Lady Pastor: Persevere in your faith, whatever the public's opinion
Recent news reports on the local and international level have reminded me of a fascinating reality: Public opinion changes. Sometimes quickly and sometimes very slowly. People are fickle. We are fickle. Our thoughts and opinions change. This is nothing new to the human race.
In 1879, Thomas Edison patented the first light bulb available for home use. Many people were afraid of electricity at the time. So to calm those fears, the light bulbs came with a warning: "Do not attempt to light with a match. The use of electricity is in no way harmful to health, nor does it affect the soundness of your sleep." Nowadays, most households are reliant on electricity in a variety of forms, all day — every day — and the fear that once existed no longer does. Public opinion changed.
Public opinion changed again throughout the early 1900s. Up until 1920, a good chunk of the population didn't think women should vote. Over time, public opinion changed and thankfully now both men and women can vote.
The USDA Food Pyramid was originally released to the public in 1917. It has since undergone a variety of changes. Butter and margarine actually had their own food group in the 1930s! We've all seen the shifting tides of public opinion when it comes to diet. High fat, low fat, no carb, high carb. Public opinion changes.
We see it in our opinions about celebrities, newscasters, neighbors, and even our own families. We love them until they do something we don't like — perhaps something that reminds us of our own shortcomings — and then the opinions shift. We not only don't like them — sometimes we even shun them.
Jesus faced these challenges in his ministry, too. In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus enters his hometown to teach and preach. Everyone is, initially, "astounded" — the original Greek word means amazed, astonished, in awe. They can't get enough of his wisdom and miracles.
But then, the crowd changes their tone. The winds shift. They say something like, "But this kid is the son of Mary! We know his brothers. We know his sisters." They don't mention a father … perhaps a hint that his paternity is questioned in town. The Gospel mentions that they take offense at him. The Greek word is "skandalidzo" — from which we get our English word "scandalize." Public opinion changed — in the blink of an eye.
But Jesus keeps going. He keeps teaching and healing. Jesus perseveres. He gets ahold of the disciples and the journey continues. Two by two he sends them out to bring a message of repentance and healing. Jesus tells them to keep going and not get discouraged regardless of how they are received in new places.
Jesus encourages us to take a similar approach. To live and share the Gospel — the good news of Jesus' love and forgiveness -— regardless of outside circumstances. Regardless of public opinion. Regardless of trends. Regardless of moods (our own or someone else's). We're called to shake off what doesn't work — and keep going. Persevere. Love. Share.
Disappointments happen. They just do. In life. In work. In church. And Jesus reminds us to keep going. Even when the disappointments are large and it feels like the world is against us.
Jesus' model of perseverance despite public opinion is a helpful one for us all. We all face the temptation for approval. I would imagine there were times when Jesus felt it, too. To know that we're valued and liked and appreciated. Sometimes we base our decisions and behaviors on whether or not we'll be in the good graces of others. Jesus reminds us to rethink this tendency because the bottom line is that the opinions of others aren't consistent. They change, sometimes like the wind.
But the mission to which we are called doesn't change. Love. Serve. Heal. Forgive. No matter what. Follow Jesus. No matter what. May we find courage along the way, regardless of where the changing winds of public opinion might blow.