Some politicians have called entire segments of the media “Fake News” simply because they don’t want people to hear the truth; most politicians know that the quickest way to discredit a message is to discredit the messenger. Most criminal defense attorneys know the same thing, and actively try to persuade the people of the jury that the witness on the stand cannot be trusted; often it is just because the witness has an undesirable event in their past. It’s an incredibly effective strategy; most people would clearly not want to be treated or judged in this way, but they are quick to judge another person as untrustworthy simply because that person has been found wanting. This is, effectively, what Paul had to deal with.
What motivates us to enter into these self-congratulatory states of inflated valuations of our own self-worth? We may indeed be better than some – by our own standards – but by our own standards we are also worse than others (Matt 7:1-2). Yet we still try and congratulate ourselves on our own righteousness, when standing before the God who reconciled us to Himself, no less.
Especially in the church, there is a tendency to elevate perseverance to the level of saintliness. Giving up in the face of hardship is considered akin to blasphemy, because, after all, Look at the example of Jesus, who died on the cross for you. Or look to Paul, who endured extensive amounts of torture and imprisonment to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to far off lands. What are our mere troubles when compared to the hardships endured by those two?
Some people attend charismatic or pentecostal churches because they need to see the miraculous to understand a God that provides healing, or understands them deeply, beyond what they share of themselves with the world. Some people attend churches that focus on social justice because they need to see a God that serves up justice and cares for the oppressed. Some attend legalistic churches because they need to experience order and clear cut rules amidst an otherwise chaotic life. And each of these churches provides an aspect of God to the world.
Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, the one who carries the double-edged sword that kills or gives life, asks a monk to bring him something out in the world that is not medicine. The monk searches far and wide, and finally returns, saying that there is nothing out there that is not medicine. To which the master says, “then bring me something that is medicine.” The monk then reaches down and plucks a blade of grass.
The master turns to the monk and says, “This medicine can kill people and it can also bring them to life.”
Daily Office Readings Psalm: 126In convertendo1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, * then were we like those who dream.2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, * and our tongue withRead More…
When I was a pastor for a small church up in the pacific northwest, I received a phone call one day. The call came from another pastor in our diocese, who wanted to let me know that he had a “word of knowledge” for me.
For those of you not particularly versed in the charismatic / pentecostal nomenclature, a “word of knowledge” is a personal prophecy, or discernment, regarding what God is doing in the life of another person. These can at times be very powerful, when truly directed by God. When not directed by God, they tend to take on the likeness of a battering ram.
Years ago, on a diocesan retreat, two men were arguing about a particular prophecy concerning where the new diocesan cathedral would stand. We were all sharing a cabin bunkhouse, and I was trying to get some sleep. The two could not, or would not, agree on any of the supposed signs that they had interpreted to indicate the location of the new building, and after a while, I got grumpy enough that I just flat out asked them why they were arguing.
As I sat there with a book next to the coals from the morning fire, a wind began to blow. And it continued to blow, and it got stronger and stronger, blowing sand into my pages, and blowing the pages over so that I had to keep my hand firmly on the book to be able to read at all. I finally got so frustrated I shouted at the wind, at God, at the universe, “Really?!?! I’m finally in the right mindset to read, and now this? Stop with the sand blowing already.”
And this was Paul. As a Pharisee, under the authority of the Chief Priest, he pursued the followers of the Way to foreign countries and cities, with a relentless perseverance because he was “so furiously enraged” at them. And then when he became a follower of Christ, Paul pursued the conversion of people in foreign countries and cities with the same relentless perseverance that he showed in persecuting Christians before this moment beneath the bright light on the road to Damascus.