held to a higher standard

“Who stands fast?
Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom,
or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible
action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God- the responsible man,
who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God.
Where are these responsible people?”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The notion of being held to a higher standard is a fast and dying concept.

This sad thought came to mind yesterday as I sat on a non-moving interstate with a screaming
3 month old in the back seat.

There were four lanes on this particular stretch of interstate, with a sea of cars and trucks
inching forward here and there by the slightest margins, while drivers kept jockeying for lane
changes.
The jockeying was due to every driver obviously thinking the other lane was actually moving at a
more rapid snail’s pace than their own.

Suddenly a car in the far left lane had the bright idea to cut all the way over,
over the four lanes of jam-packed cars and trucks, making its way to the far-right exit lane
as in right now this very moment…

As in it was suddenly a brilliant idea to stop all four lanes of traffic because this one
selfish bozo was tired of inching.

The tractor-trailer truck behind me was not having it.
He refused to let them in.
And in his defense, this car was being dangerously aggressive in their maneuvering,
giving very little care to anything or anyone around them.

When this car saw that they weren’t going to be allowed to squeeze in, they shot up two spaces
and actually cut off the cars two up from me and proceeded to cut until they flew up the exit ramp…
all the while, an arm was raised out of the open passenger window which was boldly shooting a bird
to each and all.

I use to think we humans were better than this.

Better than this self-centered, defiant, ‘to hell with you’ mentality we have now become so
smugly accustomed to.
A mentality we are readily, happily and eagerly embracing–
not to mention accepting and even expecting.

I was offended and I felt angry.

I could see they were young and of a minority.

And in my having just said that, the PC police out there have just labeled me a bigot, a racist,
probably a homophobic, xenophobic and out an of touch white supremacist right winger.

Shall we talk about labels…?
I digress.

But why should have I felt offended, let alone angry??

Why should I feel mad at someone who was obviously
an obnoxious self-centered thoughtless jerk who gave no-never-mind that they were
putting everyone’s safety in jeopardy just so they could get the hell out of dodge…
not to mention that they were being offensive with the hand gesture.

We use to be better than this right?

And in being better we actually held others up, thinking of one another with a higher
level of esteem and even feeling that we were all being held to a higher standard.

Meaning we should still know better, act better and be better….
but the thing is we aren’t.

Back during a certain day, we were more considerate,
more thoughtful and not so blatantly mean…and heaven’s forbid, blatantly offensive.

We actually use to take things such as politeness, prudence, judiciousness,
expertise, pride in doing one’s best, courtesies and citizenship all for granted.
We were taking all of these characteristics for granted because we simply expected such
from one another.
We were living our lives to those higher standards.

And maybe that’s our problem today.

But why now, why today should any of this be such a problem?
A problem in that we actually once expected more and received more from one another?

Perhaps it’s a problem because our society has become numb and desensitized to what is
offensive, endangering and even uncivil.

It’s as if someone suddenly clicked a switch and all of that changed…we changed.

We use to hold one another to higher standards and we use to hold various professionals to
higher standards.

We use to think of folks like doctors, members of law enforcement, members of the military,
athletes, youth leaders, coaches, members of the clergy, teachers, etc…as exemplary.

These were all folks that should and could always be held to a higher standard.
These folks were to be respected as were their jobs and roles in life.

Be it due to the amount of study or sacrifice that went into their profession…
to the seriousness in which they took their life’s calling…
or maybe simply because theirs was a choice of sacrifice for others.
They gave up their own time and often wellbeing to serve the rest of us.

Whatever the reason, we had a sense of peace with and for these folks.

We respected folks and their positions, their leadership, their expertise, their
learning, their teaching, their care, their giving of self…

But with time, all of that has eroded as scandal upon scandal had chipped away at each
group.

Sexual molestation.
Sexual predation.
Sexual solicitation.
Drug abuse.
Tax evasion.
Embezzling.
Money laundering.
Advantage taking.
Bullying.
Lying.
Cheating.
Abuse.

The sad little list goes on and on.
As we now view these sorts of folks with sideways glances and curious raised eyebrows.

Instead of rising upward or at least expecting to rise upward, we are sinking downward
and we do so with very little thought to it all.

We hear of something scandalous and we are no longer surprised or as outraged
as we once would have been.
We even produce and name television shows over such..as we sickeningly find it all so
entertaining.

And yet movements like all the hashtags, those movements such as #meto,
merely take us from one extreme to another.

And in lies much of our trouble.

We go rabid.

Because it appears as if rationality also left long ago…along with
both its friends esteem and expectation…
leaving us with only reactionary involuntary knee-jerk responses.
And much like wounded animals…we lash out.

We seek to throw scarlet letters on all perceived offenders.
While frantically searching with our spears and pitchforks for any hint of suspicion
in order to toss everyone in the wagon-cart of shame just so we can parade them around
for all to see.

We only thought we left stockades, pillories and public displays of punishment
behind in darker ages.

So is it surprising that we see no real change from the shaming and the shunning?

Instead, we simply become more and more numb.
It’s as if we’ve come to expect the idea of lowliness and rapidly diminishing expectations.
So much so that it is to the point that we are simply full of smugness and apathy.

We assume the worse.
Yet we continue being tolerant and even hungry for more.

However, all is not lost.

I am reminded that our God continues to hold us, his children, to a higher standard.
He’s never wavered in His expectations.

Despite knowing that we will fall…
Knowing that we will fail time and time again…

He continues to point upward rather than downward.
He continues reminding us that so goes the world, we are not to go.

He also expects us to hold those around us upward as well.
‘Sink not into the abyss’ He admonishes us while expecting us to do unto others
as we would wish done to ourselves.

So before we act and react in ways that are lowly, crude, hurtful,
hateful and dare we say evil…
may we remember to keep our standards set higher while never losing sight of
Godly expectations…

“…obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it,
not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor,
but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.
It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:22-24

crime and punishment meets mercy

woman-caught-in-adultery

Two thousand years ago, or so the story goes, there was a woman who was accused,
by the elders of her community, of having committed adultery.
She was taken to the central courtyard of her village for punishment.

The woman was bound and dumped onto the hot sandy center of town.
Next she was surrounded by her accusers,
the men of the community,
who would now proceed to pelt her with rocks…
one rock at a time,
until she was dead.
All of which, depending on the size of stones, the number of men gathered, coupled with
the accuracy and speed with which each stone was thrown, death could be anywhere
from 20 minutes to 2 hours…
Slow, painful and torturous…

This was the required and assumed punishment for any woman accused of such an act…
never mind if the man involved was married and guilty, punishment did not usually await him.
And not all accused woman were actually guilty.
It was often a convenient deterrent to others…as well as a way to do away
with undesirables…

And so the story goes….

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning
he was back again at the Temple.
A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them.
As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees
brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery.
They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus,
“this woman was caught in the act of adultery.
The law of Moses says to stone her.
What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him,
but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.
They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said,
“All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one,
beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left
in the middle of the crowd with the woman.
Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman,
“Where are your accusers?
Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said,
“Neither do I.
Go and sin no more.”

John 8:1-11

Fast forward to 2016 Iran.

Stoning is still an accepted form of punishment in many Middle Eastern countries.
It is still a widely practiced and totally acceptable means of punishment in
Sharia Muslim communities…and as we see from the recent following story out of Iran,
even to protest or write against such, is an equally punishable offense.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37575193

Mercy,
Grace,
Forgiveness
Hope…

or—

a fate buried in stone…

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10