Bumper sticker: "Jesus loves you! But everybody else thinks you're a jerk!"
Reminds me of a little card left anonymously on my desk about 30 years ago: "God loves you and I'm still trying!"
I keep a little button attached to the light switch in my study to remind me of my total depravity in a Calvinistic kinda way: "Gandhi would have smacked you in the head!"
Or as my friend Ted who's now in heaven often asked me and others when judgmentalism clouded the true reflection in the mirror, "What's that I see in your eye?"
Bullies come to mind.
They're all over the place.
Essentially, they're DUs: directors of the universe.
They are my-way-or-the-highway control freaks.
While they often come to mind because they often come into play - there are more of 'em than apostates in mainline denominations - they are very dangerous to community life because, well, uh, geez, gulp, sigh, they are my-way-or-the-highway control freaks who will hurt whomever they've gotta hurt to get their way.
They really don't care about anyone's else's feelings/opinions or even God's if it contradicts theirs.
I'm reminded of the woman who scolded her pastor for cutting the grass on the Sabbath. He said, "Jesus fed the poor on the Sabbath." She huffed and puffed, "Well, pastor, you should know two wrongs don't make a right!"
Bullies are Hoffer's "true believers" who are never wrong; even when they contradict divine revelation in Jesus and Holy Scripture.
Ergo, they gotta win, to borrow a phrase, "by any means necessary."
So if they can't win by the rules of fair play...
You know what I mean.
And when it comes to ecclesiastical ghettoes, I recall the great Scot traditio-historical scholar William Barclay lamenting, "If they don't get their way, they will destroy churches in the process; or as I once heard one of them boast, 'Because I could not change that church, I ruined it.'"
It's like Harold often told miscreants in our church back in Pennsylvania, "If you find the perfect church, don't join it because it won't be perfect after you've joined it!"
Bullies forget Christianity is more about loving than winning or even being right on the small stuff; and everything is small stuff compared to loving Jesus by loving like Jesus.
Christianity never affirms selfishness over selflessness.
You won't find Frank's "I Did It My Way" in any church hymn/songbook.
Pastors aren't immune to the temptation to bully.
Actually, I think they're especially susceptible because they're expected to, uh, lead/shepherd more often than not; not mentioning they are more often than not followed as long as they bend over forward for cultural icons/identities.
Anyway, I got a call about a pastor from a pastor who urged, "It would be great if you would go see her/him before she/he starts bullying her/his new church like she/he's bullied every other church that she/he has served and eventually split."
I replied, "No can do! Until she/he realizes she/he isn't always right and stops blowing off the counsel of..."
It's a 1 John 1:5-10 thing.
The best that anyone can do with unrepentant bullies is to follow the apostle's advice in Romans 16:17-18: identify and isolate 'em.
Simply, be good undershepherds, pick up that stick, and keep 'em away from the relatively innocent (relatively is used here to confuse hyper-Calvinists).
When I was studying in Heidelberg shortly after the Munich massacre in 1972, I was sitting in a pub with a guy who looked like Arafat but had a British passport.
Cutting to the quick, he was linked to terrorists while pretending to be a student.
We got into it.
I said, "You guys are such cowards. You bomb and butcher women and children to make political points. If you had any integrity and courage, you wouldn't..."
He said, "I gather you're studying to be a professor or pastor. Let us handle the real issues of life. You can pray and talk about it and bandage those caught in the crossfire. Isn't that what you academics and church people do best? Talk?!"
That conversation continues to haunt/inspire me.
A defenseless baby and His rather common parents come to mind.
They ended up in a barn because nobody would provide shelter for them.
Whether it's a bully or anything/anyone else threatening/terrorizing others, people who say they are following Jesus and His example of invitational, welcoming, and inclusive love prove their discipleship by providing safety for victims even as they pray/labor, as Bonhoeffer demanded, to take those madwomen/men at the wheels of motorcars away from the wheels of...
Prayer/talk without personal participation in benevolences is as phony as people pretending higher values who bully to satisfy personal pathologies but never for Christ's sake.
Blessings and Love!
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