When is too tired to care a good thing?
A reflection on the Gospel of John 4:5-42
Like many Americans, I spent the last few days trying to wrap my head around the proposed federal budget. Although a great many shocking proposals were made, I got stuck on one simple item: cutting funding for the “Meals on Wheels program” which was established in 1974 to provide meals to needy home bound seniors. All I could I think about was: you mean to tell me that in America, in 2017, we are going to legislate hunger. It might not seem all that important to some, but my heart aches and as Christians we should be appalled.
I wonder how many of us could get behind a budget based on Matthew 25?
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
Yes, it’s been said that we live in interesting times. It’s also been said: “get used to it – it’s the new normal.” And to that I say: “the new what – normal, what’s normal anyway? Our seniors go hungry, our children go without hot lunches…. that’s normal?
The dictionary defines normal as conforming to a standard, the usual, that which is typical, expected and average. Personally, I don’t find any of these appealing or Christian for that matter.
Yes, as a society we need to conform to certain standards for these are the things that help to ensure our relevance as individuals and as a society. They provide content and context to our lives individually and collectively.
However, conformity can be a slippery slope particularly when we’re not paying attention. Remember that conformity is a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behavior in order to fit in with a group. Conformity can also be simply defined as yielding to group pressures.
Group pressure may take different forms, for example bullying, persuasion, teasing, criticism, fear, etc. It can also affect how we think, act and behave towards ourselves and towards our neighbors.
Recently a friend shared the following which demonstrates how conformity can influence our thinking and opinions about what we hold dear and near relegating them to this or that as opposed to this and that. Sometimes it’s easier and safer to think in what I like to refer to as “group think” as opposed to expressing ourselves as individuals deeply rooted in our faith and Christian values.
For all of you who aren’t sure, it is possible to love thy neighbor and despise his/her actions.
It’s also possible to believe in God and science.
It is possible to be pro-choice and anti-abortion.
It is equally possible to be a feminist and love and respect men.
It’s possible to have privilege and be discriminated against, to be poor and have a rich life, to not have a job and still have money.
It is possible to believe in sensible gun control legislation and still believe in one’s right to defend one’s self, family, and property.
It’s possible to be anti-war and pro-military.
It is possible to be gay and Christian.
It is possible to advocate Black Lives Matter and still be pro police.
It is possible to not have an education and be brilliant.
It is possible to be Muslim and also suffer at the hands of terrorists.
It is possible to be a non-American fighting for the American dream.
It is possible to be different and the same.
At the end of the day my friends, we are all walking contradictions of what “normal” looks like.
Conformity unchecked can also affect our behavior and expectations of what’s acceptable for ourselves and our neighbors.
On December 1, 1955, during a typical evening rush hour in Montgomery, Alabama, a 42-year-old woman took a seat on the bus on her way home from the Montgomery Fair department store where she worked as a seamstress. Before she reached her destination, she quietly set off a social revolution when the bus driver instructed her to move back, and she refused. Rosa Parks, an African American, was arrested that day for violating a city law requiring racial segregation of public buses.
Rosa Parks knew well the expectations on her people. That night she was tired – too tired to care and sometimes that can be a good thing. Later Miss Parks was quoted to say: “the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
Today’s gospel (John 4:5-42)opens with a tired, weary and thirsty Jesus. Perhaps too tired to care, he sits by Jacob’s well and asks a Samaritan woman for a drink. The well – is his bus.
For the sake of comparison imagine Jesus drinking from a fountain designated colored people only.” He did – would you?
This might not seem like a big deal, but in fact Jesus’ simple request for water changes everything. Men in Jesus’s time didn’t speak to strange women and certainly not Samaritan women – a class considered less than, not like me and worthy of suspicion. We must ask ourselves “who are the Samaritans “in my life?”
I truly believe that God loves us in spite of our best efforts to screw up. I often think to myself particularly when I know I’m at my worst that God loves me even though. It gives me strength and the courage to carry on reminding me of God’s unconditional love. God loved the Samaritan women – even though, and we are called to love our neighbors – even though.
As we navigate our way through interesting times and the new normal, and as we find our seat on the bus and our place at the well, we need to ask ourselves when I am in need who am I going to ask for help. Am I simply tired or tired of giving in. Are my beliefs rooted in my faith and trust in God or am I conforming simply to be accepted?
Jesus said many things, but what I’m certain he didn’t say was “sorry feeding you would be a waste of resources. I’m just not seeing any results.”
Ours is not to see, ours is to do. Leave the seeing up to God. Christians may agree that caring for the poor and marginalized is a central tenet of the gospel, but seeing is believing.
And if God doesn’t see results – what then?