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Working Together

And we are human, after all. Our humanly unique sense of self is partially framed and reinforced by our awareness of that self in relation to others. It’s only human nature to hope you might be in some way “better” than others — smarter, possessing of higher status, more resources, and greater physical attractiveness — even if that’s not always the case. From there, it’s only a short step toward actively seeking out the more negative aspects of others to feel better by comparison. And once we’ve begun to indulge in those self-gratifying judgments, it’s hard to stop. How else can you explain American’s fascination with reality TV? Next to Honey Boo-Boo and the Duggars, we all look pretty good, right?

Wrong.

Research has also shown that people who seek out and comment upon negative traits and behaviors in others are often highly anxious about those very same traits in themselves.

-Leslie Turnbull
from the article “Don’t Judge Me”
The Week

bullyingAccording to this magazine story based, supposedly, on research, it’s natural for human beings to be judgmental, it just makes us unhappy. I suppose that might mean that it’s not natural for a person to give the other guy or gal the benefit of the doubt and to judge them favorably.

However, in Judaism, it is considered desirable to judge others favorably:

Joshua the son of Perachia and Nitai the Arbelite received from them. Joshua the son of Perachia would say: Assume for yourself a master, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every man to the side of merit (emph. mine).

Pirkei Avot 1:6

Now let’s expand our information base to include the Apostolic Scriptures, which also, I believe, qualifies as Jewish wisdom.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Philippians 2:3-4 (NASB)

Also…

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

James 3:14-18

James (Jacob or Ya’akov), the brother of Rav Yeshua (Jesus), writes that jealousy, selfish ambition, and arrogance are also natural for human beings, and he calls these qualities “earthly, natural, demonic.”

Not a pretty picture.

He advocates for behaving gently, reasonably, and treating others with mercy.

The Jewish PaulAs students of the teachings of Yeshua as they are interpreted for the Gentiles by the Apostle Paul (Rav Shaul), we really need to be different from the world, behaving “unnaturally”, and as a “light to the nations” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Maybe it’s “natural” for us to be snarky and unkind to others, but as Ms. Turnbull’s article points out, we may complain the most about people who are the most like us.

So the next time you feel the urge to snark about the way your brother-in-law tries to dominate every conversation, spend a few minutes listening to yourself. You might just realize it’s time for you to pipe down, too.

Further…

Need more reason to curtail that instinct to be a hater? Consider this: Unjust criticism may be hurtful to others , but it hurts those who over-indulge in it even more. Just as those who spend a lot of time in the water fixate on the extremely rare shark attack while ignoring the much more prevalent (but still almost non-existent) threat of lightning on land, folks who over-focus on negativity will eventually only see what they spend time thinking about: the bad stuff.

So being judgmental and negative not only hurts us, it hurts other people, and our teachers, as we read them in the Bible, instruct us to not hurt others, but rather, to be kind and, as much as it depends on us, to be at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).

Not particularly common in the blogosphere, even in the religious blogosphere.

I’m not writing to lean on anyone or masking my own criticism toward anyone else, but with all of the verbal and physical violence in the news and social media lately, it seems like there’s no place to go for a bit of peace.

cooperatingBut ideally, we should be able to seek out other disciples in Messiah for that peace, Jew and Gentile alike.

Not only that, but we should be able to work together, for although we represent a diverse population, and there are sometimes significant differences between Jewish and Gentile disciples, we do have something in common:

From the above closing words of the Acts of the Apostles [Acts 28:30-31] we can see that the Kingdom of God was the message that Paul and the other Apostles preached, a message of God’s Kingship in the person and work of Yeshua Messiah. The Bilateral Messianic Community was the body of believers who had accepted the message of the Kingdom of God and were to be the proclaimers of the coming of the Kingdom of God.

-Sean Emslie
“The Kingdom of God and The Messianic Hope: Bilateral Messianic Community and Kingdom in the Epistles and Revelation”
Toward a Messianic Judaism

When did we forget this and how can be get back to what we’re supposed to be doing?

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One thought on “Working Together”

  1. We forget, I think, how to do simple things for good toward others because figuring out how to help people seems so very difficult. We want to not solve one problem, but a multitude of them and when we tire at trying to fix everything at once, we become ‘weary in well-doing’. It is necessary for those who work together that they actually have a goal in mind that all who are participating in feel strongly about. It is difficult to drum up enthusiasm unless the goal is lofty, but arranging to reach a high and lofty goal that people can get passionate about is often about problems that are beyond our ability to mend.

    I fear that the majority of people, no matter how well meaning they are to others around them accomplish very little on their own, or in groups, because they do not have a defined mission to accomplish.

    There is so much within humanity as a group that requires correction that it is difficult sometimes to find something that a single Believer or group of Believers feel able to change. There is so much that is out of our control that we may become inured to the difficulties surrounding us because they are so big, so encompassing within society, and thus hard to get a handle on.

    It is easy to say go, and do good to others, but much harder to figure out what that ‘good’ might be, and whether any of us can address the problem successfully, or assist others in reaching their goals. So much wrongness and difficulty, pain and sorrow is outside our control and relative power to amend, that it leaves one quite downhearted at times.

    If one has no particular fire in the belly for an idea or a project, as it is for many Believers that are struggling to simply figure out how to live their lives, one needs to focus on the perimeters of ones own life…whom you bump into in the pattern of your day, that may need your help as you walk with those who are alongside your daily path.

    I find it easiest to make a point of focusing on the people I meet, and attempting to recognize them as a person…to really see them, and speak to them, and call them by name if they are known to me, or have a handy name badge. And once I have gotten their attention, it becomes very easy to find out how they are, and if in trouble, to offer a hand, a prayer, or some other assistance that might help.

    Oddly, it turns out that simply asking to do someone a service, to inquire after their situation and their difficulties, or just recognizing them as a valued member of society by treating them as being valuable that one can do far more that one might think. And once a problem is known, one might even seek out others to help them address that problem, and work with them to help one person through a difficulty. If one then finds that to be possible to correct or amend a specific kind of problem, it becomes easier to seek others out with a similar difficulty, and to find others who might join in that help. One can, I presume, even find a really satisfying difficulty that one can amend, despite our lack of relative personal power, wealth, or importance.

    Most people that need help generally can provide a symptom of a widespread, if small, and therefore fixable problem for us to hammer away at for others with the same or similar problem, thus providing a good thing one can do that makes a difference in someone’s life…even if it is really a very little thing, because little things can be controlled and corrected.

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