Stop It If You Can

I have been reflecting this morning on the Epistle text for this coming Sunday. The section is actually I Peter 2:1-10, but verse 1 connects, of course, with verse 2 so that’s my starting place. Verse 2 basically says, “Grow up!” as it literally says “… grow up in your salvation.” The primary method offered for growth comes before rather than after this verse. The first verse of the chapter says, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” If I did get rid of these things I would be a lot farther along in my understating and experience of salvation.

There’s a comedy sketch with Bob Newhart as a psychologist who says basically the same thing as I Peter 2:1. Please understand that I know that a lot of this sketch is insensitive to those who have very real mental health issues that cannot be helped except through the channels of therapists, doctors, and/or meds.

We just had a district clergy meeting about the need for better mental health care for the incarcerated, and, frankly, I think that everyone who suffers in this manner is imprisoned. Our own denomination needs to do a better job addressing this issue. For instance, one of the most disturbing sections in the United Methodist Book of Discipline is paragraph 4 of our Constitution entitled “Inclusiveness of the Church.”

The synopsis of this section of our Constitution gives a lengthy list of those who are eligible to attend our church services. I hope you notice who is left out: “All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status (which by the way is undefined by General Conference and therefore without meaning), or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate…” It appears at first glance that no one is excluded, but did you read anything about “mental condition?” I know personally that the UMC is welcoming to persons who have mental health issues, but I do think that it needs to be spelled out. Perhaps it’s an oversight, one that certainly needs to be rectified.

But back to I Peter 2:1 and how we can grow up. It says that we are to “rid ourselves” of some things. There are some things that we need to stop doing. Titus 2:11-12 says that God’s GRACE enables us to stop doing the things that we can actually stop: “It (grace) teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age…” So, if you’re trying to mature in salvation as I Peter 2 declares then that means that there are some things that you have to stop doing, things to get rid of.

Of course, the Serenity Prayer is for all who cannot stop it because of disability: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.” For those of us who can, by the grace of God and power of the Holy Spirit, take responsibility for our own actions, give a listen to this Comedy Central sketch featuring Bob Newhart as a counselor.