My daughter, the English major (Class of ’12), was appalled. She finds it incredible her Dad, an apparent educated man, forgot and can’t remember his grammar rules or perhaps does not know them at all.
I asked her a simple question. She berated me (implied I was stupid). Her mother saw opportunity and pounced, gleefully. My sister, the English major (Class of ’77), who edits these columns, is much nicer. She keeps her thoughts on this subject to herself … I think.
I have been told all learning is rule learning. I won’t argue the point, but I am inclined to argue over the rules. My failing is my willingness to express my opinion regarding whether a rule makes sense. Some rules just offend my logic and incite my reluctance. It is a lifelong failing I attribute to a recessive gene. I am the baby in the family and I don’t mind playing it. Despite this inclination, I decided not to pick a fight. I acquiesced.
The ashes from this exchange evoked a serendipitous memory from my childhood. A few times in my life, I have had personality conflicts with another. Pat Majors was one. I cannot pinpoint it, but he and I didn’t click. Playing basketball one day at his house, I picked a fight. Tempers flared and fists flew. I am not sure how his jaw turned out, but I broke a finger.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus picked a fight. He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23: 23-24)!
Jesus didn’t like rules and hypocritical rule makers. His diatribe in Matthew gets to the heart of the matter. Justice, mercy and faith are worth a fight. Focus on the weight, Jesus said. We must have within us a love so great for God’s nature.
History records we learn the rules and miss the message. Our pedantic nature clouds the mind to God’s intent. Our hypocrisy lies not in the void between the rules and our behavior but in our willingness to settle for less than what God offers. In our attempt to make the world a better place, to create a world in our own image, we wrest from God what is his. God’s mystery is made plain by the hypocrite’s very existence. Our self-righteousness misses the message.
What we see, feel and hear in this world will never provide the evidence our faith demands. The evidence we seek is left to our sense within, our questioning nature about an apparent illogic, leading us to seek justice, mercy and faith. Keep questioning. Keep fighting.
“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15).
Deck Cheatham has been a golf professional for more than 40 years. He lives with his family in Dalton. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.