Saturday, October 18, 2008

Playground bullies

Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." Matthew 22:21

One of the hardest things to explain with words to young children are the rules of a specific game. What is most profoundly amazing is how they can pick up the rules of a game, or the rules of playground and classroom society, although no one has ever explained these rules to them. Children know more about power and control than most adults are aware of. They watch us and they know how we play and they imitate us. They see how we bully or embrace, defend or welcome. Bullies tend to be people with hurt in their heart, people who have had power used as a tool against them, so in turn, use it over another. Those who came to Jesus were looking to bully him into answering a question about the rules of the political game, not to see if he was a good man but to entrap him into breaking the law. We do this to one another too often, and it is usually a sign of our radical anxiety and hurt. We try to trip others up because they hurt us, because someone used the rules to hurt us, or they did not listen to our needs at the time we spoke them.

Jesus answered them with a deep understanding of the differences between the rules and institutions of humans and the rules and institutions of God. People's institutions are based on power, resources and the control of both. God's rules and institutions begin and end with love. The outward signs of God's structures are inclusion, compassion, mercy, forgiven and powerlessness. God chooses the weak to be leaders, and chooses humble shepherds to be kings. Our institutions, including the church, live in the world of power, privilege and control. Human politics are embedded everywhere because we are human. It is so easy to confuse one for the other. We humans are frail and broken, the kids on the playground that always get picked on. The sad part is that when we get a bit of power and place, we often find someone else to crush. But God, in full loving mercy, is always inviting us to a safe place, a sanctuary of love and forgiveness, a place where power is in the weakest and the offering of one's heart is the most honored treasure.

This Sunday, I want to be an agent of the things that are God's. I want to invite and embrace, rather than play politics. I want to offer my heart, even if it gets broken and I want to live in peace so that all enemies become friends. It is so easy for us in the church to wield power badly. The problem is not in skill but in our calling. We are not called to wield power. We are called to wield the loving, embracing arms of inclusion and justice. It is so easy for bishops and other church leaders to forget that. May today we pray for all who are in leadership in our church that we might use what we have been given with the heart of God. May we transform the world in our willingness to be humble and broken before others. And may we all be agents of God's love and mercy breaking forth into the world.

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