On my ride to the airport earlier this week I saw two church signs that literally left me shaking my head. The first said, “The tomb is empty - deal with it” and the second, “Even with inflation the wages of sin is the same - death.” The message behind the first sign is something to the effect of “if you don’t believe like we do, we don’t care because you are stupid.” Do you know who I think is stupid? Whoever decided to put that message on the sign. I’m not sure but I think the second message was a poor attempt to humorously share their not so funny message, “You are a sinner and you’re going to die.” Why would you want that on your sign?! What are the chances someone who was considering going to church on Easter Sunday would have chosen either of these locations? What are the chances of just one of the tens of thousands of people who read those signs thinking, “They are right - I’m a sinner and I need to go into that church and get my life right with God.”?
For the record, I believe Jesus’ tomb is empty and the wages of sin is death, but there are so many better ways to share this message. One suggestion would be for sign #2 to have included the entire bible verse on their sign - “the wages of sin is death, BUT the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).” There are a lot of big buts :) in the bible and this may be the biggest.
My point today is not to share theology or church things that drive me crazy (I try to limit my posts to less than 1,000 words, plus I really love the church), but to help you consider what to do when you have that exasperating feeling that leaves you shaking your head. Think of the last time you had such a feeling and apply these three suggestions:
Why does he express himself this way? Why does she act the way she does? Often there is an understandable reason behind the foolish words or actions we observe. It may be ignorance, a cry for attention, an expression of anger, or an attempt to show superiority. Behind the foolishness is often a hidden pain. Remember, hurt people hurt people.
Too often we dismiss people or opinions without considering their viewpoint. I encourage you to do the hard work of thinking. Lately I have been thinking about thinking. Think about that for a minute. I have been reminded of the emotional speech given at the 1993 ESPY awards by Jimmy Valvano as he approached his death from cancer. He said there are three things we should do each day - laugh, cry and think. Great words. If it’s worth shaking your head at, it’s worth opening your mind to.
The reason one is left shaking his head is often the absurdity of the situation. Once you have considered the why behind the situation, seek to have a conversation with someone about it. Share an opposing viewpoint in a more palatable way. It is much easier to hear opposition when it is shared in love rather than judgment. The advice I have given my children (and occasionally my wife :)) more than any other may be, “As important as what you say, is how you say it.” I give the same advice to the leaders I coach. When you engage in an honest, civil conversation, you are much more likely to have opportunity to share your thoughts. But remember, honest conversations also mean you are willing to listen.
After you have considered it and talked about it, do something about it. The best way to correct a wrong is not to simply point it out, although there is some value in this. The best way to right a wrong is to do something. As Andy Stanley has wisely instructed, “Don’t make a point; make a difference.” And as Ghandi has said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I long for a day when more people address wrongs with actions than with facebook posts. I long for a day when people are shaking their heads in amazement about the good being done rather than in bewilderment over the foolishness they see.
And I long for a day when church signs share jokes rather than jabs.
Next time you find yourself shaking your head remember to consider, confer, and correct.