Are We Really Known by the Company We Keep?

The idea that a person is known by the company he or she keeps is almost proverbial.  In some instances this might be true, but not always true.

I was in college during the Congressional witch hunts and especially the communist witch hunt led by  Senator Joseph McCarthy, chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Government Operations Committee.  There was also the House Un-American Activities Committee that was searching for communists at all levels of government as well.  Of the 653 people called by the Committee during a 15-month period, 83 refused to answer questions about espionage and subversion  on constitutional grounds and their names were made public.

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx was one text in a philosophy class I was enrolled in at the time.  We had to order our own copy and it was sent to our address in a brown, unmarked envelope.  Why? Because the professor was fearful both he and his students could be charged with being communists, merely because we were reading the Manifesto.

At another time, many years later, I wrote something in support of a position taken by a controversial group.  I received one email warning me about the group. Didn’t I know they believed thus and so and were bad?  I replied that, yes, I know they believe this and that and I do not believe all that they believe, but on this one issue I happen to agree with them.

Another story.  A man’s career was put in jeopardy because he  had made the comment, ”Free choice is a wonderful thing.”  To say “free choice” can only mean one thing:  the speaker favors abortion, right.  Well, not necessarily. An article was published accusing the person of favoring abortion.  The article listed several others, claiming they favored abortion. The writer published foot notes with the article to prove his accuracy. I knew some of the people mentioned in the article, and knew they did not favor abortion.  So, I made an independent study of the claims.  The man in question had made the comment that free choice was a wonderful thing, but he had written the statement in an article about personal salvation.  We are free to choose salvation, so “free choice is a wonderful thing!”

The experiences I have shared are examples of guilt by association.  It is uncritical thinking and not rational.  It is an attitude that polarizes our society.  Taken literally, it would mean there would never be a consensus on any issue and society would be in continual crisis.  Listen carefully, and this appeal to guilt by association has been and will be prominent in many a political advertisement.  Look for this especially when donors and endorsements are used to paint a candidate’s character.  So, “It ain’t necessarily so” that we are known by the company we keep.

 

 

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What is the Rest That Jesus Gives? (Continued)

 

In my last blog I said I was working on two problems.  My first problem was to determine what Jesus meant about the rest he invites is to, and second, how his words related to the words of the apostle Paul.  Solving these two problems could lead to the beginning of a theology of rest.

Our pastor challenged us with two passages of scripture.  The first passage is Matthew 11:28-30 (Contemporary English Version):

If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest. Take the yoke I give you. Put it on your shoulders and learn from me. I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest.  This yoke is easy to bear, and this burden is light.

The key words in this translation from the Greek are heavy (to weigh down, carry a heavy load), burdens (weary, work related fatigue), and rest (a temporary cessation of labor, motion).

Jesus can give this invitation because he took time to be alone with God in order to find the help and comfort he needed. The invitation is to those who are carrying heavy emotional and physical burdens.

A yoke is for two animals and Jesus uses that as a metaphor for our relationship with him.  Jesus is already there “in-yoked,” and asks us to join him in the yoke.  Jesus is then alongside us to give respite from our emotional, physical, and spiritual fatigue.

The metaphor of coming alongside is how Jesus describes the work of the Holy Spirit in John 14 and 15.  The Spirit comes alongside us as an intercessor, consoler, advocate, and/or comforter.

This is also the idea in the second passage, 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (Contemporary English Version):

Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort.  He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.  We share in the terrible sufferings of Christ, but also in the wonderful comfort he gives. We suffer in the hope that you will be comforted and saved. And because we are comforted, you will also be comforted, as you patiently endure suffering like ours. You never disappoint us. You suffered as much as we did, and we know that you will be comforted as we were.

The key words in this translation from the Greek are comfort (solace, consolation), trouble (tribulations, pressures), afflict/afflictions (sufferings as an enduring inward state), and terrible (to be in excess).

We praise God the Father, for he is the source of all help, and through his mercy we are provided with what we need.  We have pressures in our service to God and in our daily living that threaten our inmost being.  God is our source for help and comfort.

The emotional and physical sufferings Jesus suffered were excessive compared to ours, but were endured in order for him to help those in need. He knows and understands what we experience.  Now, he comes alongside us in our troubles to bring help and comfort.

I think we can learn both from the practice of Jesus and these two passages of scripture that the pressures of job, marriage, parenting, and just plain living can sometimes threaten our being.  We find ourselves drained emotionally and physically.  This is a given: we cannot avoid life pressures

The rest Jesus gives is not a retreat or an avoidance of the pressures of living.  The rest that Jesus gives is endurance (v. 6).  To endure means not to be swerved from a deliberate purpose.

By taking his yoke and learning of him, Jesus is alongside us and gives us strength for the endurance to go on living and helping others.  Just as God comforted Jesus in his troubles, Jesus comforts us in our troubles.  As we have found help and comfort in Christ, we share that solace, that peace with others.

 

 

 

What is the Rest Jesus Invites Us To?

Our pastor is working with a group of caregivers, to help us recognize caregiver fatigue and how to cope with it in our work.  All caregivers, Christian or not, often experience pressures in their work that exceed their own physical and emotional resources.  To continue working under those pressures with no understanding of what you are experiencing and no coping skills to deal with it can lead to caregiver fatigue.

I have experienced caregiver fatigue, and it led to physical and emotional exhaustion.  I had feelings of guilt and inadequacy.  It was a feeling that everyone was taking a piece out of me until I had nothing left.  It was difficult to make the decisions that my work required me to make. I had feelings of isolation, both from my inner self and from those I needed to care for.  Fortunately, I had a counselor friend who helped me recognize what caregiver fatigue is and know how to cope with it.

The Bible tells us Jesus rested from his work and he invites us to come to him for rest.  So, our pastor has asked us to develop a theology of rest, and gave us two biblical passages to study and pray over.  Then, to develop a theology of rest based upon those two passages.

The first passage is Matthew 11:28-30 (Contemporary English Version):

If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest. Take the yoke I give you. Put it on your shoulders and learn from me. I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest.  This yoke is easy to bear, and this burden is light.

 The second passage is 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (Contemporary English Version):

Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort.  He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.  We share in the terrible sufferings of Christ, but also in the wonderful comfort he gives. We suffer in the hope that you will be comforted and saved. And because we are comforted, you will also be comforted, as you patiently endure suffering like ours. You never disappoint us. You suffered as much as we did, and we know that you will be comforted as we were.

 My first problem is to determine what Jesus meant about the rest he invites is to, and second, how his words relate to the words of the apostle Paul.  I have an idea, but that will be my next blog: a theology of rest.