February 9, 2017
Epiphany V (Psalm 146, 147; Isaiah 50:1-17 2 Timothy 2:14-26; Mark 10:17-31)
2 Timothy 2:14-26
Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. Avoid profane chatter, for it will lead people into more and more impiety, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth by claiming that the resurrection has already taken place. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who calls on the name of the Lord turn away from wickedness.” In a large house there are utensils not only of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for special use, some for ordinary. All who cleanse themselves of the things I have mentioned will become special utensils, dedicated and useful to the owner of the house, ready for every good work. Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
If I’m honest, my motivations behind social media posts, blog comments, and conversations are often mixed and convoluted (at best) and even more often coming from darker places. Have you ever stopped to consider why you are saying or typing this or that? Sometimes it is reactive for me; I see someone who post something wrong or I hear what I think is an ignorant statement, and I believe it is my job to respond. It’s a reflex. Othertimes, I feel the overwhelming need to share what is in my mind or heart; the goal being simply to get it out, for better or for worse. And, in the last few weeks, there has been much in my mind and heart!
I don’t have to convince you that we inhabit an increasingly polarized world full of binary logic and little room for moderation. (and if you vehemently disagree with me here, perhaps you help to support my case!) This makes real dialogue incredibly challenging. How can we engage with people in a way that is gentle and loving and kindly?
Notice the encouragements above. We are not to simply bemoan “culture” and rail against it (a culture that we are often more a part of than we would prefer to admit). We are invited to see that we play a role as well. We are often pulled into the fray far too easily, arguing over words and inviting more quarrels. And we do this in the name of truth.
But in the process, we ruin the listener. And we may even be blocking the way for repentance (including our own, by the way).
But the answer is not just try harder to be nice. It’s not simply stop doing this and start doing this. Our propensity to our argue and be triggered into debate comes from someplace. It operates from a story we are telling ourselves. If we are truly honest with ourselves, that story may sound something like:
“I like to be seen as the right and smart one, so I better respond to this tweet.”
“If I don’t convince this person of my position, then I’m not being faithful.”
“My self worth is tied to how many ‘likes’ or re-tweets I get.”
Today, the good news is that God’s approval is the only approval which matters for us. We are to work as those who are approved by him.
How might your interactions with others (virtually or IRL) look different if they were informed my this incredible news! I am wondering today what would happen if, before any comment or post or conversation, I just rehearse this declaration from God: “Derek, I am already pleased with you. You do not have to work for my approval, you can operate from my approval and with my approval as my son and servant.”