Rage without weeping (COMMENTARY)

Bill Meffordby Bill Mefford

I recently preached in my home church a sermon on Matthew 23. The animosity is palpable. Jesus urges his listeners to pay attention to the teaching of religious leaders but not their lives. They are hypocrites and their authority should be stripped.

As I was preparing for the sermon I read Jesus’ diatribe using what I imagined was his tone. Jesus didn’t use his “church voice” when he delivered this rant so I too screamed his words as loud as I could and it was exhausting.

But once my own rant was over I read the last couple of verses of Matthew 23 and the love and compassion was startling compared to his earlier rage:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills its prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Matthew 23:37-38)

Jesus mourns for Jerusalem – including her religious leaders – because they have rejected God’s great gift of love and mercy. Jesus grieves because of the love he has for them, but which has been scorned by his people and distorted by the religious leaders.

This strikes me even now as Jesus connects anger and grief. Our anger at those who perpetuate injustice and who abuse their positions of influence for their own gain must – if that anger is to be righteous – be based in our own love and mourning for those same people we direct our anger at. We don’t get to rage at people unless we weep for them.

It is interesting that Jesus holds both anger and lament for those important positions. We are the same. It enrages us when we see yet another elected leader use their elected office for financial benefit for themselves or their buddies in the corporate world all the while denying needed benefits for people in legitimate need and rhetorically blaming them for their predicament.

Whether it is the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, or the leaders of our own, their hypocrisy stands as not only a betrayal of themselves, but also a betrayal of what we hold dear. This is why it stings and angers us so deeply.

 

But, as followers of Jesus, we can only share his rage if we also share in his grief. Have I wept for those who have betrayed me and their faith? Or have I used my anger to batter them, to guilt and shame them, to “prophetically” blast on Twitter or Facebook while I have ignored Jesus and the prophets’ call to grieve and mourn for them? When I am honest with myself my track record on this is not the greatest.

 

Perhaps one reason why the church is unable to move forward so often is that we haven’t really learned to love those who infuriate us and so we move from outrage to outrage. And perhaps if we do learn to weep not just for ourselves or for those who agree with us, then our anger might be heard or could possibly even be transformative.

Bill Mefford is the Director of Civil and Human Rights for the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church.

 

 

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23 Comments on "Rage without weeping (COMMENTARY)"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Perhaps a church with “Identity” in the title would be more to your liking, then. That’s certainly no excuse for rude behavior.

Yeah, that’s like the lady who argues with police “I pay your salary!” as she takes them on her roof to observe her neighbors sunbathing nekkid. Except her outrage is a little more understandable than yours.

Paul W.
Guest
The commentary bothers me and not simply because of the incredible irony between the writer’s history and the topic he chose. No, what bothers me most, is how specious the argument is. Mr. Mefford’s point can be completely summarized in his question, “Have I wept for those who have betrayed me and their faith?” Here though, he shows that he has completely and totally missed the entire point of the passage in Matt. 23 — This is not at all about Mr. Mefford, or me, or anyone other than God and Christ. This isn’t at all about betrayal of Mr.… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

What business is it of yours what he mans by “preaching the gospel”? Your wquestion was rude, intemperate, and especially UnChristian. He was right to deflect your agressive badgering. The presumption which would lead you to feel an entitlement to verbally assault him shows, as so many other thuings do that the Scribes and Pharisees are you Christian Koalition types.

Mark
Guest

But Paul, you have to undertand that, with self-absorbed liberals like Mefford, it’s ALWAYS all about THEM! They have the politics of Fidel Castro and the maturity of Beaver Cleaver.

(BTW, the obligatory Christian-sounding rhetoric is necessary for semi-plausible deniability lest someone dare accuse them of having a political agenda and the ill-gotten money-flow is threatened–the best thing these folks have going for them is secrecy and opaqueness).

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
:facepalm: Beaver Cleaver was, in one way, a young man who, sometimes was faced with moral decisions and ultimately decided to do the right thing, unlike our right-wing caucus which wants to do what they want without thinking, and especially without having others think. Castro’s politics are closer to that of the modern Religious Right than to modern liberalism/progressivism. Leninism is an extremely conservative ideology. I had an undergrad professor who used Lenin’s “Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder” as required reading in his seminar on Soviet-style communism. Interestingly, after the Cuban Revolution, it was actually Che Guevara who initiated programs… Read more »
Kevin
Guest

Mark
“the politics of Fidel Castro and the maturity of Beaver Cleaver”. Wish I thought of that. Can I borrow that phrase? I think I might need it someday soon.

19th Century Evangelical
Guest
19th Century Evangelical

For those who are bashing this guy, did you even read his commentary? Have you wept for him before you have called for his head or are you only concerned with bashing people who you disagree with? I think Jesus said something about stiff-necked people pleased with their own righteousness.

Michael Daniel
Guest

George, you should not pretend to know the mind of those who oppose abortion since you are clearly off the grid. We are not “woman haters” nor “slut shamers”. We simply maintain that the power over life and death is in the Divine Realm, not the hands of humans. I cannot speak for all pro-lifers, however; I speak only for myself – as you should speak only for yourself and according only to what you can know. Shame on you for your name-calling.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

My friend I have done extensive research concerning the antiabortion movement. If you are not a woman hater or a slut-shamer, then you support legal abortion everywhere covered by all health plans. Welcome to the Pro-choice cause. we believe as you do that none should have power over others’ lives in the manner as gynocological politicians seek. Thank you for joining this noble cause.

Oh and analysis =/= name-calling.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
I agree with your point that “there is no such thing as pro-life” because those who claim the label ally themselves with policymakers who are devoted to make life, except for the favored few, nasty, brutish, and short. About your citing of polls, and of defintions, YMMV. It is true younger people tend to often poll as “favoring abortion” moreso than their elders, but that is deceptive, because they no more want the government’s hands in the uterus than us older folks. The true measure has been at the ballot box, where several states with right-wing legislatures or petetion drives… Read more »
Mark
Guest

Mr. Mefford has long since forfeited his right to speak for the United Methodist Church, the orthodox Christian community, or, for that matter, any fair-minded person with an IQ north of room temperature. Like most in the General Board of Church and Society, he is a left-wing activist whose proclamations are tied more to politics than any reasonable understanding of Christianity.

Kevin
Guest

Mark,
Judging by the number of comments on the GBCS blog no one is really paying much attention anyway. Mr. Mefford’s brand may have been irreparably damaged by his antics and his rhetoric.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

I don’t think so. I’ve he’s angered the forces of reaction he’s doing his job.

Mark
Guest

Kevin, I think you are quite right, but here’s the problem: we pay Mr. Mefford, and he ostensibly represents the UMC. That is beyond outrageous.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

I don’t know, his views are certainly more mainstream than the right-wing caucus in our midst. Christianity is a diverse faith and Methodism is far removed from the rants of radio schlockmeisters.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Big difference: the March in Selma was one for justice. The antiabortion movement’s various marching are only for the purpose of slut-shaming and well deserving of ridicule.

theenemyhatesclarity
Guest

Richard, you are absolutely correct. Of course we all have sinned, and praise be to God, there is forgiveness for the sin. However, there still are consequences, at least earthly consequences. One of them, just as it would be with me or you, is loss of credibility. I ask again, can you imagine the reaction of his employer if he had held at similar sign at the Selma march.

In Christ,

The enemy hates clarity

Michael Daniel
Guest

This is a good observation, but it rings hollow when coming from one who recently made fun of those who believe in the sanctity of life; and frankly I am a little disturbed he is still an employee of a General Agency of Church and Society when he clearly has nothing but disdain for a substantial segment of our society.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
I’m sorry but those involved in promoting the bad public policy of criminalizing abortion are not “a substantial segment of our society”‘ They are a network of woman haters engaging in their favorite pasttime of slut-shaming and do not represent a large segment at all. Most people have daughters and are not willing to go back to the bad old days of back alley abortions. They have failed to make their case for their unsupported notions. even in referenda, they’ve lost every time, from Colorado to South Dakota to Mississippi –repeat, Mississippi! — because the notion they are promoting is… Read more »
Richard Hicks
Guest

“Hypocrite” is just another name for “human.” “ALL have sinned . . . ” What part of “all” do you don’t understand about “all?” Now, its not the only name for us humans. We could at time also be called servant, lover, giver, layer-downer-of-one’s life, etc. Again, what part of “all” do you not understand. Thank you.

Kevin
Guest

Wow. It looks like Hillary Clinton has Mr. Mefford all fired up. Ranting does not do much good though does it? Perhaps a humorous sign might be better. Something on the lighter side.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Wait, what? I’m not seeing a connection between your post and the article. Would you be so good as to explain how you get from point a to point b?

Unless, of course, ISIS is using UMR comments to give coded directives to their sleeper cells. It’s not like anyone with real geopolitical power reads this stuff.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Ah. so this the “I <3 sandwiches" or whatever guy? Where does the cradle Methodist Presidential contender fit in?

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