"Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."--Mark 8:38
Something about that phrase, "adulterous and sinful generation" has really captured my attention recently. Could be because we've been steeped in Mark's gospel on Sundays. Could be because the last class I went to on Wednesday night was Fr. Lee Graham's talk about the Gospel of Mark. Could be that we just wrapped up a section-by-section look at Mark in my Education for Ministry class. Whatever the reason, I have had that phrase in my head. And privately, I've been applying it to our world today. When I read about the murder of a MTF transgendered youth, the phrase is there. When I read about pastors in Nigeria convincing parents to kill their children because they suspect the children are 'witches', the phrase is there. When I am in conversation with others about the annoyance that is the Anglican Covenant, the phrase is there.
"Sinful" generation I understand, and have understood, to have the plain meaning of doing acts that are contrary to God, and God's commandments. To put our own will ahead of God's will, which (broadly thinking here) is the fair and just treatment of all that is in creation. But "adulterous" I have wrestled with. Adultery has a specific meaning in our language. And I've been wondering, "Was there rampant cheating going on in coupledom at the time of Jesus?"
And then it hit me this morning: Adulterous, in this case, isn't about our relations with each other; it, too, is about our relationship with God. And when we commit 'adultery' in our relationship with God, it means that we are worshipping and chasing after things that are NOT God. This could mean falling back into a polytheistic belief system. Or more immediately, the affair happens when we put "things" ahead of, and in place of, God; wealth, power, possessions. When climbing the proverbial corporate ladder, acquiring more 'toys', throwing all our energy into making money becomes the center and focus of our life... where is God in that? God becomes the jilted lover, sitting alone at the table waiting for us to come home.
And so, we have the adultery of the generation at Christ's time: a time of simmering resentment of the Jews toward the Romans, Temple authorities who make widows give up their last coins, and do we really need to talk about the Roman authorities like Herod and Pontius Pilate? Yes, it was an adulterous and sinful generation... and Mark's Jesus was just the Doc Marten-wearing upstart to push back and challenge with parables and speeches that were spoken with authority unlike any the assembled multitude had ever heard before.
My lingering questions: is our time really that different from then? How many of us are placing our ego first, and chasing after bright shiny objects in the false hope that a new acquisition will make us happy? To whom are we faithful?