“O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” (Matt 17:17). ‘The Epileptic Boy Healed’ is another triple tradition. Where Matthew and Luke mirror each other in the telling of this faith event, (Luke 9:40-43), Mark has a more detailed account (Mark 9:18-28).
Look first at the word that Jesus uses to directly describe the generation— ‘diestrammene/perverse’ (diastre). A clear English translation of this word, (used by most all versions of Bible), perverse is defined by Webster as ‘turned the wrong way’; ‘deviating from the right’; ‘obstinate and willful in the wrong’. A quick look at it’s usage in Greek, references Aristotle’s Ethics— “deficiency in inner attitude leads to confusion and illusion regarding the starting point of action”. And in Stoic ethics— “moral corruption of the empirical man… by bad teaching and example and by environmental influences of all kinds”.
It must be borne in mind that Jesus is speaking to his disciples in this very timely estimation of personhood. How easy it is to place such a callous diagnosis upon those outside the house of faith, but— Jesus is talking about the disciples.
While it is my purpose in this column to promote a ‘new thought’, I recognize that it’s the same ‘old story’. So many life encounters are conjured up by this word perverse’ as Jesus speaks to us. To begin with, ‘obstinate and willful in wrong’. The tense and mood of this verb occurrence is reflected upon the act. Leaders and their followers (disciples), both religious and political, perpetuate falsehood so that once the wrong is discovered no attempt is made by the personhood to right the wrong, but takes on a character of obstinance, arrogant, unyielding willfulness in the permanency of the wrong. My grandmother said that you have to “live a lie!”. But not just the individual— Jesus is speaking of an entire generation. It becomes a way of life.
The late notorious Dr. Isaac R. Clark, who spent his life in Homiletic Education, taught preachers to preach about “the stink in their nose.” The fact that children in our very own households are being molested at earlier and earlier ages ‘stinks in my nose’. What has become a very perverse way of life for the generations remains the ‘best kept secret in the house’— of faith.
It is a tampering with the individual’s value system which becomes the point of deficiency in the inner attitude that breeds confusion and illusion in actions. Moral corruption, bad teaching, bad example, environmental influences— “O faithless and perverse generation, how long …?”
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