Be Good To The Imposters....

Who likes an imposter? They are fake and phony. They are a shame and a con. Of all the people in the world, those double-crossing pretenders are among the worst.

I think we can all agree.

Among the worst types of imposters are those who use their fake-ness in order to freeload off the hard work of others. We all know the type. They are everywhere, and the last thing you want to do is encourage the behavior. Which is why I don’t give money to anyone who I know is faking it. They are taking advantage of the welfare of others and, if I had my say, we would eliminate all welfare everywhere.

There is a Talmudic teaching about the potential risks of freeloaders on the welfare system that instructs the faithful, “to be good to the imposters, for without them our stinginess would lack its chief excuse.” (source).

Ouch.

The great thing about this teaching is how it calls us to pay attention to where the source of the sin or problem is. The one who is stingy, needs the freeloader in order to justify being stingy. For without the freeloader the stingy person would not have an excuse to be stingy and they would need to become generous. And if there is anything a stingy person does not want to become it is generous. So if you want to remain trapped in being stingy, then you better be kind to the freeloading imposter.

Be good to the one who angers you, for without them your superiority would lack its chief excuse.

Be good to the one who wrongs you, for without them your resentment would lack its chief excuse.

Be good to the one who you hate, for without them your hate would lack its chief excuse.

The Good News of Re-gifting

Photo by  Lina Trochez  on  Unsplash

Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

Re-gifting has gotten a bad wrap (pun intended) for a while now. I know it is propaganda of the capitalist system that says that you should not give anything to anyone unless you bought it specifically for that person. As though the only possession that is worth giving to someone else are virgin dollars on a new gift. It is silly, but powerful on us. Many of us feel a sense of shame with re-gifting that we would never do it.

The irony is that there is Good News in re-gifting.

Christianity teaches that all things are from God and that humans are stewards of these gifts. We are stewards of money, stewards of natural resources, stewards of animals, and stewards of our sisters and brothers. All that we have is a gift.

As such, anything you give to another is a re-gift. The money you use to buy a “new gift” is a re-gift.

The Good News of re-gifting is that all of life is a gift. And in re-gifting we are reminded of that.

The Dawn of Vision and The Role of Pastor

Photo by  Karl Magnuson  on  Unsplash

Photo by Karl Magnuson on Unsplash

There is a story about the nature of spiritual disciplines that goes something like this:

A student asked the teacher, “What effect do the spiritual disciplines have on gaining salvation?” The teacher said, “As much effect as you have on causing the sun to rise.” To which the student asked, “Then why practice the disciplines at all?” Looking to the east the teacher said, “So that we are awake to witness the sunrise.”

Too often we church leaders think that it is our job to “come up with the vision” of the church. And some might say this is true. I offer that it is not the leader that comes up with the vision but it is God’s vision that leaders are trying to articulate. This means the leader must be engaged in spiritual disciplines so as to not miss the sunrise.

The vision for a church is like the sunrise. It is a gift an it comes slowly. It is not the leaders job to cast the vision but to help and show people how to stay awake to the breaking of God’s vision. The pastoral leader is not the one who decides what the vision is, but the one who calls people to look eastward for the coming vision of dawn. The faithful church is less interested in deciding what to do and more interested in where to face.

Imaginary Audience and the Cloud of Witnesses

My friend Sarah was sharing with me about her experience in ministry. She has noticed that many of us move through our lives with what she called “invisible condemners.” As I understood what she was saying she was describing how many times we apologize for and even rationalize to these invisible voices who are constantly condemning our actions and being. It is the hyper critical voice that can crush our souls.

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In adolescence humans develop something called the imaginary audience. This is the sense that there is a crowd of people who watching over our every action. Recall when you are a young person and you get water on your pants. The imaginary audience gives you the impression that everyone will notice you, that you wet your pants and that you are a fool. For the most part, the conception of the imaginary audience is heard as a critical voice (not unlike invisible condemners).

The imaginary audience may be recent terminology, but it is mentioned in the Bible. Hebrews 12:1-2 speaks in the following way:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

There is an imaginary audience that surrounds us. In Christianity we call it a great cloud of witnesses. However, notice that the great cloud of witnesses is actually a protest to the typical understanding of the imaginary audience. While the typical person has an imaginary audience who critiques and condemns them, the great cloud of witness that surrounds us encourages and supports us.

You may roll your eyes at the idea that there is a great cloud of witnesses, a collection of saints who have gone on before us who surrounds us. I mean who believes in angles and ghosts? Who believes in that which you cannot see or touch?

Tell that to your imaginary audience.