The picture above is of the flowering cereus that blooms at night. The flowers are short lived, and some of these species bloom only once a year—for a single night.
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Our daily experience of this world is almost nothing like Plato’s world of universal and perfect forms and ideas; it is always filled with huge diversity, and variations on every theme from neutrino light inside of darkness, to male seahorses that bear their young, to the most extraordinary flowers that only open at night for no one to see.
Jesus had no trouble with the exceptions, whether they were prostitutes, drunkards, Samaritans, lepers, Gentiles, tax collectors, or wayward sheep.
He ate with outsiders regularly, to the chagrin of the church stalwarts, who always love their version of order over any compassion toward the exceptions.
Just the existence of a single mentally challenged or mentally ill person should make us change any of our theories about the necessity of some kind of correct thinking as the definition of “salvation.” Yet we have a history of excluding and torturing people who do not “think” right.
I remember the final words of my professor of church history, a very orthodox priest theologian, who said as he walked out of the classroom after our four years of study with him, “Well, after it is all said and done, remember that church practice has been more influenced by Plato than by Jesus.”
What he meant, of course, was that we invariably prefer the universal synthesis, the answer that settles all the dust and resolves every question—even when it is not entirely true—over the grace and mercy of God.
Jesus did not seem to teach that one size fits all, but instead that God adjusts to the vagaries and failures of the moment. This ability to adjust to human disorder and failure is named God’s providence or compassion.
Every time God forgives us, God is saying that God’s own rules do not matter as much as the relationship that God wants to create with us.