Unhappy Medium


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 89:1-18; 147:1-11, Proverbs 6:1-19, 1 John 5:1-12, Matthew 11:16-24

Let’s face it: personal standards can be pretty arbitrary. Consider safe driving speed. For many, a reckless driver is someone who passes us, and a timid driver is someone we pass. Unless our cruise control is set exactly to the current speed limit (itself often a relatively arbitrary standard), what basis do we have for this judgment?

Jesus faced similar artificial standards from religious leaders. They complained he was a drunkard and glutton who fraternized with sinners. When they confronted him about their concerns, Jesus reminded them that when John the Baptist fasted and abstained, they accused him of being possessed. You just can’t please some people.

“But wait,” you might say, “isn’t there such a thing as a happy medium?” Certainly there was some acceptable range for drink and dining that might have pleased his detractors, but they almost as certainly would not all have agreed on the upper and lower limits of that range. My happy medium is to the left of yours, and to the right of the next person’s. Whatever our rationale for a standard, there is always personal bias involved.

Supreme Court Justices who agree with our interpretation of the constitution are “impartial,” and those who don’t are “activists.” The same goes for scripture: those who aren’t literal about the sames passages we choose to take literally are “cherry picking” (and there’s no one who is literal about all of it). Even within a political party adopting one platform, or a denomination which follows a single creed, your mileage will vary from your neighbor’s. If Jesus announced his return standing in a bar and with a beer in hand, some Christians would cheer and others reject him. And if John the Baptist was… well, John the Baptist, he’d be too holy for some and not enough for others.

If there were only three people on Earth we’d have four religions, so let’s try to overcome the perverse urge to focus on meaningless differences.  Christians are one body; the least we can do is learn to share the road with each other to caravan behind Christ.

Comfort: You don’t have to please other people …

Challenge: … and they don’t have to please you.

Prayer: Lord I thank you for the beautiful diversity of your creation. Please help me to see all things first with love. Amen.

Discussion: Which of your standards have you had to adjust over the years? Which do you refuse to adjust?

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