Good News and Better News … August 29th, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog


Dividing people is easy.

Just get them to focus on their differences, and their prejudices will do the rest.

But uniting people is equally simple.

Turn the conversation toward our common humanity and let our sense of humor draw us closer.

Ebensburg Penn State highway signAs I finished up eleven weeks in Central Pennsylvania, I headed off to Ebensburg en route to begin my tour in Michigan.

Every little community in America touts some piece of uniqueness, or sometimes even insists that it has a personality unto itself. I have absolutely no idea why we want to distinguish ourselves by our quirks and profiles.

But once you break through that initial crustiness, what you find are human beings. As human beings, they have three basic natures:

1. They are concerned for themselves.

2. They are concerned for what is directly around them.

3. But it doesn’t take a whole lot for them to realize that in order to get Numbers 1 and 2 means they need to be concerned about others.Ebensburg set with Jan

I loved my time in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania.

The audiences were not easy. Having an insulated sense of community, they wanted to look on Janet and myself as strangers, but we popped out of that box and offered big hugs.

So by the time we got to the end of our programs and were ready to pack up, they invited us to a luncheon. We shared with them that we needed to hit the road, because we had a two-hour drive to Youngstown, Ohio. dividing people, prejudices, uniting people, sense of humor, commonality,

They sweetly accepted our explanation, but then they came back a second time and invited us again. Why? I suppose if I were bratty, I could say they were being pushy. But that wasn’t the case.

Ebensburg pianoIn the three hours we were with them, a connection was made–and they just wanted us to know that they were fully aware of it and treasured it.

We gently declined again, and all at once one of the sweet Ebensburg souls said, “Why don’t we make you some plates to go? You have to eat. What is it you want?”

It was so moving. Perseverant love.

They wanted us to eat their food, and we needed to eat food, even though we could not stay–so they came up with a plan.

They bagged us up dinners, complete with two cold bottles of water.

As I drove down the highway enjoying my salad with just the right dressing and all the little choices they put on my plate, I considered perseverant love.

The church is in a position to become the only resource in America that has an open door policy and offers perseverant love. It will begin when we stop studying the Bible in abstract, but instead, study human life, find out what’s really going on with people, and then come back to the Gospels to unearth what Jesus says about it.

That’s the good news.

The better news is that when we have this perseverant love, it’s a lot easier to comprehend that somebody could feel that way toward us, too.

Ebensburg empty piano bench


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Bob and Rita… April 7, 2013


I invited Bob and Rita to lunch. They did not know each other and probably would never have met without my invitation. For you see, Rita was an atheist and Bob was a believer.

Matter of fact, we had hardly gotten through ordering our Coca-colas and picking up the menus before Bob was trying to talk about God and Rita was prepared to do battle over His nonexistence.

Both of them became perturbed with me because I had set up this bizarre luncheon. They asked me why I put together such an event when I knew that Bob was a believer and Rita wasn’t. I explained to them that I felt they had more in common than they thought. That perplexed them.

I shared that even though Bob was a believer and very religious, and Rita was an atheist and very anti-religion, they both seemed to have achieved the same level of misery–and since I had heard somewhere along the line that misery loves company, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to put together these two friends over a grilled cheese and chicken noodle soup.

They didn’t think I was funny. Both of them denied that they were miserable, so I asked them why they impersonated the condition. Bob explained that the world was a sad place, filled with lost people and that if Jesus didn’t return to earth soon, we were all going to destroy one another and the devil was going to claim millions of souls.

Rita cited that the world was a dangerous place because of religious people who were out to espouse their doctrines, using violence if necessary, and that we all would be better off if there was no God and we just got along the best we could with who we were.

I listened to them for about half an hour, and finally picked up the check and headed to the counter to pay the bill, thanking them for an insightful experience. They disagreed.

I walked out that day knowing this:

I want to have enough Rita in me that I don’t fall victim to religious fanatics who want to preach a God who really hates people so that they can act out their vengeance through His book.

And I want to have enough Bob in me that I know there really is a God–He just isn’t locked up in a sanctuary somewhere.

I smiled and thought to myself, That really is what it means to be a good human being. Just enough Rita in you to refuse to blame God for all the problems, but instead, try to do your part. And just enough Bob that you know you don’t have to do it alone, feeling left out, rejected and wondering if anything at all has meaning.

I’m sure both Bob and Rita would be very disappointed with my conclusion, but unlike Bob and Rita, my conclusion makes me happy.

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