Feedback Loop

bear burdens

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 84; 148, Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:14, Galatians 5:25-6:10, Matthew 16:21-28

A few days ago we considered how we might be receptive to criticism. Today let’s flip that script and think about how we can most constructively give feedback.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote: “[I]f anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.” He also said we are called to bear each other’s burdens. As a culture we seem to have grown increasingly comfortable with providing immediate feedback via social media, comment boards, and even in person to strangers. Unfortunately, we are less adept at the “gentleness” part. Name calling, snap judgments, and attention-grabbing vitriol fill our internet, television screens, newspaper pages, and radio waves.

These types of reactions aren’t really about the other person; they are about satisfying our own sense of righteousness.

There are times when firm reactions are called for. When Peter tried to discourage Christ from his journey to the cross, Jesus responded with: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” This may sound harsh, but he spoke with unmistakable intent because what Peter was tempting him to do was unmistakably in error.  He explained what needed to happen in order to reconcile his disciples to the necessary future.

A single incident or flaw almost never defines a person. Peter was still Jesus’s rock. We need to remember that so we don’t seek mercy for ourselves but punishment for others. Bearing each other’s burden includes making an effort at reconciliation. Character assassination is not part of that process. Can we imagine Jesus launching a Facebook dogpile designed to publicly humiliate Peter? Naming hurtful behaviors is necessary, creating more of them is not part of the reconciliation formula. That may not seem “fair” by worldly standards, but Jesus teaches forgiveness and self-sacrifice, not retaliation.

If we aren’t in a position to offer restoration, we aren’t in a position to offer rebuke. Perhaps we can better use that time pulling the logs from our own eyes.

Comfort: Compassion and rebuke can coexist.

Challenge: If you have social media accounts, try not expressing negative opinions for a week.

Prayer: God of restoration, help me bear the burdens of my community with the help of your Spirit. Amen.

Discussion: When have your received or offered constructive criticism?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people.

Schadenfreund *


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 56; 149, Proverbs 25:15-28, 1 Timothy 6:6-21, Matthew 13:36-43

Schadenfreude is a German word which roughly means “finding joy in the misfortune of others.” It’s not properly used to describe being happy about random misery like starving children or disaster victims – there are other words for that, some of them in English – but reserved for the misfortunes of our enemies, rivals, or people who just plain irritate us. It’s not very Christ-like, but it’s human nature. When we want to think of ourselves as too enlightened for that sort of pettiness, we may call it “poetic justice.”

Proverbs 25:21-22 advises us: “If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat; and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on their heads, and the LORD will reward you.”

“What?!” you may be asking yourself. “I can please God and honk off my enemies at the same time?” Technically, yes. Once we’ve nursed a good grudge against someone – be it a person, nation, or rival bowling team – we don’t want them to reveal any redeeming traits, because that really sucks the joy out of hating them. It may even force us to examine our own motives. So loving your enemy (which is how you act toward them, not how you feel about them), while the right thing to do, may be exactly what they don’t want.

But how long is it possible to think of someone as an enemy if they continually show you kindness?  And how long is it possible to think of someone as an enemy if you see them hungry, thirsty, tired, and in need of all the same things you are? Unless one or both of you intentionally stokes those coals of fire, they will cool and vengeful kindness becomes simply … kindness.

By the time Paul quotes this verse from Proverbs in his letter to the Romans, Jesus has taught and shown us what it means to love and pray for our enemies. Revenge masquerades as human justice; God’s justice is about reconciliation and forgiveness, and he’s not above subverting our baser instincts to help us get there.

Comfort: You don’t have to feel good about your enemies to love them as Christ instructs.

Challenge: Examine how you treat your enemies or rivals in the workplace or social situations.

Prayer: Merciful God, teach me to love my enemies and take joy in their well-being. Amen.

Discussion: Where have you seen the healing power of reconciliation? Did one or more parties have to demonstrate worldly “weakness” but faithful strength?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people.

*not a misspelling; an attempt at a German pun

Why I Stopped Posting Political Memes


Meme by William Loring. Used with permission and encouragement.

Of course I have opinions on politics. They are many and they are strong. And like the opinions of most people, they are not in point-by-point synchronization with some monolithic party platform. They do not neatly fall to one side or the other of what is fast becoming a high and impenetrable wall on the border between Liberalstan and Conservatica. Partly because a) not every idea is at its core a partisan one no matter how hard we try to make it so, and b) thinking people realize the framework of any “-ism” gets increasingly bent and banged and in need of modification the more it is applied to actual living persons and events.

As a matter of fact, I am seriously considering backing away from any use of “liberal” or “conservative” to describe human beings as individuals or groups. Maybe ideas can be classified so, but the person who observes no exception to an ideology is hopefully as rare as I would like to believe. Tempted as I am to paint an entire population of voters with a broad red or blue brush, people I actually know don’t fit into those categories. Yet sadly, many of the same people who complain about being painted with that broad brush don’t see the hypocrisy in using it to paint “the opposition” with the enthusiasm of a majority shareholder in Sherwin Williams.

And that’s where the political memes come in. Once upon a time, in the heat of the last presidential election and slightly afterward, I found a certain satisfaction in sharing ones that seemed clever. Things changed. Maybe it was me; maybe it was the political conversation. I’m not naïve enough to think politics hasn’t always been ugly (and historically speaking even uglier than it is now). Until recently, however, bad ideas took a lot longer to travel. We couldn’t correspond instantly with everyone whose ideas we found offensive. Serious disagreement required effort and forethought. For that matter, so did agreement. I imagine Lincoln and Douglas could find a lot of common ground in being mutually horrified that days-long debate had been reduced to a couple hours of sound bites further reduced by commercial breaks. Twitter would have seemed like the apocalypse.


Political memes as we understand them aren’t actually meant to communicate. We may think they are because the original concept of a meme was an idea that spread like a virus, but that kind of meme wasn’t intentionally created. Just as viruses spontaneously occurring in nature have been engineered and weaponized, so has the meme. Political memes are meant to whip up the base, not to inform the uninformed. Sure they often pretend to address the snowflakes or the fascists, but that’s so the sharer of the meme can get a little thrill out of feeling like he or she is sticking it to the (largely stereotyped if not outright imagined) opposition. If you were actually out to persuade someone, would you start by insulting their intelligence?

And for those who aren’t bright enough to understand why, the correct answer is “no.”

See how that made you feel?


The virus comparison doesn’t stop with the rapid spread of memes. When we use our powers for good, viruses can be the source of life-saving vaccines. The political meme also inoculates us … but unfortunately the “disease” it protects us from is reason. See, to achieve reasonableness, we can’t just double-down on the ideas we already like. We have to weigh them against the ones that challenge us. Enough doses of the bad logic of political memes (we’ll get into that shortly) eventually trains us to think badly and call it smart. The (often poorly executed) “cleverness” of the political meme also reinforces the idea that sarcasm and irony are tools to be used by everyone. They’re not. Very few people can use them effectively as rhetorical devices.

Instead what we get most of the time is someone listening to a point of view not to fairly consider it, but to refute it in a way that gets in a zing. Doesn’t matter if said refutation actually makes sense, because it makes us feel briefly superior. And that’s what the memes are for: replacing reconciliation with the satisfaction of a cheap shot. Common ground is merely an obstacle.


To me, one of the most troubling aspects of political memes is how easily they encourage people to forego critical thinking. We don’t want to fact-check anything that reinforces our existing opinions. And even if the facts are correct, how often are they used logically?

One popular style of meme is posting photos or quotes side-by-side to illustrate an implied contrast. For example, showing one politician reacting charitably to a disaster while another is one the golf course at allegedly the same time. Or maybe one person’s best words against another person’s worst. Photos and quotes have context, and in the digital age they are in infinite supply. Anyone can look bad or good for the split-second it takes to be exposed to a camera. Unrelated images and quotes tell us exactly nothing, but we’re willing to project a lot onto them.

Closely related is the meme that forgets we can do two things at the same time. Support good police officers and check bad ones?  Both things can – and should! – happen. Yet any critique of unnecessary police violence must mean you hate law enforcement, and any expression of support for law enforcement must make you a racist. At least according to the poor logic of political memes. Neither stance should be a partisan issue, but too often we express one as reaction and negation to the other because we equate challenging viewpoints with censorship and react disproportionately. Kids, we improve when we think critically about our own positions, not when we start shouting about who’s rubber and who’s glue.

Then there’s good old Double Standard, and its second cousin Whatabout. Notice how people’s definition of “too much time on the golf course” tends to change with the party of the president? Or for what the first lady wears? Or moral lapses? And when people criticize us for letting Double Standard sidle up to the table, we invite Whatabout for reinforcement. He’s really distracting, constantly yelling about how your guy (or gal) did the same or something worse. We don’t let our kids get away with two wrongs making a right, but we let our politicians slide if they’re on our team. How about this idea: both of them can be wrong, or maybe the offense wasn’t really an offense at all. Hypocrisy is the oxygen feeding the flames of illogic.

Finally we have the presumed offense. In politics, for every action there seems to be an equal and opposite preaction. What’s that mean? Think about school shootings. Anymore after one happens, the memes start flying about what we presume the other side is saying. We don’t even wait for them to actually say it. Fortunately for us, this puts them into the position of either confirming our preconceptions (if one is right mustn’t they all be right?) or defending their position. We win either way without ever having to actually engage people of different viewpoints. Almost anything that looks like policy debate on television is merely the preaction reaction. And what happens on Facebook should stay in Vegas.

Only when we return to logical thinking, instead of defensive memery and one-upsmanship, can we hope to actually communicate instead of shouting over each other. The danger of memes isn’t just the momentary reaction as we scroll by them on our timeline, it’s how they retrain us to see each other as opponents instead of companions.


At this point some readers will undoubtedly think I’m telling them to stop posting political memes. Nope. I’m telling you why I did. If you assume expressing my opinion means I’m telling you what to do, please re-read the previous section. That’s part of the big problem: the breakdown of logic has taught us to hear an argument or an opinion as a threat to our own freedom. “Snowflakes” come in red, white and blue. I am darkly amused when someone who posts about how people are too easily offended by mere words … then get offended by different words. Everyone is offended by something. The trick is not to justify your offense while minimizing someone else’s. Do that enough, and you’ll handle offense like an adult.


So why write about all this on a Christian blog anyway?

Nobody keeps their politics and their faith (or at least their moral beliefs) separate. If we think we do … Surprise! We’ve put faith second.

But if we put faith first, specifically faith in Christ, we are committed to being humble voices of reconciliation and justice. Humble voices often don’t feel like they’re accomplishing much. One at a time, maybe they aren’t.  So we need to stick together and see Christ in each other and be Christ to each other. That means offering dignity and peace even when – especially when – it costs us. Peacemaking is a slow, relentless business. It requires listening more than speaking. Giving more than defending.

Humility isn’t fun. Tribalism and smugness are fun. Terrible, but fun.

Love your enemy. Don’t mock them. Don’t belittle them. Don’t make sport of their feelings and well-being. Love them.

If you can do that in a meme, let’s hope it goes viral.

Peace to you.

Pass the Peace

Helping hand shakes another in an agreement

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 47; 147:12-20, Exodus 34:1-17, 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20, Matthew 5:21-26

Most church services include The Passing of The Peace (or a similarly named practice). At that time, members of the congregation greet each other with phrases such as “The peace of Christ be with you.” Depending upon the denomination and character of the congregation, the greeting may be anything from a brief handshake with your immediate neighbors to several minutes of walking around the sanctuary hugging everyone you’re happy to see again. Liturgically it is usually placed shortly before the offering. Do you know the scriptural reason for this ritual?

Jesus told his disciples:

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

– Matthew 5:23-24

The intent of passing peace is not to greet people because we are happy to see them, but to reconcile with the people we are probably less than happy to see. Imagine a moment in church where approaching someone, or being approached, was an admission of conflict. Not a very comfortable situation, is it? But Christ advises us to make amends quickly so we can offer our gifts without judgment hanging over our heads. Note that Jesus makes no distinction about whether we are in the right or the wrong – just that we need to be willing to take the first step toward reconciliation.

Jesus repeatedly emphasizes the connection between our willingness to forgive others, and our ability to be forgiven. In the next chapter of Matthew he teaches us to pray The Lord’s Prayer, which includes the line: “Forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors.” And in the next chapter he tells his followers: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” No offering, no matter how generous or perfect, makes up for the grudges we bear. We don’t have to accept, condone, or forget – we may even be called to offer loving correction – but Jesus makes one thing clear: we must forgive.

Comfort: Christ’s path is one of love, truth, peace, and reconciliation.

Challenge: When you “pass the peace,” pass it somewhere it hasn’t been in a while.

Prayer: Loving God, forgive my sins as I forgive those who sin against me. Amen.

Discussion: Whom do you need to forgive? Can you do it before Sunday?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people.

Sleeping with the Enemy


Today’s readings (click below to open in a new window):
Psalms 56; 149, Genesis 12:9-13:1, Hebrews 7:18-28, John 4:27-42

How do we approach people we assume to be our enemies? Today’s readings feature two stories about people traveling through presumably hostile territory. They start with very different mindsets, and have very different results.

When Abram and his beautiful wife Sarai arrived in Egypt, he instructed her to pose as his sister so the Egyptians who wanted to woo her would treat him well. Otherwise, he feared, they might murder him to take her. Word of her beauty reached Pharaoh and soon she was living in his home. Displeased with this situation, God afflicted Pharaoh’s household with great plagues. His lie thus revealed, Abram was forced to flee with Sarai.

While passing through Samaria, Jesus stopped at a well. He had a very candid though compassionate conversation with a woman he met there. Once he revealed himself to be the messiah by showing he knew undisclosed details of her life, she was not afraid to challenge him about his relationship with non-Jews. After the people of her town heard her story, they invited Jesus to stay and he spent two days with them. As a result many Samaritans became believers.

Abram told an easy lie, and Jesus told hard truths. The Egyptians treated Abram well for a while, but no relationship was established. In the end, the lie forced him away. The Samaritan woman respected Jesus because he told the truth, and returned his frankness. The initial conversation between them does not read as comfortable, but in the end he formed an unexpected and important relationship with the Samaritan people.

The world tells us never to trust our enemies, and to do unto them before they do unto us. Jesus teaches and shows us another way. It is a more risky path, as we can never be sure of our enemy’s intentions, but it also opens a door to the possibility of reconciliation. If we refuse to hear someone’s story, or respond with judgment, that door stays closed. Being the first to offer a hand in peace is not a sign of a weak resolve, but of a strong faith.

Comfort: Jesus doesn’t want a relationship with your Sunday best, he wants one with your honest everyday self.

Challenge: Do you have any enemies you could get to know better? Try to do so.

Prayer: Prince of Peace, teach me the ways of peace. Amen.

Discussion: Who do you consider your enemies? How do you communicate with them?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

Worship Well


Today’s readings (click below to open in a new tab/window):
Psalms 130; 148,Genesis 11:27-12:8, Hebrews 7:1-17, John 4:16-26

Samaritans and Jews shared common roots but also shared a bitterness – even a hostility – over religious differences. When Jesus passed through Samaria, he sat by a well to rest while his disciples went into town for food.  He asked a local woman for a drink of water, and as a result of the conversation that followed she recognized him as a prophet. Then, for the first time in John’s gospel, Jesus identified himself as the Messiah. John the Baptist and the disciples already believed this but, according to John’s narrative, Jesus had not confirmed it. So why would he choose to reveal himself openly to this non-Jewish woman in this non-Jewish place?

The well where they met was Jacob’s well, a site significant to both Jewish and Samaritan history. When Jesus said those who drank its waters would be thirsty again, but those who drank the living water he offered would never thirst again, he was saying eternal life was not found in or bound to any material source but in the truth. When the woman pointed out that Jews worship in Jerusalem and Samaritans on Mount Gerizim, he responded: “the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem […], when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”  His words told her, and tell us today, God is greater than any constraints of tradition or culture.

What constraints do Christians place on God and worship today? We insist on creeds and denominations that are more products of political history than spiritual necessity. Within denominations we have yet more division among groups who believe they own more truth than others. Like a person who believes nothing exists beyond what can be seen through a single window, we can mistakenly use the Bible to limit our understanding of God rather than accept truth wherever it is found.

Unexpected revelation from God occurs not when we are certain and comfortable, but when we are questioning and in strange – perhaps enemy – territory. Sometimes we have to leave our temple or mountain to find where the living waters flow.

Comfort: God is greater than any box we try to put him in.

Challenge: Think critically about your own assumptions, including those taught to you.

Prayer: God of all creation, forgive me when I don’t love all you have made. Amen.

Discussion: What restrictions do you try to place on God? Who do you exclude as a result?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

Gathering the Sparks


Today’s readings (click to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 36; 147:12-20, Genesis 11:1-9, Hebrews 6:13-20, John 4:1-15

Though Charles Darwin did not write On The Origin Of Species as an attack on Christianity, many people interpreted it that way. The controversy of the seeming conflict  between natural selection and Genesis was not limited to Biblical literalists, but was also a concern for Christians who were not in theory opposed to more scientific theories of creation. The real danger of Darwin’s theory was what it said about the nature of life: it was not powered by love and redemption, but by competition and dominance. What did this reveal about God?

Maybe nothing as startling as it seemed. Another Biblical myth – the Tower of Babel – tells us that when God felt humans were growing too powerful and unified, he destroyed the tower symbolizing their potential, forced them to speak different languages, and scattered them across the world. God forced diversity upon his creation, setting tribes at odds with one another. Whether we read Darwin or Genesis, competition and diversity are central to the story.

In the Jewish myth of the Shattering of the Vessels, when God says “Let there be light” he sends forth his divine essence in ten vessels. The vessels are too fragile and they shatter, scattering divine sparks across creation. It is the duty of humanity to collect these sparks and repair the world. Division and scattering seem integral to our creation stories. We recognize the world as broken, and long to restore it.

Now consider Jesus at the well, talking to the Samaritan woman. They are separated by language and culture. As a woman and a Samaritan she is no one Jesus should be talking to, at least by the dictates of his culture. Yet he stops to banter with her, not to preach but to make a connection. They join their sparks to repair one tiny corner of the creation.

Other animals may be shaped by their environments, but humans can choose to shape the environment instead. When we choose cooperation over competition, we help repair the world. Each spark we collect illuminates what it means to be created in the image of a creator. Our brokenness offers the potential to create something divine in a way unquestioned wholeness never could.

Comfort: Brokenness is not a final state; it is the beginning of reconciliation.

Challenge: We have busy lives, and ignore many of the sparks of creation. Where can you slow down and make connections?

Prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of your divine reconciliation. Amen.

Discussion: Are you by nature more cooperative or competitive? Why do you think that is?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

Dishing It Out


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 123; 146, 1 Samuel 6:1-16, Acts 5:27-42, Luke 21:37-22:13

In some cultures it’s considered bad form to return a dish empty. Say your neighbor prepares a plate of food for you when you aren’t feeling well. You might bake some nice cookies to load the plate before you give it back. That extra touch shows your gratitude.

When the Philistines finally realized they needed to return the Ark of the Covenant to Israel, their priests and diviners warned them not to send it back empty. To do so would show a lack of respect for the great power the Lord had demonstrated. It sounds a little disgusting, but the Philistines fashioned ten gold tumors and ten gold mice to accompany the Ark. These objects symbolized the plagues the Lord had set upon them.

Now they could have just dropped the Ark at the border and run, but that would not have shown they had learned and grown in their understanding of the relationship through the hardships that damaged it. That’s kind of the difference between making an apology and making amends. An apology requires a certain sincerity and an admission of wrongdoing, and is often adequate, but it’s like returning the plate empty: your bases are covered and you’re under no further obligation, but it’s the bare minimum. Amends are the cookies on the plate. They show that you value the relationship enough to put in the extra effort; that you appreciate the circumstances which have made them necessary. Most importantly, amends are not about you or soothing your guilt or grief, but about letting the other party know you are invested enough to genuinely try.

Sometimes relationships can’t be salvaged. Apologies aren’t always accepted. Amends aren’t always welcomed. Such rejection can be hurtful and bewildering, but if we simply recycle that pain as blame or anger, we’re back at square one. The Philistines had no guarantee the Lord would be moved by their odd golden ornaments. Before we offer amends, we should be resigned to be at peace regardless of the outcome, because we have done what we can. Bake the cookies, and leave the rest to God.

Comfort: You are only responsible for what you can do.

Challenge: You are responsible to do what you can.

Prayer: Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt (Psalm 123:3).

Discussion: Has anyone ever made amends to you?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

Getting Engaged


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 63; 149, Song of Solomon 5:10-16; 7:1-2 (3-5) 6-7a (9); 8:6-7, 2 Corinthians 13:1-13, Luke 20:1-8

Paul’s relationship with the church in Corinth was a rocky one. In his letter known as 2 Corinthians, Paul encourages and scolds, loves and mocks, thanks and threatens, delights and defends. Naturally written from his perspective, this epistle still includes clues about his contributions to the friction. Yet in conclusion, Paul writes with all sincerity: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”

How often do we hear such words spoken today between opposing interests? To the contrary, traditional and social media by design encourage not reconcilation across disagreements but confirmation of our existing beliefs and biases. We can find television networks that tell us what we want to hear and marginalize those who disagree. The feeds of most popular social media sites follow algorithms engineered to categorize us into ever narrower groups for marketing; the intention may not be to divide us, but division is at the least a problematic side effect.

Paul had many disagreements with members of the Corinthian church, including their lack of basic respect for him. Yet he remained committed to them as fellow Christians bound in common faith and community. He understood that neither the things that deserved his praise nor those that needed correction completely defined them. Paul remained engaged with them in an honest and loving way, though he knew not all of them were presently willing to return the favor. He had enough faith to believe his persistent love would lead to reconciliation, and enough wisdom to know that wouldn’t necessarily mean complete agreement.

How willing are we to engage with people who disagree with us – religiously, politically, culturally, etc – not to argue or defeat, but to actually interact with them as human beings instead of representations of a particular category? Paul could easily have left the Corinthians to the care of those he called “Super Apostles” (akin to today’s televangelists), but then everyone except those willing to exploit division would have lost. People can’t see us for who we truly are until we show up.

Comfort: God does not see us as labels.

Challenge: We should not see each other that way either.

Prayer: Gracious God, source of all love, teach me to love all your children, as they are my brothers and sisters. Amen.

Discussion: Is there any category of people you dismiss out of hand?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

The Kingdom Come Near


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 98; 146, Ezekiel 7:10-15, 23b-27, Hebrews 6:13-20, Luke 10:1-17

Jesus dispatched seventy disciples to travel in pairs to spread his word. Because he instructed them to take nothing with them, they were essentially at the mercy of each town they visited, “like lambs in the midst of wolves.” In towns that welcomed them, they were to stay and cure the sick. If a town rejected them, they were to shake the dust from their sandals in protest. But when they left a town, they were to say the same thing: “The kingdom of God has come near.”

Whether people receive the Gospel is beyond our control. Our message of love does not waver. As we witness through evangelism, service, or some other means, we are not ultimately responsible for someone’s belief or disbelief. Certainly the seventy evangelists must have felt some frustration, but there was so much work to do among those willing to hear that they didn’t have time for fruitless labor. Sometimes we may be disappointed that someone chooses to reject Christ, but we should not let that rejection sully our spirits; we can shake it off like dust from a sandal.

We might be wise to carry that attitude into other aspects of life as well. Within our work environments, faith communities, and families we will always find dogged malcontents and chronic complainers. Because we want to be peacemakers, or maybe just to be nice, we risk devoting a disproportionate amount of energy trying to satisfy people who have no wish to be satisfied. Neither curing nor shaking, we waste time at the expense of people eager to bear good fruit. Frequently these people, who are not complainers, simply leave for greener pastures and we are left with the bitter.

Of course we want to settle differences, foster reconciliation, and refrain from rejecting anyone, but sometimes we need to accept that have been explicitly or passively rejected. There is so much good to do, some of it very hard work, that we want to steward our resources wisely. Christ loves everyone, as should we, but we are most effective where people let the kingdom come near.

Comfort: The better choice is sometimes the easier choice.

Challenge: Do an assessment of whether you are spending your energy effectively.

Prayer: Loving God, send me where I will be useful to you. Amen.

Discussion: How do you decide when to withdraw from conflict?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!