What to do when the world fights back

Category : faith

If there’s a section in the Bible that I really struggle with, it’s the timeline that surrounds Jesus’ trial.  In those hours Jesus meets with pretty much the movers and shakers of the Jewish and Roman worlds.  We know that Jesus was a powerful speaker, we know that he performed miracles, we know that he had wisdom to surprise (and sometimes shame) his opponents.

Yet in the most important hours in world history, Jesus says nothing.  He doesn’t put up a rousing defense of why he shouldn’t die while confronting obviously false charges.  He doesn’t even forcefully argue to be God (although, he does most certainly claim to be God, you don’t tear your robes for nothing!)

I can’t help but wonder why Jesus didn’t put up more of a fight.

The only reason I can come up with is that he didn’t put up a fight because I would have put up a fight.  And you would have put up a fight.  In fact, everyone but God would have put up a fight.  And God knows his Kingdom doesn’t advance through fights, arguments, and yelling.  It advances through love, forgiveness, and grace.

Last week I wrote an article called the unfair treatment of Ben Roethlisberger.  It’s been just about the most popular article I’ve ever written on R3blog.net.   But I never meant for it to go on R3blog.net.  I meant for it to go on a Steelers blog.  And it did.  For about 20 hours until they unceremoniously deleted it.

In that moment I was faced with a choice, do I say it’s unfair, or do I agree to allow it to be deleted.  (I agreed.)  Some have told me I should have fought it out.  But I think that misses the point that Jesus was trying to teach before his death.  Sometimes the way to change the world is to say little and let your actions speak for you.

How would arguing have convinced people that I wasn’t trying to “force my views” on people?  How would arguing have benefited the kingdom?  I think it would have already pigeonholed me more as a Jesus freak.  It would have made an already (apparently) hostile audience dig into their mental bunkers.

It would have accomplished nothing that the article was supposed to accomplish (that is, talking about grace and forgiveness.)

While I think the site made a mistake, and possibly even singled me out unfairly, I’m okay with that.  It’s their site, and they pay the bills.  My job was to write the article and post it, if they disagreed, so be it.

In the end I take away three things from this experience.

  1. Being known gives you credibility to talk to God.  To them I was some random person just popping up and throwing around the word “grace” and “forgiveness” and “God.”  They didn’t know me because even though I’ve read that website nearly every day for 3 years, I never was part of their vocal community.  The same is true in all our lives.  If we want to talk about God, we need to be known to people or they won’t take us seriously.  It’s the difference between “Bible thumping” and “Sharing the Gospel.”
  2. Sometimes it’s better not to fight.  As I said above, fighting doesn’t always solve the Kingdom problems.  Fighting is what the world does.  Throwing a fit is what everyone does.  I want to look different and let people see God through that difference.
  3. Even smart people make dumb comments about God.  It was kind of shocking to see otherwise smart people, hold very inconsistent, if not irrational, views about God and Christianity.  People spend very little time thinking about why they believe what they believe.  Make sure, if you’re a believer, you don’t make that same mistake.

I don’t feel like this was exactly a “positive” experience.  But I am glad I experienced it.  Why?  Because following where God is leading is always worth it.  Even if it feels like you slap into a brick wall.

knowing faith or living faith?

Category : bible, faith, feeding my brain, living a life of faith, taking action

I’m one of those people that loves to find that perfect balance between price and performance.  There is something about getting the “most” out of something that I just find fun.  I am always thinking about the best way to drive to save the most gas.  Whenever I build / buy a new computer I look for that sweet spot of price and performance.  I even do this when I buy sports tickets.  I know, it’s a bit weird.  But I also love it.

Sometimes this becomes a bit of an obsession.  For instance, in the last couple of weeks I’ve spent countless hours trying to figure out which surge protector to buy for my TV.  Most people just go to the store and buy the cheapest (or most expensive one).  Not me.  I need to figure out exactly how many outlets I need.  Then I have to find which stores have the best deals.  And in the case of these power strips, I wanted to find out what the level of “ideal” protection was needed.  To further complicate this choice there are a new line of power strips that cut down on “phantom power” use.  (Phantom Power is the power a device draws when turned “off.”)

No matter how hard I looked, I kept running into a problem: no one would explain what the energy ratings really meant.  Exactly what is a joule?  How many do I need as protection?

I’ve realized that I know nothing about electricity.  I don’t know how it works.  I can’t explain basic concepts like Watts and Amps.  I have no idea how it’s made or how it powers my devices.  Yet I also know I believe in electricity.  Even though I can’t see it, I know it’s there.

Frankly that sounds a lot like faith.

Most Christians couldn’t hope to explain their beliefs.  They don’t know how it works.  They can’t explain basic concepts like the Original Sin or Atonement.  And while this is a bad thing (you really should know why you believe what you believe), people still believe.

So why is this lack of knowledge the lynchpin of so many arguments against Christians?

A lack of knowledge doesn’t mean something isn’t true.  As I’ve said, I haven’t got a clue of how electricity powers my laptop.  But I know that it works.  I know that somehow it comes from the outside into my computer.  Just because I can’t explain how doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Should I know more about electricity?  Absolutely.  But there is also only so much time in life to do things.  Sometimes it’s more important to live out a belief than to know about a belief.

When God says things like, “well done my good and faithful servant” he isn’t congratulating people for passing Theology 405.  He’s congratulating them for living out a life of faith.

Knowledge is important.  But not as important as living.

the shocking comparison of Jesus

Category : God, Jesus, bible, living a life of faith, revolutionary

Loving your enemy and not judging are forever linked.  If it’s your job to judge, you can never love.  You have to worry about fairness, outcomes, and justice.  Fortunately it’s God’s job to worry about that.  It’s his responsibility to judge and ensure justice.  We don’t need to worry about outcomes, so we can focus on our job: loving our enemies.

Loving your enemy is “advanced” – it requires faith, a trust in God’s character, hope in the eternal future, and obedience in the presence of an enemy.  It requires all of that to show the world just how different Christ’s compassion is.

It’s no wonder we struggle so much with it.

I am reminded of this as I read Elton John saying Jesus was gay.  Why did he say this?  Who knows.  I guess he just wanted to declare it.  Or maybe he just wanted to get some publicity by inciting Christians to attack him.  But frankly that’s not the most shocking part of that story – instead I was struck by the condescending nature of the article itself and commenter’s.

The condescension dripped from their “virtual pens.”

There is such a chasm between Christian beliefs and the rest of the world that it can be hard to come to terms with.  Especially for us Christians who tend to think everyone sees the world the same way we do.  Of course I think this is an opportunity.  I am convinced that Christians are living in one of the greatest evangelistic times in history.  What better way to compare just what Christ taught when we live in a world awash of other views.  Talk about a contrast!

Of course the challenge is to live out a life of faith.  Something we, as a church, tend to do very, very poorly.

While I think apologetics are important, I think what truly converts someone’s heart is when they see someone living out a life of faith.  That contrast is so shocking compared to others.  Take for instance someone who continues to give to the church despite struggling to pay bills.  That’s a shocking comparison to how the world says we should operate.

Consider Mother Teresa who lived in poverty to love on people who were deemed as unlovable.  That’s a shocking comparison.  Or consider people who sell everything they have to become missionaries because they feel called to provide medical services to people in third world nations.  Or what about people who take time out of their busy schedules to tutor at-risk children and to forge relationships across race and age.

These things are a shocking comparison.  And I think it’s the only thing that speaks to modern society’s heart.

Yes apologetics are needed to deepen your faith, but in a world of “if it feels good it must be right,” apologetics alone aren’t going to impress anyone.

the friends and family plan

1

Category : God, bible, shame, sharing faith

                  

There are many things I struggle with in my faith.  And there are many things I do that I regret.  (Not the least of which is eating too many Brownie Obsessions.)  But one area that really bothers me is sharing my faith with friends and family.  Or to be more precise, the lack of it.

I don’t have any problems getting into a conversation about God with a stranger.  In fact I seem to do that all the time.  Strangers are easy to talk to.  I don’t have to worry about looking like an idiot or damaging a relationship because after we part company I’ll never see them again. 

But friends are different.

Christians don’t enjoy the most positive of images at the moment.  Nothing drives this home like the book unChristian, by the Barna Group.  Their research shows that nonbelievers view Christians the same as they view Mormon evangelicals.  You know, the kind that show up at your door when you’re about to go eat a Brownie Obsession.  Not that this ever happens to me…

So what do we do?  Didn’t Jesus tell us it was important to talk to people about him?  The problem is our friends might not be interested in hearing about God.  Maybe they don’t care, maybe they disagree, or maybe they have their own issues around God.  Or maybe they just are looking to relax and have fun. 

Even our best efforts to be sincere and open may come across as judgmental and trying to “convert” them.

It seems a tough place to be.

And for me it is.  The people I should care about most are the people I’m most hesitant to talk to.  It’s as if I have this great secret, but I’m afraid of sharing it.  Not because I think they’ll laugh at me (although I suppose they might) but because I’m more afraid of pushing them away from God.  I’m afraid of them rejecting the most important thing in my life, because I was clumsy and awkward. 

So for me, I think the first place I start is this – I’m sorry if my attempts to tell you about what Jesus has done in my life come across as awkward.  I’m sorry if it feels weird for you.  It feels weird to me too.  But I wouldn’t be talking about him if I didn’t think he was amazing.

So maybe we can both just be honest with each other.  And maybe we’ll end up better friends (or family) for it.

what i’m reading: Mere Christianity

Category : CS Lewis, book review, feeding my brain

   

“Why didn’t anyone tell me CS Lewis was brilliant?!”

That’s pretty much what I think when I pick up one of his books.  I’ve gone my entire life not understanding what people saw in this CS Lewis guy.  I had read the Chronicles of Narnia and enjoyed them.  But even as a kid I knew they were “simplistic.”  I could never quite figure out why he held such appeal for Christians. To be honest I thought they were latching onto the guy because he was famous.  Little did I know how wrong I was!

Mere Christianity is my second book by Lewis.  And I now fully understand why he’s been important to so many Christians.  Lewis is a master of words, and is able to explain complex Christian theology in a simple and relate-able way.  Every sentence in this book is packed with importance and significance. 

The title of the book is a bit confusing to the modern ear.  And until I started to read the book, I didn’t fully understand what that title was trying to convey.  In essence he really wrote a book that could be called ’simple’ or ‘basic’ Christianity.  In a way this is God 101.  But don’t let that fool you, there is more information packed into this book than most dense academic works.

Mere Christianity is broken into 4 sections.  Each dealing with an aspect of what it means to come into a relationship with God.  In section one he outlines some clues to the existence of God.  Section two discusses what Christians really believe.  Followed by how Christians should behave, and what it means to be a Christian.  The fourth section, which is probably his most ambitious, is an attempt to explain who God is – namely the Trinity (Jesus, God, the Holy Ghost).

Very few writers are more quotable than Lewis.  But that’s not the most striking part of Mere Christianity.  Lewis is a master at using examples to explain his points.  He has a way of taking a complex concept (e.g., the Trinity) and giving simple explanations that really crystallize the concepts for the reader.

Lewis holds a special place for me, because he’s one of those writers that disproves the idea that to believe in God you need to turn off your brain.  As I explore his writings I continue to realize that God wants us to use our brains as much as our hearts.