A few years ago I heard a modern-day parable about the relevance of our careers. It’s been impossible to forget.
There were two men strolling beside a burbling stream. Both had long careers. One man confided in the other about his internal conflict over his work, because it had become, at best, stale and predictable. At worst, it was full of strife, long hours and made him feel valueless. Deep in his heart, he knew that his passion called him in a new direction, but his current position had brought income, security, even prestige. And, he said, “If I left my company now, I would lose the stability my status affords me. And I would leave my colleagues in a difficult situation.”
His friend pointed at the stream and smiled. “Follow me, watch and learn.” Squatting next to the stream’s edge, he leaned over the flowing water and pushed his hand into the stream bed until it was completely covered by pebbles and mud. “Now, observe,” he said, pulling his buried hand straight up out of the cold, murmuring stream.
We’ve all heard it, usually making fun, “If it’s on the internet, it must be true!” We laugh because we know that there are people who are not, shall we say, as skeptical as perhaps they should be of what they read online.
Last time we looked at how we can sometimes fall into that trap, even though we are usually skeptical. What gets us in trouble? Memes. You know those images that include words of wisdom? They’re often really, really funny. My favorites use pictures from hugely popular movies. Like the one picturing Boromir, from The Fellowship of the Ring, saying “One does not simply walk…” (which he does in the movie) “into Costco without buying a 70” TV” (which, of course, he doesn’t say in the movie).
We laugh because if we’ve been to Costco, we get the joke. It is hard not to come out of there with things we didn’t have on our list. So before we move on, let’s redeploy Boromir’s famous line: “One does not simply walk into…Costco without bringing a list.” (more…)
You made plans. Then, poof! How many times has this happened to you? Just when you think you have plans—it’s scheduled, in flow, settled, decided, prepared for, whatever—something unexpected comes along and, boom! A shift happens. Sometimes the shift is like a slight tremor. Noteworthy, maybe, but not too alarming. Other times, that shift can hit you like an earthquake.
Isn’t it odd how, once in a while, a really good thing can shake your life to its foundations? Even topple your clever plans. (more…)
If you spend any time on social media you’ve seen them. In fact, they’re impossible to avoid. Memes, memes, memes. Everywhere there are memes.
On the off-chance you don’t know what a meme is, the word comes from the Greek. According to Wikipedia, a meme (pronounced “meem”), is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” In short, a meme represents a cultural idea, often delivered in a symbolic way. You’ll see a picture, sometimes with a famous person, with a caption describing what that person is thinking. Many memes will communicate a concept meant to be accepted as a truth.
Why do I bring them up here?
Because so many are wrong.
Except When They Aren’t Funny
Recently a friend shared a meme on his Facebook page. It said something like this:
Fools take a fork and stabs a person in the back.
A wise person takes the fork, cuts the cord, and frees themselves of fools.
So what’s the problem? Kinda makes sense, right? We all know fools. We all want to be rid of them in our lives. There are hundreds of memes that mean to communicate this kind of truth. So it must be right.
Being Pithy Ain’t The Same As Being Wise
The problem is that we accept these things as truth. You’ll see loads of people pile on and comment about how insightful memes like this are. What troubles me most is when I see friends who are believers pile on with just the same enthusiasm.
If there is a negative person in your life, you just need to move on! they’ll say.
Why does this matter? Because we’ve all been that negative person at some point. We’ve all been the fool, probably at many points. So gleefully arguing that we should all walk away from a person that we have been…and will be again…is just silly.
And it is arrogant. We all want to be wise, don’t we? But are we wise enough to notice the unspoken arrogance in that meme quote above? Wouldn’t it be better to be so wise that we cut the cord and free ourselves of fools?
I would argue it simply makes us pretentious, not wise. The more we lean into this way of thinking—and acting—the more mean-spirited we can become, all the while feeling smug about how “wise” we are. Hmm. Not quite the type of person that we would want to become.
What’s more, how do we square this impulse to be rid of negative people in our lives—those fools that getting rid of makes us “wise”—with our faith? That doesn’t sound like something Jesus would do. Nowhere in the Bible do I find verses to support such behavior. But you don’t have to look far to find loads of passages that actually counter such mean-spiritedness.
When Meme and Mean Blend
Most saddening to me in all this is that fellow believers have thoroughly embraced this prideful point of view, that has them agreeing with being rid of fools.
What if they got that wrong?
A man’s wisdom gives him patience;
It is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11
A quick review of Romans 9 reminds us that had God chosen our worldview of what is actually “wise,” we’d all be doomed, rather than redeemed. And yet believers are the quickest to adopt this impulse to cut off relationships with fellow believers, in my experience. More times than I care to count, I have been the “fool” in their perspective, and I’ve been cut off. Just like that. Because it is wise. It must be because the meme said so!
Believers would do well to remember that two Apostles, Peter and Paul, had a huge and very public disagreement with each other. Visualize how that would work in our day: Paul stands up in a crowded church and condemns Peter for hypocrisy. Very public. No room to wiggle. Peter stares at Paul, slack jawed by this stinging rebuke, as he scrambles with how to respond.
There Are No Apostolic Memes. No, Really.
Peter didn’t respond with a meme.
He did what we are all called to do as believers. Consequently, he sought out true wisdom. With daily commitment, he sought out Truth. And he owned his error, repented of it and sought reconciliation with his brother in Christ. Rather than immediately break away from that trouble-making, negative guy named Paul, he sought to make things right with him and those around him, within his fellowship, as well as those outside of it.
If we as believers gleefully congratulate ourselves for being wise when we dump others, how will those outside of the faith ever be drawn into the church? Simple answer. They won’t.
As believers, we’re not given the option to just dump people because we don’t agree with them or they don’t agree with us. We dare not cut them off because they called us on a hurtful behavior. Doing this doesn’t make us wise. It just makes us like the rest of the world, unwilling to face our own actions.
But that’s not what our Savior calls us to be.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation… 2 Cor. 5:18
Becoming a Living Reconciliation Meme
Will we always reach reconciliation with others? No. But are we called to try? Yes, without a doubt. And wouldn’t you want to be wrong on that side of the ledger?
Next time we’ll take a look at those times when it is appropriate—even necessary—to part ways with someone, even a fellow believer. But know this: it is a much rarer circumstance than some believers regularly want to believe.
Smart businesses routinely use surveys to obtain feedback and learn what’s working with their audience and what’s not. Otherwise, all of the company’s effort could be misfiring, resting on a foundation of hopium. So, trying to be smart about growing our business, we sent a simple survey out to our e-newsletter recipients. After waiting for a notification that people were taking the survey, we finally realized that because we used the free version of SurveyMonkey we wouldn’t receive alerts when people used it (OK, note to self). So I logged onto our account to see if anyone had.
Sure enough, a few people did. Yay! Really good feedback and engagement greeted me. Or so I thought. Skimming through the graphical analysis, my eye was drawn to the bottom of the page, where the comment section was. One person had opted to leave a comment and titled it, “May God continue to bless your efforts!”
Except that’s not what they meant. At. All.
Which makes this the most difficult blog I’ve ever written. (more…)