“This is your trunk. These are your gowns. Lady Catherine will never know,” Elizabeth Bennet said to Maria Lucas in the 1995 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Upon hearing the great lady’s “directions as to the best method of packing,” Maria began a frantic redo of her trunk. Elizabeth sought to convince her that how she folded her gowns was her own private affair. Elizabeth Bennet’s words ring in my ear, tempting me to abandon my study of Jude’s letter and the writing of this post. “This is your study. These are your thoughts. No one need ever know!”
Disturbed and heartsick, I grieve to learn of yet another respected Christian leader’s secret immoral life, especially for the wounded victims shattered in his wake. Perhaps Jude—the half-brother of Jesus, the younger son of Mary of Nazareth—would have discerned this because he wrote the book (literally) on how to spot ungodly people, as he calls them. So I turn to Jude’s tiny New Testament letter to help me make sense of what I see in the world.
Conspiracy theories, alternate realities, rash prophecies, disinformation, and big lies are ancient techniques used to create fear—and subsequently claim the only solution to calm it—thus gaining followers. While disturbing in the sociopolitical sphere, I find these especially troubling when supported, spread, or believed by those representing Jesus. How do I respond? What do I focus on amid the myriad speculations, half truths and fake news?
At times, I don’t know how to pray for the world around me. The needs seem too complex, too convoluted. Relationships are conflicted and the church wars against itself. Jude, the half-brother of Jesus—Mary of Nazareth’s other son—prayed for the recipients of his letter to have mercy, peace, and love in abundance. This seems like a good place to start.
Anxious, frustrated, and appalled. Relieved, hopeful, and excited. I have felt all of these in the past weeks. The pandemic creeps closer into my circle of colleagues. Relationships struggle for lack of face to face connection. Safety vanishes. Leaders disappoint. Yet medical breakthroughs encourage. Change brings hope. Surprisingly encouragement comes through learning that I am called, loved, and kept. Sounds lovely, but what does it mean?
The desire to figure everything out, to fully understand, and make sense of my world is strong in me. However the events in our nation’s capitol last week proved that even more fleeting than the loss of control over my schedule and calendar (due to a pandemic) is any control I thought I had over the beliefs and actions of others. Four guiding truths emerged as I pondered a quote from Emily P. Freeman.
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