CCC Blog

And the Door Was Shut?

And the door was shut!  That’s how the parable of the bridesmaids ends (Matthew 25:1-13).  The five wise bridesmaids, with oil in their lamps, are welcomed into the wedding banquet.  The five foolish ones, without oil to burn, are not.  While they were off procuring the necessary oil, the door to the party is shut and the festivities begin without them.  Having oil appears to be the “ticket” required for entry into the party.  When the five foolish return, presumably with oil in hand, the door is not opened to them.  Even when they pound on the door, begging to be allowed in, the door remains shut.

 This detail in the story raises in important issue.  Since the parable is full of symbolism, such that the bridegroom and host of the party is Christ, we are the bridesmaids, and the wedding banquet is the kingdom of heaven, does this story suggest that only some of us will enter the Kingdom while others will be refused access?  That some of us are wise and some are foolish?  It certainly appears so.  After all, the door was shut.  On the other hand, the parables of Jesus are symbolic for a reason and tend to underscore a primary point that supersedes the more minute details.  In this case, the focus of the story is on readiness and preparedness.  What makes the wise bridesmaids wise is not only that they have oil in their lamps, but that they ready and prepared to meet Christ when he came.  Conversely, the foolish are foolish because they are not.  In scripture, wisdom and folly have nothing to do with intellect, but rather are spiritual categories measuring how well we grasp the nature and purpose of faith.  Being ready to receive Christ whenever he comes, is what matters most.  The fact that the door was shut serves to underscore how important this readiness is. 

With that in mind, we don’t know if the foolish bridesmaids are lost forever.  Were the story to continue, there is no indication that if the bridesmaids came back the next day, they wouldn’t be granted admittance.  The story only tells us that on this particular day they are not allowed in.  Perhaps the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of the banquet host would triumph tomorrow where today they are less visible.  Such was the case with the bible’s second sin (after the original sin of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit)… Cain’s murder of Abel.  In that story, the Lord requests an offering from both brothers.  On the particular day in question God favored Abel’s over Cain’s.  This caused Cain to respond with envy that took the form of a rage so great he ultimately killed his brother.  But there was no indication in the words of God that on another day Cain’s offering wouldn’t also be received.  Just that on that day, it wasn’t. 

 The bible presents us with stories that are complex in their ramifications.  At least, the way we unpack them with our human minds and in our human context.  I do not believe the primary thread woven through scripture is God’s desire to separate us into the “haves” (saved) and the “have nots” (the unsaved).  That would be antithetical to God’s desire that the world be saved through Jesus (John 3:17).  The decision of who will be “in” and who will be “out” at the end is ultimately up to God.  Our concern is to accept the intention of Matthew 25:1-13, which is not to make a sweeping statement on the second coming or the number (or even ratio) of people who will be admitted into the kingdom when Christ returns.  Rather, its concern is to underscore the importance of tending to our faith all the time – in an ongoing way, on a regular basis – and not becoming spiritually lazy and running to God with bargains and pleas in times of crisis.  Such caring for our faith makes us wise and allows us to be a position to be invited into the kingdom whenever it arrives

Posted by Michael Karunas with

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A Little More Compassion

The backbone of the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is compassion.  Three people see a half-dead man lying by the side of the road.  Two of them pass by, doing nothing more than laying eyes on him.  Only the third stops and does something to improve the victim’s situation.  The Samaritan.  He not only saw, but he had compassion (v. 33).   Compassion is what inspired all of the actions that followed.  And without compassion, none of that would have been possible.  The word compassion means to “suffer with.”  The literal Greek word in the New Testament used here contains the word for “guts” in it – as in, to feel “in the gut” the suffering of another.   

 

The way we experience compassion, therefore, begins by looking within.  Before we can comprehend the world “out there,” we must be willing to take a look at the person within our very selves.  Compassion is about connecting with the suffering in our own life; thinking of times in our lives when we’ve been on the mat; when we’ve lost (a job, a relationship, a loved one); when it felt like the walls were caving in around us.  How did we feel when at those times?  Not what did we do, but how did we feel.

Compassion starts here, because there is a something called a “similarity-in-difference” in these lives we lead alongside one another.  Though each of our lives is uniquely different, there is a similarity in how we experience them.  You never knew my father, who died of a heart-attack 20 years ago.  And your lost loved ones didn’t pass away in the exact same way he did.  But if I talk about my love for him, and my sadness of losing him, it can connect with you – and the feelings of love you have for your paretns or children, and it can connect with your feelings of grief for the people you’ve lost.  We can connect with the hurt and pain of others, even if we don’t know anything about them, when we are aware of our own hurt and pain.  That’s compassion. 

 

I was having a conversation on facebook about these thoughts last week and one wise commenter noted that it is easier to find “similarity-in-difference” the less “different” someone is.  How true!  Generating compassion for those we know comes much more naturally than it does for those we don’t.  That’s why one of the most important details of the story of the Good Samaritan is what is not said about the man who fell into the hands of robbers.  We don’t know his enthnicity or what he looks like.  He’s half-dead, which means he’s likely unconscious and unable to speak.  Which further means that we can’t tell if he’s speaking a different language, or our own with an accent.  We cannot determine if he’s “from here” or not.  He’s described as being “stripped.”  Therefore, he does not have any identifying clothing with which we could assign him to a particular societal sub-group.  Jesus doesn’t allow us to deny him compasison because of something external; because she “speaks a different language and therefore must be here for disingenuous reasons;”  or because “he’s dressed like a gangster and is probably dealing drugs.”  It is though Jesus wants us to see past the labels and the external things that characterize us and experience this man exactly as he is.  As a man.  A human being.  Broken, beaten, hurting and in need of compassion. 

 

 

Having compassion for one another will certainly always be easier the closer we are to them.  But compassion has a way of bringing us together – bringing us closer to one another and us closer to God.  Because compassion, by definition, emphasizes the “similar” more than the “different” in “similarity-in-difference.”  And in our contemporary societal climate of polarity and divisiveness, couldn’t we all stand to be drawn toward one another?  Could there be anything wrong with experiencing a little more compassion?     

 

Posted by Michael Karunas with

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