I manage an urban public library branch. Occasionally I’ll be in my office when a coworker calls and says, “There’s someone cursing people out, can you come tell them to leave?” I stand up, mutter “here we go,” and step out to confront the person. Whether it was the mentally unstable man making sexist remarks, the drunk man trying to enter our shed, or the person who threatened my staff, I know some good phrases that usually work to defuse things. All in a day’s work, I tell myself, feeling a little tough. And needed. These confrontations make me feel like a servant to the community, my staff, and even the person I must confront.
However, I wouldn’t relish being this landlord’s servant, on a mission to talk to these tenants. The story raises all kinds of questions about the relationship between the vineyard owner and his messengers. Why does the landowner keep sending servants into a situation where they are likely to be abused? Are there no other options? Does he believe that the tenants will finally understand what’s at stake, change their behavior, and salvage this bad situation? And do the tenants really think that their violent actions will have no negative consequences? If you’re the servant’s parent or friend, what would you tell them to do? The sage advice, “don’t engage,” comes to mind.
If such instructions were applied to the Christian life, our faith would lose its meaning. Following Jesus means losing our lives to find them. How will we respond when God leads us to love those who might treat us unjustly? Being servants of Christ in a world with tenants like these requires constant prayer.
When has your faith led you to do something risky?
God, help me discern what matters in life and pursue that purpose without distraction or fear. Amen.