"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Miscellaneous (Page 1 of 10)

The Limits of Empathy and Sympathy

Solomon said, “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy” (Proverbs 14:10).

Longfellow observed, “Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”

Pastor John Watson (pen name Ian Maclaren) counseled, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12, NASB).

Offense

I can’t breathe without offending someone.

Literally.

And neither can you.

I breathe in the wrong direction. I breathe at the wrong time. I breathe from the wrong distance. I breathe with my face covered. I breathe with my face uncovered.

I can’t breathe without offending someone.

I can’t live if I don’t breathe.

I can’t live without offending someone.

Welcome to the process of reopening from the coronavirus lock-down.

Face it: we’re all going to offend someone, multiple someones, multiple times, every day. The fantasy of living with others in non-offense is gone.

If I’m masked-up, I automatically eliminate and exclude some who have trouble hearing. My voice is muffled by my mask; they cannot see my lips. My mask says to them, “You don’t matter. I care more about myself or other things or other people than you and your participation.”

If I’m unmasked, I automatically eliminate and exclude some who are in a high-risk group for one reason or another, or are fearful. My unmasked face says to them, “You don’t matter. I care more about other things and other people than you, your health, and/or your feelings.”

So I have to breathe. I have to breathe out my offense at being tagged as offensive, my defensiveness, my frustration, my explanations, my exhortations, my demands, my opinions, my view of “the facts.” I must breathe out my offense at being offensive. I have to breathe in the Holy Spirit’s presence; His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I have to breathe not just air, but humility, because I am going to offend someone. I don’t want to, but I won’t be able not to offend someone. My breathing offends; so my being offends.

How can we ever navigate these treacherous waters of re-opening?

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Only a God-filled people will find a way to be together, overcoming inevitable offenses with inexhaustible grace. Only a God-filled people will find a way to live together in love, service, unselfishness, and other-centeredness … while still finding a way to breathe.

This is our moment. Now is the time. Either we prove able to be the church or we will show what we really are.

God our Protector

Our local church family was unable to gather on Sunday, March 15 for worship due to the local conditions related to the coronavirus crisis. Here’s the message I shared via video with them on this odd Lord’s Day.

May the Lord give us confidence to live intentionally and faithfully and missionally as His people in these strange days.

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