Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gathering Scattered Feathers

Have you ever heard the story of the gossip and the rabbi?  It’s a Chasidic tale that vividly illustrates the danger of improper speech: A man went about the community telling malicious lies about the rabbi.  Later, he realized the wrong he had done, and began to feel remorse.  He went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness, saying he would do anything he could to make amends. The rabbi told the man, "Take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the winds." The man thought this was a strange request, but it was a simple enough task, and he did it gladly. When he returned to tell the rabbi that he had done it, the rabbi said, "Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can recollect the feathers." 1

Blogs give people like you and me a voice.  Everybody thinks they have something important to say and blogs, like the one you are now reading, give folks like me an outlet to tell people like you all the important stuff we think you ought to know.  The danger in that, of course, is the immediate and worldwide distribution of what is put out there on the web.  So, when we publish something foolish or incorrect online it's not so easy to reel back in what we’ve just said.  If you’ve written rubbish (like me) or written something good but delivered it carelessly (like me), it’s like cutting open a pillow in the wind.  Feathers go everywhere. 

I need to pick up as many feathers as I’m able.

In the past week I’ve written two articles, one on church buildings and the other on evangelistic campaigns.  The articles were well argued, I think, but they were also composed with complete indifference toward those who hold a contrary opinion.  I thought writing provocatively would grab attention and challenge the traditions of those whom I’m trying to persuade.  That was a mistake.  It was primarily a mistake because those who hold a different position than do I, are people who are also filled with the same Holy Spirit that dwells in me.  They labored prayerfully to build big church buildings, some of them, and others were led, by their love for the lost and obedience to Christ, to reach the world through large evangelistic media campaigns.  It’s okay to disagree with this or that on non-primary issues, but as a kind friend recently advised, “...when it is a disagreement about a debatable issue, the velvet gloves need to go on over your boxing mits.”  He is right.  On a secondary level, it was a mistake to think that I could be both inconsiderately provocative and persuasive at the same time.  It’s very difficult to turn a person’s opinion when you are stepping on their toes.  At some point we we need to examine our motivation for writing; and speaking for that matter. 

So I’d like to publicly apologize for how what I’ve written was so poorly constructed and delivered.

While I can’t find all the feathers that the winds have taken, I’m so very thankful that my Rabbi made complete amends for each of the feathers that were spread; that, even before one of them was ever even placed into the pillow.

I’ve pulled the two articles and will later republish them once they’ve been properly reconsidered and rewritten.
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