Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 5; 145,Job 32:1-10, 32:19-33:1, 33:19-28, Acts 13:44-52, John 10:19-30
One of the toughest parts of being a Christian is knowing when to quit. Not quitting Christianity of course, but quitting the things we think Good Christians™ are supposed to do.
Christ teaches us to turn the other cheek, forgive someone seventy-times-seven times, loan money without expectation of repayment, and give away our extra coat to someone in need. How tempting it is to rationalize away these instructions, and quit them too soon for “her own good” or “holding him accountable.” This attitude puts a burden of worthiness on the recipient of our mercies, and mercies that cost us nothing – neither pride nor wealth – are no real mercy.
Or we can become Good Christian™ doormats and allow others to exploit our intention to follow Christ. We quit too late, and what we thought was mercy is revealed to be enabling behavior, or perhaps someone’s insistence we be kind (“I thought you were a Christian”) shames us into being dupes.
Being “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” is a difficult balancing act.
Paul and Barnabas provide a solid example of establishing proper boundaries. When the Jews in Antioch rejected them, the Apostles left town and shook the dust from their shoes – a symbolic gesture for giving up on a place and its people. They’d done as Christ asked, but weren’t about to waste time banging their heads (or feet) against a wall.
We are called to be servants to one another, but not the kind of servants who hand the master a glass of milk they know has gone sour just because he insists on it. Rather, we are called to be servants who know when to tell the truth even if it’s difficult, and when to put the needs of others ahead of our own. Sacrificial love is not self-destructive love: we give away the extra coat no matter how much we want it, but Christ did not ask us to give away our only coat and freeze to death. When we lay down our lives for our friends, we do not die for them, but live for them.
Comfort: Do what you can, not what you can’t.
Challenge: Few of us are social workers, so it can sometimes be hard to determine how much help is the right amount. Develop a list of trusted people you can call on to help you through such times.
Prayer: God of mercy, may my heart and actions be a reflection of your love. Amen.
Discussion: When have you felt good about serving someone?
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