There are two choices offered in this weeks lectionary readings, life and death. Life and death the way God envisions it. It begins as clearly as possible in the Old Testament reading from Deuteronomy, you can follow the law and live, or not. There really is no in between in the text, God prescribes the life that we should live, and we are given the choice about how we will live. That’s the free will component. And, in true human form, we debate about what that might precisely mean. The text from the Psalms points out that we are blessed when we discern what is the right choice. The Hebrew people created schools, with leaders and disciples for the very purpose of arguing the finer points of what it meant. They eventually got lost in the argument, focusing on obeying the law rather than living out the law. And ultimately, became the Pharisees that show up in the New Testament.
In the New Testament reading, Jesus is busy teaching on the Mount, in the treatise many confuse to be his “toning down” the law of God. Many believe that Jesus is removing them from the constraints of the law with his “You have heard it said, but I say” lines. But not really. Read closer, Jesus is calling us into a life beyond the letter of the law. If we were to understand the complexity of the life God calls us to, we wouldn’t need the meaning, we would only need the principle. Sure, physically killing someone it bad. But Jesus says that the small emotional deaths that we might cause others is worse. There is apparently no “killing them softly” as far as Christ is concerned. And there is no need to debate what might constitute physical adultery. No, Jesus tells us that the damage is done when we reduce another to being an object rather than raising up their humanity.
For me the thin place lies where we understand that we aren’t raising up God when we engage in petty arguments about what this or that may be about. How badly can we, have we, harmed our witness in the world when we focus on who or what God may or may not accept?