Recently, I ran across a quote in book I am reading on “pastoral health” titled “The Myth of the Shiska” by Edwin Friedman. (You may recall that I used one of Friedman’s Fables in a previous blog post.) Just so you know, a Shiska is a derogatory Yiddish term for a Gentile woman who seduces a Jewish man into marrying her so that she can take him away from the Jewish faith. Friedman shows that not only is this idea a myth within the Jewish community, it is a myth across all cultures and religions. Marriages happen for lots of reasons, but seldom do United Methodists marry just to get their spouse to give up being a Baptist – or vice versa. Friedman shows that family dynamics have more to say about interracial and interfaith marriages than anything else.
The quote that caught my eye was this one:
“The world would be far better off if, instead of being concerned about our own bodies and other people’s souls, we watched over other people’s bodies and our own souls.”
That is a truly deep thought. I couldn’t help but think of a parable told by another Jewish Rabbi that goes like this:
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,] you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25 :31-46…Jesus speaking.)
In a very real and concise way Jesus is telling his followers that they MUST pay attention to the condition of the fellow traveler’s “body” in order to be able to minister to Jesus. Looking out for one another is looking out for Jesus.
In our world today, there is a whole lot of discussion going on about caring for some of the least and last in the world. We live in a time when there are more people displaced by war and turmoil in their own countries than any other time in modern history. And we don’t know what to do in order to balance caring for those in need with our own “safety.”
I just hope and pray that we don’t lose sight of what Jesus and this other rabbi are telling us. Looking after the bodies (caring for the safety of others) is a very important indicator of how much we trust Jesus with our own lives and care – in this world and in the world to come.
I know these thoughts aren’t totally complete and I hope they give us something to think about since we are all “Not Quite Home” yet…