Rewarding Courage with Kindness

I think perhaps it’s lucky for Thomas, the disciple, that he didn’t live in the era of social media. Imagine if he as a “top Christian man/leader/inner circle bloke” had admitted today that he really struggled to believe in the ¬†resurrection without evidence….

can you imagine the backlash?

the calls for his resignation?

the fury unleashed on him by Christians?

(who must have never struggled with any doubt, or felt conflicted about some interpretation of scripture…)

Do you hear what I am saying?

It’s not that I want leaders who deny the fundamental tenants of my faith but I cringe and mourn being part of a larger movement, or at least a vocal group of that movement, that seems to crucify anyone who has courage enough to admit that they struggle or disagree on some small or large point.

and if I’m really honest it makes me angry… it makes me cry hot tears… like I feel all that judgement and hurtfulness personally…

Is it our preferred way of dealing with a ‘family member’ who differs in approach to call them names and publicly try to shame and discredit them?

Is that what we are?

Is it arrogance? Is it fear? Is it good intentions perhaps without humility?

Wasn’t Christ already crucified for us? Do we need to crucify each other socially/emotionally/relationally?

Didn’t Jesus say ‘This is how the world will know you are my disciples – by your love for one another‘?

Doesn’t the Bible challenge us to be ‘Quick to listen, Slow to speak and Slow to become angry‘?

I just can’t remember a place in God’s word where we are called to attack one another in public forums…..

Doesn’t it take courage to admit with a tremor in your voice that you are afloat on an issue?

Shouldn’t courage be received with kindness?

Remember those Christians who stood in the face of a tide of opposition and said slavery was not of God? Remember them? They didn’t get popular support on the social media of the day.

Remember that bit where God says he looks at the heart and not the outward appearance? Remember those times when you have vehemently supported something or expressed an opinion only later to realise you were wrong?

Hear me, I’m not saying we embrace an ‘any way to God‘ kind of approach. I’m not saying we deny the very things that must be held at the centre of Christian belief.

…. but I am thinking that maybe when someone has the courage to admit they struggle

…. when someone thoughtfully studies God’s word and comes up with a different interpretation than us (just as Peter and Paul did when they argued about the behaviours required of the Gentiles)

maybe we could be quick to listen

maybe we could take time to understand

and maybe we could love people in our ‘family’ with whom we don’t see eye to eye.

If we are really brave we could even remember we have sometimes been wrong in our understanding and remind ourselves that maybe, even now, we don’t have the full picture and 100% perfect understanding.

This statement stands out for me as a way I would like to approach not just my faith but all of my life

In essentials unity
In non-essentials liberty
In all things charity

And beautiful, wonderful, faithful Jesus, slow to anger and rich in love…. he doesn’t issue a public statement side lining Thomas and denouncing him. Jesus invites the trembling Thomas over and says come and get all the evidence you need.¬†

Oh that I would receive such grace in my struggles and fears. 
Oh that I would have the humility and wisdom to lavish kindness and listening to those with whom I do not see eye to eye.

I have much to learn and I am doing my best to follow after Jesus who called up the judgemental and lavished grace on the strugglers.

May I be, in all things, like Him.

Serve Somebody

It strikes me that we have a choice (as Bob Dylan and Joshua would say) to serve somebody.

And in this online world perhaps we can come unstuck about who we serve and what ‘He’s’ like.

It seems as though social media sets itself up to via for my service and my affections, and those messages we are getting – they couldn’t be more different:

Social Media says – work harder, do more, promote better, one platform is not enough, you need to do more

Jesus says – come to me, I am the way and there is only one way and I have made it for you, I will give you rest….

Social Media says – you need more followers, you are only significant if lots of people know your name and think you are wonderful, your worth is the number of people that follow you

Jesus says – not a sparrow falls to the ground without my Father noticing it. What the world never notices matters. See I have engraved you on the palm of my hands, your walls are ever before me. My thoughts to you are precious and too numerous to count and by the way I don’t just notice you, I know how many hairs are on your head.

Social Media says – you need a better body, house, car, husband, life, holiday, a shinier blog… more, more, more and you aren’t getting it

Jesus says – who of you by worrying can change a single thing about your self? Contentment with Godliness is great gain. I am enough.

Social Media says – what you have isn’t good enough until it’s polished and shiny and perfect and you need to have a lot to offer or no-one will be interested

Jesus says – those 2 tiny pennies are worth more than any of the enormous offerings anyone put in, those little pennies mean more.

and maybe just maybe we have exchanged in our hearts the value of His love for the values of social media… and perhaps we define our worth by our followers instead of the One we follow.

maybe it’s time to make a choice that for me, and my self worth….. we’re going to bind ourselves the One who calls us not to slave-ship but to kinship…