Explanations, Not Excuses

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Explanations, Not Excuses

 

I’ve spent the last thirty years or so dealing with people in a variety of pastoral and educational settings. One of the things that I’ve found to be true is that there’s ALWAYS a reason for the way people are.

People can be wonderful, and I’ve worked with many such people over these years.  96% of the people I’ve worked with have been incredibly generous and excellent.

But I’ve also worked with a few people who were harsh, abrasive, egotistical, manipulative, lethally passive-aggressive, dishonest, selfish, narcissistic, etc., and at least one out-and-out sociopath. 

(Not anyone who’s reading this post, of course.)
(You’re on the side of the angels.)  
(I’m talking about OTHER people I’ve worked with.)  
(Not you.)  
(Of course.)
 

And what I’ve found is, no matter how awful a person’s behavior is, there’s a reason for what they do. 

Three things:

1. I’m not saying that you have to accept bad behavior.  I’m not saying having a difficult childhood lets someone off the hook for being a bastard.  The title says it: “Explanations, Not Excuses.”  Rebuke, correct, etc., if you have to (and if it’s your place), but remember that there’s a reason for the offending behavior or attitude, and that the person in question often isn’t conscious of why they’re doing what they do.  (‘Cuz if they thought it through, they’d agree with you. Of course.)

2. This fact is important for understanding how to work with people.  We make our greatest contributions to the Kingdom of God by working with other people.  And when you work with other people, you’re going to encounter people who are difficult to work with. 

When you encounter resistance, you have several options for how you respond.  You can try to bull your way through.  You can trade quid pro quo.  You can resort to bribery.  You can try to manipulate and sweet talk and seduce.  All of these are legitimate, at least in most of their guises.

When you’re in such a situation, wouldn’t it be nice to know that there’s a reason that this otherwise intelligent person doesn’t like your idea, or is refusing to go with the flow? 

  • Wouldn’t it be nice to know that he is resistant to making this particular change because it makes him feel insecure, 
  • … or he’s afraid it’s going to offend someone whose approval he desperately wants, 
  • … or he feels that too many changes are being made at the last minute and he’s been burned in similar situations?  
  • Or that the only reason person A is agreeing with you is because she doesn’t like person B, who disagrees with you?

And even when you have NO CLUE why someone is the way they are, taking just a moment to remind yourself that there IS a reason (however obscure, illogical, etc.) will help you respond a little more graciously than you might otherwise.

I think that’s what Paul meant when he said, “Bear with one another.” (Col 3.13)  “Bearing with” = putting up with someone, treating them like they have value and worth and the odd brain in their heads even when they disagree with you.

Actually, Paul doesn’t stop there.  He says, “Bear with one another, … forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you.”  We all need forgiveness far more often than we care to admit.  And we all need people to bear with us, too.  Because, well … we aren’t always as logical and altruistic and transparent as we’d like to be, either.  At least, I’m not.

There’s a reason I am the way I am–even when I’m an idiot, even when I’m wrong.  And there’s a reason YOU’RE the way YOU are, too.  (Not that I’d ever tell you you were being an idiot.)

3. This post is important for the “Airing of Grievances” posts that are on the way.  It’s foundational for the way I want to approach disagreements on substantive issues. 

 
(Originally published on my old site.)

Islam & the West–Coexist? Really?

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PLStepp

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2013/11/17/6-contractors-found-beheaded-in-Afghanistan

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2013/11/15/U-K-Minister-At-Georgetown-World-Cannot-Stand-Idle-As-Christianity-Faces-Extinction

Is there a future where Islam and the West coexist peacefully and productively?

I’m not an expert on Islam; I’m an interested amateur. But the people I know who have studied the issue, Christian scholars of religion who have lived in (and been educated in) the Middle East and Europe, are incredibly negative about the future of relations between Islam and the West.

They tell me that Islam as predominantly practiced in Europe and the Middle East today is ascendent and aggressive, and has no interest in peacefully coexisting with the post-Christian pluralistic West.  There are important exceptions, but Europe’s leaders are paralyzed by political correctness (see the Geert Wilders affair) and Islamists’s canny use of hate speech laws.

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The Chains Are Broken

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Paul says many astonishing things in Romans. One of them is that we Christians, followers of Jesus who are far removed from his day & time, are nevertheless participants in his death & resurrection. “All of us who were baptized into Jesus were baptized into his death. … as Christ was raised from the dead, we too may live a new life!”

Paul is saying that Jesus does two things for us. First, because we participate in Jesus’ death, his death is the sacrifice that removes the debt if our sins. I died with Christ. Therefore, my guilt is removed, for every sin, past – present – future! The record of wrongs I have done isn’t erased, only to be filled in again later; it’s destroyed & thrown away. There IS no record! He has “cancelled the record of debt that stood against us, and the punishments that it legally demanded” (Col 2.14). 

Second, because we participate in Jesus’ resurrection, we can live like people who have died & risen from the dead. We have a new life, & the things of the old life–temptations, guilt & self-loathing, hate, despair, the hurt people have done to us, the hurt we’ve done to ourselves–are being stripped of their power over us. 

Day by day, God by his Spirit is renewing the way we think about ourselves, other people, the world around us, our possessions, EVERYTHING, so that sin is no longer our master. We can choose to live our lives as he calls us to live. We can say with Paul, “I am crucified with Christ, yet I live. But no longer I, Christ lives in me, and the life I live I live by the Son of God who loved me & gave himself for me.”

Easter is not just about Jesus’ resurrection. It’s about YOUR resurrection, out of the tomb & the powers of death & hell that once held you. Christ is setting you free! Come up out of the grave! Come back to life!

 
(Originally published on my old site, 21 March 2013)

Theology and Marriage

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Recently, I retweeted @benreed: “The way you love your spouse reveals your theology much more clearly than a thousand sermons.”

My wife, who occasionally likes to pin me down in things I say, asked me: “Okay, so what theology does our marriage communicate?”  As near as I can recall, here’s how I responded.

Marriage is where God takes two separate people and uses them to grow & shape each other to serve him better. And they love each other & hurt each other & fail & forgive & heal each other; God works through them, their failures and victories, to make his power & presence more clearly manifest in their lives.

Just like parents are surrogates for God in the lives of their children, so loving & knowing your husband or wife teaches you how to know & love God, and to live in communion with him. 

(Originally posted on my old site, 13 April 2013)

Islam & the West–Coexist? Really?

Standard

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2013/11/17/6-contractors-found-beheaded-in-Afghanistan

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2013/11/15/U-K-Minister-At-Georgetown-World-Cannot-Stand-Idle-As-Christianity-Faces-Extinction

Is there a future where Islam and the West coexist peacefully and productively?

I’m not an expert on Islam; I’m an interested amateur. But the people I know who have studied the issue, Christian scholars of religion who have lived in (and been educated in) the Middle East and Europe, are incredibly negative about the future of relations between Islam and the West.

They tell me that Islam as predominantly practiced in Europe and the Middle East today is ascendent and aggressive, and has no interest in peacefully coexisting with the post-Christian pluralistic West.  There are important exceptions, but Europe’s leaders are paralyzed by political correctness (see the Geert Wilders affair) and Islamists’s canny use of hate speech laws.