eCare: Lessons Learned on the Barbie-Jeanne

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eCare: Lessons Learned on the Barbie-Jeanne

Dear Friends in Christ,

I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad during this run-up week to Father’s Day. He went to be with the Lord 14 years ago but I find, much to my delight, that as time goes by my memories of him and of our times together are getting clearer and more well-defined.

As I prepare to write this week’s installment on Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth and his message that love is the only way a congregation can get along and accomplish all that Christ has died in order that it might become, I have been thinking about the times I spent with him fishing off Long Island’s south shore in our 26’ Luhrs sport fishing boat, named after my sister and my mother, the Barbie-Jeanne. I’m looking out my study windows at the beautiful spring day outside and I remember such days as wonderful for catching spring flounders and summer flounders or fluke.

Along with our share of flounders we caught a “boatload” of sea robins, a spiny, prickly scavenger fish we immediately threw back into the water and blowfish or what some people call puffer fish. As soon as you hooked a blowfish you knew it wasn’t a flounder or fluke based upon how it darted back and forth as you reeled him in. Once in the boat and separated from the hook the blowfish would flip and flop on the deck and would begin to puff up with air, often to the size of a softball or grapefruit.

I remember fishing with my dad in a rowboat, years before he bought the Barbie-Jeanne, catching my first blowfish as a boy of 9 or 10. Dad removed the hook from the fish’s mouth, turned it upside down and, before my gaze of amazement, he scratched the fish’s belly to make it blow up into a living ball. But it got better. He then took the fish and bounced it like a basketball on the deck as I roared with delighted laughter and the fish bounced into the air over my head, over the side of the boat and back into the water where, apparently unharmed by the experience, it swam back to the bottom of Great South Bay. NOTE: My dad was a card-carrying member of the N.R.A. but not of P.E.T.A.!

What is the character of the love according to which a church will dwell in unity and thrive in ministry? We’ve already commented on love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful (I Corinthians 13. 4). Today, love is not arrogant (13. 5). The word used by Paul and translated “arrogant” means “to be puffed up.” This is not hard for us to understand. When we think of a person who is arrogant we see a picture of someone whose chest is pushed out, who is full of him(her)self, someone who is full of hot air and blown up like a balloon. And we can see how such a self-referenced, prideful person would fail to contribute to the peace and unity of a congregation.

But there’s more here to consider. Paul uses the word arrogant or puffed up in numerous places in I Corinthians and the references relate to division in the church over the support of one leader versus another. In I Corinthians 4 the issue was a split in the church over the support of some for Apollos while others supported Paul.

The picture is that of church members being puffed up in their views about and in their support of one leader over another. Egos enlarge, arguments ensue, anger develops, division happens, people covey-up in favor of one and in opposition to another, some people threaten and others leave. Like the blowfish we pulled out of the salty green water on the bay side of Jones Beach the puffed-up bounce from group to group, conversation to conversation, plan to plan, frustration to frustration and, ultimately bounce out of the church. It’s a mess!

And it is not as it should be. Love is not puffed up; not puffed up about others in the church, not puffed up overothers in the church, not puffed up away from others in the church. Love is a shift in focus from me as the central concern to that of others so that they might thrive and have the fullness of life.

When the blowfish expands to the brink of explosion its eyes get very small and, presumably, all it can see is its puffed up belly…all it can see is itself. Love is not puffed up!

Faithfully in Him,