Sunday, February 5, 2017

Resist, yes!

A couple weeks ago, I had chapel with the four-year-olds in Ascension’s nursery school. I've been teaching them Bible stories that every kid oughta know this year. This particular day we were on the story of David and Goliath. Since Goliath was the ultimate bully, I seized the opportunity to talk with them about bullying, and that's how I introduced the story.

“Does anyone know what a bully is?” I asked. Several kids raised their hands.

“A bully is when somebody takes your toys and won’t give them back,” one little boy said.

“That’s true,” I said.

Well before I knew it, we had jumped down a rabbit hole. Someone else talked about how a bully breaks into your house in the middle of the night and they steal all your toys. And they all had ideas to share about that. About burglar alarms, and what they would do if someone broke into their house, and how they would keep them from their toys. My point had been totally derailed.

But I sensed that the kids were genuinely afraid of someone breaking into their house in the middle of the night and stealing their toys, so I said something that, in hindsight, I know wasn’t the smartest thing to tell a room full of four-year-olds. I said, “I don’t think anybody is going to break into your house at night, but if they did, the last thing they’d be looking for is your toys. They would take computers and T.V.s and jewelry. But not your toys.”

First of all, what I said did little to allay their fears. And second of all, I was reasoning with them as if they were adults. Not a great response on my part.

But what I really took away from this little conversation is that, for them, the most valuable things they owned were toys. And the worst thing someone could do to them was take their toys. That was their greatest fear.

Fear is a powerful motivator, isn’t it? How often does fear drive our decisions as adults? We may not be afraid of someone taking our toys, but we’re afraid of them taking our families, or our jobs, or our standard of living, or our way of life. And our behavior is driven by a fear of losing something that is valuable to us, something someone else may take from us.

We have a name for those we fear, that name is them. From a very young age, life becomes a struggle between us and them.

We don't all have the same them that we fear. Them may be the government, or people who don’t look like us, or people who worship a God we don’t recognize, or people who disagree with us, or people who aren’t from around here, or protestors in the streets, or Republicans, or Democrats… Who is them to you?

The word resist has been used a lot these days by people who oppose the direction our government is taking us as a nation. I’m tuned in to that resistance, although I have some problems with its effectiveness as a method for true change. 

For starters, I know that whenever I am resisting them, it contradicts who I’m called to be as a follower of Jesus. The Jesus way of being in the world is not about us and them. In God’s Reign, us and them does not exist. We have no need to prove ourselves superior, to keep those who aren’t like us as far away from us as possible, or to act vindictively toward those who would do us harm. (Yes, I’ve been spending some time in the Sermon on the Mount.)

My other problem with the resistance is practical. As long as our resistance is focused upon them, and we demonize those who disagree with us, we widen the great divide that threatens to destroy us as a nation.

Resist, yes. By all means resist. But what we need to resist, above all else, is not them. It’s them-ing. I’m convinced that until we stop them-ing others, we’ll never truly find a way out of this mess we’re in.

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