Eleven years ago, way back in 2007, I ended my relationship with Circuit City. I ordered an iPod online, but it didn’t arrive. After several calls and promises that it would be delivered soon, they finally admitted they could not track the shipment. However, they refused to refund my payment. I got so frustrated with their terrible customer service that, when the iPod finally arrived, I only opened the box to find the return label and ship it right back. I didn’t think twice. Whenever I got an email from them, I would think about all the phone calls, the time I waited on hold, the broken promises, and that charge that sat on my credit card for three months. It didn’t matter what kind of special sale they offered, I was now with Best Buy. I wasn’t surprised when, about a year later, Circuit City announced their bankruptcy. In fact, it probably validated my irritation somehow. That’s how it works with a consumer driven society. You have options. You don’t have to put up with bad service or broken promises.
I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve read the next three sections of the Sermon on the Mount. When Jesus talks about sexuality, lust, and promises, I think he is addressing “commitment” in difficult relationships. People let you down, dreams go unfulfilled, and expectations often are not met. Commitment costs even though it pays. But a life without commitment is not a life worth living.
If you get a chance to read through Matthew 5:27-37, consider how each section addresses commitment or how we try to escape it. As you take time to consider the beautiful life that Jesus wants to form in us, consider the loving and faithful commitment he makes to us. Jesus isn’t merely a “model” for us to follow. He is a powerful redeemer. Hopefully, the quotes and meditations will help with this as we prepare to meet the God of steadfast love together.
Yours in Christ,
There once was in man a true happiness of which now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present. But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, by God himself. Pascal, (1623-62)
Freedom means always keeping your options open, so it means you never settle on truth, you never arrive, you never rest. The accumulation of spiritual peak experiences can become like the greedy person’s accumulation of money. The more you get, the more you hunger for more. The life of perpetual choice is a life of perpetual longing as you are prodded by the inextinguishable desire to try the next new thing. David Brooks, Bobo’s in Paradise.
He comes to us in the brokenness of our health, in the shipwreck of our family lives, in the loss of all possible peace of mind, even in the very thick of our sins. He saves us in our disasters, not from them. He emphatically does not promise to meet only the odd winner of the self-improvement lottery; he meets us all in our endless and inescapable losing. Robert Farrar Capon, The Astonished Heart.