Wait a second before you get mad
It is amazing and disheartening to me how eager we are to take offense. I knew that wading into my own personal reflections about my views on race and racism would stir things up.
(Of course, in case you weren’t clear on it, that is actually part of the job description of a pastor/preacher. It is not just my job to comfort you and make you feel good. At times, it is my job to DIS-comfort you…at least if the teaching of Jesus is to be believed and followed. There are times when our views…our strongly-held opinions on things… NEED to be challenged. Part of my job…part of the reason I have been called to be a minister…is to prayerfully and carefully discern those times and those topics…and then have the guts to speak to them.)
And when I do, I can always expect some blowback. And of course, the critics might be right. Just because I THINK I’m saying what God wants me to say, doesn’t mean that I’m hearing the Lord right. Or that I’m saying it in the most felicitous manner.
But here’s what I’d ask before you send your note: read the WHOLE thing. Listen to the WHOLE sermon. And especially, if one line or one phrase ticks you off…especially then, read it ALL again so that you have the full context.
I’ve had a few comments that caused me to think, “THAT was what you got out of that sermon? THAT ONE LINE was your takeaway?” It is my experience that such over-the-top responses say more about the listener than the speaker.
Unfortunately, in more tumultuous times, we lose the ability to nuance. We lose equilibrium. The ability to balance opposing thoughts and to consider those perspectives dispassionately… slips away. But those are the PRECISE moments when we need to take a deep breath, read everything one more time and make SURE that what we are reacting to is, in fact, what was said.
Be careful of triggers. You know, those words or phrases to which we are SO sensitive that, when we hear it, reason and reasonableness goes out the door. One of my all-time favorite passages is Philippians 4: 4-9. Every Christian ought to memorize it and seek to live it. But one of the less-often commented on verses in that passage is 5: “Let your REASONABLENESS be known to everyone.”
I’m not sure how often we think of reasonableness as a Christian virtue. But, wow, do we need it right now! The ability to hear someone lament racism in America without quickly assuming that you are being labeled a racist. The ability to hear someone lament the brutal behavior of one cop without quickly assuming that you are anti-cop. The ability to agree with peaceful protests without quickly assuming that you are pro-violence.
Reasonableness…that is what is called for right now. The ability to listen…to everything… and only then, come to a reasoned conclusion. So…beloved…in these crazy times, “Let your REASONABLENESS be known to everyone.”
This weekend, I am sharing my pulpit with my daughter, Rachel. She has a timely, gutsy, and reasonable word for us from the Book of Exodus. If you know her and have heard her, that’s all I need to say to ensure you will tune in. If you don’t…well, let me just say…she’s gonna rock your world!