Tuesday, 21 June 2016
All Embracing Perfection
Yesterday’s Gospel reading for the 4th Sunday after Trinity was Luke 6: 36-41. It contains the wonderful message of Jesus:
Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s* eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 42Or how can you say to your neighbour,* “Friend,* let me take out the speck in your eye”, when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s* eye.
In the Anglican churches in the neighbouring communities here in P.E.I. that Lorna and I attend they use the King James Version. The KJV uses “mote” rather than “speck”. As with much of the KJV language mote is more poetic but I must admit that the NRSV version of speck is more descriptive and makes the point more expressively. It is hard to imagine a log or beam in your eye that you can’t see. However, Jesus tells us that we can concentrate on the speck in another’s eye and ignore or be ignorant of the log in our own.
One of the points my sermon addresses is Jesus’s command to be perfect. He states the Gospel passage, “everyone that is perfect shall be as his master.” Jesus states this command more clearly in Matthew chapter 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” I have problems with the idea that we are called by Jesus to be perfect. This, in my mind, is a barrier to the idea of seeing the log in your own eye rather than the speck in your neighbour’s eye.
Jesus’s invocation about not seeing the log in your own eye and focussing on the log in another’s expresses a very important concept in modern psychological. What Jesus is describing has been identified as projection. You see in others what is actually within you. Often people will react strongly—actually overreact to another person or what that person does. In doing so they are responding to something that is a characteristic that they are not conscious of within themselves which they do not find acceptable. Carl Jung has named this as the Shadow archetype.
In effect the command by Jesus to be perfect will support the resistance that people have to acknowledging those parts of themselves which they consider do not measure up to their idea of what perfection is. Therefore the Christian idea of perfection and the possibility of achieving that ideal can be a barrier to what is is proclaimed.
As I note in my sermon another way of understanding what Jesus desires for us is based on a different translation of the word ‘perfection’ in the Aramaic which is understood by scholars to be Jesus’s native language. Neil Douglas-Klotz, in his book A Prayer for the Cosmos translates the word as “all embracing”. This is an important understanding when considering the Shadow and projection. If we do not accept i.e. embrace those parts of ourselves that we do not find acceptable we will never fully understand the person that God created us to be. We will continue to see the speck in another person’s eye rather than the log in our own eye.
The next time that you react overly strongly i.e. overreact to someone I invite you to consider that it may a part of yourself that you are actually reacting to. The aphorism to ‘know thyself’ is not biblical but it is applicable and valuable. Peace