Monday, November 04, 2002

Attention Please

Walk into any social or business gathering, and within a short time,
some people will stand out more than others. Of course you've noticed this.
You've noticed how you're drawn to some and not to others. It may be a
party where you're attracted to some woman or man or a single gender
business meeting, where a particularly confident executive draws your
attention. It's a truism to say that some people get more attention than
others. One may be tempted to say they get more than they deserve. If
you're one of those commonly overlooked, this is a particularly painful fact
of life, 'your daily bread', so to speak. If you're not one of those, and
you have no idea what I'm talking about, it's important that you read on.
href="http://bible.gospelcom.net/cgi-bin/bible?passage=LUKE+12:48&language=english&version=NIV&showfn=on&showxref=on">From
everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one
who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked,
as Jesus of Nazareth
said.


If you could be transported to Ephesus in the first century, you would notice that this imbalance between the attention haves and have nots
was absent. Why? Let's look at the words of href="http://www.cds.caltech.edu/~shane/text/paul.html">Paul of Tarsus, the first century Christian missionary, and arguably the best missionary that ever was.

align=left alt="Paul of Tarsus"
src="http://www.cds.caltech.edu/~shane/images/2002/paul-head.jpg">

"The parts of the Body that seem to be weaker are
indispensable, and the parts of the Body that we think less honorable we
invest with the greater honor, and the unpresentable parts are treated
with greater modesty; which our more presentable parts do not require. But
God has so composed the Body, giving the greater honor to the unpresentable
parts, that there may be no discord in the Body, but that the members may
have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer
together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together." - Paul of Tarsus
(I Corinthians 12:22-26)


Paul keeps two audiences clearly in view: the 'unseemly,' those who do
not naturally attract attention; and the 'seemly,' those who do attract
attention and do feel cared for, and thus have a religious obligation to
stand in solidarity with their unseemly fellows.

John Skidmore, an excellent Christian orator and a good friend of mine,
has an excellent discussion of this passage which I briefly quote below.
The full text can be found href="http://www.cds.caltech.edu/~shane/text/seemly.html">here.


Please carefully look at the language of this. Paul is not commanding;
he is not advising. He was "telling it like it was." For Paul was simply
describing how things work, not from some theory; but rather from the
influence of a shining light - the Church of Ephesus. He wrote I
Corinthians, including href="http://www.cds.caltech.edu/~shane/text/hymntolove.html">Chapter
13
, not from an ivory tower; but from the warmth of the fire that blazed
in and among the Ephesian brethren. He was writing to the Corinthians from
the living example of a thriving fellowship. Notice the lack of "shoulds",
and the presence of "is".

The Ephesian brethren had this powerful understanding of the role of
status in people's lives (yes, about material things, but I'll bother with
that later...) The more important status is emotional - how people
are respected and valued from each other. They understood that the more
beautiful, handsome, socially skilled, athletic, tall, well-endowed people
naturally attract to themselves honor. There is nothing wrong with
that.
It is a simple fact of life. The fact was acknowledged. But they
also understood the brokenness and pain that comes from not being honored,
wanted, respected, sought after. So they made it a practice to seek after,
want, honor and respect those that did not naturally attract such
things. They shared the sight of Christ - seeking what was not obvious to
carnal eyes, and had the hope of Christ. Please remember the line that
precedes the famous scripture - "If any man is in Christ, he is a new
creature..." This preceding line was the Ephesian secret wisdom...

"From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view;
even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we do so no
longer. Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old
has passed away, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ
reconciled us to Himself, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." -
Paul of Tarsus (II Corinthians 5:16-18)

"From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view..." - they saw
their 'unseemly brethren,' their non-Christian neighbors, everyone - from
the vantage of heaven. In our words, what they can be - what they will be -
if only, if only -

... Please consider these words. Seemlies, give attention and love to
those that would naturally turn you off. You have no idea what joy you can
bring. Unseemlies - walk the dark road - there is power in what you
experience - in the comfort you will bring to others.


And may we all walk as the Ephesians walked.




We all need to be cared for. Everyone has valuable gifts and qualities,
though some qualities do not attract attention as well as others. But those
with such 'unseemly' qualities still need your care, and it is your
obligation to give them your attention. So consider this, and share the
wealth. And if you need more encouragement, consider the words of our Lord
and judge. To whom much is given, much is expected. But there's
more, and it comes with a warning to those who do not use what they are given and look after their brothers (Matthew 25:40-46).


Jesus of Nazarethsrc="http://www.cds.caltech.edu/~shane/images/2002/jesus-head.jpg">

The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'


Next he will say to those on his left,`Out of my presence, with your own curse upon your heads, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, lacking clothes and you did not clothe me, sick and imprisoned and you took no care of me.'


Then it will be their turn to ask,`Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or lacking clothes, sick or in prison, and did not help you?'


He will answer,`I tell you the truth: whatever you neglected to do for one on the least of these, you neglected to do for me.'


And they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.



To this heart-stopping lesson, Matthew adds the frightening comment: "Jesus had now finished all he wanted to say."
This is the last public sermon Jesus gave. This is what he left us with. So go now, and please do what he said. For the sake of your fellow man, and for your sake.

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