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Speaking to the Soul: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Avoid ‘Em

Speaking to the Soul: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Avoid ‘Em

Week of Epiphany 5, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]


Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 88 (morning) // 91, 92 (evening)

Isaiah 61:1-9

2 Timothy 3:1-17

Mark 10:32-45

Our second reading this morning starts by giving us a long list of people that we can to love to hate: “lovers of money, boasters,” people who are “ungrateful, inhuman,” “brutes,” “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,” etc.  I don’t know about you, but this list could get me really fired up about the types of people who ruin my day, or who are ruining the world.

The surprising part of this passage, though, is how it counsels us to deal with such people. Should we get angry about them? Shout about them? Oppose them? Fight them? No. The Scripture advises us to cope with challenging people in two ways.

First, “Avoid them!” Simply ignore or walk away from people in their deeply anti-social moments, when their behaviors are damaging to community life. Don’t fight them. Don’t correct them. Don’t make them change. Don’t engage.

Second, the passage tells us this: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed.” In other words, don’t turn your focus toward identifying and naming other people’s misbehaviors. Instead, simply continue in what you have learned about walking the way of goodness and trust.

The passage warns us that the people around us might “go from bad to worse.” We might not be able to stop that trajectory. On the other hand, the passage gives us examples of two people who opposed Moses, explaining that other such people “will not make much progress, because as in the case of those two men, their folly will become plain to everyone.”

Sometimes, the best we can do is to give people a wide berth and to continue on the way that Jesus has shown us. The people around us may go from bad to worse, or they may just not make much progress in their destructive moods. In either case, there is no fruit in getting indignant and elevating our blood pressure over people we don’t like. The best we can do for ourselves and for others is to continue on our way, as faithfully as we can, and trust that our persistence will bring the world around us into greater alignment with the kingdom of God.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal.  She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps  program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.


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JC Fisher

The rub is when the “brutes” aren’t just harming *me*, but harming someone more VULNERABLE than I am. When is “just avoid ’em” a sin of omission, towards the “least of” my brothers and sisters? [Conversely, when is “continue on the way that Jesus has shown us” a matter of actively resisting the (for example) “lovers of money”?]

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