Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 62; 145, Deuteronomy 30:1-10, 2 Corinthians 10:1-18, Luke 18:31-43
The Apostle Paul was well aware that, despite evangelistic success, he could be unlikable. In his second letter to the Corinthians – a church he was persuading to give generously to a cause they did not totally support – he preempted their objections.
I do not want to seem as though I am trying to frighten you with my letters. For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” Let such people understand that what we say by letter when absent, we will also do when present.
In stark contrast to his fiery letters full of conviction, many people found the man himself physically unimpressive and not especially eloquent; less a butterfly treasured for his charisma than a gadfly to be endured or shooed away. People of passion – today we might call them activists or missionaries – can often seem annoying. Their dedication (or single-mindedness, if we are less kind) chips away at our comfort and conscience. Perhaps it is their indifference toward popularity and appeal that makes them more effective at changing the world for the better.
There may also have been some truth to the accusations that his letters were stronger than his tongue. It’s human nature to be a little bolder when we are separated from our audience by time, space, and the written word. Browse almost any online forum to see just how bold it can get. Paul and his contemporaries certainly didn’t have social media as we think of it, but in their own way his letters went viral as they were read multiple times to entire congregations.
History teaches us Paul’s deeds backed up his words. Our own Christian commitment should direct us to keep our attitudes in check even when we feel emboldened by distance or anonymity. Do our comments on the internet, or the tone we direct at customer service representatives, reflect what we would say in person if Jesus was listening? We know they ought to. Let’s try to be as self-aware as Paul, dedicating our words and actions to Christ with equal conviction.
Comfort: Angrier words are not always more effective words.
Challenge: For a few days, pretend Jesus is in earshot of everything you say.
Prayer: My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord. Amen.
Discussion: What prompts you to lose your composure?
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