Parting Gifts

Photo credit: <a href="">Lululemon Athletica</a>

John 17:6-19

“I’ve introduced you to the earthlings you entrusted to me. They belonged to you. You entrusted them to me. They’ve been true to your calling, and now they know that what’s mine is yours. What you told me, I’ve told them. They’ve taken it to heart, and they know that I derive from you, that you sent me.

“I’m asking for their sake. Not the world’s sake, but for those who belong to you, who you’ve entrusted to me. They’re mine and yours, yours and mine. They’ve done me proud. Now that I’m no longer able to stay on earth, but since I’m coming to you and they must stay behind, I’m asking that you protect them. Make them as much a part of each other as I am a part of you.

“While I was with them, I protected them on your behalf. I guarded them so nobody was lost – except one, and he was a hopeless case – and in doing so I fulfilled the prophesy.

“But now, I’m coming to you, and I say these things before I go so they may rejoice in each other. I gave them your instruction, and the world hates them. They’re outcasts, just like me. I’m not asking you to exempt them from trouble, but to protect them from evil. They’re outcasts, just like me. Rededicate them to the truth. Tell them the truth. Just as you sent me to the world, I send them to the world. For their sake, I rededicate myself now, so they may also be rededicated to the truth.”

This is Jesus’ last will and testament.

But instead of dividing his earthly belongings among his followers, Jesus gives them each other. And he gives them his blessing: “You’ve done me proud, now the world’s a tough place, so stick together.”

It’s all he has to give. And it’s all that really matters. In John’s understanding of Jesus, the divine word of God made flesh, the only way to see God is in the commitment to be true to the person enfleshed with you in community. The only way to experience the joy of the divine is by rejoicing in one another. The only way to get to the truth is to find it in one’s neighbor. Even one’s own health and safety depends on the well-being of the other who stands in your presence.

As Jesus and God are connected, so is all of life. It’s the Om of Jesus.

Forget the Bandaids

"hello kitty bandaid
Photo credit: <a href="">Romana Klee</a>

Luke 6:45

If you’re good inside, you’ll do good things. If you’re bad inside, you’ll do bad things. And what you say will give you away, one way or the other, every time.

Sure, you can fool some of the people some of the time. But it won’t take long for people to figure you out. They may not say anything, but they know.

Chances are, the only person you’re really fooling by trying to say something different than what you’re really thinking is yourself.

Best practice: tell the truth. And if the truth is ugly, don’t bother with band-aids. The only real fix is to fix the you that’s on the inside.

Love and Truth, a.k.a. The Binity

an elephant in the room
Image credit: <a href="">David Blackwell</a>

2 John 1-3

A letter from “The Old One” to the chosen church. Love you, people! And not just me, but everyone who really knows you. The truth is is with us and always will be.

Grace, relief, and peace are ours, from God and from Jesus, God’s child. Truly, it’s God’s love.

The Old One’s two primary concerns for the church are love and truth. If your church (or your business, or your family, or your community) have these things, chances are you’re on the right track.

By love, we’re talking about real, genuine caring for one another. We’re talking about really knowing who the people in your community are, not just who they appear to be as they talk about the weather. Love goes deeper than camaraderie around the water cooler or the coffee pot. It means when you know someone is in need, you do something about it, rather than treating it like just so much information. It’s raising what Robert Putnam and others have called the information-action ratio of your community. Or, as Boston used to sing it, “It’s more than a feeling.”

By truth we’re not talking about just propositional or factual accuracy, but genuine transparency of who people are and what state of relationship we’re in. Which means not hiding who we really are or what’s really on our minds, or pretending to be someone we’re not. It’s a matter of being authentic. And it functions on both the individual and communal levels.

Get these two things right, and your community is probably healthier than most.

Get these two things right, and you’ve probably got a God thing going on.

(Get them wrong and you end up in the picture, above.)

Justice Starts on the Inside

batman having a bad day
Photo credit: <a href="">Nathan Lewis</a>

Jeremiah 31:31-34

“Without fail,” God says, “I’ll make a new deal with Israel and Judah.”

“It won’t be like the deal I made with the ancients when I personally brought them out from slavery in Egypt. They reneged on that deal, even though I was the boss,” God says.

“Here’s the deal I’ll soon make with Israel,” God says. “I’ll make justice second nature to them. I’ll write what’s right into their very DNA. I’ll be their God, and they’ll be my people. They won’t have to teach each other to know God, because it’ll be a given for everyone from the average schmo to the king.”

God says, “I’ll commute their sentence. It’ll be like their evildoing never happened.”

To know God is to have justice be second nature. For a nation to know God doesn’t require having a “Christian” President. It requires people to do right, “from the average schmo to the king.”

It’s a pretty tall order. But that’s the deal.

From a human perspective, something becomes second nature by practice. Justice, like anything else, is something that improves with practice. It’s a matter of forming good habits. By repetition. Over and over, in every situation, doing the right thing. Doing the sometimes hard thing.

The good news is, the capacity to do right, just as much as the capacity to do wrong, is written into human DNA. It’s not impossible. Truly, the capacity to reflect, to weigh the options, and to choose a response is one of the things that makes us human.

What is true of humans is also true of their institutions. Only instead of habits, we call institutional habits “culture.” Whether it’s corporate culture, church culture, or national culture. How much the DNA of justice is present in the culture is a function of how many of it’s humans have the justice DNA, and how many of them exercise it to the point where it becomes second nature.

Changing the culture, and doing justice, starts with changing you.