Extremes create certain tensions. Looking for a way between two poles takes work. It is often easier to choose one or the other and live into that extreme. Choosing a third way comes with its own set of tensions. Since I first set up this blog with the title, “The Edge of the Inside,” I have wanted to do at least two posts of explanation. This is not the first in that series but a “pre-post.”
Thinking through the tensions present in last week’s Lectionary texts left me wondering if my description of a third way of following Jesus was appropriate. For example, the passage in Luke offers contrasting “negative” illustrations for following Jesus. Some rejected him. Such a response was met with an equally negative response from a couple of disciples. They wanted to call down fire from heaven. I fear too often we feel the need to run to God’s rescue when someone rejects Jesus. We then get this sadistic satisfaction in the thought of their demise. Notice, Jesus rebuked the two. He did not ignore them. He scolded them. He did not scold those who rejected him. Instead he spoke firmly to those who sought to take up a perceived offense.
On the other hand, several came to follow Jesus but wanted to do so on their terms. It seems odd to choose such extremes as burying a family member and saying farewell. But, Jesus does precisely that. He notes following means his terms; his way of life is the best way of life. Troublesome statements for sure. Are the two ways connected? Refusing to follow our perceptions of Jesus and following Jesus our way. Are they contrasts? Are they extremes?
The epistle text creates something of a similar case of extremes. Either we follow Jesus with a legalism that binds us for fear of our lack of self-control (a fruit of the Spirit) or a liberty that belies a way of life following anything but our own passions which also may readily illustrate our lack of self-control (a fruit of the Spirit). What is the third way? Paul suggests the crucifixion of our passions – giving into the way of Jesus. This is the way of the Spirit. This is the third way. It is not without tensions. But, following the way of the Spirit means a sure reflection of the relational character of Jesus in such a manner the world is not left without both a picture of and connection to the activity of God.
After writing about it, I do think this is a third way. Consider this something of a “pre-post” to my series on, “Why ‘The Edge of the Inside.'”