Nothing Gold

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay. -Robert Frost

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Location: Arlington, Virginia, United States

I am a white American middle class suburban housewife trying desperately to tell herself that that is not who she is. One time I was a glowing young ruffian. Oh my God it was a million years ago.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

On How to Talk to People

He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.
Luke 19:1-10

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
Matthew 16:21-23

Hmm, clearly we are to talk differently to friends and strangers. Jesus didn't lead with "Repent sinner" when talking to Zacchaeus, asking him to dinner instead, but he certainly pulled no punches with Peter. A lot of christians today seem to have it backwards, no?
My problem, though, is not that I need to deal more kindly and gracefully with sinning strangers, but that I need to deal with them at all. I don't have dinner with tax collecters. It's easy to ignore lines like "For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost" and focus on feeding the poor and other very important, but not complete, parts of Jesus' ministry. If I am to be a good disciple of Christ, oughtn't I to try to further what he came to do? I see very few people actually doing this in the way that Jesus would seem to want, that is, in the way he did it. There seems to be this divide between people like me who don't like to assume that we know more than others, that don't want to try to make people change, and people who are out there with signs and asking strangers right out, "Is Jesus your personal Savior?" I want to be one of those rare people who seek out the lost and eat with them. Who try to 'save' them from their lives by bringing nothing more or less than love.
About the passage from Matthew, about how we are to speak to our friends, I'm not sure what I think. I would ask my friends to call me out when they see me acting in an unchristian way, but I'm not sure how I would take something as bold as "get behind me satan". I also do not want to talk to my friends that way (not that they need it, but of course everone needs it at some point). I remind myself that I am not Jesus and do not have the authority he has to speak that way. I wonder if Peter would have accepted it differently coming from someone else, but then I have to remind myself that I don't know how Peter accepted it. How do I know he didn't think to himself, "Man that Jesus can be annoying"? I don't have a conclusion. Any thoughts?


Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

Hey Maggie, this is pretty thought-provoking. When I'm honest with myself, even I sometimes think, "Man, that Jesus can be annoying." Especially, when I realize that He wants me to do something that I'm not particularly fond of. I do wonder how Peter and the rest of the disciples accepted some of Jesus' more radical statements when He just came out with them like that. We've gotten used to hearing them. But I wonder what it sounded like when they were fresh. Thanks for this ...

1:40 PM  
Blogger Mike Croghan said...

I agree, Maggie, this has got me thinking. Thanks!

3:45 PM  
Blogger Sh33p said...

Maggie, Wow! Have you been secretly watching me?

I catch myself falling (and failing) into a variant of this when I'm on the road. I'll see a car being driven in a rude, obnoxious way (you know what I mean; weaving through traffic, using merge lanes as passing lanes, zooming through the rest stop, etc.). Almost invariably, my initial thought is "Hey Jerk, who do you think you are." And oftentimes, that's where it stops. I get to feel superior for a minute or two. But sometimes I do get smacked with a "Hmm. Would you still think that if suddenly you recognized that car as a friend." Of course not. I would assume that there was really something important they had to get to, or that they were having a bad day. That's hardly ever my first thought if it's a stranger.

Do I really, in my heart, believe that I (and by inference, my circle of friends), are inherently better than the unwashed masses. I want to say no. Christ certainly says (and knows) that I'm not.

Thanks for bringing this internal conflict of mine to at least a more conscious level.

3:40 AM  
Blogger Israel said...

So there's a little trend here among my blogger friends... questioning ourselves... very good indeed. And I'm in the same boat. How obedient am I? Am I challenging myself enough? Jesus' teachings certainly are challenging? What if I don't need to be challenged right now? Is there balance? What am I really afraid of? Many thing... I think Mike is also asking these questions... it's a conversation I long for... but I fear I would want concrete conclusions to come about and a "movement" to happen from it... which just isn't reality. We're all doing the best we can and trying to do better... at least that's what I think right now.

Mike's post is certainly interesting:

11:19 AM  
Blogger kate said...

Good stuff, Maggie. I feel that tension, too. I don't even want to attempt to restate what you said, because I certainly can't say it any better.

11:47 AM  
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3:41 PM  

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