We’ve all had this experience (or maybe just me): You’re in a classroom, an upper-level high school or college liberal arts class, or—God forbid—graduate school. The teacher asks a question, and a well-meaning but ill-informed peer of yours gives an answer, a dead-wrong back-asswords answer. Your teacher, not wanting to hurt this poor delicate snowflake of a student’s self-efficacy says,
“Oh…that’s interesting, I never thought of it that way.”
—and then proceeds to distort the hell out of said student’s answer, warping it and twisting it until it maybe-kinda-sorta looks halfway close to the actual right answer.
Meanwhile your peers—most of whom had a pretty clear understanding of the concept before Jimmy opened his damn mouth—are now helplessly confused, wondering if they’d been wrong this whole time, because whatever it is Jimmy said was way different than what they were thinking.
Evaluation: Jimmy’s inaccuracy has now been positively reinforced in his own mind, your peers’ accuracy has been negatively reinforced in their own minds, and the whole planet has exploded a dozen times in your own mind (again, maybe that’s just me).
The point here kids, is that Jimmy was wrong. And that’s ok, it’s cool to be wrong. What’s not cool is when we let the wrongness pass for rightness. Because then the rightness becomes wrongness and the wrongness is rightness, and then next thing you know your mom is feeding you peanut butter and turkey sandwiches because your little brother was “so creative he came up with another new fun way to eat PB&J, and gosh darn it’s just as good as the original!”
So what’s the big deal? So what if we have a couple different versions of “right” floating around out there? That’s not a problem, is it? We can all kind of just let it be, and John Lennon this whole life thing, right?
No, people. No.
Jesus taught us to love, always to love, to show grace beyond grace, to forgive seventy-times seven. But he never said that if his teaching gets too hard, it’s kosher to water down a few of the harder-to-swallow points.
But we see it all the time, right? A friend of yours posts a Facebook status with some questionable moral logic, but the guy’s got a good heart so you go ahead and toss him a “like.”
There’s that guy at the office who nobody really likes, and it’s just so easy to make fun of him. You don’t actively make mean jokes about him of course, but you certainly don’t ever miss an opportunity to listen in and laugh along either.
That girl from church wearing the Jesus Culture t-shirt and toe-strap Chacos who just loves to talk about how she’s halfway through Systematic Theology in one breath, and how many guys she hooked up with in Uptown last month in the next is going to start leading a bible study for kids (true story). Are we ok with that?
The Son of God handed us the bargain of the century on a silver platter: Salvation, yours for the taking, right there in front of you. All you have to do is love him. And in John 14:15 Jesus tells us “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
That last word there, “commandments.” It does not lend itself to loose interpretation. As Catholics, the idea that Jesus gave us hard and fast commands is a foundational pillar of our faith. Because they are the right answer. Because no matter how many ways Jimmy or his teacher want to twist it, 2+2 is going to equal 4, Denmark is north of Germany, the Earth is a sphere, marriage is an unbreakable covenant bond, and taking the life of an unborn child is murder, plain and simple.
Of course, we are not called to ridicule the Jimmys of the world, ever. Neither you nor me nor Jimmy nor even Judge Judy are entitled to cast judgments on our fellow man. But we are also called to not condone their wrongness. Which is exactly what we do when we situationally qualify sin. We take the commandments of God, and make them more like guidelines than actual rules.
When good Christians stand by and let God’s laws of love get swept aside in favor of an all comer’s policy, people start to question what makes a Christian different from anyone else. When we let our brothers and sisters break Dad’s rules, the house becomes disordered. And who wants to live in a broken home?
It’s a slippery slope, guys.
And not the fun kind.