compassion

One Emotional Check Away

It was stated in the Prosperity Now report that 40% of Americans are one paycheck away from poverty. This is just one more reminder that so many of us are living week to week and it is vitally important that there is a net floor that provided by society that no one can fall below. I am not an expert on how good America is at providing that floor, but 40% seems rather high for such a wealthy country.

While it may be that 40% of us are one paycheck away from financial poverty, I would add that it is at least that many who are one “emotional check” away from devastation.

Photo by  Sydney Sims  on  Unsplash

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Most of us receive love and support from family, friends and community. It is something that I see each week when I attend worship. People coming together to remind one another they are loved, that God is with us, that we are bound together and that when life crashes down there is a foundation that you will not fall below..

These "emotional checks” are regular in most of our lives. However, in tragedy, loss or just circumstances, there can be a lapse in those “emotional checks” and many of us are not able to sustain that loss.

While the government opens back up and we still make our way to try to build up the social floor of support, let us not overlook the sources of our “emotional checks” in our world. Break bread with friends, call a loved one, connect with strangers, practice mercy, share in love, participate in a worshiping community - these actions are among those that help each of us through those times when our lives shut down but we still need our emotional checks.

How is "Love one another" a New Commandment?

In John 13:34-35 Jesus says “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

ben-white-190081-unsplash.jpg

Upon reflection I have to ask, “How is this a NEW commandment? Didn’t Jesus talk about and share love all the time? Then what makes this so NEW?”

Yes, Jesus taught about and lived out love in so many different ways so the way this commandment is NEW is the direction of the love.

Notice that Jesus says we are to love one another and that through loving one another we are disciples of Jesus. The direction of the love is toward the other person. More specifically, the direction of the love is NOT toward Jesus.

Perhaps what makes this a NEW commandment is that Jesus is removing himself from the equation of the direction of love and commanding disciples to love the other person. What is new is that Jesus is removing the requirement of direct affection and love of him (the leader) as proof that the disciple follows the leader.

It is much more common for the leader to say, “direct your love toward me and in this way people will know you are my disciples.” Rather Jesus says the opposite.

The more I come to discover about Jesus the more I am amazed at the constant kenosis (self-emptying) of God in Christ. Jesus came down, was obedient to even the point of death, and then when giving his farewell address to his disciples he says - put one another as the direction of your love.

What does it mean for us in the Church to say, “we love you Jesus” and for Jesus to say, “please direct your love to one another”?

Bronze, Silver and Golden Rules (pt. 1)

The “Golden Rule” is something of a universal in all religions and philosophies. It comes in a variety of presentations. The way the Golden Rule was presented to me was: "Treat others the way you would have them treat you." Not a bad rule indeed; however many times when I follow it I get into trouble.

I am a person who really appreciates having a fierce conversation with someone because I think that the conflict that comes from such conversation is creative and useful. Others are not a fan of such intense conversation or conflict. So when I engage in a conversation with someone and follow the golden rule that I was taught, I can get into trouble. While I want to be treated in conversation as a “sparring partner”, many others in my life do not desire this. While I am treating them the way I wish to be treated, they think that I am being a jerk.

There are countless examples where I am treating someone the way I wish to be treated only to discover that the other person perceives me as less than compassionate.

This is where I would say that the golden rule taught to me may be more of a silver rule. Not a bad rule, but it clearly has shortcomings – I might even submit there is a “bronze rule”: Do not treat others the way you would not have them treat you.

This “bronze rule” is the “silver rule” in the negative. So sticking with the example, I do not desire to be disrespected in conversation. So at the very least I need to not disrespect the other person. This “bronze rule” is helpful to guide us to do “no harm” but, like all other probations, it does not guide us to “do good”. Thus the “silver rule” (Treat others the way you would have them treat you) is helpful to guide us to action.

However, both the “bronze” and “silver” rules are egocentric. That is to say, it puts my needs above your needs. I want conflictual conversation. I do not want to be disrespected. These are not “bad”, but they put the self at the center of the action.

The next post will attempt to share an alternate presentation of the Golden Rule that steps away from egocentrism and into a more compassionate posture of living.

Preachers sometimes don't tell the truth on purpose

Preaching is less a public speaking teaching opportunity and more an act of worship. This means that sometimes, preachers don't tell the truth on purpose. That does not mean that preachers lie, only that preaching as an at of worship is trying to communicate a deeper and transcendent reality than the truth can express. Which is why the old preacher joke ("are you telling the truth or are you preaching?") is funny. Preaching does not always share the truth. 

Before we freak out, let me be clear, there is a difference in telling the truth and telling Truth. The story of the "Giving Tree" is not a story about the truth but it is full of Truth. Most children's books I have experienced do not tell the truth on purpose either, but that is to be expected by the reader. I would submit that when we began to see the preaching moment as primarily a "teaching moment" we reduced preaching to teaching the truth and that means many times preacher are not able to express with deep wonder and beauty Truth of the Gospel. Yes, you can make a children's book about how much a mother loves her son and it will be True, but it has not captured the imagination as the story of a tree that loves a boy (which is not the truth but very True).

Many preachers often don't tell the truth on purpose because preachers are not trying to share the truth but they are trying to express Truth - just like Jesus.

The parables of Jesus are not the truth, but they are True. There was not a woman who searched her house for the missing coin or a man who had two sons or a man who sold all they had for treasure in a field or a Good Samaritan or...

If something has to be the truth in order for you to accept any Truth in it, then you are missing a lot of beauty and joy. Don't let the lack of truth keep you from seeing Truth in this world.