The Art of Not Paying Attention

Not paying attention is a vital skill, if you happen to be right and everyone who tells you otherwise isn't.

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This is what not paying attention can feel like sometimes.

ILLUSTRATION: VIVIAN SEEFELD/FOTOLIA

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"But Jesus paid no attention to what they said." Mark 5:36.

Not paying attention has never been considered a virtue. It has been the downfall of many a student. But Jesus was constantly not paying attention. There are many who say the way to win is to be a "go-getter," but Jesus said, "The meek shall inherit the earth." Many have said the sword is the way to power, but Jesus said, "He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword." Many warned Him of the cross, but Jesus faced it and said, "I will draw all men unto me." Jesus had the fine art of paying no attention to vices that would get him off the straight path.

Our story illustrates this principal of Jesus. Jairus came to Him with a perplexing question. He tells Jesus that his little daughter is ill unto death and there is hope if Jesus comes immediately. And Jesus starts immediately.

But there is an interruption. Jesus stops to deal with a needy woman who has touched Him, and Jesus is so leisurely about it that Jairus becomes almost frantic. Then what Jairus feared, happened. Messengers came saying the girl was dead. These messengers seemed delighted in bringing bad news. Lots of people delight in doing just that. They said, "Why bother the master further." But the fatal news had no effect on Jesus. He paid no attention. He acted as though they had never spoken. He never stopped until he had changed death into life.

A good lesson in this story is that when we set out on a high quest, we may count on meeting with prophets of disaster. Abraham found that out. Moses had his trouble in the matter. Columbus met all the opposition. No one undertakes anything of significance without someone trying to discourage it.

What are we to do about that? We can hear them if we desire. If we do, we will either become half-hearted or quit altogether. There isn't anything so devastating as half-heartedness. A man said "The devil has my church, therefore I'm not going anymore." A good saint of the same church said to him, "He may have your pew. I never see you in it, but he hasn't mine yet." The trouble with the quitter was, he had not the fine art of not paying attention.

How can we help paying attention? Not by stopping our ears. You can shut your radio off, but if you have no radio you'll miss the good as well. In Genesis, we read, "God said," and "The serpent said." God and the serpent are still speaking. Only you can decide to which one you will pay attention.