Wise words from a Wise Man

Amongst the many Emergent Updates I get, the latest one really struck me with McLaren’s honesty and maturity in these challenging times of ministry. It’s the constuctive tone of his hopes after some honest assesment is what I value very much!

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1. I hope that we’ll realize that we all have things worth being angry about, and that our anger has to be worked through. But I think of James’ wise words about human anger not accomplishing the justice of God – or Paul’s, about being angry, but without sinning. Our anger is necessary, but dangerous.

2. I hope that we will get beyond opinionatedness. For example, if you have been abused by church hierarchy, and in reaction, you are now an anarchist/egalitarian (i.e. never use the word pastor, etc.), I hope your opinion won’t force you into a new legalism or paint you into a new corner. Contrarily, if you have been worn out by disorganization and lack of leadership, I hope your opinions that favor clear structure won’t push you toward authoritarianism or paint you into that corner. Buddhists often call this kind of religious opinionatedness being “notional.” Imagine a Buddhist who develops all kinds of opinions about the various schools of Buddhism, learns Sanskrit, and debates theories of karma, but never meditates and doesn’t manifest mindfulness or peace. Are his notions or opinions worth anything? Among the Buddhist masters who truly practice meditation, notions seem to become less and less important. Shouldn’t there be something analogous for us?

3. I also hope we get beyond being critical. When people are trying to do something good, it won’t be perfect. Instead of criticizing them for not being perfect, we need to affirm their desire or attempts at doing good. “At least they’re trying!” is a gracious addendum to any critique. Dietrich Bonhoeffer talked about this brilliantly in Life Together. He describes how our “wish dreams” for community our ideals and dreams for how community should and could be can make us actually hate people who don’t fulfill our dreams and wishes, or who get in their way. At that moment, our own critical spirit is a bigger obstacle to our dreams being fulfilled than whatever someone else is doing or not doing.

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