When I was a kid, our house was adjacent to some woods. My friends and I spent hours running the trails, and playing horses, and looking for unicorns. One friend was convinced a unicorn lived in our so called magical forest. These mythical creatures are supposedly a rare find and hard to catch. But there is something about this definition of unicorns that reminds me of the Bible story for this Sunday (2/5/23) in the Narrative Lectionary. Matthew 7 is the end of the sermon on the mount, and Jesus gives a list of lofty expectations for his disciples to follow. But they are just that – lofty and high-achieving, and if these expectations exist in someone, IMHO they would be a special unicorn or a rare find indeed.
Take a look:
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged…the measure you give, the measure you will get.” We are human, and we judge others. But Jesus is reminding us that we will be measured by God on how we measure others. Our hearts then should be powerfully motivated, and ready to serve, love, and forgive at a moments notice. Speaking of judgement, what’s fair? Well, one way is through justice and the another way is through mercy. If we judge through the lens of justice and mercy, then this is how we will be measured as well? But how rare it is to find a person who judges with mercy and justice?
“Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” Jesus offers a little humor here to make this analogy memorable. People seem more tolerant of their own sinful selves than they are with other people’s sin. But Jesus is clear here, we have to deal with and remove the planks [sins, biases, isms, brokenness] in our own eyes first. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. How rare a find is it to meet someone who is willing to deal with their sinful self first?
“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.” First Jesus tells his disciples not to judge, and now he gives them a warning. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine…,” and we should share God’s word and love through word and deed with others. But he warns us that our hearts need to be prepared for those who are not ready to hear God’s words or who refuse God’s love. How rare a find is a heart like this?
“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” Ask. Seek. Knock. No skills needed. It’s even less work than a “knock, knock” joke. With a “knock, knock” joke, one has to know the punchline. With Jesus, one does not have to know or even understand the punchline [or have the right questions, or the right spirit, or the right heart]. Just knock, and know that Jesus is there. But how rare is it to find a person who relies on Jesus instead of themselves?
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you…” As we know it, this is the Golden Rule. I can remember yelling this at the boys who chased me on the playground with switches. But I didn’t know as a kid that Jesus uttered the same words. But even as a child, I got it as the Golden Rule is straightforward! Jesus wants us to treat people with the same love, respect, forgiveness, and kindness as we want to be treated. A rare find? Possibly.
“Enter through the narrow gate…and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” The gate is not a destiny or fate to follow, but an entrance to find, and the path that goes with it is hard. Jesus never promised a perfect path in life; he only promised to be faithful to us. Many of us [me included] prefer the easy outs. It’s just another rarity here that Jesus speaks about.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” Three Little Pigs, anyone? I can just hear the wolf in this story with “I’ll huff, and puff, and blow your house down!” At some point, our lives will be shaken. Without a good foundation, a stick house will blow over and a brick house can crumble. But that’s when faith comes to the rescue. Faith found in Jesus can weather the wolf. Do you know a rare one who has this kind of faith?
Jesus sets high expectations for his followers to live an exemplary faith. Jesus also knows that we’re going to fail – we will judge, we will forget the Golden Rule, we won’t find the narrow gate, or weather the wolf. Nothing rare about that. But in the middle of these expectations sits grace. Jesus says ask, seek, knock, and that’s what makes us special unicorns. Everyday people simultaneously saints and sinners who are loved by Jesus.