Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 15; 147:1-11, Isaiah 63:15-64:9, 1 Timothy 3:1-16, Mark 11:27-12:12
Have you heard of the “unpology?” It’s what many celebrities and politicians do instead of actually apologizing. For instance, after getting called on the carpet for saying something insensitive, they say “I’m sorry if anyone was offended by what I said.” Subtly but distinctly different from “I’m sorry I said this offensive thing,” isn’t it?
The unpology is just one method of avoiding honest communication. Not an outright lie, but more a method of speaking yet delivering no content whatsoever. When the chief priests, scribes, and elders demanded to know by what authority Jesus said he would answer them only if they first answered a question from him: “Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” They conferred among themselves because they weren’t sure what to say. They were afraid to say “from Heaven” because Jesus could ask why they didn’t believe him, but they were also afraid to say “of human origin” because the crowd, who regarded John as a prophet, would turn on them.
They settled on, “We do not know.”
Mark’s Gospel gives us no indication that what they truly believed even factored into their answer. So they said essentially nothing, because that’s how they had learned to maintain power.
Our society has an entire class of people who rise to prominence by declaring not what they believe, but what people want to hear. This class includes a regrettable number of politicians, lobbyists, executives, and clergy. Things like speaking bold truth and owning one’s mistakes get sacrificed on the altar of spin when we value power more than integrity.
We could point fingers at examples, but it’s more important not to get drawn into these behaviors ourselves. It’s tempting to make ourselves look as good as possible, and easy to rationalize why we should, but no true prophet worried about his or her image. No matter how well intentioned, once we start spinning the facts, it’s hard to stop. Speaking honestly and simply may not always move us up the ladder, but it keeps us grounded in our faith.
Comfort: Being honest saves a lot of effort.
Challenge: Be truthful, even when it’s not to your immediate advantage.
Prayer: God of truth and life, fill me with an abundance of both. Amen.
Discussion: Regardless of whether you actually do, when are you tempted to fudge the truth?
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