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.

The Unfair Treatment of Ben Roethlisberger

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Category : faith

The following is a post I made on a Steelers football blog.  It seemed more appropriate there, than here.  However, it was deemed “too religious” to stay there, so they deleted it.  No hard feelings on my part.  But more on the experience next week. In the meantime, I thought it was too good to end up in the delete bin of some random server.  So here you go….

This is one of those posts that I’ve been putting off.  I keep thinking I should write it.  But then I don’t want to.  Partly because it violates my “don’t talk about people” rule for blogging.  And partly because it’s just opening a can of worms.  But with my beloved Steelers making it into the Super Bowl, I think it’s time.  And as you can guess from the title, we’re going to talk about Ben Roethlisberger.

Now before we get into the conversation I want to say two things to set the stage.

1.        I have no idea what he did or what happened in Georgia or in Nevada.  Obviously whatever happened wasn’t good.

2.       If Ben (or anyone) assaulted someone, then the correct punishment is jail.

However I want to set those points aside and talk about something else.  I want to talk about us.  The fans.  The nation.  The media.  In other words, I want to talk about everyone who isn’t Ben Roethlisberger.  Specifically what are we supposed to think?  Should we hate the man because of alleged crimes?  Should we hold him accountable even when a court doesn’t?  Does winning make a difference?  Does winning mean Ben needs to work harder to redeem himself off the field?

Reading around the web we see points of view all over.  We see Gregg Doyel saying he believes Ben’s changed.  We see Joe Starkey saying, who knows?  We see others saying that we’re all a bunch of racists because we’re treating Vick and Ben differently.

So how are we supposed to act?

Well in my mind, Ben has answered this question himself.   He claims he’s changed.  He claims he’s different.  He claims he’s learned his lesson.  But most importantly he claims he’s re-found God.

It’s that last one that really matters to me.  Because as a Christian, I need to take seriously anyone’s claim to believe.  Now obviously I don’t know Ben.  I have no idea if he’s changed or if he’s really found God.  Politicians, mobsters, athletes and actors have all “found” God just as the press was getting a bit uncomfortable.  For all I know it could be a scam.  Perhaps Starkey has a point.

I pray with all my heart he does believe in God.  In fact I pray for Ben a lot.  I pray that his life is so changed that people can’t help but notice God’s power.  Is that unfair?  Absolutely.  It’s not fair that Ben can redeem himself through playing winning football.  It’s not fair that he can be a millionaire and live in luxury, while so many of us make smaller mistakes and have our lives destroyed.

But who claimed life was fair?  Certainly not God.

When I look at the Bible’s list of prominent people, three of the most important were Moses, David, and Paul.  All three have something in common.  They all either directly or indirectly murdered people.  Heroes of faith, murderers all.

Yet God used their failures as platforms for their redemptions.  They all died with a greater appreciation for God.  They worked harder, trusted more, and ultimately made more of a difference to history because of their terrible sins.

Is Ben going to be the next Moses?  I have no idea.  I don’t even know who’s going to win the game next week.  But if he’s truly changed, if he truly believes in God, then why not?  God has done crazier things in history.

This brings us back to our response.  Some people are going to fully embrace Ben because he’s “behaved” for 10 months.  Others will embrace him because he’s winning.  Still others will hate him all the more because he’s winning or because he hasn’t “suffered” to their level of satisfaction.

When you have reporters, alleged un-biased, bringers of truth say things like, “By the time Super Bowl XLV hype is done, and the Big Ben redemption stories have been told, we’ll all be confusing him with Tim Tebow” on Twitter, there is anger out there.   Anger at God.  Anger at Ben.  Anger at the unfairness of it all.

Some of you may be angry that this is bringing faith into the conversation.  But I don’t see any other way to answer the question of Ben’s redemption.  How else do you know when “enough is enough?” 

So if you don’t share my faith, I don’t know what to tell you.  I don’t have advice to offer you as to how you should look at Ben.  I don’t know what defines “enough” for you.  But as for anyone who calls themselves “Christian” I think there is only one path.  And that’s to welcome him back.  It’s to love our enemies and forgive those who hurt us.  If it was good enough for Moses, David, and Paul, then it’s good enough for Ben.

For me the journey ends here.  I will forgive Ben.  I will pray for Ben.  And I will let God decide if Ben is sincere or not.

guard your heart

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Category : God, bible, living a life of faith, sin

……….

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4: 23)

I wonder how many of us make a serious effort to guard our hearts.  Do we make our decisions based on protecting our heart?  Or do we make our decisions based on excitement, envy, desire, passion?

I don’t often like to talk about current events, but sometimes they serve as a good illustration.  Take the case of Ben Roethlisberger being accused of sexual assault.  I don’t know if he did it (if he does, he deserves to go to jail) if he didn’t, in many ways his life is ruined.  The same is true of the accuser.  If she’s a victim, something precious has been taken from her.  If she made up the story, then something is deeply broken inside her.

This whole incident occurred because they slept together.

I’m not here to moralize or judge, especially about people who may not have a relationship with God.  Yet I am here to point out: there’s a reason God gave us the 10 commandments.  It’s not to take away our fun.  It’s not so he can reserve good things for himself.  It’s because our hearts need protecting.  Every single time we violate the 10 commandments our heart is wounded.  Yet most of us don’t’ feel that way.  Why?  I think it’s because for most of us, our heart are so badly damaged we can barely feel them anymore.  We can’t imagine what it would be like to have a protected, guarded, safe heart.

Is it any wonder we live in an age of increasing skepticism and cynicism?

Our hearts are precious.  Maybe we should treat them that way.