Insanely expecting a different result. . .
It was renowned physicist Albert Einstein who once quipped “Insanity is doing he same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” By Einstein’s definition, many of us are insane. We see the same problems constantly emerge, and we apply the same strategies (because this is how we have always done this) and, while we hope by some stroke of luck things will be different this time around, they are not. Same problem, same tactics, same result. To expect differently is insane.
Perhaps today’s gospel offers us an example of some insane thinking. The Sadducees, who are opposed to the teaching about the resurrection from the dead, offer Jesus this strange scenario. A man marries a woman and dies, leaving the woman childless. According to Mosaic law, the man’s brother must now marry the woman in order to bring about offspring in the name of his deceased brother. As the story unfolds, all seven brothers marry the woman and in the end, they each die leaving no children. In other words, the same thing is done over and over again (seven times) with the same sad results.
The basis of insanity, at least in Einstein’s definition of that term, is that we have been accustomed to approach life with a sameness. Maybe for some people, same is safe. Maybe newness (to think new thoughts, to try new approaches) creates fear. Certainly the Sadducees are filled with a fear even to think about something as radical as “resurrection from the dead.” Even the Pharisees are filled with fear to think that God could love and even reward the outcast, the sinner, the lost sheep. The people of Jesus’ day could not handle new ideas, new approaches, especially when it came to institutional religion. And then the fruit of this insanity is the most insane act of all – let us crucify the One who dares to make us think outside the box.
What is it in us that makes us want to keep trying the same strategies to solve the same problems and, in the end, receive the same pitiful results? Maybe it comes from that misguided belief that I can fix most things that are broken in my world. I can fix this broken marriage. I can fix this dysfunctional family. I can fix this recurring habit. I can fix this falling-apart work place. I can fix this church, this country, this world. So I apply the same strategies with no noticeable progress – and then am left with a list of people to blame for the failure that has occurred once again. But perhaps the blame is not to be placed upon some other person’s unwillingness to join me in the so-called “tried-and-true” strategies. The blame may be placed on my unwillingness to admit that even here I am powerless to fix this mess.
Belief in resurrection can only emerge as a result of my coming to terms with my own fundamental powerlessness to make things right. In the end, only God can repair what is fundamentally flawed – and that is what our hope in resurrection is all about.