Respect the Image | Chill Out, Open Up, & Make Time
The lens through which we look at every person shapes how we treat them (see the first Respect the Image blog post for background). If we look at someone's skin tone or hear someone's accent, we are drawn to view them a certain way even if that certain way means seeing them as less-than-image-bearers. In the most recent blog post, we saw how the gospel can give us the proper lens to respect others and also transform the way we communicate across racial lines. With the good news as our common foundation, we are in a position to be able to listen patiently, commit to one another over the long haul, and respectfully dialogue about race-related challenges. Our hope in sharing that appendix at the start of this blog series is to solidify the reality that respecting the image in others has unique application when it comes to understand and loving believers across racial lines.
In the body of this book, Tim Shorey outlines the COMMUNICATE acronym which is symply a tool to unfold eleven priciples of dignifying every person in how we listen and speak to them. He encourages us to see each chapter as a standalone communication lesson which contributes to the overall shaping of our hearts regarding how we love others made in God's image.
"Humans are worthy of better." Better than what? Better than the degrading disrespect of our explosive (or less-explosive) anger. The emphasis of this chapter is that chilling out is one of two options we face when an argument shows, when our integrity is challenged, or when tension begins to build. The other, more common option is anger.
Lest we think that we are generally very level-headed or calm-mannered, Shorey is clear on dividing between our cultural mantras and Scripture's definitions. For example, what we tend to call frustration, aggravation, or irritation is actually a conglomerate of the sins of bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice. Scripture doesn't mince words as to why such a principle as "chilling out" is so important. For example, if we are consistenly responding in angry ways to people who are on the other side of the political spectrum, to our incessently disobedience child, or to our acquaintance who has a knack for the controversial, then we may find ourselves "not worthy of the kingdom of God." (Gal. 5:20-21). Shorey notes, "You cannot be right with God and be habitually trashing those who are made in his image." The consequences for a life of unrestrained anger are eternal while our world seems to have convinced us that it's agreeable and in fact good. "A generation has been bred to think that speaking your mind is more honorable than taming your tongue—that the greatest virtue is to let it all out via talk, tweet, text, or tirade." The answer to satiate our anger is not to spout lava but to make a conscious choice away from anger and towards calm.
Angry moments are unavoidable. They are hard to resist, but "chilling is a choice" says Shorey. We firmly believe that the Holy Spirit is an active agent in conforming us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). As such, he provides everything we need to make a decisive move away from anger and toward self-control. "All of us who seem to be out of control and to have no power over our emotions can gain sudden self-control when a new desire tips the scales of our motivation in favor of self-restraint." That new desire is formed by a desire to renounce ungodliness (Titus 2:11-12) and to intentionally see the person across the street, table, phone line, or screen as one worthy of our respect.
If we need any more convincing that our outbursts or simmering in anger are unbecoming of Christ's followers, we're left with beautifully motivating proclamation near the end of this chapter. "One of the great wonders of my life is that God hasn't squashed me today. Despite my many sins, he hasn't yelled and screamed, or pounded his fist, or slammed the door and walked away. Quite the opposite— he has poured out kindness upon kindness...We offer to others what has been so gloriously given to us." All of the wrath of God against our true offenses have been poured out on Jesus, leaving us with nothing but his kindness upon kindness. Who am I to pour out my far-from-holy wrath on other people when I have received such mercy?
Just as the first chapter was not simply for hot heads with so called "anger issues," the second chapter of this book is not just for the shy and introverted among us. We might be tempted to think that laying low and keeping things peaceful does far more good than risking what might come from "rocking the boat." The reality is that our silence can be just as revealing as our outbursts.
This chapter emphasizes the priority and responsibility of speaking as an unavoidable aspect of our lives as Christians. In fact, in some cases we are commanded to speak (Luke 17:3-4). But what are we supposed to do with other passages of Scripture that deal with bridling the tongue (James 3:1-12) or the foolishness of speaking too much or too quickly (Prov. 18:7)? There's no disputing that words do actually hurt people, but the point of opening up is that refusing to share our lives or even vocalize the truth of the gospel to one another can be equally harmful. Many of us have felt the hurts associates with silence whether it's never hearing "I love you" from a beloved family member or experiencing one too many "silent treatments." The trouble is that zipped lips can often reflect a zipped up, padlocked, and welded shut heart. If the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart (Luke 6:45), then it must be true that the mouth might not speak out of the abundance of the heart as well. To be clear, remaining quiet isn't sin. Sometimes it's a very good and wise thing (Prov. 13:3). Just because someone finds it difficult to speak up or reveal their heart in certain situations doesn't mean that something's wrong with their personality. The problem arises when we refuse to share ourselves in love when revealing our heart is most necessary.
Shorey's diagnoses are insightful concerning the various ways we approach a refusal to open up, "Some guard against saying the wrong thing so carefully they seldom say anything...Some worry so much about what others think that they never say what they themselves think...Some create a chamber of prolonged silence in which to torture offenders or extract concessions from communication deprived victims...Some think that the best way not to blow up (that it, the best way to chill) is simply to clam up. But the truth is that a choice not to speak— if sustained over time, for whatever reason—is a choice not to love." As much as we'd like to think otherwise, we wind up not serving (or perhaps disrespecting) others with our silence.
Like much of this book, we take our cues from a communicating God. By God's grace, he has not remained silent. In fact, he has spoken very loudly and clearly through his Son Jesus Christ with the intent to reveal himself. God's love is expressed in opening himself up for us to know him and believe in him. Similiarly, we are a vehicle of that same love when we don't keep people shut out but rather invite them in to what we're thinking, what's troubling us, what we're wondering about, or what we want desire to know about.
"Deep communication with others is not possible without a significant godlike investment of time." In other words, we live in a world with its various time constraints which means that an investment of time is actually an undeniable display of love. We look no further than Christ's own loving investment of time as he came and lived decades on earth as a man and has promised to dwell with us forever. If committed time communicates love andthen what greater commitment of time is there than eternity? Conversely to Christ's example, a lack of surrendered time can be destructive. Blowing by people on the highway of life, ducking out of conversations, and settling only for spontaneous opportunities all communicate a distinct lack of love for our friends, our church family, our spouses, our siblings, and unbelievers.
The writer of Hebrews says, "Consider how to stir up one another to good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near," (Heb. 10:24-25). Shorey paraphrases those verses like so, "Make sure to make more time to be together in order to do the important relational and spiritual business of New Testament church life." This has major implications for those of us who are part of a local church. How can we be committed to loving one another if we don't have time for one another? Can I bear someone's burden who I haven't communicated with in months? It's this investment of time that is a show of dedicated love refusing to let relationships simply flounder.
Some relationships we might tend to let flounder are marriages and relationships that are strained for any number of reasons. One such relationship is between black and white people America. Too often, marriages are thought to just "float on" as time is stolen away from them and racial disharmony is thought to eventually be magically fixed over time. Whether a deep union or a deep rift exists in a relationship, both require significant personal investments of time. We want to make time for conversations that can and should happen in hopes that greater understanding and deeper knowledge of one another might unfold.
- What does Spirit-dependent, temperature-lowering self control look like in moments when you're most tempted to get angry?
- In what situations might a lack of love prevent you from speaking or opening up to another person?
- What priority relationships can you identify in your life that need a renewed investment of your time?
- How does the gospel address our failures to chill out, open up, or make time?
- Ask the Father to impress upon our hearts the wonder that he has spoken to us, mercifully spared us from wrath, and planned for an eternity with us through Jesus Christ.
More in The Gospel and Race
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July 28, 2021How to be Antiracist : Summary and Analysis