Archive for the ‘Relationship’ Category

When You Are Not Treated Well

September 7, 2021

When a church (congregation) does not treat people well, those people will tend not to go to church.

I never feel part of a crowd, always told I was different. But, I’ve experienced community in churches a few times. And I’ve experienced people trying to impose themselves and their creeds upon others. People who divide other people into different sorts of categories–each one defined as below themselves.

Some people recognize that every human born into this world is made in the image of God. We are each to be treated with respect as Jesus taught, and James reinforced, that we are to practice loving our neighbor as ourselves.

In our daily routine of living, we pause to look at ourselves. Did we just treat that person in our last interaction as a child of God? Smile and tip the barista? Give a pleasant greeting to a neighbor? Avoid lifting a hand gesture to someone trying to cut us off in traffic? Pause and ask how someone is doing and then actually listening to them?

We are each offended when we are not treated well. But, how well do we treat others?

The Golden Rule

April 20, 2021

Jesus is wrapping up his teaching on the hillside. I’ve visited the location that tradition holds to be the location. I can’t read Matthew 5-7 without visualizing that hillside by the lake. That helps me.

Anyway, Jesus has hit the crowd with many revolutionary ideas about the good news of living in the kingdom of the heavens. Then he hits a number of short, memorable sayings.

“In everything do to others you would have them do to you, for this is the law and the prophets.”

Yesterday I was contemplating his teaching on anger and contempt–not only don’t kill someone, but also don’t dwell on the thought of killing them; don’t call someone a fool; don’t hold others in contempt–and I wondered about overcoming those attitudes.

I guess if we were to get up in the morning and treat the first person we saw with respect and then the second, we could build up this habit muscle. And that changes our attitude. And then we begin living in the kingdom of the heavens.

Because Jesus said that this simple rule of living our daily life of respecting others–doing to them as we would have them do to us–leads to doing the law and following the teaching of the prophets.

Try it beginning now. The next person you come across, treat with respect. And the next. And if you feel anger or disrespect visiting, remember the new muscle we’re exercising.

It’ll change your life.

We Are All One

January 22, 2021

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul writing to the Christ-followers in Galatia.

For Paul writing as a Jew, bringing together “Jew and Greek” essentially meant bringing together all races. Slave and free brings together economic classes. Male and female, of course, genders.

He knew that there were still people of different races, political/economic status, and genders. It is an important part of our spiritual growth that we people who are practicing spiritual formation realize there exist no real boundaries among people. We are to treat and live with all as the same.

A thousand years before Paul spiritual seekers discovered the same truth.

Two thousand years after Paul, we still struggle with bringing that reality into our lives. In America we celebrate (well, some of us) a woman who is also black and south Asian rising to a high political position. And not without some struggle. Why do we need to celebrate? Why is it so unusual.

But not just here. Much of the strife in Africa is tribal. In Asia, it’s religious and ethnic. Europe has its own difficulties.

Treating everyone as simply human seems to be a difficulty for all humans.

We need to break the chain. When you meet someone, try to see what sort of person they are inside not just outside. And treat everyone the same–kindly.

Earning Trust and Losing It

June 29, 2018

Some people come to you with great promises. Some seem sincere. Some even proclaim themselves to be Christian.

And some people lose the trust you originally granted them.

Last week I had the opportunity to talk with a woman who is operations manager of a refinery.

The equipment was getting old and external forces came upon the company causing it to study how to upgrade the technology of the equipment.

She involved people from all of the various departments in the study of possible technology upgrades. When it came time to make decisions, they were all involved.

Engineers and technicians and operators all were involved in making the upgrades work.

She earned their trust. I met her a couple of times. I could sense she was trustworthy.

But I have been fooled in my life.

Several times I have done business with people who proclaim Christianity, yet in the end they proved not worthy of trust. They broke promises. Left while owing me money. Said bad things to me and about me.

Yet, I still trust people. I give them time to prove that I should not trust them.

Even though many were Christian, that doesn’t mean that I stop trying to be a disciple of Jesus. Some try and fail. That’s where grace comes in, I guess. But I don’t trust any of them any more.

You can earn people’s trust; you can easily lose it. Every day.

Including A Wide Spectrum of Acquaintances

May 14, 2018

“Meanwhile [Peter] stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.”

It’s just a sentence that is a transition from one story to the next in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Rest assured that it wasn’t just thrown in to fill up space. But Luke’s purpose for including this little tidbit isn’t really known.

We, however, can look at this little sentence and get a glimpse of how we should be living.

This Simon was probably Jewish, but he was ritually unclean. Does that sound familiar to those who have read the gospels? It should. Jesus was often criticized for hanging out with people who were ritually unclean.

We read a lot of things into the writings of Paul the Apostle and use them to divide people. But try actually reading all of Paul sometime. Read those “afterthoughts” where he lists all the followers of Jesus.

These first groups of followers were quite diverse. They seemed to accept leaders from all walks of life. Women, slaves, tanners, whomever.

Is it time for a self-awareness check? How inclusive are your circles? Churches, business, social?

Maybe instead of trying to figure out ways to separate us, we should be looking around us figuring out how to be more inclusive and accepting.

Violating The “Andy Stanley” Rule

April 12, 2018

There I was, as my usual habit, on the running track above the back gym at the Y. It came to me there were just two of us up there. The other person was a woman. A woman and me; the back gym; no one else around.

The “Andy Stanley” rule, which I named after the founder, leader, and pastor of Northpoint Ministries in suburban Atlanta, states that a man should never be alone with a woman not his wife. He won’t go to lunch alone with his assistant even to a public restaurant. He talks about being given a ride from an airport to a speaking engagement by a woman and being extremely uncomfortable.

There is solid thinking behind that rule, but also some problems. It is true that if you are rich and famous and powerful (or 2 out of 3), being seen alone with a woman not your wife can lead to gossip.

I think he’s worried as well about leaving yourself open to accusations from which you’d have no defense. Had that woman on the running track decided for whatever reason to tell people that I had touched her or otherwise made her feel uncomfortable, I’d have had no defense other than my word.

On the other hand, I’ve dealt with probably hundreds of women professionally over a long career. My tendency is to treat everyone the same.

But I have come to understand that women in general have a certain wariness about men that is not always apparent to us. I once met a woman while running in the park. I mentioned I’d never seen anyone to be concerned about. “I have,” she answered glancing around. And I thought, even though I’m watchful, she has greater concern and is much more sensitive to circumstances especially concerning men than I.

The New Testament has an often not explicit foundation condition called trust. Some of us trust easily; others take time to trust others. Regardless, trust once broken destroys many.

Loyalty Lacking Discernment Leads Astray

January 22, 2018

Loyalty is extolled in the Proverbs.

What spouse does not value loyalty? What friend? What employer does not value the loyal worker?

Without wisdom and discernment, however, we can be foolishly loyal.

Who has not been loyal to the employer who takes advantage?

Who has been loyal to the straying spouse?

Who has not been betrayed by those thought to be friends?

Wisdom and discernment lead us to those to whom we should be faithful. And then we are to be loyal to the end.

Some thoughts from reading through Proverbs 20.

If Only You Paid Attention To My Commands

August 14, 2017

If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. Isaiah 48:18, NIV

We have been discussing Jesus’ discussion/debate with “the Jews” as John called the group of adversaries in the Temple.

Jesus kept telling them that God sent him and that what he had been teaching was directed by God. And Jesus said his truth would set us free.

So, I asked, what is free?

Free did not mean libertarianism–that I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, to whomever I want. That would be sort of an American response, right? I am free from constraint.

However, we would be hard pressed to prove that from Jesus’ words. He immediately begins talking about sin.

We can be free from a life as a slave to sin. Drifting from whim to whim, emotion to emotion. A life of feeling guilty and trying to drown that guilt with drugs, alcohol, sex, whatever.

We can be free to live with “peace like a river” and “well-being like the waves of the sea.

So, I asked, what is truth?

It’s not a proposition that I agree with and force others to agree with. It is a relationship with the living Jesus who lived, who died, who lived again.

We keep forgetting about living with God in relationship, not in fear of a God of eternal punishment if we don’t measure up to his rules.

An email came this morning with this quote from Isaiah. I like that thought. Sounds just like something Jesus said. Sounds like something I can live with.

And you?

Disrupted by Power of the Wrong Kind

April 24, 2017

Recommended reading–The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World.  It is a conversation held in 2015 when Archbishop Desmond Tutu traveled to India to meet with old friend the Dalai Lama.

The Book of Joy

Both men had know much suffering in their lives. Yet, the spirituality of each shines through.

What most got to me was toward the end of the book during a description of a celebration for the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday. Children from the local Tibetan school presented their stories of escape from Communist China.

It struck me that people everywhere just want to live their lives. Work, worship, dance.

Yet there exist everywhere men (almost always men) who seek power (political mostly) over people. They want to tell them what to do. To obey them. Exert power over the daily lives of people.

Even in America there exists a movement since 1979 where a group of men decided to try to turn American Christians into political activists–of course in support of their causes of telling people how to live.

And that movement has somewhat succeeded. It has ruptured Christianity in America, splitting churches, separating friends. All in the name of politics.

At least, for the most part, we don’t shoot each other. Yet.

Then I think of the moment of realization when I came to knowledge of what Jesus meant by turning the world upside down. He lived in one of those power hungry eras. The Romans were quite brutal.

Study Jesus. He said time after time that he came to turn that power relationship on its head. The leader washes the feet of the follower. A powerful example in his own life of that new power relationship.

We give power to the Spirit. We use the power from the spirit we receive in return to help people live better. Now, that’s a vision.

Are You Prejudiced?

March 3, 2017

Remember how Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”

Recently I saw one of my many friends from India. “Are you prejudiced?” he asked me. Three times.

I don’t feel any, I thought. But I was raised in the rural Midwest. I know I was raised with prejudices. Some were taught outright–never marry a Lutheran, my mom often said. They are almost as bad as Catholics. (Whatever that meant.)

My first date, when I was a senior in high school by the way, was a Lutheran. Go figure. But I married a Baptist–who was born in Kentucky. Oops. A family of outsiders had moved into town when I was little. All the old women whispered about “hillbillies.”

Except my wife was raised in Michigan. Oops. Everyone around is an Ohio State University fanatic. Hate Michigan.

Prejudiced? I don’t know. Nothing came to mind quickly. It’s hard to get past your roots. I’ll admit it takes me maybe a minute or so to get past piercings and tattoos to see the person underneath the rebellion.

There are behaviors I don’t like. Strong opinions not backed up by facts. Hate. Injustice. Am I prejudiced against the people? I don’t know. Maybe.

The first time I talked with a person of another race was when I was a freshman in college. Never had a problem with that. Gay people? Doesn’t bother me. People are people.

Even when I look at my Teacher. Jesus had no trouble with the Samaritan woman. But he did have quite the discussion with the SyroPhoenician woman about prejudice of Jews toward other tribes. “Even the dogs get table scraps,” she told him.

So I am still watching. Where are my prejudices? I must have some. You must have some. The way to get past them is to first recognize them. And then realize that all humans are created by a God who loves them.