Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Spirit of Gentleness

We live in a day and age of immediate blame.  There is a police shooting, and instantaneously there is a divide between those who say the cop is at fault and those who blame the fellow shot.  There is a bombing or a stabbing in a mall, and immediately the same political lines are toed.  There is report of something scandalous somewhere in the church, and the complaints and knee-jerk defense both flash across walls and pages and blogs.  And where do you stand on these issues?  Answer now, with the barest of information!  The decision is to be made in a second, as soon as the report comes in - or you yourself will be judged as lacking, a traitor, a sell-out, a dupe.

   But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.  6 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Consider the fruits of the Spirit (alas, so often displaced these days by "virtue" in a vain attempt to reassert our own strength, our own manliness).  How do the snap judgments play in with these?

Love: whom or what are you loving?  You are to love your neighbor.  That means both the black life and the blue life.  You are to have compassion even upon the terrorist or the errorist alike.  Yet are our snap judgments actions of love for them, or are they love of our own agendas, political opinions, theological institutions, etc?  Are they not in fact self love - where everything becomes a chance for "I told you so" posturing? 

Joy:  Joy?  In these sorts of discussions?  Ha! Our Lord said in John 16 "
So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you."  We have joy in Christ.  No matter how messed up the world is, Christ is Risen!  No failures of order (domestic or governmental), no tomfoolery in the Church will change that.  If Israel for centuries ignored the Passover and instead had asherahs in the temple, yet the Messiah still came, then certainly the mild strangeness of our days will not hinder our Lord's return!  And yet, where is the joy?  Instead of joy, how often do we run on fear and anger and disdain and rage?

Peace:  What use is peace in a time of outrage?  What use is peace when the answer is to put up a hashtag to show the appropriate and righteous anger (though it's the same one you used last time, and the sun has long since gone down)?  We do not appear to those in fear and say "Peace be with you" as our Risen Lord does - instead we are quick to tell people what they should fear.

Patience:  Do we let things play out?  Do we let the story unfold?  Do we let those who have been given by God the authority to handle and judge these things do their God given duty - or do we make our snap decisions and proclaim what should be done.  Fire or Exonerate, condemn, excommunicate and remove!  We who have no office to judge or condemn or to declare innocent and exonerate speak so quickly - running when not told to run, speaking in a manner outside what we were called to speak.  We forget what Luther says in the Large Catechism:
Therefore, to avoid this vice we should note that 265] no one is allowed publicly to judge and reprove his neighbor, although he may see him sin, unless he have a command to judge and to reprove. 266] For there is a great difference between these two things, judging sin and knowing sin. You may indeed know it, but you are not to judge it. I can indeed see and hear that my neighbor sins, but I have no command to report it to others. Now, if I rush in, judging and passing sentence, I fall into a sin which is greater than his.

But what of the other part of that Large Catechism, Brown!?  For does it not say:

All this has been said regarding secret sins. But where the sin is quite public so that the judge and everybody know it, you can without any sin avoid him and let him go, because he has brought himself into disgrace, and you may also publicly testify concerning him. For when a matter is public in the light of day, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying; as, when we now reprove the Pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. For where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public, that every one may learn to guard against it.

Yep, but the very next words are:

Thus we have now the sum and general understanding of this commandment, to wit, that no one do any injury with the tongue to his neighbor, whether friend or foe, nor speak evil of him, no matter whether it be true or false, unless it be done by commandment or for his reformation, but that every one employ his tongue and make it serve for the best of every one else, to cover up his neighbor's sins and infirmities, excuse them, palliate and garnish them with his own reputation. 286] The chief reason for this should be the one which Christ alleges in the Gospel, in which He comprehends all commandments respecting our neighbor, Matt. 7:12: Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.

Are you quick to speak so as to reform a person?  If not, let there be patience!  Would that we were patient and not so quick to condemn in our discussions, and rather have patient love! 

But they are wrong, and they harm me!  So be it - or do you not remember that "patient" is actually, literally "long suffering".  Better for me to suffer under my neighbor than to cause my neighbor to suffer.  This is the fruit of the Spirit Whom Christ gave forth from the Cross.

Kindness:  Are your words kind?  Are they full of collegiality?  If you need to admonish or reprove, is there kindness towards the very one you are reproving?  Are you doing so because you love them and thus treating them kindly, or do you fear them and what they represent, and want them destroyed?  Are you more worried about the power and politics involved, the greater agendas at play, than you about the person?  Who cares whether or not they are focused on power, politics, or agendas!?  We are called to love the neighbor, not our hobby horses.  Let power be the way of the world - we are of Christ - kindness is what wells up in us by the power of the Spirit, a power the world will never understand.  One need never be a "Jerk for Jesus" - otherwise one has missed the point.

Goodness: This is not moral rectitude.  This is not "See how right and good I am."  This is from agathos - good, useful.  Utility.  By the Spirit of God we are useful to our neighbor; we are an aid and a help to them, rather than a hindrance and a foil.   Our are actions for their benefit, for their good - for if we are full of goodness then we are a good for our neighbor.

Faithfulness:  This is not "I will demonstrate how orthodox I am" - be it politically or theologically or what have you.  Be faithful to your neighbor.  Break not faith with them!  Don't betray them!  Don't throw them under the bus - but be good and faithful to your neighbor.  For you realize that we are to love our neighbor, right?

Gentleness:  Meekness.  To act as though the other person, the person whom you are addressing or speaking about is of more importance than you yourself, is greater than you yourself.

Self Control:  Our Roman Catholic brother in the faith Herm Edwards sums this one up nicely:

And St. Paul goes on.  Let's not be conceited, jealous of the attention others get.  Let's not try to provoke others -- let's not try to stir the pot and get folks riled up and angry (for the anger of man most certainly does not produce the righteousness of God).

In fact, if you are bound to speak, compelled to speak on anything - if you are spiritual, then restore the erring in a spirit of gentleness.  Meekness.  They are more important than you.  Their life is more than your life.  Thus Christ on the Cross, who valued your life more than His own.

Are you made uncomfortable - so be it.  Show love nonetheless.
Are things you value being mocked or tarnished - so be it.  Show joy nonetheless.
Are things raging violently - so be it.  Show peace nonetheless.
Are things changing so quickly and frighteningly - so be it.  Show patience nonetheless.
Are they cruel and harsh to you - so be it.  Show kindness nonetheless.
Are they hurting and harming you - so be it.  Show goodness nonetheless.
Are they faithless and full of betrayal - so be it.  Show faithfulness nonetheless.
Are they arrogant and self-important - so be it.  Show gentleness nonetheless.
Are they stopping at nothing to have their way - so be it.  Control yourself nonetheless.

For they are not your head, they are not your lord, they are not your master.  You are not rooted or grounded in them.  They do not determine your life.  You are baptized, and Christ Jesus is your Lord and Master.  He has poured out His Spirit upon you, forgiven you and given you life.  That is truth - and no blurb across some screen can change that.

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

You are a new creation in Christ - don't let the craziness of the world make you forget that =o)

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