Whilst on holiday this week, the family and I watched The Wizard of Oz, I guess everyone has seen the film? I was struck by the deficincies of the three characters, the scarecrow wanted a brain, the tin man wanted a heart and the lion wanted courage.
I began to think about life and following Jesus, both as individuals and in community… And began think that these three unlikely heroes actually offer us some insights and challenges.
The Scarecrows, lack of brains -or lack of wisdom- is something I know at times I lack in my own life, and I know that in our lives together, that wisdom is a quality that I believe God really wants to bless his Church and his followers with.
As I thought about choices I had made in my life, it worried me how many choices were made of out fear, reactionarism, insecurity, greed, envy, petty jealous, inability to say no to forceful characters, pride or whatever. Bad choices in the long run normally causes pain, discomfort an problems.
Yet wisdom, is a beautiful thing, which -even if in the short term uncomfortable- ends up being something that blesses everyone.
Recently reading books like Proverbs and other books in the biblical wisdom series I really want to persue wisdom, I want to make choices and decisions which bless everyone, I want to do thinks in a wise way… I wondered too how many good ideas fall by the wayside by unwise implementation?
Wisdom is something to strive after, but also something James tells us in his Epsitle “if anyone lacks wisdom they should ask God who gives generously”…
In tough, challenging and changeable times we as Christians and we as Churches need to be seeking and crying out for wisdom more and more.
The Bible prizes Wisdom highly but it actually prizes one thing more, Love.
The Tin Man was without a heart, and sometimes I think as Church we need to rediscover love and compassion afresh -get our heart backs- do we actually believe the words of St. Paul when he writes “if I have not love, I am nothing”.
Sadly I fear the Church in the West is all about our minds, right doctrine, right approaches o growth and Church management, doubt theological method in ethics (all of which are important) but actually we are meant to be people who are primarily identifiable by their love… “By this all people will know you are my disciples that you love one another”.
Christians and Churches often protest that they are good at loving one another, yet too often it means loving the people like them, the people on their side of a debate or arguement, yet Jesus himself says that loving those who love us isn’t particularly noteworthy as even the hypocrites do that, instead we are called to love our enermies, to do good to those who hate us… As well as the call to love the marginalised, the disenfranchized, the ostracised as in these people we discover “Christ in his most distressing disguises” (says Mother Teresa).
Yet I worry that sometimes compassion without wisdom won’t always help people in the most helpful way… I remember taking part in a debate about poverty and I was talking about giving to the poor, and was asked if I gave cash to beggars on the street, I said sometimes, and the reply was “how is helping pay for a drug dealers new car helping anyone out of poverty?” -actual I think this is a bit of a dangerous stereotype, but it makes the point compassion and wisdom are best held together in tension to actaully enable people to get the best help and support they can.
Compassion without courage too will be faceless. Shane Claiborne say “the problem isn’t that (Christian) people don’t care about the poor, the biggest problem is that they don’t know the poor, it’s not just about making poverty history but about making it personal”. It takes bravery and courage, to reach out I love.
Love without wisdom might not achieve the blessing for the person we desire, and love without courage will fall short of what Christ calls us to do.
The lion needed courage, and I think all of us want to be brave, and typing this in my head I have the verse from Joshua shouting in my head “be bold and courageous, do not be terrified for I the Lord am with you where-ever you go”. The courage of the Christian comes not from our testosterone levels but rather from knowing the accompaniment of our mighty and victorious God, he is our strength.
So, let’s look at courage. It is a great gift, and our history books all full of people of huge bravery and courage in the face of massive odds and opposition. Yet courage itself needs to be applied to a cause or a situation, courage without wisdom might lead you fighting for a the wrong cause. Courage without love may reach the end goal but cause much collateral damage.
So, let’s come to God like the Scarecrow, and ask him to help give us greater wisdom to live our lives his way, guiding us so our minds align and we are going his ways.
So, let’s come to God like the Tin man, asking him to give us his heart of love and compassion, a heart that is soft and tender, a heart the beats in time with the Lord Almighty, a heart that breaks for what breaks his heart.
So, let’s come to God like the lion, and ask him to give us his courage, to overcome obsticals and adversity.
Yet rather that three seperate compartmentalised giftings, installed into different parts of our character, I believe that their greatest beauty and Christlikeness is actually found in the three of these compilementing each other in each and every circumstance of life we face, meeting people with wisdom, compassion and courage, living together as Church with Wisdom, Love and Courage, that is the type of Christian I want to be, that is the type of Church we are called to be, and that -I believe- is the kind of Church that will change the world.
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