Yes it matters – more than ever.
But how do we decide what issues to label, and to what end are the labels? And how unwavering must needs the stance we take be? A few years back I would have been surer of my answers.
I saw the solution recommended by MarshaGarbage unfold in the BBC three-part series, The Monastery. A genteel reality show, for sure, it recounted how twenty or so Benedictine monks welcomed five British men who voluntarily entered a monastery for 40 days seeking answers to their lives’ questions and discontent. In the simplicity of their new routines within the monastery’s walls and rule, the men disconnected from 21st century life, and entered a world of silence, contemplative prayer, and worship. Each man found more than he bargained for.
But not because any monk argued him into changing his worldview.
The five men became open to listening to the monks because the monks demonstrated unfailing care and compassion -- concern for their guests well being. On one level, this “reality” series demonstrated a tired platitude: Preach the Gospel at all times; use words if necessary. (Misquoting Francis of Assisi.) But, to the point, the monks’ few words matched their many deeds.
None of the monks labeled their guests – nor lectured them on their life- choices.
Nevertheless, through their gentle questions, asked at just the right time, after hours of silence, worship and Bible study, they helped their guests come to know God, and themselves. Only once did the head of the monastery exert his authority. When a simmering quarrel amongst the guests threatened to tear apart the fabric of fellowship and spirituality that had been woven, he softly insisted that the men examine themselves and reconcile.
Few people have such an opportunity to come away from the world, think and pray. Fewer still have such an inclination. The world has embraced and is promoting life styles that are an anathema to Christian doctrine – and commonsense. I can do very little, save putting a finger in the dyke when called to duty. But the church is faltering, much the way Christ showed John in Revelation 2-3. We all need to come away!
We may rightly sound the alarm, hoping that the world and the church will wake up and stop their foolishness – but labeling people who are asleep is a tool requiring wisdom and forbearance – for such were thee and me before Christ intervened, and saved us. (1 Corinthians 6:10-11)
The times are uncertain – upsetting; what I was so sure of a few years back, I am rethinking how to describe and what to do. The world will not change because I think I know a better way. But I can change.
The monks showed sensitivity; they practiced compassion; they worked to understand their guest, and served them with humility, as they showed them how to find and address root problems. At one point, a monk blessed the young man in his care – whose profession had been in the pornography industry. But he never labeled him – and made no speech about the real evil that pornography is. Subsequently, the young man embraced Christ and left his profession. Not every man embraced the Cross – but each testified the discipline, prayer, worship and fellowship changed them.
A resounding gong has no melody the world can hear – nor any harmony that appeals to many Christians, either. (1 Corinthians 13 )
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end. (The Message)