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The Thieves of the Present 5: Demands


Issue 390

Each one of you has a unique life; it is your path, your journey and will result in your story. There will,, however, be some challenges which, while encountered uniquely by you, are capable of being described generically. Let me explain:

In your head right now, it is quite likely that there is an impersonal group of demands which contribute to your pressure. If you think about it, it might include bills to pay, people to see, requests to make; it’s a kind of constant crowd, hanging around you, demanding attention.

On top of that, there will be individuals; some people drift in and out of your life, others stay; some are good news givers; some are draining; they are your friends, acquaintances, co-workers, team, employers or employees; they are your loved ones and your not so loved ones.

Then, there are your blood relatives; those God decided for you!

Whatever your path, people will be there;-even if you want to be alone, it is almost impossible.

These people can be seen as interruptions, demands, assets, resources, sources of joy or sorrow; often we see them as thieves of our time or those who steal our ability to be in the present. Perhaps it would be good to reflect on the word see.

How do you see the crowd; how do you see individuals; how do you see anyone?

No one has handled this challenge better than Jesus of Nazareth. If you look, you can see him dealing with crowds, individuals, his team, his friends, his family, and even his opponents. How did he see them?

I make two observations from what I can see: firstly, he saw people as they were -.not worse, not better, not weaker, nor stronger; not even how they could be, but as they were.

Any other way of seeing means non-acceptance. When he met a blind man, he saw a blind man – not a source of legal debate about Sabbaths; when he saw a woman caught in adultery, he saw her – not a tool to be used to trick him.

When he saw a hypocrite, he saw a hypocrite; when he saw a seeker, he saw a seeker; when he saw generosity, he saw generosity, not the size of the gift. Whenever people met him, he met them as they were. We want to hijack his anger and use it for our purposes; for he was angry at the ‘den of thieves’ – that’s because it was a den of thieves, and he did get angry at religious hypocrisy, because it was so. No, he saw people, and people were drawn to his insight and acceptance – even his opponents.

The second thing I can see is perhaps even more startling. I give you three short examples:

Five thousand people are crowding in (even more if you realise they only counted the men) – his team sees a problem.;similarly, four
thousand on another occasion are crowding in – his team sees a problem; thousands crowd him as he tours towns and villages. So firstly, how did he see the crowds?

Secondly, a rich young man comes and asks for advice – how does he see him?

Thirdly, Jerusalem kills prophets and destroys messengers – how does he see it?

As far as I can see, one word – ‘compassion’.

He looked at all crowds with compassion – they were sheep without a shepherd, so he shepherded them.

He looked at the young man and loved him – compassion.

He wept over Jerusalem with a feminine, motherly love, describing himself in radical female language. He wanted to gather Jerusalem as a hen gathers chicks under her wing – compassion.

When demands of others press in, compassion reaches out; Instead of being thieves of time, they become recipients of compassion.

Here is what I am going to try to do this week: I am checking each email I send for compassion; I am checking each conversation I have for compassion; I am checking each task I undertake for compassion.

I know for certain I will fall short, but Jesus never saw me as perfect – he saw me with compassion.


Matthew 9:35-38

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

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Geoff Shattock

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