Tell me what to do (and don’t)

Genesis 3:4-6

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 

This morning while I was meditating, I started thinking about reconciliation.  I remembered when Peter cut off the ear of the temple guard in the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus reached out and healed the guard.  Do you know what Jesus didn’t do?  He didn’t make Peter apologize.

I had to think about that.  I know that Jesus preached on reconciliation.  I know the verses because I’ve read them many times.  “Blessed are the peacemakers…” “If you know someone has ought against you leave your gift at the altar and go and be reconciled…”  “If someone has sinned against you, go and talk with them about it…”  I’m paraphrasing right now because I’m in a hurry and don’t want to go look up the verses.  “Peacemakers” is Matthew 5, can’t remember exactly where “leave your gift” is and “sinned against you” is Matthew 18 I believe (or maybe it’s 15).  Anyway, if you want to read them yourself, I encourage you to go look it up.

So for 3 years, Jesus preached on a lot of stuff and Peter probably heard most or all of it but these parts on reconciliation seemed to get overlooked after he cuts off the poor guy’s ear.  But then later on after he has denied Jesus 3 times, Jesus sits down with him and 3 times asks Peter, “Do you love me?” giving Peter a chance to reconcile with Jesus.

That got me thinking about my own views on Christian reconciliation.  I’ve kind of always viewed it as somewhat mandatory.  As if the things that Jesus preached about were the New Ten Commandments.  As if you could go through the New Testament and make a list of do’s and don’ts based solely off what Jesus said or the disciples wrote.

And then that got me thinking about the Old Ten Commandments and the fact that people seem to just want a list of do’s and don’ts to follow no matter what century you’re in or what you believe.  Even people you may deem as having no sense of right and wrong, they also have a list of do’s and don’ts in their head somewhere.  Do’s and Don’ts seem to be what humanity wants.  Look at any major world religion or any business or organization.  There is always a list.  Always a line.  The lists and lines vary from religion to religion and culture to culture but they are always there.

So that brings me back to Peter in the Garden.  If reconciliation is a “do”, why didn’t Jesus make him do it?  Why didn’t they hug it out?  Maybe later in life Peter and the guard crossed each other’s paths again and they talked it out and made things right but if that happened, it’s not recorded anywhere.

In John 3, Jesus said that those who follow the Spirit are like the wind, you don’t know where it comes from or where it goes.  Could it be that God never wanted to give us a list of do’s and don’ts but that way back in the Garden of Eden, when Eve and Adam saw that they could follow a clearly defined list of do’s and don’ts (albeit an internal one) and they would no longer have to rely on God’s constant guidance, that they jumped at the chance?  Could it be that God has always desired to be our guide in life, following the Spirit like the wind, and that he never intended a “one size fits all” remedy to life’s situations?  Isn’t this why He sent the Holy Spirit?

Maybe it’s time I stopped focusing so hard on trying to do what is right and avoid what is wrong and, instead, focused hard on following the Spirit of the Living God.  After all, if Jesus didn’t jump Peter’s case for not “reconciling” with the temple guard and let that one slide, maybe He’s not keeping a tally of everything I do and don’t do.  Maybe “judgment” looks a lot different than I’ve always been taught.

It’s the curse of the Garden that makes us crave a “list” so that we can be “right with God” without having to actually engage with Him.  I mean, if He just gives us a list then we can accomplish what He wants without His help, right?  That is the curse of the Garden, desiring to live and be “righteous” without God.  And it really doesn’t matter what culture you come from or whether or not you’re an atheist or a Catholic priest or a follower of Zorg.  Even devout Christians, pastors, priests, rabbis, etc., struggle with this desire.  The “just give me a list” desire or the desire to do it on our own, in our own strength, without help.  Religious people get their list from the tenets of their faith.  Atheists derive their list from their own internal voice and the culture they identify with.  But no matter what, we all have a list.

I think it’s actually harder to abandon our lists and try to follow the leading and guidance of God than to live by those lists.  But I see (at least I hope I see) that God’s intention for our lives is to abandon these lists and follow Him.  Do I mean throw out the Bible?  No!  I just mean, especially for myself, that I have to stop looking at the Bible as rules to obey, as a list of do’s and don’ts to follow.  I have to see that Jesus wants me to seek Him and not to try to live “a righteous life”  because if I’m following Him, and He’s a righteous God, then I WILL live a righteous life just not one of my own misguided making.

I have to sign off now because I have a lot to do.  And to be honest I’m not gonna proofread this before I post it because I don’t want to.  If you find any glaring spelling/grammar mistakes, feel free to comment and I’ll fix them later.

P.S.  The short story I started a few weeks ago is still being written, I have not abandoned it.