Monday, December 31, 2018

The Dividing Line

Photo by Thomas Quaritsch on Unsplash

You won’t have thought of this very often, if at all.
The dividing line exists at the moment of death. One moment we exist in a physical sense on this side of the line. The next moment, another reality commences. This reality of life, when it comes to an end, is not the end.
This is something that can happen in the very next moment. And, yet, none of us think about it often enough or consider it seriously enough. We all live assuming it will never really happen. We may think of it fleetingly at a funeral or when we interact with someone who has incurred loss, but we don’t think about it enough — and we can’t think about it too much. This is a paradox. It’s because we’re set here, in a life that demands we live, on the one hand. And, yet, on the other hand, what comes next moment or eight decades away is coming as surely as anything comes.
Being set in this life is a danger we need to be aware of. We are more prepared to argue the toss on ‘significant’ issues in this life — many of which will have no bearing on the life that’s coming. We are more prepared to party and act the fool than to consider the consequences of our acts on the other side.
What’s coming is more inevitable than anything in this very physical life this side of the dividing line. To even contemplate such a thought ought to compel us to fear. Not a sort of fear that scares us in a worldly or earthly sense. A fear that compels us to think about how we live this life right here.
The dividing line is as obvious as death. And death is inevitable.
You will be at your funeral one day. You will be the only one there who is no longer alive. Everyone else you care about will be there. And there is nothing you can do to avoid this fact. None of us can.
These thoughts are the ultimate in vulnerability.
But these thoughts can motivate us to live our lives a certain way.
How will consideration of these thoughts challenge and change the way you live?
Death causes us to reassess our lives, realign our priorities, and recommit to live.
If only we would live more often from these reassessments, realignments and recommitments.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Beware that most dangerous word, ‘Sorry’

Some years ago, when I had entered into a helping relationship with a person, I became aware of a troubling pattern in their demeanour. Just about every communication I had with this person involved them using the word ‘sorry’. The problem was, I got the distinct impression they were never actually genuinely sorry. Ever. Their saying sorry was a habit; their ‘sorry’ seemed to mean something different to the meaning of the word.
Unfortunately, this pattern of caustic relational behaviour isn’t as uncommon as we’d like to think.
For some people, ‘sorry’ is part of a transaction. It buys them the other person’s favour. The person who hears ‘sorry’ often feels obligated to forgive. Even if ‘sorry’ is used from the motive of manipulation. This skews the appropriate intention of the word.
The true test of whether someone actually feels sorry is to press them a little. A good illustration of this comes from my marriage. If I’d done the wrong thing, in apologising, my wife used to ask me what I was sorry for. She was checking whether I was genuine, but she was also checking what level of understanding I had regarding my misdemeanour. More than once I had to do some more thinking! Was I really sorry?
There is nothing wrong with questioning someone further
after they have said ‘sorry’.
If they’re genuinely remorseful, they will sense the opportunity to transact with you to establish understanding. On the other hand, if someone says, “Hey, wait a minute, I just said sorry to you…” (in other words, “I just said sorry, so now you must forgive me”) be very well aware that they’re not truly sorry at all. We have to watch ourselves, though, that we don’t exasperate someone who is genuinely penitent. But there’s nothing wrong with a little gentle pushback. If someone resists that kind of process check, they probably need to do a bit more thinking about whether they’re really honest about using the word ‘sorry’.
When Sorry Means Something
Sorry means something when ‘sorry’ stays ‘sorry’.
What I mean is this: the issue anyone says sorry about they’re always sorry about. It was wrong that they did it. And it will always be wrong. It is on record as wrong. Nothing they can do will absolve that unless, in having said sorry, they’re forgiven.
It’s the person who forgives who absolves the sin.
‘Sorry’, in and of itself, is no absolution. The person who is given the opportunity to forgive another’s transgression is the one who ought to hold the power. They have been wronged. For the relationship to be restored, things need to be evened up.
‘Sorry’ means something when the person saying sorry throws themselves upon the mercy of the person they’ve transgressed. It’s the only time ‘sorry’ means anything. And then the power in this word materialises. It says to the other person, “I want this relationship, and I’m prepared to relate with you in truth, and need you to know that my love for you means more than protecting my ego, and our relationship is worth me being vulnerable enough to help restore ‘us’.”
The moral to this article is simple: don’t be the person who says sorry and doesn’t mean it. It’s a very powerful word in the English language and anytime we don’t mean it, we employ manipulation which is relational cancer.
It’s even more a manipulation when people use ‘sorry’ very regularly and expect to be forgiven. There are two sins of manipulation there. Healthy relationships with people like this are practically impossible.
The ultimate in maturity is the capacity to be wrong and own that reality.
More on genuine apology at PeaceWise: What makes a genuine apology?

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Leadership of Kindness

Photo by Andrea Tummons on Unsplash

The world needs more kindness. Not only do you know that, but that’s always been the case.
It’s too easy to locate the problem as one of there being not enough kindness somewhere else.
The truth is our own aspirations for kindness mar its course.
In spruiking kindness, I too often react with incredulity at what I perceive to be a lack of kindness toward me.
In other words, I find it easy to be kind when people are initiating kindness. Or, when they reciprocate my kindness.
But I’m perplexed when people prefer, in my estimation, to be unkind or lack in graciousness. Toward me.
Sure, I’m a sensitive kind of person. I not only think kindness costs nothing, but that it is our human obligation, our human dignity. 
The trouble with my thinking is it’s limited. My thinking doesn’t anticipate consistent unkindness in others, especially those with whom I have ongoing and unavoidable contact. My thinking is too caught up in receiving justice for justice.
If I can trust myself to be kind with those who share my value of being kind to others, then I’m wiser to spend my effort and energy responding better with those who don’t seem to share my value.
Why do they seem unkind? They may see it as superfluity. They may value honesty above love; seeing that truth is the ultimate love. They may also, however, lack the capacity to be kind to themselves. They may not desire my/our kindness. There could be any number of other reasons, many of which we may never be privy to. The truth is, the reason doesn’t matter. It is what it is.
Leadership is influence. If leadership cannot or does not influence, then it lacks the vital sign of the life of leadership. 
The leadership of kindness therefore comprehends the challenge before it.
It doesn’t contend for change with those who engage with kindness. It contends for change with those who resist.
Any lack of kindness toward those who remain unconvinced shows them our lack of resolve.
We must find a way to tap into the power of kindness in the very situations we find are hardest.
The key decision we come to consider is, will we be kind without need of reward?
Will we see that being kind when we’re treated harshly is its own reward, for it is the power of God? To forgive with a forgiveness beyond our human desire for justice.
Will we see that the only opportunity we have to lead with influence is when we react with joy and genuine gladness when someone has repelled us in our kindness?
Every supposed influence is dormant until we meet resistance with unconditional love.
So, today we may make a fresh commitment; to those who seem to war with kindness; to seek out those opportunities that are dynamic; to not be satisfied with benign overtures of kindness that are met, like for like.
The leadership of kindness is overcoming the temptation of being offended by being prepared to meet offence with a grace that can only come from God.
If we’re going to lead with kindness, we will always need to be undergirded by a grace that cannot come from us; a grace that accepts there is a hidden reward stowed whenever we endure injustice; a grace that trusts faith patiently, that good can come from the injustices we bear serenely.
This is a grace that patiently endures hardship for a better prize than what can be won for fighting for our own justice. This is a grace that teaches us as we engage in it.

The more we refuse to be offended, the less overall offence the relationship bears, and the more kindness can grow.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The best thing about the unexpected Christmas gifts you got

Photo by erin walker on Unsplash

Painted onto my face, I have come to accept, is the question, “Go on, would you tell me about your day/life?” I don’t always feel up to pursuing conversations with others, especially at times when I’m out of role, but more often than not I trust myself and the other person to have the 15-minute chat that usually runs deep. When we chat, people open up, and we have encounters.
I never planned to be this kind of person. I planned to be a much different person. I have had to learn to accept who I am. It’s ironic that, in the process, God seems to work consistently with good effect without any effort from me. I just have to avail myself.
When I was young, I didn’t have the friendship support I seem to have now. I would often leave times with friends and say, “I’ll show ‘em!” I had all sorts of plans to prove my friends and associates wrong when they prejudged me.
I think it helped enormously as far as motivation was concerned. And to some extent I still use the “I’ll show ‘em” method to inspire results I might otherwise find hard to achieve.
I have found it rather enigmatic that though I’m a hard trier in life, the things I’m best at come without much effort. I didn’t need to work hard on being relational to the point that people open up without even thinking they’re even doing it.
It’s apt that at Christmas when we’re thinking most about the gifts we’ve given or have received, that I see the value in a gift I would not have initially sought. I do what I do because I connect. I’m a connecter, and yet I’m so abundantly happy in my own space without interruptions. I mean, as far as the spiritual gifts are concerned, I would not have coveted the pastoral care gift.
I would have coveted the gifts of achievement, of success, of self-actualisation. But, not to be.
Christmas reminds us that there are gifts we get that we don’t initially appreciate, but that mature upon our acceptability over time. We give gifts that we think will be perfect, and to our surprise, they aren’t received as we thought they’d be. Then we give and receive gifts that exceed our and others’ expectations.
Christmas is a day and time of surprises as far as the giving and receiving of gifts is concerned.
Even though we don’t always get what we want,
Christmas does promise good things,
and if we remain open to what might come,
we are at times serendipitously blessed.
And there’s no sense in not being open to what might come. If we prejudge our experience at Christmas, and I have done it so many times, we only disappoint the people who love us, and we lack gratitude for that which we may well later come to be thankful for.
The key task of growing up is taking what we might momentarily dislike and being patient with it, not prejudging it, having faith for what might come of it.
Another task of maturity is accepting and being thankful for the gifts of self that God has indeed given. The best of the gifts God gives is the ease with which we may execute them.

Monday, December 24, 2018

When and Why you may have Peace

Photo by Alex Guillaume on Unsplash
TIME is a constant in all our lives.
Time is something we cannot impact, control, influence or change. Time we can simply but accept. And yet time is what procures our peace; when our lives are in harmony with time; when our use of time feels worthwhile and purposeful, then we have peace.
But peace is more than that. It is the sense of our soul’s momentary completion, when we feel fulfilled; yet importantly, not life filled to the brim — that would be the antithesis of peace.
When everything matches what is right in our mind and heart, when there is that kind of completion within the complexity of life, there is the moment’s peace to be enjoyed.
When everything is structured and ordered according to what your soul deems as right. This is why self-knowledge is so important; to know thyself. Peace is being honest about what we like and don’t like, becoming aware in the first place, not judging any of this as wrong or inappropriate (unless what we like is morally wrong!), and bringing what we like into being.
It is just as important to know the things that cause dissonance and frustration within us personally, where we are undone and rendered incomplete. We must know and accept what we lack so we know and accept what causes us to feel at lack. The more we pretend we are perfectly tolerant of everything, the less peace we will possibly experience. We need to be honest about how flawed we are and, importantly, how those flaws manifest. This requires a very solid sense of self.
But there is an incontrovertible limit to this kind of peace. It is limited by time. A self-engineered peace cannot last. Change comes with time; day folds into night, night into day, bad weather follows good, and so forth.
Peace is heavily conditional. Unless we learn the practices of God. That’s a journey! It involves a pilgrimage within the long passage of loss.
In sum, it involves coming to an implicitly accepting attitude. That’s not a place anyone just arrives at. It’s probably a place that many will never arrive at. And most people, again, only land in this place for short periods of time. But if peace is our goal and our game, we will build peace upon peace.
The task of life is to do all we can to nurture a sense of peace within ourselves, so that peace is not only enjoyed personally, others too can benefit.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Is there such a thing as situational narcissism?

Photo by Laurenz Kleinheider on Unsplash

I have an innate interest in all things people, and particularly the outliers. I cannot hide my amazement and adulation having witnessed those who are paragons of virtue out of the distress of living their ordinary life against the odds. Equally, I’m captivated by those at the other end of the spectrum — those who have innate weaknesses that damage others’ lives; the centre point, narcissism.
Someone asked me recently, ‘do you think so-and-so is narcissistic?’ My reply without thought was, ‘I think we’re all a little narcissistic…’
Now, the truth is my response was part diversion from answering truthfully. Part of that was about who was asking and part of it was about who they were asking about. It wasn’t appropriate to answer with what I actually thought.
But the more I’ve thought about it the more I’ve thought there’s credence to the idea. How on earth can all of us somehow feature narcissism? Well, we are all sinners. And here’s a classic irony for you: the person who feels most insulted in considering there might be some narcissism in them is possibly most narcissistic of the lot.
It is a great strength to be able to bear the spiritual discomfort of wearing your wickedness. We’re all capable of it. We all have it in us. Just think of some of the things you think…
The other fact is this, and the enneagram tool helps us understand this: we all have the capacity to be very healthy, of normal health, and of ill health. Two to seven years ago, for a range of reasons as I reflect, I was in varying degrees of ill health, and I think I was at times during this five-year period situationally narcissistic. I don’t think where I was planted was helping, but I acknowledged that, as Dr John Townsend would put it, I had a pocket entitlement. I felt I deserved to be respected, understood and praised. Sure, I needed these things, as we all do, but they had become idols and I began to demand them. This led to ill health in some pivotal relationships.
It’s only when we get back into better mental health that we see how bad we might have been; and how our behaviours have negatively impacted on others.
I do think that there is such a thing as situational narcissism. I think we all have the capacity to react badly from situations where we don’t feel adequately supported. Think of the Pygmalion Effect.
It goes to show that if we encounter someone narcissistically, surely we can at first empathise and simply ask if their environment has something to do with their attitude and behaviour.
This is not to say that there aren’t full blown narcissists. There are. They’re dangerous and the only thing for these people is boundaries. In many situations, it’s about removing them from our lives altogether. In many cases, it is wise to be rather mercenary about it, something empathetic people find almost impossible to do.
Flowers bloom best when they’re planted in fertile soil. It’s the same with people. Could it just be that some we might see as narcissistic are that way because of where they’re planted? It’s not always the case. But I’m sure it does sometimes happen.

It is a fact that some people, perhaps many in this day, are falsely called narcissists. Let’s save the label for those who genuinely deserve it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Strain and Drain of Grief at Christmastime

Photo by Wisnu Prayoga on Unsplash
Definitely the unfairest thing about loss is the other-worldly experience had at times of celebration; when fun and merriment and peace are enjoyed all around.
I recall times, everywhere I went, of reminders of what I no longer had; in the shops, driving on the roads, entering libraries, going to parks — everywhere people were they seemed to be experiencing a life I could no longer relate with. Their joy stank. The ease they possessed reminded me of what I’d lost.
But grief is more than that. It’s more than envy for what you no longer, at that point, have.
Grief couldn’t care less to be honest with what others have. When you’re grieving, you care abundantly for what you don’t have. Grief is the subsumption of loss. Thoughts are very much, most of the time, lost to the joy others are enjoying. Thoughts are subsumed in the inescapable feelings that strain your own sanity — the overwhelming fear you’ll sink into the abyss of insufferable sorrow. The length of the grief journey is a drain that cannot be ultimately resolved until resolution is discovered in some far-off land of new arrival.
But such a new arrival may as well be another lifetime away even though that’s the only hope that keeps us afloat. So bizarre is the grief experience that you live continually in the tension of two unreal realities — between a despair you cannot accept and a hope that isn’t yet real.
Christmastime ruffles the experience of grief, because of the pleasant memories that are estranged to the present experience. The hope we must hold onto is it won’t always be like this. And yet associations to grief at Christmastime cannot be resolved in such a conventional way.
If grief is going to be an ongoing process, and at times it is, if the memory of our loved one or what we lost is that significant, we will need to build a suitable requiem. We will need a way of converting what we have lost into a burden of celebration. And yes, that which seems unlikely is possible.
In the long run, there are infinite ways of doing the grief journey, and the commonest input is the search for recovery. It doesn’t matter how we get there. We just need to survive the strain and drain of it. And at Christmastime, especially, we must be gentle and patient with ourselves. There will be pain, and that which we prepare for won’t feel quite as bad.
Here is my prayer for you:
God, I am thankful for the experiences of two consecutive very tough Christmases. I was not thankful then, but I am thankful now. I am thankful because when life is well, and the strain and drain of grief is over, You remind me of what others could be suffering. Be there with them. Assure them of a peace that converts to the ability not to be swamped with sorrow at this time. Revive them the day after they’ve fallen into the abyss. May snippets of joy be had, even amid a season so full of fear and sorrow. And may hope abide when despair clings. Amen.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The problem I have with Loyalty

Photo by mehul dave on Unsplash
Over my time as a Christian, I have seen some leaders make much ado about loyalty — how important it is. I find it utterly bemusing. Don’t they know there is only one loyalty; only one allegiance. If a leader needs to depend on the loyalty of their people, they’re asking them to follow them and not Christ.
Such a leader has usurped God.
I don’t decry the need for unity and moving forward together. I recognise the need to respect office.
But the last thing any leader needs is a herd giving blind allegiance.
Leaders, on the other hand, need, and this is a paradox in the faith world, a devil’s advocate.
We need teams who are prepared to wrestle with issues respectfully, where differences of opinion are not seen as divisive or a move of dissension.
If your leadership requires blind obedience (i.e. universal agreement with you), and it doesn’t leave room for differences in viewpoint, your loyalty, I suggest, is unbiblical, counter-productive and ultimately ineffective, as far as a leadership style is concerned, and further, a misuse of power.
The issue is you have the wrong people following you. If it is only those who have something to gain from you who will follow you, then they aren’t following for the right reasons.
If our team leadership and team membership is more about what we think of each other than the issues we miss the mark.
Yet, paradoxically, what we think of each other is crucial as far as trust is concerned. The kind of parallel I’m trying to draw here is one that a leader’s trust transcends their need for loyalty. This means trust can be protected even, and especially, when one of our team members decide to play devil’s advocate — and all teams need such a role, otherwise groupthink enters the process and the group falls short of its purpose. Recall that groupthink was one of the causes of the 1986 Discovery space shuttle disaster.
The narcissistic leader gathers their team to them, and they are fiercely protective of anyone who has a proven track record of allegiance.
They give the appearance of the right kind of partiality; you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. But it is still partiality. There is limited scope to question such a leader’s wisdom, and for some leaders you do so at your peril.
Occasionally, however, there is someone close who appeals to such a leader because this person has won their trust and has proved their motive is one of protecting the leader.
For too long now, a leader’s performance in an intangible game has been based on hard numbers. This sort of pressure makes leaders behave in strange ways. Such key performance indicators can cause otherwise good people to lead in a bad way. They must make things happen. And such a drive has been popular in leadership circles for some time. This kind of drive favours certain kinds of personalities. But I think the best leaders are the genuinely reluctant types. The pressure is on to have new members, more baptisms, more conversions, and I don’t know many churches meeting these requirements. Churches in this day and age are more likely to have transfer growth than conversion growth.
A better leadership example as far as loyalty is concerned would be to call people to their allegiance to Christ. And if we subscribe to the priesthood of all believers, we will quickly discover that one priest thinks differently to the next one, and so on.
We need to learn to glory in the idea that we all think differently, yet we are all equally convicted by the Holy Spirit, so no wonder there is conflict in church leadership.
So, we must appreciate there will be different views, and celebrate the emergence of diversity.
Leaders need to appreciate that calling people to loyalty to themselves is fraught with peril.
This is a leadership we should value: a wisdom that can be questioned and that stands up to challenge.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

An ordinary person’s extraordinary courage

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

Like most of what I write, I don’t know where I’m going with this. But I’m trusting. There’s an unction within me. There is an itchy uncomfortableness within me that is bursting to find expression.
We make the funniest kind of heroes in this life. Sporting champions, and those who do acts of valour, and celebrities with a story, to name just three. There is nothing wrong with hailing praise over the ordinary achievements that extraordinary people do.
But courage has much more to teach us:
an ordinary person’s extraordinary courage is breathtaking
It has taken me 48 hours to process what I experienced 48 hours ago; the consummate and unbelievably palpable tenacity of spirit of parents who have lost their young child; of family also who suffer for them. There are no words that can describe the experience of that moment, when we cannot possibly know what they are suffering, when we cannot possibly comprehend what they bear in their minds and hearts within their person. Simply existing, for people in this situation of loss, is pure courage. It is pure courage because they have no choice but to suffer for the love they have lost, and there is no option but to keep breathing, stepping, existing.
The fact that life goes on amid the torment of loss must be enough to inspire the rest of us to deep gratitude for their strength of spirit to even attempt to hold and contain what they’ve been given.
What has touched me most of all, as I reflect, is the sheer solemnity of a moment that was so heartrending that it blessed me to heaving tears. That probably doesn’t sound very enticing; heaving tears. Grief and loss have taught me to no longer be afraid of my emotions, and indeed to embrace the cavernous depths of them. It’s how the Divine meets me most. As I watched mere human beings, and some so young, be utterly broken by their grief, I was caused to brim over with an avalanche of cataclysmic admiration for just how vulnerable these people were. That we were trusted with their presence. And given our experience four years ago, I keenly identified with the existential encounter that none of us can prepare for and none of us know whether we will actually successfully meet such an encounter until we have.
Moments like I witnessed, and was indeed part of, you quickly realise that you don’t experience these kind of experiences very often. They almost feel unlife like. But it’s the opposite reality. They are too surreal because of how abundantly real they are. Not only is there such unfathomable grief, but it is on display, and the courage it takes to share reveals a vulnerability that the human condition rarely, if ever, is forced to endure.
Extraordinary stories of bravery are exemplified most in ordinary people displaying unspeakable courage where there was no choice except to step onward and through adversity, through which they, astoundingly ordinary people, ultimately become utterly extraordinary.
We need to reframe who the truly courageous are. The courageous act of a person prepared to lose their life in order to save other lives is without a doubt inspiring and the epitome of courage. But what about ordinary stories of extraordinary courage; those stories of people who must endure months and indeed years, sometimes decades, of the pain borne on the heart like a trophy that will be given in heaven one day? What about the courage of a child who endures weeks or years of abuse? And still hopes for better. What about the man who loses his job just before Christmas, then whose family loses their home, and through the pressure causes their marriage to fold?
These are the stories of courage that inspire me. Those who keep going and keep trying even in the throes of hopelessness and temptation to give up.
A journey of suffering teaches us there are mysteries and depths to life we cannot understand, and that acceptance, when we arrive there, makes us strangely grateful. Loss has a way of breaking off the worst bits of us. If that annoys you, hang in there. It’s a sign that the pilgrimage beckons and continues and unfolds at its own pace, none of which can be forced by us.

The reason those who grieve are most inspiring is they’re on a pilgrimage they would never choose to embark upon. There are so many times they hate this pilgrimage. It’s the fact that they continue to show up that inspires those of us who watch on; those of us who’ve experienced something of what they are now enduring.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Resolute power in the vulnerable kingdom

Photo by John Reign Abarintos on Unsplash

Indigenous peoples have long known and applied a principle this world’s powers cannot conceive. It’s the law of stewarding the land, never owning it, but being mothers of it. Nothing they’ve historically held was theirs to the detriment of other claimants.
They were, have been, and are, the carers of everything. A very powerful force for good.
What has the Western kind of power shown us? We’re fast ruining the planet and we disrespect our original peoples, seizing and coveting power without even a care.
Power corrupts. We know that. Indeed, Lord Acton (1834 – 1902) said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
It doesn’t mean power has to corrupt. The history of the kings of Israel is testimony enough that some regals held power beautifully, though most did not. And there is the appearance of beauty that can often hide the abuses of power, which sometimes we only find out about decades later.
There are so many accounts in our present day of power that has been misused. So many abuse stories. And it seems there will only be more. We should embrace this age as the evening of justice for the powerless, the reckoning of the powerful however they’ve performed; the reward of continuing to serve for the faithful, and retributive justice for those who haven’t — a restorative justice for survivors of abuse.
But there’s something very tangible about the vision of the Kingdom that Jesus had in mind.
The resolute power of the vulnerable kingdom is such that good is done when we refuse to cling to power. When we see leadership like this, like all leaderships — good and bad — we follow it. Whether good or bad, we’re led by example. When someone like Martin Luther King led, others followed in his stead.
The most convincing and heroic power is the power that lords it over nobody.
Power that attracts gives its power away as it empowers others with a lifegiving power.
Truly regenerate people live in the sight of God — they live convinced that they do everything in the full view of heaven. If there are no secrets, if everything that is done is visible enough to be seen, why would we do that which would go against us. Living in such a way is to live accountable to God alone.
We don’t need to grapple and ingratiate for power. It only causes stress, fretting, and evil.
Martyred missionary Jim Eliot (1927 – 1956) said, “A person is no fool who gives up what they cannot keep, to gain what they cannot lose.” It’s a compelling question.
Why contend for power? It’s for ill-gotten gain. It won’t last. And our eternal reputation is at threat.
The resolute power in the vulnerable kingdom is the test of our humanity. Will we sow into something weak and seemingly worthless — with riches in the reality of eternity definitely beyond compare?
The more we give away, the more we’ll retain.
Only in the world does the concept of a vulnerable kingdom not stack up. But, as far as the kingdom is concerned, the world is vulnerable, because it pretends it has strength — a strength that cannot last.
What is the reward for misusing the power we’re given?
MATTHEW 18:1-6 The disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” [WHAT WE MIGHT ALL SECRETLY ASK] Calling a child to him, Jesus put the [SMALL] child in the middle of them and said, “Truly, unless you turn [JESUS’ CLOSEST FOLLOWERS – WISE UP!] and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles themselves like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me [DON’T LOOK DOWN ON ANYONE], but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Serving in humility... as we serve with no thought of reward, Christ shines His light on our lives, and we quickly learn that the world loves this kind of hero. The world needs more of this kind of hero.
We never do anything for our glory. We resist adulation. We avoid accolades. We give credit elsewhere. We call attention to others. Yet we respect others when we receive their thanks. Honour everyone.
Our purpose is to learn our purpose; what produces passion within us. We engage in our purpose with passion. We commit to it with integrity. And with resilience that inspires, we never give up.
Matthew 18 greatness is the gift God gives to us to live magnanimous lives, indebted to Him, sowing for His glory alone, serving especially those less powerful than us. This is the heroism the world needs.
This greatness is the gold. This greatness is the jewel. This greatness is the gentleness of trust, embodying kindness, that believes the best about others and is willing to forgive and grow.
This greatness is the goal of life, where others shoot for ‘success’. Significance shoots further and deeper and longer and stronger. This significance gives meaning without need of material blessing.
This greatness is your willingness to take hold of the baton placed in your hand; to charge down the runway of your life with it for others.
This greatness is the firm, secure hand that grasps hold of the baton, pursuing the goal of God’s Kingdom. This greatness is a lasting legacy which runs full tilt toward the approaching generation, safely handing off, encouraging them at all times. Run your race. Keep the faith.
Anyone who applies this will succeed, living a life of significance.
Anyone who commits to living gently, accountably, peaceably will be blessed now and forevermore.