I am not so sure Christians are very good at times “reading the room.”
Even Jesus Himself was challenged by His own mother to “read the room.”
Read the room Prime Minister
In October 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told ABC employees to “read the room.”
It was in response to the report that ABC employees voted to give themselves a pay rise during the coronavirus pandemic.
Staff at the national broadcaster had been urged to delay a 2 per cent increase for six months. Speaking on radio station 2GB, the Prime Minister was asked if workers at the national broadcaster should "read the room."
"I think so," Mr Morrison said.
Later, Morrison was confronted with this same retort as Indigenous cricketer Dan Christian took aim at the PM as Cricket Australia hit back amid the furore over cricket’s decision to dump the term ‘Australia Day’ for promotional purposes.
On the same day Anthony Mundine applauded Cricket Australia’s initiative and described Australia Day as “a dark, dark day”, cricketer Dan Christian hit back at Morrison on social media, telling him to “read the room.”
The wedding at Cana - Jesus’ first miracle or failure to “read the room?”
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroomand said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him (John chapter 2 verses 1-12).
Jesus read the room - or the miracle recorded as his first public sign would not have eventuated. I was challenged and floored by the version presented in the Bible series “The Chosen”, Episode 5, “The Wedding Gift.”
Mary goes to Cana to help Dinah, an old family friend, prepare for her son’s wedding. Simon, one of the disciples, goes home and tells his wife he has left his nets to follow Jesus; to his surprise, she is happy to hear this. Simon and Andrew join Jesus and the other disciples as they go to Cana to attend the wedding. The wedding runs out of wine, and Mary (his mother) desperately asks Jesus to intervene, essentially, to “read the room.”
Wedding feasts traditionally ran for days and it would be a public humiliation for the bride’s family to run out of wine. Jesus, after some initial resistance and response to His mother’s pleading, “Why are you telling me this?”, fulfills her request and changes some water to wine, knowing that He is now inaugurating the public part of His ministry.
It seems a strange way for Jesus to begin His public ministry, but it tells us a lot about “reading the room.” So often Christians are slow to respond and often very quick to judge. Maybe we would just tell our mother to “go buy some more”, “it’s not my job to provide the wine” or “well, it’s their own fault, they should have known we were big drinkers!”
And we get on with “doing good” and “being seen.”
Maybe we spend too much time trying to “work the room”, remaining popular with those around us, rather than reading the room.
We miss an opportunity.
As Jesus said in the Bible, “What does this have to do with me?”
Just being there and reading the room allows God to use us to be the people who help in a time of need.
My students would soon get the hint if they came to me in a time of need or concern or to give me some irrelevant information about their life or weekend and my response was, “Why are you telling me this?”
To be honest, I may not have said it out loud, but I know I’ve thought it! When has what a student said to me, or what THAT person in our circle of friends says, got anything to do with me?
We put aside our pride, our selfishness and show love, care, compassion and interest in those times of trying to understand the relevance of the information someone is giving us.
We see the heart.
We hear the voice of the one who at that point in time, needs someone like Jesus to acknowledge them, to see them, to hear them.
I acknowledge you and when I do that, I show those around me that Jesus sees them and God knows them.
We read the room. And miracles occur.
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin’s archive of previous article can be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html