Be tolerant with each other … (Colossians 3.13)
Aging & resentment: Pitfalls of the Pious by Dan Bouchelle
“… as you get older you learn the besetting sin of the mature is resentment.”
Bible interpretation & diversity: Musings on the Bible (1) The First of Three Questions by Patrick Mitchel
“A pressing question for thinking Christians is what to make of the ‘brute fact’ of radically divergent readings of the Bible by other Christians who share a belief in its divinely inspired origin.”
Captialism & church: Values of Capitalism & the Church by Tim Gombis
“One of the ways that capitalism has succeeded in capturing our culture’s imagination, however, is that efficiency has achieved preeminent status, overpowering all other values.”
Congress, faith & politics: The Religious Composition of the 113th Congress
“The new, 113th Congress includes the first Buddhist to serve in the Senate, the first Hindu to serve in either chamber and the first member of Congress to describe her religion as “none,” continuing a gradual increase in religious diversity that mirrors trends in the country as a whole. While Congress remains majority Protestant, the institution is far less so today than it was 50 years ago, when nearly three-quarters of the members belonged to Protestant denominations. … Catholics have seen the biggest gains among the 533 members … Protestants, Catholics, Jews and Mormons each make up a greater percentage of the members of Congress than of all U.S. adults. The same is true for some subgroups of Protestants, such as Episcopalians and Presbyterians. By contrast, Pentecostals are a much smaller percentage of Congress than of the general public.”
Change, humanity, identity & personality: You Can’t See It, But You’ll Be A Different Person In 10 Years by Nell Greenfieldboyce
“No matter how old people are, they seem to believe that who they are today is essentially who they’ll be tomorrow. That’s according to fresh research that suggests that people generally fail to appreciate how much their personality and values will change in the years ahead — even though they recognize that they have changed in the past.”
Christian faith, guns & non-violence: Violence: The Christian Response by K. Rex Butts
“… when it comes to a response to the problem of violence, the loudest voice is that which calls for more arms. In fact, from where I sit this voice has great support from many Christians, something I regard as gospel failure. The American society already has enough voices advocating for more arms, so the last thing society needs is the voice of the church lending support to this cause. Though likely not so welcomed, what America needs from the church is for the church to be what the church alone is called to be and that is to be the voice of the gospel that exemplifies forgiveness, love, peace-making, and reconciliation. This is for the church to do what it is admonished to do in scripture and put off the old, putting on the new self instead, including a new mindset, and speak truthfully as one body (cf. Eph 4:22-25).”
Humility, patience & tolerance: Suffering Fools Gladly [required reading]
“… understand that the habits we put in practice end up shaping the people we are within. ‘Manners are of more importance than laws,’ Edmund Burke wrote. ‘Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in.'”
Statistics & the United States: Capturing America, Fact by Fact by Sam Roberts
“College graduates have less leisure time than high school dropouts. More people are injured on toilets than by skiing or snowboarding. More households have dogs as pets than cats, but cat lovers are more likely to have multiple pets. And more foreigners visited New York (9.3 million) than any other American city (Los Angeles was a distant second with 3.7 million). Those facts are among the thousands gleaned from the 2013 edition of the Statistical Abstract of the United States. …
“More than 41 percent of births were to unwed mothers, for instance, compared with 33 percent a decade earlier. Student loan debt in households headed by a college graduate soared to $36,809 from $12,373 three decades earlier. Since 1982, the number of federal civilian employees rose by 160,000 while the number of state and local government workers swelled by 6.6 million.”
The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change. Communication does not depend on syntax, or eloquence, or rhetoric, or articulation but on the emotional context in which the message is being heard. People can only hear when they are moving toward you, and they are not likely to when your words are pursuing them. Even the choicest words lose their power when they are used to overpower. Attitudes are the real figures of speech.
The Friendly Forest
Once upon a time in the Friendly Forest there lived a lamb who loved to graze and frolic about. One day a tiger came to the forest and said to the animals, “I would like to live among you.” They were delighted. For, unlike some of the other forests, they had no tiger in their woods. The lamb, however, had some apprehensions, which, being a lamb, she sheepishly expressed to her friends. But, they said, “Do not worry, we will talk to the tiger and explain that one of the conditions for living in this forest is that you must also let the other animals live in the forest.”
So the lamb went about her life as usual. But it was not long before the tiger began to growl and make threatening gestures and menacing motions. Each time the frightened lamb went to her friends and said, “It is very uncomfortable for me here in the forest.” But her friends reassured her, “Do not worry; that’s just the way tigers behave.”
Every day, as she went about her life, the lamb tried to remember this advice, hoping that the tiger would find someone else to growl at. And it is probably correct to say that the tiger did not really spend all or even most of its time stalking the lamb. Still, the lamb found it increasingly difficult to remove the tiger from her thoughts. Sometimes she would just catch it out of the corner of her eye, but that seemed enough to disconcert her for the day, even if the cat were asleep. Soon the lamb found that she was actually looking for the tiger. Sometimes days or even weeks went by between its intrusive actions, yet, somehow, the tiger had succeeded in always being there. Eventually the tiger’s existence became a part of the lamb’s existence. When she tried to explain this to her friends, however, they pointed out that no harm had really befallen her and that perhaps she was just being too sensitive.
So the lamb again tried to put the tiger out of her mind. “Why,” she said to herself, “should I let my relationship with just one member of the forest ruin my relationships with all the others?” But every now and then, usually when she was least prepared, the tiger would give her another start.
Finally the lamb could not take it anymore. She decided that much as she loved the forest and her friends, more than she had ever loved any other forest were friends, the cost was too great. So she went to the other animals in the woods and said goodbye.
Her friends would not hear of it. “This is silly,” they said. “Nothing has happened. You’re still in one piece. You must remember the tiger is a tiger,” they repeated. “Surely this is the nicest forest in the world. We really like you very much and we would be very sad if you left.” (Though it must be admitted that several of the animals were wondering what the lamb might be doing to contribute to the tiger’s aggressiveness.”
Then, said two of the animals in the friendly forest, “Surely this whole thing can be worked out. We’re all reasonable here. Stay calm. There is probably just some misunderstanding that can easily be resolved if we all sit down together and communicate.” The lamb, however, had several misgivings about such a meeting. First of all, if her friends had explained away the tiger’s behavior by saying it was simply a tiger’s nature to behave that way, why did they now think that as result of communication the tiger would be able to change that nature? Second, thought the lamb, such meetings, well-intentioned as they might be, usually try to resolve problems through compromise. Now, while the tiger might agree to growl less, and indeed might succeed in reducing some of its aggressive behavior, what would she, the lamb, be expected to give up in return? Be more accepting of the tiger’s growling? There was something wrong, thought the lamb, with the notion that an agreement is equal if the invasive creature agrees to be less invasive and the invaded one agrees to tolerate some invasiveness. She tried to explain this to her friends but, being reasonable animals, they assured her that the important thing was to keep communicating. Perhaps the tiger didn’t understand the ways of the lamb. “Don’t be so sheepish,” they said. “Speak up strongly when it does these things.”
Though one of the less subtle animals in the forest, more uncouth in expression and unconcerned about just who remained, was overheard to remark, “I never heard of anything so ridiculous. If you want a lamb and a tiger to live in the same forest, you don’t try to make them communicate. You cage the bloody tiger.”
MORAL: Reasonableness is the natural manure of terrorism.
Friedman’s Fables by Edwin H. Friedman (The Guilford Press, 1990), pp.5,25-28
(This fable makes me think of Proverbs 26:24-25)
So every single one of you who judge others is without any excuse. You condemn yourself when you judge another person because the one who is judging is doing the same things. We know that God’s judgment agrees with the truth, and his judgment is against those who do these kinds of things. If you judge those who do these kinds of things while you do the same things yourself, think about this: Do you believe that you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you have contempt for the riches of God’s generosity, tolerance, and patience? Don’t you realize that God’s kindness is supposed to lead you to change your heart and life? You are storing up wrath for yourself because of your stubbornness and your heart that refuses to change. God’s just judgment will be revealed on the day of wrath. God will repay everyone based on their works. On the one hand, he will give eternal life to those who look for glory, honor, and immortality based on their patient good work. But on the other hand, there will be wrath and anger for those who obey wickedness instead of the truth because they are acting out of selfishness and disobedience. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. But there will be glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does what is good, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. God does not have favorites.
Those who have sinned outside the Law will also die outside the Law, and those who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law. It isn’t the ones who hear the Law who are righteous in God’s eyes. It is the ones who do what the Law says who will be treated as righteous. Gentiles don’t have the Law. But when they instinctively do what the Law requires they are a Law in themselves, though they don’t have the Law. They show the proof of the Law written on their hearts, and their consciences affirm it. Their conflicting thoughts will accuse them, or even make a defense for them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the hidden truth about human beings through Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:1-16 CEB)
This passage asks three questions and anytime the Bible asks questions, rest assured, God is looking for some serious “class participation.” So, sit up in your seat and have a go at these questions with me.
“If you judge those who do these kinds of things while you do the same things yourself, think about this: Do you believe that you will escape God’s judgment?” (vs.3)
Well, my mind jumps to answer “Of course not,” but when I stop to truly think this question over, apparently at times I must be saying “Yes,” or else I would surely become a far less judgmental person!
“Do you have contempt for the riches of God’s generosity, tolerance, and patience?” (vs.4a)
Again, my “shoot-from-the-hip answer is “No way;” however, after reflection, I know full well that when I deny God’s mercy for someone else, I have become blind to his leading me to change my own ways into more of the likeness of his own – kindness!
I’m busted – on both charges! And so are you.
Which leads us to the third question:
“Don’t you realize that God’s kindness is supposed to lead you to change your heart and life?” (vs.4b)
Father God in heaven, I all too often and too easily forget that the way I look at and deal with others is a reflection on riches of your goodness. As you are kind, I must be kind. As you are tolerant, I must be tolerant. As I crave your patience with me, help me to be quite patient with others. In Jesus’ name, help me when I see others to see you, to the end that that I might act more in ways becoming of you. Amen.