one another

A while ago I created some visual clues to a series of phrases from the Bible that all relate to ‘one another’ – how we should treat one another and be with one another. I remembered this recently and offer them to you for your amusement and perhaps edification. The answers are at the bottom of the page and I apologise for any brain strain this may cause…

Enjoy!4-give

 

serve

lettuce-spray-4practice-hospital-teafellow-ship

bee-de-votedconfused-voleon-her

bear with.JPGharm-on-kneea-gry

forgive one another; serve one another; let us pray for one another; practice hospitality to one another; live in fellowship with one another; be devoted to one another; love one another (it’s a vole); honour one another (on her); bear with one another; live in harmony (harm on knee) with one another; agree with one another (angry with ‘n’);

 

a love story

This Sunday morning in my sermon I will be exploring Hosea (the whole book). Every time I come to Hosea I find myself thinking, “What would I do if I was in Hosea’s position?” How would I feel? How would I cope?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hosea’s story is a love story… of sorts. The narrative is fascinating: Hosea set aside his personal preferences and on God’s instruction married a woman, Gomer, who was of dubious reputation (to say the least). This was to be a prophetic symbol to the nation of Israel about how God saw them – promiscuously pursuing other gods. He even named his children with names that spoke prophetically – how would I feel if God told me to name my daughter ‘Not Loved’?! And then there’s the emotional pain and heartache of Gomer’s further unfaithfulness and prostitution.

God not only told Hosea to take her back but he actually BOUGHT her back – perhaps paying off her pimp! Again, this was to be a prophetic sign of how God was going to treat Israel for a season (Hosea bought Gomer back but they were to abstain from sexual intimacy for many days and in the same way Israel’s return would be gradual). It’s only 14 chapters into the book (the final chapter) that there is a glimmer of hope for Israel as Hosea the prophet finishes denouncing them and instead announces the possibility of return to God, forgiveness, reconciliation and a renewed relationship with him. Hosea went through an emotional and reputational wringer in order to give the people God’s message. Some of you may be empathising with him a little! But he was willing to allow his whole life to be a message from God, not only his words. It’s a love story where we are Gomer and God is Hosea.

Ministers can feel a pressure (it may come from within or from outside us) to be a shining example of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and not admit to any weakness. We can present ‘supercope’ to our people: nothing fazes us and we are as close to Jesus as it is possible to be this side of heaven (I exaggerate for comedic effect) (I think). But do we really want people to look at us and see a message from God that it’s wrong to admit weakness and that we never struggle? That’s not a message we find in the Bible: read Romans 7 if you doubt me!

It is important for people to know that we are trying our best with God’s Spirit’s help, they need to see leadership from their clergy, and the qualities of a leader are clear in the Bible. But I believe that we also need to admit that we are fallible, that we are not perfect, and that we don’t have it all together. I’m not talking about airing all of our dirty laundry – we have to be sensible about what we share. But how often are we prepared to be vulnerable about our own doubts, failings and struggles? Can we admit to people that we make mistakes – even Ministers who have trained, studied and are set apart for ministry? Do we dare allow the admission of our mistakes to be a message from God  – that no follower of Jesus is perfect but when we struggle, fail or even doubt there is hope because his Spirit is in us? Does admitting our struggles strengthen or weaken the message that there is the possibility of return to God, forgiveness, reconciliation and a renewed relationship with him?

What message from God do people get when they look at you?

Be blessed, be a blessing

for the victims of violence

Violence appears strong: it intimidates; it wounds; it destroys; it instils fear; it undermines; it screams; it demands; it provokes negative reactions; it kills.

And grace and love appear weak: they can be trampled underfoot; they can be ignored; they can be pushed around and taken advantage of; they can be shouted down; they can be ridiculed.

But violence cannot create unconditional loyalty; it cannot diffuse tension; it cannot calm down; it cannot relax someone; it cannot restore; it cannot build up; it cannot bring peace.

Only love and grace can do that.

Love and grace win in the end because they go to the core of a person’s being and inspire, bless, encourage, enhance, affirm, disarm, reconnect, and want the best for others. They bring about peace through the indomitable power of forgiveness.

teardrop

how do you read the Bible?

How do you read the Bible?

bible genesis

Open Bibles are generally easier to read than closed ones.

That question has a range of answers from the simple: “You open the book and read the words on the pages” to the complex: “You need to understand the culture surrounding the events and you need to understand the form of literature that you are reading.”

Actually both are accurate and fair answers to that question. But I want to frame it slightly differently: do you read the Bible searching for answers to life’s problems and complexities or do you read it looking for wisdom to help you work out how to approach life’s problems and complexities? It may seem like an esoteric exercise in semantics (and tricky words) to pose the question that way but I think the answer is important because it affects how we approach life.

I have a book on my bookshelf that I have had since I was a teenager. No, it wasn’t written on a scroll, but it was published in 1978. It’s called The Answer’s In The Bible. And I think for a lot of my life that’s how I have approached the Bible – looking for answers. I have looked to find out what the Bible says about issues that I face. Sometimes, I admit, I have even naively used it to justify my own actions by taking some verses out of context as an answer (you could use Matthew 25:27 as an argument to save money in a bank and not give it away, but that’s not what the parable is about). But the Bible doesn’t have direct answers for a lot of the questions we might ask today because those things could not have been anticipated in the days in which it was written. It does not have anything to say directly about the internet, computers, cars, aeroplanes, television, space exploration and so much more that we take for granted in our 21st Century cultures and lifestyles. And the Bible’s silence on some issues causes us problems if we are just looking for answers on what to do when…

Okay Christians, put the stones down gently and step away. Or at least don’t lob them at me just yet, please – read on…

You see I do believe that the Bible gives us access to God’s wisdom which enables us to work out what to do and how to approach life’s problems and complexities. The wisdom of God is contained throughout the pages of the Bible*. But there are two overarching themes through the Bible – God’s LOVE and JUSTICE – and they are at the heart of his wisdom.

They trump anything else. And if Love and Justice seem to be in conflict then Love wins every time in the form of grace and mercy. If you want the ultimate example of it you find it in what the Bible has to say about Jesus’ death and resurrection: God’s love and justice are both involved, but love wins even as he dies. (The resurrection proves it!)

So if you decide to look for Biblical wisdom rather than answers what does the Bible say about the internet and computers, for example? Nothing directly, as I have said. But it talks (from a starting point of being loving and just) about being honest, not gossiping, not lusting, not expressing hatred for others, good administration, and a lot more. That wisdom can shape good use.

And the great thing about seeking Godly wisdom from the Bible rather than just answers is that the wisdom crosses boundaries of time, culture, geography, ethnicity and any of the other things that can make it difficult for us to apply those words to our lives today. The Bible is not a rule-book to be followed or an instruction manual to help us maintain our lives. It is God’s wisdom expressed as love and justice seen through his interaction with humanity (especially seen in Jesus where the two are combined wonderfully).

So how do you read the Bible? Searching for answers or looking for wisdom?

Be blessed, be a blessing

*Even the apparently esoteric rules and regulations of Leviticus contain wisdom: not wearing clothes woven of two different kinds of thread (Leviticus 19:19) is about ensuring that clothes will last and provide value for money because when washed different threads are liable to shrinkage and may either weaken or even tear the garment, which could also lead to public embarrassment.

the hokey cokey referendum

Embed from Getty Images

There has been a lot of heat generated by the EU Referendum in the UK. The official campaigning period started last week but the rhetoric has been flying for many months beforehand and, in my humble opinion, has generated more heat than light. The news has been full of headlines that I summarise as ‘hokey cokey’ – “in, out, in, out, shake it all about”!

So this little bloggage is my attempt at offering some reflections that are not intentionally ‘yes’ or ‘no’ biased. It is intended to ask some Bible-based questions that may help me make up my mind: to consider what the issues are.

“What is truth?”

This question is not from Jesus, but was a retort from Pilate when he was questioning Jesus after his arrest (John 18:38). It’s a pertinent question, though. What is truth?

There has already been and will continue to be plenty of spin – so much so that our brains will be dizzy by the time we come to vote. One campaign will tell us that there are benefits to voting their way, or that there are negatives about voting the other way, and the other campaign will respond by telling us that this is not true.

In response to a lot of spin and conjecture about his identity Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) The ‘truth’ he’s talking about here is himself – the truth about God – but for those who seek to follow him we seek to hold to his teaching and then we will know the truth that liberates.

So much of the rhetoric and discussion is about an unknown future. We don’t know what life would be like if Britain voted to leave the EU any more than we know what it would be like if we voted to remain. The future is uncertain and unknowable. So I ask myself, “What is truth, what is conjecture and what is spin?” And I will try to make my decision based on truth. And what aspects of Jesus’ teaching can help me?

What is the most loving option?

This is not about romance! This is about agape – the Greek word used in the New Testament to describe God’s love for us, and the way that he wants people to love one another (especially, but not limited to, followers of Jesus). Jesus taught about this love being a radically different way that seeks the best even for those who oppose us (Matthew 5:43-48).

Agape is gracious not greedy; servant-hearted not power-hungry; and selfless not selfish. My question about the EU Referendum from this is two-fold: “Who are we to love, and which outcome will enable us to be most loving towards them?”

Who is our neighbour?

When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) he shocked his listeners by making the hero of his story someone whom they hated by virtue of his nationality. This was in response to a question, “Who is my neighbour?” and that in turn was in response to a summary of the Old Testament Law: ‘Love (agape) God wholeheartedly and love (agape) your neighbour as yourself’ (my paraphrase).

At the end of the story Jesus bounced the question back at the person who’d asked it – “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The (perhaps reluctant) answer was “The one who had mercy on him” and Jesus told his listeners to go and do likewise. So my question about the EU Referendum is, “Which approach enables us to show most mercy on those in need?”

“I have come that they might have life… to the full.”

Jesus made this statement (John 10:10) when he was teaching about himself and contrasting himself with people who were only looking for what they could get out of life and of others.

What does ‘life to the full’ look like? Many of the arguments I have heard so far are about economics, but there is much more to life than money. Accepting that part of what Jesus was talking about was a relationship with God (which neither ‘in’ nor ‘out’ can offer), but also that Jesus was talking about more than that too, my question is: “Which approach will enable people to have life to the fullest?”

“Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Jesus said this in response to an attempt to trap him into a position that polarised opinion (Luke 20:20-26).  He refused to allow people to label him or push him into a corner. He refused to allow himself to be manipulated.

My question here is not about taxation. It’s based on a recognition that a ‘yes/no’ referendum is, by definition, polarising. However, deciding to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ does not mean that you have to agree with everything that is associated with that campaign. “Which outcome is least likely to mean that you feel manipulated into a position that you do not wish to be associated with?”

 

These few questions are not intended to be the exhaustive list of questions I am asking myself about this referendum. But they are intended to help me think beyond the rhetoric, beyond self-interest and beyond economics and think about how I can engage helpfully in the politics.

Be blessed, be a blessing

The parable of the okay Samaritan

(This is the most recent parable we are sharing with our churches. It is based on The Message paraphrase of the Bible).

questions

Just then a religious scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”

He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”

He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbour as well as you do yourself.”

“Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”

Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbour’?”

Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.

“A Samaritan travelling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, intending to take him to an inn. But just as he was about to set off he remembered that he was supposed to be home early that night because he was expecting a delivery of a new harness for his donkey from RiverJordan.com.

“Then he looked at the man’s injuries and felt bad that he was worried about who was going to sign for his delivery. He looked at the bandages that he had put on the man’s wounds. Blood was beginning to seep through. He worried that it might stain the travel rug that the man was sitting on, and blood was really difficult to get out as Persil hadn’t been invented yet, so he took the man back off his donkey and laid him gently at the side of the road.

“’No!’ anguished the Samaritan to himself, ‘this poor man needs help. I can’t leave him like this at the side of the road.’ So the Samaritan took out a piece of papyrus and wrote on it, ‘Please help this man.’ And he placed his sign next to the man who had been robbed and went on his way, feeling that he had made a difference and done enough.”

“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbour to the man attacked by robbers?” asked Jesus.

“The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.

Jesus said, “Did he really become his neighbour?”

Questions
How does the reshaping of the story make you feel?
Who are your neighbours?
What opportunities for mission action does your church take? Is there more that you could do? What stops you from doing more?

Be blessed, be a blessing

in anticipation of St Valentine

words

This morning there was a discussion on the radio that reminded me that William Shakespeare invented over 1700 new words and phrases that are now in common usage in the English Language. Wow! When you consider that the average vocabulary is perhaps 35,000 words (wow again), that’s quite a significant proportion of words that have come from Stratford Bill.

Regular visitors here will know that I quite like inventing words myself. I’m not setting myself up in comparison with Billy S, but I do like playing with concepts and ideas and sounds and allowing them to merge into something new.

I have attempted words like ambisomnorous, franticipation, technoloiterate and of course regularly use bloggage, bloggerel, bloggists and derivatives thereof. If you want to know what they mean (as if it’s not obvious) stick the words in the search engine on this site and see what mania lies within my synapses.

There are new words in the Bible as well. Perhaps the most remarkable is ‘agape’. It’s pronounced ‘a gap ay’. The word only existed as a verb before the Bible was written but when the Old Testament was first translated into Greek (it was originally written down in Hebrew, having been faithfully passed down from generation to generation in verbal form) they used the verb as a noun.

A simple translation is ‘love‘. It’s something the shops have us thinking about a lot at the moment with cards and gifts and hearts everywhere designed to make them some money out of our love for others. But it’s so much more than that. It’s not romantic. It’s not sexual. It doesn’t depend on familial relationships. It is more and act of will than an emotion. It’s delight in the well-being of the one who is loved; it’s a love that is so deep that one is willing to give up one’s own life for the one who is loved; it is blessing, faithfulness, commitment and goodwill rolled into one.

It’s the lens through which God sees us. It’s the way that Jesus treated other people. It’s what led Jesus to die on the cross in our place. It’s the essence of God.

And it doesn’t come naturally. Naturally we are selfish, self-serving, self-promoting. Our natural instinct is to preserve ourselves, our status, our possessions at all costs. Evolutionary biologists would talk about the survival instinct within us.

So how come such a love as ‘agape’ exists? It comes from God. It points us to God. It enables us to catch a glimpse of God. It is a gift from God. And it is evidence of his Spirit at work in us.

To whom can you show agape today?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

 

some things I have learnt in 26 years 210 days

Sally and I have now been married for 26 years 210 days (to the date of writing this bloggage). I am not telling you this to brag, but to set a context for today’s bloggage, which is about a few things I have learnt along the way. In my previous role as a local church Minister I used to prepare people for marriage by going through some ‘classes’ with them where we unpacked the vows they would be saying on their wedding day and explored what they would mean in their married life together. This is something I no longer get to do so I thought I would share one or two of the things I have learnt with the rest of the blogosphere. I know that not everyone is married, that not everyone wants to get married and that others want to but aren’t at the moment, and I am not trying to put a metaphorical pie in your face and laugh at you – in fact some of these thoughts might be helpful in your relationships with friends and colleagues.

wedding rings

  1. Communicate. I used to be a lawyer and had some clients who were going through divorces. There were lots of reasons that their relationships had failed, but one thing they all had in common was a failure to communicate with one another. That doesn’t just mean talking to one another, it means talking and listening. It means seeking to explain yourself and seeking to understand the other person’s perspective. It means not assuming that the other person can read your mind. It means not stomping off in a huff. It means not raising your voice (I think that if I have raised my voice it may well be a sign that I am on weaker ground). It means being willing to compromise or even change your mind completely.
  2. Little things matter. I don’t mean negative things like whether or not the toilet seat is left up, or whether the other person has habits that annoy you. What I mean is that both parties to the relationship can enhance it by trying to bless the other person’s socks off – and that can be done in little ways like leaving a note on their pillow; offering to cook tea when you know they have had a busy day; scraping the ice off the car windows if they are the first one who will go out; thoughtful things like that. And if both of you are doing that you will appreciate each other even more.
  3. Thanks. I have often said that one of the most appealing qualities in a human being is an attitude of gratitude. Saying ‘thank you’ regularly is a really important part of a relationship, linking together points one and two. It stops you taking the other person for granted. What do you appreciate about the other person? Tell them.
  4. Kiss daily. When we are in the same house we have developed the habit of kissing each other goodbye when one leaves in the morning and of kissing each other goodnight. The kiss in the morning reminds us of our affection throughout the day. The kiss in the evening is the last thing we do at night and as well as reminding us of our love, it also serves as a check to see if there is anything that remains unresolved from the day. If we don’t feel able to kiss each other then there is still something we need to talk about. Don’t limit the kissing to those occasions, of course, just make them the minimum!
  5. Settle things quickly. This is not just about not living off credit and settling bills quickly, it’s primarily about ensuring that you resolve any disagreements quickly. Don’t allow resentment, anger, hurt or irritation to fester because they are like infected wounds that will only get worse the longer they go untreated. Talk things through. Pray things through. If you still can’t agree, work out where the area of disagreement is and agree to disagree calmly and without blame. If it’s important, get some help. If it’s unimportant, forgive one another and move on.
  6. No lists. I don’t mean shopping lists or to do lists. Lots of people function with those lists and it’s been shown that if you go shopping with a list you are less likely to impulse buy and that will save you money. No, the lists I am referring to here are the lists of things that the other person has done that upset you, annoyed you, hurt you. If you forgive, forgive in the same way that God forgives – absolutely, completely, without resentment, with abundant grace and wiping the slate clean. Once something has been dealt with it should not be allowed to resurface in a later discussion – if it does it probably hasn’t been dealt with properly yet.
  7. Eat together. Sitting down and eating a meal together provides the context for you to discuss events of the day, to listen to each other, to sense how one another is feeling. It is intimate. It is personal. You are giving the other person your undivided attention. That means that phones, tablets, laptops, televisions, radios and other devices are not allowed at the table. All you can bring is yourself and your undivided attention.
  8. Support one another. You may not share all of the interests that the other person has. But at least show some support for them. Encourage them. Ask them about it. Congratulate them if something goes well, commiserate if it doesn’t. Sally is not into magic in the same way that I am, but she supports and encourages me in my interest. She sometimes comes to a show that I do, and I love it that she does that even when she’s not really interested. You don’t have to like all of the same things, but you can like that the other person is interested in that and be interested in them. One spectacular way of supporting one another is by praying for and with one another. You can’t do enough of that.
  9. Love. This may seem strange to be down near the end of my list (although I never said that they were in any sort of order. But loving the other person is important. However it’s also really important to recognise that there are different sorts of love. There’s the romantic, erotic, phwoar type of love. There’s the sort of love that you have for your family – strong enough that you would do anything for them. And there’s what the Bible describes in 1 Corinthians 13 – a description of ‘agape’ love. The romantic, erotic, phwoar type of love comes and goes. It is an emotional response to the other person and our emotions can be influenced by lots of factors. Never give up trying to kindle that sort of love, but it’s not the sort of love on which to base a lasting relationship. Family-love is something that is deep within us. It can be wounded, battered and even destroyed by the destructive behaviour of those we love but it is almost inherent within us at the beginning of our relationship. It can also be nurtured and grow by spending quality time with one another. The ‘agape’ love of the Bible is the one that will be the best foundation for a lasting relationship and the best way to get it is to be in a relationship with God who is love. Ask for his help, his presence, his perspective. Seek to see others the way that he sees them. And realise that this love is an act of will, not an emotional response. In the wedding service I used to ask, “Will you love…” and the response was “I will”. It was a statement if intent: I will seek the best for this person, I will be patient and kind, not self-centred or self-promoting. I will honour the other person. I will keep calm and not keep a list (see above). I will seek the best for them and be honest. I will protect, trust, hope and persevere.
  10. Laugh Laughter is not the best medicine. If it was we wouldn’t need antibiotics we would tell jokes. But laughing together helps break down tension. It helps to relax you. It helps you to enjoy one another’s company. Find out what makes the other person laugh and enjoy it with them. Find out what makes them laugh about you and be glad that you can do that. Be willing to be the butt of their jokes – but keep them in the relationship. DON’T run each other down in the company of others – build each other up.
  11. Final advice. This is something always worth remembering. One good turn gets most of the bedclothes.

There’s so much more that could be (and should be) said. I am not suggesting that Sally and I have the perfect marriage. I am not saying that I always manage all of the above (except for number 4). I am certainly not setting myself up as some sort of marriage guru. But it does help when I am married to my best friend.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Be like…

There’s a meme that’s doing the rounds of the Internet at the moment. There’s a stick man called Bill. The text that accompanies the picture of him describes how he does something sensible and encourages people to be like Bill instead of responding with hysteria, following the crowd, doing something that annoys people, etc. For example:

And there are now ‘generators’ that can generate ‘Be like Bill’ memes and you can insert your own name in them.

And there’s a mini-backlash of ‘don’t be like Bill, be yourself’ memes.

And I have also seen a ‘be like Jesus’ meme.

And that got me thinking. I wonder if anyone would sign up for the following.

Jesus loves people.

Jesus hates it when things get between people and God.

Jesus gets really angry when it’s religious people who get in the way.

Jesus is smart.

Be like Jesus.

OR

Jesus speaks a lot.

Jesus tells good stories.

Jesus tells lots of stories about how love of money can distract you what really matters in life.

Jesus is not distracted from God.

Be like Jesus.

OR

Jesus has lots of friends.

Jesus’ friends say lots of things on his behalf.

Jesus wishes they wouldn’t put words in his mouth.

Jesus keeps it simple: love God, love people.

Be like Jesus.

OR

Jesus invented church.

Jesus wanted it to show people what he is like.

Jesus didn’t want it to become a religion.

Jesus said ‘love people’.

Be like Jesus.

OR

Jesus upset religious people.

Jesus called religious people ‘hypocrites’

Jesus told his friends off when they became religious.

Jesus got killed because he upset religious people.

Be like Jesus.

OR

Jesus upset lots of people.

Jesus was crucified for it.

Jesus forgave the people who killed him.

Jesus loved everyone.

Be like Jesus.

 

Be blessed, be a blessing (be like Jesus!)

how free is speech?

see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

One of the foundational principles of life is ‘freedom of speech’ (or freedom of expression to use the more inclusive term). In many countries it is enshrined in the Constitution and a basic ‘right’, and where it is denied by those in power it is one of the things that the people crave. It is one of the ‘self-evident’ principles of life that everyone should be free to say what they think without fear of persecution. People still die for this principle. The associated principle of ‘freedom of conscience’ (the freedom to believe whatever you want to believe) is one of the principles that drove the early Anabaptist dissenters to separate from the Established Church – Baptist Christians (should) have it in our DNA.

But even in a country that champions freedom of speech we put legal limits around it in public – those limits are defined by criminal and civil laws. You do not have the right to say things that are threatening, abusive or insulting to others. You do not have the right to say things that will incite others to hatred or violence. You do not have the right to say things that are factually incorrect about another person. If you do any of these things there are consequences: you may find that you are prosecuted or sued.

But aside from the legal sanctions that exist I think that there should be other limits on freedom of speech. Those limits are grace, love and humility.

I might disagree completely with someone else.

That is freedom of conscience.

I don’t have to agree with someone.

They don’t have to agree with me.

But if my disagreement leads me to vitriolic condemnation of that person or their position I have already lost the argument. If I resort to name-calling and insults the integrity of my position is undermined. If I insist on winning at all costs I have missed the opportunity to learn. If I misquote or am selective about what the other person has said in order to make them look silly I have only succeeded in making myself look silly. If I am motivated by prejudice it says nothing about the other person and everything about me

I can disagree. I do disagree. I seek to explain and educate. I proclaim (although that precludes conversation). I ask to be heard. I listen. I discuss. I defend. I even attack. I promote my position. But as a follower of Jesus these things need to be done with grace, love and humility. If not, see the previous paragraph.

I fervently believe in Jesus Christ, his message, his mission and his ministry. His life, death and resurrection are central to who I am, what I am and how I am. I believe that they are the most important events in human history. I would love everyone I know to share that because of what I believe. But I have no right to impose my views on others. If I resort to vitriol, condemnation, name-calling, insults, victory, misquoting or am motivated by prejudice then I have missed so much of what Jesus said and did.

You see the only time he really got angry, the only really harsh words that he had, the only stinging criticism he had was reserved for the religious leaders of his day (his own people). With everyone else he had a different approach: he invited, he explained, he illustrated, he was a living example, he laughed with, he told engaging stories, he challenged (provocatively), he was winsome, he wept with… he was loving, gracious and humble.

Speech is not free. It costs. If it is misused or abused the price we pay is the right to be heard, the right to be taken seriously and the opportunity to grow and learn from others.

Please, God, may I be more like Jesus?

Be blessed, be a blessing