Friday, December 16, 2011

Neigbhor Handling 1 - Don't assume your neighbor has your flaws.

Let's face it, we all have flaws. We all have things that we just absolutely know that we just need to avoid, otherwise it will be trouble. We have those areas where moderation flies out the window. I don't know what it is for you... I have some guesses as towards mine.

When dealing with my neighbor, I need to remember that their flaws are not exactly mine. For example, I have a terrible, terrible temper. I do - my son has inherited this from me, and when I have the strong pair of lungs berating me early in the morning, my own temper is brought to mind.

I've adapted... a bit. There are things I avoid. While I have told the congregation that I don't watch the TV preachers because if I do I'll just get angry and possibly put a boot through my TV... well, they probably thought that was hyperbole. It wasn't as hyperbolistic as you might have thought.

So, I know that I must work around my temper - that because of it there are some things that I must do, some things that I should never do. Hey, some are alcoholics and can't take a drink -- you could say that I am an angeraholic. Oh, and if I can get some "righteous" indignation going too - well, boy howdy that's a treat.

But here's where the rub is. As the right Reverend Jay Hobson pointed out in the comments on the previous post, one of the things I think is vital for a good preacher is preaching your own flaws... simply assuming that you'll hit the things that are tempting the congregation.

The flaws of your neighbor, the temptations that they face will be similar, they will be enough for understanding... sometimes they may even be close enough to where you can give good advice on how to avoid them... but remember, be focused upon your flaws, not your short cuts around them.

It is one thing for me to talk about anger - I can speak to how it is destructive. I can speak how anger drives from our thoughts the very idea of love - instead of letting us be focused on loving and caring for our neighbor, anger makes us selfish and drives us to harm our neighbor. That's preaching about a flaw -- and people can connect to that, they can apply that truth to themselves. That is a universal truth about anger.

It is another thing to say, "You cannot watch Televangelists." I shouldn't. I know this. Is it a good thing to watch televangelists... well, I know lots of people do, I know you can garner examples of how theology goes awry. Some people like theological train-wrecks (hey, I like watching Ancient Aliens, that's sort of a train-wreck show). I can warn against the false doctrine, I can remind people that they need to judge what they hear (is it teaching Christ who has come to save you and give you forgiveness... if not, know that it is a lie). But not everyone will react as angrily as I. A lot of contemporary Christian pop music angers me - the false doctrine drives me nuts. I need to avoid it. But that doesn't mean that *you* have to... and I need to make sure that I don't assume that you are triggered by the same things that trigger me.

Think I am joking? How quickly do we have people move to the "oh, a Christian can't listen to *that* music"? How can you listen to that Eminem/Lady Gaga/Katy Perry song - it just glorifies sin? Well, actually it can be rather insightful, showing the impact of rage (Eminem is good at this) or how empty glamor is (there's a reason Fame is a Monster, even as Lady Gaga craves it) or how empty last Friday Night was. "But, but, it's wicked!" And... false doctrine isn't? Or the sexual overtones in classical music (yeah... the magic flute.... Yeah.) The thing is - we only tend to forbid or rage against the things that trigger us.

So, what does this all mean. When dealing with your neighbor, don't assume that they have the exact same flaws as you do, don't assume that they are triggered in the same way. This is the path of legalism -- legalism stops teaching about sins but rather begins to mandate man-made fences as ways of circumventing sin.

And you know what - that annoys the tar out of your neighbor. Really - think about when someone goes off on a moralistic tangent -- it gets annoying. Really, that's their short-cut, that's their "tradition of men" designed to avoid temptation... and it's not necessarily a bad thing... it's just that when you star applying your short cuts to your neighbor... well, how to put this?

Then you start acting like a jerk. Seriously - you literally jerk your neighbor around. You become bossy. You become a prophet of the false god "my brain and wisdom, which is so much bigger than yours".

Conversely - don't be afraid to know your own sin. Know it's dangers. Describe with clarity what disrespect, what a lack of honor, what hatred, what lust, what greed, what envy, what covetousness do, how they distort you. But don't think to try to "fix" your neighbor's problems... serve, ask, give insight - but don't boss. If you are bossing, it's ego, it's not service to the neighbor. The Gentiles lord things over one another - this is not for you.

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