Monday, January 31, 2011
Fly by Night?
A few weeks ago I wrote about a recent prediction that the end of the world is scheduled for May 21, 2011, and another of many predictions of the same event from some 250 years earlier. As I've reflected on this question I've wondered how I'd respond if I believed these predictions were compelling and correct - and how to respond knowing that my own end, at least, will come at some point in the next 3-5 decades (if not sooner).
Sincere people have looked at the world's end or their own and responded with - well, is this too simplistic?
(1) a commitment to relax: stop worrying, let go, and do the things they've always wanted to do;
(2) a commitment to repent: sober up, make things right, and do the things they've always thought they should do;
(3) an effort to reach as many other people as they can with some message, maybe a variation of one of the two above.
But it also got me thinking about how we respond to people who come into a community - a literal community or a virtual one of some sort - and try to wake up or shake up the people who are part of it. Naturally, I resist, and maybe you do too. I'm usually looking for people whose aim is more to love and serve than to assess and critique - even though a world where people don't question things, where they are just positive and encouraging all the time, becomes shallow and insipid.
I want a winsome invitation, not a voice of condemnation. I'd rather be wakened by a kiss than a shout. But you don't always get your way on these things. And if you're in a burning building, the shout may be best.
So, what happens when someone comes into our churches, communities, schools, or workplaces hoping to turn things upside down? How do you respond?
You could just wait. Passively and skeptically, or actively and receptively. Get to know their heart, see if they are going to stick around, maybe engage them on their hot-button issue and see what it is they have to say. Are they here to stay? If they do not find adequate receptivity for their message they may decide, on their own, to move on. Whether such a parting reflects worse on you or on them is something we may never know.
Question: How do you tend to respond to those who try to wake or shake you? How would you like to respond?
* As quoted in Illustrated London News, September 24, 1927. Found this on in the recently released book The Quotable Chesterton. The publisher, Thomas Nelson, offered me a free copy on the condition that I write and publish a 200-word review (here and on a commercial site). Will do so soon.