What of “Everyone Else”?

Ours is a culture of exclusion and achievement.

We as a society lavish praise on “top performers” … “the best”.  Corporate America is on an never-ending quest for people who can take them to “the next level”.

Sadly, the world’s toxic values have penetrated the church.  We enshrine the church’s biggest donors with plaques on the wall.  We lionize the church’s most active volunteers with Lifetime Achievement Awards.

 


 

What of the “also-rans”?  What of the people whom the world leaves behind?  The “losers” and second-place finishers?

 

What of the people whom Christ called “the least of these”?

 


 

Mind you, gratitude is important.  The Apostle Paul writes:

 

“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.  Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, 18)

 

At the same time, we must take care not to allow the pursuit of status to become all-consuming.  Once more, Paul writes:

 

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

 

In this season of Lent, we are called to humble ourselves before God.  We would do well to heed the words of John the Baptist:

 

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all.” (John 3:31)

 

We must be ever mindful of He Who Comes From Above.

(Spoiler Alert:  It’s not you … or me.)


 

Humility is a quality in short supply in our status-obsessed modern world.  We judge our neighbor by what brand of smartphone they carry, the type of car they drive, and the labels on their clothing.

Humility is a quality we should strive to exhibit all year long (as opposed to being something we haul out for Lent and put away on Easter Sunday).

We must not allow the pursuit of status to overshadow the church’s primary mission of serving the poor and unfortunate in our society.

 

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

 

 

 

A Season of Joy

It is all too easy to tie Christmas up in a series of man-made “rules” (“Don’t sing ‘Joy to the World’ during Advent! That’s a Christmas song! Why are you decorating your Christmas tree during Advent?”)

Christmas is a season of JOY. This not the time for the killjoys among us to be raining on the parades of their fellow believers.

Telling someone not to sing “Joy to the World”, “Silent Night”, or “O Little Town of Bethlehem” during Advent is something akin to telling an expectant mother not to have a baby shower until AFTER her child is born!


 

(If “Joy to the World” is a Christmas song, where do “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Jingle Bells”, and “Deck the Halls” fall on the spectrum?)

 


Christmas is a time of celebration; it is a time to celebrate to coming birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, into the world.  It is a time of joy.

Should we really be having these debates during this season of “Peace on Earth”?

DON’T Do It … Even If It DOES Feel Good.

 

“If it feels good, do it!”

This is the mentality … the ethos …that has driven America since the 1960’s (Wanna shoot heroin?  If it feels good, do it!  Extramarital sex?  If it feels good, do it!  Damn the consequences!)

Consider films such as Dirty Harry and the Death Wish series.  People in an earlier era might’ve just shrugged off gun violence and gone on with their lives.

Not Harry Callahan.

Not Paul Kersey.

The underlying message of these films is, “Don’t bother with the police … Don’t bother with the system.  If you want justice, you have to take the law into your own hands.

“If going out and wasting the quote-unquote ‘bad guys’ all by yourself is going to make you feel good … do it.”


That’s NOT how the real world works.


I’ve given a great deal of thought to our nation’s recent spate of mass shootings (the mass shooting in Las Vegas, the recent shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas).  I believe a great many of these incidents are rooted in this mentality of “If it feels good, do it!”

We have people killing people in large numbers for no other reason than they thought they would get a thrill out of it.  They thought it would be something to add to the proverbial “bucket list” (“See Europe?  Check.  Blow away a crowded room full of people?  Check.”)

We have people who cannot abide the idea of living ordinary lives.  They crave recognition.  They crave attention.  As far as they’re concerned, if mowing down innocent people with an AR-15 rifle is what it takes for them to hit the “big time”, so be it.

And hit the big time they do.  Our society rewards their destructive behavior by showering them with the attention they so desperately crave.  Their lives and backgrounds are probed and exposed for all the world to see by the media (all in an effort to find a “motive” … a reason … an “explanation” … for their evil, criminal behavior).


It’s ultimately a matter of attitude.  We’ve ceased seeing people as human beings.  We don’t see people as individuals who have families and loved ones.

We as a society are losing our capacity for empathy.  We spend so much time relating to people through screens that we’ve forgotten how to relate to the living, breathing, flesh-and-blood, human beings that are all around us.

We’ve become accustomed to seeing people as a means of achieving OUR ends (as opposed to being ends in and of themselves).

Real Life is not like the movies.