Work or Holiday?
Pain or Pleasure?
It's pretty easy to choose between clear opposites. But how about...
Love or Peace?
Health or Family?
This is not so easy. It's great when our options are easy to choose between, yet it's when we struggle between options that we enter the realm of the divine.
A Crazy Command
For thousands of years the Jewish nation lived in a simple world of clear cut laws defined by a long list of "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not". There was not much need to struggle with these laws as most grey areas were removed by more laws.
Yet along came Jesus saying "I have come not to destroy the law but fulfill the law" (Matt 5:17) leaving us not in the clear cut realm of the law, but somewhere beyond and between.
In fact when Jesus was challenged to summarize all the Bible teachings he said the following:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:‘ Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
The ultimate divine commandment sits between us loving God (unseen) and loving our neighbor (seen), between loving ourselves (natural) and loving our neighbor (unnatural).
How is it possible to do both, to exist in the zone of love, that does not simply love God but exclude our neighbor, or love our neighbor but exclude ourselves? In this BETWEEN lies the greatest calling for all Christians.
A Surprising Between
Yet we are not happy with the seemingly vague and fuzzy "between". Knowing this answer a lawyer challenged Jesus hoping to get him to make this easier to do.
"But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)
So the lawyer wants to focus in on the details of "who is this neighbor I must love? Give me a clear definition so I can do it."
Jesus then tells the well known story of what we now call the "Parable of the Good Samaritan". In the story a traveller gets mugged and is left dying on the roadside. A priest and a Levite both see him but walk past ignoring him. Finally a Samaritan - considered an outcast to the Jews - helps him and cares for him.
And so we might finish the story thinking the lesson is that our neighbor is whoever we meet in need. And this is true, but this is not the main lesson Jesus seeks to teach.
Jesus is addressing something far more important. This is not about the object (the injured man) or the subject (the Samaritan) but about the action (the verb) that happens between them (love).
The lawyer wanted a clear definition of the object he should love. Yet in the story Jesus not only confounds his notion of who the subject is - not him but a despised Samaritan - but he concludes with an unexpected question.
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (Luke 10:36)
The lawyer had asked "Who is my neighbor?" and Jesus answers with, "Who was neighborly?"
There is no subject and object, there are two neighbors. The very concept of a neighbor only exists in relation to another neighbor. This is about becoming a lover not finding the object to love. All too often we can be fixated on the needy we love rather than on the love we should be developing.
Love is enacted, experienced, created in the relationship between neighbors. Love is not about the subject or the object it is the verb that connects them. It is here, between neighbors, between God and us, that we are called experience and live the greatest command.
There I will Meet You
So where will we find God? Where can we meet God? He tells us plainly where he would meet his people thousands of years ago.
"I will meet with you there and talk to you from above the atonement cover BETWEEN the gold cherubim that hover over the Ark of the Covenant." (Exodus 25:22)
He would meet them BETWEEN the cherubim on the Ark. God's meeting place has always been between.
It's like a rainbow, that beautiful symbol of God's covenant with us, a covenant between heaven and earth.
"And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant BETWEEN God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth." (Genesis 9:16)
We can't see where it starts or where it ends, yet we can see its beauty and know what it means.
Jesus tells us we must be born of water and Spirit if we are to enter his Kingdom (John 3:5).
Yet just like Nicodemus we are confused by this? What is this Spirit? How does it work? How is it defined? And so Jesus answers;
"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (John 3:8)
This is where our meeting with God takes place. This is where we will experience him. We may not know where the wind starts or where it ends - but we can certainly feel it between.
There is something else really important about the state of between, and that is it is not a state of stasis but of motion. Whether your are between jobs or between points in a hike, this is not a place where we stand still but rather a place where we are on the move. It is no coincidence that the first century church, a church on the move, powered by the Spirit, was called the Way.
And so even though we love our certainties, we must in faith follow our Lord to the place where he is found, between our certainties. For here our greatest clarities will be experienced. Whether it be our struggle between Faith and Works or Law and Grace or Mercy and Truth or the Seen and Unseen or God and our Neighbor. For here he meets us. For here is our journey. For here is love. For here is His between, here is our Way.