What Do We Do When Funny Men Make Us Cry

groucho-marx-309396_640Are you ever tempted to give up trusting people?

Bill Cosby has always made me laugh. The headlines about him this week aren’t funny. I don’t know him and I don’t know his accusers so, there’s a lot I don’t know. Someone is lying. The women or him. Either way, it stinks. What the headlines inspire in me, though, is that too familiar tension of trying to figure out how I’ll react, going forward, to someone who may be harboring secrets. Someone with a dark side. Someone who only let me see what he wanted me to see.

This man isn’t my friend and God hasn’t put him in my life, so he’s not my real problem. If I never laugh at his comedy again, I’ll live. I’ve long known not to make strangers into heroes. But living in a world where people close to you can turn out to be someone different than the person you thought you knew, is scary, wearing, disheartening.

It could make a person cynical. That’s the fluoride in the water of this age – cynicism. It’s intended as a protective agent, something to strengthen the enamel of our souls, but really, it’s toxic, because the hardening won’t be limited to our protective armor. Ingest too much and it will petrify us entirely, rendering us incapable of trust, of intimacy, of love.

What’s the antidote, though? People do break faith. People do betray. The face we see is often only one shining facet of a sharp-edged soul and not just celebrities. Your neighbors have secrets, your coworkers, the church leadership team, your children, your spouse, me, you. Most of us aren’t hiding felonies or conspiracies but surely, we all hide wrongs, regrets, choices, ugly thoughts that we would rather keep obscured from public view. Then, how do we function with one another without fear or constant unease?

Jesus knew how.

Whenever I think I can’t admire Jesus more, I find a new reason to respect Him. He knew everything about us, right? If there was anyone ever who walked the earth and knew exactly what was going on inside every human He encountered, it was Jesus.

Yet, He enjoyed life. He ate with sinners. They invited him to banquets. People followed Him and He loved them – deeply, truthfully, enough to die for them. Even knowing the sickness, the perversion, the twisted nature of our souls. Even knowing we would disappoint Him, abandon Him, betray Him, even demand His crucifixion. He was free to love.

He’s my hero for that. And not only that, He saw these sins from the perspective of understanding true holiness. He saw each of these terrible sins, knowing He would take them on as His, suffer under the weight of them, and die beneath the burden, yet still He loved with abandon.

In thinking about it this week, it occurred to me that Jesus did not use people the way we do. I don’t mean “use” in the mean, manipulative, exploitative way that’s easy to condemn. I mean, His relationships didn’t define Him. The people He loved weren’t props for His life, a supporting cast for His self-esteem, or little gods from which He drew comfort, security, value, or meaning. Those things He found in His relationship with His Father and that set Him free to love us – knowing exactly who we are – and enabled Him not to come unglued when our secrets bubbled to the surface like infectious boils.

The thing is – He set us free to love this way, too. If we secure ourselves to the rock face of His strong tower, drive our pitons into His unyielding protection, then we don’t need to harden ourselves against one another. Cynicism will provide protection at a cost. Jesus paid the price for protecting us.

We can love and when a loved one drops his or her belay, sending us plummeting off a cliff, our ties to Jesus remain secure. He will snatch us from the air and help us find a new handhold because we’ve attached our carabiner to His guideline. We are free to know one another completely and love without fear.

The idea of rock climbing or repelling off cliff faces terrifies me. That’s exactly why it’s my image in this. Loving others in a world where the same person can make us laugh one minute and weep the next is a breath-taking climb that requires all our strength and the strongest partner. Jesus knows how to make the ascent. More, he showed us we can rise again after the worst fall.

Self-protection by cynicism or any other means is tempting but the price we pay is emotional and spiritual paralysis, isolation, and ultimately, disobedience to God’s command to love. Trusting the protection of the One who loved at the expense of His own life sets us free and leads to the ultimate communion –the eternal community of the redeemed.


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5 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Thought provoking post, Lori. Jesus set us free to love with acceptance and without judgment. He looked through the sin to the person loved them. I tend to judge the sin and to reject the person underneath. My prayer is that Jesus will teach me to love as He does.

  2. Bruce Cunningham says:

    As a prison chaplain for over 14 years, I’ve been exposed to some of the most deceitful and manipulative people alive. However, I’ve always found that ministering to them has been far easier than having to put up with the cynical attitudes of the staff members and general public towards the inmates, and for that matter, towards God and His ability to transform them.
    You see- the inmates pretty well know their lives are broken. Yet unfortunately, all of the self righteous law abiding citizens that judge them with a cynical attitude do not realize their own need for the Savior. We’re all sinners!
    Legion learned that Jesus doesn’t consider a demonic person too far gone to receive His deliverance, and neither should we. Cynicism is always the product of hypocrisy.
    “He among you without sin cast the first stone.”

  3. Maxine D says:

    Thanks Lori – too often I back away, rather than let Jesus love and acceptance be my foundation to love others with.
    Blessings
    Maxine

    • Sharmel O'Neill says:

      Lori, OH how many times these thoughts have plagued me. Just recently I had a client receive Christ right in front of me. I believe she truly accepted his grace but when she came back the next day(with her “friend”) she denied it all and actually attacked Christianity. Immediately the Lord spoke to my heart “it’s not you she is attacking, it’s me. I can handle it, you just keep on going. I LOVE you and I LOVE her. Just keep praying and keep your heart tender.”

      Regarding your recent health issue.,. praying mightily because you know you are doing the Lord’s work and waking up many who have been slumbering.
      Praying for protection and encouragement..
      One of your many Sisters in Christ,
      Sharmel

  4. Alyce Black says:

    “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness,” wrote American poet Mary Oliver. “It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.” Just read this and it seemed to speak .