(85) S5E8 SOTM: Ruby

Continuing the Sermon on the Mount working through Mt. 5:38-48.

  • Richard Rohr's "Sermon on the Mount": https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003A0IASQ/ref=cm_sw_r_em_api_uOXEFbGCN7ASQ
  • Dallas Willard's "The Divine Conspiracy": https://www.amazon.com/Divine-Conspiracy-Rediscovering-Hidden-Life/dp/0007596545/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=dallas+willard+divine+conspiracy&qid=1601907374&sr=8-1
Ruby reds begin to cloud my vision
Hot emotions flood the depths of my soul
Hateful thoughts transform mind into prison
From reign of vengeance ne'er a caracole
Only blood can satiate my fierce thirst
Another's oblation to the divine
Only when gods have exacted their worst
Will peaceful ones like me no more repine
But bloodletting's always unrelenting
Never enough blood to cure or prevent
As one whose life is the ultimate thing
Can never from their self-int'rest repent
Only security that we can know's
Willingness to give life for friends and foes


[Mt. 5:38-48]. Rubies were used as gems of protection and security. 
The first stanza is meant to convey ideas often associated with the color red (hot, hateful, vengeance, reds), as the gem in view here is a Ruby. I also discuss how these emotions and thoughts are not good with the language I use (cloud, prison, and flood). 
This last line summarizes the position this vengeful person is in. Vengeance reigns in their life so much that they will not take a step to the left or to the right from the path they are on. I have a number of things in mind here. 1) Simply, I’m saying that those controlled by this passion of vengeance are on an immovable path. They are controlled and won’t divert their course. 2) I use the word caracole which is a word intended to be used specifically for horse maneuvering. In this sense, I am claiming that one who is filled with violence is no longer fully human, but beastly (as the Bible often symbolizes of inhuman humans). 3) Reign should also cause the reader to think of the alternative spelling and meaning of this word, “rein.” This should especially be so since I used the word “caracole” to bring horse imagery to mind. When violence is in one’s view, it tends to lead an individual by the reins. It controls them and reigns over them in their beastly state. 
This oblation can be meant in two ways. In one sense, for me to require the blood or pain of another is to set myself up as divine. To say that a slight against me is worthy of another’s painful infliction is to think rather highly of myself. It is setting myself up as a god. But this can also be viewed from a more Christian perspective. Many times conservatives tend to claim a view of God’s law and holiness which is extremely high, then damn all those who break the law (except themselves and their group/party, of course). To sit as judges who condemn others is to not only overlook our own sin, but it overlooks God’s mercy and grace towards sinners. We set ourselves up as gods when we assume a position which brings violence upon another human being on God’s behalf, forgetting both our own sinful state and God’s gracious mercy towards us.
These two lines reflect the notion that most people have, which is that the problem is “out there” rather than “in here” – in our own hearts. If God would just judge the world and if I could just exact justice on those people, then the world would be made right and we’d all live happily. See, I’m really a peaceful, loving person, but not while those problem people are happy. Such a view fails to recognize one’s own complicity in creating a world saturated with evil. 
If life is the thing held most dearly, one will cling to it at all costs. This is one thing which sets Christianity apart from other worldviews. We are to consider our lives lost for the sake of our God and our neighbor (which includes enemies). MLK noted that this change in ideology was actually what catapulted him in his movement, as he was only freed to love and do justice when he laid down his defenses and submitted to the possibility of suffering for love.
The problem with holding our lives so dear is that doing so often means acting at the expense of others. Sometimes we draw blood indirectly, through our materialistic greed and our willingness to subjugate people in far away lands for our comfort and security, or to demonize migrants who seek to come into our country of plenty. Often times we are willing to draw blood more directly, through the use of force (self-defense, military, slander, etc). But we often find that no matter how much violence we do, it is never enough to provide us with enough security or vengeance. We can see this played out in the real world all the time. Hitler was created from the Allies taking vengeance on Germany. The Middle East as we know it was created out of the West’s greed and violence, particularly in WWI. ISIS was created out of our violence towards Bin Laden and his followers as well as our war in Iraq. Violence rarely, if ever resolves anything. Instead, it perpetuates a cycle of violence. For a great look at this very idea, check out the movie “The Kingdom.” The end is phenomenal and shows this cyclical nature of violence – even violence we perceive as justified.  This violence ends up being the very sort of thing that lust is, and is why Jesus not only condemns murder, but hatred. Violence and hatred objectify another human being. Whereas lust objectifies another man or woman, hatred objectifies our enemies. 
Christians don’t attempt to find their security in the temporal. Sure, comfort is nice and we want to live. But our ultimate hope is eternal. When we understand our hope – that it is both assured and eternal – nothing can shake us. This assurance comes in the precious, ruby red blood of our savior, shed of his own volition at the hands of the violent world we help create and perpetuate. It is through sacrifice, not violence, that we have our hope. For more on this powerful kind of love, see Appendix 11.

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