• on January 26, 2018

God is the Last Horizon

(excerpt from Be Angry, a sermon by Arthur C. McGill)

The command of Jesus that we should love and not hate one another has been interpreted in our day in a very definite way. It is taken to mean that all hate and anger should be avoided in our relations with others. In other words, the command of Jesus to love and not to hate is taken to be a rule for how we can manage our everyday lives. By his command, Jesus is showing us how to run our daily existence in the pleasantest way.

Surely this is totally false. That is, whatever else Jesus may have been doing, he was not trying to help people find devices and technique to improve their daily lives. He was not trying to do this because he was concerned with God. And God, as the beginning and end of all things, cannot be degraded into some device for improving our everyday lives. Getting through each day as best we can is certainly a legitimate area of concern. It is the area of insurance policies and personal tact, of deodorants and money. But it is not the area where we meet and know the love of God. It is not the area within which Jesus calls us to discover the goodness of God. Jesus was crucified, and furthermore, his crucifixion has always been seen in the Christian communities as a good – essential event for dealing with the deep agonies of human existence…But his death also means that whatever he may represent, he does not represent a successful technique for handling everyday life.

On that score, Jesus is a total failure. He did not manage life very well. He did help people to avoid violence and upheaval; he did not assist them to get through each day a little better – putting on the right manner here, adopting a little tact there, taking sensible precautions at another point. Jesus has nothing for us at that level of life, because it is simply not the level where the meaning of God or goodness of God can ever be found. God is the last horizon. God is the ultimate beginning. God is the final end, the end beyond all ends. God is at the deepest center of ourselves. God is at the ultimate reach of our spirits.

When Jesus speaks and acts in God’s name, he is addressing us at that deepest level and final horizon of our existence. Anyone who does not want to be addressed there, who only wants to live in terms of his or her everyday life – that person has lost God. For that person, Jesus in his authentic claims on us will make no sense at all, will seem either like a fool or a devil.

Therefore, when Jesus commands love and not hate, he is speaking of our deep and fundamental attitudes. He is not speaking of the masks we wear and techniques we use to get along with each other.

Other Arthur C. McGill works worth reading:

Death and Life: An American Theology

Suffering: A Test of Theological Method

Dying Unto Life: New God, New Death, New Life

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