King puts Platinum-Rule theology in short form: “Have it your way!”
None of these metal mantras not even The Golden Rule, are pure enough for Jesus. None of these metal mental mantras are free enough for Jesus of the dross of self-centeredness. Iron, Silver, Gold, Platinum — Jesus called for a “plague on all your houses.”
A few years ago American Express quietly introduced its most exclusive new card. The Centurion Card is absolutely black, and is actually made out of titanium—-the hardest known naturally occurring metal. In fact, when a titanium Centurion Card expires, the member has to send it back to American Express for recycling. The titanium can’t be cut up or shredded. Besides, titanium is too valuable to be thrown away.
Jesus introduces and invokes a whole new mindset, heartset, soulset into the universe. Jesus established The Titanium Rule. The titanium rule does not focus on “doing;” it focuses on being and on “loving.” Jesus asks his followers to “Love one another as I have loved you.” Love others as the Christ who hung on the cross for our sins loved us. Love others as the God who “so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son” loved us. Love others with a love that enables you to lay down your life for them. How did Jesus put it in his Farewell Discourse (John 13, 14, 15, 16, 17), when he introduced his “Great Commandment:” “Love one another as I have loved you.”
And how has Jesus loved us? John 15:13 says it best: “Greater love has no one than this, than that he lay down his life for his friend.”
Thankfully death by discipleship is not demanded of all disciples. But all disciples ARE called to commit to sacrificial love, to the indestructible Titanium Rule that puts the needs and care of the other over our own, even when those others stand in direct opposition to our own desires.
The Titanium Rule is what leads Dads and Moms to listen to Veggie Tales and make mud pies with their kids. The challenge of discipleship is to extend the reach of the Titanium Rule beyond genetic bounds, beyond the bounds of clan and culture and civilization, beyond even the bounds of those we even like, much less love.