Lenten Challenge to fast from negativity

– a reflection by Rev. John Wilson, from his weekly email blast –

And how are you doing with the Lenten Challenge to fast from negativity? “Let no evil talk come out of your mouth, but only what is useful for building up so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

One member of our church family who accepted the challenge to fast from negativity emailed this: “This giving up of negativity is harder than one realizes. I am surrounded by it in my office. It is awful. I am trying to be positive and it is working, but HELP! I need help staying focused.”

Isn’t that the truth? How easy it is to get sucked into the whirlpool of negativity when we are surrounded by it. But as Paul writes to the church in Rome: “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold, but let God remold our minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the Plan of God for you is good…” (Romans 12:2, Phillips) Yes, but it’s easier said than done.

However, it can be done. Awareness is a necessary first step. We can become aware of any negativity in ourselves and in those around us. I think this Lenten challenge to be positive is a great thing if it enables us to catch ourselves, and to begin to see both ourselves and the world around us in a new light. And to begin to put into action an intentional desire to be positive.

Jesus taught His followers to be like leaven – the yeast that causes the dough in which it is placed to be transformed from something flat into something bubbling with zest and taste and life! The way yeast transforms bread I think is what Jesus was challenging His followers to become: agents of positive change in the negative atmosphere of world around them.

Can you imagine what life would be like if you and I could create and live in a climate of affirmation? Can you imagine what the church would be like if we could create a spirit of positive energy here? (Yes, A Spirit of positive energy!) Can you imagine what your family life would be like if all of you accepted the challenge to fast from negativity? I mean: WOW!

So what’s stopping us? We all want to live in a positive environment and a climate of affirmation. I’m reminded of the song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth, and Let It Begin With Me.” Let there be a positive environment with no negativity, and let it begin with me.

Here’s a thought to ponder. Ross Douthat observed that one reason we have so many different branches of Christianity is because Jesus is such a complex character that it’s impossible to pin him down and understand Him fully. For example:

* He’s a celibate ascetic who dines with important people and changes water into wine at weddings.

* He’s a fierce critic of Jewish religious law who insists that he’s actually fulfilling rather than subverting

it.

* He preaches a reversal of the social order yet deliberately avoids explicit political claims.

* He promises to set parents against children and then disallows divorce.

* He consorts with prostitutes while denouncing lustful thoughts.

* At times he is gentle, and at times very impatient.

* At times he is extraordinarily charitable and at times extraordinarily judgmental.

* He sets impossible standards and then forgives the worst of sinners.

* He blesses peacemakers and then says he came to bring not peace but a sword.

When people think they know “the real Jesus,” it’s because they have chosen to emphasize one side of the paradox and ignored the other side.

Heresy really means “half-truth.” Heretics are not wrong in what they affirm; they are wrong in what they leave out. The great danger we face when we want to know Jesus is that we will reduce Him to a size we can manage. The only way we can do that is to ignore the many paradoxes He presents us with. What we are left with is a series of half-truths that are a far cry from the complex Jesus we meet in the Gospels.

May our coming week be filled with positive affirmations!

~ Rev. Dr. John Wilson

Rev. Wilson writes a weekly reflection for everyone to read. If you would like to receive these message via email, sign up for our email list.