Friday, November 9, 2018

Hardwood Floors and a Spirit of Gentleness

A load of hardwood sits acclimating to humidity levels in our front room. We are getting rid of the last of the carpet in our house. Allergies and cat spit-up have rendered carpet untenable. In a week, the installer will spend a day or two cutting and gluing. Then, after we move the furniture back, I will likely go out and purchase an area rug. It seems silly, but I can’t quite live with the extreme of carpet or the extreme of hardwood. 

Years from now, some young couple will buy this house, shake their heads at endless yards of cold, loud, hardwood and cover it up with carpet. Neither is right or wrong. The decisions are just different perspectives on household comfort.

This past week, I saw a mix of perspective extremes on Facebook. The discussion following the post of a liberal friend asserted that the conservatives on a particular issue were the only side that was extreme and divisive. 

Really? Don't you know anyone on your side of this issue who has been divisive? 

Within two days a conservative friend posted a warning to her liberal friends they need to stop promoting violence and extremism because it is not fair to conservatives.

Really? Can you think of no examples of your side promoting violence?

I propose that we all live in glass houses. 

Put down that stone.

Or, if you are a recovering kindergarten teacher:

“I don’t care what you are planning, put down that stone! I said PUT down that stone, not THROW it! What are you thinking? No, I don’t want you to throw sticks either!”

Kindergartners are good at asserting that anything they do to someone else is an “accident” whereas anything someone else does to them was done “on purpose.” They are not so much lying as they are unable to see themselves as mean. And surely, if someone else hurt them, meanness can be the only logical reason. It is a childish logic, but one that works for them.

When we join a political tribe, we tend to identify bad behavior on our side as the exception, and bad behavior on the other side as the rule. It is human nature, a remnant from our younger years. 

Robert Fulghum was right. Everything we really need to know we learned in kindergarten. We just don’t practice what we learned.

And that goes for us recovering kindergarten teachers, too.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2

These verses in Galatians are interesting to me because they seem to run together three different ideas: restoration, temptation, and bearing each other’s burdens. Three great concepts but how do they fit together? I think it is a three-step process.

First, we are to restore each other in a spirit of gentleness. This idea tells us that while correction is necessary the emphasis is not on finger-pointing and accusations, but on the restoration of our relationship with Christ and with each other. Too often we are more concerned with being right than with anything else. Being right is about law and law does not restore.

Next, we are to keep watch on ourselves lest we are tempted. I know it is human nature to find our faults in other people. We seem to be on the look-out for the very behaviors that cause us shame. I suppose when we judge someone else our brain ticks off the self-examination box. But, if we seek restoration, our self-examination is a necessary step. And, if we put on the robes of a political tribe, we need to check those robes for holes and stains. We cannot assume our tribe is not mean.

Thirdly we are to bear one another’s burdens. I have always thought of this verse in regards to helping each other through stress and grief. But, when we look at it as a step in this process, we can understand these burdens to be sin. This understanding completely changes our perspective on correction. If I think you are wrong because you are ill-informed, I will present my arguments with a tinge of contempt. If you see my wrongness as being a burden, you will correct me in a spirit of gentleness.

When I taught young children, I thought of the burden of sin in another way. With many sins comes an emotional burden that led to the sin. If a child hurts someone, it is essential to consider why the child acted that way. It is true that we hurt people because of sin, but if we don’t consider the reason behind the sin, the sinner is more likely to be a repeat offender. For instance, the behavior of a brokenhearted child who hurts another child will not be corrected by a time-out. The original pain needs to be addressed, too. I think that is part of the spirit of gentleness.

Think what a different world social media would be if we would follow these steps in our discussions. We might learn from each other. We might understand a different perspective. We might learn to have empathy. We might even find solutions. There are many ways for God to shower us with His grace when we don’t walk away from it in a spirit of self-righteousness.

For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Romans 3:22-23

Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. Psalm 86:6

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