relationship

"Community is a consequence."

Plough is a quarterly magazine that my wife has subscribed to now for about six months and it the type of publication that makes you proud of the print medium. Within the Winter 2018 edition, there is an essay from Philip Britts entitled The Gods of Progress. Britts wrote this essay after World War II and so it makes one wonder why it is up for the 2018 conversation, but it is among the more timely essays of our time. I hope you would take the time to read the essay and would encourage you even more to subscribe to Plough.

Here is pull quote worth considering:

"Community is not a system for solving the economic-social problem. Community is a consequence. Many such communities have been organized and have failed to stay the course. Community is the consequence of people being kindled with the glow of love.
Photo by  Joris Voeten  on  Unsplash

Photo by Joris Voeten on Unsplash

I submit that when thinking about community, it may be helpful to think of a fire. The smoke is the by-product of the fire, but smoke allows the fire to be discovered by others. It is the flames of love that build the smoke of community. And just as fire is lit by flint and steel, so too love is lit by the flint and steel of humility and curiosity.

Community is a consequence of love which comes from humility and curiosity. 

How You Know Someone Does Not Trust You

Trust is the lifeblood of relationships. This is obvious in personal relationships but there are many types of relationships. When you pass someone on a two way road, there is trust that each will stay in their lane. Without trust in the other then there can be great damage and hurt. Again, I say, trust is the lifeblood of relationships. 

We know when we don't trust another person. You can try to put it into words and sometimes you can articulate why you don't trust someone. Maybe they wronged you in some way and broke trust. Maybe they just look like someone you don't trust (this is sometimes the implicit bias that leads to misjudgments and prejudice). But for many of us, we know when we don't trust another person. 

The question is how do we know someone does not trust you? We can all put on a nice face and be pleasant with one another, so it is easy to miss that someone does not trust you. However, here is one way to discover someone does not trust you: The other person does not give the most generous interpretation of your actions. 

If you find yourself in a conversation and the other person is not giving you the most generous interpretation of your actions and words, then maybe the conversation needs to stop being about the issue but pivot to trust. Talk about how to rebuild trust between yourselves. The conversation about trust is paramount because even if you resolve the specific issue, unless trust is present, there will be another issue in the near future. 

The "thing" is rarely the "thing". More often there is a "Thing" behind the "thing." Many of the conflicts in the world come from a trust vacuum. Broken relationships, broken churches, broken nations and broken systems result a hemoraging of the lifebloood of trust. 

How you know you have a healthy relationship with the Bible

There is a little tool called the Johari Window which is used to "help people better understand their relationship with themselves and others." It looks like this:

While it often is thought about in terms of human relationships, I believe it is also helpful to think about it in terms of our relationships with the Bible. In the above window, if we replace "others" along the "y axis" with "Bible" we have a slight variation to consider.

If something is known to the Bible and self, then this is what is "open". It is things where the evolutionary process and the Bible overlap. For instance, prohibition of homicide is an area of overlap in both evolutionary and Biblical terms. 

If something is known to the Bible and unknown to self, the this what is "blind". These are the things we might identify as the cultural context of the scripture writers. For instance, there are a number of cultural assumptions lost to time and translation when we read stories from the scripture. 

If something is hidden to the Bible and known to the self, this is what is "hidden". The hidden things in this context might include what the Biblical writers were unaware of, like scientific advances and discoveries. Scripture writers never could have known about the forces of thermodynamics or the dinosaurs. 

If something is hidden to the Bible and hidden to the self, this is what is "unknown". At least one thing in the "unknown" box would be the complete nature of God. Both scriptures and current humans cannot ever know the complete nature of God.

You know you have a healthy relationship with the Bible when you are always aware that the "unknown" box is much larger than most of us like to think that it is. Humility is important in interpersonal relationships. Humility is also important when in relationship with the Bible. If anyone teaches that the "unknown" is smaller compared to the other boxes (specifically the Open and Blind) chances are they are more blind than they think.

Comment, Complain, Critique, Contempt - The Subtle Steps to the Fires of Hell

You may have heard the following scripture from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew:

‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. 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 5:21-24

You may have noticed there are four movements that Jesus highlights. I translated these four postures into the following four movements:

  1. Comment
  2. Complain
  3. Critique
  4. Contempt

Notice that anger/comment are nether good nor bad. We place values on the emotion anger, but really anger (like all emotions) is amoral, it is what you do with that anger that qualifies the anger. Comments are just that - amoral comments. Comments are observations and helpful for build relationships. For instance, "the meeting lasted 90 minutes." is a comment. 

Issues arise when we do not address comments and allow them to build up. At that point, we're stepping toward Complaining. Complaining is a subtle shift from Commenting. Complaints are Comments with qualifiers. Sticking with the example above: "The meeting lasted 90 minutes but should have been done in half as much time," is a complaint. 

The look of contempt?

The look of contempt?

As complaints are left unchecked, they too can bundle up into critiques. Critiques are qualified comments with an evaluation. So you can see how "The meeting lasted 90 minutes but I could have run that meeting more efficiently so it would have only taken half the time." is a critique. It is nefarious to bundle complaints because they become the fuel for scathing critiques. 

Finally, critiques that are not addressed in healthy ways can build into Contempt. Contempt is that feeling that the other is worthless. The contemptuous might say, "that meeting was a waste of time and we should not have to ever attend another meeting and if I were in charge I would do it better." 

Once we arrive at contempt toward someone or something we have a very hard time coming back from it. The next post will give a suggestion on how we might move away from contempt. 

The above is an abridged version of a sermon delivered on 2/12/17 (listen here).