Monday, January 31, 2011

Fly by Night?

"From time to time, as we all know, a sect appears in our midst announcing that the world will very soon come to an end. Generally, by some slight confusion or miscalculation, it is the sect that comes to an end." G.K. Chesterton *

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.


@ngie said...

Good thoughts.

This book is on it's way to me from BookSneeze so I can do a review of it on my blog. I am looking forward to reading it.

Marti said...

Fun! Thomas Nelson is so generous with their books, and they have quite a variety on their lists. I appreciate seeing what others have to say before I decide what to pick up. If I ever publish another book I'm going to make sure I solicit more feedback and endorsements send out a lot of review copies. All of those things can really help people who would like a book to hear about it.

Scott Fields said...

Reading this last week was one more nudge to do the "2011" thing on Sunday morning . . . and then you weren't there! GAH!

No big thing, I guess. That wasn't the entire point of your post here anyway. It's interesting how quickly our hackles go up when we sense a "troll" in our midst--either online or in real life--someone with an agenda that usually includes an alternative perspective and a healthy (or unhealthy) dose of warning. We think ourselves above and beyond the need for that sort of exhortation these days. And yet . . . is it reasonable to conclude that God's prophets in both Testaments were received in much the same way?

Marti said...

I know, I know, I'll make it to class next time. I think. Several experiences came to mind as I was working on this post, and I realized what a strong conservative streak I have in some areas. I don't like people to 'challenge' me, and have very little appreciation for shouty pastors and roaming prophets. But it's ever been thus, I see in the OT...

Justin Long said...

I think the biggest thing for me in the past five years has been the stark realization that "this is not the end." I know, it sounds like a contradiction on what you're saying, and I don't really mean it that way, because I get where you're going. But at the same time, coming to the real understanding that, a thousand years from now, a million years, a billion years from now, I will still be alive, and (I believe!) still doing work for God in the universe, has given me a significant change in outlook about what is important right now. In 60 years or so, wealth, material possessions, a good paying job, will all be meaningless, and will be so ever more - but that doesn't mean work will end. I think I'll still be doing things THEN that are important and in some way reflect the gifts, skills, talents, character, etc. that I am building now. So this stage of the journey is as much about learning (like being in school) as school was for this stage of the journey. Income is only important so long as it keeps me and mine alive, healthy, learning, developing, growing, experimenting, doing, etc. In a way, the idea that "This is not the end" has actually allowed me to relax quite a bit. I want to know more of God, but I relax in knowing that in 60 years or so I'll learn a lot more than I could ever learn here, so I'm content to learn a bit today and obey, and learn a bit more tomorrow, and obey... Just some thoughts.