I’m an either/or kinda guy. That’s always been my default. Within a conflict or problematic situation I get determined to find a solution and it must reside in one of two options, right? It’s either a) and if it’s not a) then it must be b). That perspective is classically what is referred to as dualism. And it’s the way many if not most westerners think, so I’m in good company.
The more I read of Jesus in the gospels the more I recognize his responses to arguments, why he so often speaks in parables, and his life in general work out of a 3rd dimension, sometimes called an alternative or middle way.
In John 9 Jesus and the disciples encounter a blind man and the disciples say, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Because the disciples paradigm is shaped for an either/or response they feel there has to be a logical cause and effect reasoning to this guy’s issue. It’s that simple right?
Jesus’ 3rd dimension response to the disciples was, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Yesterday, during communion of our Easter gathering I shared the story out of Luke 7 about the boy that Jesus restores to life. Here’s the summary…
Jesus and the disciples along with a crowd of followers are coming out of Jerusalem and they inadvertently come upon a funeral ceremony. The choices would have been to stop and honor the dead and the family or be about their business and politely skoot on by. The disciples are watching to see what he'll choose thinking it’d have to be one or the other. But, Jesus, again, lives out of the 3rd Way. He considers the situation, sees that the mother was a widow and that the dead boy was her only child, he’s filled with compassion and makes a bee-line to the center of the situation, the center of the pain, lays his hands on the boy, the boy is resurrected, and Jesus hands him back to the mother.
Seems that whatever situation in life, whatever conflict or issue we encounter, God has a way of coming up with a radical alternative. And as Jesus spreads the message of the Kingdom he invites us to join him in this alternative way. "It is in our thinking, our imagining, our praying as well as in our bodily health that we are invited to come, like the frantic crowds, and touch the hem of Jesus' garment, looking for salvation." (NT Wright, Mark for Everyone, 84)
Yes, Jesus is currently teaching me a lot about this, but 8 years of marriage (on 4/21!) has taught Angie and I a lot of about the benefits of non-dualistic thinking as well.