Thursday, September 02, 2004


Being Like Jesus

I had lunch with a friend yesterday. It was our usual lively conversation that ranged all over. One topic was his painting contractor.

This contractor promised that all the cracks in the stucco would be covered, that everything would look good. They came and did the job. Not only are the cracks still visible through the new paint, but they damaged a window. So far, the contractor shows no sign of being interested in even fixing the window, much less making the stucco look good.

My friend is a pastor. He said he was concerned about his Christian witness, that he wanted to do the right thing. He asked me if he should roll over and accept the job for the sake of keeping peace with this man.

One day some months ago I was on my way home on the bus, and as usual I was praying. The subject we were discussing was slavery. Paul described himself as a slave of Christ, and Jesus himself is called a servant. Their idea of what a servant is differs from ours, however.

Look at the examples of Jesus' life that we're shown. He forcefully threw the moneylenders and vendors out of the temple. Other times he was very quiet, but still very sure, as with the woman at the well, and the woman whom the Pharisees accused of adultery. Paul said he was a slave, but he spoke forcefully even to kings and chief priests.

In other words, Jesus is no milquetoast. While he never got into people's faces for the sake of making a scene, he always spoke the truth.

Many contractors count on people to let things go. The homeowner doesn't want the hassle when they're already busy. So the contractor gets away with sloppy work and goes on to mess up someone else's house. I've heard many tales of such woe from my co-workers.

And I'm reading a book called "Boundaries," by Henry Cloud. This is very interesting, and is very clear. Boundaries are appropriate and necessary, and there's no good reason to let a person who has been hired to do a job get away with doing it badly. My friend had appropriate expectations, and the contractor is violating his boundaries by trying to skate.

I advised him not to roll over. Wait and see what the contractor offers. If he really fixes the problems, fine. They're done, and perhaps the contractor will learn something. If the contractor doesn't make good, then I told my friend to send a detailed letter to the Better Business Bureau. That's about all he can do.

The most important thing to do is learn from this. Ask around. Check the background of any worker, and keep track of what they're doing. People have this image of Christians being all soft and kind, which would be nice if the world weren't full of wolves. Jesus wasn't afraid to attack wolves. I think we can do the same, but this has to be balanced with love. I don't know how that works, but I'm sure I'll learn. God is a good teacher.

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