Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 58

What I Read Today: 2 Corinthians 10-11.

What Stood Out About What I Read Today: 2 Corinthians 10: 7-12, “You are looking at outward appearances. If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should reflect on this again: Just as he himself belongs to Christ, so too do we. For if I boast somewhat more about our authority that the Lord gave us for building you up and not for tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of doing so. I do not want to seem as though I am trying to terrify you with my letters, because some say, ‘His letters are weighty and forceful, but his physical presence is weak and his speech is of no account.’ Let such a person consider this: What we say by letters when we are absent, we also are in actions when we are present. For we would not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who recommend themselves. But when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.”

Random Thoughts About What I Read:

I know how I come across to people.

I blame The Clash, The Ramones, Black Flag, Social Distortion, and possibly X. The long hair and tattoos don’t really help matters much, either.

I can have a punk-rock edge, that’s for sure. If there were some sort of “matching” test where you drew a line from your name to which disciple you most resembled (listed vertically in the right-hand column) my line would move from me to Simon the Zealot. But rest assured, I have my “John the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved” moments. Ask my wife who sees me melt whenever she walks into a room or when I get all sappy at weddings (which is all of them). Ask my daughters who have been doted on since they were in the womb and have every reason to believe my “smitten” factor rises each and every day for them. Ask my students who know that my favorite things on my to-do list involves laughing until I’m crying with them. Ask my dog.

But I get the power of perception. I really do. And the perception would turn out to be part of the problem.

The whole thing started on the last day of school many years ago. You know they have those deals where you go to your kid’s elementary school and listen to the kids play “Love Me Do” on their recorders and they sing like crazy and then they all run and hug their teachers and get all sorts of certificates and such? Yeah. They’re pretty fun and cute. Us dads promise our daughters we wouldn’t miss them for the world because we wouldn’t.

I’d promised.

I drug myself out of bed after one of the Top-10 worst ministry nights of my life because I’d promised. More on the Top-10 night later.

It was all I could do to get dressed and walk the half mile (we don’t drive to these things because the parking is too much of a hassle because of all the parent promises) to the school. I got there, did the wave where you make sure your kid saw you, got the smile of acknowledgement and grabbed a seat in the back.

A man from my church saw me and asked me if I had a minute to talk. I simply said that I was there for my kid and didn’t really have a minute and I just wanted to watch my kid sing. His body language told me he was VERY frustrated by my response and I heard him mutter that it wouldn’t take long and that “everybody says you only have time for the people you like.” Against better judgment, I told him to relax and give me an overview of the problem.

His overview lasted, literally, the entire length of the program. The gist of it was that his kid wasn’t getting a fair shot in his extracurricular thing and he wanted to know how to deal with the leader because his kid was so much better than the other kids who were a part of the thing. He was still going when my kid came up and showed me her certificate and wanted a ride to some pool party some other kid was having. I’d had enough. “Hey, man. Can we continue this later? I’ve had a long night and I missed my kid’s performance. Could we just do this when I get back to the office tomorrow? If you’ll call to make an…”

“You’re an ass.”

Excuse me?

“I’m telling you about a very important thing that’s affecting my family and you’re going to blow me off because you’re tired and your kid wants a ride? So what if she’s a few minutes late and I was up all night doing some work, too…so yeah. You’re an ass.”

Black Flag inspired response coming up: “Yeah. You’re right. I guess the family of that kid who committed suicide last night that I baptized last weekend and my own family should take a back seat to whether or not your kid gets more time in the spotlight. Oh yeah. You call me that again and you’ll need orthodontic work, I’m sure of it.”

Not one of my finer moments. Even if we were the only two that heard it. Even if it made sense at the time in my fleshly way of thinking. I was certainly out of bounds to unload on him.

So…I called him later to apologize for my actions.

He answered and informed me that he’d already talked to my bosses and such. There would be meetings.

There were.

He said some horrible things about me in those meetings. In front of a colleague. Some of them related to my appearance. All questioned my role as a pastor and indicated he’d like me relieved of my job.

He made some harsh accusations. When it was my turn to talk I simply asked him if he’d like to convene the elder board of our church and make the accusations to them. Because, fact of the matter is, if I’m guilty of the things he said, well, I need to be instructed and taught and corrected and restored. I told him that if my elders said those things were true, I’d take a leave of absence. I meant it. But…

…if those things aren’t true…

…well, you need to be instructed.

See, like Paul, there was a reality that I didn’t want to fight this battle using worldly ways to fight it. Sure, I could’ve spent my time in the meeting by defending myself against his accusations and even throwing in a few more of my observations about him and his life that would put me in a great light. I could’ve gone with the eye-for-an-eye deal and come out smelling like a rose if I’d wanted.

Like Paul, I wanted to take my thoughts captive and truly give him a hearing. I meant it. If the things he was saying were true, I wouldn’t want a guy like that working for my church, either. But I’d searched myself and didn’t agree, so I felt if we’d bring in the proper authorities then we’d get a more objective opinion than either of ours.

Like Paul, I’d hoped he’d looked past outward appearances. (Early records of Paul show him to be below average height, with a sharply crooked nose and even mentions what we call a unibrow–not even kidding) That he’d see my track record over the years of people who don’t view me in that light and see that, even though we’d had some tough sledding, the people closest to me over the years know I’d never set out to tear someone down in their walk with Christ.

Like Paul, I wanted his faith to be enlarged because he’d been in my ministry.

Like Paul, I don’t want my ministry to be a numbers game where only the outside looks good. I want it to be one that is known for preaching Christ and making disciples, not “comparing themselves with themselves.” I want it to be on real stuff. I want my students to have a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

Like Paul, I don’t want anybody to think I’m in this gig for the money…or the prestige.

But, also like Paul, I’m not afraid to mix it up if people “masquerade as a servant of righteousness.” I’ll stand my ground against false accusations. But, also like Paul, I’ll apologize and try to make peace if I’m out of bounds.

And, let’s be honest, shall we? If Paul’s resume showed up on a desk to apply for the pastor’s job at any church, we wouldn’t get too far on the outward appearances, would we? Racial and religious differences in background are there. Former job as a killer of infidels. Arrested…often. Beaten by the religious elite on a couple of occasions. Danger and trouble seem to follow this guy. Currently working as a tentmaker and hadn’t worked for any one church in quite a while? Not too sure of many churches where he gets more than a form rejection letter.

Like Paul, I’m glad my church looks past the influences the Clash may have had on me to see the influences Dr. Suess had on me…

…and don’t even get me started on how gracious they are in seeing and encouraging the influences Jesus Christ has had on me…

even when I blow it.

Really.

I am.

(Tomorrow’s Reading: 2 Corinthians 12-13)

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