Today I was reminded of the story of a visiting teacher who came into town to educate some of his students on how they might best communicate the tenets of their discipline. There were perhaps 12-15 invited to the lecture and they gathered together in eager anticipation. Over several hours they were instructed by their mentor on a variety of techniques and pieces of advice on educating others why it was important that they hear about their own studies and what it meant to them.
A short time later a few of the attendees observed two invitees who chose not to attend conversing with members of their township. And they were speaking on the topic the visiting teacher originally came to lecture on earlier that week. Since the visiting teacher was still in town, a few of those newly educated approached the teacher and said “Teacher, we’ve observed two men in the town who are going about speaking of your tenets yet they did not attend your lectures !”. The teacher listened to what the non-attendees had to say about what they observed. He heard only that while they did not attend the lecture, they also were not contradicting the teacher’s training. To that the teacher replied “Do not stop them, for if they are not against us then they are with us” The teacher here is Jesus. The two ‘outsiders’ were followers but weren’t seen attending the teachers earlier lectures. They were noticed to be driving out demons from the afflicted. (Luke 9:49:50)
I think these are important concepts for todays times. We see this story played out in our daily lives, in the media, in the experiences we share amongst ourselves. We’ve all done this: Where we find (ourselves or see) others observing a given activity, find their commentaries unpalatable, make a determination on same, and then , given that dissonance between what we believe and what they said (or did), arrive at the conclusion that “if they’re not with us then they are altogether, in every other aspect, against us.” We over-extend our estimation, our judgements from a single instance and apply it over a person’s lifetime (of which we may know very little about). We” throw the baby out with the bath water”.
If we do find ourselves doing this in the future, and we all will, at a minimum it will deserve self-reflection, introspection; try to answer the questions “Why do I feel this way?” Is it about something in our past which still hurts that this person has touched on? Maybe it doesn’t exactly fit with how we feel about the situation? Maybe it bothers us because it speaks about someone we love? If it is not specifically about you as an individual then why object to it? What might have made it more palatable to listen to ? Why was it personal to you or are we just part of the rabble? If we step far enough away from the singular is the “whole” really different from His message? A specific criticism about the situation is one thing, and freedom of speech is the law of our land, so by all means have at it. But is the contested action/message worth throwing the baby out with the bathwater? This all reminds me of another favorite quote: “Scripture is Sacred, but the methods are flexible.”. As we approach Easter Sunday, let us pray that we have His eyes and see our situations as He would see them and have His wisdom on how we view it.
” Give a warm welcome to any brother who wants to join you, even though his faith is weak. Don’t criticize him for having different ideas from yours about what is right and wrong.” Romans 14:1 (TLB)