OKIE IN EXILE — Difficult and left untried
The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried. — Gilbert K. Chesterton
There is an ancient Christian text called the Didake (did-ahk-ay) that begins with these words: “There are two ways, one of life and one of death; but a great difference between the two ways.”
The document then goes on to describe the Way of Life. To say that the Way of Life is not an easy way might be something of an understatement. I was going along reading it sentence by sentence saying, Preach it, Brother, Preach it, but it didn’t take too many sentences before I read one that made me say, Ouch!
The thing is, there is nothing there that is not in the New Testament or in the Gospels. The Didake just condenses it down to the essentials. It’s like chewing salt from a block rather than just eating it dusted on your popcorn. It’s the same stuff, but maybe a gallon of soda pop would help it go down.
In the New Testament itself, Jesus tells the rich young ruler: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
To this we reply, the whole perfection thing sounds really great, but I have some very nice things.
We fall short.
I’ve come up with a solution to this that makes me feel more comfortable. I should become a self-help guru and sell it to you, but I will give it to you for free. Here goes. Jesus knew we were going to fail, but he set up the teachings to point us in the right direction. If we fall short of these very high ideals while striving toward them, then at least we’ve made progress.
I think that last paragraph has some truth to it, but there is a tiny voice in the back of my mind that is trying to say something else. The voice is calm and insistent but there is a chorus of other voices that are trying to shout it down.
My head can sometimes be very noisy.
A good question to ask would be, why would I care? The Didake is just a dusty old scroll; the Bible is just a dusty old book. Jesus didn’t even have a car, much less a computer. What do they know anyway?
I was raised being taught these things were right. I’ve grown up, looked around the world, and I’ve not found anything better. It doesn’t teach pursuing money; it doesn’t teach pursuing power. It teaches that our pursuit should be in helping our fellow human beings whether they suffer from a lack of food on their tables or love in their hearts. It teaches a way of ordering your personal life that is in harmony with these aims.
Jesus tells us his yoke is easy and his burden is light, but maybe we have to put down some other things first. Maybe Bob Dylan was right, “If you ain’t got nothin’, you’ve got nothin’ to lose.”
I don’t have a sweet answer.
Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like'' the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook.