The least of these

Contrast:

“I am a special kind of Christian, the elite kind; not like *those* other Christians. I am defined by how I stand out among them, and I have no affection for their weak. I have nothing but embarrassment over them, and I am not eager to be one in mind with them, nor am I willing to be publicly shamed by association with them.”

vs.

“The least of Christians are my equal brothers, coheirs of the same inheritance, better men than I in blind spots of my own, especially to be loved when weak, all the more worth associating with when lowly, to be served with loving wisdom when ignorant, and not characterized by their worst. God distributed gifts to them that I do not have, and I am mutually encouraged by their faith. God chose the poor of the world to be rich in faith, and those are my people, since their savior is my savior, their God my God.”

“A plausible harmony of the accounts and sequence of events” of the resurrection

From Craig Blomberg’s Jesus and the Gospels, p. 413:

(1) A group of women come to the tomb near dawn, with Mary Magdalene possibly arriving first (Matt 28: 1; Mark 16: 1-3; Luke 24: 1; John 20: 1).

(2) Mary and the other women are met by two young men who in reality are angels, one of whom acts as the spokesman and announces Jesus’ resurrection (Matt 28: 2-7; Mark 16: 4-7; Luke 24: 2-7).

(3) The women leave the garden with a mixture of fear and joy, at first unwilling to say anything but then resolving to report to the Eleven remaining apostles (Matt 28: 8; Mark 16: 8). Mary Magdalene may have dashed on ahead, telling Peter and John in advance of the arrival of the other women (John 20: 2).

(4) Jesus meets the remaining women en route and confirms their commission to tell the disciples, with the reminder of his promise of meeting them in Galilee. The women obey (Matt 28: 9-10; Luke 24:8-11).

(5) Peter and John meanwhile have returned to the tomb, having heard the report by Mary Magdalene, and discover it to be empty (John 20: 3-10; Luke 24: 12).

(6) Mary also returns to the tomb after Peter and John have left. She sees the angels and then Jesus, although at first supposing him to be a gardener (John 20: 11-18).

(7) Later that afternoon, Jesus appears to Cleopas and his unnamed companion on the road to Emmaus and, in a separate incident, to Peter (Luke 24: 13-35).

(8) That same Sunday evening, Jesus appears to the Ten (the Eleven minus Thomas) behind locked doors in Jerusalem (Luke 24: 36-43; John 20: 19-23).

(9) A week later he appears to the eleven at the same venue, with Thomas now present (John 20: 24-29).

(10) Further appearances take place over a forty-day period, including in Galilee, with over five hundred seeing him altogether (Acts 1: 3; John 21; 1 Cor 15: 6).

(11) A climactic commissioning in Galilee instructs the disciples to spread the news throughout the world (Matt 28: 16-20).

(12) Perhaps only shortly thereafter, Jesus gives his parting instructions to await the coming Holy Spirit and ascends into heaven (Luke 24: 44-53; Acts 1: 4-11).

Four quotes on excellence in the ordinary

“To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success.” (Henry J. Heinz)

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” (Aristotle)

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” (Annie Dillard)

“The strength of a man’s virtue must not be measured by his efforts, but by his ordinary life.” (Blaise Pascal)


Added:

“Do little things as though they were great, because of the majesty of Jesus Christ who does them in us, and who lives our life; and do the greatest things as though they were little and easy, because of His omnipotence.” (Blaise Pascal)
“Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself” (Thomas Watson)

Five thoughts on faith, hope, and love

1. We admire faith, hope, and love in children before they’ve even developed a critical discernment between good parenting and bad parenting. They seem like virtues to be cultivated and protected.

2. Discernment has a place in the maturity of faith, hope, and love: love “rejoices in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

3. It is impossible to be neutral with these virtues. We seem either eager to have them or eager to avoid them.

4. Because of #3, we must be resolute in choosing, resolving, intending, and determining to have faith, hope, and love. Or else we default to a *disposition* of cynicism, suspicion, and lovelessness.

5. Resolve isn’t enough to change our deepest desires. We need God to recreate and shepherd our hearts. “I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:25)

Why you should reconsider that MLM

mlm

At the risk of losing some friends, but to the benefit of those vulnerable, let me describe what makes for a good MLM (multi-level marketing business). It:

  • Dignifies hard work. It does not mock daily hard work.
  • Avoids sensational health claims.
  • Doesn’t tap into a dieting fad.
  • Doesn’t exploit the placebo effect.
  • Doesn’t depend on conspiracy theories about the competition.
  • Doesn’t encourage you to sever relationships with dissenters. I have seen this in the body of Christ and it is tragic.
  • Won’t burn bridges with friends and family.
  • Doesn’t sell the idea of being rich.
  • Doesn’t have drama with the FTC.
  • Don’t distract people, especially those in a season of life most common for starting a career, from responsibly developing a marketable skill set or getting a vocational/college education.
  • Doesn’t financially depend on long nested chain of signups / resellers. There is nothing wrong with the manufacturer/distributor/retailer model. But MLMs blow this up and exploit people at the bottom of bigger pyramids.
  • Doesn’t require buying products with a short shelf-life.
  • Doesn’t prey on the struggling or the spiritually empty.
  • Doesn’t over-spiritualize involvement.
  • Doesn’t soil one’s social circles.
  • Isn’t something you would be ashamed to have your children do.
  • Doesn’t depend on people feeling sorry for you.
  • Competes well with getting a “normal” job. A paycheck from an MLM isn’t “success” if you could have earned more responsibly and sustainably elsewhere.
  • Has a good success rate of its participants.
  • Capitalizes on reduced shipping costs.
  • Has synergy with existing needs and social activity. People already need and buy it, and seller becomes distributor of said product. Perhaps it is a fun catalyst for social events that people benefit from regardless of purchase.

I have a seen a few good examples of direct sales (cleaning products, bags, scrapbooking, craft supplies, candles). But the vast majority of MLMs do not pass muster. Most people think their MLM is the exception. Maybe yours is, but the bar is high.

I am not trying to judge you. Good, intelligent people have soiled relationships and wasted thousands of dollars on MLMs. I am trying to help you. Your best friends may feel reluctant to critique your MLM. They love you. They don’t want to lose their relationship with you.

If you need to provide for a family, then responsibly develop a career, cultivate a skill set, get an education, look for an internship, or start an entry-level position. If your family needs supplemental income, then look for part-time or contract work. You probably should not waste your time on MLMs. If you want residual income, then develop a residual skill set lucrative to the marketplace of dignified, daily work. Your family and friends and children and church and local community are cheering you on!

Further reading:

Five reasons to avoid “evil suspicions”, false reports, and reviling

slander

1. Even if a report is true, is it not merciful to contain its impact, to regard the reputation of another as precious? “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1) “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” (Proverbs 17:9)

2. Love comes with an optimism: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7) Optimism about another can be undeserved — even eventually disproven — but gracious. Better to be wronged than to wrong. Better to be lied to than to lie about another. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” (1 Peter 2:19) “Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?” (1 Corinthians 6:7)

3. Love isn’t safe: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” (C.S. Lewis)

4. The only realistic human alternative to giving each other the general benefit of doubt is hypervigilant cynicism. What an awful climate for love! To walk on eggshells, to constantly judge, to be on guard, and assume others are judging you. To constantly think of yourself, and be convinced that no one loves you. To be hypercritical and assuming — this makes for a resistant, quarrelsome, reviling, rude misery.

5. But no! True Christians are a forgiven people. Here is the most beautiful part. He was so good to us, so gracious. How can we not love others with an undeserved submission, obedience, gentleness, and perfect courtesy? Watch how Paul brings it all together:

“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:1-5)