Archive for the ‘responsibility’ Category

Right and True

July 14, 2022

If it’s not right, don’t do it;

If it’s not true, don’t say it.

Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and Stoic

Preacher and teacher Andy Stanley teaches this simple thought, “Pay attention to the tension.”

There is a moment, often fleeting, between the impulse to do something and the action.Sometimes in that moment there arises a tension within us. This may not be the right thing to do. How often we ignore that tension, do the deed, then regret it.

If it is not right, do not do it. How, by paying attention to the tension.

The Apostle James teaches how the tongue is the mightiest muscle in the body. Just like a small rudder steers a great ship, the small tongue guides us causing all manner of mischief. Sometimes just before we hit “post” on social media when we are passing along something we heard, Stanley’s tension pulls at the back of our mind. If we pause before we post, we can save ourselves grief.

If it is not true, do not say it. Or post it on social media.

Freedom From and Freedom For

July 11, 2022

A long time ago in a galaxy far away I found myself in Louisiana researching freedom in graduate school thinking I’d earn a PhD in political philosophy and write on that topic. Many bad choices there. I watched the professors and decided I didn’t want to be one of them. Then there was the fact that the department discontinued the graduate program when I was at the half-way mark of courses toward an MA.

I looked into a couple of other graduate programs and was accepted into one, but I had lost interest in the system. I’m much happier studying on my own.

I explored two sides of freedom. There is freedom from constraints–think John Locke. There is freedom for fulfilling worthwhile ends–think Jean-Jacques Rousseau. An eminent philosopher had studied this paradox. Isaiah Berlin wrote Liberty exploring these topics.

A couple of thousand years before Berlin, some Eastern Mediterranean religious thinkers and leaders also pondered freedom. One was Jesus of Nazareth who lived out that freedom. Another was his disciple Paul. Others also touched on these topics including James and Peter and John.

A contemporary leader and preacher striving mightily to capture the interest of the younger generations globally, John Fischer (at Catch John Fischer), recently summarized the essence of this liberty argument.

Freedom operates alongside other qualities, most of them more important that freedom itself. We are not set free so we can enslave others; we are set free to serve. We are not set free to break the law, but to follow it. We are not set free to indulge ourselves, but to consider others as more important than ourselves. 

Many think freedom means I can do whatever I want whenever I want to whomever I want. That sounds more like a 2-year-old than an adult to me. The Apostle Paul tried in several of his letters to explain freedom. Maybe it was just the way you wrote in ancient Greek and then got translated into modern English. I don’t think he was as successful as he wished getting the point across clearly.

Yes, I have certain freedom from constraints. Yet, I also have the responsibility to use that freedom for good.

Dystopian Prophetic Voice

August 24, 2021

In the year 2525

If man is still alive

If woman can survive

They may find

Zager and Evans

My wife tunes her car radio to Sirius XM 60s on 6. (Except I’ve been driving it lately and switched to Margaritaville. A little Parrot Head music will be good for her.) They played In the Year 2525 the other day. I remembered that era. About the same time Barry McGuire sang PF Sloan’s Eve of Destruction. People thought things in the world looked pretty bleak. It’s been 52 years, what goes around, comes around. We’ve been through bust and boom and now people thing things look bleak.

Yesterday’s post was my number 2525. Coincidences are interesting. I started thinking about the song.

In the year 9595

I’m kinda wondering if man is gonna be alive

He’s taken everything this old earth can give

And he ain’t put back nothing, woah, woah

Zager and Evans

We read prophecy–maybe the Hebrew prophets or Nostradamus or some contemporary wannabe prophet. Rather, we often misread them. Usually they are using if-then-else logic. “If you keep doing this, then this bad thing will happen, else changing your ways will bring better things.”

That last verse I quoted has many meanings. It hits (the old church word is “convicts”) each of us. How much do we take every day? How much do we give back?

Do we take love without giving back? Do we accept gifts without ever giving?

This idea is worth pausing for reflection. And maybe changing our ways, woah, woah.

Doing What I Can

April 26, 2021

I don’t ignore the news. That is hard to accomplish and probably not wise. However, I don’t immerse myself in it. That, also, would not be wise.

The easy thing for a Christian is to pretend to be an ancient Hebrew prophet and expound on hypocrisy and godlessness and the evil of people who disagree with me.

But that is merely ego-centric.

The news and pictures I’ve seen coming from India regarding the impact of the failure of the government to tackle the Covid crisis with the resulting deaths have moved me to deep sadness. And that is repeated with perhaps less drama in some other populous countries.

As an adolescent student and young man, I harbored a great dislike for the writings of the Apostle Paul. Later, I discovered that it wasn’t Paul himself, but the way people went through his writing and picked out parts they liked and build legal frameworks around them.

So, as a civil rights and anti-war person, I totally misunderstood what Paul wrote in the 13th chapter of Romans. Here, he expounds a view, not that the government is always right (and I wondered what he’d have written had he been living under Nero at the time), but that government is placed here by God to bring order and justice and the like to society.

We can see throughout this pandemic the differences in political leadership and the various impacts upon the societies. Leadership in the government is important. All the leaders made mistakes–just some learned and adjusted and some, well, failed.

But I’m not here to be an ancient Hebrew prophet predicting God’s judgement upon them all.

Instead, what is the response I can make when I learn about all this immense suffering. I cannot write a check with enough zeros to provide vaccines and healthcare for the world. But I can write a check. And I can encourage those I meet. And I can support good leaders.

Living in the dominion of the heavens that Jesus had announced doesn’t mean that I change the whole world. I can change me and influence those around me. And so can you.

It’s kind of like Arlo Guthrie singing at the end of Alice’s Restaurantand it’s a movement, yes the Alice’s Restaurant Massacre movement. We can participate in the share the kingdom of heaven movement and learn from Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan. Help where we can.

Love One Another As I Have Loved You

April 2, 2021

The thing about a good story, whether fact or fiction, is that it harbors truth in many layers.

When the first disciples of Jesus began telling the stories of this last week–the march into Jerusalem, the Passover dinner, the prayer in the garden, the arrest, trial, conviction, execution, and later the resurrection–there were of course many layers to the stories.

One layer begins with Jesus last command. Remember? Once he answered a scholar about the greatest command from God, and Jesus told him there were two. This time Jesus says, oh yes, I’m giving you one last command. Love one another as I have loved you.

In a bit, he goes to the garden to pray and takes a few guys with him. They are armed. We know for sure, at least, that Peter was. When the armed patrol comes to arrest Jesus, Peter draws his sword and cuts off the ear of one.

Jesus rebukes him. He heals the severed ear. He lets himself be arrested without a fight. He says he lays down his life for them.

Setting aside theology and looking just at the story–Jesus did lay down his life for them. Had he told them to fight their way out of it, they would all have died on that hilltop.

Then they looked at the story and we look at the story, and we put it all together.

Jesus gave a command. Then he lived it by example. And there it is for all who call themselves followers. Can you love one anther even as Jesus did? Even up to giving up your life so that they may live?

Rights and Responsibilities

January 12, 2021

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

First Amendment to the US Constitution

People seem to get confused about what the First Amendment actually says. It is a restriction upon the government.

It doesn’t address how we use this “freedom of speech”.

I keep having flashbacks to my university years when talk of responsibilities over rights sounded like the mutterings of old, crabby, conservative people trying to shut up young people with ideas. Well, those young Baby Boomers grew up to screw up a lot of stuff. But I learned the value of responsibility. Although I am now “old”, I am decidedly not conservative and hopefully not crabby. Well, in most regards. Maybe I just grew up.

Try these bits of Wisdom literature mostly 3,000 years old and just as relevant today.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but the prudent are restrained in speech.

Proverbs 10

Fine speech is not becoming to a fool; still less is false speech to a ruler.

Proverbs 17

Better the poor walking in integrity than one perverse of speech who is a fool.

Proverbs 19

Do you see someone hasty in speech? There is more hope for a fool than someone like that.

Proverbs 29

I can take a hint. I have no more to say today. Peace.

Signs

November 18, 2020

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind

Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

Five Man Electrical Band

The way I see it, Baby Boomers as a description is much to general. As I recall and when I listen to late 60s rock, there were at least three strands specifically Boomer and a fourth strand of the type of traditional people all three groups didn’t like. There were (and are) peace and justice people; rebellious people; and, whiners.

Most of us are probably sick of the whiners. “I didn’t get my way, Wah, Wah, Wah.”

There are a few of us who were (and are) peace and justice people. We just generally don’t make as much noise as we did in 1965. You get old, I guess.

Then there are the rebels.

What brings this to mind was a trip through some of the ubiquitous strip shopping centers along Randall Road in the western Chicago suburbs (my new home). Many stores had signs. In fact, all stores had signs about wearing masks to enter. No brainer. But many had a sign, “If you have one of these symptoms of Covid-19, do not enter.”

I thought, this is worse than needing a sign in the restroom reminding employees to wash their hands. I mean, what moron goes out into public with symptoms of being sick with Covid, the flu, even colds? Both Covid and the flu kill people. Heck, a cold can lead to pneumonia, and that kills people, too.

Much of Jesus’ teaching dealt with people in community. How we should care about others. How we should help–open a door, or carry a load, or pay for the next person at a fast food restaurant, or don’t spread your disease to your neighbors.

This is so common sense to me, I am still flabbergasted that you need that sign. Forget the Five Man Electrical Band. This isn’t one of those signs. It’s a sign that literally means life.

Save a life today. Wear a mask. The life you save may be yours.

Discipline Restrains Dissipation

October 30, 2020

Augustine of Hippo wrote in his Confessions about how difficult were his Greek studies when a student. He wrote many times of the cruelty of his teachers who were quick to strike him with ruler or rod when he did not apply himself diligently or learn quickly enough.

With the freedom of curiosity, he thoroughly learned Latin, the everyday language of his time. Later when he appreciated Greek literature, he pondered why he hated learning it so much. He blamed his teachers.

Still later as he looked back on his life he realized a couple of things from this episode: “…free curiosity is a more powerful aid to the learning of languages than a forced discipline. Yet this discipline restrains the dissipation of that freedom.”

He then points to God’s laws as a discipline that prevents his straying into the dissipation of an excess of freedom.

Similarly the men who wrote the documents that formed the USA were concerned even back in the 1780s that people would forget that responsibility and discipline are a necessary complement to freedom.

We have teachers and preachers and politicians who perhaps veer too far toward discipline and adolescents in their 20s and 30s who still try to live too much into freedom without the balance of discipline.

Each of us must seek and find that balance of freedom and curiosity with discipline and responsibility.

Politically Correct

December 11, 2018

Many people (white men?) complain about the “politically correct” speech movement. They seem to feel it is a restraint on their freedom.

Why?

Do we need to be free to speak about people in demeaning terms?

Do we need to be free to preach hatred?

The founders of the American Republic were rightly concerned that people would grab onto the “rights” without considering the balancing “responsibilities”.

Especially as Christians, do we need social pressure to speak respectfully of others? To speak wisdom? To think before we speak (read the letter of James for a longer essay on this)?

I am almost never on Facebook anymore. I don’t see some of the memes going around. But I guess there is a kerfluffel about the “Christmas” song “Baby It’s Cold Out There.”

First, hate to burst your bubble, but this isn’t a Christmas song. It’s a winter song.

Next, the song is about a man convincing a reluctant woman to have sex with him. It is done playfully. That makes it even more dangerous.

Have we learned nothing from the last several years? Finding ways to convince or force others into having sex is simply not correct behavior. Forget “politically correct.” It is not morally correct.

In the terms of the Proverbs, many people seem to want the right to be a fool when we should be growing into Wisdom.

The Tongue Is A World of Evil

June 1, 2018

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

The words of the reckless pierce like swords…

We have known for millennia that it is wise to be responsible and aware of what we say–whether with our mouth or on Twitter. The first quote is from James from about 2,000 years ago. The second maybe from 1,000 years before that. Maybe more.

Once again, many lives are disrupted and many lines of division are drawn by reckless spouting off of unthinking opinion or a crude attempt at humor.

We know better, and yet we let emotion take over our lives, shun responsibility, say things that we cannot retract and later regret.

How often do we hear “I’ve got my rights” versus how often do we hear “I am responsible for how I use my rights”?

There are alternatives.

…but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

We get to choose.