Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Shopping Carts and Scoffers

What are your pet peeves?  Seems like that's a typical "ice-breaker" question in some settings. It's similar to another get-to-know-you question: "What is your most embarrassing moment?"  The problem is I've always had trouble coming up with an answer.  But, I also have trouble coming up with answers to "What's your favorite movie?" and "Who's your celebrity crush?" I can honestly say I've never had a celebrity crush, well, except for Olivia Newton-John in my formative years, but she's a woman, and that's not the answer whoever asked the question was looking for.

I finally came up with an answer to "the most embarrassing moment" question though, so I pull it out whenever the need arises: "The day I ran into a cute boy in the college cafeteria with my tray of food and spilled a GIANT glass of iced tea all down the front of him."  Yes, it was horrific, but it was also about 25 years ago. Maybe I need to take more risks or something?  Get a new embarrassing story, you know?  For now, that one will have to suffice.

I have, however, identified my two biggest pet peeves.  Let's see if you can guess one of them...

If you guessed "shopping carts not returned to their proper receptacle" you'd be correct.  This rampant epidemic is something I just do not understand.  Am I the only one who has had my car dinked and scratched by runaway carts?  The only one who has innocently pulled into the closest open spot in the lot only to discover there is a cart in the way?

(P.S. They are not called "shopping carts" in New England.  They are called "carriages," but I have yet to fully assimilate.)

Anyway, it's shocking to me that anyone who has had these encounters with shopping carts (and I'm thinking most everyone has) would then turn around and do the same to fellow shoppers.  I've been working on memorizing Romans. These are the last verses I mastered.

You, therefore, have no excuse, every one of you who passes judgment on someone else, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgement of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?  Or do you think lightly of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
Romans 2:1-4

I think they perfectly apply to this whole shopping cart situation, don't you? You really don't like getting crashed into by renegade carts or losing valuable spots in the lot due to poorly and selfishly ("I'll just put it right here ~ out of the way...") placed carts and yet SOME OF YOU PRACTICE THE SAME THING!  I pray that God will have mercy on your soul, and also that you would be granted sufficient grace to carry out the Golden Rule:

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
Matthew 7:12

(You non-returning-shopping-cart-people are probably leave-all-the-clothes-I-tried-on-in-the-dressing-room folks, too, which is almost more than my hideous and blatant self-righteousness can bear.)

So, out of place shopping carts are a definite pet peeve (and hordes of hanging clothes in my dressing room, evidently), but they are second only to scoffers.

Scoff: to speak derisively; mock; jeer.

Synonyms: gibe, jeer, sneer imply behaving with scornful disapproval toward someone or about something. To scoff is to express insolent doubt or derision, openly and emphatically.  To jeer suggests expressing disapproval and scorn more loudly, coarsely, and unintelligently.

Antonyms: praise, commend, respect

(Uh oh. According to this definition, I think I may be a scoffer ~ the very thing I despise. I'm comforting myself with the fact that my scoffing his limited to the above mentioned issues and people.)

The kind of scoffing that really gets under my skin is when Christians scoff at other Christians, when members of churches scoff at issues or individuals within their own church as if they are somehow outside of that issue, or when one denomination scoffs at another.

It would be like my son Kory, attending his first Baylor football game in the newly minted, beautiful, state-of-the-art McLane stadium on Sunday against the SMU Mustangs, with all the spirit and hype of the returning champions surrounding him, but wearing another team's colors, constantly shouting insults at the coach and the team, and making sarcastic remarks about what they could have done better on the architecturally genius new stadium.

Not a pretty sight.

Not the time for it.  Not the place. And always a way to haughtily distance yourself from the institution to which you've been called to invest yourself fully.

I'm writing about it, because I keep seeing it happen in social media.  In fact, just before I clicked over to write this down, I noticed this in my Facebook news feed:

Thankfully, the status includes the softer phrase "you might not hear." Unfortunately, the title of the actual article declares harshly "you won't hear." In case, you are wondering, and don't want to go and search for this article, here are the "7 Truths."

1. Sex is a gift from God. Explore it.
2. There is more than one person out there you could marry.
3. The first year of marriage is really hard.
4. A spouse does not complete you.
5. Marry someone with similar goals, dreams, passions.
6. Marriage is not for everybody.
7. Marriage is not about you.

Perfect example of someone within the church scoffing at the church, and in a completely unjustified way, I'd say. I don't know about your church, but mine and many others I know of discuss all seven of these "truths" on a regular basis and especially when the content of a particular passage of Scripture lends itself to such a discussion. I'm sure the author didn't mean to exalt himself above the church, and he was only speaking for himself, I realize, but that's exactly what he did, along with pridefully distancing himself from that irrelevant, uncool institution called The Body of Christ.

Of which we are all members. (Converted believers, that is.)

Of which we are called to love. (With unconditional commitment.)

I attended the Pastor's Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention a while back.  It was quite encouraging and uplifting, but also challenging. Most of the chosen speakers were pastors from within the denomination who taught God's Word with power all while challenging our particular denomination to remain faithful to a pure and faithful proclamation of the Gospel. Sadly, the final speaker, a very popular speaker and author from outside the denomination, condemned the denomination for something he wasn't even able to articulate.  He ranted on emotionally and negatively about a "feeling" he had about our particular group, but wasn't able to pinpoint it.  It made me angry.

Yes, we have our stereotypes and certainly our mistakes, but I wondered if he knew any of the stories of the pastors in the room ~ many of whom have served their Lord and their churches faithfully for decades. I knew of at least a handful there who had given up everything for the sake of the Gospel and their church, remaining faithful in the midst of intense opposition and trial.  It was quite disheartening and completely uncalled for.

"Scoffing is easy from the cheap seats," I heard Robert tell a prideful teenager one time who refused to risk embarrassment on the "ropes course" at the youth retreat, but decided to sit on the ground below and actively mock everyone who slipped or screamed.

The lyrics are not "Scoff, mock, jeer at the home team," you know.

And fair-weather fans are a real problem.

So, my Facebook feed has included too much scoffing lately in my opinion, and too much casting of sarcastic doubt on the mission and actions of the church by those from within the church. I've attempted reaching out to a few in an attempt to remind them that this kind of scoffing and doubt-casting in front of the whole world only confirms what those outside the Body may have already  convinced themselves of. (And sometimes it also confirms the scoffer's own blindness, pride, and ignorance, from which I am certainly not exempt.)

I wonder if they know we're called to love the church above those outside the church?  It's not cool, and it's literally unbiblical to encourage those outside the church (and inside) in the cause of critiquing the church ~  as if you are not, by a loving, sacrificial, and expensive adoption, associated with it. I've certainly had to learn that for myself in these last 20+ years of church ministry. There are constructive and biblical ways of addressing heresy and conflict, but that is not one of them.

Like unreturned shopping carts, the practice is inconvenient and subversive at best, damaging and destructive at worst.

Saints loving other saints is a significant part of our witness to the world. Matthew 25: 34-40 is all about loving and serving "these brothers of mine," says Jesus, and His needful brothers and sisters are those within the church.

For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus, which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you...
Paul in Ephesians 1: 15

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