“There’s a time to be silent, and there’s a time to flip tables.” I hear this phrase more often than I would like to. It is in reference to Jesus becoming angry over the merchants and traders who were doing business inside the temple. People skip right to the end of Jesus response. Little time is spent on reading in-between the lines. Little time is considered over the methodical time resulting in Jesus response. John 2:15 says that Jesus made a whip of chords. He took the time to process through and prepare. He didn’t walk in and the next second flip over a bunch of tables in a kneejerk reaction to what He saw.
I struggle with this a great deal. I don’t like to wait to give my response on various issues that the world presents to us. Social media makes it easy to get a brief response in an instant over an issue that has just presented itself. We can effectively cut out the time to process through what has happened and gauge what is the best and most appropriate response.
I wish I took the time to think through my responses more often. The thing about Jesus is his example does not negate the opportunity to react and respond to an issue. Being silent is never the answer, but responding in the instant is rarely wise. Sometimes I can find myself on the right side, but say the wrong thing. Have you ever done that before? It can be so easy when you feel so strongly that you are justified in your view to speak in a harsher way than you may intend when you are little more cooled off.
I simply don’t like to wait. If I wait too long to evaluate how I say something then the world will move on to some other hot button issue. The world demands a kneejerk reaction because that is the only window of availability. Tomorrow it will forget the issues of today, and will demand my attention on something else.
We forget the time it took to make the whip. Time to think through the action. Time to think through the words. This example doesn’t promote quick action. I would even argue that Jesus was not being reactionary in this moment, or at least not in the way we view a reactionary moment. Jesus evaluated the situation, and came up` with what was the appropriate response to the situation. It presented how strongly he felt on the issue, but he did not lose control.
I am working harder on making sure I do not rush out my response to something for the sake of participated in the hot button issue while it is still the big thing. I am careful to make sure that even when I am confident on my view that I do not be needlessly hostile, harsh, rude, or self-righteous over it. I fail at that sometimes. I am admittedly a work in progress, but through this process I feel it is important to share because there is a strong possibility that there are people like me out there. People who respond to quickly in order to participate without considering the fact that taking a pause to contemplate how to respond is important.
Starbucks has been all over social media lately, and the latest trend has been people complaining about people complaining about people complaining about Starbucks changing the decoration on their Christmas cups (No, there is not a typo in that sentence. It really is as exaggerated as that). I realize many are growing weary of this discussion, and I can understand why. This post doesn’t have so much to do about the Starbucks incident as much as it does as a reminder of a long and drawn out history of comfortable Christianity’s obsession with persecution.
Christianity has had some rough periods of persecution. The early church went through trends where a crazy emperor would want to make a lesson out of Jews and Christians. He would torture and kill them without mercy. It was an ugly time to be a Christian. Time changed things though. Eventually Christianity found itself from being persecuted to being the religion of choice. People became Christian in order to find favor with the emperor. Everything had changed.
Persecution used to be a badge of honor. When Origen was a young man his father was captured and sentenced to death. Origen wanted to die like a martyr alongside his father until his mother hid all of his clothes. Origen wanted the honor of dyeing for Jesus, but apparently was uncomfortable to do so naked. I mention this silly little story to give an idea of what persecution meant for believers. It was a privilege.
What was a Christian to do though when he was robbed of the opportunity to die for his faith? Christianity had become so popular that suddenly the best marker to show the world that you were “The best Christian” had been eliminated from popularity. This is where monasticism came in. Some of the early forms of monasticism focused mostly on going away form society and forgoing all personal possessions. The more remote and away from people you were the holier people seemed to think of you. People grew obsessed with showing how devout they were in their Christianity even if it meant removing themselves from people.
Honestly, the whole Starbucks things is just a microscopic example of a very tiny group of people obsessing over persecution, but there are so many other circumstances where it almost seems to be the norm. We want to make culture look like it is evil towards us because then we can put on a make believe badge of honor by overcoming our twisted form of “persecution.” So we remove ourselves. We distance ourselves from culture. We hide and post countless meme about keeping “Christ” in CHRISTmas. We look at any negative situation we face and say it is persecution even when the person doing us harm has no idea what our personal beliefs are.
Soon I am going to be posting a new article on a challenge I want to present to believers. A Challenge that allows us to use are bizarre obsession with social media, but to tie it with action. Actions of living out Christmas to the world rather than posting yet another meme and calling it a day. It is a challenge to get outside of our personal monasteries and realize something. The mark of Christianity is how we impact the world through the relationship we develop rather than on just how we keep ourselves pure from that world. Will wait a little bit before we start and before I go over all the “Rules.” I know people don’t like to get to much into the Christmas spirit until after Thanksgiving, but I still wanted to share this post. It goes beyond any silly little Starbucks strike. It even goes beyond this annoying call to defend ourselves of the war on Christmas. It starts with realizing that we have an opportunity to make an incredible impact because we do not face real persecution.
We have an opportunity to take actions that can truly impact people in showing the love and compassion that Christ gave when he acted on this earth. There is a time to be in the quiet and sit in the monastery to listen to God’s voice, but that is not the mark of a Christian. Come on, act on that voice. Stand up. Go!
A few weeks ago we took our children to a transportation museum. My oldest son is obsessed with trains, and the museum was filled with model trains, and real train engines. My son as a rather large collection of little trains. Most of them are from Thomas and friends. They are small. Tiny. When we went to the museum our son was fascinated by the model trains in display that moved around the track. He could have watched them all day. They were also rather tiny, but it was as though his small little trains he was used to were brought to life before his very eyes.
We went outside to see the real train engines. My wife and I were blown away by just how big these engines were. You don’t think about it too much because you are never really standing next to a real engine. It was incredibly impressive, and almost a little awe inspiring. Ezra had a very different reaction. Fear. Fear of these giant metal behemoths. He loved his small trains, but when faced with the real thing he cowered in fear. He was nervous. It almost felt a little bit dangerous to him to be standing next to something so massive and grand.
I feel like this is how I am with God sometimes. There have been so many times in life were I talk about how I love God, but much of that love is based off of a very limited perspective I have of Him. When I see the bigger picture it can be intimidating. How much do ire ally know God, and how much am I able to handle?
Moses wanted to know God as much as possible. He asked to see God. God told Moses he couldn’t handle seeing him in all of his glory. He actually had to shield his eyes as he moved past so that Moses could only see his back. When Moses would be with God His glory was so strong that Moses face would glow. Even this secondhand glimpse of glory was too much for God’s people, and they would beg for Mo0ses to cover his face. They couldn’t handle it.
How much do I limit my intimacy with God out of fear of how overwhelming it might be? The funny thing about my story with Ezra is after seeing these giant behemoths he found a train table inside where he played with small trains again. He was comfortable in his element, but it all seemed rather lackluster to me compared to just seeing the grandness of these huge machines. It was almost impossible to go back to that limited understanding and appreciation.
So often we talk about how important it is to grow in our relationship and understanding with God, but rarely do we consider how scary that process can be at times. Sometimes it reminds us of our flaws and weakness. It can be intimidating to learn about something so grand and powerful. There is genuine fear in that, but if we can push passed the fear we can come to a deeper and more meaningful appreciation for the God we worship.