New Kind of Game

(Matthew 12) He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will any one hear his voice in the streets; he will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick, till he brings justice to victory.

Our age, like every age I suppose, is marked by wrangling. And we, like people of every age, still believe that wrangling, even when it leads to war, is the best strategy to address an injustice.

I like to think I’m above the fray. But I always join in. I do so by complaining about some politician or murmuring about some perceived slight and so in my own way add to the great common wrangle.

But Jesus is different. He is audacious enough to employ an entirely different strategy. His strategy for the triumph of justice, which is not really a strategy, but more like a new kind of game, has to do with small acts of gentleness. His way of justice is about doing no harm, about doing no violence to anyone’s soul. His justice is concern with bruised reeds and smoldering wicks. And to the bruised ones he says, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11)."

When we remember that a reed is already a symbol for weakness, and so a bruised reed is a thing near desolation, we catch a glimmer of his gentle love. A love that walks slowly with the bare feet of attentive care. In this new kind of game we could even say that justice is a synonym for love.

I recall the warm summer evening when during a moderate rain, brought on by a passing thunder storm, my son Lucas, in his early teens at the time, ran out of the house and dashed around the front lawn playing the clown.

Earlier that day we had been playing "Sorry" and as these games go, we competed as strenuously as we could, knocking one another of the board at any and every opportunity. But now, here we were, all gathered at the picture window watching Lucas in the rain. He danced, hooted, did silly walks, hopped like a rabbit and turned cartwheels.

Our small kids, leaning over the couch, faces against the glass, squealed with delight while Deb and I stood behind and laughed. Lucas was at play in a game with no rules. He was making everything up as he went. And I loved him for it.

Here were two games with vastly different rules and outcomes and ways of participating. The one is the tit-for-tat game we all know how to play; the other is a game that has at its heart the antithesis of rivalry. It’s this new game that I’m invited to, where getting my fair share has no currency and what is just, takes on a new light.

This is the invitation Jesus invites us to play. And every day is a new opportunity to join in the new game.

Gentle souls leave it to others to make a commotion. Gentle souls don’t know what the commotion is about. Gentle people play by a different set of rules.

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  1. True that Jesus’ gentle love for the weakest among us is something to emulate; it is the core of Christianity. But, though he did not teach or model violence, he also did not teach passivity in the face of injustice. He taught active resistance to injustice, which may involve the wrangling you just spoke of. He taught to give your inner garment in addition to the outer one when the latter was being demanded, which would’ve meant walking out of court naked. This, according to Judaism, brought shame not only on the naked party, but on those causing or viewing the nakedness, and would’ve definitely drawn attention to the injustice of the system. It would’ve been an effective non-violent protest. Sometimes, I think, Jesus had the best sense of humour, one that sanctioned satire and ridicule of the powerful and oppressive and unjust.

  2. So Steve plus Connie equals gentleness along with an occasional flipping of the bird. I want to become better at expressing both in creative ways. Here’s some practice with the bird, which comes easier to me, as you’ve already guessed. Last night on Colbert we saw a snippet from a Christian Kids’ Camp video where eight year olds are told there are two kinds of people – those who love Jesus and those who don’t. Then a counsellor pipes up: “I want to see these kids sold out for Jesus, laying down their lives, like the people in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan.” Could somebody please say … I … er… what’s the opposite of “amen?” Her attitude is apparently evidence of the 3rd awakening, as Dubya calls it. And these “awakened” ones are already in Canada. There’s about 900 Christian rightist think tanks now in residence beside the Parliament buildings. It’s getting so crowded in Ottawa that you can’t throw an egg out of a Pullman car without hitting a fundamentalist. So what can we do to turn back the hordes poring over our borders, to confront these puritannical nutcases who’d like to make it illegal to wear ankle sox on Sundays? A gentle, fire-breathing dove has the answer.

  3. My friend Impossible Ape hog-tied me and dragged me over here. Ok, not really. 😀 He did strongly encourage me to visit, and it was worht the trip. Good post, and I fully agree with you.

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