Thursday, July 30, 2015

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Juliana had to go to the hospital yesterday and was pretty sick.  She is still out today, and Francis had to go to the hospital because he fell at his neighbor’s last night and cut his hand.  Both of them had the insurance cards we got them, and neither had to pay anything for treatment or for medication.  It’s nice to see that some of the things we fuss over actually bear fruit and help people.  Actually, it is always nice just to help people whether we get to see the results or not.  Pretty sure that Christ told us to do that, just not in those words—don’t think He ever used the word “fuss.”  I was once the mentor of a man studying to enter the ministry.  It was an official appointment for both of us but it turned out to be really enjoyable and he and I have remained friends ever since.  At one of our first sessions, he asked me what he might run into that he wouldn’t have expected.  I just asked him if he could work for a jerk.  He was taken aback a little and asked me to explain.  I told him that one of my first real disappointments as a member of the clergy was to learn how some of my colleagues were very less than Christian in their dealings with me and with others.  The clergy is no different than any other profession, there are shining lights, people who inspire respect, awe, and whom you want to emulate.  There are also people who are just out for themselves and will lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want.  At my very first District Ministers meeting, a veteran pastor walked up to me and asked, “Just who in the world are you?” and then left before I could answer.  I also discovered, the hard way, that pastors would and did trash the parsonages they were given, and I mean trash in that thousands of dollars would have to be paid for repairs, repainting, replacing stolen appliances, and a lot of cleaning.  No matter what we do for a living, or for recreation, or in our Sunday School classes, or church groups, there will be people that are, to quote my mother, “harder to love than others.”  We have to learn to be respectful of other’s positions, thoughts, and spoken insults.  We have to not respond in kind but as “a soft answer turneth away wrath” we need to be diplomatic and tactful.  In rare instances, we will have to be confrontative in as kind and gentle a way as we can muster.  There are no professions or even groups of people where you will find yourself surrounded entirely by people you love and respect—there will always be one or two that are . . . , well, the nicest word I can think of is one my Mama Roebuck used, “turnips.”  She would say, “Well, I didn’t think that she would turn out to be a turnip but she did.”  If we are truly Christians, we must love those “turnips” and learn to work with them or around them if need be.  Sometimes you must change jobs or churches as their “turnipness” is just impossible to manage, but thankfully, those cases are rare.  I’ve had “turnips” for bosses, coworkers, employees, and members of my congregations and to this day, I feel no ill will toward any of them and still pray for most of them (those who are still with us).  Life is just too short to let them ruin a single minute of the day that God gave me.  You do have to love everyone, but you don’t have to be around them, like them, or spend your free time with them.  Everyone has at least one “turnip” as a relative which makes many Thanksgiving dinners less than wonderful, but the world is full of them and God made them.  The more we love them, the softer and gentler they become, and, if not, the more distance we need to put between us and them.  Anyone can hate, but it takes a real follower of Christ to love those who can make us miserable and rise above them.  Machiavelli, the author of “The Prince,” wrote that once we adopt the tactics of our enemies—they have won.  Said another way, “Don’t sink to their level.”  Stay on the moral high ground and you will have a lot of company that you will really like.   

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