Am I not allowed to be hollow,
Or fall in the hole
Or break my bones (within me)
In the trap set by my own lie to myself? O my friend,
I too must sin and sin.
I too must hurt other people
(since I am no exception)
I must be hated by them.
Thomas Merton, “Whether There Is Enjoyment in Bitterness”
“Many hearers lose much blessing through criticizing too much, and meditating too little; and many more incur great sin by calumniating those who live for the good of others.
True pastors have enough of care and travail without being burdened by undeserved and useless fault-finding. We have something better to do than to be for ever answering every malignant or frivolous slander which is set afloat to injure us…. there are tender, loving spirits who feel the trial very keenly, and are sadly hindered in brave service by cruel assaults. The rougher and stronger among us laugh at those who ridicule us, but upon others the effect is very sorrowful…
As ministers we are very far from being perfect, but many of us are doing our best, and we are grieved that the minds of our people should be more directed to our personal imperfections than to our divine message ….
Filled with the same spirit of contrariety, the men of this world still depreciate the ministers whom God sends them and profess that they would gladly listen if different preachers could be found. Nothing can please them, their cavils are dealt out with heedless universality. Cephas is too blunt, Apollos is too flowery, Paul is too argumentative, Timothy is too young, James is too severe, John is too gentle…
Well then, let each servant of God tell his message in his own way. To his own Master he shall stand or fall…
Judge the preacher if you like, but do remember that there is something better to be done than that, namely, to get all the good you can out of him, and pray his Master to put more good into him.”
from Eccentric Preachers by C.H. Spurgeon
It is quite possible to do all sorts of morally virtuous things when our hearts are filled with fear, with pride, or with a desire for power.
Soren Kierkegaard says it is the normal state of the human heart to try to build its identity around something besides God.
The ego often hurts. That is because it has something incredibly wrong with it. [...] It is always drawing attention to itself– it does so every single day. It is always making us think about how we look and how we are treated.
[The ego] is incredibly busy doing two things in particular — comparing and boasting.
[The Corinthians] are unable to enjoy the fact they know Paul. The have to use their relationship with him for one-upmanship over each other in the church.
[Paul] will not even judge himself. It is as if he says, ‘I don’t care what you think – and I don’t care what I think. I have a very low opinion of your opinion of me – but I have a very low opinion of my opinion of me.’
His sins and his identity are not connected. He refuses to play that game. He does not see a sin and let it destroy his sense of identity. [...] He sees all kinds of sins in himself – and all kinds of accomplishments, too – but he refuses to connect them with himself or his identity.
A person who is devastated by criticism is putting too much value on what people think.
What we are all looking for is an ultimate verdict that we are important and valuable.
Do you realize that it is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance?
You can find this helpful little book on Amazon for less than $5.
Christians are given this daunting command in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
It can get trite and tired and simplistic, but this exhortation is essential to loving one another. We have to ask God to help us learn to authentically, wholeheartedly rejoice with those who are rejoicing. Also, and often more difficultly, we have to open our hearts to weep with those who weep. But how can we do this?
I don’t know the whole answer. One of my frequent sins in lack of empathy and a cold-heartedness towards others. Thankfully, I’ve had two friends show me the way.
Our first-conceived baby died in a miscarriage around Christmas 2006. When we shared this with friends in early 2007, my friend Brian didn’t try to cheer me up or explain it away. He simply said, with tears in his eyes, “We love you. And when you hurt, we hurt.” Brian was a wonderful example of loving us during those lonely days of grief.
With the loss of this baby, our friend J.J. just demonstrated the same love. He and his wife are no strangers to grief themselves, which I suspect informed his prayer yesterday when he said, “Father, we love Brian and Kassie, and when when they hurt, we hurt.”
Two guys who have never met. Six years between losses. The exact same empathetic words of love. I believe this is one way- one essential way- that we can love people as we weep with those who weep.
I was reading the other day in John 5. You’re probably familiar with the passage; it’s the one where Jesus meets a crippled man by the pool in Bethesda, which was known to have healing powers. He asks the man why he hasn’t gotten in the pool already, and the man says that he has no one to take him, and he can’t get there fast enough. Then the impossible happens: Jesus heals him.
We’ve had some dark days lately. Honestly, sometimes we just don’t even know if a pool of healing exists for us. But something we do know is that a lot of you are lifting us up, and we really appreciate that. Eventually God will give us the comfort we yearn for, and we thank you for your part in pleading for us.
After our Friday night/Saturday morning arrival, we all slept in. Malaki and I headed to the local donut shop (Poppy’s Daylight Donuts!) with Kassie’s dad and satisfied a year-long craving. We enjoyed Saturday by checking the cows and spending relaxed time as a family.
On Sunday, Kassie and I were both able to share a bit about this past year with New Life Church in Anderson, Missouri. Then I preached about God’s fatherly love and forgiveness for Christians from the book of Galatians. We had a wonderful time visiting with the people at New Life.
Sunday afternoon was for taking a nap, listening to a Cardinals game, and loading some bulls into the cattle trailer. Kassie’s dad and Malaki took the bulls to the livestock auction and we waited for our luggage to arrive.