When Love Transcends Opinion

I want to hold myself and my church accountable regarding my/our love of people. Lent Week 4, Day 24

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This past Sunday, it was revealed from the pulpit that I am a liberal.

No one seemed surprised by this.

But the whole story is a great lesson in holding one another accountable in regards to love. There was a sermon several weeks ago that called all of us to remember that the people we worship with are more important than the political parties we affiliate with. Our preacher, Jonathan, went so far as to say that there are people in the sanctuary we need to apologize to; because we have despised our sisters and brothers based on matters that are less important than following the will of Jesus.

After hearing this sermon, I kept pondering what it meant practically. How would I go about working on these relationships? How would I learn to take my focus off of temporal things and put it back on eternal things?

And then I was caught by surprise. My friend, Loren, came up to me and apologized. I had no idea he had anything to apologize for. But he told me he had allowed my social media posts to upset him. He was allowing my opinions and ideas to be a barrier in our relationship. And I had no idea.

So he apologized to me. And then he affirmed me. He thanked me for the lessons I was teaching him. In spite of me holding opinions that frustrated him, he decided to look past those to see the better parts of me.

I was grateful. But I was also convicted. Am I willing to do the same thing? Am I willing to admit that I am allowing other people’s opinions to form a barrier in our relationship? Am I willing to apologize? Am I willing to see through the words to find the better parts of the person?

This is hard for me. Because I want so badly to be superior to those who have different opinions. But is that truly to best thing to do?

Receiving an apology (especially one you do not know you are owed) is a humbling experience. Offering an apology is a vulnerable experience.

Maybe if we focused more on humility and vulnerability, our overall ability to love and serve will grow.

Me And Jesus: A Lesson In Seeing

I want to hold myself and my church accountable regarding my/our love of people. Lent Week 4, Day 23

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Jesus saw a woman at the well and spoke with her.

Jesus saw a man with leprosy and touched him.

Jesus saw a thieving tax collector and went to his house.

Jesus saw sick people and healed them.

Jesus saw poor people and noticed them.

Jesus saw foreigners and commended their faith.

Jesus saw guilty people and forgave them.

Jesus saw victimized people and fought for them.

I see a person of color and cross the street.

I see a multiple-times-divorced woman and shake my head.

I see a (fill in the political party of your choice) and assume the worst.

I see a homeless person and hope they don’t see me.

I see guilty people and talk about them to others.

I see victimized people and ask what choices they made that led them to their victimization.

I want to love God and love others. I want to be able to focus on people and not ideology. I want to follow the example of Jesus. This means I cannot look at people as if they are the worst part of themselves. I must look at people as if they are the children of God. Jesus did. And he saw people. I often do not. And I see problems.

If I am truly going to love, I need to change how I see.

You Feed Them

I want to hold myself and my church accountable regarding my/our love of people. Lent Week 4, Day 22

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This post is real short. It is a command Jesus gives to his disciples that always troubles me. It troubles me because it is convicting. It is demanding. It prevents always taking the easy way out. It means I cannot just assume Jesus or some other group of people will swoop in and solve the problem.

13 When Jesus learned what had happened, He got on a boat and went away to spend some time in a private place. The crowds, of course, followed Jesus on foot from their cities. 14 Though Jesus wanted solitude, when He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, and He healed the sick and the lame. 15 At evening-time, Jesus’ disciples came to Him.

Disciples: We’re in a fairly remote place, and it is getting late; the crowds will get hungry for supper. Send them away so they have time to get back to the villages and get something to eat.

Jesus: 16 They don’t need to go back to the villages in order to eat supper. Give them something to eat here. (Matthew 14: 13-16, The Voice)

Jesus says, “Nope. Don’t send them home. You feed them here.”

Give the something to eat. You noticed the problem. You saw the need. Now go do something about it.

I see a lot of problems in the world around me. People are in need. People are hurting. People are arguing. People are giving each other the silent treatment.

I say, “Jesus, please send them all away to where they find the solution to their problems.”

Jesus replies, “You feed them.”

 

Loving as Listening

I want to hold myself and my church accountable regarding my/our love of people. Lent Week 4, Day 21

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Things were going well, and the number of disciples was growing. But a problem arose. The Greek-speaking believers became frustrated with the Hebrew-speaking believers. The Greeks complained that the Greek-speaking widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. The twelve convened the entire community of disciples.

Twelve: We could solve this problem ourselves, but that wouldn’t be right. We need to focus on proclaiming God’s message, not on distributing food. So, friends, find seven respected men from the community of faith. These men should be full of the Holy Spirit and full of wisdom. Whomever you select we will commission to resolve this matter so we can maintain our focus on praying and serving—not meals—but the message. (Acts 6:1-4, The Voice)

In the early life of the Christian church, most things went smoothly. However, challenges were bound to exist, because…humans.

There are a couple of interesting things taking place here, though. First, no one doubts the Greek-speaking believers. There are two groups of people described: Greeks and Hebrews. There is a perceived conflict. It seems as if the Greek widows are being discriminated against and the Hebrew widows are reaping the benefit.

And no one doubts this is the case. No one challenges. No one says, “You are only imagining it.” No one says, “It’s not really a problem.” No one says, “Well, at least it isn’t as bad as it used to be.” None of that.

A perceived problem was reported. And immediately solutions were sought.

Second, the proposed solution involved Greek speaking people. (It appears this way based on the names of the individuals.) So many Greek believers say that Greek widows are being mistreated and Hebrew widows are getting too much. And the leadership at the time (pretty much all Hebrews) name a group of both Greeks and Hebrews to identify solutions. The predominant culture did not try to fix problems they did not fully understand. They commissioned a diverse group of people to create a viable solution.

How much could we learn from these two lessons? How much would our society change if we stopped questioning people who told us about problems in their lives? How much would relationships improve if our first impulse was to empathize and think about solutions? How far could things go if we did not think that people just “need to get over it?

And this is not specific to any particular issue. If someone is talking about race relations or gender relations or street conditions or school safety or equitable treatment or health care or career opportunities, what if we decided to listen and mutually seek solutions?

Further, what would change if those of the predominant culture did not choose only people from the predominant culture to solve problems that involve people from other cultures? How great would it be if we selected people who understood the problem (because they are living it) to work with others to create better solutions?

Think about groups of ethnic, gender, economic, educational, and age diversity. Think of how much more could be offered if we created groups of people who looked, acted, and thought differently?

The early church got this. They also struggled with it. But at least they tried.

Will we?

 

 

When I Want To Throw Stones

I want to hold myself and my church accountable regarding my/our love of people. Lent Week 4, Day 20

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If you have any knowledge of the Bible and its stories, you are probably familiar with the story of the woman caught in adultery. She is brought to Jesus because she was “caught in the act.” The crowd of the religious right is ready to stone her to death. Jesus says whoever is not guilty of sin can throw the first stone. The crowd disperses (the old people first followed by those who are younger). The woman is left with Jesus. She is forgiven and sent away with a charge to change her lifestyle.

There are three distinct people (or groups) in this story.

The woman

The woman participated in a sinful activity. This is all we know. There is the chance that she was forced or manipulated simply for the purpose of tricking Jesus. There is also the possibility that she was in an ongoing affair. All we know is that she was caught in the act of adultery. (Oh, we also know that the man she was committing the adultery with was not brought forward to be accused.)

Can you imagine having to stand before Jesus on the worst day possible? The genius of Jesus’ statement that the one without sin could cast the first stone is that all of us know we could be in the same position as the woman. We have just been lucky.

Think of it this way: how many of you have never received a speeding ticket? Does this mean you have never exceeded the speed limit? Or is it more likely you have just never been caught?

So we have this woman who did something wrong. And it is used strictly for politically religious purposes. No care or concern is shown for her. Her situation is what is important to the crowd. The policy decision Jesus was going to make is all that mattered to them. She was the original “welfare queen;” the original poster child for people to say that people don’t matter when they make poor choices.

Jesus

Jesus is not swayed by a frenzied crowd out for blood. While they are yelling and screaming, he is kneeling down and drawing in the dirt. Jesus is also not going to be distracted. Jesus stays focused on the issue of main importance: the woman.

Does Jesus have standards? Does Jesus have an opinion on sexual purity? Does Jesus care about the decisions people make? I think we can all agree the answer is yes.

But more than any policy, decision, or judgment Jesus is concerned about the person. Did she do wrong? Yes. Does she deserve death? Maybe, from a legal standpoint. Is she a child of God? Absolutely.

And that matters more than anything else.

The crowd

They are bloodthirsty. They want to be proven right. They want to show this “leader” what real leadership looks like. They want to expose him as fake. They are not concerned with humanity. They know what is right and wrong and by golly, they have found someone doing wrong. They will make her pay. And they will embarrass someone they don’t like at the same time.

They are not really concerned with policy or rules, either. They just want to be self-righteous.

But the older people at least know a little bit more. When told to do some quick self-reflection, they probably realized a couple of things: first, they knew they had done wrong before; two, they knew they would be setting a precedent. If they acted with condemnation now, others would act with condemnation when they got found out.

The younger people take longer to come to this realization. But they are also part of an angry mob. When the anger subsides and rationality reappears, the death of the ones we demonize is no longer as appealing.

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That brings me to me.

Which one of these people do I identify with? If I am truly going to hold myself accountable, I have to acknowledge the ways I act like the group. I act all self-righteous that I would never bring a woman caught in adultery to Jesus to be stoned.

But I almost definitely would ask Jesus to stone the ones who did.

I find it easy to identify with Jesus. Because I can be that arrogant.

I find it easy to identify with the woman. Because I am self-reflective enough to know what I have done wrong.

But I struggle with identifying with the group. Because I am not ready to admit that I can be that self-righteous.

But if I am going to try and hold anyone else accountable, I better start owning up to my own stuff first.