Currency, Reputation, and Fake News

One of the best classes I ever took in college was World Religions.  As a seemingly confident Christian, I sat in the front row with my other Christian friends, ready to defend whatever attack this professor was going to bring, but instead of victory I found myself unexpectedly whittled and sharpened.  Throughout the class, whenever I made a statement about my faith, I was challenged by the professor to back up my beliefs.  I could no longer just point to the Bible as my evidence, suggesting that it’s true because the Bible says it is, but was forced to fully explain why I believed what I believed, citing history, hard evidence, archaeology, and science for the supports to my faith.  To just suggest that it was true because I felt it wasn’t enough: I had to justify it with facts.  Going into the class I knew what I believed; coming out of the class, I knew why I believed.

When it comes to being a Christian, truth is our currency.  We deal in truth in all things when it comes to our faith and in making strides for our own spiritual journeys along with advancing His kingdom.  Jesus claimed that there is freedom to be found in knowing what is true.  When Christ speaks in John 8.32, He claims that if we adhere to His teachings, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” while in 14.6, Jesus says that, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”  Without truth, we have nothing but a handful of lies along with a destroyed reputation.  To speak truth and know what is true is to have the power to be free.  So, in all things, we must know the complete and absolute truth behind what we do and what we say, or like the prisoners in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, who viewed nothing but projected shadows on a blank wall and believed them to be their reality, we run the risk of believing a false reality, and nothing says false reality more so lately, than fake news.

To be clear, fake news is the (mostly) online existence of sensationalist and exaggerated news stories whose sole purpose is to spread misinformation for reasons that include, more often than not, financial or political gain, usually through social media.  These stories are usually not backed up by legitimate factual sources and are based in rumor, speculation, and falsehood.  You would think that truth usually rises to the top in these instances, but few check the background of these stories for sources and to confirm what is claimed to be true in these scenarios, as we post them to our social media accounts with the intent to shock and outrage those who read.  That’s one of the main draws of fake news and what makes it so appealing: it initially makes us seem informed and grants us the attention we so often crave.

Yet, if we are actually dealers in truth, we must look beyond the sensationalist nature of these stories and see what truth, if any, lies in them instead of blindly reposting them for our friends and family, wielding them wildly like a rusty sword that divides and infects our relationships with false rhetoric and illogical conclusions.  And when the real truth comes out, reputations are ruined, and no one wants to believe what we have to say any more.  Our truth has become tainted and our message soiled.  Our currency is worthless.

So how do we handle truth in the era of fake news?  Test it, repeatedly.  Don’t just accept news, but put it through a wringer.  Research it, and get to the bottom until you are absolutely sure of its validity.  Find your evidence and know why it’s true, or not.  Then, if it’s not true, reject it.  If you’re unsure, keep it to yourself.  Abraham Lincoln once said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”  If we are serious about Christ and His truth, we cannot risk being caught with anything less than the truth.  Our testimony is our most useful tool, and without truth and a reputation for honesty, we are hobbled as warriors for Him.  Nothing destroys a witness like the smallest bit of falsehood, enclosing him or her within the impenetrable walls of an inescapable prison.  Remember that only truth will set you free.  Amen.

Feeble Attempts Past our Expiration Date

With the now warm weather and springtime growth comes a host of fresh vegetables and fruits.  While visiting our local fruit stand, our eyes go wide with the deliciousness that nature presents, yet often our eyes are bigger than our appetites, and we end up buying more than we need.  Now normally, that purchase isn’t a problem, but with all of what we are buying being local produce, the shelf life on a lot of these items isn’t very long.  The amount of purchases that must thrown out to the animals can be heartbreaking, but at least someone is enjoying them.

With spring produce and warm weather also comes spring cleaning, when we go through our pantry and refrigerator, looking for things that have found their way to the back and as such have become neglected and lost.  More often than most, these items are well past their expiration dates, and despite looking just fine, have gone bad on some level.  Moving on to our medicine cabinet in this cleaning frenzy, we traditionally find a multitude of no-longer used medicines that have also migrated past their expiration dates, and are now not as effective as they once were, or just aren’t healthy to consume.  The power of time takes its toll on all things, apparently.

Time seems to be the enemy of us all.  Most things of this world don’t age well and have a point where the rising tide of time overtakes what is best in all things.  Even wine, despite getting better with age, reaches a point where it turns to vinegar.  When I walk the hallways of high school and spot young couples in love, by measuring the flames of passion that radiate, I can usually judge with a decent amount of certainty how quickly those flame will extinguish and the relationship will expire.  And despite our best efforts, our bodies don’t escape the ravages of time.  Most scientists and physicians suggest that, given the proper diet and treatment, the human body can work perfectly for the first 40-50 years before it starts to break down on its own, and that’s if we treat it well.  Founding father William Penn said that, “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”  Time is a commodity, but we often don’t trade well with it.

Like our bodies and things of this world, each of us have an expiration date, too.  At some point, death will be the great expiration collector and will come for us.  What makes us different, though, is that often there is no telling as to when that expiration date is.  The Bible and other pieces of literature are filled with warnings about the fleeting nature of life, about how we must seize every moment of every day, or about how we don’t know how long we have.  Proverbs 90.12 give us this advice: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  If we realize that our time is limited, then we will most likely use our time wisely, and the biggest concern should be where we are headed after our expiration date.

A great deal of the population, when considering the afterlife, feels that it’s not something they need to think about at this point.  They’ve got time.  Yet if we live with this foolish notion, like rotted fruit, we will find ourselves out of time before we know it.  We need to live wisely while we still have time, and for many, that means committing our lives to Him as soon as possible.  With no knowledge of how much time is left, as even tomorrow may be our last day, we must firmly stand on the promises of His kingdom, and not the possible failing promises of a long life.  Assurance is found in what we know for sure, not in what we think may be.  If we live knowing that any day might be our last, then our decisions, especially those about the afterlife and what we are truly living for, will be handled with grace and wisdom, and our future will be secured.  Amen.

The Transformative Properties of Pure Love

Having visited nursing and rehab homes before, I knew what to expect.  Often, hope is scarce as the hallways are frequently filled with the despondent aging, many of whom are being wheeled up and down the hallway just for a change of scenery.  They have seen a great deal of pain and loss in their lives, and the monotony of later life takes its toll.  So, any and all change of pace and scenery, including visitors, is quickly welcomed with great enthusiasm, being a bright spot in the day as it breaks up the routine, easing the pains of life and distracting them beyond the ills from which they suffer.  However, what I didn’t expect was how much the residents would change when they got a visit from our dog, Finn.

Sixty pounds of off-white long soft fur and a love of everyone, he’s pure mutt with an enormous heart that often exceeds the size of his brain.  With pleading brown eyes that beg for attention and a tail that never stops, he bounded into the home with great excitement, looking for the next person to meet.  Anxiously, he’d happily trot over to them, leaning against their legs as he welcomed their loving advances.  Astoundingly, faces not only lit up as people asked to meet him, calling him over to pet him and say hello, but their entire demeanor changed.  People who were immobile and pain-riddled suddenly forgot themselves and called to him with open arms, as Finn gave every ounce of love he had.  No matter who they were, their lives were instantly improved when Finn came to visit them.  The transformation that took place because of his presence was astonishing.

There’s something pure about a dog’s love that is unlike human love.  When dogs meet someone, they never judge, accepting people for who they are.  Whether people were bed-ridden, wheelchair-bound, or with a walker, no matter the age, disability, or illness, Finn accepted them with his whole heart, and didn’t differentiate between any of them.  His total lack of judgment allowed for him to see people beyond their human failings and see them only for the love for which they were capable.  Additionally, a dog’s capacity for love is seemingly endless, as despite the number of people Finn met, or the number of times Finn met the same person, the well of love from which Finn’s love drew never dried up.  And because of that endless, boundless pure love, people’s hearts were changed as he brought what sorely lacked from so many of their lives: hope.

Similarly, Christ’s love shares many of these characteristics.  Endless and boundless, His pure love knows no judgement and can transform even the lowest.  Ephesians 2.4-5 displays the life-changing purity of His love: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”  Like Finn, Christ’s love brings life and hope where there previously was none.  Christ takes even the direst situations and completely changes them around with the addition of His pure love.  For this reason, when God intervenes in our lives, we are never what we once were.  Transformation and hope are immediate, as we are fundamentally different because of his selfless, non-judgmental love.  Although we are humanly flawed, we can still be aware of the transformative nature that pure love can bring and work towards imitating it in the way we interact with others.  What we can still hope and pray for is for God to work through us, using our words and actions to give hope and love where there was none beforehand.  In that way, His love transforms us and others through its pure, nonjudgmental nature, altering our hearts and minds forever.  Amen.

Empathy Amidst the Chaos

As words were slung between my two senior students, the stress levels of each continued to rise, and tension filled the room.  Each had very strong stances on illegal immigration, and the two girls took each comment more personally than the last, until they were ready to attack each other physically.  When I finally called a cease fire and told each to rethink their approach to the other person, reflecting instead on the way that each was responding, the two began to reach a deeper truth in each other, seeing the other’s worry and fear in the issue, taking note of how the issue was impacting the other on a more personable level.  Their anger was stemmed in their individual fear, and each was acting out in anger based in that fear.  When they were able to see the rooted fear in each other, they became empathetic to the other’s struggle, then putting aside differences, resulting in better and more true communication.  This past week has been difficult for this country.  We’ve seen an election literally split the country down the middle, where the two sides are now in a bitter feud regarding the outcome.  Riots and protests fill our nation’s streets, as both sides feel that they are misunderstood and that the other side is completely wrong.  Anger pervades, but this anger is rooted in something deeper than hatred: fear.  A recent Pew Research Center poll found that “more than half of Democrats (55%) say the Republican Party makes them ‘afraid,’ while 49% of Republicans say the same about the Democratic Party.”  Both sides are deeply fearful of the other, terrified of what the other might do to the country.  With each thinking that the other is deeply unreasonable and misguided, a lack of communication results, all of which is based in fear.  So, where there is fear, there is a lack of communication, and thus a lack of empathy develops as both sides misunderstand the other.   When Christ was beginning his ministry in Matthew 9, many gathered to Him to be healed, but the crowds became large and unruly as they quickly grew in number.  Christ could have looked at these people and dismissed them as angry and riotous, but instead He saw what was at the root of their actions: “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (9.36).  Looking past their outward anger, He saw their deep-seated fears, and became empathetic to their plights.  With this understanding, he continued his ministry instead of scattering them.  When my two students understood that fear was at the root of their anger, they listened to one another and began a constructive dialogue.  Although they didn’t agree in the end, there was a mutual acknowledgment and appreciation of the other’s viewpoint, leading to an empathetic understanding of one another.  When we allow our fear to lead to anger, we open the door to hatred and suffering.  With the amount of anger our country is feeling right now, our hatred will only grow if we don’t work towards open communication.  It’s time to look past the anger we have for one another and see the fear that is at the heart of our actions.  When we see that we are acting out of fear, we begin an empathetic journey that leads to a better understanding of one another.  Although we may never agree, we can certainly appreciate each other and work towards an openly communicative understanding of each other’s point of view.  In the aftermath of this most difficult election, we need no longer focus on our differences and be afraid of one another, but instead empathically look towards open communication and to what unites us as a nation.  Only then can we be healed.  Amen.

When Immaturity Results in Unfounded Fears

With Halloween just around the corner, I’ve start a new yearly tradition: watching scary movies.  Now, I know that this practice seems like a no-brainer to many people, but for me it’s something entirely new.  In my youth, I’d always been too afraid to watch anything in the horror genre.  As such, many perennial and seminal classics have passed me by, and I am now playing catch-up by watching such favorites as “Halloween”, “Poltergeist”, and “The Exorcist” for the first time.  Although I am thoroughly enjoying my time going through them (as many of them are amazingly engrossing movies with excellent scripts), I find that they are not as scary as I had feared.  Like the small child that forever feared that the bogeyman lived in his closet, and upon investigating, found only his hanging clothes and a few forgotten about toys, I’m feeling somewhat foolish, as it took me thirty or so years to work up the courage to watch these movies.  They may have been frightening at the time, but now they are quaint and amusing.  However, I would argue that it’s not necessarily the movies that have changed, but that it was me.  For example, I was watching a forgotten about 1987 movie entitled “The Gate” the other day, and found it to be both goofy and somewhat predictable.  Afterwards, I watched a positive review of the film and was encouraged to view it through the eyes of a pre-teen.  When I rethought the film, I realized that scenes where rubber latex demon arms reached out from under a bed to grab at the main heroes would have been completely terrifying to a ten-year old me.  Similarly, another scene where the main character grows a functioning eye in his hand would have absolutely and completely freaked me out.  However, because I now know that nothing frightening will ever be waiting for me under my bed, save for some over-sized dust bunnies, and that the chances of an eye growing out of my hand are next to none, these events don’t phase or affect my current viewing self.  I have grown and matured as an adult, and those child-like fears do not affect me anymore.  My thinking has matured to where I know that these sights are not real, and thus ridiculous and not frightening.  1 Corinthians 14.20 suggests that we approach evil in a similar manner: “Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.”  Paul encourages the Corinthian church and us that our minds should be mature with discernment, that we should be able to logically decide what is good and right, rejecting what is wrong, but that we should also have the same level of experience with evil similar to that of a small child.  We should not pursue evil but should be innocent and devoid of experience.  Christ wants us to mature our minds with knowledge and understanding, but let our experience with evil be immature, which would explain why I would have been so frightened as a child with these films.  As a child, my experience would be small, but my mind would be immature, so I would not approach these films as I do now: rejecting the frights as foolishness.  Because I was so welled up with fear and immaturity, I chose to not watch scary movies, but now that my mind has matured, I am no longer paralyzed in action.  So, in our maturity, let’s reject the fears that plague us that shouldn’t.  Don’t let fear stop us from moving forward.  Let’s mature our minds and realize the fears that are holding us back, as fear is the great inhibitor of achieving truly great and wonderful things with our lives.  Amen.

Common Traits, Common Myths

Look at any gathering of people, and what you will obviously find among every group is commonality.  They are together because they have something in common, and sometimes it may not be that significant a thing.  When we were little, our best friend was most likely our neighbor, because we had the commonality of the same street.  In the high school cafeteria, a scene which hasn’t changed in quite a number of years, you are bound to find some group with common interests no matter what table you look at: the football players, the honor students, the gamers, theater tech, whatever.  We tend to flock together based on our common interests, and when we find a group that has similar interests to ourselves, we tend to stick with those people because of that commonality.  Similarly, I mention to my students that the single reason they go to school with the people they do is also because of geography: they all live in the same town, so they go to the same school.  Yet, is being a neighbor or living in the same town enough to bond people together?  When they all decide to go to college, the bonds they form there are traditionally stronger than high school, as the commonality of those college people goes well beyond geography: they all choose to go there, thus they have that common interest.  So, I warn my seniors that when they leave high school, there’s a strong chance that their friendships with each other will fall apart, because geography may no longer be enough to keep them together.  As we get older, our commonalities tend to go deeper.  Yes, we attend book groups, frequent recipe web sites, and walk our dogs together as a means of connection, but if these are the only commonalities you have with those people, more than likely you are satisfied with only spending an hour a week with them.  In age, we tend to require depth to our relationships, a place where our values, thought processes, and emotional resonance tend to all vibrate at the same frequencies.  When we meet together at church, we have the commonality of faith, a trait that goes deeper than most others.  We have our foundations rooted in Christ, believing that He is our savior and we live to serve Him.  Yet, despite this strong common thread and bond that runs through us, dissension and a lack of harmony sometimes enters the picture.  We forget about our common ground because we don’t actively pursue a deepening to our relationships.  1 Peter 3.8 instructs us towards a stronger bond based on our faith: “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”  In addition to being like-minded (our commonality), we must move beyond what brought us together and work on what keeps us together.  Of the five commands to us in that verse, one is mental (like-mindedness), two are emotional (sympathy and compassion), one is an internal action (humility), and the other encompasses all of them (love).  If we truly want to get along and grow as a body, we need to actively care for each other using our head, heart, and hands.  Resting on our faith really isn’t enough, or we risk becoming like the Pharisees who cared for no one but the law.  Putting these words into action, we should lift each other up in thought, word, action, and prayer, looking to better others within the body instead of merely bettering ourselves.  This week, allow your interactions with other Christians to be not only based in your beliefs, but also rooted in a faith that requires effort and action, one that puts others before ourselves, and use your commonality not as criteria for interaction to be met but as a foundation upon which to build.  Amen.

Allowing for Examination Reversal

My students are in for a surprise, and not necessarily one that they will enjoy.  I just finished grading their first paper, and oh boy did I have a lot to say.  It’s a harsh lesson for them to learn, with that much correction being in one paper, but in the long run, that correction will pay off for them should they decide to heed it.  What was most disconcerting was just how many corrections, suggestions, and instructions I had to write on each of those papers, with many of them rooted in two areas:  paying attention more closely to what was covered in class and fixing skills that should have been polished years ago.  I came to those two conclusions after spending a long time scrutinizing and analyzing their work with a close eye, paying close attention to trends in their work and what was truly at the heart of their mistakes.  Now, it would be easy to stop there, however, what I need to take into mind is what their failings says about me as a teacher and my methodology.  As I examine their work, I need their work to examine me.  Their mistakes speak volumes about what I thought I effectively covered in the first five weeks of class, and how I need to alter my instruction to fit their needs.  Also, in reading their papers, their responses acted as a commentary on the clarity (or lack thereof) of my assignment, and how I should alter the wording.  Similarly, when we study the Bible, to just get at the heart of what the word is saying and means is one thing, but how often do we let God’s word look at us under the microscope?  When we study His word, do we allow His word to study us?  Scripture was built that way, as Hebrews 4.12 tells us about the nature of His word and the role it can play: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  For as often as we examine and study God’s word, we need it to study us right back.  Yes, we might spend time investigating what a verse or passage means in our lives, and how we can change or be encouraged as a result of reading it, but how often do we really allow the scripture to strip us bare and expose us for our flaws and insecurities?  As a living being, God’s word has the ability to take our lives, examine them with a careful eye, rebuke us and tear us apart, only to put us back together again through His watchful instruction and love.  Allowing our lives to be examined by truth is vital if we desire a closer walk with Him.  So we know how to examine the Bible, but how do we allow ourselves to be examined by His word?  Silencing the world around us from distraction begins to create in us a heart willing to listen.  Inviting quiet, inner peace and focus when we delve into His word also opens us up to instruction.  Finally, humbling ourselves before Him, casting all our desires and trophies at His feet will bring us to a point where anything the word has to say to us will be heard and internalized.  With a quiet and prepared heart ready to listen and learn, we then allow God’s word to examine us with a love and care that exceeds any and all personal attempts to interpret scripture through our own efforts.  Instead of deciding what the word says to you, quiet yourself and listen. Let it speak to your life.  In our own silence, His words will speak volumes.  Amen.

Little Daily Pushes

It seems that with every corner I turn, this world and its people are always pushing and testing me.  My son sees how much he can get away with regarding chores, my dogs test how much of that sandwich I’m really going to eat, and my students push for how much homework they do or don’t have to do when I assign it.  My patience is tested in traffic, my endurance is tested in assigned tasks and state mandates at my job, and my tolerance is tested by politics and government.  As a result, I may struggle to overcome, but I am always a better person as a result of that struggle.  However, the one thing that these struggles all have in common is that they are all from outside sources and are (for the most part) fairly unavoidable.  So in contrast, what about struggle that comes voluntarily from within?  What about struggle that we purposefully bring upon ourselves for the sake of growth?  What about pushing our own boundaries for the sake of purposeful growth?  Let me show you what I mean: this week, I tried an experiment during a run.  Instead of my usual distance at a certain designated rate, I added an extra mile but didn’t decrease my rate.  I wanted to push myself further just to see if I could.  In the end, I surprised myself with a better rate than I aimed for, thus learning about myself that I am faster than I allow and give myself credit for.  The fact that I was willing to choose an area of my life, explore it, and push it just a little more has developed me as a person and has made me not only happier but also more satisfied.  Socrates’ quote “The unexamined life is not worth living,” is often seen as a mantra for those that wish to truly live, and similarly, God calls upon us to explore and push ourselves to be better than we are: “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord” (Lamentations 3.40).  That we are living is a miracle in itself, so we should celebrate and embrace this miracle of life, adopting an exploratory stance, pushing ourselves daily to develop ourselves as Christians and as people.  Without that push, we invite spiritual and mental atrophy, a shriveling up of our identity and our faith.  We lose the desire to strike out in faith and to take chances in our day.  In the past, I have emphasized thinking beyond ourselves and reaching out to others (known and unfamiliar) not only for God’s glory but also to affect a positive change in our world.  Personal exploration and pushing a little beyond what we know is a key in achieving this goal.  Doing what is safe in our lives will achieve some results, but by reaching out just beyond what we think we are capable of, we allow God to work in and through us, gaining a firmer understanding of who we are.  And these pushes don’t have to be monumental; just explore yourself, find that line, and move one step past it.  Like doctors who suggest that to increase one’s lung capacity you should breathe as deep as you can, hold it, then take in two sharp additional breaths, we likewise do not need to leap, but instead just take a small daily step in incremental growth.  To start, at the end of the day, try asking yourself this question:  what did I learn about myself today?  If you can answer it, then you have pushed yourself.  If nothing comes to mind, then make that your goal for the next day.  That our time is limited here on Earth means that our chances dwindle with each passing day.  Push yourself just a little more and embrace the few chances you have.  Amen.

Wise Answers for Misguided Requests

Questions can get us into a variety of trouble, as many times the answer is not what we really want to hear.  Sometimes, we are not ready for the truth.  Seemingly simple questions like “Do you think I can wear this when I go out?” or “Does this make me look fat?” are not so simple, especially if the person asking the question is not prepared for that truth.  I recently heard Archbishop Desmond Tutu tell a story about a man who was driving his car along an empty road at the top of a mountain.  The man came to a dangerous curve, when the car proceeded to plunge over the side of the mountain.  Miraculously, the man was able to throw himself from the car as it plummeted into the ravine, but he was able to grab hold of a very small, slender branch hanging over the cliff.  Beaten and bruised, he shouted, “Help!  Is there anyone there?”  His grip loosening and his body starting to weaken, he heard a loud voice from the heavens call to him: “Let go, my son, and I will catch you.”  There was a pause and a silence afterwards, until the man shouted, “Help!  Is there anyone else there?”  Sometimes, the answer we get is not always the answer we want.  We sometimes have it set in our minds what the answer should be, but when we get something other than what was expected, we don’t know what to do.  Or sometimes we are surprised with the answer.  I can remember two colleagues of mine from years ago that I absolutely detested based on their personalities, the things they said, their actions, everything.  I prayed that God would remove these people from my life, that He would transfer them, get them fired, have them quit, or anything to get rid of them.  Today, I count them as two of my closest and most valuable friends.  It was not the answer I was looking for, as I wanted God to change them and their situation.  Instead, he changed me and my outlook on them.  I often forget that when God answers prayers, He is doing it out of the love and kindness of who He is.  Matthew 7.9-11 establishes that we can trust His answers, as He would never give us one that would steer us down the wrong path: “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”  So what happens when our prayers are seemingly unanswered?  God is clearly not ignoring, abandoning, or hating us.  Maybe we are just asking for the wrong thing.  Instead of me asking to change my co-workers, in hindsight what I should have been praying for is for God to change my opinion of them.  Perhaps when we pray in a situation like that one, we should not be asking God to change our situation, but for the ability to handle it.  Or maybe it’s that He’s got bigger and better plans for our lives, as evidenced by how I couldn’t see the pivotal role these two people now play in my life.  Too often, we place that verse about getting what we want when we ask in His name square in the middle of our requests.  But whereas our requests are based on our own timetable and laced with our own selfishness, His answer is based on pure love and selfless sacrifice.  If God truly loves us, then He will give us what is best for us, which is not always what we are seeking.  Amen.

The Unruly Resistance of Truth

There are some topics that people avoid like the plague because it incites too much debate and discussion.  If you are unsure of this fact, try bringing up either religion or politics at your next family dinner.  As for me, I love to be able to challenge people’s thinking.  Being able to present a new idea or concept that reveals some aspect of the world to a group that was beforehand unaware of that information which then causes them to make a positive change in their life has always been a strong desire for me.  For that reason alone is most likely why I went into teaching, because it’s there that I have a captive audience whom I can challenge on a daily basis.  My students are somewhat used to this approach, so it was very much a surprise to me when I brought up questions of latent racism that exists in our country and was greeted with an immense amount of argument and resistance.  We were reading articles about the daily feelings and struggles of people of color, and as I continued, hands shot up, anger was induced, and many voices were heard.  Many balked at these claims and argued them to the smallest detail, most arguments stemming from the point that they themselves are not racist in their speech or actions.  I allowed them to present their ideas with little commentary on my part.  Having recently presented this material to two of my black senior boys, they both confirmed it as true, saying that as black men, they feel these feelings daily.  The next day in class, I addressed the outrage of the previous day, but this time I reminded them that these articles accurately reflected the way that these two boys, and many others like them, actually feel on a daily basis.  Although the class was not actively racist, their inaction to squash racism and to not speak for those who can’t may implicate them, a difficult truth for them to accept.  This confrontation with my class brought a very harsh truth to my own attention:  when we are presented with harsh truths, we often times react badly through rejection and avoidance.  We don’t deal well with truths that challenge our thinking, and in a childlike manner, throw proverbial tantrums to either avoid the conversation or immediately prove the other person wrong.  Maybe it’s because when we hear a harsh truth, we are forced to make a choice: accept it or reject it.  Christ encountered this resistance quite often.  When He walked among us, despite that He accomplished much in His ministry on Earth, when we were confronted with the truth of Him being the Messiah, our prejudices kicked in when we chose to free a thief instead of a Nazarene, we rejected His truth as savior, and we crucified Him, an act that Peter addressed to the crowds: “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you…and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2.22-23).  The truth of His power was irrefutable, but we fought against the harsh truth of Him being our God.  Christ as our savior is a harsh truth that forces us to choose.  And like my students who bravely faced down harsh truths, we are changed in the wake of that acceptance.   Being confronted with a harsh truth is never easy, and we may hide from it, shun it, and argue it to no end.  But tackling one is absolutely life changing.  This week, stare down those truths that you have been avoiding and make your decision.  In its aftermath, your new life and view awaits.  Amen.