Tag Archives: love

Report Potholes

Living where I do, potholes are a given.  These are not mere shallow depressions in the roadway; these contend in the annual “Imitation Grand Canyon” competition.  I have seen some of these potholes swallow entire circus caravans…including the trucks carrying the Ferris Wheel and the elephants. 

I have hit some of these potholes (even at slower speeds) with such jarring effect that each and every joint and bolt (both in the car and in my body) resonated with the jolt.  The ubiquity of potholes, particularly during winter months, is one of the reasons why the state highway department displays “Report Potholes” signs along the roadways.  This is an effort, I am sure, to corral community cooperation to slay the pothole beasts before they swallow too many circus caravans…or Dodge Caravans. 

And…delightfully…you can “report potholes” without any of the guilt or fear of retribution if you were to, say, report one of those semi drivers with those brazen bumper stickers:  “If you see me driving badly call 1-800-I-DON’T-CARE!”  [I know, you have seen other, more (ahem) “colorful” variations of that bumper sticker, but I try to post a PG blog.] 

[As an aside, speaking of roadway signs, I live in a community that has seen fit to spend taxpayer dollars to put up a couple of street signs that say, “Turn off your turn signal.”  I suppose this is for fear that we will be perpetually following people who lead us to believe that they are turning left, when in fact they are continuing on straight ahead.  And no, those signs are not outside the local Senior Citizens Center.] 

Meanwhile…back at the potholes…and the warning signs.  I think we’d all agree that helping people avoid potholes, and the accompanying potential for damage, is an inherently good thing.  Potholes can seriously affect a vehicle’s well-being, cause thousands of dollars in damage, and perhaps even set up multi-vehicle accidents with the attendant risks to life and limb.  In short, the warning is helpful.  The warning is not designed to sap joy from our lives.  The warning is, in fact, designed to help us know more joy…or, in this case, at least less road trauma. 

We are usually appreciative of those kinds of warnings, unless they come at us from another source:  the Bible.  When warnings come at us from the Bible, our first reaction is often a crouching defensiveness…the sense that someone, somewhere is on a “search and destroy” mission to excise any mirth from our lives and make us into sour-pussed, joyless, freaks.  Of course, behind the Bible is the God of the Bible who can be seen (through this lens) as the author of dull and boring. 

H.L. Menken, the early 20th Century journalist and wag, spoke thusly (about Puritanism but oft extrapolated to anyone/thing that derives wisdom and caution from biblical admonition):  “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”  

So it is regularly the case that any warning of any kind that proceeds from a biblical perspective is cast in this same joy-sapping light.  Which, to be blunt, is just plain stupid.  God’s plan for His people is not a life of misery.  And it’s precisely because He cares so much that we find our joy in Him that he puts up warning signs along the way–the biblical equivalent of “Report Potholes.” 

Dust off the Ten Commandments for a minute or two and see what’s really happening there.  The prelude to the Commandments (Exodus 20:1) is a reminder to the rabble gathered at the foot of Mt. Sinai that God had just performed a wondrous rescue mission.  And, in the effort to build the nation of Israel, He then, “Reports Potholes.”  He says, “Watch out!  If you fall into one of these potholes you will not enjoy the life of blessing for which I have created you and to which I have called you.” 

Don’t worship false gods; if you do, you are missing the mark and will fall into the pothole of misdirected allegiance that can only leave you empty. 

Don’t bandy the name of God about as if it’s a mere exclamation point or (worse still) a profanity.  If you do, you will fall into a pothole of deity diminishment that shrinks the majesty of Him and His created order which then fosters a most repressive cynicism. 

Don’t forget that you are a finite creature and that you need a rhythm of work and rest in your life.  If you don’t take God up on His plan for that rhythmic existence, you will fall into the pothole of self-importance, convinced that the universe cannot function without you.  We are all just “penciled in” and God’s work and rest rhythm underscores our finite nature while providing the refreshment our bodies and spirits crave. 

Don’t monkey around on your spouse; if you do you will fall into the pothole of “commodity relationships” that miss the fruit God has packed into the laboratory of love He designed–a laboratory where we can learn what it’s like to love at least one person throughout the vagaries of life. 

Don’t lie.  If you do, you will gut the currency of human relationships and fall into the pothole of a faux world–a world where trust and its attendant intimacy cannot be found because they cannot be given. 

You get the points, right?  These Commandments are not joy sappers; they are markers of dangerous potholes that will ultimately derail our relationships with God and each other. 

And sometimes, carefully, gently, humbly, gingerly, but sincerely, we have to be counter cultural souls, willing to risk the wrath of western society’s relativistic atmospherics and say to our fellow travelers: “Watch out.  You are heading for a pothole.”  Or, to put it the Apostle Paul’s way, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted (Galatians 6:1). 

That is not license to stampede through someone’s life as a self-appointed “lifestyle posse.”  It is the call Christians share to “Report Potholes”–to care for each other in ways that say, “The road you are on is a dangerous one.” 

Jesus said that He had come that we might have “life to the full” (“abundant life” in the King’s English).  This fullness of life has multiple dimensions but surely one of them is the reporting of “potholes” so that our fellow travelers will not be wrecked from the jarring and jerking. 

© All rights reserved.  Scripture quotations from the NIV.


The “Not So New Math” or When Does $29 Equal $1340?

Confession:  I am not a math whiz…adding and subtracting, simple multiplication and division; those operations pretty much exhaust my math skills.  I figure (get it? “figure”?) that, if God had wanted me to be a math whiz, He would not have overseen the creation of the MyScript Calculator app for my phone.  And, calculus?  Math with no numbers?  Why oh why oh why?

But, I am also not an idiot.  Stop:  put those hands down; I know you want to object to my self-descriptor, but you cannot.  Unless, of course, you post a comment; then I suppose you can…object…that is. 

So I was mildly (only mildly; I’ll unpack that momentarily) surprised when we were at the auto dealership last night.  My car’s lease had come up and it was time to make the dreaded decisions: purchase or lease; new or used; same make and model or different.  Some people love car shopping.  I rank car shopping down there with root canals (with or without Novocain) and expressing the slime from a MRSA infection.  [Yes, I know that was a gross mental image, but it’s truly how I feel about car shopping.] 

Meanwhile…back at the car dealership.  A nice chap (The Cheerful Car Chap or CCC) was very happy to see us when we arrived.  He held the door for us as we entered the showroom (partially to escape the ridiculous cold).  [On another note:  Polar Vortex, go back to the Pole or Poland, or wherever you came from; I’m done with the subzero wind chill.]  He asked us why we were there and that’s when I produced the ad his dealership friends had so kindly emailed:  the ad for a $29 lease!  I figured I could afford a $29 lease.  The CCC inquired as to our car preference. 

I shared with him that we were looking for something a little bigger than we’d had.  The compact I had driven for three years had been great: terrific gas mileage coupled with car doors that locked and unlocked electronically (that last bit is an entirely other story); that car had gotten me around town and up and down the East Coast. 

But it was a small car and I have, ahem, “girthed up” somewhat over the last few years. [Comments about my increased girth are not welcome and will be ignored.]  So I was looking for something with more ease of ingress and egress.  The CCC took us on a test run in a larger car and it seemed to be just the thing.  The CCC showed us the various available colors and we picked one:  blue (the lighter blue because the dark blue looks kind of purple in the dark under street lights; I know this because my friend has one and I had teased him about it.  Purple is fine for many people; just not me). 

We then sat down with The CCC to “do the deal.”  That’s when came the “math surprise.”  It wasn’t a complete surprise (as I mentioned earlier).  Unfortunately I have come to expect “car dealership surprises” packed into the fine print or hidden behind some obscure link on some not so crystal clear web site. 

The “fine print” (in this case) meant that $29 was just the beginning of the math problem.  To the $29, it seems, one must add:  the first month’s lease payment, dealer prep charges, documentation fees, taxes, tips, licenses, bonuses, flea dusting charges (threw that last one in there to see if you were paying attention), etc.  Final tally:  $1340 NOT $29. 

Since I had been half expecting additional fees and the final amount was in the price range we had anticipated, we went ahead and closed the deal.  My girthness now girths itself in a roomier ride. 

But the auto dealership is not the only place where very little can mean much, much more. 

When we come to the place where we recognize our need for Jesus Christ, we realize that we have very, very little to offer: broken and sin-scarred souls and a spiritual pauper’s faith (not even $29 worth, really…and…it turns out that the $29 we thought we gave Him, had itself been a gift).  He takes our $29 then does some Not So New Math:  grace “operations” that have been performed since eternity by a loving, Heavenly Father:  He turns our measly $29 into ever much more. 

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every familyin heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19).

Not bad…our meagerness being turned by God into a life that is much, much more than we dreamed possible:  wider, longer, higher, deeper.  Not bad at all for $29.

I think I’ll hoist my girth into the new car and go for a ride. 

© All rights reserved.  Scripture from the NIV, Zondervan.

 

 

 

 

 

 


30 Days to Spring Training or What’s Wrong with Christian Free Agency?

Coming off last year’s World Series win for the Boston Red Sox, it’s a sure thing that Red Sox Nation is eagerly anticipating (nay…salivating for) the annual signals that America’s Pastime will resume.  Thirty days from today, pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.

Plus…it’s been (already) enough of a miserable winter that any sign of spring approaching is most welcome.

Of course, given the vagaries and complexities of modern baseball, the 2014 team will not be identical to the 2013 team.  Some of the names that we got used to during last year’s playoff run will, sigh, be playing for other teams [Jacobi is off to the Bronx…though he did leave with class].

One of the highlights of last season’s really fun run was Boston Designated Hitter, David Ortiz (Big Papi).  He had an incredible .959 On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage (OPS) and led the team in his inimitable style.  That style included the tide-turning pep talk to his posse during game four of the World Series.  Baseball writer Kevin Paul Dupont called it Ortiz’s “Fall Classic carpe diem” and the “series’ seminal moment.”  That’s our Big Papi, wading in unscripted to engage Fenway’s baseball boys with his own brand of insight and determination.

National audiences had previously seen this when, post the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings at the very beginning of the baseball season, Ortiz dared anyone else to mess with “our f_____ng city.”  Did I wince (well, simultaneously wince and smirk) at the choice expletive?  Yes.  Did I resonate with the voice of determination?  Absolutely.  That same determination led Ortiz to challenge his teammates to be the team they had been all season long and bring the World Series title home to Boston.  They did.

David Ortiz is apparently, at this writing, in talks to extend his contract with the Red Sox.  I don’t have any special insight; I just know what I’ve read.  He wants to stay another year and I think the team wants him to stay another year.

After the 2014 season, Big Papi will become a baseball Free Agent.  He will have more room to maneuver with respect to his contract negotiations, but he will also be on the edge of player viability.  He doesn’t seem to be slowing down but you never know.

Besides the fact that I love to watch the Red Sox boys play (hence the Big Papi preamble), I am fascinated by this notion of Free Agency…the movement of talented (and sometimes not so talented) players between teams.  In baseball’s yesteryear, players were often married to the same team (for better or for worse) for their entire career.  Now team rosters are much more fluid from year to year–that fluidity a byproduct of Free Agency. 

As a Christian I am also fascinated by the Church’s own version of Free Agency.  Players (a.k.a. church members) who regularly migrate from place to place (church to church) in search of that perfect place that dispenses perfect ministry that perfectly matches their needs (desires, whims, preferences…insert your own noun).  

While recognizing that there is no such thing as a perfect church, I am puzzled by the seeming fragility of contemporary church connections–a fragility that rests on this notion of Free Agency.  Of course, I suppose it is largely a blessing that there are so many “options” for believers for worship and service.  But, there it is, the tendency to think more in consumerist North American terms than biblical terms: options. 

I pastored a church in Colorado for several years.  By “steeple envy” standards we did alright.  We may even have done well by God’s standards.  All that to say, we weren’t the “coolest” place in town but we were in the “top tier” [I know…worldly standards misapplied to Kingdom endeavors] of places to be “checked out” by the town’s new arrivals and by those who were somehow disenchanted with the place in which they worshipped. 

In that resort community, during my eleven or twelve years there, I was regularly amazed at the number of people who had been “called” to plant churches amongst the sun and winter frolicking destinarians (yes, I made up a word).  At the time, by my count, there were about 25 evangelically minded churches in a town of (then) 6,500 in a county of (then) 14,000.  If you spent a year at each church, you could move from place to place to place for a quarter of a century before having to start over.  By then, presumably, the church(es) fostering the disenchantment would have been able to get their act(s) together…or not.

Then came the archetypal Christian Free Agent.  She was in her 60s; she was grumpy; she had a mild-mannered (rarely heard) husband and she (one sunny winter’s day) alighted in our worship center.  She engaged pretty well and was initially upbeat, but after five or six months came a litany of “concerns.”  Upon further exploration with her it seemed that the church had failed to meet her expectations on several fronts. 

I was younger and dumber and less full of the kind of grace, tact, and diplomacy (and warmth and fuzziness) for which I am known today (sarcasm is hard to render blogwise).  I finally said, “Junia [that’s not her real name and perhaps me using that name is one of the reasons she huffed so…not really…I actually used her real name when I spoke with her, but I have changed the name to protect the guilty…and dodge litigation]…Junia,” I said, “You’ve been to eight churches in the last ten years [I am not making that up].  Is it at all possible that perhaps there might be an issue with you that has nothing to do with any of those churches?” 

Her husband slunk out of the room like a dog who had messed the carpet.  If I had been smarter, I would have left with him.  What followed was an explosive airburst not seen since the first hydrogen bomb (“Mike”) was tested at the Enewetak Atol in 1952.  Well…it probably wasn’t that bad…it just seemed that way.  Leaving her house that evening, shaking the fallout from my brain, I again pondered the fragility of church connections and the multiplicity of options available to those in the Body of Christ who largely think of themselves in “Free Agent” terms.

This is not to say that some churches sometimes aren’t egregious in their wounding of the gathered saints.  This is not to say that some solid saints haven’t gone the extra mile (or hundred miles) to try and redeem church circumstances such that they can remain and thrive.  Sadly, the church sometimes grossly disappoints, dissatisfies, and disheartens, thwarting even the most committed Christ follower’s attempts to make a go of it. 

It is to say that, in my view, the threshold for moving on to “another team” in our Christian Free Agency system is much too low.  It is to say that a distorted view of “freedom in Christ” tends to minimize the biblical call for perseverance, restoration, forgiveness, and plain old “hanging in there.”  The Bible commends persistence through difficulties and the beauty of brethren and sisteren dwelling in a unity based, not on preference satisfaction, but on commitment to Christ and each other, even when we disappoint.

“Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature,” the Apostle Paul said, “Instead, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13). 

© All rights reserved.  Scripture from the NIV, Zondervan.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Of Spies & Lies & MI5

I am a spy show addict.  There…I’ve written it down for all the world (or at least the dozens…ok, maybe a dozen) blog readers to see.  Back from when I was a kid and my parents took me and my brothers to see a double feature of James Bond films at the drive in, I’ve been a fan of spies.

More recently my wife and I watched through the entire run of MI5 on Netflix.  It was a great show…the only problem was that they regularly killed off key, main characters.  It got to the point where we would guess how long each new “main player” would last on the show.  The MI5 series finally came to an end when, during the last episode, they killed off all the main characters, the writers, producers, camera jockeys, and some stray cats that had wandered onto the set.

But here’s the deal with spies…they deal in lies.  They cannot, by virtue of their role in the world, be who they actually are.  They spy and they lie.  They lie in order to spy.  They are not who they appear to be.  Not with their families, not with their friends, ultimately not even with each other.  They are spies and they tell lies.  They present themselves as one kind of person but they are a different kind of person altogether.  They pretend in order to get:  information, advantage, position.  They lie to spy and they are not who they pretend to be.

This hit me the other day when I was having lunch with someone who needed a listening ear.  At the end of the conversation, I said, “If you need to, reach out; I’ll do my best to be there.”  He said, “I know you will; you’re the real deal.” 

I thought instantly:  I’m not the real deal.  I’m very much a fake deal.  The outside of me, the me I present to the world, may seem like the real deal, but just below the surface is the genuine me and, trust me, it’s anything but the real deal.  It’s a very fake deal.  There is a very deep disconnect between the person I want to be in Christ and the person I actually am. 

Paul says this in Romans 7:14-25a, 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

I know that God’s Spirit is at work in me to more conform me to the image of Christ.  I know that He who has begun a good work in me is faithful to complete it.  I know that when I am weak, He is strong.  I know that with people this is impossible but that with God all things are possible.  I know these things and yet I still feel like a spy.  I feel very much like not the real deal.  And it is troublesome.

It’s troublesome because, if spies have to pretend in order to get, I think followers of Jesus have to be real in order to give.  We have to be closer to the person God wants us to be in order to be available to Him for His purposes.  I think, with Paul, that this self-awareness is ok.  He is not crippled by realizing he is not yet the real deal.  He is energized to move more in the direction of Jesus, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

I am not after perfection here; that is beyond my grasp.  I look forward to being made perfect but I know that’s an operation for the other side.  What I am hoping for is a bit of convergence.  A closer trafficking between the person I actually am and the person God is growing me to be.  If I can get closer to being who God wants me to be, I can say to someone who might mistakenly believe I’m the “real deal,” that I am not, but at least I know it.  I’m not the real deal but I know who is:  Jesus.  And, even me (as the not real deal) can point people towards the One who is.

​© All rights reserved.  Scripture from the NIV, Zondervan.


Of Sin & Consequences & Scooter Scars

I was at a seminar or conference somewhere; I don’t remember where.  What I do remember is that one of my favorite speakers was there; in fact, he’s the reason I decided to attend said conference.  Chuck Swindoll has, since the time I became a follower of Jesus, one of my favorites.  He is wise; he communicates with depth and relevance; and he is completely down to earth.  WYSIWYG in computer geek speak:  what you see is what you get.

On this particular occasion, Chuck was reflecting on the fact that he was a little older and that, as he had aged, he had come to realize that he held fewer and fewer things as rock solid absolutes.  Don’t misunderstand, he was not denying the verities of the faith; he was simply admitting that the determined certainty of youth had given way to a maturing recognition that we are not often as right as we think we are. 

In the context of teaching or preaching communication, he was identifying with those who sometimes say, “Well, I’m not as dogmatic about that as I used to be.”  Again, rest assured, the crux of Christianity is safe in Chuck’s hands; he was just, in a word or two (my words), being a little more humble and a little less strident than we often tend to be when we are younger.

I’ve thought about that approach a lot as I have, ahem, matured (not aged–there is an important distinction).  I ponder, from time to time, those things that I hold as rock solid basics.  And here’s one that I see with increasing clarity as time pulls me along:  I am a sinner.  Sinless perfection advocates to the contrary; I realize that the longer I am around, the more I see that sin ravages me and those around me.  Calvin was, I believe, right on this score.  Down to the depths of my DNA, I am a sinner.  In every crevice of my mind lurks the enticement (and anticipation of willful participation) to sin.  I sin most when I think I’ve gotten “past” some particular besetting sin; only to find that it jumps me like a thug on the street–crippling my relational capacity, derailing my work, and banishing the joy from my life.  I am a sinner.

What’s surprising to me, though, is how often I am still taken aback by the fact that my sin has consequences.  How my tendency to pride precludes me from hearing wisdom from others.  How my tendency to selfishness blinds me to the joy of giving.  How my capacity for criticism carves its way through the hearts and minds of others, diminishing their selves and their own capacity for goodness and grace.  Consequences.  “The wages of sin is death,” we are told.  But we (at least I) don’t often see that death comes in degrees and that every time I sin, I am an instrument of mortality to myself and others.

To be sure I know the reality of the grace of God in my life.  In fact, the enormity of my sin compels me to find refuge in the mercy of Jesus and His work on the cross.  “The wages of sin is death,” Paul says, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).  However, I am more and more aware of the deep and lasting impact of my sin and the consequences that so quickly flow from my sinful decisions.

I was visiting family.  One of my nieces had a Razor Scooter–one of those mini-wheeled things that kids so use to dart and bob and weave through suburban streets.  I decided to take the scooter for a spin.  I went down the hill adjacent to the house, quickly gaining speed (make that:  QUICKLY GAINING SPEED!).  I realized almost immediately that I had not asked a key question:  How do you stop this thing?  So, barreling down the street, confident that I was breaking the sound barrier (How do I know I was breaking the sound barrier?  I could not hear my own screams), I decided there was only one way to stop:  I would head to the side of the street and tumble into the grass.  This was a superior idea, except that my advance team had failed to clear the pebbles from the side of the street.  I hit the pebbles, went down into a skin scraping slide and wound up (actually wound down, face down, that is) mere inches from the soft safety of the grass. 

Monkey down.  I say monkey down because I was wearing my monkey boxer shorts that morning and my first thought (honestly) was that, if I had to go to the hospital, the medical team would not take my wounds seriously because of the monkeys.  I mean, who would?  And my mother would have been right…the first diagnostic procedure in the emergency room is the Underwear Check.

Fortunately I did not have to go the hospital.  My wife and brother tended my wounds (BUT THEY DID LAUGH AT THE MONKEYS).  I still have scars on my hand though–I call them the scooter scars.  They remind me that my choices have consequences.  They remind me that I am a sinner.  They remind me that I desperately need the grace of God at work in my life.  They remind me that, as I (ahem), yes, age, I resonate more completely with the words of the Apostle Paul:  “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:24,25).

© All rights reserved.  Scripture from the NIV, Zondervan.


Just Like Nose Hairs

I was seated across from him at lunch; trying to have an earnest conversation.  But my conversation attempts were constantly thwarted by the Houdini of nose hairs.  Sometimes it wasn’t there; sometimes it was.  I it appeared; it escaped!  I couldn’t tell what made it come or go; was it the waitress?  Was it the salad?  Was it something clever I said?  And why did it flick out from its hiding place for only parts of our conversation?  I managed to keep a straight face during the conversation but, trust me, IT WAS VERY, VERY HARD!

This particular nose hair was one of those very long gray ones that lash out like some kind of nasal switch blade; determined to slice and dice (or at least tickle) anyone that got in its way.   I could not tell what made it sometimes pierce the air between us and sometimes duck for cover.  I also wondered how a (what seemed to be) six-inch nose hair could appear, disappear, and reappear without its human host head noticing.

I am puzzled by nose hairs and their auricular cousins:  ear hairs (Don’t get me started on ear hairs–I mean, if you’re going to have ear hairs, shouldn’t you have enough ear hairs to keep your ears warm?  But no, they manifest only in groups of two or three, parading themselves for all the world to see [after you, yourself, look away from the mirror in the morning], but are totally useless.  You can’t even comb them up to the top of your head to make up for the retreating head hairs.  Life is decidedly not fair.)

Nose hairs don’t show up until later in life; usually.  They remain latent until, detecting the creeping advance of middle age, they suddenly announce themselves one morning in the mirror.  And–they are completely useless.  They are annoying and, no matter how much you trim or pull (which is hard; gripping a nose hair to pull, that is); THEY KEEP COMING BACK!  You cannot make them go away; as much as you might try; they are resilient; they are the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae facing the menacing might of the Persian Empire; they will not fall (out, that is).

It occurred to me a while back that the Body of Christ suffers from a strikingly similar problem.  Just like nose hairs, it keeps coming back.  You can’t seem to kill it off and it is also decidedly not helpful.  In fact, it’s downright harmful.  And, unlike nose hairs, not in the least amusing.

What is this menace in the Body of Christ?  It is harmful speech.  Words spoken to wound.  Words spoken carelessly.  Words spoken from a presumed superior position.  Words that cannot be retrieved once spoken.  Words that land in the middle of someone’s spirit like a neutron bomb–their outward bodily appearance is intact, but the killing effect of the “radiation” has taken deep root. 

Why is it that, in Larry Crabb’s words, what is supposed to be the Safest Place on Earth, is often the source of such ruinous speech?  For the life of me, I cannot figure out why people, who have been redeemed by the preeminent act of grace, can be so profoundly graceless in our speech.  It’s a puzzler.

I know, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).  I know, “I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Rom. 7:15).  But chalking our harmful speech up to, “I can’t help it because I stumble in many ways,” JUST DOESN’T CUT IT.

I think we need to stop.  We need to speak words of hope and healing and help into the lives of the people around us.  Are there times when particularly egregious behavior needs to be lovingly confronted?  Sure.  But we all know that our wounding words are usually not that.  We all know that our wounding words spring from selfishness and carelessness and a lack of loving investment in our neighbors–from a sense of superiority and smugness and self-righteousness.

 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of [our] mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).

I have to go now; I have some nose hairs to trim.  And, if you happen to be having lunch with me (or breakfast or dinner or popcorn at the movies for that matter), and you see a Houdini nose hair make an appearance; go ahead, laugh…just let me laugh with you.

© All rights reserved.  Scripture quotations from the NIV, Zondervan.


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