Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Be Careful Little Hands What You Say

I was wondering what to write about today, when I just came across an article and comments on Facebook that pretty much decided it for me. The article is here, feel free to read it or not. I am not endorsing it. In fact I almost didn't link it, but figured having the example available would be more useful than not.

Now, what bothers me is not what the article is about. When a government is confronted with an enemy that recognizes nothing but force, then force is necessary. What bugged me about the article was the sense of what I can only describe as glee in the tone of the article. It just did not make sense to me, especially from what (and I am assuming here based on the context of the article), is a writer who considers themselves a Christian.

That is not the part that really got to me though. You see, the article was linked up on Facebook, and had just over 1,000 comments.

The comments...oh my...the comments...

Never have I seen so much seething hatred as in internet comments. The level of it actually took me by surprise. The level of vitriol really, really disturbed me because, just by the law of averages, a large number of those comments had to have come from people who consider themselves Christians.

A representative sample (from what I can tell), copy-pasted directly from the comments:

These demons must be killed ..good job kenya soldiers!!

About freakin time , kill em all , Let GOD sort it out ! rid the world of this terrible plague !

Cant we all just get along??? go meet your false god. Great job Kenya.

Good! Do it again and again and again. I'll send ammo!

These men know what to do to pig haters,now they will feed their bodies to wild hogs Huh?

They love the smell of rotting muslim flesh in the morning.

The hatred and revenge-driven actions endorsed here are sick. God help you all if you think mass murdering is ever ever a good idea.

This makes us just as bad. I don't like the radicals obviously but why would we send them the message of us basically saying "hey we are Christian and you killed other Christians so now we kill you in the name of our religion." Almost hypocritical if you ask me.

they cut off one christian head or anyones head we should be able to kill 1000 muslims

It's about time we start standing up for ourselves.I won't turn the other cheek to evil people!

Like I said, this seems to be a pretty representative example. Actually I threw an extra non-hatey one in there, just to try and even it out just a little. As you can see, though, hatred reigns supreme in the comments.

Now, let me be clear. The Bible does condone governments protecting its citizens in Romans 13. In fact in verse 4 it reads "For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer." All over the Old Testament as well we see examples of God using nations as a whole to punish those who's sin have overflowed and those who do extreme wrong. Evil left on its own destroys all, so it would seem that God made a plan to deal with it before it got a chance to do so.

Furthermore, there is nothing unbiblical about rejoicing at your enemy's defeat. David wrote several psalms about it. In Revelation the saints wait to rejoice at God's triumph over evil. Israel rejoices in the Old Testament when they defeat those who would destroy them. It is OK to be glad that those who would harm you and others can no longer do so.

That being said, there is no excuse for spewing hatred. None.

Do not think this is a small thing. If, as a Christian you are saying these things, consider what it looks like to those outside the church. We have enough problems already with the world claiming that we are nothing but bigoted hate-mongers. Why give them more ammunition? It makes no sense. Furthermore, in Matthew 12:34-36 Jesus Himself says, 
"For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
He also says (if you read the Gospels), to hate no one, to love all, to be kind to your enemies, and to pray for those who persecute and misuse you. Hating and denouncing and putting down and destroying your persecutors is not your job. It is (dare I say it?) the government's, at least according to Paul.

I can already hear the rationalizations now: 
"But what if the government doesn't do it?!"
"I didn't really mean it, I was just venting!"
Or perhaps worst of all "I don't agree with that, so I'll just ignore it."

You cannot afford to ignore it.

Do not let your emotions get the better of you. Do not let your political affiliation get the better of you. You must master your reaction to news and events if you are to show yourself as an ambassador of Christ. This is not an option.

Yes, rejoice when your oppressor is destroyed. Give glory to God that He has rescued those who He rescues. But do not, DO NOT, spew hatred and call it rejoicing. When you react, consider your reaction, and whether or not it is a Christ-like one to have. If it is not, you need repentance and forgiveness. If it is, you are one more step toward being like the Christ you claim to follow.

And truly, isn't that what we are all after in the end?

We need a change. And the time is now. Let's start moving there together, and encourage others to do the same.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


[Edited out the initial paragraphs. Upon further research there is more to it, so they were taken out.]

In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Brave Sir Robin is the knight of cowardice. He prances around with minstrels who sing his praises and puts on an arrogant face pretending to be brave. It is obvious to all, however, that he is trying to make up for something he does not have: courage. 

We live in a world run by Brave Sir Robins, and we need to be ready and willing to take it on wherever we find it. If you look past the blustering, the insults, the pomp and circumstance, past the bragging and past the double-talk, you find it lurking there in the background, directing the actions and words of far more people than you think of at first glance.

You can find it in the despots and tyrants of North Korea, Venezuela, and others, grasping onto their tenuous hold on power with all they have, terrified of what might happen if they let the reins of freedom loose even an inch.

You can find it in the weak-willed citizens of so many parts of Europe, scared to stand up for any sort of absolute truth or rightness.

You can find it in Christians all over America, afraid to tell others of Christ for fear of alienating others or hurting their relationships.

You can find it in the halls of Congress, with "leaders" who are too skittish to even vote on a bill not on the merits of it, but because they are afraid they might make someone angry or upset.

So many problems in the world today could be solved if we would dig out the cowardice in our lives, and resolve to face it head on.

To the father who is afraid to show any emotion to his children, fearing his own weakness, wake up. Your children need to know that you are human and that having feelings is not a bad thing. If you are too afraid to confront yourself on your own, get help doing it.

To the mother afraid she will never be what her children need her to be, it is time to lay down that burden and realize that God has given you your children for a reason. He knows what you have to give and will empower you to do so, if only you will trust in Him.

To the Christian worried about alienating a friend or making a relationship awkward, it is not your call to make. God desires all to be His children. You may be the very one He uses to bring that person to Christ. Follow Him, and He will provide. Even if it ends poorly with you, at least you had the love to overcome the fear and try.

We all face fear. We all have moments where we are cowards. We are human.

But we do not have to remain cowards. We can dig down to the root of our fear, accept that it is there, and move forward anyway. You can do it. God will help you if you will open yourself to Him.

My wife has a long-time favorite quote:
"Courage is not the absence of fear, but the knowledge that something is more important that fear."

Realize that there are truly things more important than the fear you face. For us to waste ourselves away in cowardice benefits no one, especially ourselves and those closest to us.

Stand up.

Be strong.

Trust God.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Feeling Bad Isn't Bad

There is a waning (but still far too prevalent) line of thought among Christians. This is the line of thought that says Christians should never feel bad or let others know they are feeling bad. They should always be happy or pleasant and never worry about anything. This goes doubly for anyone in a elder/deacon/preaching/leadership capacity.

So let's just get this out there right now. That line of thought is completely and utterly incorrect.

If life was always fine, if we always felt good, why would we be called to pray for each other, encourage each other, and sacrifice our time and talents for one another? It would make no sense. And yet we go around on Sunday morning saying how great things are, that everything is good, and life is wonderful.

And usually, the ones we put the biggest pressure on to "be okay," or in expecting our lives to be great, is ourselves.

Call it the Facebook effect, or the Pinterest effect or whatever else you desire, the result is still the same. It is really nothing new, just magnified from what it used to be. There was a time when having the "perfect life" meant looking like Leave it to Beaver. Now it looks like making Cookie Monster cupcakes while jet skiing in your new above-ground pool you built from the bamboo you grew in your backyard in a bed of renewable soil made out of recycled plastic bags.

See? Magnified.

Unfortunately, when we make the decision that our happiness should look like their happiness, we end up not being very happy at all. We hold ourselves to an impossible standard, and then we get discouraged when things turn out like this:

And so the cycle begins like this: 
Churchgoer A really is having a good run in life. Everything is looking up.
Churchgoer B is having a bit of a rough spot, but wants to look like A so they fake it.
Churchgoer C is in a bad place, but feels worse because they don't look like A or B, so they fake it and stew in a run of self-defeating lies about how they need to be happier.
Churchgoer D is broken, and feels they have no one to turn to because everyone else is happy, so why shouldn't they be? So they fake it, feeling worse and worse because they feel like they are living a lie.

Then the cycle continues like this.
Churchgoer A's good run comes to a screeching halt, and life derails. Everyone else is "happy" though, so they decide they just need to tough it out.
Churchgoer B's life gets a bit better, and they wonder why God allowed that particular trial to come into their life.
Churchgoer C has spiraled into a very bad spot in life, and wonder why no one has come to encourage or rescue them from it.
Churchgoer D has decided the church isn't where they are going to get any help, so they leave to look for greener pastures.

How different would the above scenarios look if these people had been honest with each other. If they had been open and honest about the struggles, sins, and difficulties they had faced? If they had chosen honesty and humility instead of fake happy lies, there could have been help, encouragement, and healing. Perhaps they would have even been able to see God use the trials they were facing in order to help those around them, giving purpose to all the things they went through.

Now I am not saying that every tiny thing that throws us off course the tiniest bit should be brought up in every conversation. If I have a single bad day on Tuesday that doesn't really affect anything else, I don't think its necessary to bring it up the following Sunday. Its something in the past that I'm over and done with. No big deal.

I am saying that we, as a church, as a whole, need to be fully and truly open with each other. We need to be honest about what we are actually going through. We need to be able to share our triumphs and failures, and joys and despairs, if we are truly going to grow closer together and become the church God calls us to be.

And we need to do it from both sides.

To those who are doing well: do not be offended by another's struggle. Do not try and escape the conversation or look for a way out. Instead listen, encourage, and empathize with your brother or sister who has opened to you looking for a friend and comrade.

To those who are having difficulty: trust that the Lord will guide you to those you need to open up to. Be honest about the struggles you face with others and you may be surprised at to find that those you are talking to may have had similar experiences that can be of use to you. You may find that you are not alone in your struggle at all, even though it felt that way.

To all: pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Do it when they open up to you and when they don't. Don't just say "I'll pray for you," do it right there. In the middle of conversation after services.

Wow. How different would the church look if we took time "after church," standing in the auditorium, to stop and privately pray for those we are talking to. There is not telling what great and amazing things might happen.

Let us open ourselves to one another. Let us be honest about our sins and struggles. Let us do so in order that we may pray for and encourage one another, and find healing in the Lord's body.

Feeling bad is not bad.

Pretending we don't is.

Let us be a people of Openness, Honesty, Encouragement, and Prayer.