Remember, it is not enough to be hit or insulted to be harmed, you must believe that you are being harmed. If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation. Which is why it is essential that we not respond impulsively to impressions; take a moment before reacting, and you will find it easier to maintain control.
― Epictetus, The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness and Effectiveness (ca. 100 A.D.)
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him;
if we endure, we will also reign with Him;
if we deny Him, He also will deny us;
if we are faithless, He remains faithful—for He cannot deny Himself.
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like cancer.
~Paul, The Least of The Apostles, in 2 Timothy 2
Oh beloved, it is true.
For many of us around the world, 2020 has been about as difficult a time as many of us have known. The stresses of the pandemic of a mean virus have been nearly matched by the political climate and the economy. And if this was not enough, the lockdowns have stretched everything else to breaking-thin, and brought death and poverty of their own around the world.
And, in reaction to all the above, many of us have regressed and fallen back on some of the behaviors that we thought we had left behind. And, while this is quite normal for a human being, many of us have felt the desire to be more (or ALL) of what G_d has Designed us to be.
However, a deeper, and more pernicious malady has taken ahold of us. Oh yes, we have been seemingly sincere (Latin: sin ceres, without wax) in our faith, but our working out of this salvation lately, has us quitting our fear and trembling before our Maker. In its place, we have gone into some battle-mode wherein we are lashing out at people we have never even met. And, in the heat of all of this, we find that some of what was covering us has melted away to show terrible flaws in our underlying character.
And, for many of us, we have had family and/or long-time friends turn on us, or cut us out of their lives altogether. Said simply: Things are getting worse in our country, and not better. And, beyond our domestic problems, I have lived in six countries around the world, and can vouch for the fact that the USA has a major influence on the entire globe. As my Asian wife says: “When the US gets a minor cold, the rest of the world gets a terrible flu.”
Can we see it?
It is a tough time. All of us have fallen short. But the stresses of the last 10 months have revealed something: As Dr. Sonia Noel has said, “Choices make us, crisis reveals us.”
Now, of course there are dozens of problems (mostly spiritual) that need to be worked out, around our country. However, could this fool of a writer offer a suggestion? There is a place to start, and it is guaranteed to have a positive effect.
Always give the best interpretation to another person’s motive.
~Timothy Michael Dolan
“But!!! That person is a (insert whatever label you might use)!!!! How can they be anything other than bad, wrong,” etc.?
Beloved, no more buts. We are catching and spreading the cancer that Paul speaks of in the passage above. We can no longer afford to push out any irreverent words on our social networks, or families, or churches, or anywhere else. The disease of our discord is breaking down the flesh and bone and form of the Body of Christ.
What if we tried it? What if we just took the risk to love the person in front of us enough to simply interpret the words of others in their best possible light? What if we stopped instantly jumping to (quite frankly) wild conclusions about the whole person in front of us, and just listened to them as a human being, made in the image of G_d?
There is no need to cast away discernment, or a commitment to absolute truth. Further, there is no need to walk away from any needed conversation. But by His Grace, we can default to a gracious and merciful way of approaching others. We can, by The Love That Made The Worlds, will the good of the person with whom we are speaking.
And, we can (rightly) assume that G_d is at work in this person, and align with Jesus’ opinion: that this one in front of us (on screen, or wherever) is so exquisitely valuable, that they are worth dying for. Tonight is your night. Give this a try for a month or so, and see how it goes. Give the best interpretation to another person’s motive.
Written by Makala Doulos: Makala Doulos is a child of G_d, a husband to his wife, a father to his children, and a teacher to his students. But mostly, he is a prisoner set free by Jesus. Love has invaded his life, crushed it, and made it new. Now, G_d’s Love is what constrains him to live in full surrender to the freedom The Father and Son and Holy Spirit have bought for us all. Grace and Peace to you all.