Friday, July 30, 2010

Acceptable Christianity?!

We wish to make God possible, to make Him comprehensible to the naked intellect, domesticate Him so that He is easy to believe in. Every century the church makes a fresh attempt to make Christianity acceptable. But an acceptable Christianity is not Christian, a comprehensible God is no more than an idol. I don’t want that kind of God ~ MADELEINE L. ENGLE.

So the real question is: How true is this statement? Is it true that Christians seek to make Christianity acceptable in every century? What does it even mean to make Christianity acceptable? Isn’t it true that in order for people to be drawn to something it must first be acceptable to them? If by making Christianity acceptable the writer means that Christians water down the message of Christ, then I concur that it’s a completely maudlin thing to do. If however, the writer is suggesting that making Christianity palatable to the century in which it’s being preached is wrong, then I beg to differ. Even the Scriptures teach that you can’t put new wine in old wineskins. The message of the gospel is the “wine” that Christianity offers. The method by which it is preached is the “wineskin.”

I’ve said many times before that it’s incumbent upon us to explore the best possible methods by which we can communicate the truth and passion of the gospel message. What’s your opinion? How do you interpret the writer’s sentiment?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Art of Caring - Mere Christianity 101 (Part 2)

If it’s true, and it is, that our actions speak much louder than our words, then it behooves us to ensure that our actions scream love at the tops of our “voices.” We must become so selfless in our actions that people are forced, albeit grudgingly, to admit that there really is something positively different about Christians. We appear to have made it our consuming purpose to ensure that people become Christians at all costs, but is that really our calling? According to the Scriptures the work of conviction and conversion is done by the Holy Spirit, while the work of serving, loving, caring, and giving is done by the Body of Christ. This would seem to suggest that, in order to demonstrate God’s love we must be present in the lives of people, especially when they are at their worst. Being present in people’s lives means that we must genuinely give ear and attention to the things that consume them and potentially hinder them from seeing, accepting, and embracing God’s love.

I’d previously indicated that two separate but equally profound events informed this two part blog, of which we discussed one in some detail yesterday. Today I’d like to examine the second event which was brought to my attention. Since the Haitian catastrophe in which hundreds of thousands of lives were lost, a well known Hollywood actor has made it his consuming passion, largely at his personal expense, to help rebuild and restore not just the infrastructure of the country but the lives of the people that make up that country. Recognizing that without people a country is merely a piece of land dotting natures landscape, Sean Penn has moved to Haiti indefinitely and is tirelessly investing himself in restoring hope.

Carefully navigating the political landscape, red-tape, and all the potential pitfalls that inevitably surround a tragedy of this magnitude, Sean lives in and operates out of a pup tent in a tent city he himself is responsible for building. Regardless of his political persuasions, in spite of his theological leanings or lack thereof, Sean is convinced that people matter, and so he considers it a most valuable investment of his time and resources to help people rebuild their lives, this no less in a country in which he has no stake other than the fact that they are fellow travelers through life’s arduous journey. What could be more altruistic than that?

Here’s a quote from Major General Simeon Trombitas, of the U.S. army who is a frequent guest at Sean’s tent city:

“My politics are not in line with Sean Penn’s, but we are allied in trying to save lives and alleviate human suffering. He is a doer and not a talker…and I respect that immensely.”

Lieutenant General P.K. Keen, deputy commander of the U.S. Southern Command, declared:

“In a humanitarian crisis you can be a neutral—always pinching your knuckles white. Or you can operate an NGO the way Mr. Penn does…. He intuitively knew how to both work with the U.N. and break its bureaucracy down…. I applaud the leadership he has shown. He doesn’t have to do this.”

There’s so much more I could write here but you’re better served reading the entire article by Vanity Fair in their July issue right here. Now compare and contrast the reaction of the “e-mail lady” who professes Christ, whom I referenced in yesterdays post, with this report about someone who doesn’t even profess to be a Christ-follower, and you decide which reaction seems to represent the love of Christ. Just my two cents!!!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Art of Caring - Mere Christianity 101 (Part 1)

I am not a social activist! But, I am a Christian. And of necessity, Christianity includes and embraces elements of social activism. You don’t believe me huh? Then ask Jesus. You don’t go chasing money lenders and opportunists out of a synagogue with a whip if you’re not keenly aware of the social constructs of the culture. Nor do you spend time hanging out with the “rejects” of society if your priorities are personal social advancement and the acquisition of elite status. Ever think about the fact that nothing about Jesus’ decision to hang out with the woman at the well (a societal reject) suggested that he particularly cared about what people thought? Why, even his disciples initially questioned the wisdom of His decision, as did Simon the Pharisee when Jesus allowed a woman of questionable morals to shower his feet with her tears and wipe them off with her hair.

But I digress! I really want to talk about you and me, and about how social awareness must become an integral part of the demonstration of our faith if we are to ever make any significant inroads into reaching the hearts of the seeking, the hurting, and the next generation. Before you ask I might as well tell you that my rant is inspired by two separate but equally powerful incidents that were recently brought to my attention. My friend, Rob Curry, the President of the Atheists of Florida, copied me in a note he sent out to a number of his Facebook friends. I was appalled at what I read. The following e-mail was sent to Rob (after a series of back and forth e-mails) by a Christian who was up in arms over a billboard the Atheists had put up in Lakeland, FL (I had written about this here a while ago). I have omitted the name for reasons of privacy.

from: L.W.
to: Rob Curry
date: Thu, Jul 15, 2010 at 11:23 PM
Thanks for your very amusing E-Mail. I will keep it in my Bible, right next to Psalm 53:1 when I think of you. Whether you think me all talk and no action is of no importance to me because time will tell.There was once an arrogant, little atheist and racist man who dared to speak to me with expletives and tried regularly to intimidate me with his hateful persistent stares. Initially that bothered me, until one day the Lord told me to take authority over the demonic spirit that was controlling that man, because what was in me was far greater than what was in him. I looked that man straight in the eyes and showed him who I was in Christ. I watched as this man turned as a pale as a ghost, became diaphoretic and began to shake and tremble uncontrollably. He died right then and there, probably from a heart attack. And he went straight to hell where he will wait to meet God -- the One as you know is "all talk, and no existence."Rob, you really don't know who you are dealing with, for if you did (and weren't so stupid) you would be smart enough to be concerned.

In case you misunderstand my position, let me clarify that I’m not by any stretch of the imagination defending atheism. I realize that my friend Rob sometimes says things that Christians may find extremely offensive, but why is that surprising? After all, Rob does disavow Christianity and all other religions, which is one reason why he serves as the President of the Atheists of Florida. Rather than take an incendiary posture against Atheists though, I choose instead to focus not on our differences but on our common causes. Rob loves people and he hates injustice and inequity. I know this from first hand experience. Interestingly enough, love is not just a characteristic trait of God but is actually His personification according to the book of John. Jesus loves people (and that includes Atheists, whether they are nice to Christians or not).

Jesus’ command to His Church is to love all people. The Scriptures actually emphasize that there are three great tenets of Christianity: Faith, Hope, and Love. It then unequivocally states: “But the greatest of these is love.” Jesus Himself declares, “This is how all people will know that you’re my disciples; that you love….” Apparently there’s no escaping it. Since as a Christian I profess to love God, I’m committed to loving all people regardless of their response to me. Love, according to the Scriptures, “is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast it is not arrogant or rude, it does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…” Now in light of this passage how does the e-mail above rate? That’s my point. It doesn’t matter how right we are, we must commit ourselves to loving people rather than proving how right we are and how wrong they are. Clearly nothing she’s said in her entire correspondence has served to help any of the atheists that have read her e-mails draw closer to God. So what purpose have they served?

In our attempt to prove how right we are as Christians, have we so quickly and so conveniently forgotten that the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery is our story? Have we forgotten that she is us? Let us not be caught holding the stones! Jesus’ response to the adulterous woman was not one of judgment and condemnation but one of love and caring. Her life was changed because she realized that He truly cared for her and her future, and not because of a sermon He preached or a Scripture He quoted. Now I know some of you out there will remind me that Jesus demonstrated “tough love” when he drove the money changers and opportunists out of the temple with a whip, but last I checked that wasn’t His mandate to the Church. His mandate to us is not now, and never was to drive people out of the temple, but it is and always was to go and make disciples of all nations and to love all people.

I’m discovering that my life speaks volumes louder than my rhetoric for better or for worse, and quite frankly I’m tired of people saying that they can’t hear what Christians are saying because the volume of our lives speaks louder than our words, and our lives and our words are saying different things. I'll conclude my thoughts tomorrow.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Be Still But Don't Do Nothing!!!

I watched the new Karate Kid with my two teenaged daughters yesterday. I know, I know, I’m way late to the party. Truth is we kept putting it off so my wife, Sola, could go with us until I realized that we might end up putting it off till it’s released on Blu-Ray. I loved hanging out with my girls and hearing their take on the movie. It warmed my heart to hear their interpretations of the myriad life applications that were liberally sprinkled throughout the movie.

Here’s what stood out to me as my favorite scene: I absolutely loved the scene where the female martial arts practitioner at the top of the mountain was totally dominating and controlling a venomous king cobra! Cobras are known to be able to spit out a steady stream of venom for up to six feet yet this woman was within inches of its head. Even before Mr. Hun called Dre’s attention to the fact that it wasn’t the lady following the cobras movements but the other way around, I’d picked up on that fact (yeah I deserve a shout out). Then he uttered the provocatively profound statement, “Being still and doing nothing are not the same thing.” I love that line! Too many of us Christ-followers often interpret God’s command to, “Be still and know that I am God,” as a command to do nothing, when, in actual fact it is a call to quiet your troubled mind and spirit and trust in and completely rely on God.

I’ve known something of this quite literally over the last four or five years, and I can personally attest to the fact that Mr. Hun certainly knows what he’s talking about. It takes living through the circumstances and obstacles that life throws your way to provide real opportunities for you to quiet your mind and trust in God’s faithfulness and ability to deliver you. So, while your circumstances certainly might require you to actively pursue a certain solution, you can be still in the midst of them, knowing that God is actively at work in you both to will and to do His good pleasure. Oh, by the way, jacket on, jacket off is the new wax on, wax off!