“Adversarial Relationships and the
Creating A Climate Of Civility And Healing
Bishop Freddie Steel - January 12, 2009
Saddleback mega-church pastor Rick Warren is right-on when he speaks about the need for civility in the political processes of America and in our culture. It is my opinion that America’s soul is still wounded by events of her history and passionate appeals or demands are made to satisfy unjust acts and attitudes that nearly brought her to ruin. I am not so sure that all, or even many of the attitudes and events and their fallout, can ever be adequately reversed or addressed. However, I am certain, convinced, that we can do several things to change the current atmosphere where these many wounds have a better chance to heal.
I just read an article, dated today, that covered studies by Northwestern University’s Feinburg School of Medicine and their findings on a connection between Alzheimer disease and glucose. In short, they are proposing that Alzheimer disease is related to stress on the brain cells later in life and an inadequate amount of glucose that is required to keep the brain healthy. Keep in mind, from my point of view, there are many kinds of stressors that can plague the mind, and they essentially fit into two categories: external, and internal. Let me speak to the internal stressors of anger, resentment, bitterness, guilt, shame, etc.
To help explain my opinion, I turn to the catholic letter (universal letter) of James, a book of the Bible near the end of the New Testament. ‘James’ was not written to individual churches addressing issues pertinent to that specific body like Apostle Paul did when he wrote to the Church at Ephesus or the Church at Corinth. James is a letter, a book in the Bible, that is relevant to every church, everywhere and deals with things such as faith: warning against prejudice; guarding your tongue and your words; true wisdom as opposed to humanly-contrived wisdom; how to draw close to God; warnings against judging other, etc. And, believe it or not, James writes about glucose! Here’s what he says.
“People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!
11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
True Wisdom Comes from God
13 – “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s-kind-of-wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.” James 3: 7-17 NLT
These are harsh words, for sure. However, we can take it, we have endured a ‘hostile’ environment for quite awhile now. The truth I would like to lift up covers three ideas:
(1) healing the tongue is not a hopeless task or aspiration;
(2) do not speak ill of your fellow brother who is due the very same liberal measures of grace that you have received from God;
(3) the corporate body can be healed with glucose.
Where the English words ‘fresh water’ are used, they are being translated from the written texts that used the word ‘glucose’ to illustrate what happens in our verbal communicating. James says point-blank that our words create an atmosphere and have profound effects on the hearers, those on the receiving end. Emphatically, James says that salt water and the healing properties of glucose cannot flow from the same found (your words). It has to be one or the other and we are to choose which one we use. Here is where the beauty begins in looking at the restorative and healing qualities of glucose.
Glucose is to the body what fuel is to an engine. Just as fuel is absolutely essential for an engine to begin to run, glucose is essential for starting the engine of good, civil, relationship and communicating. Glucose is a sugar and is the circulating sugar in the blood that is the major source of our energy. Interestingly, this type of sugar is profoundly abundant in grapes and grapes are touted by home remedies and clinical studies as being full of healing and restorative qualities.
We are, essentially, starving one another. If our words are that powerful (and Bible truth and academic research prove they are), then our words have the power to heal or to wound. I appreciate having the opportunity to listen to many different news sources on the tv and, very rarely, on the radio as well. However, in all frankness, these news outlets are not just fountains; they are rivers and oceans of vitriolic and demeaning talk. In other words, the combined streams from the tv or radio news media that originate the same or transmit from other sources the same, suck the very life out of the relational life of our nation.
Is America sick? Well, for sure, we have been wounded and have many, many wounded souls. And, our current culture and communication methods are not helping. The bitterness of life itself is an adequate catalyst, for many, to incite rancid communicating at home and in everyday life. None would deny that the defaming and critically demeaning words spoken to children when they are impressionable can damage and alter their emotional health and growth that may never be righted until they are well grown if healing occurs even then.
For several years I visited a fellow in a super-max unit of a state prison. He is bright, good looking, and has some great qualities. He told me a heart breaking thing during one visit. He said, “Freddie, I’m only doing what Dad said I would be doing. I’m only doing what Grandmother said I would be doing: you will end up in prison just like me.” See, those are abusive statements just like: ‘you are so stupid and you will never make it in this life;’ ‘you are a fat disgrace and look like an elephant.’ Regrettably, this can be talk that is typical in many families and can come from dads, moms, husbands or wives that create an unhealthy atmosphere sure to create hurt, resentment, and failure.
It doesn’t mean that, as humans, we should not have moments of resentment, bitterness, anger or hate. However, it does mean that if those cancerous feelings are not assuaged in a timely manner, those emotions will show up in our communicating and our relationships and will poison the atmosphere, the hearers, and their future life. This kind of talk fills the relationship with carbon-monoxide that has had the very oxygen of relational life sucked out of the midst.
Glucose is an important source of fuel for the body, especially for the brain and for red blood cells which have no other sources of fuel. Glucose is stored in the body in the liver and muscles and is also used in tissues to provide energy. In other words, if a body, whether an individual, a home, a family, a church, or a nation, does not have enough glucose, its muscles will atrophy and waste away, it will have no energy to endure and sustain, its brain will be deprived and develop phobias and paralyses, and will, eventually, cannibalize itself to survive. Cannibalism, relationship-cannibalism, is what I would call what I hear and see coming from too many entirely too often.
Though it sounds gross, I hope that this illustration explains the how’s and the why’s for many of the verbal injuries being inflicted throughout our culture today. Here are some action-steps that will help you be a healer for the souls of mankind.
1. Pay attention to the tone in your voice and if it is rancid, reconstitute what you were going to say.
2. If you have a critical eye for others but you want grace for yourself, start extending grace which, by nature, means that the recipient does not have to necessarily be worthy or deserving of the grace in order to receive it – just like you.
3. If you are preparing to communicate and are angry or upset, wait. Be patient.
4. We are patient with people or things in direct proportion to the value and esteem we place on the same. Extending patience says, in essence, ‘I don’t have to manipulate things’ or ‘I don’t know everything concerning the issue’ and can, should, therefore wait – be patient.
5. If you have grace extended to you, do the same.
6. The Bible says that ‘a soft word turns away wrath.’ In your everyday interaction with service providers, with people with whom you do not immediately identify with or relate to, deflect aggression or insults by refusing to respond in-kind. In other words, you will either employ boxing tactics or judo tactics in times of confrontation. Boxing rarely, if ever works. However, judo deflects the assault. In this illustration, however, it is not for the purpose of subduing your ‘opponent’ but for neutralizing the toxic environment.
What could be the source of the dissatisfaction, the complaining, the polarities that separate us from one another, from convivial co-existence? In my opinion, it boils down to ‘greed.’ The drive of greed, the addiction of greed, says that we want or we need more to be satiated in life. Don’t be fooled. Things were never meant to satisfy or define life for us. Greed’s greatest argument may be one concerning a distorted view of life that says ‘I deserve this’ no matter what it may cost one’s self or others in the process.
Greed never provides us with a definition of when ‘enough is enough:’ Because of greed, ‘enough’ remains elusive, always just out of reach. Greed can be neutralized in much the same way that soft words are able to turn away wrath.
Gratitude is the gargantuan essential of life that renders every argument against greed inviolate. Gratitude is much like glucose, it has healing properties. The cancer of greed can be so rampant that a perpetual dissatisfaction occurs in the soul of its victims. Then, the ever-elusive point of satisfaction that would mute the voice of greed that is screaming for vindication is not discovered and allowed to speak and challenge the false claims of greed. In other words, when is enough, enough?
Ingratitude also overshadows a worthy and venerable essential of life – honor. The Bible tells us that we are to give and express honor to whom honor is due. God puts a high premium on giving and learning to receive and live with honor. I believe that honor dictates that we give honor to the office or the role if you are not inclined to honor a deserving person because of personal prejudice, etc. How does that play out in everyday life?
Once again it is my opinion that Americans are infested with a spirit of criticism. Since we know so much, and since we feel we deserve so much, then we feel that we are at liberty to criticize so much. That is what happens when the venerable code of honor has been dashed to the ground and trampled under-foot. If one is not careful, and since we are so finite, we will find ourselves actually criticizing Father God and His rule over our lives. If you believe Father God is the Sovereign and continues to direct all of the affairs of life, then we do well to come down from our own personal thrones and bow and defer to His omniscience.
Whomever I may vote for in elections, my roles as a follower of Christ and a good citizen dictate that I am to adopt a Biblical attitude concerning leaders as outlined in Scripture.
1 Timothy 2: 1-8 - “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 8 In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.
When a new president or leader comes to office, regardless of whether they were my pick or not, they are now ‘my family’s (ie. American family) president or leader. If they succeed, my family succeeds. But that is not the main motivation for me with regard to supporting my leaders. God’s Word says that I am to pray for my leaders and trust Him with my life and my country’s future. Additionally, I know for certain, that to criticize, complain against, to defame or dishonor is not an option for a Christ-follower who wants to obey God’s Word. If might be well that we encourage those whom we are able to encourage, to pray for our leaders when the demand for party self-vindication and trash talk are present.
Jesus said that from our innermost being, the depth of our soul, there will flow springs and rivers of Living Water: He was speaking of the Holy Spirit. Multitudes are dying of thirst and the fountains of natural origin cannot satisfy this longing. Won’t you begin to give cups of cold, refreshing water to those whom Father God puts in your path daily or occasionally? You can certainly cut off the supply of rancid or salt water – you choose which you will draw from.
Begin to develop a list of the reasons you have for being grateful – start there. You can either complain that the waitress took too long or didn’t serve you adequately or you can bow your head and tell Father God how grateful you are to be able to enjoy something that multitudes around the globe will never, ever experience in their lifetime: a good and complete meal served to them in comfortable surroundings.
You can get impatient with the person who is in the grocery check-out line ahead of you or you can scan your surroundings, a veritable utopia-like, too-hard-to-believe-its-true surrounding for most of the world, and be grateful you are privileged and at liberty to partake.
Let me end with the words of a song written and made famous by Burt Bacharach.
“What the world needs now is love, sweet love, It's the only thing that there's just too little of. What the world needs now is love, sweet love, No, not just for some but for everyone.”
Used by permission: CCLI License # on file
Pastor Freddie Steel
Life Church of Chicagoland
6600 W 127th Street, Palos Heights,IL 60463