The Quiet Liturgy of Fred Rogers

‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ taught us to love—not fear—our neighbor.

RYAN J. PEMBERTON NOVEMBER 22, 2019

The Quiet Liturgy of Fred Rogers

“Would you be mine, could you be mine, please would you be my neighbor?” The threefold question repeats for nearly 900 episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It’s the recurring song Fred Rogers sings as he enters the front door, removes his jacket, replaces it with a zippered cardigan, and makes his way down the stairs of his television set home to swap out his dress shoes for canvas sneakers.

Growing up watching the slow-moving, soft-spoken Fred Rogers on PBS, I could not have imagined his resurgence in my mid-thirties. Yet Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the 2018 documentary on Fred Rogers’ television show, is already the highest-grossing biographical documentary of all time.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood releases on November 22a dramatic retelling of the unexpected friendship between a journalist and Rogers, starring Tom Hanks as the most beloved neighbor in America. With an estimated budget of $40 million and one of Hollywood’s most amiable stars in the lead role, the man in the red sweater has become an unexpected commodity. But why the sudden popularity now?

Notably, Fred Rogers’s television entrance always climaxes with the same subject: “neighbor.” Specifically, it is an invitation to be a neighbor. In a way, it’s an echo of Jesus’s conversation with a lawyer in Luke 10, where he asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the law?” Jesus asks in reply.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind,” the lawyer replies, recalling Deuteronomy 6:5. “And your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).

“You have given the right answer,” Jesus says. “Do this, and you will live.”

“And who is my neighbor?” he asks (Luke 10:25–29, ESV).

Jesus refuses to give the lawyer what he wants: a rule to follow. Nor does he offer a neat definition of neighbor to apply like a blueprint. Instead, Jesus tells a story that invites his listener to be a good neighbor—something that will continue acting on the imagination long after their conversation, and, in turn, shape his heart.

It’s a liturgical response to a practical question—not unlike Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the children’s TV show that ran from 1968 to 2001. “If there is a central biblical theme to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, this is it,” Amy Hollingsworth writes of the Good Samaritan in Rogers’s show in The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers.

In fact, what if the whole of Fred Rogers’s work was a liturgical invitation to embody the story of the Good Samaritan? What if Rogers was, over and over again, offering a model of what it looks like to be a good neighbor, loving our neighbor as ourselves?

The Liturgy of Love

Liturgy refers to the repeated movements, practices, and phrases that shape us into particular ways of life. They are “loaded with an ultimate Story about who we are and what we’re for,” writes philosopher James K. A. Smith in You Are What You Love. These rituals occur not only in our church services; they’re present in shopping malls, on our cell phones, and, of course, in the television and films we watch. “Our loves and longings are steered wrong, not because we’ve been hoodwinked by bad ideas, but because we’ve been immersed in de-formative liturgies and not realized it,” Smith writes. “As a result, we absorb a very different Story about the telos of being human and the norms for flourishing.”

Similarly, the late French philosopher René Girard suggests that our desires are learned by observation, rather than existing as innate, immutable aspects of ourselves. What we strive after is an imitation of what we see others pursuing and enjoying—what Girard calls “mimetic desire.” The work of Smith and Girard suggests that the formation (and de-formation) of our desires is quietly happening all the time, through all of our activities and habits, especially television and film.

Enter Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. “We had a director who once said to me, ‘If you take all of the elements that make good television, [and] you do the opposite, you have Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,’” Margaret Whitmer, one of the show’s producers, shares in the 2018 documentary. “Low production value, simple set, unlikely star. Yet, it worked. Because he was saying something really important.” Rogers initially worried people wouldn’t understand the depth of what he was trying to accomplish, especially when so many parodies of his slow, earnest style appeared in comedy sketches, according to Hedda Sharapan, another producer.

But the repeated language and practices, the steady, sing-song voice, and the unhurried pace of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood wasn’t a misunderstanding of what makes for good television. Nor was it merely a reflection of Rogers’ personality. Each word and movement were painstakingly crafted for an intentional impact on his audience.

“He wanted to do things right, and whatever he did right, he wanted to repeat,” journalist Tom Junod writes in a 1998 Esquire article, “Can You Say…Hero? Mister Rogers, Especially Now,” which inspired the latest film. “Whatever he did right he would have to repeat, as though he were already living in eternity.”

Fred Rogers was a pioneer in recognizing television as a powerful vehicle of formation. It was this vision paired with his theological training that made for a truly unique approach. “He was ordained in the ministry of television,” reflected Nicholas Ma, the director of Won’t You Be My Neighbor? As Rogers later acknowledged himself, “What we see and hear on the screen becomes who we are.” Out of a deep love and concern for children, Rogers filled his television show with intentionally crafted symbols, movements, and phrases—all designed to shape his audience into a particular way of being.

The Liturgy of Slowing Down

At the start of each episode, the camera passes through a model neighborhood before focusing on a single house. As it enters the home, the camera pans past a blinking yellow stoplight—a symbolic invitation to slow down. Another repeated practice involves Rogers feeding his fish on-air. His actions challenge the part of us who see his actions as a needless exercise in patience, unfit for television. Instead, by observing him taking care of his pets, he reminds us that caring for God’s creatures takes time—and it is worth it.

Out of a deep love and concern for children, Rogers filled his television show with intentionally crafted symbols, movements, and phrases—all designed to shape his audience into a particular way of being.

In the story Jesus tells in response to the lawyer’s question, two characters—a priest and a member of the tribe of Levi—pass by a traveler who had been robbed, stripped, beaten, and left for dead beside the road. Maybe they’re avoiding this person in their hurried pace. As anyone in ministry knows, the many voices calling out to those in religious leadership can leave little time to properly see our neighbor. We need rhythms and rituals that slow us down, counteracting our malformed relationship with time and our neighbor. The liturgies of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood repeatedly disrupt how we live within time so that we might see those around us not as interruptions to our efficiency or our “real work,” but as neighbors with whom we learn how to be.

Fear of neighbor is another possible explanation these two religious leaders pass by the beaten man in Luke 10 without helping. While touching “unclean” bodies could make them unfit to perform their religious duties, first-century Jewish priests had an obligation to bury a neglected corpse. Their avoidance must have gone beyond religious duty. Fear of the other is rampant during our own day as much as it was when Rogers repeatedly addressed it on air.

In the first week of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the ruler of the Land of Make-Believe, King Friday XIII, orders guards to stand watch against foreigners and the corresponding change they will bring, demanding a wall be built to ensure safety. Characters fly balloons over the wall in response, carrying invitations to live counter to the dictates of fear, lives characterized by peace, friendship, and love. The invitation is a success, and King Friday reverses his commands for a wall, giving the opportunity for enemies to become neighbors, and neighbors to become friends (a clear echo of the Good Samaritan story). This early scene captures a key objective Rogers had for his show: re-shaping anger or fear of neighbor into love and compassionate care.

“Evil would like nothing better than to have us feel awful about who we are,” Rogers told Hollingsworth on the set of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in 1994. “And that would be back in here [in our minds], and we’d look through those eyes at our neighbor, and see only what’s awful—in fact, look for what’s awful in our neighbor.”

The accuser, unlike our Lord, teaches us to fear our neighbor. The Good Samaritan story not only forms us into those who love our neighbor as God’s image bearer, it expands our understanding of who qualifies as our neighbor.

The Liturgy of Relationship

Though I didn’t realize it growing up watching the show, the intro song to each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood invited me to see myself as a neighbor in relationship with other neighbors. In the beginning of each episode, Mister Rogers wasn’t just swapping out his clothes—he was becoming vulnerable to his audience. He made himself intimate, approachable, and available.

We are in need of transformation that digs deeper through repeated stories, language, and practices that bend the walls of our minds and hearts toward shalom.

Rogers invited his viewers to be open to our own neighbors by modeling it himself. His television set home was always open to neighbors. “I’d like for you to know my television neighbor,” he often told viewers, introducing another member of his community. In the May 9, 1969 episode, one year after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Rogers cooled his bare feet in a plastic pool on a hot day when his local police officer stopped by. At Rogers’ invitation, Officer Clemmons, a black man, joined him in the foot bath. The invitation offered an important counter-formation in viewers’ minds in a time when African Americans were violently removed from “white” swimming pools. Rogers realized that the minds and hearts of our nation’s children needed a different story and he offered them one.

“The icon Fred Rogers not only was showing my brown skin in the tub with his white skin as two friends,” Francois Clemmons shares in The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, by Maxwell King, “but as I was getting out of that tub, he was helping me dry my feet.”

Foot washing, of course, is just what Jesus calls his followers to do (John 13:14). In this subversive, timely example, Rogers showed us what such love in action looks like. The model of neighborly interactions with others of all skin colors, mobility levels, and otherwise invites viewers to slow down, to question any relationships governed by fear, and to turn those interactions on their head with vulnerable love.

“Some things you see are confusing, some things you hear are strange,” Rogers sings in his song, “Look And Listen,” for more than 30 episodes. “But if you ask someone to explain one or two, You’ll begin to notice a change in you.” Ultimately, these liturgies explore a way of life that manifests the shalom Scripture promises.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Fred Rogers’s return to the mainstream comes at a time when the political, ecclesial, and ethnic schisms in our lives have left us looking for help in navigating divisive days. The solution must be complex enough to address the malformation of our hearts and minds: we no longer know who our neighbor is, because we’ve forgotten what it means to be a neighbor. Jesus’ tale of the Good Samaritan who found his neighbor beaten and bloodied beside the road to Jerusalem is not a story to be heard once and understood. It is intended to be told and re-told, acting on our imagination so that this story might be lived out, so that we might live (Luke 10:28).

But living into this story requires a deep counter-formation. And that counter-formation requires a creative, subversive approach. We are in need of transformation that digs deeper through repeated stories, language, and practices that bend the walls of our minds and hearts toward shalom.

“He’s a lot more complex than I thought,” the journalist, played by Matthew Rhys, says of Rogers at one point in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Fred Rogers’s life represents a liturgical invitation to embody the story of one who was a neighbor when a neighbor was needed—that others might receive the invitation to be a neighbor. It’s an invitation we refuse at risk of our own destruction. So we say, thank you, Mister Rogers. Thank you for welcoming us into your neighbor-hood.

Ryan J. Pemberton is the minister for university engagement at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley and author of Called: My Journey to C. S. Lewis’s House and Back Again and Walking With C. S. Lewis: A Spiritual Guide Through His Life and Writings. Follow Ryan at @ryanjpemberton or RyanJPemberton.com.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/november-web-only/quiet-liturgy-of-fred-rogers-mr-rogers-movie.html

Why Do People Keep Pastors at Arm’s Length?

Ordination can be isolating, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Why Do People Keep Pastors at Arm’s Length?
COLE HARTIN

 

I’m an Anglican priest. I wear black every day, I wear a collar, and I work in a parish. While many pastors from evangelical traditions opt out of the collar and thereby can get around “incognito,” those of us who wear clerical garb have a constant visual reminder of who we are. This is can be deeply isolating.

While I was preparing for ordination, one of my mentors warned me, “When you start wearing a collar, whether you like it or not, you will be a character in other people’s thoughts and dreams.” The truth of these words didn’t really hit me until I was on my first hospital round after being ordained. Many people stopped me to say, “Hello, Father,” or “Good morning, Father.” They didn’t know a thing about me, but by virtue of my vocation, I became a cartoonish aggregate of all their images of what a priest should be. I played a role in their thoughts, though they didn’t know my name.

I thought to myself, I’m not just Cole anymore; I am always going to be assessed based on whether or not I fit a stereotype of a pastor.

In most people’s eyes, my vocation comes before my person. Even though my clerical garb reveals this in unique ways, it’s true for most people in professional ministry, with or without a collar. Pastoral ministry is a great calling—one I am glad to answer—but it can also leave me feeling cut off from others.

Set Apart

I imagine most of my parishioners would find it odd to learn that pastoral ministry can feel so lonely. While pastors spend their fair share of time alone writing and planning, much of the time we are surrounded by people—not by nameless crowds, but by people we know well. Yet we often feel alone.

To be a pastor is to be set apart, holy, “other”—or so it seems. Whether or not this is in fact the case, it is how we are popularly perceived, and it shapes the way we are treated.

Pastors share a certain affinity with the Levitical priesthood. While the people of God as a whole are called to be “a chosen people, a royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9), some of us are ordained to a ministry of Word and sacrament, trusting that those to whom we minister “will share in all good things with their teacher[s]” (Gal. 6:6).

Without diminishing the differences between the polity of our churches, the scriptural injunctions for leaders in the church are demanding, calling bishops or overseers to be “above reproach” and deacons to “prove themselves blameless” (1 Tim. 3). For all leaders, God’s call demands a high standard of faithfulness because we are in some sense—for good or ill—models to the faithful, knowing that “we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). This is a serious vocation.

And that is to say nothing about the expectations others have of pastors. Many folks think we are either ultra-spiritual gurus or shysters peddling spiritual wares. Until we break down these initial stereotypes, people will engage with us in a superficial or skeptical manner. I notice people’s stares when I’m out walking with my family after work and haven’t had time to change my clothes. They must find it odd to see a priest walking around with two sons and a pregnant wife, and I can’t help but wonder if they think I am up to something scandalous.

Recently, we went to the grocery store as a family right after leaving church. My oldest son announced that he needed to pee, so I took him to the bathroom. I felt compelled to explain to everyone that I was his father, that there was nothing salacious going on. I could only guess what people were thinking in that situation, if anything at all. I left feeling anxious, exposed, and profoundly isolated.

Complicated Friendships and One-Way Relationships

This feeling of loneliness doesn’t only occur in public settings with strangers. Friendships are also complicated. Some of my best friends, especially those I knew before I entered the ministry, still look at me primarily as a friend. But for many others, the boundary between friend and pastor can be quite fuzzy.

In one of our previous churches, my wife and I started to get close to a couple. We had lots in common, and our kids were about the same age. Yet when deep marital issues between them started to surface, the couple asked me to do some marital counseling, which I did happily. But as they aired their dirty laundry in my office, I realized the kind of friendship my wife and I had hoped for wasn’t going to work out. My role had changed from friend to priest.

In situations like that, I often find myself wondering, Are you interested in being my friend or are you interested in what I can do for you as a pastor? I can be happy with either answer, but I want to be clear about what I’m getting into.

Recently a family we know from outside of our congregation moved closer to us and started looking for a church. I recommended they come visit our church for a Sunday. After we talked, I started regretting that suggestion. If they do start coming to our church, our straightforward friendship will grow complicated when I become their pastor.

Craig Barnes notes, “Ordination costs pastors, and one of the greatest costs is maintaining the lonely status of being surrounded by everyone in the church while always being the odd person in the room.” Our vocation separates us from our parishioners while thrusting us right into their midst.

The empathy required of pastors can take an emotional toll, further exacerbating a sense of loneliness. People are often driven to meet with a pastor because of some kind of trouble. It may be news of a spreading illness or issues cropping up at home, but seldom does someone ask to meet with me to share how well their life is going and how much they have grown in the faith. When I see a message waiting for me from a parishioner I tense up because there’s a good chance something has gone wrong.

The pastoral office does, of course, offer moments of joy as well: baptisms, confirmations, and wedding celebrations. But in my experience, people most often reach out to the pastor out of their wounded-ness. As theologian Stanley Hauerwas writes,

There is no question that those set aside to preside at the Eucharist have a particular responsibility for the wounded. We worship a wounded saviour. We follow as a people also wounded. Such a people cannot help but care for one another in a manner that imitates God’s care for our wounds. They must, therefore, be persons who have learned to be in the presence of suffering without resorting to simplistic explanations. When all is said and done, pastoral care requires those who are to be agents of care to be people of deep humanity.

In most intimate friendships, sharing pain and loss is a two-way street: We are there for our friends in their need, and they are there for us. As pastors, we can’t risk the same vulnerability with most in our parish, and the sheer volume of need can be overwhelming. To know the burdens of a congregation, to know their suffering and loss, to know their struggles can leave me feeling cut off from them.

5 Ways to Push Back Against Ministry Loneliness

For those in ministry, loneliness comes with the territory. Though we may not be able to get rid of it entirely, here are five strategies that have proven helpful as I’ve combatted my own feelings of isolation.

1. I Turn off My Phone

Or I at least put it in another room. While smartphone addiction has been linked to loneliness generally, I have found being too connected exacerbates ministry isolation in two specific ways. First, keeping my phone on at all times can steal the intimacy from the few deep relationships I have. I relish the meaningful connections I have with my wife and kids. If I keep my phone turned on by my side whenever I’m with them, I constantly fight the temptation to check my email and dilute those precious hours of deep, in-person relationship.

Second, staying too connected on my phone cultivates shallow relationships over social media. These connections give the illusion of meaningful friendships, but I find them to be more draining than life giving.

2. I Go on Silent Retreats

This may come as a surprise, but silent retreats have been especially helpful for combatting my pastoral loneliness. Unlike leadership conferences or working retreats, silent retreats free me, without excuse, to be present before God. It isn’t natural or easy. At first the silence is uncomfortable, and I find myself constantly tempted to reach for my phone. However, after I’ve had some time to disconnect and sit quietly, my feelings of isolation dissipate, and I find myself attuned to the restorative presence of God.

When I return to my family and ministry life after a few days away for silence and prayer, it’s like someone hit reset on my mind and heart. I am able to engage with others again from a place of strength and rest.

3. I Talk to a Spiritual Director

Whether this person is officially certified or not, I find this sort of relationship essential because a spiritual director is out of the loop of my ministry and church life. Pastors can have a difficult time connecting with their peers for a few reasons. Social events connected with the church can feel like more work, and even though we know it’s unhealthy, feelings of competition often cloud attempts to connect with other local pastors. Talking with someone who is relatively removed from the challenges of everyday ministry has been liberating. I don’t have to worry about what he thinks of me or whether the things I share will change a working relationship.

4. I Make Time for Old Friends

I’m always surprised how effortless it is for me to catch up with old friends. People who have known me since college and earlier have no expectations about how I will live as a priest because our relationship started before I discovered my vocation. My oldest friends know me from when I was an awkward, pimply teenager, and that removes much of the pressure compared to relationship where I’m seen as a pastor or priest first. A shared history can be the catalyst for great conversation, especially as ministry and family life push to the side time for making new friends. Take the advice of Henry David Thoreau: “Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Turn the old; return to them.”

5. I Go for a Run

Long-distance running has also been helpful for me to combat loneliness. When I run I’m not thinking about how to be a pastor or how to relate to people. I don’t stand out because of my collar; I look like any other half-in-shape person wearing exercise gear. The mental and emotional benefits of running have been explored at length, and like silent retreats, running refreshes me so I can engage in relationships more meaningfully afterward.

Loneliness and isolation, like most of our problems, feel most overwhelming when they haven’t been properly acknowledged. They loom like a phantom, hovering in the back of our mind. Only by staring loneliness in the face was I able to start combatting it. Honesty with myself, my wife, and God has been a step toward greater wholeness. There is an element of “otherness” to the pastoral vocation that may always keep barriers between us and the people we serve, but just because something is normal doesn’t mean it’s always healthy.

I’ve found it vital to take brief, intentional steps away from places where “pastor” is my defining characteristic. By learning to be comfortable alone before God, without distraction, and cultivating the few deep relationships in my life that have stood the test of time, I am finding a healthier approach to this unique challenge of ministry.

Cole Hartin is the assistant curate at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Saint John, New Brunswick.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2019/october-web-exclusives/why-do-people-keep-pastors-at-arms-length.html

VIDEO The Explosive Power of the Resurrection — Now

 

by John Piper

 

If you had been at the cross, you probably would have vomited, or screamed, or pulled your hair, or thrown yourself on the ground and pounded the dirt and ground your teeth and sobbed yourself into exhaustion. Putting spikes through people’s arms and legs, and hanging them on a cross with their full body weight tearing their flesh, and smashing their legs, or driving a spear into their side are all unbearable to watch — let alone endure.

Condemned He Stood

Jesus volunteered for this. He chose it. It was not forced on him by any man. He said in John 10:18, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).

“Jesus volunteered for the cross. He chose it. It was not forced on him by any man.”

I’m not trapped, he would say. Do you think Herod and Pilate and the mobs and the soldiers are in charge here? They are but players in this drama. My Father wrote it. And he and I agreed: This is my role. I will be crucified. It’s my choice, not Pilate’s.

There’s a name for this. It’s called love. Romans 5:8: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” So here’s my question: The greatest suffering, in the service of the greatest love, for the least deserving — how do you do that? How did Jesus endure that?

All for Joy

Here is the answer of Hebrews 12:2: “For the joy that was set before him [Jesus] endured the cross.” The humiliation of being stripped and ridiculed. The lacerations of the scourging. The unbearable lightning bolts of pain from the spikes. Hour after hour, while at any moment he could have called on his Father for rescue, but instead chose the pain. All of it “for the joy that was set before him.”

And what was that? What was the joy beyond the horrors of crucifixion that made this endurance possible? What was the joy beyond this greatest act of love that made this love possible? Here’s Jesus’s answer:

  • No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again (John 10:18).
  • Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up (John 2:19).
  • The Son of Man must suffer many things . . . and be killed, and after three days rise again (Mark 8:31). He must, and he will.
  • I will never die again (Acts 13:34). I will be an eternal high priest by the power of an indestructible life (Hebrews 7:16).
  • All authority in heaven and earth will be mine (Matthew 28:18).
  • I will be the King over all kings and the Lord over all lords (Revelation 17:14).
  • I will be alive forevermore, and have the keys of Death and Hades (Revelation 1:18).
  • I will sit with my Father on his throne (Revelation 3:21).
  • I will have in my hand the check signed in my blood for the perfect, completed, irreversible purchase of my Bride (1 Corinthians 6:20).
  • I will be surrounded by angels and saints crying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).
  • And from my throne I will build my church on earth, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
  • And when the time is full, I will come again in power and great glory, and I will gather my elect from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24:30).
  • And I will fill the new heavens and the new earth with my glory (Psalm 72:19).
  • And I will say to my bride, “Enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:23).

When Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” this was that joy. This resurrection, this future, this hope, this joy streaming from the future into the horrible present was the power to suffer and love like this.

You Can Have Jesus’s Joy

If he were here — and he is here — this is what he would say to you. I want you to receive this personally from Jesus himself: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

“This is what it means to be a Christian — to embrace the whole Christ.”

God intends that the joy that was set before Jesus and that gave him the power to endure the greatest suffering in the greatest act of love for the least deserving — God intends that joy to be your joy. This is what it means to be a Christian — to embrace the whole Christ: the suffering Christ, the risen Christ, the reigning Christ, the coming Christ, who says at every point, “I have come, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

The reason the resurrection has explosive power in our lives now is the same reason it had explosive power in the life of Jesus on Good Friday. In his case, the hope of resurrection was the joy that held him to the cross. And so it is with us: for the joy that is set before us in the resurrection, we endure the cost of love, no matter how high, for the least deserving.

Prison Hymn Sing

Let’s take one crazy-glorious example of what this looks like in the life of a Christian who lives by the power of hope of the resurrection.

The apostle Paul was preaching in Philippi (Acts 16:16–40). A demonized girl — a slave who made money for her masters by fortune-telling (16:16) — was constantly crying out and interrupting Paul in his preaching. When he had enough of this, Paul turned and said to the demon, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour (16:18).

Now their money-making slave girl was free, and they were angry. Preach all you want, pastors, just don’t mess with people’s money (unless you want to be faithful like Paul). They seized Paul and Silas, dragged them into the marketplace, and accused them to the magistrates, who tore off their clothes and beat them with rods. They threw them in the deepest part of the prison, without a trial, and put their feet in stocks.

So here’s the picture: Paul and Silas have been shamed by being stripped, beaten with rods, and they are sitting in the deepest part of the prison, feet in stocks, sleepless at midnight. What are they doing? They’re singing. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). The word is not psalms. The word is singing hymns. These are songs probably written by believers. And Paul and Silas knew them by heart. Which meant they sang them a lot. These greatest of all men were singing men.

And then an earthquake struck! Watch out for what might happen when you sing at midnight with a friend in misery. The gates were thrown open. Paul and Silas could have vengefully watched the jailer commit suicide, which he was about to do (Acts 16:27), and walked away to Thessalonica triumphant.

“For the joy that is set before us in the resurrection, we endure the cost of love.”

Instead, they rescued him and offered him Jesus and baptized him and welcomed him — maybe the least deserving man in Philippi — into their eternal family.

Now, here’s my question: How did Paul and Silas sing to the Lord and love the jailer, after humiliation, beating, dungeon, stocks, and sleeplessness — when what you and I usually do is grumble and plan to sue somebody.

Hope Resurrected

Four times in the book of Acts, Paul puts in one sentence why he endures persecution again and again in his ministry.

  • Before the Jews in Jerusalem: “It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial” (Acts 23:6).
  • Before Felix in Caesarea: “It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day” (Acts 24:21).
  • Before King Agrippa: “Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8).
  • And to the Jews in Rome: “It is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain” (Acts 28:20).

The resurrection of Christ, and the resurrection of all Christians at his coming, was the sustaining power of Paul’s song in suffering and his love for jailers.

For the Joy Set Before Us

In other words, for the joy that was set before Paul, he sang in the jails and loved the jailers. For the joy that was set before him, he sang hymns and saved sinners.

Here is how he described the power of resurrection hope:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

And Jesus himself draws the double connection between that resurrection hope and singing in suffering, and that resurrection hope and loving the undeserving. Here’s the link between hope and singing:

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account [and strip you, and beat you with rods, and put you in stocks]. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven [in the joy of your risen Master at the resurrection]. (Matthew 5:11–12)

Here’s the link between hope and loving:

But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind [the jailers, the slave girls], and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just [in the joy of your risen Master at the resurrection]. (Luke 14:13–14)

Sing Through Suffering

I assume that I am surrounded in this room by people who love to sing. So do I. How will we, then, when our suffering comes, sing to the Lord and love the jailer?

I assume you know that lavish settings like the Bridgestone Arena and Gaylord Resort are temporary, opulent aberrations in the Christian life of love. Your suffering is coming. How will you sing in it? And love? The answer is: for the joy that is set before us.

This is the explosive power of the resurrection now. Singing to the Lord in suffering. And loving the jailer. This is not a personality trait. This is Christianity.

Suicide: Not an Option Nor a Choice

Hey Folks, What’s Up? Hope you all doing well. You may got the assumption of my post, by title of the blog. So I don’t think I should’ve to give more narration about it, Right?

Exactly Right guess, in today’s post I told/explain you, why you shouldn’t commit SUICIDE. But have you any Idea Why people/person commit suicide? As one’s life became more n more stressful/painful – by giving up to situation person chose to Commit Suicide as a last option.

But Really it’s Right Option though? Not at all, Infact Suicide will never be the Right Option/Choice even Not Today – Not Yesterday and Never Ever. By commiting Suicide one may release from those situation which lead them to there, but they forget they lost the most precious thing of World, i.e. LIFE.

But do you know what Life mean by? The person who knew it will never commits Suicide and the person who doesn’t knew will always find Suicide as a Right choice or say right option. But their Right option will turned out to be Blow for their family, a huge blow, which never imagine by other.

“Don’t you think, By committing Suicide – You Just Disrespect the GOD?”

Suicide, the word itself shows its Cruelty. By Killing themselves how can One can said that he/she survived? Infact they don’t kill themselves only, They kills firstly their Confidence, which forced him/her to doing stuffs & face result whatsoever.

They kills their family, by giving them unexpected news of the death. They kills their respective life which is very rare. They just kills the aim of their life.

But really If you born as Human then just Thank to God, for giving you life as human and what do you did if you’ve no courage to face problems or issues of life? Just shorten your life, that’s all? Is it the right treatment to the God Gift?

Of Course, NO. Then what to do if you’ve thought in your mind to commit Suicide? Really, I know when people have no guts to face the world or say left no option to live the life they drove towards it. One should’ve to find the Reason to live the life, & that reason is very clear – Happiness of your Parents.

Just think about it, when you decided to commit Suicide – Remember Your Mother’s Face, Ocean of Million Dreams to see you as Most Successful person of the World & Your Father’s Face, who say less but there’s lot to learn from each n every word of him. Really don’t you think that reason is enough which forced you to think about your Decision regarding life?

“Just Remove Pessimism from You Brain.”

Look Problems, Obstacles, Issues, Defeats and Shame is part of your life cycle. It doesn’t mean you’ve to give up on situations or say you are useless. Let people blame you or whatever they want to do with you. Just stay with yourself.

It’s said that In Bad Time Even your Shadow won’t Stay with you. But I want to say Who need Shadow when you’ve your own Support. Never break down your Confidence. The Day when you starting to doubt towards yourself, Your count down is began of Life.

Do whatever just be hammer will. Never give a shitty chance to others to judge you. Just stay with your Real Personality. Never be Fack, be Original.

I just want to share my funda which help me lot when negative thoughts playing in my Brain,

Always carry a Photograph of your Parent in yout Wallet or Purse & whenever you feel pessimist/negative, Just See it, Believe me You Automatically Gonna Smile/feels Relaxed.

“Just Tell the God, Yes I’m Living the LIFE.”

Really Before commiting Suicide, think Calmly, think Twice, think pros and cons of it and then chose, Is it really Beneficial to others by commiting you Suicide? If your inner soul won’t respond stop there & calls to your close one to whom you can share your Situation.

Suicide is not an Option, Not NOW – Not THEN – Not SO EVER.


So that’s all for the day, if you meet any person who looks broken and left no interest to live the life then help him/her to get out of difficulties. Otherwise one can contact me on follow email ID, I’ll consult you soon.

divyangrajput97@gmail.com

https://bedvyang.wordpress.com/2019/10/06/suicide-not-an-option-nor-a-choice/

It Is Scientifically Proven that Media Affects You

Word Hid In psalm-119-11

I’ve been writing about the Christian approach to pop culture and entertainment for close to two years now.During that time, I have several times had people claim, either in comments on my writing or in personal discussions, that certain kinds of trash in media, whether it be nudity, profanity, or worldview issues “don’t affect” them.  I find it interesting that people claim that.  Because scientific studies – secular scientific studies, no less – prove that they do.  Allow me to explain.

Social scientists have been studying media affects for several years.  Studies like this became popular as early as the 1920s, when many people, especially parents, were worried about the effects that gangster movies might be having on their children.  There were some errors in the assumptions of some of these early studies, but they paved the way for some truly remarkable studies carried out by a social scientist by the name of Dr. Gerbner.  Dr. Gerbner was originally focused on finding out if violent depictions in television had any impact on people’s behavior (it does, by the way, although not to the radical degree that some claim).  Later, however, he developed a theory that shows unequivocally that entertainment shapes our worldview—media cultivation theory.

A lot of Dr. Gerbner’s research involved children.  These studies did not.  Instead, when studying media cultivation, he studied adults.  What he found was that heavy viewers of television described reality is being very close to the world that is depicted on television.  Light viewers, on the other hand, did not.  This is exactly why Dr. Gerbner said that media “bends, blurs, and blends” our perception of reality, especially because television is not real life.  People aren’t dying for sex three times a day.  Not everyone sleeps around with strangers.  Everyone doesn’t swear one hundred times in two hours.   But because this is what we’re seeing on television, and because it shapes our worldview, then all of a sudden those activities, and especially ones that we might say “aren’t so bad” seem completely acceptable and even good.  This is why Dr. Gerbner said that whoever controls the stories of a culture, controls that culture.

And this isn’t the only study done on media effects that reveals worldview-shaping properties.  Dr. Susan Sarapin, who was once a professor at Purdue University, did a study that revealed that people who watch violent cop dramas such as CSI and Cold Case believed in greater amounts of crime in the real world, especially when compared with people who did not watch those programs.

Even more troubling is the fact that media doesn’t only affect worldview; it affects behavior.  Think I’m wrong?  Then how do you explain the study done in 2008, when researchers found a correlation between time spent viewing sex on TV and pregnancy before age 20?  Or the fact found in NurtureShock (one of the most influential books about parenting ever written, was on the New York Times Bestseller List for six months) that more television watching among kids led to more insults and bullying?  What about Dr. Leonard Berkowitz, who found that violent media makes individuals more likely to respond to frustrating situations in an aggressive manner?

I’ve been saying this for a long time, and yet nobody seems to listen or pay attention.  You cannot keep on saying that media doesn’t affect you because, to be frank, it’s a lie.  The opposite claim, however, that media affects us so deeply that we ought to be very cautious with what we set before our eyes, is not only Biblically sound, but scientifically defensible.

 

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VIDEO Forgiveness In Action brother embraces killer ex-cop at sentencing

colossians 2 13 14 cross forgive

by Ebony Bowden and Jackie Salo October 2, 2019

 

In an incredible act of compassion, the brother of the black man murdered by white Dallas cop Amber Guyger hugged her and offered her forgiveness Wednesday as she was sentenced to 10 years behind bars.

Victim Botham Jean’s brother, Brandt Jean, was reading a victim-impact statement in the Texas courtroom when he broke off and asked the judge if he could hug Guyger.

“I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug, please? Please?” Jean asked Judge Tammy Kemp.

The jurist said yes, and Brandt got off the stand and walked toward Guyger at the defense table. She leaped up from her seat and ran to hug him.

They clutched each other in an embrace that lasted for more than a minute — with Guyger loudly sobbing into Jean’s shoulder.

At one point Kemp also embraced Guyger and gave her a Bible.

The 31-year-old former cop had just been sentenced to a decade in prison for fatally shooting Botham Jean, 26, after she entered his apartment, mistaking it for her own one floor below.

Enlarge ImageBrandt Jean (left) hugs Amber Guyger at her sentencing
Brandt Jean (left) hugs Amber Guyger at her sentencing Pool

She was allegedly distracted while sexting her cop boyfriend when she made the fatal mistake as she returned home after work.

Botham was eating a bowl of ice cream in his apartment, which was unlocked, when Guyger shot him, thinking he was an intruder at her place.

Her lawyers said the killing was just a tragic error. Prosecutors said she should have called for back-up before shooting anyone — and suggested she had a racist past.

Either way, her victim’s brother said in court that he didn’t think she should do any time.

“I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you because I know that’s exactly what Botham would do,” he said.

Guyger had faced a sentence of five to 99 years on the murder rap. Before her guilty verdict was rendered by a jury Tuesday, she elected for the panel also to decide her sentence.

Prosecutors asked for no less than a 28-year sentence in honor of Botham, who would have turned 28 last month.

In pushing for a stiff sentence, the prosecution brought up text messages that had sent before the slaying Sept. 6, 2018.

Enlarge Image
Brandt JeanPool

In some of the texts, the then-cop joked about Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination while working security at a parade in his honor last year.

Her friend texted her, “When does this end lol.’’

Guyger responded, “When MLK is dead. . . oh wait . . .”

The messages were deleted but later retrieved by authorities.

After her guilty verdict was announced in court Tuesday, shouts of “Black lives matter!’’ erupted in the street outside.

During her time on the stand, Guyger said she wished Botham “had the gun and killed me.’’

The jury convicted her after deliberating for just five hours.

After the verdict, Guyger remained standing until the jurors filed out of court. Then she collapsed back in her seat and stayed there for about 15 minutes before guards led her away.

She is not eligible for parole.

https://nypost.com/2019/10/02/botham-jeans-brother-embraces-killer-ex-cop-amber-guyger-at-sentencing/


Amber Guyger Hugged By Victim’s Brother In Emotional Court Moment | TODAY


sinner saint past future

 

Everything You Want Is On The Other Side Of Fear!

October 4, 2019  The Godly Chic Diaries

Our Faith is like a child learning to walk. Jesus is our father. He crouches down, with open arms as we take our bumbling steps towards Him, and each time we make it to Him after a long journey, He stands us upright, helps us catch our breath. And then He backs up a little bit and then ask us to come a little further in our faith…

OUR FEATURED GUEST BLOGGER ISJORDAN SMITH: I am a Jesus lover. An ardent worshiper who longs for nothing more than to revel in the presence of the one who is WORTHY. I am a wife and mother of a new baby girl( BRAVEN) and Hair stylist. I thrive most when delivering the Word of God thus started speaking at local youth meetings at the age of sixteen. I have been traveling abroad doing mission’s work and now lead mission’s teams with my husband. I have had the opportunity to preach in the U.S. as well as Brazil, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua for the past eight years. My hearts beats with passion to encourage and empower women (women’s ministry) to walk in the freedom only Christ can provide. I love writing on topics of relationships and faith to share with you. Please check out Jordan’s blog/follow: Website: http://www.jordansmith.blog

Jordan’s story: I used to think being brave meant not being afraid of anything. I wanted so badly to be brave but I couldn’t seem to shake away the worries and fear. I didn’t know how to just not be afraid. I did devotions, I read the Bible, I prayed about it. For a long time it seemed like I would never get the answer. Until I got pregnant with my sweet baby girl. While in prayer for her, the name “Braven” was on my heart. I couldn’t escape the word Brave.

2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

This verse not only says what God didn’t give us, but it tells us what He did give. I wasn’t handed a spirit of fear- the fear was not part of me. But power, love, and self-discipline was given to me. It IS part of who I am. Whether I felt that way or not. Suddenly I realized that being brave had nothing to do with not being afraid but everything to do with not letting fear have a voice in my life. Fear didn’t get to dictate the words I said, the choices I made, or the thoughts I focused on. Those were the words God wanted me to make sure my daughter knew, “fear doesn’t get a say.” Being brave means moving forward in faith regardless of how you may feel in the moment.

Sweet Friends, Do you realize how powerful you are? That you have everything within you to breakthrough FEAR and step into your greatness? Remember, it takes the same amount of energy to BELIEVE as it is to WORRY. In every season, every mountain, every loss, every victory, every answered prayer, God is with you. He loves you. He will take care of you. You are in good hands, today and ALWAYS. Amen! God bless you abundantly!!!

Blessings and Love. . . 😊 🙏

https://gcdiaries.wordpress.com/2019/10/04/guest-post-fear-does-not-get-a-say/

VIDEO Your Life Has A Purpose

by Greg Laurie  Sept 29, 2019

In this webcast, Pastor Greg Laurie shares a message from Hebrews 11 titled “Your Life Has a Purpose!” in our “Sunday Morning” series at Harvest Christian Fellowship.

Sermon Notes

Whatever hardship you are going through, it will not last forever, and you can even grow stronger from it. Whatever you are facing right now will pass, and it will get better.

God can take all of the hurt and pain you have experienced in life, use it to touch other people, and make us into the men and women He wants us to be. The devil wants us all to abandon hope; God wants to abandon hopelessness. Satan wants to bring death; Jesus wants to bring life. Life is worth living! It is a precious gift to us from God Himself. Did you know your family loves you! We love you in this family, the church! No matter what you are going through in life, it is going to get much better.

Application

Did you know that your Father in Heaven knew exactly when your existence would begin? God chose you before you were even conceived. In this day of “instafame,” and so much focus on the way we look, know that God sees things much differently than people do. God is far more interested in character than charisma.

  • When you choose to walk away from temptation, you will be glad that you did.
  • Moses chose what God had for him.
  • God has a purpose for you!
  • Whatever you give up to, follow Jesus will be more than made up for.

Scriptures

  • Hebrews 11
  • Hebrews 11:23–26
  • Jeremiah 1:5
  • Psalm 139:16–17
  • Acts 7:20–22
  • James 1:12

 

https://harvest.org/resources/webcast/your-life-has-a-purpose/

A Man Crying

Hello my beloved readers! I’m grateful to God finally I could spend my time to write my own post again. This post inspired by a conversation between my husband and his friend some time ago. I hope and pray this post could be a blessing to all of us. Thank you very much to the all loyal readers who always visit and read my blog posts.

“As the only man and the eldest brother in family, I shouldn’t show my grief and shouldn’t cry. A mam must be strong!! This word came out from a best friend of my husband who some time ago just lost his beloved mother. Then my husband said, “But actually you are very sad and want to cry, right?”  My husband’s friend replied, “I cannot lie to myself. Yes, actually I am very sad and want to cry to express my sorrow. But you know, since childhood my parents have taught that men should be strong and should not be whiny.”

My dear friends, I kept quiet during the conversation. Those conversations made me thinking and ponder. There was something I didn’t agree of my husband’s friend’s statement. I didn’t agree that a man shouldn’t show his sorrow and shouldn’t cry. I just feel that a man as if made from iron and wire like a robot that didn’t have feeling at all. In fact, the same as women, men could face a similar situation. Death, pain, loss, and various other things that can make a man feel sad. And all of them need a way to express their feeling.

Talk about crying, I remembered one of David saying when he got deep distress. Let’s see what David said at the time. “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8) At the time, the Israelites were using a bottle as a container for water or milk. Other than that, there was a unique culture that comes from Egyptians where they contain their tears into the bottle and then put it on the grave of their family or brethren as an expression of their grief. Well, I will not talk about the culture but I want to talk about David’s word.

We all know very well who David was. Though David was a man who was brave facing the lion, a man who was very brave against Goliath and successfully defeated him, and finally become a king, it turns out, he didn’t ashamed to cry. Why David crying? At that time David was under great pressure because besides being on the run to be chased by King Saul who was jealous with him, he faced another danger of entering the enemy territory of the Philistines in Gath and he was arrested. In the stressful situation, David didn’t look that crying is something shameful to do. He cried just because his mind was depressed but not because he weak. David cried not because he was afraid. Let’s take a look to the following verse,

When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; This I know, because God is for me. In God (I will praise His word), In the Lord (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid….” (Psalm 56: 9-11)

These verses are proof that even though David cried it doesn’t mean he became weak and afraid and his faith remained strong. Although he was crying, David remained steadfastly surrendering his life to God, and still fully believed that God remained with him.

So, whether a man shouldn’t cry? Is crying a symbol of Men’s weakness? My dear readers, allow me to take all of you to reflect on these three things.

First, in my whole life I have never found a rule of life or laws that forbids a man to cry or crying for a man is a disgrace! There’s no single verse in the Bible stated that a man shouldn’t cry. Even Jesus was crying (Luke 19:41) My husband said that, “Crying is how your heart speaks the pain you feel when your lips can’t” So I say firmly, there’s nothing wrong if a man cries and a man doesn’t need be ashamed and feel weak when he cries. The important thing is, when a man cries, his faith doesn’t weaken. David was crying because he was totally under pressure but didn’t mean his faith weakening. At that time David still believed God was by his side. The wrong one is, when a man crying then it makes his faith weaken, weaken his mental, and made he didn’t dare to face all the problems of life.

The second, Actually God doesn’t require us to pretend to be strong even though inside of us are broken. He knows suffering is painful, and for that He is ready to be with us through those painful time. God doesn’t forbid us to have sad feeling. God doesn’t scold us when we crying. My husband’s friend just lost his beloved father. God Himself also definitely understands very well what it feels like to lose. God knows it feels hurt because He also experienced hurt when He let His only begotten Son died to redeem our sins in the cruel ways.

The third, crying because our suffering and sadness isn’t a waste thing. Why? Because actually God know every single teardrop that flows from our eyes. God really understands the tears language which expresses unbearable suffering and bitterness of life. Not only understand, God also collect and record every single of our tears as David said. “… Put my tears into Your bottleAre they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8) This verse shows us one important thing that God actually never leaves us alone. Even when we feel like “abandoned by God”, indeed, God doesn’t leave us. God is on collecting and taking note every tears of our crying and as if He said, “My child, I will never leave you alone…Please be patient… Just a little more time will be fulfilled and I will declare my glory”

My beloved readers, through this post allow me once again to express my opinion that there’s nothing wrong at all if a man crying. Crying isn’t a taboo thing for a man. Crying isn’t a symbol of weakness of a man. Beside mind, character, intelligence, and feeling, God also give man tears. As long as a man has feeling, same as a woman, when the lips isn’t able to speaks, crying is a good way to express our sorrow. Crying is the way our heart speaks. But… We must remember that behind our weeping there’s still strength in us. Behind every single teardrop there’s still a firm faith, there’s still strong trust that God will never leave us alone. We have to always remember God’s promises,

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:17)

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh(Luke 6:21)

At the end of this post, I long to encourage all of men that there’s nothing wrong at all if one day you have to crying and there are compelling reasons why you cry. Not just for women, crying is something normal and humane. Don’t ever feel ashamed to express your feeling through crying. Crying doesn’t mean weak. Cry if it can make you relieved and the burden on you is lighter. But let me remind you one thing, don’t be a whiny man. Like David, keep strong, still have firm faith, and keep trusting God that He will wipe every of our tears as He promises, He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) Amen.

 

Karina Lam – Living by Faith

Image source: themanmodern.com

 

https://karinasussanto.wordpress.com/2019/09/12/a-man-crying/

Grace for Villains: Learning From Nathan’s Parable

Bible Crown of Thorns

By Alex Aili -July 22, 2019

 

When David coerced Bathsheba into adultery, impregnated her, and then concealed it by murdering her husband (2 Sam. 11), it’s not a stretch to conclude that his heart was not in the right place.

But for God to convict him of this crime, he didn’t storm in with a proclamation of wrath. Instead, through the prophet Nathan, he used the covertness of Story.

Nathan’s parable is well-known, but it’s worth quoting at length:

“THERE WERE TWO MEN IN A CERTAIN CITY, THE ONE RICH AND THE OTHER POOR. THE RICH MAN HAD VERY MANY FLOCKS AND HERDS, BUT THE POOR MAN HAD NOTHING BUT ONE LITTLE EWE LAMB, WHICH HE HAD BOUGHT. AND HE BROUGHT IT UP, AND IT GREW UP WITH HIM AND WITH HIS CHILDREN. IT USED TO EAT OF HIS MORSEL AND DRINK FROM HIS CUP AND LIE IN HIS ARMS, AND IT WAS LIKE A DAUGHTER TO HIM. NOW THERE CAME A TRAVELER TO THE RICH MAN, AND HE WAS UNWILLING TO TAKE ONE OF HIS OWN FLOCK OR HERD TO PREPARE FOR THE GUEST WHO HAD COME TO HIM, BUT HE TOOK THE POOR MAN’S LAMB AND PREPARED IT FOR THE MAN WHO HAD COME TO HIM”

2 Sam. 12:1b-4

If Nathan were to confront the sin directly, it would have only added to the problem of David’s self-preservation, which had been his chief priority since the sin’s committal (11:6-24). In other words, the story couldn’t have been “on the nose,” with a plot involving murder or sexual sin, for that would have broken the spell. God simply used a different angle to get at the same type of sin: the abuse of power.

The fictional tale was catered specifically to David, who, being a king, was responsible for judicial verdicts. He would have understandably taken it as just another exercise of justice.

Still, despite its specificity, we can still glean the relevant technique Nathan used. The key is empathy, for when David identified with the victim of the story (David himself being a former shepherd; 2 Sam. 7:8), he felt the brunt of greed and lust–little did he know that it was his own greed and lust!

“THEN DAVID’S ANGER WAS GREATLY KINDLED AGAINST THE MAN, AND HE SAID TO NATHAN, “AS THE LORD LIVES, THE MAN WHO HAS DONE THIS DESERVES TO DIE.”

2 Samuel 12:5

David’s emotional response to injustice allowed Nathan to turn the tables (“You are the man!”) because David walked into a trap of his own making. David could not retreat to disinterested judgment once he placed his own moral cards on the table. To put it differently, when David felt the impact of greed and lust via empathizing with the poor man, he was then vulnerable enough to see his own villainy.

Becoming the Villain

The contemporary trend of antiheroes and villains, fictional or not, gives an opportunity for the negative side of the gospel (Rom. 3:23) to speak. For we are all the “villains” in God’s story (Rom. 5:8, 10; Eph. 2:1-3), and we must see our own sin in light of God’s goodness (note how David admitted that his sin was against God; 2 Sam. 12:13; Psa. 51:4) before we can move from ignorance to contrition. We cease to be passive spectators when we’re forced to confront the villainy within ourselves, and once we do, we see the “Good News” as it really is.

That’s why stories with negative character arcs are necessary; they compel us to see how easy it is to become the villain. Specifically, well-written stories invite us to follow an apparently good character pursuing an apparently good goal until he inevitably reaches villainy by overemphasizing one good over others. David, for example, overemphasized personal sexual fulfillment, perhaps by overindulging his God-given lordship, at the expense of God’s laws of fidelity.

While engaging with negative-arc stories, our mirror neurons allow us to affix ourselves to the villainous characters. We are affected without consciously knowing why. While we may identify with fallen characters, it will take intentionality to break through to the Truth lurking within.

Yes, it’s easy to scoff at the prospect of self-reflection. “Entertainment” analyzed ceases to be entertaining for many of us. But choosing ignorance doesn’t change the fact that stories affect us. If we deny this, we become no different than David, who allowed ignorance to blind him to his own villainy.

We may not have our own personal “Prophet Nathan” to tell us customized stories to convict us of sin, but we do have the Holy Spirit (John 16:8; Rom. 8:26), whose ministry reaches to the deepest ignorance. With that in mind, it’s wise to be intentional about the narratives we enjoy. As the Reel World Theology slogan aptly puts it: “Entertainment is not mindless.”

It all starts with some simple questions, such as the following:

“What would I do in this character’s situation?”

“What am I prone to value too much?”

Could I become the villain?”

“Am I already a villain?”

And especially, “What does Grace mean for the villain?”

Original here