I may get in trouble here…
I have watched the news concerning the couple in Washington State that refused to bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple getting “married”. I watched the news reports on the elected Clerk of Court, Kim Davis, who refused to sign a same sex marriage license. I have seen coaches pray publically with their team after a game. Frequently I pass a Planned Parenthood clinic on my way to the airport. And frequently there is a man standing praying – sort of a protest or demonstration. I’ve seen him in hot and cold weather, rain and snow. This man is committed to what he believes. (I once stopped to speak with him – thank him.)
While I agree with the desire to protest the things that I disagree with, I wonder if we are in the wrong battles and may loose the war. In our protests are we loosing the ability to show grace and love? Isn’t that what Jesus called us to do?
A young man recently said to me, “I don’t believe in Jesus.” He was wanting to get a rise out of me; baiting me. I took a breath and said, “That’s OK – Jesus believes in you.” I would loved to have argued with him…but it wasn’t the battle I needed to have. I need to be in relationship and dialogue with him more than win an argument. I could have won the battle and lost the war.
A couple of years ago, my church was sadly split in two. It was heart wrenching for me. It was the very church that had sent my grandparents to China as medical missionaries. I felt very strongly about it and made passionate pleas about standing true. Some of the arguments landed on whether to have a large screen in the sanctuary (really?), the use of a guitar in worship (really?), same sex marriage and the ordination of a homosexual pastor. I regret the way in which I presented my position. It was perceived as judgmental – not gracious. I fear I hurt some dear members of that church and made the situation worse. I regret how I did it, not that I did it.
Some of the issues are smoke screens. They take our focus off the real issue which is, do we believe in the authority of scripture? That’s the bottom line. That’s the side where I come down. But how do I come down? Is it with harsh statements and criticism and judgment? That’s not Jesus’ way.
Is it truly important to refuse to bake a cake for a couple that wants to celebrate their relationship? Is that a battle we need to fight? When you make that the issue, you loose the opportunity to have dialogue with those with whom you disagree. Ms. Davis was elected to do a job. But the conversation was soon hijacked by a political agenda. Is that really our objective?
Are we doing some of this protest in defiance? Is defiance the role we are to play?
I believe we are to take a stand for what we believe. There are battles we must wage. Fights we must enter. But let’s be careful which things deserve our protest and which really do not matter in comparison to what Jesus has called us to do: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” We cannot begin to do that if we cut off dialogue with the very ones we are to reach. The Apostle Paul admonished us, “Let your speech always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you know how to answer everyone.”
Choose your battles wisely.
The definition of meek in Webster’s College Dictionary is: “1. humbly patient or docile, 2. overly submissive or compliant; spiritless; tame; 3. gentle, kind. Far be it from me to disagree with Webster! But… the Bible said Moses was the meekest man in the world. (“Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men who were upon the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3) Other versions of the Bible use the word, “humble”, “quietly humble”,”patient”. Other definitions use “devout”, “pious”, “gentle”.
The context of this statement is during an event in Moses’ life when he had been misunderstood and harshly criticized by his family for marrying and Ethiopian woman. They began to question whether he was the only one who could hear God speak or be God’s leader. Were they just as good as Moses? “Meek” is from a root word meaning, “affliction” (Dake). Certainly at the time Moses was afflicted by the unfair condemnation of Aaron and Miriam – his own family. He seemed to be patient and gentle waiting on God to justify him.
We also know that Moses could be rash and quick to act – like when he killed the Egyptian. I don’t picture him “docile” – ever. He was submissive to God but far from “spiritless” and “tame”. Looking at Moses’ life – he was a leader of leaders, one of the greatest, if not the greatest – he couldn’t have been too tame or docile to lead that many people out of Egypt to the Promised Land for 40 years! He wasn’t tame or spiritless when he confronted Pharaoh over and over again. We know he struck the rock, probably in impatience and anger.
But God had prepared him to lead His people. God molded him to be the kind of leader God wanted him to be. God honed Moses’ patience. He was not perfect but he depended on God in everything and God communicated with him in amazing ways. He was the one on Mt. Sinai when God wrote the Ten Commandments on the stone tablets. He was the one whom God passed by and let him see God’s back. Yes. A powerful leader.
I’ve heard it said that “meekness is power under control”. I like that definition and I think it fits Moses. He allowed God to tame his spirit through the trials and tribulations of leading the people through the wilderness. Settling arguments – not getting sidetracked or quitting. Surely in all those years he must have wanted to quit! He listened to God’s voice and obeyed what he heard.
God makes promises for the meek. “The meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” (Ps. 37:11) Matthew 5:5 says, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” “The meek will he guide in judgment; and the meek will he teach his way.” (Ps. 25:9)
How did Moses go from a rash murder to the meekest man on earth? He spent time with God. He waited on God. He heard God’s voice and obeyed. We can do the same.
Wasn’t it refreshing to have the news full of worship and the Cross of Jesus lifted up? His name was lifted up and He got the honor. No one else could have done that! Pope Francis had such a dear expression even when he was exhausted and being jostled by the crowds. He never exhibited any impatience or annoyance. You could see the result of many hours on his knees in prayer.
I didn’t get to see all of the coverage since I was traveling but I watched as much as I could. I found it inspiring and comforting. It was such a contrast to the violence, politics, sex – bad news – that usually fills the news. I wish the news outlets would take a cue and realize that inspirational, good news, hope, comfort would serve them well. They think the negative stuff is the only thing that sells.
But all we have to look at is the recent movies that have been successful: “War Room”, “The Blindside”, “Courageous”, “When the Game Stands Tall”…among many others.
I am convinced – I am sure there has been a study – that the violence of movies and video games results in violence in our society. Money has power. Once these inspirational movies start outselling the violent, sick ones, there will be a change. But, sadly, violence and sex sells.
Let’s support inspirational movies that have good moral values for our children and families.
Thank you Pope Francis for inspiring us all by your humble, godly example.
Didn’t you just love the little Fiat in the motorcade between the sleek, black behemoths? I did. (I know the security detail needed the big cars but it was a wonderful illustration of self-importance taking a back seat to humility.)