British poet laureate, Rudyard Kipling, is perhaps, best known for writing The Jungle Book, and The Man Who Would be King. One of Kipling’s poems, If, has become a window of sorts for me as I reflect upon today’s readings from Matthew 5. This is but a part of Kipling’s poem, If.
If you can dream – and not make dreams your
If you can think – and not make thoughts your
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster – and
not treat those two imposters the same
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken –
twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools
Or watch the things you gave your life to,
and stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out
And so hold on when there is nothing in you –
except the Will which says to them:
“Hold on!” Yours is the Earth and everything
that’s in it – and – which is more –
You’ll be a Man, my son!
If is the hinge word upon which everything else, both good and bad, depends. If points to the God-given potential with which every human being takes their life in hand, living it to the best of their ability, no matter the circumstances. In Kipling’s poem, the person who made the most of if in his life was said to become a man. The same is true for every woman!
Scripture serves as a firm foundation for this lesson. Jesus sets choices and freedoms before us in Matthew. Believers are asked to use their free will to choose rightly. The choice is not between good and evil or life and death.
Our choice is whether or not we will use our freedom to reach beyond the commandments and follow the far more challenging law of love.