Faith

Love in 274 Words – Paul and Me

Last week, a friend shared this article entitled “Preach it like Lincoln”. It had a juicy challenge: “what would it be like to preach a sermon in just 272 words?” (the length of the Gettysburg Address, an astoundingly brilliant and short speech).

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That got me curious. My text for this past Sunday was 1 Corinthians 13 — a passage similar to Lincoln’s in its brevity, familiarity, and beauty. So I counted. In the NIV, it has 274 words. Sweet, I got two bonus words to try to preach Love like Paul did.

Here’s what I came up with:

If you point out that someone is in a ditch, and tell them that they shouldn’t be in that ditch, and tell them just how deep that ditch is, and then throw them a shovel to dig that ditch deeper, that isn’t love. No matter how sweet you are about it, you’re not loving them.

If you keep the rules: don’t swear, don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t cheat on your spouse, read the Bible daily, pray for the brokenhearted, give your money away, that isn’t love. Congratulations, you’ve won a prize that’s incredibly hard to get but not worth a dime.

If you surround yourself with people who see the world the way you do, agree on everything (anything important anyway), take them casseroles when they’re sick, exchange Christmas gifts, that isn’t love. That’s a holy huddle. But turn around: you’ll find some people who really need love (and may even love you back).

Love walks the line. Love forsakes the right to pick who’s in and who’s out, who’s right, who’s wrong, who deserves and who does not. Love lives on Calvary. Watching slings and arrows from every side: Pharisees, Romans, conservatives, liberals. Love never gets to settle in. Love is never comfortable.

We can do all that other stuff. It will be fun and probably make us feel good. That’s fine. But we can’t call ourselves Christians until we’re ready to love. Until we’re ready to follow the man who died on the cross, forgiving his executioners. Until that love turns us upside down, and makes us see every last scoundrel as God’s beloved. Then we have loved. Then we are Christians.

It was a good, if hopeless, exercise. It reminded me of a quote I can’t find (I want to say it was Walter Brueggemann) that the most important words that are shared every Sunday in worship are the words of scripture. It was a good dose of humility, reminding me what an awesome and terrifying calling it is to preach God’s Word for God’s people every Sunday.

How would you preach love in 274 words?

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Faith, Life

Forcing the Call: Why I Want to Thank Jonathan Martin

There’s this play in football made by defensive players at least once a game. If they see an offensive player move, or twitch, or do anything that could be called false start, they are not supposed to just wait for the refs to blow the whistle. They are now coached to stand up, cross the line, touch or push the offending player and force the refs to make the call. At this point they have to throw the flag, one way or another. The player forces the refs to have a discussion about who is at fault.

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I want to thank Jonathan Martin for crossing the line and forcing us to make the call.

When one valuable player resigns and another is suspended, we have to pay attention. Now we’re having the discussion: Who is at fault?

Now, maybe Jonathan Martin had no such grand designs when he resigned. Most likely he just decided that this kind of abuse was not worth it. Just that is saying a lot, I’m sure he didn’t decide to give up such a dream job with a lucrative salary without a lot of soul-searching.

But in effect, as this story has spilled over from sports talk to GMA, CNN and Fox News, he has forced us into a national discussion. What is acceptable? It’s one thing to hear of bullying in the middle school hallways. It is another to hear it from a 6 foot 5, 312 pound professional people pusher.

So who is at fault? As I write this, USA Today has an article on its front page called “Blame the Victim” with a picture of Jonathan Martin. It details players who are criticizing Martin:

  • A real man would handle this himself.

  • Incognito, his tormentor, was just trying to toughen him up.

  • All rookies deal with this. This is how it works.

The article tells us that these are reactions we might not expect. But what can be more unsurprising? Those who benefit from a system of hazing that depends on secrecy are blaming the victim who stepped across the line to force the call.

Just because former victims (hazees, now become hazers) went through it doesn’t make it right. And if these players are defending Incognito’s verbal abuse as normal in the NFL, well, good luck with that argument.

I want to thank Jonathan Martin, because somewhere a scared middle school girl, who’s bullied for being too tall, too skinny, too fat, too pretty, too white, too dark, too anything is going to read about this intelligent, gigantic man and realize:

“Wow, if he can be bullied, anyone can.”

Perhaps she’ll stop listening to those voices and realize how strong and beautiful she is. And perhaps, if there’s someone there willing to listen, she’ll have the courage to force the call like Martin has done.

I want to thank Jonathan Martin for performing what is to me one of the most obvious parts of our calling as Christians, whether he realizes it or not. He is taking a stand for the powerless and giving a voice to the voiceless. Not just NFL players, but victims of abuse everywhere. Doing so at such a high level and in such a public sphere takes even more courage and has an even wider effect.

I want to thank Jonathan Martin for standing up, crossing the line and forcing the call. Now, as a nation, we are huddling together and it is on us to decide: who is at fault here?

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