“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
How do you react when someone pushes your buttons? When your motives are called into question, do you react with patience and understanding ? What is your response when someone “unworthy” or “uninformed” gives you advice? Can you be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry? (James 1:19, whole chapter linked for context)
I recently read an online article by Shane Phipps on Patheos.com entitled: The Christian Right is under siege by a pandemic of hypocrisy . It was posted April 20, 2020, to give you some context, and deals with the reactions (and overreactions) of certain segments of the population during the Covid 19 pandemic. Although I’m not a big fan of broad labels for people, I recommend reading it, if you dare.
In the past few weeks, I have been quite honestly baffled by the some of the foolish and extreme reactions people from all along the political spectrum have had to the unfolding drama of a worldwide pandemic. This is life right now. No one has been able to offer satisfactory solutions, but blame is flying in every direction.
Why should Christians be unable to deal with the hard questions of their time? Have we become so spiritually undisciplined and complacent that we can no longer handle honest questions from people who don’t think and believe the way we do?
Is Christ really this fragile?
Let’s say you were at the Thanksgiving dinner table, and your confrontational, “difficult” relative made this statement, how would you react? Would you thoughtfully take in the reasoning behind the words, or wrap yourself in a puffy-huffy blanket of offense? Would you make an offhand comment about keeping things pleasant for the sake of the holiday? Would you ignore the speaker entirely and change the subject?
What if your closest, most-beloved, and trusted friend in the entire world said this? Would you react differently? What if your closest friend and the confrontational, “difficult” person were the same person? What if this person was Jesus? He could be fairly “difficult” and confrontational.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 New King James Version
Right now, at this exact point in history, many of us are being faced with questions we have never grappled with or addressed. However, a large segment of the world’s population has been dealing with similar issues for generations. How will my children be educated? How can I keep my family safe? Where will we get food? What if we run out of food, or water? What if we are evicted? What if we get sick? Can we trust our government to protect us? Can we trust our neighbor? Why would God allow this??
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. All around us, in person and online, are hurting, angry, frightened people. When they have questions, or even bold-faced accusations, we should be able to bravely, truthfully, lovingly speak to them. We should share our stories, our doubts, our hope, and our love.
It is often forgotten by the church at large, but the people who came under the scrutiny and censure of Jesus most often were in fact the churchy, religious people. These were the people who believed a righteous life was all about putting on an elaborate show.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” ~ Matthew 23:23-28 New International Version
Following Christ means walking in his footsteps, right over the edge of our whitewashed, Instagram-worthy lives, and down into the slums of suffering in the world, not to adopt their practices or to shame and judge them, but to love them and bring them hope. Now, more than ever, we have a perfect opportunity to take stock, check our headings, and correct our courses. If the statements made in the article at the beginning of this post hit too close to home, that’s ok, because this is not the end of our story! We can do better!
“He who loves money is never satisfied by money, and he who loves wealth is never satisfied by income. This too is futile. When good things increase, so do those who consume them; what then is the profit to the owner, except to behold them with his eyes? The sleep of the worker is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of the rich man permits him no sleep. There is a grievous evil I have seen under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner, or wealth lost in a failed venture, so when that man has a son there is nothing to pass on. As a man came from his mother’s womb, so he will depart again, naked as he arrived. He takes nothing for his labor to carry in his hands. This too is a grievous evil: Exactly as a man is born, so he will depart. What does he gain as he toils for the wind? Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness, with much sorrow, sickness, and anger. Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of life that God has given him—for this is his lot. Furthermore, God has given riches and wealth to every man, and He has enabled him to enjoy them, to accept his lot, and to rejoice in his labor. This is a gift from God. For a man seldom considers the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart.”
~ Ecclesiastes 5:10-20 Berean Study Bible