The Divine Divide?

Matthew 13:10-17

The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.

For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

I confess that I have struggled with this passage from Matthew 13 recently because it seems to offer more fodder for a superior Christian nationalist response. “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them!” To me, it has created “insider/outsider” language in the church and led to justification for the attitude of “we get it – they don’t!” Therefore, they should be excluded, and we should just stick with our own, the people who agree with us. But I don’t believe that was the message Jesus was conveying in his life, death, and resurrection. When I take time to study the Gospel in its entirety, and not just in this pericope, the message is much greater than this idea of insiders and outsiders. The wholeness of the Gospel invites us to see Jesus as the bridge-builder, the one who began to dissipate the ideas around the elitist class of Pharisees and bring the least, the last, and the lost into a relationship with the Divine. Jesus was not coming to divide the people, but rather unite the people under the umbrella of love and that concept was very difficult to grasp then and now.

How do we, as Christian leaders, face these difficult passages that threaten to offer a concept of a Divine Divider, rather than the Divine Uniter under the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Maybe we, too, start to fall into this trap of thinking that our doctrine is way better than your doctrine, or our liturgy is holier than their liturgy. It’s easy to do because our culture, our tribalism, and our nature pushes us more towards division than towards one another in unity in love.

This may be what Jesus was speaking about in the second half of this passage. The popular culture that we ascribe to tempts us to let the scabs of our divisions callous over our hearts, making us have difficulty hearing one another with our ears or seeing one another with our eyes. We just see the things that make us different, rather than the things that bring us together as a human race.

I had the privilege of meeting Jackie Qatalina Schaeffer, the Director for Climate Initiatives at the Alaska Native Tribal Consortium last month in Anchorage, Alaska.  She told a story about her ancestors and their ways of understanding and knowing about the Spirit’s work in the world that humbled me deeply. She shared how painful it was for missionaries who came and told her family members that their ways of knowing about the land, the sea, and the way they lived in peace with one another was wrong. They did not take the time to listen to her people’s parables and they assumed that the Holy Spirit could not work there because they didn’t speak of the Spirit in the same way. Much like the Pharisees, those missionaries did not hear, and they did not understand, and “in them was fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah.” The lack of humility and grace that exists within these divisive assumptions hurts the witness of Christ.

But the redemption for Jackie and her ancestors is that years later, the Christian community is turning towards her wisdom and her ancestors’ wisdom to learn about how to take care of the land and the sea. Christians have come back with humility, apologizing for our ancestors not listening to their parables and not understanding their stories and not seeing how the Holy Spirit may have been at work in them and through them as well.

Maybe that’s why it’s so important to wrestle with passages like these. When we come to these passages with different perspectives, we may discover that we are the ones that Jesus was talking about. We may be the ones who don’t get the secrets of the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven. We may be the ones who need to really listen and learn, especially when we think we are so right that even Jesus can’t get through to us.

There’s too much division in our world and Christians are as guilty as any other “tribe,” or “culture,” or “country,” which thinks we are the best, the only, the number one. The Savior that we follow has taught us to come into the world humbly (like a baby in a manger) and serve with grace (like one who loved His enemies) and hold onto hope (like one who rose again), knowing that it is God who has the power to unite us in love, even in our greatest divisions.

Where have you been humbled lately? How has God invited you to think again about your convictions? Are you really listening to hear? And do you really see the people God has placed in front of you?

But although a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union, yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we can’t think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences. These remaining as they are, they may forward one another in love and in good works.

– John Wesley (The Catholic Spirit)

No Comments

Post A Comment

mahjong ways 2