"but what abouts…"

blog what aboutstoday i am guest lecturing in two classes at asuza pacific university on down we go: living into the wild ways of Jesus.  it’s pretty fun that they’ve used it as a class textbook this semester, and i’m really interested to hear more about what it stirred up.

when i was reflecting today on this past week and the crazy divide on issues like abortion & homosexuality & poverty & health care & economics, the one thing i know i want to somehow emphasize is this–love has always been dangerous and if we’re not careful, the “but what abouts” will always stop us from it.   

i can think of example after example after example in the Bible where the pharisees and keeper-of-the-laws were looking for technicalities, saying to Jesus, “but, what about…”

“but what about healing on the sabbath?” (luke 6:6-11)

“but what about her sin?” (luke 7:39)

“but what about his authority to heal?” (mark 2:6)

“but what about eating with sinners and tax collectors?” (mark 2:13-17)

“but what about sin, it had to come from somewhere?”  (john 9:13-34)

“but God doesn’t listen to sinners!”  (john 9:31)

but what about…but what about…but what about…

i’m not saying we should never explore these kinds of “but what about’s” in our faith.   the bible says all kinds of tricky things that we should wrestle with.

but my bigger question is: how have we hidden behind our certain interpretations so that we didn’t have to love? 

how have we let our “but what abouts” keep us separated from others, feeling like we are better because we have truth on our side? 

how have we used our “but what abouts” to keep us more comfortable, more divided & segregated? 

i love my friend rachelle mee-chapman’s post this week called be dangerously compassionate. it is dangerous to be compassionate.  Jesus took an awful lot of hits for it in his time here on earth.

and those who say “i’ll error on mercy instead of judgment” are still taking hits from fellow brothers & sisters in Christ for the same reason.

i think humanity likes its easy divides.  the rich, the poor, the right, the wrong, the truth, the lies, the in, the out, the black, the white. we like these categories because they keep things clear, certain, defined.

and in a lot of circles, grey is dangerous.

when i look at all of the interactions the pharisees had with Jesus, almost every one of them from a pharisee was a call to black & white.

but Jesus spoke in greys and called us to something dangerous.  radical.  nuts.  crazy. wild.

yeah, this kind of love is dangerous.

it’s the kind of love that defies logic, lays down stones and looks at our own logs, errors on mercy & grace instead of the law, offers compassion instead of judgment, inclusion instead of exclusion, cold water instead of pointed fingers.

this kind of love takes the “but what about’s” and puts them in their proper place–where God worries about them instead of us.

it makes me think of something i heard that billy graham said and my dear friend mike often repeats:  “it’s God’s job to judge, the holy spirit’s job to convict, and my job to love.”

i always say that as Christ-followers we should be known as the most wild, crazy, risk-takers, and lovers-of-people in town (wouldn’t that be a much better description of us to be known by than what we tend to be?).

i’m pretty sure it’s impossible to be radical lovers if we are always asking “but what about…”

we will take flak for love.

we will be called unclean.

we will be called unbiblical.

we will be called slope-slippers.

we will be called heretics.

but that’s okay, when i look at this list–Jesus was, too.

but what about that?



Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • wow.
    this: how have we let our “but what abouts” keep us separated from others, feeling like we are better because we have truth on our side?
    I think I might get stuck on that one all day. (as a side note, I am an APU alum and I think it is so great that you are lecturing there! a little jealous that I’m not in the class. :))

  • I have to admit that I’ve been far more comfortable with being “right” than being compassionate. I am too quick to judge, too quick to challenge, and not so eager to understand. How do you love the person without sanctioning the “wrong?”

    • thanks catherine. i love being “right” 🙂 and i keep asking and praying and hoping for the ability to ask questions and gain understanding. it’s extra hard for me with certain groups, and easier with others. the hard ones are where i probably need to spend the most time but usually don’t want to, ha ha.

  • Those are the questions the Pharisees, those who suppose themselves to be “religious authorities” ask. We choose not to run in those circles. I can’t think of the last time anyone other than those kind of people asked us any of those or similar questions.

    My “what about: questions have to so with people I find really irritating (thankfully there are very few), people who really dislike me (again, very few that I know of) and people who I know are just trying to use me. Nevertheless, I wish none of them any harm and love each of them. Huh! A revelation for me! I just thought of who would be on each of those three lists. It’s pretty much the same people. Now I have something to think about.

  • “this kind of love takes the “but what about’s” and puts them in their proper place–where God worries about them instead of us.” I can’t tell you how healing this is. I’ve taken a beating this week on this. Thank you for the gentle, good, truthful reminder. So encouragin.

  • That is helpful Kathy – thank you. I recall a similar theme in your book talking about power and the power only ever being of the Holy Spirit, we can’t expect to control people, or indeed be controlled. And the thing about surrendering power that you talk of is helpful too. What a challenge when the natural instinct is have status, control etc!

    I guess the other extreme from speaking out thinking we have truth that others need to adhere to is to never have a voice out of fear that we may speak out and either not be listened to or face rejection.

    So it was reassuring for you to write that this is OK, it is what Jesus faced too.

    I’m curious as to how things can get to the point of being pharisaic like in order to guard against that and to be aware of the challenges and difficulties faced. It is natural, is it not, to adhere to those we respect. My understanding is that rather than having the benefit of hindsight that we have, the pharisees would have been held in high regard, and what they say adhered to.

    I remeber you writing one time Kathy of leaders having sprinkled their “fairy dust”. I guess the challenge we face if we are leaders, with theology degrees, or in some other position of privelidge is not to get so caught up with a celebrity kind of following we have that we mistake our own “fairy dust” for truth. And where we are followers to keep in mind to be discerning of those in authority.

    My understanding also is that we all naturally are inclined to want to belong. When we bear in mind what you are saying Kathy about taking flak, being called unclean etc we are aware that we would face difficulty if we are to choose to swim against the tide so to speak. But if we don’t do that, who will?


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