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Sometimes, it's what you don't say that is the most encouraging.

As the news about Jesus spread beyond the epicenter of Jerusalem and was believed by people outside the original Jewish community, one question that quickly arose is, "Just how Jewish should these new people be required to become?" Some wanted high performance and high standards: all the Jewish laws must be kept!

Sometimes, having two bosses can work (right now, I have four), especially if these bosses are working towards complimentary goals and the competing time demands can be managed. In this kind of setup, it is mostly a matter of sorting out what each boss needs at any given time, and on a good day, many of our actions can be applied to meet multiple needs. (The lesson plan I prepare for one department can be used when I guess lecture at another, for example.)

Can this idea of keeping two bosses happy be applied to our view of government? Jesus seems to think so.

For a short while before he wrote Peanuts, Charles Schultz wrote a comic strip called Li’l Folks. What I love about that title (and apparently, Schultz preferred it, too: he is reported to have hated the name Peanuts) is the hint at the depth Schultz was aiming at. He did not write comics strictly for children. He wrote about the human condition, the condition that all “folks” must deal with, big and little.

Matthew 10:2-4 names 12 men who, until this point, had made no mark on history. From other passages, we know they were mostly fishermen. There were no statesmen, no religious leaders, no military conquerers. Instead, there were guys with nicknames, somebody's brother, somebody's son, a tax collector and Simon, a man so obscure, scholars today have no clear idea what his name, "the Cananaean," really means. These were not well-know people.

I recently finished a quick read of the Gospel of Mark and was struck by Jesus' careful awareness of bystanders. In Mark 10:17-22, for example, Jesus is approached by an individual and has a short, intense conversation with him about wealth. The next thing Jesus does is "look around" to see who was watching. Later in the chapter (10:39-42), he says something that upsets the people who overheard his conversation, so he calls them over to straighten it out.