How To Be Believable
Against my better judgment, I decided to watch some cable news this week in an attempt to get caught up on what was happening in the world beyond my daily newspaper.
Yes, I've gone back to reading the newspaper every day. It's definitely more soothing than listening to people shout at each other on what now passes as "news" programs on television.
But I decided this week to branch out a bit, and I instantly regretted it.
Civility in public discourse is a thing of the past. All politicians and pundits seem capable of doing now is speaking in angry sound bites that can be tweeted and retweeted with ease.
And everyone is talking around one another, saying whatever gets them the most television coverage or likes on Facebook.
The poet Adrienne Rich summed up the state of our current culture with these hard words:
In those years, people will say, we lost trackInterestingly, in the time of Jesus, people were having a problem knowing who to trust. Pretty much anyone who was in authority--be it religious, political or local government--could not be trusted to tell the truth. Everyone seemed to be out for themselves.
of the meaning of we, of youwe found ourselves
reduced to Iand the whole thing became
silly, ironic, terrible:
we were trying to live a personal life
and, yes, that was the only life
we could bear witness to...
In order to be believed, people in Jesus' culture had starting swearing all kinds of elaborate oaths "by heaven," or "by Jerusalem." But then for the most part, no one really kept those oaths, and generally did whatever was in their own best interests.
Jesus told his followers that they didn't have to make a grand show of swearing oaths in order for people to believe they were speaking truth.
He asserted that to do such things was manipulative and selfish, and the kinds of people who did them were not only acting without integrity, they were also lacking in empathy for others.
"All you need to say," he told them, "is simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."
As a follower of Jesus, practice living into this important teaching today. Speak the truth in love. Put the needs of others ahead of your own as you put your words out into the universe. Don't make promises you have no intention of keeping. Grow in integrity and in your love for others.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.