Archive for category Challenge
In 2 Chronicles 25 Amaziah, the king of Judah, went to battle against the people of Edom. God gave him a decisive victory over his enemy, and he returned home in triumph. But Amaziah did something strange and unexplainable. He took the idol gods of the people of Edom back to Jerusalem, set up altars to them and bowed down to worship them.
The scripture tells us that God’s anger was aroused against Amaziah. He sent a prophet to the king to rebuke him. “Why have you sought the gods of the people, which could not rescue their own people from your hand?” asked the prophet.
Seems kind of silly doesn’t it? Amaziah won a great victory over the people of Edom through the power of the one true God. Yet in his arrogant foolishness, he immediately turned away to other gods. Gods that could not even save their own people. Gods that were exposed as powerless frauds. Yet here was King Amaziah bowing before them.
We do the same, don’t we? The modern idols of money, fame, sex, power, and entertainment have been proven powerless to bring lasting happiness. Those who seek after these fraudulent gods find themselves living meaningless, empty lives. Yet we keep following after them, hoping somehow they will finally come through for us.
We, as followers of Christ, should know better. We serve a God who have proven over and over again that He is the one true God. We follow after a Savior who gave His own life for us. We trust in a Father who gave His own Son for us, promising to freely give us all things.
Yet we bow to the idols of this world. We drown in materialism while the poor suffer. We turn to marketing and scheming because we lack the power of the Holy Spirit. We watch a 3 hour football game, but couldn’t imagine spending 3 hours in prayer. We waste our time with meaningless entertainment when He has called us to so much more. We have settled for the futile lords of this world, while the God of the Universe patiently waits for our wayward hearts.
Hosea 2 is a message from a jealous Husband to His unfaithful wife. In spite of our wanderings, God speaks words of mercy to us,
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Will bring her into the wilderness,
And speak comfort to her.
I will give her her vineyards from there,
And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope;
She shall sing there,
As in the days of her youth,
As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.
God is calling to us.
He is calling us to get off our knees and to stop bowing to the gods of this world, gods that cannot satisfy, gods that cannot save. These worldly gods have never kept their promise to anyone who has followed after them, and they have let us down as well. But our jealous Husband is calling. He is alluring each of us to that wilderness place where He will speak words of comfort and words of hope.
I’m not much for quotes, but I think C.S. Lewis said it best in my favorite quote from his sermon “The Weight of Glory”:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
This is not some guilt trip. This is not a call to do more or be more for God out of religious obligation. That’s just more of the same. This is a call to lay down our idols and fall in love with the one who paid for our hearts with His life. This is a call to stop settling for too little. This is a call from a jealous Husband to His bride to come away and know the joy of His presence.
Will we answer His call?
In Luke 13 Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. He noticed a woman in the room who was bent over and could not straighten herself up, an ailment from which she had suffered for eighteen years. Jesus immediately had compassion on this precious woman, laid hands on her and said, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” In an instant, her crippled and broken body became whole.
A great miracle, right?
But instead of rejoicing, the ruler of the synagogue became indignant, because Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath. He said to the crowd that had gathered, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” His words reeked with cold-hearted judgment. Can’t you just feel his condescension and arrogance? This leader of the synagogue cared more about the technicalities of his legalistic system than he did about a woman who had suffered for eighteen years.
This is but one confrontation of many Jesus had with the Pharisees regarding healing the sick on the Sabbath. And to me, this is the essence of what it means to be a Pharisee. The leader looked right past a woman who had spent almost two decades in pain, blinded by his need to be right.
Just like the Pharisee that day, the church has allowed our need to uphold the law to leave us indifferent to the needs of people. How often have we focused on the sin, instead of the person? How often have we been so concerned with our own sense of right and wrong that we have ignored the suffering of an individual? How often have we also been blinded by our need to be right and our need to win?
The Pharisee saw a Sabbath, Jesus saw a precious woman who needed to be released from her pain. The Pharisee saw a law that was broken, Jesus saw a woman who was broken. The Pharisee saw the letter of the law, Jesus saw its heart.
It’s a matter of focus
All too often we focus on the sin and forget the person behind it. We condemn the abominable act and ignore the person who has struggled with feelings they cannot just ignore. We are indignant against the addiction and look past the suffering of a precious soul locked in a prison he cannot escape. We judge the behavior of the poor, never stopping to examine the dehumanizing effects of poverty.
Are we so blinded by our need to condemn sin that we forget who we are condemning? We are condemning people. It’s easy to pass judgment on a group. We can dismissively write people off when they are part of the faceless “them.” But what about individual people with hearts and feelings? We have fought political battles and drawn lines in the sand. We have created a culture of “us” against “them.” We have polarized ourselves into groups and separated ourselves from the ones who need His mercy the most.
Jesus didn’t see groups, He saw people. He didn’t condemn “adulterers,” instead He showed mercy to a woman who had been caught in the act. He didn’t dismiss “Sabbath violators,” he simply healed a woman who had suffered for eighteen years. He didn’t ignore a thief on the cross, but even in death had compassion on a repentant soul.
We are called to love
I think many feel to simply love another without judgment somehow makes them guilty of approving of the person’s sin. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The fact is, they are sinning against God, not us. And He is more than able to hold them accountable for their actions. When they stand before their maker, they will have no excuse. Besides, Jesus was accused of being easy on sin as well.
We seem to feel the need to confront evil. So did Jesus. He confronted the evil of arrogant, hypocritical condemnation and judgment. He confronted the Pharisees and the evil of their adherence to law at the expense of mercy. He regularly confronted those who placed their own need to be right ahead of the needs of others to be healed.
Jesus called us, by His words and actions, to love the sinner and have compassion on the outcast. There were no qualifications. There were no conditions. Mercy trumps judgment. Grace overcomes condemnation. Jesus heals, no matter what the law says.
The Pharisee sees sinners in need of judgment. Jesus sees sinners in need of redemption.
What do we see?
He knew all the rules.
The young man who approached Jesus on the road had kept all the commandments since he was young. He had done all that was required of him by his religion. Yet he knew there was something missing. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he knew that simply keeping the law would not alone bring eternal life. Otherwise, why would he have approached Jesus and asked him “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
As their brief encounter concluded, Mark 10:21 tells us, “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.'”
Jesus looked at him.
He did more than give the young man a pat answer or a generic response. Jesus looked at him. He saw through the law-abiding citizen to the heart of the man. Everyone else saw a good boy who kept all the rules and did what he was supposed to do. But Jesus saw what held that young man’s heart. His gaze pierced the veil of outward righteousness and exposed the inward idolatry.
All of us have something that we are unwilling to give up. Perhaps, like the young rich man, it is money or wealth. Or maybe it’s the approval of others or a relationship. It could be security, standing in the community, or friends. In spite of all the good we have done, Jesus looks at our heart and sees what possesses us and prevents us from treasure in heaven.
Jesus didn’t ask that young man to give away all his possessions because He wanted him to be miserable. It was with a heart of love that Jesus asked him to divest himself of what ultimately could not satisfy.
It is in our own best interest to lose everything, that we may win Christ. Paul knew this when, in Philippians 3 he said, “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Paul knew that, ultimately, giving up everything for Christ is the only thing that satisfies, and that it is the only way to inherit what that young man so desperately desired: eternal life. And it was with a heart of love that Jesus asked him to give up everything. In the words of the late missionary Jim Elliott, Jesus called him to give up what he could not keep, that he might gain what he could not lose.
And said to him…
Jesus doesn’t leave us to wonder. In His loving yet firm voice, He tells us exactly what we need to do. There is no mystery. There is no uncertainty. We have all heard the voice of His Spirit, leading us in the way we should go. We all know what is keeping us from following Him like we should. I think we all, deep inside, know what holds our hearts.
Will we, like that young man who approached Jesus on the road, walk away with sadness? Will we refuse to give up that to which we cling so dearly? Will we allow our lovers to sway us from the One who loves us most?
Or will we sell our possessions, stop allowing them to possess us, and find what we so desperately seek?
They didn’t get it.
They thought they knew the scripture. After all, they were experts in the scripture; why wouldn’t they understand what it said about the Messiah? Yet for all their expertise, all their knowledge of the Jewish Bible, they missed it. The words were right there in front of them. In fact, they probably knew them by heart, and yet they did not understand.
He was born in a way they did not expect. He lived in a way they could not understand. He even died at their own hands, the hands of those who should have seen and heralded His coming. Their dogma let them down. Their certainty became their blinders.
The great weakness of the Pharisees was their arrogance. They were convinced they knew exactly what the scripture promised. They doggedly held on to their preconceptions, doctrines and dogmas even in the face of the miracles Jesus performed. They saw what He did and heard what He said, but could not make the connection between the prophecies and their fulfillment.
They thought they had God all figured out. They thought they had the Master of the Universe in a box. They thought they had an intellectual and spiritual handle on the God who Himself claimed “My thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and My ways are higher than your ways.”
Perhaps we are not as smart as we think we are.
We all seem so certain of our doctrine. We have divided off into groups, sure of our own take on the truth. We have argued and fought with those who disagree with us. We justify the mistreatment of those we don’t understand, just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day oversaw the elimination of the One who wouldn’t play by their rules. Our rules and doctrines have, just like 2,000 years ago, become more important than people.
But what if our understanding of the scripture is clouded by our own preconceptions? What if, like the Pharisees, we are so settled in our arrogant self-assurance that we cannot see the simple truth in front of our faces?
It’s not that complicated.
Jesus didn’t spend much of His time on doctrine. I believe this was intentional. Those around Him, the religious leaders of the day, seemed to have a corner on that market. Jesus doctrine was pretty simple. In fact, I believe it can be focused down to one word: love. “A new commandment I give to you,” He told His disciples, “that you love one another, as I have loved you.” Simple. No complicated system of theology. Just love others in the way He loved us.
So how did He love us?
He loved us before we loved Him. His love extended to those who didn’t agree with Him, didn’t believe in Him, even those who nailed Him to the cross. He loved those who fought against Him and tried to eliminate Him. He loves regardless of whether His love is returned.
He loved us unconditionally. There were no requirements to be met before we could experience His grace. He offers it freely to anyone, regardless of what they do, where they are, or where they have been. There are no prerequisites, no demands, no qualifications on His love.
He loved us lavishly. “How great a love has the Father bestowed on us, that we should be called His sons?” He did more than forgive. He did more than forget. He restored us, cleaned us up, and adopted us as His very children.
I could go on. The list could fill this whole blog of ways that Christ has loved us. How do we measure up? Do we love sinners mercifully, unconditionally and freely? He did not say the world would know we are His disciples by our correct position on the nature of the sacraments or our eschatology. He said they would know we are his followers by how we love. Perhaps that’s why the world doesn’t really feel they need Christianity any longer.
There is truth.
This is not some postmodern rant against absolute truth. This is not an attack on doctrine. The truth of scripture can be known as it is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. But that truth should be held delicately. Our understanding of the truth must be tempered by humility and an understanding of our own frailty. Otherwise, truth turns into a weapon. Christians in the middle ages thought they were justified in burning witches at the stake. Christians in the 50’s thought the Bible condoned burning crosses on the lawns of black men.
What don’t we understand?
In 2 Timothy 4, Paul gave Timothy a warning about the church,
You don’t have to look very far to see that happening these days. Everywhere you look there is another book, another sermon, another song or message or article. We have become a people who are addicted to encouragement. In our fast paced society of the immediate, we become quickly bored with the familiar and are in constant search for something new and different. It’s like we are constantly hitting “check mail” on our spiritual inbox, hoping for the next big thing to hit and excite us.
A recent study by the World Health Organization revealed that those from the richer countries were more likely to suffer depression. Maybe our wealth and comfort have made us depressed, so we go searching for the next bit of good news, hoping it will lift our spirits.
The promise of “more” – more stuff, more money and more comfort – has left us with less.
We have less time, less connection, less happiness than ever. One of the things that hits me hardest when I visit developing nations is their joy. In spite of extreme poverty, they overflow with joy and love and generosity. I believe this is because they know what is important.
In our pursuit of more we have forsaken our time with God. We don’t pray that much and don’t study His word that much. We have lost communication with Him and with one another. And instead of getting our priorities straight and reordering our lives, we have simply let others do the work. We let the pastor study God’s word and bring the message on Sunday. “Just give me my 3 points to a better life.” We are just like the Israelites who saw the mountain burning and felt the earth tremble at the voice of Yahweh. “Moses, you go hear from God and come back and tell us what He says,” was their response.
Look, I’m not bashing anyone. I know life is hard and we all need help. And I’m not saying we don’t need pastors and encouragement. But the answers are not just around the corner in some new teaching. The answers to life’s problems are where they have always been found. They are in a deeper connection with Jesus and with each other.
You want 3 points? Here they are:
1. Spend whatever time with God you must. Reorder your life. Give some things up. Your idols have promised you happiness and left you empty. Only He can satisfy. So take the time to drink deeply of His water and let it quench your thirst. Other things will grow strangely dissatisfying when you taste of His goodness. Like the late missionary Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
2. Live in community with others. Our modern church culture has made it possible for us to show up on Sunday morning, do our duty, and never have to make ourselves vulnerable to others. Find a small community of believers and live life together. Depression can be the only alternative when we are cut off from others and left to fend for ourselves. You must be joined with others who know you, love you, challenge you, and accept you unconditionally. It’s out there. Don’t give up until you find it.
3. Stop searching for more. I think this is a big reason Christians in poverty seem to have so much joy in spite of their situation. They don’t expect more all the time. They have learned to be content, even in extreme poverty. They are thankful for what they have instead of always reaching for the “elusive next.” Be content. Be thankful. Rejoice in what God has already done in your life, and submit the rest to Him. He knows what is best, and your steps are ordered by Him.
These are just 3 points. They are not the only 3 points. They do not replace hearing directly from God about your life and your direction. I’m not bringing the stone tablets down from the mountain here. That’s your job. That’s the whole point. God wants to deal directly with you. You don’t have to go through a preacher, an author or any other middleman.
Are you willing to listen?
I got a question from someone who read one of my recent posts called “I’m going AWOL.” I thought his question was a good one, it made me think a little and pray a lot about my answer. And I think it’s an important enough issue to answer his question publicly and give all the readers of this blog a chance to be in on the conversation. (By the way, he actually agrees with me, so I’m not “calling him out” publicly or anything.)
Here’s his question:
In the epistle to the Ephesians is written: “and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of the darkness, but rather reprove them.” (Ephesians 5:11 KJV) That “reprove them” could mean that we as God’s children are entitled and exhorted to confront the ungodly in his/her unrighteousness?
I gave him my short answer on the blog post, but here is the more complete answer. As always, I’d love to hear from anyone on your thoughts as well.
The first thing that strikes me about this scripture in Ephesians is that it refers to the “unfruitful works of darkness,” not the “unfruitful workers of darkness.” The focus is on the sinful acts, not those who commit them. It seems to me, our focus these days is more on the sinners around us than the grace of God that has freed us from the bondage to sin. This idea of “taking a stand for God” has consumed us, and has only served to erect a wall between God and those who need Him most.
It’s me that has to change
The next thing about this scripture is that word “fellowship.” My study shows it would probably be better translated as “participate in.” This is an encouragement to believers not to participate in the works of darkness that are practiced by those in the world around them. “Don’t live like them, don’t behave like them. You have been redeemed by Christ, everything should have changed. Desires, focus, passions should be directed toward Christ and not pleasing yourself.”
This is not a fight
Then there’s that word “reprove.” Again, I think a better translation would be “expose.” I don’t think this is an invitation to do what we’ve done many times. It’s not permission for us to fight and picket and protest those with whom we disagree. It’s not an encouragement for us to point our bony fingers of judgment at others. Rather, I think it is a challenge for us to live our lives in such a way that, by contrast, the works of darkness around us will be exposed for the evil they are. By doing so, we earn the right to speak into the lives of others. When we live lives ruled by love, not judgment, those around us become much more receptive to what we have to say.
The bottom line
Look, I know we are called to “come out from among them and do not touch the unclean thing.” But that command has nothing to do with “them”, it has everything to do with me. I do not have to shake my fist at the world. I just stop acting like them. I don’t have to point out the sin in those around me, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job.
The weapons of our warfare are not of this earth. Our enemy is not of this earth. Our battle is not with the sinners, the gays, the atheists or anyone else. We belong to the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s a Kingdom that has no end. And it’s a Kingdom that aims to change me first. It’s a Kingdom that requires me to lay down my life, my dreams, and my hopes before its King. It requires me to start with my own planks, not their splinters.
The path of love is a slower, more deliberate pace. It’s a journey, not a sprint. It’s a lifestyle, not a marketing ploy. It takes commitment, patience, and…well…love.
If it is a battle, and we’re going to fight against the sin around us, I think love and mercy are much more effective weapons anyway.
Maybe that’s why Jesus used them.
Jesus met a man on the Sabbath who needed healing. The Pharisees gathered around Him to see if He would dare violate their rules in order to have mercy on a poor, suffering soul. He looked with sadness at the hardness of their hearts, then healed the man. He dared.
“Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.” Mark 3:6
There are two institutions that are directly opposed to the work of Jesus and His kingdom: Religion and government. The kingdom of God is the most subversive movement in the history of mankind, because it stands as a threat to both.
Most of us know the Pharisees, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. These leaders were so immersed in their own religion, so intoxicated by their own power over others, that Jesus’ work was viewed by them as a direct threat. Why? Because He operated outside of the neat little box in which they had placed God. THEY were the experts in who God was and how He worked. THEY were the voice of right and wrong, based on their own interpretation of the rules. Jesus didn’t operate with deference to their authority. He healed on the Sabbath, spoke words of mercy to the sinners, and had the audacity to forgive sins.
Many of us may not know the Herodians. Little is know of this group, other than the fact that they were a religious sect and political party. It is thought that they used support of Herod as a means to usher in theocracy. Some scholars think they even presented Herod as the Messiah in order to establish his political power. Jesus’ pure teaching about the Kingdom of God would have stood in direct opposition to their political aspirations.
The Kingdom, it turns out, is a threat to just about everyone.
Those who operate in the Kingdom seek humility and not power. Those who live in the kingdom serve the poor instead of sucking up to the rich. Those who live in the Kingdom experience the freedom of the Spirit instead of the rules of religion. Those whose hearts are consumed by Jesus seek His glory and not their own. The Sermon on the Mount is the most religiously and politically revolutionary teaching in history because it places the Kingdom of God directly in my heart, and outside the influence of religion or political authority.
Both religion and politics are threatened by Christ’s teaching. But there is nothing more dangerous to the Kingdom than when the two combine together. There can only be one end to the mixing of politics and religion, and that is death to Jesus. Entanglement with religion, politics, or both simply chokes out the true work of Christ. And just like the Pharisees and Herodians, those who choose His Kingdom choose to operate outside the scope of either, and dissidents must be eliminated. In the early days of the church, these two groups joined forces to kill the followers of Jesus, just like they did Him. Jesus’ warning, “They hated Me and they will hate you too” turned out to be deadly accurate.
And so it is today.
Those who choose not to submit to religion are deemed troublemakers. Those who choose to ignore the political climate of the day are labeled as liberals. Those who seek the Kingdom instead of earthly power or wealth are viewed as irresponsible.
The problem with the world today will not be fixed by more religion or more law. It won’t be fixed by a political or Herodian messiah. And it certainly won’t be fixed by a mixture of the two. The problems that surround us will only be repaired when those who follow Christ understand that the Kingdom He established transcends religion, government, and any other contrivance of man. His Kingdom on earth is not established at His return. It was established at His resurrection, then turned over to His body the church to fill the whole earth.
How could a Kingdom whose sole commandment was to love on another become so filled with condemnation and judgment? How could a Kingdom whose sole duty is care for the poor so abdicate our calling? It is because we have forsaken that Kingdom for our own.
Until His people abandon the ways of religion and government in favor of the personal, simple, revolutionary life of the Kingdom, we’ll just see more of the same. And the church of Jesus Christ will continue its slide into irrelevance and contempt in the world around us.
I have a theory as to why video games like “Call of Duty” are so popular these days. I believe all of us, especially men, are created with a desire to conquer. It is an innate desire to overcome evil, to defeat enemies, to be the hero.
Video games offer a chance to get the satisfaction of conquering, the feeling of accomplishment, without any real risk. I can defeat the enemy without having to really fear for my life. I can become the hero without having to chance anything real. The greatest real danger I face in a video game is carpal tunnel syndrome.
I think the same can be said for social media. We were created with a need for community. In the Garden of Eden God said of man, “It is not good for him to be alone.” We are wired for connection, for fellowship, for intimacy. Social media provides the chance for me to find community, again without any real risk. I don’t have to make myself vulnerable on Facebook. I don’t have to uncover anything about myself I wish to keep hidden. I don’t have to look someone in the face and reveal who I really am. I can have lots of friends, yet lack a single friendship.
Entertainment, pornography, shopping: all are counterfeits meant to give us a certain feeling without responsibility. I get a temporary emotional high, yet I haven’t had to open myself to inspection by another human being, or by God.
I think our modern model of “church” has created this same isolation and lack of vulnerability.
We go to a building with several hundred (or thousand) other lonely souls, sit in a pew, listen to a sermon. The whole time, no one has to know I’m suffering. No one has to know that I’m depressed, or that my marriage is falling apart. We get the spiritual satisfaction without the real vulnerability to which Christ has called us. We can hide in a big church, we can’t hide in a small group of real community.
There is a real world out there, with real problems. It is in need of real people with real solutions. The world doesn’t need counterfeit conquerers, it needs real warriors. The poor don’t need fake help, they need real people who are willing to lay down their lives on their behalf. The broken and wounded all around us don’t need institutional church, they need real people, serving a real God with real answers.
God intimately knows everything about me, and has redeemed me anyway. He is my Father, He is my protector, He is my power. I no longer need to fear enemies. I no longer need to hide behind a false face. I can be real, because I serve a real God who is on my side no matter what.
Let’s put down the fake. We’ve settled for second best for far too long. Let’s quit seeking those false emotional highs. Let’s allow God to ground our feet in reality, becoming His ambassadors to the world around us.
Let’s start building a real kingdom.
In case you hadn’t heard, there is a culture war raging around us these days. Orthodox vs. Secular. Conservative vs. Progressive. Call it what you will, we see two distinct world views battling it out in the court of public opinion. And this culture war has tainted almost every area of our society: our news media, politics and, yes, Christianity.
There are certainly elements of the Christian world who feel it is their God-ordained duty to fight the culture war. They see America abandoning the “Christian values” they believe have guided our nation since its inception, and are committed to fighting to preserve those values. They organize and protest, criticize and argue with those whom they feel are leading the nation astray. I say these words with great care, because for most of my life I have belonged to this group.
On the other side of the table are Christians who equally love God, yet equally fight the culture war in a different way. They too have a list of morals and ideals they see as eroding, and they blame the “religious right” for leading America down a path of destruction. Again, I say this with caution and respect, because I have good friends who fall into this group.
Sure, my descriptions are over-simplified and excessively broad. But they are sufficient for me to make my point. Actually, it’s more of a question (or series of questions.)
When did God ever call us to fight a culture war?
When did He ever ask us to defend Him to the world around us? When did God tell us to argue and protest and defend our position? When did He tell us to marginalize and demonize those with whom we disagree?
Even if we think they are ruining our culture and even if we are convinced the other side is destroying America, where did we ever get the idea that we were to engage in a culture war to defend our beliefs, morals, and traditions? Have we become so engulfed in politics that we cannot separate them from our faith in Christ?
And since when was Christianity ever intended to become a culture in the first place? It seems to me it happened about the same time the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion. Since that day Christianity has enjoyed a place of cultural and political power that has been relatively unchallenged. And even when questioned, it wielded enough influence to quickly eliminate its detractors. This marriage of politics and religion has been a long time in the making.
So here we are. The gospel of our Lord Jesus has been reduced to a series of rules and regulations. The good news of God’s grace on sinful man has been tarnished by our lack of grace for one another. The One who spent His whole life on earth criticizing religion has become the foundation of yet another religion. We fight and argue, criticize and divide. And we do it all in the name of the One who said, “they will know you are my disciples by your love.”
If there is any culture at all to Christianity, it is love.
If there is any moral ethic which we should strive to uphold, it is love. Mercy, grace, forgiveness…all can be summed up in that one word, love. Yet our culture war is the antithesis of love. It’s hard to love someone when you are telling them they are ruining the world. It’s hard to love someone when you constantly criticize their deeply held values. It’s hard for them to feel loved when they are always wrong and you are always right.
What have we gained? Have we really changed anything? It seems to me all we have accomplished is driving a wedge between God and those we think need Him most. Most people probably wouldn’t have a problem with Jesus if they didn’t feel so beaten down by His followers.
So I quit. I’m going AWOL. I’m resigning my post in the culture war. I will no longer fight against flesh and blood, doing battle with those who are not my enemies. If there is warfare to be waged, I will fight it in prayer. And I will love those with whom I disagree. I will be merciful to those who I think have gone astray. I will leave the culture up to the one who transcends nationality, creed, culture and tradition.
He is big enough to defend Himself anyway.
Most of what I have always considered to be humility is really pride, masquerading as self-hatred.
I look at my life, see my sin and my failure, and I hate myself for it. I stand before God and run myself down, telling Him how worthless I truly am, thinking I am being humble before God. True humility, however, is not self-hatred. Humility is not a self-deprecating criticism of ourselves. That is really pride, the opposite of humility.
We must look to Jesus if we are to see true humility, since He is our ultimate example.
He was God, yet He became man. He was authorita- tive, yet a servant. He was powerful, yet gentle and kind. He was glorious, yet He made Himself unassuming. His example, then, shows us that true humility is in laying aside what our position or stature deserves.
To be humble means to follow the example of Christ, laid out for us in Philippians 2, to take ourselves off the throne and serve rather than be served. Humility is laying down our rights and what is coming to us. Humility is not hating who we are; it is knowing who we are. It is choosing to serve: to serve God’s ways rather than ours, and to serve man rather than our own selfishness. To be humble means we use our authority as a means to serve. To be humble means we use our power to protect and defend. To be humble means we use our resources to provide for others instead of gratifying ourselves. In humility we see our lives as existing to serve God and others instead of ourselves.
Surely I look at my own failures and sin, and I am sorrowful over my rebellion. However it must be the Godly sorrow that leads to life instead of the earthly sorrow that leads to death. The prophet Micah worded it beautifully, “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God?…Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
Godly sorrow will not lead me to hate myself, for that only leads to depression and death.
That self-hatred only keeps me on the throne and at the center of my consciousness. Self-hatred and pride are twins, for they both keep “me” in the front and center. Micah continues with the answer to his question,
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
This is humility in its purest form: not some great penance to absolve me of my mountainous iniquity, not living in self-hatred, not flogging myself either physically or spiritually. True humility takes “me” off the throne and out of the equation altogether. I no longer focus on my sin, my failure or weakness, for I am no longer the issue. I live to serve, not to be served. I live to forgive, not to be forgiven. I live to show mercy, not to be shown mercy. I live to love, not to be loved. I live to comfort, not to be comforted. I live to give, not to be given to.
Then and only then do I cease from the selfishness of self-hatred and begin to live in the Christ- like way of true humility. Ultimately, humility results in my death, in laying down my life for others just like Jesus did for me.
This post is an excerpt from my book “The Church Must Die”, available on Amazon.com.