Impossibilities in the sermon on the mount, or in the world? (E. Stanley Jones)


I’m still reading my second time through ‘the Christ on the mount’ by E. stanley Jones, which has already inspired some posts here and here, but before I’ll get to that I want to share something I found this on a post on the unequally yoked blog (yes, that atheist blogger who became catholic because of her faith in absolute morality. Read the whole blog for more on her story, or start here, she’s much better in telling it herself…), under the name of the ‘Litany of Gendlin’.

What is true is already so.
Owning up to it doesn’t make it worse.
Not being open about it doesn’t make it go away.
And because it’s true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
Anything untrue isn’t there to be lived.
People can stand what is true,
for they are already enduring it.

It made me think, and I do think there’s a step missing (our interpretation of Truth, and the limitations of our mind and language to capture it) but indeed, Truth, or truth is already there, and nothing will make it go away.

The question is whether we are able to see what’s true, and what’s not. The same can be said about what’s natural. What if we are conditioned, in this fallen and broken world, to find natural and true things that are actually neither? What if we need a new heart and a new mind to be even able to see what’s true, and natural like it was meant to be?

The greatest need of modern Christianity is the rediscovery of the Sermon on the Mount as the only practical way to live. Now we have an undertone of doubt and fear that it is not workable. We feel that it is trying to give human nature a bent that it will not take ; it is trying to force something on us for which human nature is not made, Housman puts it in these lines :

“And since, my soul? we cannot flee
To Saturn or to Mercury,
Keep we must, if keep we can,
Those foreign laws of God and man.”

Are the principles laid down in the Sermon on the Mount foreign laws? Are they something ‘tfor which we are not made? It would seem so  at first sight, Chesterton says that on the first reading you feel that it turns everything upside ‘down, but the second time you read it you discover that it turns everything right side up. The first time you read it you feel that it is impossible, the second time, you feel that nothing else is possible The more I have pondered on this way of life, the more 1 am persuaded that instead of all the moral impossibilities lying in the Sermon on the Mount, as we often think, the fact is that all the moral possibilities lie here, and all the impossibilities lie outside. We have become so naturalized in other ways of life that this way seems foreign.

As someone who has been reading the Sermon on the Mount, and meditating on its content quite a lot lately (but not nearly enough) I am slowly realising that Jones and Chesterton are right. Even if I’m nowhere in this, nothing else makes sense but this scandalous love that includes our enemies!

Years ago I said that I wanted to find out how to live ‘the great commandment’ and love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and my neighbor as myself. I don’t think any follower of Christ can get around that question actually. And the more I read the gospels and the sermon on the mount, the more I see that I’m still nowhere, but also that nothing else makes sense…

The Truth is out there, we have to align ourselves with it, with Him, who is the Way…

Lord, teach us

shalom

Bram

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