How's that for descriptive? I am purposely being vague because I have no interest in starting the discussion on the current debate, argument, discussion, or otherwise divisive talk. Besides that the issues I want to discuss occur in every community on a frequent basis including............*GASP*............ our church communities!
This current situation prompted me to start pondering about how we humans tend to respond to adversaries and how ruffled our feathers get when the ideas of others do not line up with our own.
I wanted to take some time to talk about this topic and my reflections.
WARNING: IT IS MORE LIKE A SESSION FROM A WOMEN'S RETREAT OR A MINI-SERMON!!!
Mostly, I just needed to remind MYSELF of some things, some scriptures and some ideas and I thought perhaps posting it here might help someone else refocus as well.
Here are some of my musings. Please note, the benefit to having "musings" is that they are not always perfectly ordered and thought through completely.... they come as they come.
1- During the Transfiguration God speaks and says: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” This always grabs my attention. The disciples were getting distracted (and who wouldn't with Elijah, Moses and Jesus before you dazzling whiter than ever). They were even distracted with Godly things, impossible and amazingly good things, yet God states "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!" Perhaps we THINK the arguments are beneficial. Perhaps we feel very strongly that the other person is WRONG, Wrong, wrong.... I chose (or try to remember to chose) to LISTEN TO JESUS.
So if we are Listening to Jesus as God told us to, what did Jesus teach what did he say?
2- Because we have no iphone videos of the entirety of Jesus' life we must accept that there are multiple interpretations to the word found in the Bible. Translation is tricky when there are no spaces or punctuation (as in the original greek). Interpretation before, during and after translation can get even trickier. There are MANY genres in the Bible and sometimes it is tricky to determine what sections are to be interpreted as prose, which as eyewitness fact, which as allegory, which as prophecy etc. Because it is so tricky we have schisms and divisions in the midst of Christian believers. EVEN in Biblical times these schisms existed and here is what Jesus had to say about it: “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”--- “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward." Mark 9:38-41
Perhaps some of the previously reported "hubbub" is not as pure as the situation that Jesus addressed. Perhaps some see the information being taught (on EITHER SIDE) could potentially lead others astray. None-the-less, if we listen to Jesus and do what he says then we will become a servant and we will offer water to those who belong to the Messiah (and who do not). IF THEY ARE NOT AGAINST JESUS THEY ARE FOR HIM.
3- Jesus is ultimate judge. I do not need to judge. I need to be convicted in my faith and live it out as Jesus tells me to do. The judging is up to God. I am not protector of the world (Praise the Lord!!!) I am a mere servant who is commanded to be faithful. Here are some verses:
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent upon anyone.
I like to think that this passage is also telling us to research our own stuff out and that being dependent upon others includes not blindly trusting what ANYONE says without searching "IT" out and holding it up against what Jesus tells us.
4- And then there is OUR RESPONSE. We first need to know what Jesus says. We then need to know and TRUST that Jesus is judge and we need to know our convictions and live them out. We then need to guard our responses to others who do not hold our own convictions.
I could talk until I am blue in the face about how many times in just the last few months I have been hurt by people who have expressed their opinion (assumptions) of me and my life because I do not think and believe as they do. I have been seeking each situation out with God as it happens and he has been confirming that I am just fine. I have been hurt by those on the conservative right, I have been hurt by those on the liberal left and I have been hurt by some in between. I could not possibly please all of them, nor do I want to. It has been greatly puzzling to me how so many people have spewed out their angry words and actions from so many different angles in such a short period of time.
As I nurse my wounds I read the Word. I listen to teaching that I believe to be true. I memorize scriptures that shape me and help God to refine me (even when it HURTS to not do things MY WAY or the FUN WAY or the EASY WAY). I trust God. I pray for where my convictions shall lie and then STAND STRONG in my convictions despite what others tell me..... unless it is God using someone to whittle me a bit more into his image. Yet, I know that not everyone in the world thinks EXACTLY as I do. I do not cast them into the ocean with a stone on their neck.....Jesus is Judge. I love them whether they are like me or like an enemy. I serve them (or should) and I lift them up in prayer.
Here are my two favorite, and two of the hardest, verses that I turn to frequently when others speak against something that I don't agree with. They are the litmus (or should be) which helps me determine what to say.
Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable ---if anything is excellent or praiseworthy --- think about such things.
If our words do not adhere to those passages, do we need to say them? Ought we say them? What good would it be if we say them? Can we walk away from the discussion which is not creating excellence but is looking more and more like a pile of muck from the barn? The longer the pile sits the hotter it gets and actually begins to burn the contents within and any flesh that it touches. Why would we stick our hand in a pile of composting manure that is over 100 degrees? We wouldn't! So why would we step into a conversation that looks near exactly the same?
Jesus tells us in Mathew 5 (39) But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. He then tells us: (40-48) And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
BE PERFECT, THEREFORE, AS YOUR FATHER IS PERFECT.
Until we ARE PERFECT, do we really have room to demand others to live up to our own convictions? Do we really have space to criticize others? Should we not be examining ourselves and working on ourselves? Must we really strike back when Jesus tells us to serve and love?
I know I have more work to do.
If you are trying to figure out where you might need work ... the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-38) is CHOCK FULL of challenging teachings of Jesus. This side of heaven I can not imagine a reading of that section that does not lead to conviction for change in some aspect of the reader's life. I just don't think it is possible.
Let me leave you with one last passage. The world is filled with so much negativity and it is sometimes hard to filter it all out and see the good. Here is a great verse that always redirects my path.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say Rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made to God. And the peace of God WHICH SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I need to take a wee moment to express my gratitude to Jesus for a girl who is currently napping and two boys who are playing together with toys and their active imaginations in the MOST AMAZING WAY. They are working through their differences, they are both giving and taking, they are amazing me at how well they are playing together so that I might type this post out in one setting without being continuously interrupted with the need to intervene. Thank you Jesus. Thank you.