Two siblings went down truly divergent paths. One turned his back on Jesus and eventually spent years in prison. The other lived out the grace and love of God, compassionately caring for family, those inside the body of Christ, and those on the outside. Two lives marked by actions that spoke loudly.
Renowned psychotherapist and physician Alfred Adler stressed the need to understand individuals within their social context. Calling for compassion and empathy in relating to others, he described empathy as “seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.”
Our world grants increasing access to those who can afford the price of admission. If you want to hear your favorite band in concert, you can buy a ticket. Spend more money and you can buy a backstage pass and take a selfie with the band during the “meet and greet.” Pay a lot more and they may be willing to sing at your wedding or birthday party.
A police officer rescued a deer whose head had become lodged within a discarded light globe. The officer’s first attempt to pull the plastic object off the frightened animal’s head failed, although it came free during a second try. Officials estimate that the animal had been caught with the globe on its head for at least one full day!
Many of our neighbors’ experiences have left them wondering how to reconcile what they know of the church with what they know of God. They’ve tasted harshness in place of conviction, rejection in lieu of love, and isolation instead of family. Sadly, refraining from any local church involvement has become a norm for them.
I spotted an old ledger designed to record a company’s payroll expenses while shopping in a secondhand store. A chart inside the front cover listed pay calculations based on different hourly wages. These calculations were also split into 15-minute increments. If a person earned $2.35 per hour, and he worked for 15 minutes, the chart showed that he would receive exactly 59 cents. If his workday lasted 8 hours, he would receive $18.80. Using this chart, a business owner could determine and record exactly what each employee had earned—not a penny less, not a penny more.
Setting off fireworks after a home team hits a home run is nothing new in pro baseball stadiums, but igniting fireworks after the visiting team hits a homer? No way! But in a game between two major league baseball teams, after a player on the visiting team hit a baseball over the outfield fence for a home run, the fireworks guy mistakenly pushed a button that created a spectacular pyrotechnic display.
A volunteer disc jockey on an indie station I listen to once said, “There won’t be any peace until all the religions of the world are one.” That’s a nice, inclusive expression of our longing for peace, love, and unity. However. . .
Author William Willimon told the story of an encounter he had with a woman dying of cancer. Exhausted from her battle with the disease, she clutched the crucifix that had been given to her by her grandmother when she was a little girl. It was a symbol of what Jesus meant to her. When Willimon entered the room, he asked if he should summon a priest. The woman held out the crucifix toward him, which depicted the body of Jesus nailed to the cross. She then said, “Thank you—but I have a Priest.”
Essayist Joseph Epstein writes, “Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.” He goes on to say that envy makes us look “ungenerous, mean, and small-hearted.” There’s plenty of research to back up Epstein’s statement. In fact, psychologists have found that envy decreases life satisfaction and diminishes well-being. It’s correlated with depression and neuroticism, and the hostility envy breeds may actually make us physically sick.
Recently I did some major damage to my shoulder. Several tendons and ligaments were torn and I had to have physical therapy for a few months. The therapist made an interesting statement as he massaged and manipulated the injury site: “You have to get blood to the damaged areas; it’s the only way to heal it, even if it’s painful.” The only way to put right what is broken is to force blood into those areas, no matter how difficult the task, and allow the blood to carry away the scar tissue and heal the injury.
Except for technological advances, the first century AD wasn’t much different than the 21st. The human condition can be depressingly consistent: injustice, exploitation, oppression, violence.
My friends in my Bible discussion group chuckled when I shared how I was trying to avoid God. I smiled, but it was no joke. His promptings to overlook my demands for justice and extend grace filled me with resentment. I felt like shaking my fist (as the prophet Jonah might have done) and screaming, “You want me to go where, and do what?!”
So what did Jesus look like? Did he resemble actor James Caviezel who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ? Probably not. Something like Warner Sallman’s famous portrait Head of Christ? Uh, no—don’t think so.
People sometimes ask me, “How come the God of the Old Testament seems so cruel and harsh compared to the God of the New Testament?” To answer that question, I start by assuring them that He doesn’t have multiple personalities—the God of the Old and New Testaments is the same God. He’s “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). I then explain that a good God can’t tolerate sin—an uncomfortable truth for some to acknowledge.