Posts Tagged ‘unconditional’

Paul must not have been an very easy man to get along with. Probably stemming from his Pharisaic background, he appears to be quite the taskmaster. I imagine him as abrupt, determined, and overly confident. He lived by high standards and expected the same of others. Hmmm, that sounds uncomfortably familiar.

II Corinthians 2:1-2
BUT I definitely made up my mind not to grieve you with another painful and distressing visit. For if I cause you pain [with merited rebuke], who is there to provide me enjoyment but the [very] one whom I have grieved and made sad?

So much was expected of me as I was growing up in my family but I never seemed to make the mark. My brother was the successful one in school and my mother was always comparing me to him. I was the “last of the best” and somehow, that was worse than anything else. Smart, but never quite smart enough.

I lived such a roller coaster life: jumping in and out of people’s lives or making friends and losing friends or trying things and giving up on things or looking for fame and fortune but finding disappointment and loneliness.

When I finally accepted Christ at age 29 and stepped onto the “way,” for a long season, I actually became even more obnoxious. The very person I didn’t want to become, I became anyway: narrow, prideful, judgmental, assumptive. I used my faith like a club. What was I thinking? I thought I had all the answers. It took me thirty years to figure out I was just starting to understand the questions.

Am I saying that St. Paul smacks of that? Not necessarily, but I do think he stuck his foot in his mouth alot. He loved people but he wasn’t good with people. And I do that too.

He meant well too. And yet, his “chastisements” were a deep blow to those folks who were trying their best to understand it all, to “get” the new message, to accept the Messiah who had really come. . . and gone. I think they felt like they had actually missed the most important moment of their lives. All they had were their traditions and the stories of others like Paul. If we think our churches are crazy, I bet it was insane back then. Everything and I mean everything they had believed up until then was tossed out the window. It was a new day, a new kind of faith.

Paul was one of those “all or nothing” kind of guys. Stay or go. Believe or don’t believe, but “don’t waste my time or yours.” In some ways, that kind of dynamism is contagious and it’s easy to “follow” such a strong leader. But it can also be off putting.

I can be a bull in a china shop too. I tell you, when I’m right, I’m really right, but when I’m “wrong,” I’m really really wrong. Foot in mouth up to thigh. I say things I’m just thinking and others here me speaking with conviction and authority. Heck, I’m just thinking out loud.

Lord, forgive me for casting others aside with the sound of my voice. Forgive me for not remembering that lots of people are different from me, that they may need more time with information, that they may need to take a breath, that they may need space, that they may simply disagree with me.

Show me how to love unconditionally, to accept people right where they are. And to let you do the rest.

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In this passage from Romans, Paul writes that suffering goes hand in hand with glory. On this Ash Wednesday, it seems befitting to ask “what is suffering?”

Romans 8:17
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Much attention is paid to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross as his primary moment of suffering. And of course, that is true. He gave everything he had that day and died that we might become “heirs,” eligible for direct relationship with the Father–children.

But is that the suffering we are to duplicate? Some answer that we are to understand that Christ’s death on the cross symbolizes the sacrifices that we are to make on behalf of others. The implication is that those sacrifices will cause suffering. And that can happen.

I am thinking of simpler things today. I am considering other examples of Jesus’ suffering like the pain of rejection, sorrow, misunderstandings, false accusations, hatred, and attacks by crowds. His every word was scrutinized and his enemies were always trying to trip him up. Oh sure, the crowds followed and adored him but they were fickle. They marveled at his miracles but missed the message. They accepted the free food but missed the bread of life. For me, his greatest suffering was the pouring out of himself each day with little to nothing in return. He suffered in his love for us.

That’s right. Loving the unlovely is painful. Loving those who don’t want to love you back is a struggle. Loving when we are tired, feeling sick, or lonely is a challenge.

But there is a promised reward for loving in this way: glory. Our pastor says that glory is really the light or expression that comes from a fully formed character. Perhaps that is true.

Certainly, loving unconditionally brings change within. Loving unconditionally requires authenticity. This kind of love cannot be faked. As I become more transparent, even translucent, only then can the true glory, the Spirit of Christ become evident.

Teach me your Way, O Christ.

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