Saturday, September 19, 2009

I Wonder If...

I recently asked the question on twitter, “What would you do if you knew you only had one week to live?” I must admit that I didn’t know what to expect in terms of responses, but the first response I received seemed to sum up a prevailing sentiment. It read, “It’s been 23 mins… I think we are all too scared to respond!!! :)” Other responses expressed the need to spend time with family and friends and let them know they are deeply loved. One responder even indicated that he would try the Hezekiah route and pray for an extension on the week. Whatever your response (or non-response) would be, it’s apparent that we all have our own ideas as to what we’d do if we knew we only had one week to live.

One week to live? In case you’re unclear, that’s 7-days, or 168 hours, or 10,080 mins, or… (I’m sure you get the point). In the grand scheme of things, that’s hardly a significant amount of time, unless it’s the last 10,080 minutes you have to live, then it suddenly puts your entire life in proper perspective. If the truth be told, I’m not certain I could give an all-encompassing answer to my own question. I mean, would turning off the cell phone, disconnecting DIRECTV and focusing exclusively on my family constitute a profound response? If I haven’t focused on my family (no pun intended) all the years leading up to my final week, would that one week really make the difference? If I’m being honest, I don’t know what I would do (at least not completely), but I do know what someone else did. Someone to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude and for whom we should be living our lives out loud.

John 12: 1 begins with the words, “Six days before the Passover…” In other words, five days before Jesus met His prophesied end on a Roman cross (The Passover was on a Sabbath which followed the day after Jesus’ execution, and so bodies could not be left on the cross overnight and taken down on the Sabbath, which is why the other two men’s deaths were hastened by the breaking of their knees). When you know you have only one week to live I imagine your thinking becomes clearer and your life distills the significant from the irrelevant. Here’s a working list of the things Jesus did beginning at John 12: 1.

  • He had dinner at Lazarus’ place (John 12: 1-2)

  • He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (knowing it was the place where He’d meet His end) to the cheers of the very people that would call for His death three days later.

  • He separated Himself from the crowd. “When Jesus had said these things, He departed and hid Himself from them.” (John 12: 36)

  • He washed His Disciples feet (including Judas’) as a demonstration of loving, servant leadership. (John 13: 2-5)

  • He had dinner with His Disciples (including Judas)
  • He encouraged His despondent Disciples and prayed for them in the Garden of Gethsemane (to the point of sweating blood), even though He was the one about to pay the ultimate price and suffer the ignominy of death on a cross.

  • He stood trial before the High Priest and the High Priest's father-in-law having committed no crime whatsoever.

  • He was denied publicly by one of His dearest and supposedly most loyal friend and supporter.

  • He stood trial before Pilate under a fraudulent and concocted charge.

  • He was flogged, ridiculed, spat upon and finally, nailed to a roughly-hewn Roman cross.

The thing that strikes me most about this list is how normal it is. These are the things Jesus did routinely (obviously, other than the things that led up to His being crucified). His life was filled with focus and purpose. I wonder if that’s how we’re supposed to live? I wonder what it would feel like to live with such focus and purpose that, knowing I had just one week to live would not change anything I’m doing? I wonder if it would make us more effective and more passionate Christ-followers if we chose to live as if we had just one more week to live?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Entitlement, Soapboxes, and Being Like Jesus!

I’m not a celebrity! Ergo: I don’t know what it feels like to be one, nor do I know what it’s like to have to deal with the very artificial world created around them. Many celebrities are inundated with obsequious people singing their praises and telling them how great they are. Sadly, many celebrities believe this truckle. I’ve stayed out of the Kanye West fray until now for good reason. I’ve been an idiot many times in the past and I realize that anything I post in a public forum is ‘quotable’ ad infinitum. I don’t want to appear any more idiotic than necessary, and so I choose to observe and listen first before I “step in it.” Now though, I’m ready to engage my soapbox even at the risk of appearing idiotic! From athletes to Hollywood actors, to rappers, musicians and other so-called celebrities, an entitlement mentality comes with the territory. I have news for you though; it’s no different than the rest of us (especially us professing Christ-followers).

It is an entitlement mentality that caused Plaxico Burress and Michael Vick to make the choices they made that landed them behind bars. They somehow bought into the lie (no doubt fed by the people around them) that they were immune to the laws of the land. Why else would Plaxico take a gun (for which he didn’t have a permit in the state) into a nightclub? Why else would Vick fund an illegal dog-fighting ring as if there weren’t more laudable things to do with his beleaguered millions? It was an entitlement mentality that influenced Jay Cutler, Adam “Pacman” Jones and Brandon Marshall, so that they whined and complained because things didn’t go their way in the Not For Long (NFL) league. In spite of the kind of lifestyles their profession afforded them, they felt that they were entitled to even more and so each one of them has made a profound ass (easy… an ass is a donkey) of himself in the public eye.

Kanye West has a history of bad behavior because he feels entitled. In 2006, at the MTV Europe Music Awards, he took the mic from the artistes who had won music video of the year, and in an expletive laden speech declared that his music video should have won the award because it, “cost a million dollars, Pamela Anderson was in it…. I was jumping across canyons…. If I don’t win, the awards show loses credibility.” At the recently concluded 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, as Taylor (apparently a teenage singing sensation) was accepting her award for best video in her category, West jumped up on stage, grabbed the mic from her and stated, “Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’ll let you finish, but Beyonce has one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!” Then he shrugged, handed her the mic and walked off stage. Kanye has quickly tried to make amends by appearing on the Jay Leno show and apologizing profusely for his actions. Whether you believe his apology to be sincere or not is irrelevant, he apologized and wants to move on with his life.

What struck me the most was the gentle way in which Jay chided him, causing him to reveal the fact that he has carried a lot of hurt and pain with him for much of his life, and has consequently projected that on how he relates to other people. Many of us do the same thing as we interact with God, other Christ-followers, and people in general. Our feelings of entitlement suggest that we shouldn’t have been treated the way we have been, and so we are motivated to pass and execute judgment on those we view as the source of our pain. In truth though, we are not owed anything, and so feeling entitled to being treated a certain way sets the stage for explosive responses a la Kanye West. I don’t personally listen to or even know his music, but my heart truly goes out to him and I hope that he has puissant relationships around him so that the only voices he hears are not the voices of obeisance.

While we’re at it, we should probably all surround ourselves with people who’ll tell us the truth even when it hurts (instead of feeling entitled to be treated with kid gloves 'cos of all the difficulties we've encountered in life). I have a feeling that that sort of pain is far less degrading than having to take your foot out of your mouth after the fact. There, I feel much better so I’ll climb down from the soapbox now.