Archive for January 9th, 2010

There’s this dance that Christians like to do with each other that has two steps or movements to it:

Step 1: Place foot in mouth.
Step 2: Laugh.

It’s a really simple dance that we find ourselves doing quite often. It normally involves us making a joke of somebody else or something others might consider serious thus giving offense. A few years ago a family that we had been encouraging to attend finally came to church where I was preaching. This was a major step for them. One Sunday he wore some very colorful and bright suspenders which I made a joke about. I intended no offense and although the joke itself was not one of derision or even sarcasm, I apparently struck a nerve. If he got offended so easily, wouldn’t he have gotten just as offended over something else? Probably. But since I can’t control what others think and do, I’m left with choosing words and actions based on how they affect others.

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

I know that that verse has been overused and abused, but we need to continually keep it in mind. In 1 Corinthians Paul calls the Christians in that community worldly and not spiritual because they are fighting over issues that are nothing in the Kingdom of God. Much of what Paul writes is in response to dysfunctional relationships and most of his commands are about what it looks like to love others. In fact later in 1 Corinthians Paul says that, “love edifies.” Few people can have a positive relationship where they bicker, complain, and tear each other down in joke like fashion. I must give the caveat that it can happen, I have one of those rare relationships with Tim Reed, a previous writer for this site. Maybe it’s cathartic for us but we can have that kind of relationship because we also encourage and edify when we need to do that. And quite frankly, what we say isn’t true and nobody thinks it is.

But for most of us, most of the time, we don’t know if that “joke” was actually a stab or just nothing. Or sometimes it seems that that “just kidding” line or smiley is just a mask for what we “know” to be a statement that person believes. (Of course we don’t know, but we like to assume.) There’s the classic jokes about how Southern women can get away with saying the most rude and awful comments about others as long as “bless their heart” immediately precedes or follows the comment. We do that up North with “Don’t get me wrong” or “I love them, but.” Or if what we are about to say is really mean we might combine the two.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love you all, but you all are turning into a bunch of mean spirited, antagonistic, backbiting jerks. Bless your hearts. Let’s start growing together toward maturity and seek to encourage, teach, pray for, mourn with, rejoice with, challenge, correct, and be corrected with love and humility.

  • Share/Bookmark

I just finished reading Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom. It’s a short book (249 small pages) that tells the story of two people: one a Jewish Rabbi and the other a Christian Pastor. It’s a wonderful little book and I recommend it to you. I don’t think you are going to find every aspect of the book appealing, and much of it will leave you wondering how someone (namely, Albom) could come so close to something so beautiful and come away with so little (I found the last sentence a rather unfitting conclusion to the book even if it is a good thought nonetheless).

One of the stories told in the book is that of Pastor Henry Covington who started a ministry in Detroit, Michigan called I Am My Brother’s Keeper. Pastor Covington’s story is beautiful and full of grace. It was in a chapter about Pastor Covington that today’s thought overwhelmed me.

I thought about how churches and synagogues usually build memberships. Some run schools. Some host social events. Some offer singles nights, lecture series, carnivals, and sign-up drives. Annual dues are part of the equation.

At I Am My Brother’s keeper, there were no dues, no drives, no singles nights. Membership grew the old-fashioned way: a desperate need for God. (Mitch Albom, Have a Little Faith, 217)

The story that led Albom to write this is wonderful and alone makes the book worth its price. Please note: This is not a criticism of the way churches do things. It is, rather, a positive affirmation of how Pastor Covington serves his God and community and how God, through Jesus, meets desperate people in desperate situations.

Have a nice weekend everyone. Be blessed and a blessing.

  • Share/Bookmark