Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Prophetic Compassion

Church people who care about causes or hold strong opinions often defend their most aggressive statements as "prophetic."

We become like some of the noted home run hitters - for our relatively few memorable blasts, we much more often walk back to the dugout having struck out. I don't think I need to say much to extend this metaphor to blogging.

What much of our "prophetic" speech lacks is the compassion that God seeks to send with any judgement. We like to declare the other guy wrong, and to heap metaphoric and even literal hell on him. We leave off God's compassion.

Consider this counterpoint from the Old Testament Prophet Micah, one of the Prayer Book's assigned readings today:

All her images shall be beaten to pieces,
all her wages shall be burned with fire,
and all her idols I will lay waste;
for as the wages of a prostitute she gathered them,
and as the wages of a prostitute they shall again be used.
For this I will lament and wail;
I will go barefoot and naked;
I will make lamentation like the jackals,
and mourning like the ostriches.
For her wound is incurable.
It has come to Judah;
it has reached to the gate of my people,
to Jerusalem.

Yes, Micah is clear, God is about to lay a well deserved punishment on the capitol cities of Israel and Judah. Yes, there is invective. But then there is mourning and self-abasement, a sharing in the pain of the punished rather than a judgemental distance from them.

Jeremiah, whose fierce oracles of judgement give us the term "jeremiad," also gets credit for the Lamentations, dirge-like observations that eschew delight when his prophecies prove true.

Shane Claiborne, a contemporary Christian outsider reminiscent of the ancient prophets, says this about our current "prophetic" pronouncements,

"Maybe the fruits of the Spirit really are beautiful things like peace, patience, kindness, joy, love, goodness, and not the ugly things that have come to characterize religion, or politics, for that matter. (If there is anything I have learned from liberals and conservatives, it's that you can have great answers and still be mean... and that just as important as being right is being nice.)"

We need to strike a tough balance, not just strike the sensibilities of others. The Lord's marching orders to the church are,

"Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person."

1 comment:

Grace said...

The catchphrase is "speaking the truth in love" unless I'm very mistaken, and as you point out I think we tend to spend a lot of time speaking the truth, but ignore the love part. The love part requires honest tears and sadness at speaking the truth. I don't see a lot of tears today. If it isn't heartbreaking to speak the truth; it isn't being spoken in love. At least that's my take on it...