Reading the Room


Today’s readings (click below to open in new window/tab):
Psalms 119:73-80; 145, Genesis 37:1-11, 1 Corinthians 1:1-19, Mark 1:1-13

Have you heard the expression “read the the room?” It refers to someone’s ability to gauge an audience’s mood and response. Comedians learn to read a room because every crowd responds differently. Executives read a room to determine the level of support for a proposal. Comedians can change the content of the message to please an audience, but a good leader with an important message can adjust only the style, never the meaning.

Jacob and his son Joseph were not skilled at reading a room.

Jacob’s obvious favoritism toward Joseph left his other eleven sons bitter. When he gave Joseph a special robe with long sleeves, it might as well have had a target embroidered on the back. At the age of seventeen Joseph began having prophetic dreams. In these dreams, his brothers – represented by sheaves of wheat or stars – bowed down to him. Whether he was simply oblivious to his brothers’ scorn, or wanted to spite them because of it, sharing his dreams made them more jealous than ever and they began to plot against him.

As Christians, we will be called to say unpopular things. We can adjust our style (even Paul adapted to local audiences) but we don’t have the option of altering the core message, because it originates with Christ. We want his message about God’s love and justice to be taken seriously and understood clearly.Therefore we should think before we speak, and try to anticipate how we will be perceived. Dressing our message in flamboyant, self-important language and attitude will cause people to react favorably or unfavorably more because of the style than the content. Giving the impression that we believe we are somehow superior to our listeners will give them an excuse stop listening. We want to be confident but not cocky; we are the trusted bearers of the message, not its source. A little humility goes a long way.

Humility will not always prevent others from criticizing, demeaning, or persecuting us for sharing the Gospel. In the end we want to be the best ambassadors for Christ we can be, regardless of the cost.

Comfort: You can have confidence in the Gospel.

Challenge: Work on striking a balance between knowing your audience and remaining true to your message.

Prayer: Loving God, thank you for the Gospel message of love and justice. Lend me strength and wisdom to share it with others. Amen.

Discussion: Have you ever changed your message because it was unpopular? What were the consequences?

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