The gap

People often act on the assumption that when they do something for others they will get something in return.

We can even mention women who used to welcome having many children so that at least one or two of them would look after them in their old age. And often we make great preparations before going on a journey so that, as far as possible, nothing will go wrong.

So what did Jesus mean by saying, “take nothing for the journey” (Mark 6:8). It sounds crazy – and irresponsible – to set out unprepared. But the Scriptures are insistent on this attitude: “share you bread with the hungry” (Isaiah 58:7) who obviously cannot repay you “and shelter the homeless poor.”

There is like a gap between what we do and what we expect in return. We don’t actually expect anything in return. Our motive is simply to do what needs doing.

Even someone who says they do not believe in God knows that doing something good is a reward in itself. Both the quote above for Isaiah and the gospel of Matthew have a phrase for it, “let your light shine” (Matt 5:16). We do not think of a light getting anything in return: it just gives light and that is it.

Actually this gap that I mention is beyond explanation. It is that attitude which says, ‘I have no idea how things will work out but I believe in doing what is right. I have no concrete expectation of reward in sight though I am sure something good will follow – not necessarily for me – but for others.’

I don’t give so that I will be recognised or thanked or loved. I just give without any thought of what will happen. I think that is what “taking nothing for the journey” means.

The Christian belief, of course, is that this is exactly what Jesus did. He entered our life, carried our burdens and ended up – as he knew he would – being rejected and crucified. He did not get anything out of it.

There was a huge gap between his actions and our response. And yet he did it anyway because he had this great desire to share his life with us.

I think tennis or any sport helps us see this. You can do the perfect shot but you don’t really know where it will go. It is out of your hands.

There is no sure causal link. There is a gap. Christians call this gap the divine. It is that unknown divide between our life as we know it and the fullness that is to be revealed later.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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