Sunday, April 15, 2012

Job and his comforters

Have you ever wondered why Christians, of all people, aren't more open with each other? We acknowledge finding God's strength through our own weakness. We acknowledge that not one of us is faultless. Our sacred books teach us to be patient with each others' faults and weaknesses, to hold ourselves back from judging each other -- not even for the sake of possible innocence, but in the humility of shared guilt. We know that we can't speak against someone else without speaking against ourselves. We acknowledge that hope comes to the world through God's mercy, and that we walk in God's ways through acts of mercy.

And still we keep so many things to ourselves. Maybe it's our own failings or fears, or some sadness or sorrow. Or it may be that people we love make mistakes and find themselves facing problems. And I think I know why we keep to ourselves: whenever we open up, there's a risk that Job's comforters will come out.

We probably all remember the book of Job: a good man faced some horrible problems for a time. There was a lot to that story, but today I want to mention: his friends made things worse. When you're hurt, or sad, or worried, there's one thing that can always make it worse: someone coming to tell you it's all your fault, or that you shouldn't be sad or worried because God is in control or something like that. Spiritual one-upmanship wearing a mask of compassion.

We are received into Christ in baptism; not as people proclaiming our own worthiness, not as people who have rendered judgment on Christ, or who put Jesus on trial and found that he passes our tests, who have judged that his life and teachings find favor in our eyes. We are received into the church as people receiving the forgiveness of sins, as people who bless God for his redemption of the lost. All of Christ's followers are welcomed in baptism, so we see that all of us -- without exception -- are welcomed as sinners in need of forgiveness. After baptism, our great act of continuing fellowship is receiving the gift of God's mercy in the bread and wine for the forgiveness of our sins. We are drawn together by our need for God's mercy, and by our hope in his goodness. We, of all people, should know that there is no comfort -- and no fellowship -- in judging each other.


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Very well said! I especially like, "Spiritual one-upmanship wearing a mask of compassion."


Martin LaBar said...

We should know that, but should doesn't always mean do.

LoieJ said...

Lovely reflection; so gentle.

Weekend Fisher said...

I had the most ironic situation come up after I posted this. Someone I know was complaining about how much she wanted to lose weight, how her weight was affecting her health, how she'd do *anything* to lose weight. (She is enough overweight that I'm sure it affects her health.) Someone suggested she diet -- and she cold flat said No; she would absolutely not diet, she wanted prayers. Basically she was looking for a miracle; self-control was out of the question.

And I felt a pang of sympathy for Job's comforters. They're not always right, not everything is our fault -- but what percentage of our wounds actually are self-inflicted?

So is there such a thing as a way to tell someone -- maybe that they have the power to change this. I'm sure "Look, nobody's making you eat all that" would be cold comfort. But until she sees that with her own eyes, that she has the power to change that and nobody else does, she's going to be stuck.

Aargh. Ironic thing to happen this week.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF