(photo of Zyklon-B from Wikimedia Commons)
1 Corinthians 11.17-22:
Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine. When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you!
One of the things that I used to do like clockwork was watch the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. local news. But in recent years I tend to simply look it up on the Internet. The good news is I can choose the stories I want to see rather than impatiently wait through stories of lesser interest, or deal with the frustration of missing the stories I wanted to see because I got a phone call, or something in preparing supper demanded my attention, or some other distraction.
The bad news is I occasionally get drawn in to read the comments. I don't know why I let the commenters bother me. But at times, they do, especially when the story involves an arrest, or it involves a story of someone down on their luck. There's this little cadre of vultures who follow those stories and pile on with their vitriolic, mean, and sometimes downright bigoted comments. They tend to paint themselves as "oppressed" in some way, and often do things like attack local law enforcement, diss local businesses, and regularly engage in character assassination. ("I got my utilities turned off five days after my bill was due, and that person got to be in arrears for three months." "You can tell by looking at him he's a child molester, castrate him right now and save the state the expense of jailing him." "I know this woman and she sits around and smokes cigarettes and is on Facebook, playing games. Maybe she should get offher butt and get a job.. They showed five pets in the footage, too, maybe she should get rid of her pets and she'll have money for her health expenses.")
It's also of note the character assassination types of comments are frequently aimed at women, and the attacks involve people's personal habits, assumed sexual behavior, and laziness. My overall impression of these people is that they are angry, bitter people who seem to take a great deal of delight in discounting the woes of others. One wonders why they spend so much time trolling the station's website. They seem to fancy themselves as the Bill O'Reillys or Glenn Becks of Kirksville. At best, they annoy me. On my worst days, I really itch to tell them off.
But in short, they are quick to condemn and seem unable to commend.
I do not, however, feel compelled to respond to them, despite the fact once in a while these semi-anonymous posters have said truly ugly things about people I know in the stories.
That's something that has changed in 20 years. (Wow! It's hard to believe I have been on the internet for a little over 20 years!) Twenty years ago, when I was at an age where I thought the whole world deserved to hear my opinion on a matter, I would have behaved like the self-proclaimed internet pundit I envisioned myself to be, and would have let them have it with both barrels. I would have crawled into the gutter to fight them, and I often would have won, but also delivered MY nastiest, and most vitriolic side to be memorialized in the cobwebs of the internet for perpetuity.
I don't know why I let the commenters bother me. But at times, they do, especially when the story involves an arrest, or it involves a story of someone down on their luck. They seem particularly interested in pointing out that "God helps those who help themselves," and even throw the "WWJD" card on the table. There's no doubt; I'm bigoted against bigots. (As my retired pathologist friend MJ used to say about himself, "I'm an anti-bigot bigot.")
In the language of our text, I'm prone to condemning the condemners.
So rather than condemn, and be no better than the condemners, I have struggled with learning to commend instead. This isn't easy.
One of the ways I try to do it is simply ponder some of the things they put out there, in their judgment. Take when they throw the WWJD card. I most recently saw that when they were attacking a story about a woman drawing disability, on home oxygen who had her electricity cut off. Mostly, they attacked her for being fat, for being lazy, for having a wood stove and saying she could cook a meal perfectly fine on that, for saying she had "no place to go" but having grown children, and for being a smoker. Her being on disability was attacked. They dragged her grown children into it, claiming they learned how to suck on the teat of the government like their mother. They called her a scam artist, and attacked the local news station for giving her air time. It was just really nasty.
As I thought about the story, I realized I didn't really care about those things. You know, I didn't even know this woman. Maybe she's not a scammer, maybe she is. Yeah, she does things I don't approve of. But even if she were all the things her attackers claimed she was, I actually had compassion for her. What an awful life it must be to have to live like that, even if it is of one's own making to some degree. There's nothing I covet about her situation. But I remembered how, in my own days of living in the "working poor" income group, how easy it WAS to covet another's situation that somehow seemed "better" than mine, even when the reality of it was that it was not better.
If she was not the things her accusers piled onto, then she has been treated even more shabbily by the attackers. It was easy to have compassion for that.
Either way, I had compassion for someone who for whatever reason, was probably lost her dignity at this point.
Several people seemed to want to preach from the Gospel of "Supply Side Jesus" too here. Well, let's think about that one a minute. What WOULD Jesus do?
The more I thought about that one, the more I laughed...because I think Jesus would have healed her. I think he would have healed her from her chronic illnesses and told her "Go, and sin no more."
I got to laughing, because I was pretty sure the first people who would have been upset about that would have been those very same people throwing the WWJD card on the table.
Jesus had a habit of that, you know--that whole "healing people that the world thought was "undeserving" of such grace," thing. Those complainers would have railed to high heaven about it, in fact!
There's a lesson in that.
In that lesson, I need to learn to commend mean-spirited vitriolic people to God.
Now, that doesn't mean I shouldn't defend myself with the truth if I were ever the target of their spewings. But it does mean I don't need to whip out my verbal coach gun and shoot from the hip at them. I need to trust that God cares for all of us on God's time frame. Even people like that.
Yep. Even mean people are commended to God. Because they are, it also means I am, even when I am at my worst.