I’ve been married long enough now to understand how, in great ways and small, Hauerwas’ Law and its necessary Corollary apply to most committed relationships. The Law, in its most elegant formation, is: You always marry the wrong person. The Corollary: The wrong person is the right person.
In mysteries and sacraments (and my particular tradition considers marriage to be both), informed consent isn’t part of the package. Talk about a Kierkegaardian leap! Prenuptial legal agreements are for finger-crossers and crass pragmatists. If bride and groom had any real grasp of what they were getting into, who would go through with it?
God, though, presumably knew what disappointments lay ahead when he led a nation of slaves out of Egypt. And the Chosen People (A title which defies Enlightenment theories of meritocracy, since Voltaire and his descendents could never fathom what was so special about the Jews.) were good enough to document in scripture their recurring cycles of promise, failure and reconciliation.
What nation would inlcude nearly endless scenes of corporate infidelity (have you read Exodus or Numbers lately?) in its holiest book? What nation would call “prophet” a mentally unstable man who quotes God as saying, “Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn.”(Ez. 2: 3-4)
And what was God thinking when he chose Paul, a one-time persecutor of the early Church and a man with “a thorn in the flesh,” as Apostle to the Gentiles? Wasn’t there an applicant with a better resume? And what of this curious scene in Mark’s gospel where Jesus can do no deed of power in his hometown? I know the old saw about God drawing straight with crooked lines, but this apparently brings the line to a halt.
One of the great sadnesses of history is that the Church has far too often been less forthcoming about its failures than have the Jews. Even those who get the idea fall all too quickly into the trap of separating sheep from goats. When I hear someone proclaim, “We are the Church,” which in my tradition is now used largely as a denunciation of hierarchy, my silent reaction is to think, “Yes, we are…and we suck.”
We in the Church Christ gathers, are generally a nation of rebels, impudent and stubborn. We repeatedly go whoring after idols of status, security and national pride or, out of false humility, fail to respond when we see members of the Body harm others and themselves.
And – here’s the catch – the Creator of the Universe chooses us to be His people, sending us into a world unarmed, scarcely ready, flawed, dependent. Loved for what we were created to be, not for what we do, we have no idea what we’re getting into. There are no pre-nups at baptism.
In short, we are the wrong people for the job. It’s God, not we and certainly not our accomplishments, who makes us the right people. Get that straight before you go about your business.