Tag Archives: Christianity

Mockers…


The more I try to study the Bible, the more confused I am.

Proverbs 9: 7-8 says

Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult;

whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.

Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you;

rebuke a wise man and he will love you.

Before explaining my confusion with this passage, I’ll define my interpretation of the language. First, a “mocker” would be today’s “hater.” That definition can be expanded to include more, but for brevity, let’s stick with “hater.” Haters gotta hate; we see it everyday all over social media.

Secondly, “rebuke” is not just “tell someone they’re wrong,” but to try to correct misinformation so that the person could have a better informed opinion (and hopefully make better decisions).

Here’s my confusion:

I get that trying to explain sense or even just a different point of view to someone who is absolutely determined to not consider any other conclusion other than the one they already have is useless. I get that. We see it all the time. Discourse cannot happen unless everyone involved is really listening to one another. Again, we see this every day not only on twitter (for example) but in our politics, “news” casts, and popular culture. People take sides, create hashtags and catchy phrases designed to empower one person at the humiliation of another — and all we do is listen less and hate more.

BUT –

How do we balance the moral imperative to be compassionate, to foster kindness and respect between people, if we don’t at least try to point out how current choices feed the exact opposite? If I think I’m being a social justice warrior, but really I’m just spewing as much hate as the people I oppose, isn’t it an act of kindness for someone to say to me, “uh, tone down your language. You’re being offensive, and though your point may be valid, your delivery makes it impossible for it to be heard?”

How can we tell if a “mocker” wants to become “wise” but doesn’t know how? Isn’t it unkind to not try to help?


Challenge, 31


This past year has been exceptionally challenging, even to the point of questioning what exactly my faith is. I don’t doubt God’s presence, or even identity, but I’ve started to wonder what His motives might be. And I’m not interested in the prosperity-preacher “it is not for us to question,” “all is for the best” pulp. Even David questioned the veracity of those comments.

In Psalm 31, the psalmist makes a gorgeous plea – and even some challenges – that ring honest and true:

Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;

my eyes grow weak with sorrow,

my soul and my body with grief.

My life is consumed by anguish

and my years by groaning;

my strength fails because of my affliction,

and my bones grow weak.

Because of all of my enemies, 

I am the utter contempt of my neighbors;

I am a dread to my friends-

those who see me on the street flee from me.

I am forgotten by them as though I were dead;

I have become like broken pottery….

But I trust in you—

Let me not be put to shame, O Lord,

for I have cried out to you….

It continues, quite masterfully. In my easier days, I found David to be a little prone to exaggeration – but I stand corrected. I also used to think that psalms such as this were a bit contradictory. He complains, he moans, and then he cheerfully says, “But you’re the Big Guy and you’ll fix it.”

I don’t hear the happy-happy anymore — I hear a challenge. I hear David howling, “Come on, Mister, you big shot. You made all these promises to protect and care for me and look where I am now!! If you don’t help me, you and your name will be humiliated, not just mine, because I have publicly claimed you as my strength. So, for your own sake, help me out.”

I’m with him. 


Wilderness


This post is a response to a post by CultureMonk.wordpress.com.

Topics include:

Dark nights of the soul, spiritual exhaustion, social obligation, evolution of the spiritual journey, the fine balance between self and other

Culture Monk

DSC08938

By Kenneth Justice

Everything is fine, I really think you’re overreacting” he told me

~ A while back I had coffee with a Christian minister who will remain nameless. I was talking to him about some of my frustrations regarding life here in the United States and he wasn’t very sympathetic to me whatsoever,

I think things are pretty good Kenneth. The United States is the greatest country on earth, it’s a land of opportunity, and anyone who wants to better themselves here is more than able to do so, everything is fine, I really think you’re overreacting in your assessment of the culture” he said

Over this past holiday weekend I disappeared for a few days to read, study, and take a break from my normal day-to-day life. I spent a lot of time thinking about the minister’s words and have been wondering if the…

View original post 960 more words


Still


 

Psalm 131:1-2

My heart is not proud, O Lord,
My eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
Or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child with its mother,
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

from Letters from the Desert, by Carlo Carretto

Joy or sadness, war or peace, love or hate, purity or impurity, charity or greed, all are tremendous realities which are the hinges of our interior life. Everyday things, relationships with other people, daily work, love of our family — all these may breed saints.
Jesus at Nazareth taught us to live every hour of the day as saints. Every hour of the day is useful and may lead to divine inspiration, the will of the Father the prayer of contemplation — holiness. Every hour of the day is holy. What matters is to live it as Jesus taught us.
And for this one does not have to shut oneself in a monastery or fix strange and inhumane regimes for one’s life. It is enough to accept the realities of life. Work is one of these realities; motherhood, the rearing of children, family life with all it’s obligations are others.


Dust


I’ve been reading about the act of “shaking the dust off one’s feet” the past couple of days. It’s confusing. We’re told countless times to not be judgmental, to be loving and kind, but then there is this instruction to “shake the dust off your feet” when leaving someone or someplace which rejects and ridicules you. Ritually, shaking off dust is a sign of derision, an indication that one will not have anything to do with someone again. How is this act not judgmental?

The best I can reason so far is that there is a handing off of responsibility. There is the responsibility we have to care for others, the responsibility we have for our actions and choices, and the responsibility between people to respect the decisions of others, even when we think they are wrong.

So, I have a duty to treat others with kindness, and part of this is teaching about faith, ethics, etc. This teaching from one person to another is necessary so that the student can then incorporate these lessons into his own life and thereby take responsibility for living according to the faith, ethics, and so on.

Now, this duty to teach (by word and deed) ends as soon as it bumps into the boundaries of another person’s freedom to chose how to live. I cannot and should not force my morality or faith onto anyone else. If someone looks at me and says, “that’s nuts, no way do I agree with you,” then I need to accept that and let it go.

The examples in the book of Acts are more, shall we say, emphatic than this. Paul was a fairly feisty character and it seems that he couldn’t do much without a show. Admittedly, he was being driven violently out of towns, so maybe that fed his fire.  He shook his clothes out and exclaimed that his responsibility to these people ended when they threw him out.

Maybe the finality of the dust-shaking has more to do with the persecution and less to do with the disagreement? Maybe it means that when someone forcefully rejects me, it is then okay to let that person go. I don’t need to allow myself to be beaten up. Maybe this dust-shaking is a way to preserve ourselves from being sacrificial, since the sacrifices have already been made on our behalf.

 

For reference: Acts 13:51, 18:6, Matthew 10:14, Mark 6:11, Luke 9:5, 10:14


Context and Jusitification; or Get off that high horse!


Overall, I like the book of James. It’s very specific and action-oriented. It appears to be pretty straightforward in instruction. However, as with all study of Scripture, it is prudent to read closely and to remember what the rest of the Word says and use it as context.

Today’s selection from The Guide to Prayer is most of the first chapter of James.
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+1&version=NIV

I have a hard time swallowing this chapter. It sounds like the speeches I used to hear repeatedly from several different people, some of them in positions of leadership in the church and many of them relatives, to 1) belittle someone’s pain or sorrow and 2) justify to themselves why they were Right and others were Wrong.

The passage is not meant to be used for that purpose. When we read it alongside the other selections from recent days, it becomes clear that we aren’t meant to be so simple about it. Yet, as we all experience, people have a tendency to take pieces from the Bible out of context and twist them to mean something very different.

For example, I do not think that when the author says in verse two we should “consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials,” he means we ought to throw a huge bock party. I think that the intention is more along the lines of “eventually, you can learn from this.” But, again, as we’ve seen, we often hear this quoted from someone saying, “See, you’re in pain because you’re such a Good Christian. Just keep on keeping on just as you are, and you’ll build treasure in Heaven.”

I know many people who have used this sentiment to justify their behavior, claiming that the fact that they aren’t getting what they want is proof of how righteous they are — when really they aren’t getting what they want because they are – how to put this delicately? – wrong. They are getting pushed back against because someone else is trying to show them that their expectations are not – how to be delicate? – reasonable/kind/good. I’ve seen a lot of bullies claim righteousness with this passage, when their “suffering” was self-induced by selfishness, greed, indifference, or a slew of other common misdirections.

So, behooves us all to examine carefully what our part in trouble might be. Often, we find ourselves in circumstances we didn’t necessarily create – but we still choose how we respond. The wrong response can make things worse, but the right can resolve trouble.

We need to avoid rushing to judgment, avoid assuming that we are right.

The next verses discuss perseverance, a topic we looked at a little a few days ago.
http://wp.me/s262AS-fruits

I need to acknowledge the human limit of carpal tunnel pain and request that you, Gentle Reader, just, uh, click on it. Sorry ’bout that. Gotta stop for today — but don’t let that stop you from reading, commenting, and most importantly praying.

You know, it’s often easiest to pray in nature, away from people. We go to church to find people; we go to nature to find God.


Peaceable Sword


Before I get started today, I wanted to add the link to the book I use for my Biblical study again:

http://bookstore.upperroom.org/cart/upperroom/p-17105.htm

A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants

I’m one of the “other servants” – not a minister. 😉

The book is organized according to the liturgical calendar used by Episcopalians and Catholics. This year, 2014, is year A and we’re in Week 17.

The passage today is Matthew 10:16-42. It’s too much to absorb in one day, well, for me anyway, so I’m going to highlight only a couple of verses.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+10:16-42

We’ve been discussing the attributes of a follower of Christ these past few weeks. Lots of love. Lots and lots of it. With side dishes of compassion and kindness. Heaps of Hallmark goodness. The kinds of stuff that lead some to think that we shouldn’t criticize anything, that we should accept and embrace everyone. After all, if I’m in no position to judge another person (and we’ve established that I’m not), then who am I to criticize someone’s choices? And, if we’re all supposed to be brimming with loving sweetness, shouldn’t that naturally mean that we should all just get along?

No. It doesn’t. Not at all. In fact, Matthew 10 cautions us on what to expect if we decide to live as best we can as Christ did. We are advised to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” In other words, be loving and kind, but don’t be stupid or naive. Be sure that our reactions and decisions in life reflect our God, but also be sure to not pretend that everyone in this world shares the same values or moral inhibitions. Understand the difference between the world we want to live in and are trying to build, and the world we really live in. It’s also recommended that we not foolishly endanger ourselves. “If you are persecuted in one town, flee.” We don’t have to be martyrs. Christ already died for us. We don’t need to do it ourselves.

Christ also says something shocking in verse 34.

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to this world. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

A sword? But what about loving-kindness and all that tolerance stuff?

Christ here does not say it is okay for us to incite trouble, division, or pain (we are to be peacemakers, after all) or to be judgmental on His behalf; he tells us what to expect from the world’s reaction. People will be divided over whether or not Christ is the Messiah, whether or not there is a God, whether or not everything is permissible or whether there are moral rights and wrongs. And even if we can agree on the existence of right and wrong action, we won’t necessarily agree on what those things are. If we do, we still won’t agree on how to respond. Hence, the sword.

These instructions should be read alongside a passage we read a few days ago. (See Costs http://wp.me/s262AS-costs.) We should understand what to expect if we try to  represent Christ. We should not expect miraculous ease, wealth, and simplicity. We should not expect everyone who learns of our attachment to Christ to be happy about it. There are no magical guarantees for this life. It is hard to live a good life, harder to live a devout life. We need to understand that the challenges (referred to as “suffering” in the text) are just the way it is.

We do not chose to follow Christ to make this life easy. We chose to follow because we believe this life is but a dim preview of the life that can be. Because a hard life lived for the Truth is better than an easy life lived for nothing.

One final note: in verses 24 and 25, we are reminded that anything that Christ does, we should be willing to do ourselves. See yesterday’s post for more thoughts on this instruction. (http://wp.me/p262AS-vA)


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