My last post, “Don’t force it,” created a mildly heated discussion on my facebook page. Sometimes that happens. The thing is, most people seem to agree that the players have a right to protest – the dissonance comes when the discussion moves to when and where the protest should happen. Under the caselaw interpreting our U.S. Constitution, speech as well as other basic freedoms may be regulated by time, place and manner, but that’s not even the point I was, and am, going for. (I know, I ended a sentence with a preposition – sue me).
My point is that I would rather see an honest expression that I don’t agree with than see something forced and thus dishonest that I do agree with. Somethings should be forced and some should not. Many things, when forced, cease to be that thing at all. As I said before:
Forced respect isn’t respect at all; Forced love isn’t love in the least;
Forced allegiance is a far cry from loyalty, and Forced religion is bad faith.
But when I say that, I’m talking about when these characteristics are forced on others. That’s what I’m against. Forcing something on yourself goes by a different label:
Self-discipline, to be more accurate. I’m ok with self-discipline, though I don’t practice it all that much myself. Self-discipline is an interesting thing. It is a virtue of virtues. I mean that in the following sense: Self-discipline is a virtue itself, but it is what enables and activates other virtues. Take mercy, for example.
First of all, I can’t force anyone to have mercy, anymore than I can force someone to love me or respect someone. Oh sure, I can force a child to show mercy, say, on a playground, but they would be showing my mercy at that point, wouldn’t they? They would be acting out not what is in their heart but what is in mine.
I can discipline them until they show mercy, but at that point I may have taught them to do a certain thing for fear of consequences – self-discipline – but I still haven’t forced mercy into their heart. I can’t.
For the Christians in the room, I’ll point out that Jesus was a big advocate for mercy. Consider the idea that Christ was the incarnate form of the Creator – Jehovah. An infinite, omniscient God. All of His infiniteness was funneled down into one man, and that man’s message was funneled into a mere three year ministry. In my weak little finite mind, I would think that if infinite knowledge and wisdom were funneled into three years, the messenger would speak nonstop for those three years, never repeating anything, in his effort to enlighten the mortals as much as possible. But that’s not how it worked. He was actually pretty redundant, with a few very common themes.
One of those themes was this:
I want mercy, not sacrifice.
I addressed this idea in a previous post called “imponderable funnel,” so I won’t repeat the whole thing here, but I wonder if Christians couldn’t force themselves to show more mercy. Let’s go back to the debate over the NFL. How would the debate look if the Christians who engaged in it were characterized by Christlike mercy as opposed to national or personal pride or indignation (righteous or not)? I think it would look different. I think the church would look different if all the Christian messages were handed out with mercy.
I think rather than trying to force others to bend to our standards, we should force ourselves to engage others with mercy when we engage at all. We just might, maybe, see a broader acceptance of our message. Maybe that’s why Christ advocated for it. It will take some self-discipline, but then don’t Christians quote that one verse a lot: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” ?