All of that is contrasted with what Paul calls "the wisdom of the world" in today's excerpt from his first letter to the Christian community in Corinth. The world regards turning the other cheek as weakness. Going the extra mile only invites exploitation. Generosity towards legal adversaries will lose you your case in court. Open-handedness towards beggars encourages laziness. Lending without interest is simply bad business. And loving one's enemies is a recipe for military defeat and enslavement.
Yet Paul insists. And he bases his insistence on the conviction that we encounter God in every human individual, whether they be our abusers, exploiters, or legal adversaries -- whether they be beggars or debtors unlikely to repay our interest-free loans.
All of those people, Paul points out, are "temples of God." God dwells in each of them just as God does in us. In the end, that's the basis of the command we heard in the Leviticus reading, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Normally, our self-centered culture interprets that dictum to mean: (1) we clearly love ourselves more above all; so (2) we should love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.
But in the light of Paul's mystical teaching that God dwells within every human being, the command about neighbor-love takes on a much deeper implication. That is, Paul the mystic teaches that our deepest self is the very God who dwells within each of us as in the Temple. We should therefore love our neighbor (and our enemy, debtor, adversary, and those who beg and borrow from us) because God dwells within them -- because they ARE ourselves. They ARE us! To bomb them, to fight wars against them is therefore suicidal.
No wonder, then, that Paul threatens that God will destroy the person who fails to recognize others as temples of God and harms them. Paul means that by destroying others we inevitably destroy ourselves, because in the end, the God-Self dwelling within us is identical with the Self present in every human being. That is a very high mystical teaching. It should be the faith of those pretending to follow Jesus. It should make all of them (all of us!) pacifists.
If we owned that truth, that would be the end of wars. Imagine if the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics simply refused to destroy their fellow human beings because they recognized in them the indwelling presence of God. Imagine if we stopped worshipping the God Jesus rejects -- the "eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth" War God -- and embraced Jesus' compassionate and loving Parent God.
It's up to us who do accept that recognition not to reject the Christian tradition which speaks so powerfully to so many. Rather, we are called to take steps to rescue Jesus' God from the war mongers and oppressors who have so distorted Jesus' teaching as presented in this morning's readings.
I suggest that means
" Returning to church.
" Embracing the "No to war" message of Francis I.
" Making it explicit that our "No" is a matter of faith denied only by those who have (in Paul's terms) embraced the "wisdom of the world," which is foolishness in God's eyes.
" Working hard and courageously to mobilize our congregations accordingly.
" More particularly, organizing congregations (as a specific response to Pope Francis) to endorse the International Day of Peace (next September 21).
Inspired by Pope Francis, it's time to take the microphone away from Christian warmongers and to make Christian pacifism a mainstream movement. That's our best hope, I think, in the face of all those reasons for despair.