Christians: Stop shooting the wounded!

A wise man once said to me that Christians are the one group that tends to eat their young. He also said that we tend to shoot our wounded. While that may be a gross image, what he meant was that we tend to attack and devour anyone in our midst who we disagree with or find to be odd.

And today, we as Christians continue that trend of devouring our young or shooting our wounded. We look at our brothers and sisters in Christ and if we do not like what we see, if they are not up to our standards of what a Christians should be, we tend to begin gnawing on them. We in the Independent Sacramental Movement are the worst about this. We forget that we are all wounded and imperfect individuals.

We look at our brothers and sisters and being to pick them apart: They are too prideful. They are too full of ego. They are too hard on people. They are weird. They have a history. They went to jail as a youth. They are too fat. They are gluttons. They dress funny. They talk funny. They smoke. They are always sick. They think they know everything. They…they…they…

We even being to assign tags to them: They are dangerous. They are vile. They are hateful. They are to be avoided. They are crazy. They are stupid. They are insolent. They…they…they…

And before you say it, if you are thinking, “But I don’t act that way.” or “I have a good reason to say that about so and so.” Then stop and realize, this message is for you.

Now let us ask ourselves a couple of very pointed questions. 1) What did Jesus say about such things? 2) How did he instruct us to live? and 3) Are we living that way?

1) The first question is the most important. What did Jesus say about such things. Many of you will immediately begin with the money changers in the temple. “Jesus threw them all out of the temple. He was justified in his assessment and anger. He even called the Pharisees vipers!” You are right. Jesus did. But we are not the Son of God either. When mortal men, like you and I, came before Jesus with the woman caught in adultery, what did Jesus do? Here, let me help you:

Now the scribes and Pharisees brought forward a woman caught in adultery, and they stood her in front of them. And they said to him: “Teacher, this woman was just now caught in adultery. And in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such a one. Therefore, what do you say?” But they were saying this to test him, so that they might be able to accuse him. Then Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the earth. And then, when they persevered in questioning him, he stood upright and said to them, “Let whoever is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.” And bending down again, he wrote on the earth. But upon hearing this, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest. And Jesus alone remained, with the woman standing in front of him. Then Jesus, raising himself up, said to her: “Woman, where are those who accused you? Has no one condemned you?” And she said, “No one, Lord.” Then Jesus said: “Neither will I condemn you. Go, and now do not choose to sin anymore.” (John 8:3-11 CPDV)

The authorities were well within their rights to bring this woman up on charges. The Law of Moses said she should be stoned to death for her crime. However, Jesus did something unprecedented. He challenged the law and the authorities and offered a path of love, mercy and forgiveness. He gave her another chance to be different, to change her life, to live anew in freedom. How many times have we denied this opportunity to our brothers and sisters? Bishop, Priests, Deacons: I am speaking to you! How many times have we looked at our fellow brothers and sisters in ministry and immediately taken a dislike to them? How many time have we judged them through the lens of others gossip about them, or others opinions about them? How often have we decided that we are God and judges, sentenced and executed them all the while feeling justified in doing so?

2) How did Jesus teach us to live? This too is a good question we must ask ourselves. How many times have we been hurt by our brothers or sisters, how many times have we perceived a wrong being committed against us? And how did we act or react? How did Jesus instruct us to act?

But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who slander you. And to him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your coat, do not withhold even your tunic. But distribute to all who ask of you. And do not ask again of him who takes away what is yours. And exactly as you would want people to treat you, treat them also the same. And if you love those who love you, what credit is due to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you will do good to those who do good to you, what credit is due to you? Indeed, even sinners behave this way. And if you will loan to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is due to you? For even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive the same in return. So truly, love your enemies. Do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return. And then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and to the wicked. Therefore, be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: a good measure, pressed down and shaken together and overflowing, they will place upon your lap. Certainly, the same measure that you use to measure out, will be used to measure back to you again.” (Luke 6:27-38 CPDV)

Wow! This is a far cry from what most Christians do today! We tend to label those that hurt us. We tend to shun them, talk bad about them, look for ways to attack them. But that is not Christ-like. That is not living the Gospel.

If anyone says that he loves God, but hates his brother, then he is a liar. For he who does not love his brother, whom he does see, in what way can he love God, whom he does not see? And this is the commandment that we have from God, that he who loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:20-21 CPDV)

Listen carefully to me, especially you pastors and teachers: If you do not love your brothers and sisters, you do not love God. Saint John makes this clear. If you say you love God, but hate your brother, you are a LIAR. A LIAR. Listen carefully to what else he says, “he who loves God MUST also love his brother. It does not say that we might love our brother. It does not say if we feel like loving our brother. It does not say if our brother has never hurt us or if our brother is our spiritual equal or if we believe our brother is worthy. NO, it says that we MUST love our brother.

3) Now let us look in the mirror. Are we living the way Christ instructed us to?

Before I get to that, go ahead and begin to rationalize your behavior and your feelings. I will wait.

Now, take a deep look into yourself. Do you love your brothers and sisters? Really? Are you willing to help them bear their cross? Are you willing to look beyond the superficial and see them as Christ sees them?

“But so and so is weird. Or they are dangerous. Or they have a history. Or they hurt my feelings. Or they looked at me wrong. Or their breathing on me. Or…or…or…”

But, before all things, have a constant mutual charity among yourselves. For love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without complaining. Just as each of you has received grace, minister in the same way to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. When anyone speaks, it should be like words of God. When anyone ministers, it should be from the virtue that God provides, so that in all things God may be honored through Jesus Christ. To him is glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:8-11 CPDV)

Look at that! Saint Peter commands us to have constant mutual charity toward our brothers and sisters. We cannot have that kind of mutual charity if we are always looking for the bad in each other. We cannot have that kind of mutual charity if we are always harboring anger, resentment and hatred toward one another. We cannot live that command if we are constantly looking down at our brothers and sisters.

And then Saint Peter says something remarkable. He says something I have seen happen time and time again. “For love covers a multitude of sins.” Saint Peter is saying that if we have love, we can overcome these little vices we see in each other. We can overcome the clouded perception we have of one another. We can overcome the slights, hurts and pains we have caused each other. If we only have love!

I want to close with this: We as clergy, we as Christians, have the great opportunity to minister as true mirrors of the risen Christ. We have a chance to love others as Christ does. We have the chance to effect real change in our families, our churches and our world. But if we really want to do that, we must stop focusing on the splinter in our brother’s eye and focus on removing the plank in our own.

Only then, can we truly see clearly enough to love as Christ loves us: unconditionally.

All we need is love

I feel compelled to write again and this time to share a secret about life with you. You may already know this secret. In fact, it may not come as a surprise at all!

Love. Love is all we have. In our daily interactions, we have nothing but love. We can have all the money in the world, but it will not bring us happiness. We may have every new electronic gadget or a new car every other day, but it too will not bring us happiness. Oh, you might be happy for a little while. But when it is all said and done, that happiness fades.

And yes, people walk in and out of our lives everyday. Some through the process of returning to whence they came and others out of various and sundry reasons. Regardless of why, when we love them, the loss may hurt for a while, but ultimately we are better people for knowing them and loving them. Even those who hurt us and try to damage us. We are better for loving them because we have shown that we are strong enough to love through the pain. It also shows that we will not be damaged by their behavior, but rather we will follow the Christ and his message of love.

Love cost us nothing. When we love others, we share a piece of ourselves with them. In return, we receive a piece of them. We do not diminish by loving others, rather we grow and expand. We become better people, better Christians by loving others.

I want to say to all my readers, friends, family and anyone else who wanders upon this post: If I have ever hurt you, I am very sorry. If I have ever ignored you or failed to help you in time of need, I am very sorry. If I have failed to show you the love of Christ, SHAME ON ME and I am very sorry. I pray that someday I may make it up to you and to show you the love of Christ, the care and concern you need and to be there for you.

Because all I have in this world to give and all I ever want to share with anyone, is love.

Update on Life

Let first caveat this posting with a couple of things. First, I am speaking only as myself. I am not speaking for the IOCC or any other church or organization. And second, it has been raining and gray for about a week now. This, of course, makes fighting my depression difficult. That said, here we go!

A lot has happened since the turn of the new year. In a lot of ways, things improved. In others, well, not so much. The size of our local parish tripled since the turn of the new year. My health has declined some, but such is life.

My son has blown this school year out of the water. Despite having a teacher that bullied him and all the drama and trips to the school that required, he has managed to keep an A average. He was given the chance to take a high school class via Virtual SC and although it was a half year class, he finished it in 7 weeks! And with an A no less!

My dear loving wife continues to work herself to the bone. As I type this, she is sick with a cold and has been coughing half the night. Thankfully, this is her weekend off. She works so very hard and that makes me feel so very bad that I cannot work to help her. I see her stress over the finances and such which serves to remind me that I have failed my family in so many ways. Of course, having to pay nearly $500 in taxes to South Carolina this paycheck just made matters worse. This is one of those weeks were we have a week to go and no money left. I don’t feel right about asking for help anymore, because it never seems to get any better. I know everyone is hurting right now and why should my financial burden burden others. And one temp solution offered to me I cannot bring myself to use. Only because I feel like it will be a burden.

I have been experiencing more pain in my spine than is usual. Of course, my doctor does not want to up my Celebrex, so I have to manage it as best I can without his help. Add to that the fact that I have a hemorrhoid that has been bleeding off and on for about 3 months now and you see the issues I am having. (I know, too much information!) Sadly, the hemorrhoid has not dropped enough to be removed…yet. And I too have had a cold since Holy Thursday. I am finally recovering, but it has been a daily struggle.

So why am I sharing all this? I have no idea. I felt inclined to let people see the very real struggles I face, that my family faces in the hopes that it may help others. People need to know that as clergy we are not super-humans. We are regular people, living regular lives. We bleed just like everyone else and we cry like everyone else.

Life is a daily struggle and some of us have it easier than others. And some of us have it worse than others. No matter what camp you fall into, you must always get up and put one foot in front of the other.