Pentecost +17 – Year A
When you add up all the "don't"s, they reveal a larger "do" – do love others as well as you do yourself.
Why not focus on the "don't"s? Won't that show your steely resolve to resist temptation? Isn't that the ultimate character test that proves leadership qualities?
No, because the negative of a proposition only carries with it power, not wisdom or life. It is better to affirm the larger purpose of bringing life to one another. To make it through one more day holding an addiction or threat at bay is laudable and common wisdom has it that this is a workable model in our day. But looked at through the eyes of fasting, we'd best have our eye on a larger picture and in its light we take a smaller part.
While "don't"s and "do"s can certainly be seen as complementary that may be experience and personality driven, a distinction of hierarchy and movement is crucial to our participation in life. Let's not mistake a curmudgeon or pessimist for one lacking a larger "do" picture. To confuse surface response and depth of understanding is not helpful.
We can posit that only having a "don't" approach leaves one self-absorbed and exhausted, ready to repeatedly fall off the wagon. It needs an affirmation within which the "don't" can make sense and express grace. Likewise, having only a "do" direction leaves one vulnerable to naivety and disillusionment. It needs the discipline of "don't" for clarity's sake. Our religious culture tends to desire an emphasis upon "don't" and our Jesus spirit leans toward "do". One's orientation in this regard is important.
To temper power with wisdom and energize wisdom, we need a picture larger than fact or truth – a vision of a better tomorrow connected to better living today. G*D and ourselves are putting some finishing touches on a larger wholeness than we have so far known. This takes a deft touch informed by looking at "do"s while knowing there will need to be some practical "don't"s along the way. Anything else will cause too broad a stroke and a smudge.