"So watch what you do!"
"Jesus said to his disciples, 'Things that make people fall into sin are bound to happen, but how terrible for the one who makes them happen! It would be better for him if a large millstone were tied around his neck and he were thrown in to the sea then for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch what you do!'"
I've watched this flock of geese long enough to tell you that the big guy in the middle is a real leader. If he decides to move to the other side of the lawn to forage for food, the other geese follow. If he gets a hankering to jump in the water and paddle downstream to a new site, the rest follow. The flock has learned the benefits of following in the footsteps of their leader, so they observe and copy his movements.
Learning to follow is a critical lesson for us to master very early in our lives. Many of our skills are developed when we are very young children by observing and copying - following. I even remember a cooking class in Cub Scouts where they emphasized "following." They taught us how to cook simple things (hot dogs with cheese) then also gave us some tips on using good manners while dining. "When you're at a party and don't know which fork to use," they told us, "just follow the lead of the hostess or host." How many times in the movies have you heard the line, "Just follow my lead?" Following is important, we encourage it.
When tragedy strikes like it has once more in the recent Tuscon shootings, we must first realize that many factors are involved. In this situation it sounds like our lack of adequate mental health care is definitely one part of the complicated equation. However, it troubles me to hear that some think the spewing of hatred toward others has nothing to do with this kind of violence. We learn to follow. We encourage following. We teach each other to observe and copy - to follow. Then why are we so surprised in these tragedies that someone with other contributing factors like a form of mental illness that hinders their ability to make healthy decisions about whom and what to follow, winds up taking their cues from voices of hate that are readily offered as examples to copy?
It confounds me when I hear that folks think their angry tirades against one another or public figures have no impact on the behavior of others. We cannot hurl insult and injury toward one another and pretend it will not have an impact. We've been taught to follow -- to observe and copy. The "leader" bears the responsibility for setting the example to be copied. That's exactly the warning Jesus was issuing to his disciples when he said, "So watch what you do!" The "little ones" are watching - and looking to follow.
We focus a lot of attention on proclaiming that individuals need to learn when and whom to follow. Some want to place all the responsibility on the followers. It's time we focused more attention on the examples we're offering for following. The examples we offer do make a difference. I pray that God will help me offer a healthy example. How about you?
Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Sand Hill United Methodist Church
Boaz, West Virginia
Help save lives! For more information on my new book, "A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression," visit www.survivingteendepression.com.
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