A Form of Attachment
Text: Matthew 10: 34-36
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”
I don’t know how many dog lovers’ we have here today; I know there are several present, and I certainly would fall into that category as well. A few years ago there was a program on TV, I think it was on the National Geographic channel, called The Dog Whisperer. It is about a man named Cesar Milan who really understands dogs; if you have a problem with your dog that seems unsolvable, you can call Cesar and he often can fix the trouble. What is interesting, however, is that usually the problem isn’t so much with the dog as with the owner. Cesar claims that he rehabilitates the dogs and he trains the humans. When we watched some of those episodes of the Dog Whisperer we would try to implement some of what he teaches on the program with our own dog. Much of what he said actually works very well!
One of the things that The Dog Whisperer stresses very often in his show when he is trying to train humans is how important it is to be consistent. If the human is not consistent, then the dog has no idea what the human really wants or when certain behavior is acceptable or not. Before you can even begin to think about successfully training your dog, you must first recognize that whatever you do, you must be consistent. Consistency is the key to a great relationship with your dog. Consistency is foundational; it is what everything else builds upon.
Now I want to ask a very important question; if consistency is so important between a human and a dog, how much more important is consistency between a human and God? If inconsistency confuses a dog, how much more confused are we as humans when God appears inconsistent? If consistency is foundational for a dog, is not consistency also foundational for a human? Is not our entire faith built upon some things that we consider to be consistent about God?
So what happens when we find inconsistencies? What happens when we encounter a text like the one I read a few minutes ago? What are we to think about things like this? My guess is that we never actually engage the tough texts, we sort of just look the other way, and we remain confused and delusional as a result. Until we understand a little bit about some of these tougher texts, it will be impossible for you to develop a true relationship with the Divine. I don’t believe it is possible to have true faith and trust in a God that demonstrates inconsistencies; for one thing, you are never certain of which God will show up when you ask for help!
I believe there are certain texts in both the Old and New Testaments that severely undermine our ability to have a true and trusting relationship with God. So if a relationship is what we seek, then we must find a way to work past a few of these texts.
For example, compare the text that I read a few minutes ago with another one found in the same Gospel of Matthew; just a few pages away in Chapter 5, beginning with verse 43, we can find these words:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”
So how can we be told to love our enemies and also be told that some of our foes will be from our own family? Loving your enemies brings peace, and yet the other scripture begins with the words; “Do not think I have come to bring peace, ….I have not come to bring peace, but a sword…” Let me get this straight; the Prince of Peace has not come to bring peace? Say what?
Just in case you think I’m overreacting, allow me to share just one other scripture with you. This one comes from Deuteronomy…chapter 21, beginning with verse 18.
18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. 20 They shall say to the elders of his town, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. So you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid.
I’m hoping it is not necessary for me to point out all the ways this scripture is inconsistent with the image of God most of us hold.
My purpose today is not to convince you that there are gross inconsistencies within the Bible; most of us already know that in one way or the other. We are just afraid to admit it or to think about it in that way. My purpose today is to help you let go of that attachment. Remember when I said that a strong relationship with the Divine makes it necessary to work through some of those tougher texts? Well, if you can’t interpret them in a new way, then we have to learn how to let go of them. But that part is hard; that is why I call it an attachment.
For some of you, that may be a new way of using the word ‘attachment’ – you have never thought about yourself as being attached to something like an idea or a concept or a belief. But attachment to those things happens to all of us, and learning to let go of our attachments is the greatest single thing we can learn that will move us toward a place of personal peace. It is the greatest thing we can learn that will move us closer to God. It is also about the only thing we can learn to do that will create a consistent image of God for us; and that is fundamental. Learning to let go of our attachments makes room for new possibilities and new experiences to enter our lives.
There is something else we need to know about attachments; almost every conflict that has ever existed, either in your own life or the lives of others, is because of attachment. The conflict results when we encounter our own inability to let go of that attachment. Some attachments are more important to us than others, some we can let go of easily, others are more difficult.
For example, in the 19th century in this country, most of the Southern states had an attachment to slavery. This was an attachment that was difficult to let go of; the resulting conflict was what we call the Civil War. Brother was willing to kill brother rather than let go of that attachment.
Not every attachment we have is as huge or as volatile as slavery. We can be attached to some things that are much more mundane, but still have the potential to create great pain in our lives. If you examine the things that you think are creating pain in your life, chances are good that the pain can be traced back to an attachment you are having trouble letting go of.
There are many, many attachments that we could talk about. Today, however, I wanted to talk about just one attachment; most of us, because we have grown up in the church and have been raised in a predominantly Christian nation, have an attachment to the Bible being right. You might not have ever thought about it that way, but it is true; we are attached to the idea of the Bible being right – and when the Bible is wrong; it creates conflict, because we cannot let go of that attachment.
I ask you to just think about that for one minute. All of the preposterous things that come out of religious circles in the Christian faith tradition can be traced back to that one attachment. People would rather deny science than let go of their attachment to the Bible being right. People would rather oppress women than let go of their attachment to the Bible being right. People would rather fight wars than let go of their attachment to the Bible being right. People would rather continue oppressive attitudes toward the LGBTQ community than let go of their attachment to the Bible being right. In some cases, people would rather die, than let go of their attachment to the Bible being right.
If you find the inconsistencies in the Bible troubling, it is because you are attached to the idea that the Bible must be right. If you have found this sermon challenging, it is because you are attached to the idea that the Bible must be right. If when you read something in the Bible that didn’t make sense, and you said to yourself; “that must not be what it means, I just don’t understand it”…then you have an attachment to the Bible being right.
Recognizing the attachment is step one, and then moving to a place where you can allow yourself to let go of that attachment is step two. Can you let go? True peace awaits if you can.
Go in peace, and go with God. Amen.