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Archive for the ‘judging others’ Category

” Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you…(I Corinthians 7:17a).”

I sometimes get my epiphanies in the middle of the night, and this weekend a pattern of thinking came to me in the wee hours. I realized as I lay there in the sack that I have a problem with envy.

This little issue centers around three things. First, I have noticed that one of my best friends is living a dream I have of attending major sports events. It seems almost every weekend he is at some football game, race or other noteworthy sports happening.

Now this fellow has been quite generous with me in recent me years, having spotted me some tickets a couple times to some nice football games, and taking me to a race. However, I want more. I want to be him: an uber sports fan. I had thoughts of being a sports journalist when I was young, and did do some reporting as a stringer. I even got a journalism degree. Alas, that dream died, as I decided to stay in the big city I was in working in customer service so I could do Christian ministry. To develop my journalism career, I would have had to go to some Podunk to start, and I did not think this was God’s will for me at the time.

Secondly, speaking of ministry, for much of my life I wanted to be a missionary. I went to grad school to get a degree in teaching English as a foreign language and intercultural studies so I could have a ticket overseas. I understood at the time that I had no skills to offer anyone abroad. I investigated mission boards, but none of that ever came to fruition. Oh, I did spend some years abroad and before that did work to develop an English program for international students in the States, one where they could freely be exposed to the Gospel. But there was no real personal fruit from any of that. At best, I was more of a middleman in the latter work, connecting students with other people desiring to minister to them.

What happened overseas? Life happened. I got so wrapped up in the job and other issues that I never had time or an inclination for mission work. I dabbled in church ministry and even went on a two-week mission trip with my kids. But, personal gospel work for many reasons never occurred to any extent.

What does this have to do with my night time confrontation with the green-eyed monster? Well, many of my contemporaries from my younger days are in full time Christian work. They are missionaries, pastors, staff workers and evangelists. I want what they have, or at least I used to until I became rocky ground. (See Mark Chapter 4 for the Parable of the Sower, which Jesus related to his disciples.)

Finally, on one of my overseas stays I met a man who is someone I call “ a bruthah from anothah muthah”. Abroad we were colleagues. He and I are much alike in personality. Both of us are writers, (In fact, he has trumped me there, too. He has published a novel, a lifelong ambition of mine.) We also share a certain wanderlust.

Unfortunately for me, in comparison to him I am a cross-cultural hick. This buddy has traveled and lived in places I could only dream of visiting—four times over! Like my sports pal, he has treated me to a bit of his lifestyle. But again, I just have barely scratched the surface when it comes to global trekking if I view his life.

I think the thing I grasped as I lay there in bed was that trying to become any of these people is a fruitless endeavor. As Popeye said, “I yam who I yam,” and they are who they are.

I also determined that in the final analysis, God could care less if I go to the Super Bowl, become the next Hudson Taylor or jet set around the planet. He has other fish to fry when it comes to me.

The Scriptures seem to provide evidence to support my thought that God just isn’t that interested in my achievements in comparison to others.

For example, after Jesus mapped out Peter’s future, even giving him an indication of how he was going to die, the latter asked about the plans for his fellow disciple John. Peter too seemed to like the comparison game.

John refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” in relating this conversation. He is following Jesus and Peter, and perhaps was eavesdropping.

When Peter saw John, he asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, ”If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you. You must follow me.” (John 21:20-22)

Jesus’s response reminds me of several “mantras” I have developed in my relationship with him over the years: 

  • Where are you going, Lord? I’ll follow.
  • (Jesus says) “Listen to me.”
  • You choose.
  • (Jesus says),”Watch me work!”

My nocturnal wrestling helped me to once again ascertain that if I am truly one who belongs to Jesus, I will do what He tells me to do, regardless of how it impacts my desire to keep up with the Joneses. Planting this in my noggin’ will keep me from spending much needed time and treasure trying to maintain a level playing field with my friends, which in truth is a wasted effort.

 

 

 

 

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“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13).”

I was visiting a friend recently whom I had not seen in about 15 years. I was in his town for a business meeting.

As I enjoyed the hospitality he and his wife offered me the evening after the meeting, I related to him my experience. I told him about the condescending treatment I had received from other people attending that meeting.

My friend, who had heard other similar stories from me as we caught up, replied,”And it could only happen to you.” My buddy’s remark was mainly meant to be a humorous statement about how it seems I am a target for such maltreatment.

However, the next morning, as I was having my quiet time, I reflected on his comment. Even at the time he made it, and even more so on this morning, I received a bit of an ephiphany.

The “it could only happen to you” remark could have been a sarcastic utterance which was meant to relay to me that I was being overly sensitive to people’s slights.  As I thought about this, it occurred to me that this was indeed the case.

As I sat in the comfort of the bedroom provided by my hosts, I began to review a list of all the people who had “done me dirt” and their offenses. It was a pretty long list.

I determined that I was indeed a walking grievance. This was confirmed even more when I read that morning’s devotional from “Streams in the Desert” by L.B. Cowman. The section of the piece applicable to my dilemma reads:

 How much grace it requires to bear a misunderstanding rightly, and to receive an unkind judgment in holy sweetness! Nothing tests the Christian character more than to have some evil thing said about him. This is the file that soon proves whether we are electro-plate or solid gold. If we could only know the blessings that lie hidden in our trials we would say like David, when Shimei cursed him, “Let him curse; . . . it may be . . . that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day.” Some people get easily turned aside from the grandeur of their life-work by pursuing their own grievances and enemies, until their life gets turned into one little petty whirl of warfare.

As I felt that God was convicting me of a sinful attitude, I said to Him,”Ok. What do I do about it?”

The answer was a still small voice (not audible) of a kind Elijah experienced in his interactions with the Lord (I Kings 19:11-13. The prompting, which I deemed to be from the Holy Spirit. said, “Forgive.”

At breakfast I told my friend about how his comment had helped discern that I was a “walking grievance.”  I had not told him about God’s response to this insight, but my pal unwittingly confirmed it when he said,”You have a lot of people to forgive.”

Jesus told his disciples,”My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you (John 15:12).” I have been thinking of this verse for a long time because in context Jesus says that if we obey Him, He will confide in us and be our friends.

As I really want to be Jesus’s friend, I have determined that if I was to be really intimate with Him I needed to love others as He has loved me. I have known for a long time that this is a tall order.

If anyone has a reason to be a walking grievance, it is Jesus. Over my life I have snubbed Him, disobeyed Him, yelled at Him, been angry with Him and totally misunderstood Him. I have been a rotten friend.

Yet, Jesus has kept on loving me. He has not given up on me or abandoned me.

Thus, as a result of my illumination at my friend’s house, I have concluded that I need to set aside all the hurts and pain caused by others in my life. To do this, I need to forgive.

I have to rid myself of  my resentments against others in this way. I have to tell my walking grievances to take a hike!

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“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first (Matthew 19:30).”

Lyla Garrity is standing on the side of the highway. Her car has just broken down.

She has just turned in her late-model vehicle to her father, a car dealer, and bought a heap from another person, one her father calls a “crook”. However, Lyla is estranged from her Dad, Buddy.  

In fact, Lyla is isolated from just about everyone in the town of Dillon, Texas, her home. As Lyla says to another high female high schooler, Tyra Collette: “It’s been a crappy year”.

At the beginning of the first seaon of “Friday Night Lights”, a TV drama centered around Dillon and its high school football team, Lyla is “sittin’ on top of the world”. She is a popular cheerleader who is dating the Panthers’ first string quarterback, Jason Street.

Then, Jason is paralyzed in an on-the-field accident. This tragedy causes a huge ripple effect on the lives of the people featured in “Friday Night Lights”, Lyla included.

Lyla supports Jason, but once it is clear he will never walk again, she has trouble coping. She has an affair with Tim Riggins, a star on the team and Jason’s best friend, who is also dealing with the pain and doesn’t know how to handle it. Lyla and Tim comfort one another. All this becomes public knowledge, to Lyla’s shame.

Tim also happens to be Tyra’s boyfriend. Tim is not exactly a fine, upstanding citizen. In fact, he’s an alcoholic whose father is also a lush and doesn’t live in the home. Tim’s brother watches out for him (sort of).

Tyra herself is what could best be described as “trailer trash”, although she doesn’t live in a trailer. However, she is loose morally and is known to imbibe, also.  

She is trying to get her act together and go to college, which is how she connects to Landry Clarke, a geek who liker her. He tutors her. Landry also comforts Tyra after she is almost raped by a stranger outside a restaurant while she is waiting for him to show up for one of their math sessions.

 So, are you with me so far!?  Good. Now Tim Riggins is not the only connection between Lyla and Tyra.

Lyla’s father Buddy,who is also Dillon’s most influential football booster,  hires Tyra’s mother Angela Collette as a receptionist with less than pure motives. After they have an affair, Buddy fires her, trying to assuage his conscience by paying her a large severance.

Mrs. Collette publicly slaps Buddy outside of church All this leads to a divorce action between Buddy and his wife, i.e.  Lyla’s Mom.

But that’s not all of the sordid stuff in Dillon. Jason forgives Lyla and they become engaged. However, as he is recovering physically and pyschologically he begins an affair with a girl he meets at a quadriplegic athletic event. Lyla discovers them and ends the engagement.

Fast forward to Lyla on the side of the road, standing next to her junky broken down car. Like much of Dillon she is on her way to Dallas to watch the Panthers play for the state championship.

As she stands next to her junker, who should come along but Tyra and her “ride” Landry. In Landry’s wagon is also Tyra’s Mom, Tyra’s sister (a stripper), and the grandmother and guardian of Dillon’s replacement quarterback, Matt Saracen.

All of these women are the abused female outcasts of Dillon society, even Mrs. Saracen. She has Alzheimer’s. In fact, she was intending to take the bus to the game when Landry spotted her and offered her a ride.

Landry insists on stopping for Lyla, too. However, this doesn’t set well with Tyra. But  Landry says “it’s the Christian thing to do.”  

As Tyra and Lyla argue on the highway, the latter asks Tyra,”Why do you hate me so much?” Tyra’s reply:

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the fact that your Dad slept with my Mom and then tried to pay her off with 700 dollars. Or the fact that you slept with my boyfriend, how about that?”

The two trade accusations until Tyra, referring to Lyla’s sleeping with Tim, says:”You don’t know how that felt.”

“Actually, you’ll be glad to know I know exactly how that felt”, replies Lyla. It is then that Tyra understands that Lyla is part of the “abused women’s” club.

Tyra invites Lyla into the car. After the game is over, with the brave boys of Dillon having been victorious partly due to the abusive men who “love” them, Tyra catches Lyla tossing away her cheerleader paraphanelia.

When Tyra comments about it, it is then that Lyla makes the “its’ been a crappy year” comment. Tyra respond to this by saying “We won State” as this makes it all worth it.

 Lyla replies, “I think it’s time for a change.” She offers Tyra a ride home and the latter accepts.

Lyla now knows how it feels to be what the Scriptures refer to as “the poor, blind and lame”.  Jesus refers to them as he tells a parable about a man who has invited  the “great men” of society to come to a lavish banquet.

The movers and shakers make excuses to the man’s servant who is making the invites. They excuse themselves.  Jesus describes the results:

The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’  Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.  I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’

The downtrodden women  who were in the car with Landry when they stopped for Lyla  represent today’s “poor, blind and lame”. They shouldn’t have even been at the state championship. Tyra and Landry were supposed to go with Tim’s 50 yard line seats, but he gave them away to the neighbor lady with whom he was currently having an affair.

To placate Tyra, he gave her 4 crummy seats. They were in the nosebleed section. Even so, the women were happy to be there.

The Bible describes a time in the life of King David of Israel that seems very much what Lyla experienced. In David’s case, he was minding his own business and running his successful kingdom when his life came crashing in.

David’s own son Absalom rebelled against him. David and his followers had to run for their lives. On the way out of town David got to experience how “the other half” lives. He was verbally abused by an angry man named Shimei, who also added some theater by throwing stones and tossing up dirt.

To David’s credit, he held his peace when his men offered to chop Shimei’s’s head off. He told them:

“Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it.  And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today.”  (II Samuel 16:11b,12a)

Earlier, David had told Israel’s priest that he was putting his life in God’s hands.  He told  Zadok that if the Lord saw fit He would restore his fortunes. He added: “But if he is through with me, then let him do what seems best to him (II Samuel 15:26).”

David now knew how it felt to be part of the “poor, blind and lame” club.

Those who “have it” in this world generally have no clue what the poor, blind and lame go through until they have their own calamities. I’m not rich, but I am not so poor that I can really say I do either. Still, I sometimes get a taste of it when somebody more economically, physically or politically more powerful than I am treats me unjustly.

What do I do in those cases? I get angry and frustrated. Imagine how the extreme poor, blind and lame feel.

Jeffrey Sachs has some idea. He is an economist who has been studying the causes of extreme poverty for 30 years.

Sachs notes that part of the problem is due to how the “rich” countries of this world ignore the causes and refuse to deal with them. How does he feel?

Bono, the famous musician, gives some idea in a foreward to Sachs’ book “The End of Poverty”. He describes Sachs when he speaks to groups on the subject as “angry”.

Mr. Sachs anger is righteous in my view. So was the rage of the man in Jesus parable who threw the banquet and couldn’t get the high and mighty to come.

So how does Jesus feel when the poor, blind and lame are ignored, even abused? Well, first He is angry at the abusers.

 But even more, the special place in His heart for these folks comes to the fore. One day the feted and praised of this world are going to be shocked when they find that the people in today’s cheap seats are sitting at the front of Jesus’s awards banquet. 

Maybe the celebrated will be in the arena, sitting along the wall. Or maybe they won’t even have a ticket in.

 

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“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.  For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood (Romans 3:23-25a, New Living Translation).”

My favorite TV show just completed its last episode, so a couple of weeks ago I went “shopping” for something new to replace it.  I decided to watch “Friday Night Lights”.

The show is supposed to be centered around high school football. However, I really thing they should have called the series “Friday Night Soaps” .

The football is just the framing. The story is really about the human condition of the townspeople of Dillon, Texas.

The Dillon Panthers are their god. Oh, they go to church in Dillon, but they worship on Friday nights at the football stadium.

Their daily devotions concern the players, the coaches, and what can be expected for the following game. For the folks of Dillon, to live is the Panthers and to win is the only acceptable option.

There IS some football, and the storyline does reveal typical problems associated with the sport. For example, one star running back is caught by his Mom and coach using illegal steroids to improve his game. Furthermore, the team experiences a racial divide after a long-time assistant coach makes stupid remarks to the media about the capacity of African-American players.

However, most of the show seems to be about high school hormones. Thus, I have been a little disappointed with the lack of emphasis on sports.

However, I keep watching because like my previous favorite show, the characters are intriguing.  As with the earlier TV drama I watched, the people are all flawed and the show is well written.

The high schoolers and the parents of Dillon are all sinners. They drink too much, have illicit sex and make other bad choices.

What makes for fascinating viewing is what happens when one or more parties are caught in the act of committing one of these bad deeds by the rest of the town populace. If it happens to involve someone related to the football team, it’s Katie bar the door when it comes to the explosion that occurs.

Shock waves hit Dillon High when the starting quarterback, a boy named Jason Street who is destined for stardom, becomes paralyzed after a tackle. The ripple effect of this calamity hits  his girlfriend Lyla Garrity and best friend and fellow player Tim Riggins.

Tim somehow blames himself for Jason’s injury, although he was nowhere near the play. Lyla has trouble dealing with the truth that Jason will never walk again and refuses to believe it. However, when it finally dawns on her, she does not know what to do with her pain.

Since Tim and Lyla both are in great grief over the same issue (i.e., Jason’s paralysis), they turn to each other for comfort. They begin an affair.

When this liaision becomes public, their fellow high schoolers go berserk. Why, how could they treat a crippled star like this?

One cheerleader posts a website of fellow cheerleader Lyla centered around her sluttiness. Some of the Dillon players attack  Tim’s car one night with baseball bats, with him in it.

Both Tim and Lyla are shamed and guiltified. When Jason learns of the affair, he of course is angry and devastated.

What I have learned after watching a plethora of shows from the first season, however, is that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Everyone portrayed in “Friday Night Lights” could use some improvement in the ethics and morality department.

God knows our humanity as well and has tried to warn us in the Bible of the ramifications of judging other people. The Apostle Paul wrote:

You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things.  Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things?  Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?  But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.  He will judge everyone according to what they have done. (Romans 2:1-6)

Occasionally, the characters in “Friday Night Light”s rise to the occasion when they try to deal with their human frailties.  One such standout scene occurs between Jason Street and the wife of the football coach, a woman named Tami Taylor, who is also a school guidance counselor.

When Lyla and Tim are both repentant over the harm they have done, Jason consults Tami Taylor for advice. She tells him,”There is no weakness in forgiveness if this is what you should choose to do.”

Indeed, Jason reconciles with Lyla to the point that they plan marriage. However, at the point I am in my viewing, Jason is falling into a potentially immoral relationship with a girl he meets on an out-of-town sports trip.

In this same episode, many of the key characters are in church, listening to a message on forgiveness. It would serve them well if they practiced what they heard preached there and lose the judgmental attitude. My guess, however, is that the hypocrisy will continue. It makes for good TV!

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The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do (Psalm 12:5 New Living Translation).”

“If this were another time, they would’ve had pitchforks and lanterns in their hands.  They were out for vengeance.”

The reporter on a recent news feature is talking about a crowd in a small town in Ohio gathered around the courthouse. They are after one Chris Coleman.

“Chris Coleman: Loving Family Man or Killer”  reads a headline flashed on the screen. Coleman, the security head for a major televangelist, is accused of strangling his wife and two beautiful young boys in their sleep.

Various parties with an interest in the case are interviewed: the police, attorneys, Coleman’s parents, his wife Sherri’s family, and neighbors. They all  contribute their thinking as to what happened and how they feel.

The crime Coleman is accused of is particularly heinous.  One person interviewed commented,”This crime was about greed, sex, selfishness and narcsissism.”.

Coleman is accused in the program of creating a scenario in which he has been threatened with hate mail because the author wants to get at his  popular televangelist, boss. The writer of the Emails says they will destroy Coleman’s family if his boss doesn’t keep quiet.

As the show progesses, evidence is shown that reveals Coleman is having an affair with one of his wife’s high school friends.  A reporter says, “Investigators believe all this pain was caused by Chris Coleman’s obsession.”

It also presents other evidence which points at Coleman doing the crime.  For example, hate messages created on the walls of his house during the muder, purportedly created by the person sending the threatening Emails, were apparently in fact written in his handwriting. Indeed, after further investigation, viewers learn that the Emails themselves have come from Coleman’s laptop.

Once it is clear Coleman is the main suspect, the already grieving community is torn asunder. For example, one woman tells the interviewer,”I’ve talked to some of the other Moms in the community and their children are wondering if their Dad could do the same thing.”

Coleman’s parents remain adamant that their son could not have possibly done such a thing. The father is a Christian minister. It seems from the facts presented that they are in denial.

The “Christian” aspect of the case gets large play. Highlighted are the fact that Coleman’s employer would definitely not have tolerated his adultery had they known about it.

One close friend of Sherri says,”As a Christian I feel like it is imperative that I forgive because Jesus forgave me. And I want to forgive with my whole heart.”

The interviewer asks,”What makes it so hard to do that?”

The woman replies,”“Because they were so innocent.”

Coleman is found guilty. When the verdict is reach, the large throng outside the courtroom erupts in cheers as if they were at a major sporting event. He still denys his role two years later.

The fallout Sherri’s family is suing  Coleman’s televangelism ministry employer. They claim that the ministry should have investigated him because they had clues to his conduct.

One hundrend and fourteen comments currently are posted on the news shows website. In them viewers express their opinions and attack each other and the people portayed on the show.

Our society abounds with such cases. As one friend of mine has lamented,”Why do I watch the news! There are some sick hombres out there.”

Cases like Colemans not only attract sensational media attention. They also garner sociologists who try to come to some understanding of what is happening. 

“Church Ethics and Its Organizational Context” is a series of essays aimed at learning from the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church which has come to light of late. One of these reports is called “The Sexual Abuse Scandal as Social Drama”, written by Jean M. Bartunek.

In this piece Bartunek lays forth the idea that extraordinary events cause the stakeholders to try to make sense out of them. She says their perceptions of what they thought was reality have been thrown out of balance. 

Bartunek notes that all the “players” in this scandal have different needs and motivations, They also come to different conclusions in an attempt to make sense of the issue and take a variety of actions.

These stakeholders include the victims’ families, the clergy, parents in the community, lay Catholics, attorneys, the Church hierarchy and even perpetrators. She indicates that these different viewpoints create what she calls a “social drama”, which Bartunek  credits  Victor Turner with defining as “an event that revolves around a breach of group or societal norms or rules in some important public matter.”

Further, Bartunek notes that this kind of event is “a volatile episode that interrupts the otherwise smooth surface of routine life in a social setting and reveals underlying tensions there.”  She indicates that these tensions among the stakeholders  need to be resolved in order for the crisis to really completely go away.

Just as it is difficult to come to grips with the idea that Coleman could murder his beautiful family, it is also a tall order to get all the parties involved in something like the sexual abuse of children to come to a meeting of the minds and get at the truth. Frankly, I believe it is well nigh impossible.

Injustice is a given in this life. It will never ever go away until Jesus returns and justice may not really be served until then, even though it apparently has been done in Coleman’s case.

I think God was thinking of this lack of closure when he included the imprecatory Psalms in the Bible.  These are prayers in which the Psalmist asks  God to curse his enemies.

In fact, these “enemies” were in some cases trustworthy companions at one time. Here is an example of this kind of prayer:

 My God, whom I praise,
    do not remain silent,
for people who are wicked and deceitful
    have opened their mouths against me;
    they have spoken against me with lying tongues. 
 With words of hatred they surround me;
    they attack me without cause.
In return for my friendship they accuse me,
    but I am a man of prayer.
They repay me evil for good,
    and hatred for my friendship (Psalm 109:1-5).

The Psalmist goes on to wish all kinds of woe on their opponents. Their desires include that God would cause the antagonist to die, to make their kids into beggars, and for Him to make that their families suffer financial ruin. The Psalmist goes so far as to ask God to NOT forgive their sins.

As the close friend of Sherri Coleman learned, it is a difficult thing to forgive others, especially those who have betrayed our love. The imprecatory Psalms show that God understands that and I believe they are in the Bible so that we can give full vent to our feelings.

These Psalms reveal that it is God who ultimately will judge and get vengeance on wrongdoers. In fact, this principle keeps me from taking my own revenge because I have determined that whatever God dishes out has to be far worse than anything I can do.

My thinking is that if I DO get my own vengeance, then God will say,”Well, you got justice your own way so I am doing no more with this case.” So I stay out of it as best I can and let God take care of things in His time and in His way!

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The Lord is compassionate and merciful,  slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins;  he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve (Psalm 103:8-10).

Motivational speaker David G. Johnson notes that if you want to find your calling, it’s a good idea to ask yourself some questions:

1) What would I do even if I didn’t get paid or receive applause?

2) What problem do I feel compelled to solve for people?

3) What makes you mad?

I pondered that last question in the last 24 hours or so, when I wasn’t sleeping that is. I think I figured it out.

What makes me mad is injustice. I see a lot of it around these days.

When I probe deeper into my heart, though, I find an annoying truth. What makes me mad is when I or one of my loved ones get treated unjustly.

Do I get angry when I hear or read about somebody else receiving unfair treatment? The honest answer is probably,”Sometimes I guess. But not as much as when the experience involves me.”

Rage at my own unfair treatment has gotten me into trouble in the past. I’m not so sure trying to bail myself out of unjust situations is exactly what God had in mine when He gave me a “calling”.

Johnson does say that whatever our calling is, it involves serving people. So if I can figure out where I get really teed off when other folks are handled poorly, I may go a long way in discovering where to invest the rest of my life vocationally.

Injustice is nothing new, of course. If you read the media you would think it is, though.

The news is full of one injustice after another. Here’s a sample of today’s headlines:

“Blind Chinese activist says he’s been abandoned by American officials…”

“12 teenagers haul teenagers off of train by hair, steal cell phone”

“Computer glitch summons 1,200 residents to jury duty, causes traffic jam”.

It’s a fallen world, especially in politics.

If the current POTUS is not of your party, you have your eye on him. You are just waiting for him to assume dictatorial powers and institute a police state.

Interestingly enough, some folks in my birth state of Maryland felt that way about Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. As a border state, Maryland was subject to a lot of intense scrutiny from the US government and the military.

According to Charles W. Mitchell, who edited a book called “Maryland Voices of the Civil War”, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus for Marylanders in some cases.

The writ of habeas corpus is the longstanding right in the English legal system, passed down to Americans, in which an accused person is required to be brought before a judge by the arresting  party. The latter must show cause before the court as to why the person has been arrested.

The writ of habeas corpus is a foundation of the American legal system. It prevents unlawful detention of our citizens.

From Mitchell’s account, a lot of people in Maryland were held without charge, at least at the beginning of the Civil War. Mitchell produces one written account by one such man, Augustus R. Sollers. He begins:

“My arrest was a simple outrage only to be excused upon the ground of over zeal in th officer who ordered it”. Sollers goes on to describe the charges against him as “fabrications” and defends himself.

Furthermore, he goes into detail as to how he has suffered at the hands of the military when they tried to arrest him previously:

I was driven from my home, family and business and lived in the woods for weeks.  They visited my house the night of their arrival and searched for me; they placed a guard of 150 men around it.; they killed my hogs, sheep, poultry, and wantonly shot the best horse on the farm, for all I was never offered a cent nor have I received a cent.”

In his letter, Sollers insists he is a loyal citizen of the United States, but decries how much is fealty has gotten him:

“For all this I have incurred the displeasure of some of my best friends and looked upon with suspicion and distrust by many others. But for my loyalty I have received nothing  but persecution. I have been driven from home, my property destroyed, ny family harassed and insulted, and finally arrested.”

Imagine the cable news networks of our time. They’d have a field day with Sollers’ story.

If you are a dedicated Christian, you know full well how Jesus Christ suffered far worse treatment at the hands of the authorities of his time. Yet, he voluntarily submitted Himself to it.

The Scriptures say of Jesus:

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;  rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature  of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death —
        even death on a cross! (Phillippians 2:5-8)

Indeed, on that cross, as he was being crucified with others who DID deserve the punishment,  Jesus asked God for leniency  concerning those responsible. Luke recorded his words:

 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34a)

Pastor Erwin Lutzer tells of  a discussion he had with another minister about David Berkowitz, aka Son of Sam. Those of us around in the 1970s remember the hot summer he went around shooting numerous people  to death in New York City.

This pastor told Lutzer that Berkowitz is a saved man today, deeply regretting his actions, not asking for any parole, and leading Bible studies in prison. He is transformed according to this pastor.

However, when the pastor tried to get a Christian publisher to consider putting out Berkowitz’s story, he received resistance. The publisher said,

“Yeah, but do you know for sure he’s saved. You get weary of all these people being converted in prison. Prison’s a nice place to get converted, right?”

The pastor countered with this:

“I know Son of Sam–I know that he’s saved. But I am worried about you.” 

I wonder what the loved ones of Son of Sam would think about this discussion. I would surmise many of them would be as skeptical as this Christian publisher and still demand every ounce in payment for the injustice done.

The work of Jesus, who was “pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins”  and “beaten” and “whipped” so we could be healed (Isaiah 53:5), shows God’s attitude toward injustice.  He took it upon Himself so that He could be merciful to those who were responsible for it.

So sure, I ought to be upset when there’s injustice and do what I can, at least for others, when it is perpetrated.  God hates injustice so much His Son died for it.

Yet, if I am to be like Him I need to slow down and be patient with some people. I might even attempt to show  them the error of their ways in a kind and gentle way.

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You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,every knee will bow before me;  every tongue will acknowledge God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14:10,11).

Yesterday a young friend of mine, a former coworker, invited me to his place to play poker with his friends. I gladly obliged since I have always enjoyed visiting his home, talking with his father (who is my age) and messing around with his buddies.

A few hands after we got started, we were ushered into the kitchen where some sandwiches and cookies were waiting. My friend’s mother kindly prepares a little spread  each time we have a game at their place.

As we were munching, my friend’s Dad began to bring out bottles of various spirits. He noted that he himself nor his son drank alcohol, but we were welcome to them.  The father noted the alcohol was so plentiful because he had been given bottles of it by former students and others.

My friend’s other two invited guests were regular drinkers. They had no trouble inbibing. I, on the other hand, am not a drinker except on rare occasions.

When the father mentioned cognac I became curious. I had never tasted what to me seemed to be kind of an elite beverage, and I wanted to try some, so I did.

Later, during our game, one of the drinking players took a short break and went home. He was busted and had to go get some more money.

When he returned he had some famous brand of Irish whiskey with him, and offered me a bit. As with the congac, I accepted the offer and noted how smooth this particular drink was.

As the game went on, I also found myself losing. Although I don’t play Texas Hold ‘Em much, losing to these guys was a new experience for me. I had won the pot the last two times I had played.

Luck I guess. We don’t play for much, but as I am on a tight budget I winced at even the few euros I was giving up.

As I have reflected on this past evening, I am curious about something. What has sparked my interest is my emotional reaction as  I:  was offered and drank alcoholic beverages;  lost money while playing cards.

What I experienced in my feelings last night was guilt. Why is that, I wondered?

In thinking about it, I have determined that my evangelical Christian background influenced my emotions.  It occurred to me to ask myself,”What if so and so knew about this (and certain influential Christians in my life popped up)?”

My reaction to my participation in last night’s events were not earth shattering. Indeed, I had a few sips  of alcohol only. Furthermore, my losses at poker were worth the expense in my view.

I thought,”Where else would I have had so much fun and had such good food and drink at these prices?” Yet, the guilt still floats through my subconscious.

Because of this, I have mentally been running through some biblical principles I know about such issues. For example, I know that the Scriptures make no probibition against drinking alcohol. It only speaks against drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18).

I also know that the Bible exhorts believers in principle to not violate their consciences, nor to hurt weaker believers in their practices (Romans 14;13,22). In my case, I am pretty sure my guilt was not the result of the breaking of my conscience, only a reaction to what I believe some folks in the evangelical circles I hang around would think.

In fact, as I have thought further I have even patted myself on the back. I know we are to take care of our bodies as temples of God, and I refrained from the cigars offered (I Corinthians 6:19). I thought,”I have enough health issues. Why add to them by inhaling smoke into my lungs.”

Indeed, I even engaged in a little more analysis and judgment of my own.”Why, Dwight Moody, a hero of Christendom, was a smoker. If some people knew their Christian history, they wouldn’t be so smug.”

What is going on here in my heart? I think an episode of the TV medical drama “House” called “Love is Blind” has helped me to flesh this out.

A young blind  man named Will is brought into the care of Dr. House. While in the hospital he is visited by his girlfriend Melissa.

As the writers of this episode make clear, Melissa is quite controlling.  She treats Will like a child. This is perhaps because Will is a minority and blind and Melissa is a healthy young white woman.

 Will tells the doctors he intends to marry someone else he met while the couple were “taking a break” because of Melissa’s behavior.  “Most of the time she acts more like my mother than my girlfriend,” he tells the female Dr. Adams, who thinks Will is treating his girlfriend badly.

Indeed, Will breaks the news to Melissa during one of her “mothering” incidents that he is breaking up with her. She storms out of the hospital room distraught.

What I perceive in Christianity as it is practiced in some circles in America is this tendency for believers to “mother ” one another . I suppose it is only human nature for people to like to tell other people what they think is “good” for them, but Christians at times like to add the air of God’s authority in their pronouncements, as if they speak for the Almighty.

The truth is that in many cases they are only speaking for themselves and their opinions. Their understanding of what is good and not good for others may or may not be legitimate or appropriate, but they come across as if they bear the “Word of the Lord”.   Furthermore you get the impression that if you don’t follow their way of thinking, you’re be in their doghouse.

Will’s worsening condition provides the scaffolding for my teachable moment in relation to how believers ought to actually treat one another. The doctors determine that the right course of action to save the young man’s life, but it means he may lose his hearing in addition to still being blind.

When he learns the news, Will refuses treatment. He tells the doctors he has had enough of his suffering and can’t bear any more.

Enter Melissa with Dr. Adams. The script best bears out what happens next. 

Melissa: Will, it’s me.
Will: Let me guess. The doctor who thinks I’m an ass wants you to convince me to live.
Melissa: Yes.
Will: It won’t work.
Melissa: I know. So I won’t.
Will: Wow. You’re that angry?
Melissa: I’ve made enough decisions for you. This is your life.
Will: Why’d you come back?
Melissa: Because I love you. And I want to be with you for as long as I can.
Will: Melissa, I’m so scared.
[She moves from the doorway to his bedside and takes his hand.]
Melissa: Me too. I’ll always love you.
Will: Even if I was deaf?
Melissa: Even if anything.

SPOILER ALERT

This unconditional love moves Will. He accepts the “cure”, and the next morning asks Melissa to marry him. She enthusiastically accepts.

Melissa treated Will as an adult, allowing him to make his own decisions, including life or death ones. She no longer tried to manipulate him into the path she thought best.

The results of  Melissa’s course in this fictional drama were positive. Perhaps the end result won’t always be so rosy, but it would behoove believers in Jesus Christ to give each other the same kind of freedom.

If a person takes a public stand on some issue important to us, and especially if they are trying to influence others, we  have the right, perhaps even the duty, to oppose them. But on private matters of conscience, cutting each other some slack seems to be in order in my mind. 

A little less arrogance and a little more freedom of choice, “even if”,  would go a long way in today’s world. God Himself gives us that kind of freedom, so why don’t we do the same?

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