You once encountered them at airports but I think they gave up on us weary travelers. They are no longer strangers but can be your neighbor or even a member of your family. I’d call them the “John 3:16” crowd. Perhaps “3:16” is tight enough for our culture’s shortening of names. One translation reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
There you have it. All the books in the bible reduced to one simple sentence (and the Catholic bible has even more books than the protestants). “Do this and this will happen,” is what they are effectively saying. They should do an advertisement for a cleaning product and enjoy the same success, “it’s clean, easy and there’s no mess.”
But what happens when you mention the most dreadful word to these absolutists and fundamentalists neighbors and friends of yours? The word is “sometimes.” Their already glossed over eyes become even creamier and you may even see smoke emit from their ears upon hearing the most ghastly and scary word that they’ve ever heard; sometimes.
Where is “sometimes” mentioned in the bible? Where is “sometimes” felt in my life? Well, sometimes it may be this way and other times it may be that way. That makes the word “sometimes” synonymous with compassion and love. Love and compassion are never absolutes, they are fluid and some days and sometimes it is freely given and others times it takes a lot of effort to extend them.
That’s what makes Jesus so paradoxical. In one biblical passage he makes excellent wine for his mom and then in other says that his mom is everybody except who’s not in this room. He talks of a kingdom of God being here and then later discourses about bringing havoc to our little homes and apartments.
The Catholic Church provides a questionnaire to those wishing to be married and one question is “if your future spouse is unfaithful to you, it would end the marriage.” All the future couples say, “yes” as though that’s the correct response. The Church says, “no, wrong answer and no parting gifts.”
We make easy what is not easy but fluid. We can make simple what can take years and experience to achieve. We can reduce when the reduction simply misses the mark. “Sometimes” is sometimes and other times is, well, other times. You can introduce sin here as a reason but I prefer the unpredictably yet predictable human life.