Monday, December 23, 2013

Everything is Not a "Thing"

For many years, David Letterman had a segment on his show called, “Is This Anything?” In that segment, the curtain on the stage would be raised to show a performer of some kind doing an act of some kind. Most of the time, there was real question as to whether this “act” was actually an act, or just some random person doing something equally random. After a few seconds of watching them performer, Dave and Paul would then discuss the question, “Is this anything?” The basic idea was this: “Does this performance rise to the level of something of value?” Now, it was done purely for comedic purposes; the bit itself had very little value, which was, I think part of the point. Take a look here at one of the segments.

I say all of that to say this: I think it would be good sometimes if we Christians asked that same question: “Is this anything?” This is a question that could resolve a lot of stress in our personal relationships, in our churches, in our families and in our communities. Anytime we see ourselves beginning to get upset or stressed, to simply ask ourselves, “Is this really anything?” Is this the kind of thing that is worth the stress and worry I’m putting into it?
Let me explain to you what I mean: we live in a society that seems to want to make a “thing” out of everything. Far too often we are quick to rush to judgment about a person we care about, or a politician we don’t like, or a cultural issue that we disagree with. So my wife forgets she told me she’d watch television with me tonight, and I quickly assume that it’s because she doesn't care about my feelings. Or a politician you don’t care for says something that could be taken one of two ways, and you automatically choose to take it the way that makes him look the worst, or makes you feel the angriest. Either way, we're both far too quick to assign wrong motives to people, even before we could even begin to have a clue what their motives were.
            The Biblical mandate for avoiding this kind of rush-to-judgment is clear. Jesus said you are to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) And loving your neighbor as yourself simply means giving them the same benefit of the doubt you would like for yourself from others. We don’t like it when people jump to conclusions about us. We should not do it with others. We must understand that this kind of neighbor-loving both believes and hopes and endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7) So as a Christian, I should prefer to be wrong about someone’s motivation in a way that believes and hopes in them rather than wrong in a way that cynically suspects the very worst of them. There is a time, and I think it’s fairly often, just to let stuff go. Everything does not have to be a “thing.” There is also a "boy who cried wolf" syndrome at work here. When everything is something, nothing is anything.

This kind of living very quickly runs up against our own fleshly desires, our demands for our "rights," our hopes to have things our way. And that's part of the point. As Christians, we don't have the right to be easily offended.
Now, Jesus told us to gentle as doves, but he also told us to be as wise as serpents. (Matthew 10:16) So this is not a call to gullibility for the sake of the kingdom. I’m not telling you that you must let yourself get burned again and again and again by someone. What this is, is a call to diligently hope for and seek the best in our neighbors, whether they be a wife or husband or mother or father or pastor or mayor or governor or president. Don’t automatically assume the worst. This kind of attitude has the ability to change families, to change churches, to change communities, to change countries, to change the world, for the better. Always hope. And be willing to endure being wrong. Go into this recognizing that you will be wronged, and you will be hurt. But love isn’t safe. Love doesn’t come without pain. Ask Jesus about that. And then ask yourself, in comparison, “Is this anything?”

No comments: