I Disagree

Words have no wings but they can fly a thousand miles. ~Korean Proverb

I was asked to give a devotional thought at a meeting.

There was disharmony in the group, and my devotional addressed that. I wasn’t asked to speak again for ten years.

It hurts to have your toes stepped on. You know deep down you are wrong, or maybe pieces of what you are doing is wrong, but you just can’t admit that your dance is out of step with the Lord.

I believe the reason I was asked to speak later was that I never- never– said anything bad about the leadership or the organization. They were my friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and we had different opinions. I still loved them and they still loved me.

Paul and Barnabas were good friends. They liked each other, traveled together, shared bread and drink, and called Jesus Lord.

In Acts 15, they had a disagreement that caused them to part company. I don’t know who was right. Maybe both were right.

But I suspect both of them were also wrong.

Their disagreement isn’t what I want you to notice. What I want you to notice isn’t there.

Not once- not one single time– does Paul condemn or slander Barnabas. We have many of Paul’s writings. We have historical records of the early church. If something was said, you can bet we’d know it.

You know what I mean.

You’re new to town, trying out a church, and within weeks you’re told the dirt on all the screw-ups. It doesn’t matter that the arguments started in 1986 when someone thought a new song book was a good idea. There are people you should just stay away from.

Your kids’ new friends from the Northeast don’t address their elders with “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir,” and they borrowed their neighbor’s garden hose without asking when the grill caught fire. The scuttlebutt is that the teen is a druggie and they’re all headed to jail. Better steer clear.

Maybe some of what others are saying is true. Maybe the family with the bright purple house is an eyesore and they don’t use their money wisely. But is it helping anyone to say it?

Sometimes the Bible tells us a lot by not telling us anything.

And sometimes we shouldn’t say anything either.

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. Proverbs 17:9 NIV

Jealousy

The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves. ~William Penn

One of my middle school students belongs to a radio-reading club. She and a boy write a script together and then read it to the school over the PA system.

Another girl in the school likes this boy and gives my student “the evil eye” at lunch time.  There is nothing for the other girl to be jealous of; my student is in love with her cat and doesn’t seem to have noticed boys yet.

Jealousy is funny like that. It shows up to the party whether or not it was invited.

Paul and Barnabas were passing through Pisidian Antioch and went into the synagogue. During the meeting, the leaders of the synagogue invited them to speak.

Paul and Barnabas told the gathered Jews and Gentiles about Jesus and the free gift of salvation. The people invited the two men to come back and teach the following week.

When the next Sabbath came, nearly the entire city showed up to hear what Paul and Barnabas had to say.

You see it coming, don’t you?

A big green cowboy riding into town on an even greener horse.

The very people who had invited Paul and Barnabas to speak were now filled with jealousy. They began to spread lies about the men. They incited the “popular people” against them and had them run out of town.

They lost the gift and gained the grave.

We can see the error of their ways, but can we see our own?

Do you invite a friend to join your book club but regret it when she becomes the life of the party?

Do you audition with a friend for the local theater and then smirk at every mistake she makes after she gets the lead role?

Or is it more serious than that? Have you hoped your Christian brother or sister would fail? That bad things would happen to them instead of to you for a change? That their children would screw up like yours?

Notice in Acts 13, that it isn’t the jealous synagogue rulers who have a happy ending. It’s the ones who followed Jesus and let others live in the limelight.

But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. James 3:14-16 NIV

Community Property

A man is called selfish not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbor’s. ~Richard Whately

“I know you; I grew up down the road from your dad.”

I was at summer camp, volunteering as a counselor. She was many years my senior, but that didn’t stop her from teaching the next generation with energy and enthusiasm.

“Your grandma used to send food to us because my mother was ill. She even gave us shoes to go to school.”

I was blown away.

My grandparents had thirteen children. I’m not sure how they afforded to clothe their own kids, let alone the ones down the road. But their generosity was still remembered sixty or seventy years later.

I remember the professor’s wife who invited us to Thanksgiving dinner because she had once been far from home herself.

I remember the mother of a student who passed along clothes to my little guys because she had three boys of her own and knew how  quickly they can go through a pair of pants.

Even now I think of my neighbor who keeps our howling hound free of charge every time we leave town. She does it for the sake of love.

The early church had an opportunity. They were surrounded by people in need. Travelers, widows, sick neighbors, and the constant threat of famine were common drains on the community. Many of these problem people were ignored, shunned, or exiled.

But the church seized the opportunity and goodness spread.

The hospital movement owes its momentum to Christians. Orphanages developed as early as the fourth century because of Christians. Christians promoted leprosy communities, libraries, education, and safe living quarters.

What started as a small movement- share your possessions with others- became a hallmark of the Christian church.

What started as a meal and a pair of shoes for my grandma’s neighbor turned into a lifetime of serving others.

You may not think you are doing much today, but you never know where those offered shoes may travel.

Follow in the footsteps of those first Christians, wherever they may lead you. Because good deeds are remembered, and love is recognized.


I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:36-40 ESV

Name Your Enemies

The Lord gave me ‘Sojourner,’ because I was to travel up an’ down the land, showin’ the people their sins an’ bein’ a sign unto them. Afterwards, I told the Lord I wanted another name ’cause everybody else had two names, and the Lord gave me ‘Truth,’ because I was to declare the truth to people. ~Sojourner Truth

She was sincere and alarmed, disgruntled and uncomfortable. God was talking to her.

My young friend was having difficulties with a brother and sister. She felt that God was compelling her to pray for them. So she settled down, Bible on her lap, feet tucked under her, head bowed.

“God, you know these two are really giving me trouble.”

Say their names.

She sat stunned. Did she really just hear God? Did he really tell her she had to say their names?

“What? You want me to what? But they’re my enemies. I’ll pray for them, but I don’t want to say their names.”

Say their names.

She sighed and started praying again- naming each offender instead of each offense.

A week later she told me the relationships were mended.

Names are our identity. We are not a number, not another face in the crowd, not just another thing that has to be dealt with.

When my friend prayed for her enemies by name, she lowered the gate to her heart.

Jesus said:

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6: 32-36 NIV

I’m guessing your daily life doesn’t include machine guns and tanks. You don’t fly stealth bombers. You don’t have night-vision goggles.

But you do know people who hurt you, say things about you. People who do their best to get under your skin. People who push your buttons.

Jesus said to love them. Be kind to them.

Go ahead. Try it.

Call them by name.


 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 NIV