1. John’s stuff is a cool current take on I Corinthians 13.

    When religious elites who control a community’s life use sacred scriptures to abuse others, Paul’s Corinthian poetry says what needs to be said.

    Religion usually trends bad. Jesus and Paul were born into that sort of world.

    But I wonder if we’re in a different and less overtly and structured religious world now.

    Maybe falsehood combined with a lack of love is as big an issue at this point. Big market for that product these days.

    And in a popular culture that worships emotion and tends to segregate reason into the sciences, perhaps love without truth is as big a threat as any.

  2. Very interesting comment … I think “love without truth” pretty neatly capsules what troubles me about a lot of well-intentioned inner city ministry. I doubt that’s the interpretation you intended, but that’s how the remark resonates for me in my particular context.

  3. Catherine,

    Good observation. I think of Robert Lupton and his many observations (often painful in their indictment of the well-intentioned) concerning how much of what passes as urban “ministry” is ultimately harmful. I don’t always agree with him, but his critique is much needed.

  4. I learned a precious lesson from a former heroin dealer who had just become a Christian, in the first neighborhood I ever served. Every night, at the conclusion of the church-sponsored job training program I had helped to organize, Ed would call me on the phone and until 2 or 3 in the morning — in the kindest way possible (God bless you, Ed) — help me to see how naive my perspective was and how potentially damaging to the other people enrolled in the class.

    The most important lesson I learned was to look for the Ed in every neighborhood and try to listen when that person dropped uninvited, but insistent on my doorstep … try to listen with the allowance that possibly, maybe God was offering His corrective from the mouth of this appointed servant whom I had not chosen to befriend. Today, these are the voices that matter to me far more than other voices in Christian ministry because they tend to tell me what new thing God is wanting to do among us. How like Him to favor the vessel with tattoos.

    I understand there certainly are times to exercise discernment – to outlast the vocal bitterness that wants you gone – or to elevate life together to some standard God has shown uniquely to you. But I think we have to try afresh every day never to assume that the uninvited have arrived at the gate of the camp simply to bless what we’re already doing. To me, this is a way of living the admonition of Luke 14 to “take the lowly place” … “when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind” … not “your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors” … and really, really listen to the conversation around the table. The best analytics I have at my disposal these days spring from the mouths of gang leaders themselves … the same ones who ask wistfully in their songs, “Is there a heaven for a ‘G’?”

    Dear God, please help us in our limited understanding to answer them “YES.”

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