Both Sides

In John 15 Jesus talks about being in the world but not of the world.  What does this mean?  The realities for those who are in the world seem to be the same as my reality.  In spiritual moments I can talk about a future hope I have, but that doesn’t seem to change my everyday experience.  Everything from how am I going pay for my boys college education to what will happen if we bomb Syria? Jesus was really good at speaking out of both sides of his mouth.  One moment he is calling his followers to pick up their crosses and follow and the next he is calling people to himself because his yoke is easy and his burden light.  Which is it: the heavy burden of the cross or the weightless yoke?  Experience tells me it is a little of both.  And we don’t always get to control if it is easy or hard.

In some ways the ministry I work for operates out of the same spirit.  We are both tolerant and intolerant.  On one hand we are open to participants who “don’t get it,” but on the other we do not have a whole lot of tolerance for people who are content to live out their racial prejudice or stereotypes.

The willingness to live in tension seems to be a critical trait for followers of Jesus.  Rarely does the Christian faith fall into neat packages.  And quit frankly I am tired of people who keep trying to jam a neat prepackaged faith down my throat. It doesn’t feel authentic.

Any of us living in the real world know that a prayer of faith does not always result in healing, but praying for healing is still a good thing to do.  Giving my 10% does not mean God will bless me with an abundance of money, but giving does help me to see a world beyond myself.  As a pacifist I am not going to stand idly by and do nothing when justice is required; I just get to be more creative in my responses.

I once had a college professor who said that consistency is the pursuit of the fool.  I am still working out the “truth” of his statement.   In that spirit a Christian faith that doesn’t speak out of both sides of one’s mouth might not be authentic.

Flip-flop

When did flip-flopping become such a negative thing?  It seems that being accused of flip-flopping, especially in the political field, has become the single most dangerous accusation that can be leveled against an opponent.  When did we start expecting our leaders to be so wise that they would never ever have to change their mind? The longer I live the more I become convinced that the key to wisdom has something to do with flip-flopping.  To be honest flip-flopping is not strength of mine, mostly because it is closely tied with admitting that I am wrong.  Apologizing requires humility, not my personal specialty.

In scripture flip-flopping is normative.  In Acts 9 we have the story of Saul, later re-named Paul, who is a passionate follower of God.  A new group of people is emerging. They call themselves “followers of the Way;” later on they are referred to as Christians.  This new group was threatening the established religious system.  So Saul gains permission from the religious leaders to fix the problem.  But on the road to Damascus Saul meets Jesus and has a flip-flopping experience.  He is won over to the Followers side and eventually writes the majority of the New Testament - all because he flip-flopped.

When church and political leaders refuse to flip-flop, they become something less than leaders.  It is silly to think that a person will never change their mind.  As a matter of fact, I would propose that a person’s unwillingness to change their mind is an indicator of things like immaturity, insensitivity and lack of compassion.  If someone claims to be a leader and isn’t willing to flip-flop then they have no business claiming to be a leader.

Next time someone is accused of flip-flopping, take a moment and thank God for that person!