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What Have I Done … to tell a better story?

December 26, 2013

I would really rather not write, speak, see or hear any more about Phil Robertson. I would prefer not to witness any more of the controversy and dissention among friends on Facebook. I don’t really even want to think about it anymore because even my own thoughts tend to contradict each other.

But, earlier this week, while surfing through channels I landed on CNN where Will Payne, a reporter from The Daily Mail, was being interviewed by John King of CNN, regarding the reporter’s recent visit with Phil Robertson.

I was both annoyed and amused at the exchange between King and Payne. While I am a writer and I appreciate the “good” that media can serve, at the same time I am not naïve to the ways of twisting and turning a story to suit their needs.  It’s a shame and disgrace that they do it — it is a greater shame and disgrace that we fall for it.

I personally feel like there has been way too much grand-standing regarding Phil Robertson’s words.  I think he’d say the same thing.  But when I listened to this story being told by what I would have considered to be “educated, objective, savvy, critical thinkers,” my heart was heavy for what seemed trifling, but also ignorant questions and assumptions that were being communicated (as objectivity) by these two newsmen.

I am not hurt or angry at them.  Moreover, my heart is heavy because I realized that [based upon their questions] there is, or they assume that there is an audience sitting out there thinking/saying/making the same [trifling in my opinion] points.  And I have to wonder … “have I personally done anything to tell the story or represent Christ better.”

This interview has been weighing on my mind and dwelling on my heart for several days.  But even before the interview, I found myself contemplating the growing number of people that I know and have met that claim to have no faith, no belief in God and consider Christianity or those who claim a relationship with Jesus Christ to be alien or dysfunctional at best. Even worse, too many perceive Christianity to be based upon hateful judgments and polarizing practices or attitudes.

That John King seemingly didn’t even recognize that Phil Robertson was praying in that statement he referenced, or the awkward way that Will Payne describe what was obviously a Sunday School class, followed by a church service … made me realize that far too many “Christians” are absolutely inept at sharing the Message of Hope, Love, Grace that Jesus asked/commanded us to share. Either the wrong story is being told … or it is surely not being told effectively or in the way that helps people comprehend Who Jesus is, and what a relationship and faith based upon this relationship means.

Take Phil Robertson out of the picture!  Regardless of his rights as an American citizen, or how true he believes his message to be, it is now tainted and rejected therefore he missed an opportunity to tell the story better — to tell a Better Story.  The only people “receiving” his message or those of “like minds.”  As proud as some may be of what he said, the bottom line is that the words shared by Phil Robertson in that one article fostered more dissent than I’m sure he intended or wanted.  As it was presented in the context of the article, it bore little fruit in sharing the message of love and hope through a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

While I’ve watched “Duck Dynasty” and have been entertained by their loosely scripted segments, it seems to me that Phil is often more annoyed by the “show” and prefers simple, straight-forward interactions and recognizes the pretense and entitlement (he claims to despise) in his own family. It doesn’t take but a few segments featuring Phil to know who he is and where he’s coming from.  But if you have never read his life story, then you might not “get that,” through a few sound-bytes.  AND back to the bottom line —- it is intended to be ENTERTAINMENT in short glimpses, and no way exposes the whole, big picture.

Since this firestorm began, I remind myself, “There is more to him than these few crass, and obviously offensive words and phrases.”  I would not even attempt to excuse his crudeness, even though I am not surprised by them, and I fully embrace his right to “speak that way if he chooses.”  (even so, I embrace the idea that he is employed by/under contract with A & E and receives a good deal of money for signing on – which comes with certain stipulations/expectations).   I wish that he had chosen to consider his audience, temper his words, and tell a better story … because there is ONE.

St. Frances of Assissi is credited to have once said, “Preach always … if necessary use words.”  I’m sure many will interpret this in their own way, but I believe it means, “Let your life and living be The Message … and use words sparingly.”  (This is coming from a WORDSMITH, who appreciates the beauty and the power of words). It’s the opposite of “do as I say, not as I do.”   Truly, actions do speak louder than words — I think we will all concur with this.

As a writer/journalist, I can tell you that you never get the whole of any story that is presented in print, in sound-bytes, in video or pictures.  EVERY BIT IS SUBJECT to editing to fit the space … and fit the need of the publisher or writer to evoke reaction.

Likewise … there is “none righteous — no not one” (even Phil Robertson) when it comes to quoting the Bible, because each and every one of us is prone (and practiced) to “cherry picking” words and phrases that “fit the need” of the moment.  It’s called, “taking out of context,” which “can” confuse, create chaos and contrive emotions and responses that are not based upon the whole truth or story.

 The Love of Jesus is greater far than tongue or pen can tell.

This “message” from the song, “There’s Something About The Love of Jesus” has overwhelmed my heart and my thoughts these past few days.  It’s Christmas-time … and too many people in this world know nothing about the story of Jesus … except for what they see or hear from those who claim to know Him.  So what are we [Christians] doing to tell the story better?

To tell you about the love of Jesus where do I ever start?  He touched me.  He changed me … when He healed my broken heart … when He healed my broken heart.

THIS is the message that will make the most difference to people who cannot comprehend … who find faith in God and a relationship with His Son Jesus Christ … to be alien and dysfunctional.

It’s an absolute (in my opinion) that people really do not understand the concept or implications of SIN.  Each of us are SINNERS.  All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.   If we ONLY expound on SIN or wrong-doing, and dismiss the “relationship” necessary to understand and receive God’s Love, and His Plan of Salvation through His Son Jesus Christ (John 3:16), then we are no better than the Pharisees and system of legalism that rejected Jesus in His time.

Certainly, if we stand on a stump and shout out condemnations toward peoples that we don’t even know, have no idea where they are in life, or what circumstances have polarized them from the Good News, we could very well be like a “sounding gong or cymbal” — speaking words with no love.  As a matter of fact, a good read for this day (for all of us) would be 1 Corinthians 13.

In close, as I am still thinking about that beautiful song, “There’s Something About The Love of Jesus”, I am recalling the first time I ever heard it performed.  It was during a Cleveland Resurrection Celebration presented by Westwood Baptist Church.  The character in the play which performed the song was Mary Magdalene, whom many believe is the woman caught in the act of adultery and about to be stoned.

John 8:1 (NLT)

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

11 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Perhaps, Phil and the rest of us, would do well to follow Jesus model and rather than accuse/condemn/stone … just “write in the dust.”  (When I get to Heaven, I plan to ask Him what he wrote)  But … maybe it’s not so important “the words He wrote” but rather the “action He took” that made this a “great sermon.”

When I listen to the song I mentioned, I am overwhelmed with emotion, because I can so identify with Mary Magdalene … whether she was the woman caught in the act of adultery, the woman at the well, or some woman whose heart was so broken, whose emotions were so full of anguish, whose life was so filled with rejection or who had been ostracized by society for whatever reason … Jesus gave her hope and transformed her life.  Wouldn’t you like to be able to do that for someone rather than making them feel worthless, hopeless and unacceptable?

In the words of Jesus, citing the two greatest commandments [with not a “shall not” mentioned], “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”  In doing so, we will be telling the greatest story ever told … in the best way possible.

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