Tag Archives: Luke 11:11-13

Responding is teaching

Who of you fathers, if his son says, “Hey moron, give me a drink”, would not give him a clip round the ear?

If my children were as rude to me as the above imaginary comment, there would certainly be a ‘serious father-child moment’!

I admit I’ve twisted what Jesus said (see Luke 11:11-13, Matthew 7:9-11). But the above is what I thought after overhearing the following exchange:

Daughter: “[Screech, moan, whine, fake tears. Accusingly pointed finger.]”
Mum: “Well you stood up. He can sit there if he wants.”

That is, there was a conversation where whining behaviour counted as words. And both participants behaved as if this communication was perfectly normal.

How does such a pattern become normal? It’s not normal when the whinger whinges. It becomes normal when the responder responds normally. The reply determines where the conversation will go. In my mind, the power in conversations lies with the person who replies.

That power can be used poorly, or with great effect. When my kids grunt at me, obviously thirsty or hungry, I could choose simply to give them what they want. My power of reply teaches, ‘It’s OK when you grunt – keep doing it.’ You can guess what they will do next time hunger strikes.

Or I could choose to say, ‘I will not get that for you until you use words.’

How I respond teaches what is acceptable. Responding is teaching.

Sometimes this raises a difficult dilemma. The perfect illustration of this is in Proverbs 26:4-5. Both pieces of wisdom are true, but you may only choose one way in a given situation. Nevertheless, the principle holds: responding is teaching.

Where this works out extends to many places. It’s not simply a parent and child pattern. It’s also:

  • How we listen to the boss at work
  • How we treat the referee or umpire
  • The active or passive response we make to advertising
  • Our tone of voice to the teacher
  • The learned dynamics of a Bible study group
  • The way we gain attention (or reward people) in churches
  • How we behave when driving

To go again to the book of Proverbs:

To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
and a word in season, how good it is!
(Proverbs 15:23)

So now the power is in your hands. How will you respond?





We’re a mixed up bunch

In Albury-Wodonga, the weekly free newspapers used to include a column of reflections. They were written by local  ministers, or similar (authors included a local Baha’i leader, as well as someone from the local humanist society branch). I don’t know why they stopped. Equally, I don’t know if they achieved anything!

Cleaning up my computer, I found a few of mine. In the interests of recycling, I will re-release them on this blog.

July does the same thing every year. The weather makes it less appealing to ride my bike. The TV makes it more inviting to watch others ride their bikes. Yes – I’m addicted to the Tour de France.

Each year I again fall for the helicopter shots of tourist sites, for the speed of fast flat racing, for the pain of riding up ridiculously long mountain roads. There’s a lot to see: fanatical fans; beautiful country; selfless teamwork; athleticism.

This year there was even the chance of an Australian winner. I hope I’m not crazy, but I tried to support Cadel Evans by riding my bike down Cadell St in Albury a few times.

Yet cycling has a problem. Drugs. Again in 2007 there were accusations of cheating and lying. Some cyclists were caught, some teams were kicked out.

There’s no excuse for cheating, but I am not surprised that people try.

These ups and downs are simply an expression of what people are like. We’re a mixed-up bunch, both wonderful and awful at the same time. I started with the Tour de France, so here’s a famous French thinker. Blaise Pascal called people ‘the glory and the shame of the universe.’

If there’s a shadow over cycling it is because there is a shadow over humanity.

Jesus also knew that we’re a mixed-up bunch. Talking about families in Luke’s gospel chapter 11, Jesus pointed out that we don’t give our children scorpions if they ask for food. Yet we are far from perfect. He said that we who are evil know how to give good gifts.

That’s certainly confused. Is there any solution?

It’s no solution to pretend everything is alright. There are drugs in pro sport. And there is failure in our lives.

It’s no solution to give up. Drug testing should continue. And we still admire those able to say sorry.

Jesus’ words point us to the real solution, prayer to God our Father. He’s the one who gives the good gifts of life and forgiveness.
August 2007