Ask Jonathots … January 21st, 2016

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When is it right to fight–to stand up for yourself? Everyone I know and everywhere I look, people say you have to “fight back” and “defend yourself.” So what does it mean to “turn the other cheek” or even “thou shall not kill?” And how is it we are a “Christian nation” when fighting and killing and wars are constant?

Let’s begin with the concept of a “Christian nation.”

Jesus never envisioned his work as a country. He said his “kingdom is not of this world.” So the Christian message was intended to be an individual experience. Then these converts were challenged to become “the light of the world,” and affect the climate of society.

So to tout ourselves as a Christian nation, we have blended in the concepts of the Old Testament so that we can obtain a nationalistic flavor. And when you include the Old Testament, you get “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” and vendettas against enemies.

So I don’t know if it’s possible to approach this as a Christian nation without including ideas which Jesus said had been cast aside in favor of more loving and noble adventures.

If we were a Christian nation, our agenda would be simple: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

In other words, take care of those around us and develop a healthy, prejudice-free environment where people can prosper, and in so doing, gain personal peace of mind and solvency.

Then that “city on a hill” could be a testimony to the world and they could begin to measure their philosophies against our philosophy, and decide where they might want to revise their thinking.

Of course, in the process, we must realize that enemies still come along due to jealousy and revenge, but when this happens, we can stand guard without totally destroying those who attack us.

This is exemplified in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus takes eleven men into this secluded place for a time of prayer, asking them if they had the means to defend themselves, and when they said, “We have two swords,” he replied, “It is enough.”

So if we could put together a military without trying to overwhelm our enemies with our prowess, then we would be in a position to take the rest of our money and use it to improve the lives of our citizens instead of constructing an arsenal of intimidation.

You will be told by most people that this idea is childish and stupid. This is why Jesus never intended to take over countries and rule them.

The Christian message is intended to be placed in existing cultures, and through its charity, affect the climate that surrounds it.

So I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this question. Yet I will tell you that the fighting and killing that goes on in our world cannot be attributed to the message of Jesus of Nazareth, because he never intended to possess turf.

And if you ever have to add Old Testament to New Testament to justify your actions, then you are not living under the total spiritual impact of the Kingdom of God.

So I walk in a simple situation:

  • If the United States is attacked, we should defend ourselves.
  • We should also protect the innocent of the world as much as possible without entering into old grudges that are thousands of years in the making.
  • And we should take most of our financial power to build up the lives of our people so that we can offer a testimony of peace and prosperity to the world around us.

Whatever it would take to do this is what would be sufficient. Because when eleven men told Jesus they had two swords, he said it was enough.

It certainly is not enough to attack, but it did end up being enough to allow them to escape.

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Three Ways to Conquer Despair… December 11, 2014

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Despair comes into our lives when the pile of what we need seems to be bigger than the pile of what we have.

It’s an issue of perception.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a small child in India or the Son of God, struggling in the Garden of Gethsemane, suddenly overwhelmed by the task ahead. You still want to screech, “Take this away from me!”

Despair is hard to escape. The classic remedies of prayer, counseling, positive thinking or even medication are all limited in their scope, based on faithfulness to the process.

Let’s be honest. It is very difficult to be faithful when you’re scared.

If you’ll allow me, here are three ways to set in motion a process to conquer despair by not allowing it to wash over you in the first place:

1. Don’t ignore your moods.

You are an emotional person and merely quoting scripture, uttering your mantra, finding your yoga position or trying to ignore the problem is not going to make it go away. Our moods are powerful to us because they project the symptoms of a condition existing in our soul, which requires our attention.

Stop perceiving yourself as “moody,” and realize that you are actually symptomatic. There is a tendency in our society to try to douse the emotions and limit their value. This is the worst thing we can do.

Deal with your emotions–they are telling you something important coming from deep within your soul.

2. Find a human mirror.

You will consider yourself irreparable until you realize there are other people in your same situation, and you can see your problem or apprehension in the face of another human being. This is why rehab surrounds you with addicts instead of people who have never taken drugs sharing their insights on self-control.

We all need a mirror.

I can’t change my life if I’m looking at people who have never had a life-changing experience. Look in the eyes of someone who suffers from the same despair that you do and draw strength from his or her struggle.

If you surround yourself with people who appear not only to be stronger than you, but also let you know how much stronger they are, you will only deepen your anguish.

3. Find a friend to note your progress.

Yes, you will need to be honest with someone. For a moment you will have to stop trying to be Superman or Superwoman, and admit you’re Clark Kent or Diana.

You will make progress. You’ll have a tendency not to ignore it because your expectations are too high. Get someone who understands your pursuit and can tell you how many steps you’ve made from where you started.

There are those who want to make depression and despair an illness, and perhaps in a handful of souls, it is.

But most of us become trapped in a cave of misunderstanding and worry, and soon find ourselves nearly immobilized–unable to function.

At that point, if you will simply give place to your moods, find other human beings who reflect your need, and get a friend to encourage you in your steps of progress, you can actually win the day and bring despair under your control instead of allowing it to make you an inmate to its prison.

 

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Jesonian: The Pro Cons… October 19, 2014

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There is something comforting about finding yourself in the care of a professional who is willing to clarify and make things easier.

It is a beautiful thing.

It takes what would seem to be insurmountable–or even punishing–and transform it into merciful and workable.

Jesus was a pro.

He was a professional savior who was well-geared for ministering to human behavior because he, himself, was human.

But the first difficulty he faced in procuring this acumen was dealing with four “cons:” condemn, confront, control and console.

For generations, religious fervor and political bondage had created a climate of condemning and controlling. Matter of fact, even to this day a large percentage of those who claim to pursue the faith of Jesus Christ do so by condemning what they have determined to be iniquity, teaching their congregations that “God is in control of everything.”

So talk about walking into a hornet’s nest, or better phrased, a gathering of “shewbread conservatives,” Jesus arrived at the pinnacle of this judgmental juggernaut.

For the Jews had a system for condemning people for breaking the least little Sabbath rule, and the Romans had created such fear in the populace that the masses were contained and controlled by perpetual apprehension.

Our “Pro” had to dispel condemning and controlling. Had he not succeeded at that, all he would have accomplished was a new sect of Judaism, which would have no chance whatsoever of gaining attention in the Gentile world.

So the ministry of Jesus consisted of a confronting consolation, or sometimes it was a consoling confrontation.

As in the case of the woman caught in adultery, it was necessary to free her of the condemnation of the Pharisees, while snatching her out of the control of the murderous mob in order to console her and tell her that she was not condemned and confront her–to go and sin no more.

And in the case of the disciples, he confronted them in the Garden of Gethsemane–to stay awake and watch with him one hour, only to return to find them asleep, and relent in consolation: “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”

There is a great sense of relief when you’re in the hands of a pro–when you know that the God who made you has become the God who is like you, and has shared a message that does not condemn your ineptness, nor does it control your destiny.

Jesus was a pro.

His philosophy cost him his life. So please honor him by doing the Jesonian thing:

  • Take the time to confront so that you may console.
  • Or console those who are already being condemned, so you can gently confront them to newness of life.

 

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The Garden of Gethsame (Lutheran) … July 2nd, 2012

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Right there in the middle.

Yes–stuck directly in the center of the word “tradition” is “it.”

I don’t mind people who honor tradition. Matter of fact, yesterday morning I was honored and privileged to be granted an audience in front of a traditional Lutheran congregation. Such confinements and constrictions don’t concern me at all–that is, as long as they get “it.”

Yes, if people will admit that their preferences in style, music and procedure have very little to do with truth and they are still able to unearth the true mission of the heart of Jesus, I couldn’t care less if they do it with a tambourine or a pipe organ.

But you have to get “it.” First of all, you have to understand that if you name your church Gethsemane Lutheran, you are acknowledging that your particular work is built on the concept of one of the greatest conflicts between mankind’s ignorance and God’s mercy. The Garden of Gethsemane was where tradition that DIDN’T get “it” decided to arrest, try and kill the messenger of the ultimate expression of love. It is also the location where miraculously and most wonderfully, a human being stepped away from convenience and humbly prayed, “Not my will, Lord. Yours be done.”

So the name itself–Gethsemane Lutheran–carries with it a tremendous responsibility. We need to understand that we must not crucify Christ again, like the stubborn religious leaders of the past, and instead learn from him the simplicity of seeking out an ultimate good in the midst of present chaos.

I saw great hope for that yesterday–people coming out of the service having the wisdom and intuitive power to distinguish between liturgical practice and down-to-earth, Godly commonsense.

For instance, I love the man who walked up to me and said that he wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper, citing that in America there is no absence of jobs, it’s just that people often don’t want to take the employment because the positions available have not been given value, and therefore they know that they, themselves, will be disrespected for faithfully working. It was an inspired notion. It caused me to think about the motel maids, the waiters and waitresses and the maintenance men that I meet every week. What would I do without them? What tremendous service they offer to us! Yet they are often relegated to the status of secondary citizens and taken for granted as being merely “common laborers.” How brilliant, my brother. Yes, we need to learn to value what people do–and in that action, create and continue an ongoing value for one another.

I listened as men and women came to my table and shared their stories–one having a background in theater, desiring to bring that creative essence into the worship experience; another, a transplant from the Eastern seaboard, who possessed a wealth of history, knowledge and humor in his pursuit of the Christ walk; a leader of the worship service, who came with an open heart instead of feeling the need to sprout some suspicion over the newly arrived strangers; a musician who gave us place and honor to present our own tunefulness with her support; a wonderful, caring woman who presented us with delicious fruit to refresh us between the programs; teenagers, sparked with enthusiasm, picking up our pieces of equipment and carryuing them to our van, lightening our load; and a lady whose heart had been broken many times, but still brought the pieces to Janet, with the aspiration of receiving restoration.

I had no problem with the tradition of Gethsemane, because they get “it.” And what IS “it?”

1. You can’t follow Jesus without occasionally offending some Pharisees. If every stiff-necked, religious fanatic bound by church stuffiness is pleased with you, you probably aren’t doing enough. Truth offends liars. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can be gentle; you can be caring and you can be open, but if you’re going to share Jesus, you will offend some Pharisees.

2. If you’re going to follow Jesus and get “it,” you’re going to believe that NoOne is better than anyone else. “Whosoever will may come” does not allow for secondary prejudice. Even in our cynical world, which would deem such innocent doctrine impractical, we must continue to believe that “NoOne is better than anyone else.”

3. The only thing sacred in churches are the people. As Jesus so eloquently stated it,Man was not made for the Sabbath; the Sabbath was made for man.” We’re not having church if everyone is going through the motions and no one’s being touched in the emotions.

4. To follow Jesus is to understand that the spirit blows where it wants to blow, and nothing will be identical from week to week. You may feel free to have a favorite hymn, but you also must be prepared, if you’re going to walk in the Kingdom of God, to hear a new song.

5. Jesus is not here to please the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance. By the way, that’s HIS quote. If we find ourselves trying to appease those who are already in the rank and file, we will also find ourselves displeasing to the one who was interested in seeking the lost.

6. Nothing is done without good cheer and the pursuit of happiness. Jesus gave us one mission–to be of good cheer. He also told us that our goal is happiness. If your belief is that your faith is going to produce more pain than joy, then you probably should shift teams. It is our job to find good cheer in everything we do, and always be on the lookout for reasons to inspire happiness in ourselves and others. It’s just part of getting “it.”

7. And finally, if you’re going to follow Jesus, you’ll understand that the Kingdom of God is within people, not institutions, ideas, dogmas or rituals. In other words, if what we’re doing is actually making people more cheerful, happy and enriching their lives, then continue. If it isn’t, revise the plan until some “joy comes in the morning.”

After having the delectable experience of being with my Gethsemane brothers and sisters, who were traditional but still got “it,”, I ended my day back at my motel, taking a dip in the swimming pool. I was surrounded by other folks who were trying to escape the St. Louis heat wave. There was a family from Iowa and two young men from Honduras. The young men were a little suspicious of Janet and myself when we got into the pool, because, I guess, we look a little older–and very white. But I flashed them a smile, and moments later they leapt into the pool and struck up a conversation with us. After finishing my first encounter with these two fine, young gents, I then talked to the family from Iowa. Lo and behold, when I finished that conversation, I was once again engaged by my two Honduran brothers, who explained how overjoyed they were that Janet and I were so friendly, because they had been working construction in town and had been “cussed out” by some of the locals because of their Hispanic roots. They worked very hard to understand my accent, as I did due diligence for theirs–but the end result was giddy communication, tenderness and the knowledge that “NoOne is better than anyone else.”

My family from Iowa peered over at us curiously as we conversed with Carlo and Jose. I often think that the problem is not that people are prejudiced–just that they’re afraid. I noticed moments later that the Iowa daddy made an attempt to talk to one of the Honduran workers. It was beautiful. It was what Jesus would want.

Shoot, forget Jesus for a minute. It’s what I wanted. I don’t want to be someone stuck in my “white bread tradition,” unable to carry on a conversation with two hardworking Honduran boys. I also want to be able to communicate with the good friends from Iowa. I want it all. And the only person who gives me the ability to do that is my mentor.

His name is Jesus. And he was the first one to get “it.”

   

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