As most of you know that my role is being with, connecting with, and listening a wide variety of people. In some ways my work has increased during the time of COVID. Pre-COVID expectations were that I would travel and meet with individuals, committees, and churches. Then at the height of COVID my commitments were solely virtual. Now the physically present expectations have returned, but many of the virtual expectations remain. As many local church pastors can attest to, now there are two sets of expectations, which I suspect will only grow and continue.
What is common, though, in my travels and contact is people have so much they wish to speak to, solve, rectify, and transform. Positive accounts run from the person who met Christ through virtual worship, and contacted the church, to expansions of ministries which care for those out of work, or homeless, cold or hungry. The negative accounts occur when the conversations turn to politics, racial reckoning, understanding history, and how to live out Jesus' words. Some conversations bind us in common cause, others trigger visceral reactions, that quickly crowd hate filled words.
I enjoy people. I enjoy being with people of all ages, races, classes, and nations. Two of our churches indulge my stumbling Spanish! Some people look a little askance at me when I speak of reading Catholic saints. Others wonder why on my bookshelves one can find John Calvin, Carl Henry, NT Wright, Tim Keller and then Anne Lamott, Soon-Chan Rah, Gustavo Gutierrez or Marvin McMickle’s latest book. As a disciple of Christ, I want to hear and see, so as to please Christ in all my interactions, knowing how limited and sinful I am.
This brings me to Jesus’ words in Matthew 15: "Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But things that come from the mouth come from the heart, and these make a person unclean. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Jesus warns me about the things that stir in my heart and come out of my mouth! When I just want to speak and force my opinion on another person or group, is my heart really right with Christ? Or do I give the mean spirited things that come out of mouth a spiritual spin to justify their hatefulness or slander?
I realize I often open myself to charges of being naïve, when I attempt to check my heart before I wind up and respond. And I concede I have more defeats than victories. And even when my mouth doesn’t open, I am appalled at the depraved pinballs that rattle about in my mind. But is it really too naïve to ask, is my heart bowed enough before my Lord and Savior so I do not hate anyone or wish to cause them pain or harm, or is this simply being a Christian?
Read what's happening all around the Region!