Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 104; 149, Isaiah 61:10 – 62:5, 2 Timothy 4:1-8, Mark 10:46-52
“Tone policing” means dismissing someone’s message by condemning the tone in which it’s delivered. Frequently used by groups in power to silence those who seek equality, an example of this tactic might be telling a woman who seeks equal pay, “I can’t listen when you’re so shrill and angry.” Tone policing prioritizes politeness over justice.
The term is relatively new, but the behavior is not. When Jesus was leaving Jericho, a crowd was following him. Buried in the crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus began shouting for Jesus’s attention. The crowd ordered him to be quiet. Though we don’t know their exact words, they essentially told him to know his place and not to speak out of turn. Never mind that no one had the basic decency to offer help him or push him forward – it was his “rudeness” they made an issue.
Like many who are silenced, Bartimaeus only wanted access to the same things other people had. In his case, these things were the mercy and healing offered by Jesus. Fortunately for Bartimaeus, Jesus stopped in his tracks and called him over.
Jesus asked Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?” Now Jesus certainly knew the man was blind, but he made no assumptions about what the man wanted based on his most obvious characteristics, and instead allowed Bartimaeus the dignity of speaking for himself. Bartimaeus asked for his sight, and Jesus told him: “Go; your faith has made you well.” Note that Jesus did not say “I have made you well.” Jesus may have facilitated it, but acknowledged Bartimaeus had within himself the resources for his own wholeness.
When we ally ourselves in seeking justice with people who are less advantaged, let’s follow the example of Christ. Let’s relinquish social and political space for people to speak, rather than speaking for them. Let’s listen to what people tell us they need, rather than assuming what’s best for them. We don’t always need to cast ourselves as the creators of justice; a lot of the time we just need to get out of its way.
Comfort: God hears all cries for justice.
Challenge: When listening to people, try to concentrate on what they are saying more than how they are saying it.
Prayer: God of justice, grant me the wisdom to speak and listen justly. Amen.
Discussion: Under what circumstances do you find it difficult to listen to people?
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