The Chasm Within
There are many questions that arise when we interpret parables literally, turning them into a story of historical fact. When we do that the questions are usually endless and unanswerable. Neither can we, however, treat parables as merely metaphor or symbolism that have no real life implications for how we live. So what about today’s parable? What is it saying to us and what is it not saying to us?
At some point in our lives we have probably all been both the rich man and Lazarus. We can all name times when life has been good, full, and easy. Likewise we can name times when it has simply left us destitute, broken, and in sorrow and suffering. I don’t think this parable is asking us to make judgments about who is the rich man and who is Lazarus. Instead, it is asking us to acknowledge and deal with the gates and chasms that separate us from each other. The gate and the chasm are the same thing. The chasm that separates Lazarus and the rich man in the next world is simply a manifestation of the gate that separated them in this world. The rich man carried it with him into the next world. It was a part of him. The gate is a condition of the human heart. The gate that becomes a chasm always exists within us before it exists between us.
That means we must each examine our own heart to find the gates that separate us from ourselves, our neighbours, our enemies, those we love, and ultimately God. What gates do we live with: fear, anger, greed, pride, prejudice, loneliness, sorrow, addiction, busyness, indifference, apathy, hurt, resentment, envy, cynicism. Gates destroy relationships. Every time we love our neighbour as ourselves, every time we love our enemies, every time we see and treat one another as created in the image and likeness of God, gates are opened and chasms are filled. It is something we must each live our way into. It’s a choice set before us every day. It can happen in our marriages and families, at work and school, on the corner of parking lots, and in our prayers for the world. It can happen in the most intimate of relationships, or with strangers, and even with our enemies. It is not easy work but it possible. Jesus demonstrated that in his life, death, and resurrection. Gates were opened and chasms were filled. Christ’s love, mercy, grace, and presence make it possible for us to open our gates and ensure they do not become chasms. He is the image of our opened gates and our filled chasms, the image of who we most truly are and who we are to become.