From the Pastor’s Desk:
“Don't hang out with angry people; don't keep company with hotheads. Bad temper is contagious - don't get infected.” - Proverbs 22:24-25 (The Message)
As I watch my kids growing up, I realize just what a different world I grew up in. When I was 10, the rule was, "Come home when the street lights come on." That was largely what we did. (This spring, in contrast, it was a huge deal when we allowed our girls to just play in the backyard without constant adult supervision!) When I got into Junior High and High School, though, my parents began to pay more attention to the company I was keeping. On more than one occasion, my dad told me, "We are known by the company we keep.”
My dad was simply saying that the people I was spending time with were not a good influence. He wasn’t wrong. But I think the deeper truth is that we are not only “known by the company we keep” but we have a tendency to become like the company we keep. We take on some of the traits of the people we spend time with. We do the things they do; we use the language they use; we go the places they go... and when they're happy, we are, and when they have a rotten day, we share that, too. The writer of Proverbs seems to know this truth: a “bad temper is contagious." If we spend time with angry people, we become angry, too.
This truth hit me square in the face this week as I, once again, did theological and philosophical battle with a former college classmate of mine. My intention in engaging with him was an earnest desire to, at the very least, understand each other's positions, even if he could never accept how my theology has changed. After I respond to any of his comments, however, he comes back charged with anger and insults - and that gets my dander up, and I fire back, and we just keep infecting each other with anger and frustration... and on it goes. Friends, I don’t like me when I am angry. As this routine of infecting each other has continued for several months, I finally made the decision to block him from my Facebook, at least for a while, for the sake of my other friends, and for my own sake, and for his. We do each other a disservice by infecting each other with anger.
Coming out of that conflict and decision to cut off contact, while having this Proverb rolling around in my mind, I am wondering if the inverse is true, too. If we hung out with people of love, joy, and peace, could that become contagious? Could we become carriers of peace and infect others? I think we can. But that means making the conscious choice to spend a lot of our time with people of love, joy, and peace.
And to be clear, the point is not to cut off everyone who doesn’t fit those traits - it would be hard to do ministry if we never left our safe bubbles! - but rather, we still need to make sure we recharge with the love, joy, and peace; that's the only way that we can bring it out into a world that is full of angry people and hotheads and people who are unable to see or believe in hope. If we can become infected with the love of Christ, we can begin to infect others with that same love. What a wonderful world that would be.
Striving for contagious love, Pastor Mike
Don’t forget to check out the “Grace Cubed” podcast wherever you get your podcasts, or go to www.anchor.fm/gracecubed
Cherry Hill United Methodist Church