This afternoon I'm cooking for the brethren. Given that I'm aware that there will be a formal dessert course to mark a special occasion, a certain dilemma arises. It's a small dilemma, but one that illustrates the form of many tensions and decisions in religious life.
My dilemma is this: In setting the table, do I set out the dessert forks in their proper place, knowing that I will be annoyed when the brethren use them for the salad, or do I, armed with this knowledge, reserve the dessert forks and provide them only once the dessert is served?
As in a great many dilemmas in religious life, the choice is between suffering for insisting on what's right, or compromising, 'working within the system' as they say, and thereby attempting to avoid aggravation and awkwardness.
Of course, different moments and situations call for different responses. The prophet Amos wouldn't have gotten much done as a pastor; after all, he was asked to resign after one sermon. On the other hand, it can be a terrible uncharity to be codependent on the voluntary faults of others or to be 'pastoral' in the pejorative sense of being nice and giving everybody what they think they want, as if God treats any of us that way.
Nevertheless, as meaningless as it is in any consideration of ultimate concern, in my dilemma about the dessert forks today I see the form of a multitude of struggles.