Sunday, June 28, 2009


I think the name is misleading. To say someone needs to practice self-control in a situation with a disgruntled individual would easily be interpreted as, "Act like you're not mad." Or "Act like you're not constantly thinking about sweets." Or "Act like you really care about that person."

What does that accomplish but a reinforced facade?

Okay, sure, when it comes to treating other people with respect, sometimes a facade is what will serve them best. But the same Person who told us that "self-control" was a "fruit of the Spirit" was constantly emphasizing that it is our motivations that matter in what we do, and not so much the actions that we take.

This idea just came to me this evening as I was driving. I don't practice road rage - honking my horn, cutting people off, flipping the finger. But I do feel it inside sometimes. I think it's good not to act on those feelings... it's a good start... but it's not a satisfying finish, y'know?

So what to do? It's so much more complicated than "Don't act this way." It's not enough to act self-controlled... I don't think that's the point. You have to be prepared to love. You have to actually not idolize food. You have to already be anxious to forgive the people who treat you thoughtlessly while on the road.

"You may ask, 'How did this tradition get started?' I'll tell you! ......I don't know. But it's a tradition! And because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do."

I really enjoy Fiddler on the Roof. And contrary to what my dear friend Willy will protest, the movie is just almost exactly the same as the show, so I like both the play and the film. But it's startling to think about how much of that theme of tradition runs just as strongly through Christianity as it does through Judaism. Why do you say it's wrong to play pool? Card games? Have wine at dinner? Wear shorts? Wear jeans to church? There is nothing wrong with any of those things in and of themselves. Granted, there are always exceptions, like for the sake of the weaker brother, jeans are not appropriate in some churches. And why? Because they are wrapped up in tradition. "Church" is not the people of God but a formal event.

I bring that up to emphasize the fact that, in this sense, Christianity is not easy. You can't hop on for the ride and check your brain at the door. You have to be engaged. You have to think. Your mind has to be involved in order to say "God loves that person" instead of sitting pissed off in your car because they kept you from making it through the light.

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