Quoting Quotes

I was passing my husband’s study, and thinking of other things on my way to the kitchen, when I heard an astonishing statement: ‘We don’t need any more positive people!’

This pulled me up short. I’m used to hearing leaders emphasising how to be positive, so I was surprised to hear someone say the opposite. Then I realised I’d actually heard something from the latest National Report on the coronavirus. So I quickly had to get my mind into gear as the words of the Chief Medical Officer flowed out of Canberra!

It depends what you’re positive about. Our words, attitudes, feelings; they’re all meant to be optimistic. But this senior doctor was saying he didn’t want any more people with a definite positive diagnosis of COVID-19. He was aiming to lower the number of them. More people with a negative test result means we’re on the right track! Everyone’s interested in the figures these days, but nobody wants to be on the Positive List! If we’re positive (optimistic) about being negative to the virus test, then that’s wonderful!

It’s like having hope. Last week I saw a quote from Jean Kerr on my desk calendar: ‘Hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn’t permanent’. I’d never heard of Jean Kerr, so I looked her up online. I wasn’t prepared for the information I gleaned there: she wasn’t the author of those words; she’d helped herself to them, but changed one pronoun. In this case, Mignon McLaughlin is supposed to be the originator of the saying, but she used ‘we’ instead of ‘you’. It’s dangerous to quote someone else without knowing the context of their words.

If someone were giving an inspirational speech, but criticising those who believe in optimism, and used that sentence of the Chief Medical Officer out of context, he would be disgusted. He’d probably write to the speaker, ask them to check his context, and request an apology. And rightly so. Although the words may have sounded negative when I first overheard them, once I knew who was speaking, and his intent, the meaning was obvious.  It was actually a very positive statement!

Jesus Christ was optimistic, but he said some extremely negative things! He was certain that he would die. He was positive about it. He told his disciples, the Jewish leaders, and the common people. He used the example of Jonah, who was in the fish for three days and nights. While Jonah had no way of getting out of that fish, Jesus stated that he himself could lay down his own life. But he had a wonderful extra to add: he could take it up again! 

If we only read the ‘death notices’ that Jesus broadcast, we’ll miss the whole context of his message! He had more in mind for his people, including us. During these anxious times in our world, when many are fearful about the future, death is so prevalent around the globe. There’s no vaccine against this pandemic; no surety that anyone is immune to the virus, even after they’ve contracted it once, and then recovered. But the words of the apostle Paul in the Bible give us a wonderful assurance of life after death.

Christ really has been raised from death—the first one of all those who will be raised … But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back – 1 Corinthians 15: 20, 23

So whether we live or die, Jesus has an answer for us. Will we trust him?

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