One of my favorite movies from recent years is a movie starring Billy Crystal and Bette Midler called Parental Guidance. In this movie, Crystal and Midler star as grandparents who come to stay with their grandchildren to help out their daughter and son in law but don’t’ have much of a relationship with the kids. On the first night together and before the parents have left, they go out for dinner to an Asian restaurant. Artie (Crystal) notices his grandson is not eating his food and has it all separated out. Trying to help, Artie mixes them all together and says it tastes better that way. The kid disagrees and has a melt-down at the restaurant.
Completely separating your food makes me wonder at times. I definitely eat bites of various meals, not having my steak mixed with my mashed potatoes, but there are sometimes where it calls for everything to be mixed together. (I mean really, you can’t eat a piece of pie sans ice cream). Otherwise, there would be no place for casseroles!
Unfortunately, this idea of not mixing has entered into our country and even to our churches. We want to compartmentalize and we don’t want to mix things up and cause it to get messy. Since the genesis of the church, we've seen messes. Peter and Paul. Paul and Barnabas. Euodia and Syntyche....do we need to go on? The church contains a group of sinners who have been forgiven. Yet, we are all called to work and operate together. We are not called to be oil and water. We’re called to be a casserole.
But unfortunately, we have gotten to the point where we have reached absolutes. We’ve reached the "my way or the highway” option. We are refusing to get along and in some cases, even talk. What do they say about the topics which don’t mix? Don’t discuss religion and don’t discuss politics. I know that I sometimes loathe spending time with certain members of my family because I have to tiptoe around certain topics or ideologies. And as a whole, our country is getting worse. Don’t believe me? Just sign into Facebook or social media. Look at the “conversations” over the NFL players taking a knee (or really any other issue). Still, don’t? Check out some of the statistics per the New York Times.
How then should we respond to this conundrum? As the political and religious tides seem to be changing, let us cling to an anchor which always holds, scripture. James 1:19-20 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers; let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” What then, is James saying to the church? It does not help for us to sit and bicker and argue. We need to set down our phones, put away the keyboards and we need to listen. We need to listen to hear. Not listen to respond. Not listen to react. Not listen to criticize. We need to LISTEN. And when we respond, we need to respond with the truth in LOVE.
For the Rest of the Week...after you listen (and before you speak), consider using this acronym
T- Is it true?
H- Is it helpful?
I -Is it inspiring?
N- Is it necessary?
K- Is it Kind?
Guide us Great Shepherd in how we speak this week. May we speak good news and words of life which point those around us back to you. Christ, forgive us for the times where we have refused to listen and responded harshly. Give us the courage to listen fully to those around us. Amen.