Archive - December, 2009

Christians and Agendas

I had a conversation with a few days ago that has really stuck with me since then. The conversation was with someone who regularly reads my blog, but who I see very infrequently. She said that through reading my blog she discovered that I’m a pretty radical guy, a conclusion she presumably drew from what I write about nonviolence. I would contend that opposing violence is not something that radicals do, it is something that Bible-believing Christians do, but at the same time I also firmly believe that Christians are called be be radical people. So in that sense perhaps she is right to call me radical.

As the conversation continued this person, who I greatly appreciate and respect, she suggested a topic that I write about. She suggested that I write about what Christians should do about the __________ agenda that is in schools and is going to make it’s way into the Church. I told this person that was not a subject I was especially interested in writing about because it is so divisive and there is so little mature, biblical public discourse on the subject. In short, I’m just not interested in making enemies by writing about the topic.

But as I walked away from that conversation I was thinking about her question, “What do we do about the __________ agenda?” And I wanted to post a brief answer here in hopes that it might be helpful to some of you. My answer, an answer that can apply to how Christians confront any alternative “agenda”, is:

We start by not calling them an agenda. When I hear someone tell me that I am a part of a particular “agenda”, I instantly know that they don’t want to love me, they don’t want to know me, and they don’t want to understand me. I do know that they want to fight against me. “Agenda” is a worldly word, it is not a Christian word. “Agenda” is a word for people like Keith Olbermann and Glen Beck to throw around as they continue to poison their followers. It is not a Christian word. Christians don’t see people as part of an agenda. Christians see people as broken image bearers of God. Christians don’t fight against agendas. Christians love people. Christians don’t fight for their legal rights, they don’t file lawsuits against the ACLU, or American Atheists, or other such groups, they don’t enforce their morality through legislation. They love. They tell the truth. They proclaim the gospel with their words. And they live by radical gospel values: love, generosity, selflessness, nonviolence, hopefulness, compassion. In a sense Christians do “fight”, but they fight by living lives of radical love that expose the silliness and futility of the vengefulness of much of our world. Too often Christians instead choose to fight like the world, using words of derision like “agenda”, and “right-wing”, and “left-wing”, when our call is to show people Jesus by our lives, and to invite them into the Kingdom of God where they to can experience the forgiveness we have experienced and learn to grow in these gospel values. I am not saying that we don’t name evil, and I am not saying that we affirm every opinion, philosophy, ideology, or lifestyle, but I am saying we remember that we serve a God who promoted his cause not be conquering, not by filing a lawsuit, but by dying on a wooden cross at the hands of his image bearers. We stop agendas by taking that word out of our vocabulary.

On Tiger Woods and Commandments

I’ll admit it, I’ve followed the Tiger Woods story fairly closely for the last week. I, like most of the world, have been shocked and saddened by the implosion of the image that he has projected for the duration of his professional career. It appears that we have all been duped. As much as I hate to add to the grotesque amount of virtual ink being spilled about this story, I think those of us who are Christians ought to respond to this story differently than our media culture is responding. To quote C.J. Mahaney, “A Christian’s response to this story should be distinctly different. We should not be entertained by the news. We should not have a morbid interest in all the details. We should be saddened and sobered. We should pray for this man and even more for his wife.” I believe if we can detach ourselves from the media frenzy, we can learn an important lesson: All sin is grounded in the first commandment This is where this story gets scary. I have repeatedly promised to my wife that I will be faithful to her. She has all of my internet passwords, she knows she is welcome to read my email or other correspondence and that she doesn’t need to ask for permission first, she gets bi-weekly reports of my internet activity, and there are exactly zero females that I communicate with on any sort of regular basis that my wife does not know. I have been proactive about making my life an open book to her, and I would have it no other way. All of the aforementioned facts make it really easy for me to distance myself from the abhorrent behavior of Tiger Woods. However, at the end of the day, Tiger Woods sin is not that he broke the seventh commandment (“You shall not commit adultery.”), though he obviously did do that. His initial sin, however, is that he broke the first commandment (You shall have no other gods before me.”). He worshiped as god something that was not god. And that got him into a who heap of trouble. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what your spiritual beliefs are, if we worship as god that which is not god, eventually things will come crashing down. In this case, it led him to violate the seventh commandment. I’ve got the seventh commandment on lock down. But I struggle with the first commandment as much as anyone. That makes me realize that perhaps there is something wrong with wanting to take this occasion to only point the finger at Tiger. For most of us, our struggles with the first commandment will not lead us to sin that is as noticeable or as highly publicized as Tiger’s. That does not make our false worship any less real than his. So while the rest of the world continues to insist that Tiger pay the piper for his sins, may those of us who claim the name of Christ take a different approach. May we call sin sin, but may may we refuse

to throw stones and instead study our own hearts and repent of smaller and less public ways that we have held something else as god. May we remember that naming sin (whether that word is used or not) in others but refusing to recognize sin in ourselves is the way of the world, but it is not Christian. May we remember the countercultural but desperately important truth that repentance matters, and being people that regularly practice repentance to God and others matters so much more than we know. It is sad that it often takes public meltdowns like this one to remind us of that. May we reject the foolish notion that we always have to project that everything is ok, and in humility be willing to confess and repent. And may we remember the mercy and grace and our God, who does not condemn us, but invites sinners like you, me, and Tiger Woods to repent and be forgiven.

Advent Squealing

On Sunday Christie and I visited a church in Pasadena because one of our neighbors was preaching. Early in the service a family in the congregation came forward, read an Advent reading, and lit the first of four Advent candles.

During the reading, a baby sitting in the row in front of us started squealing. He didn’t squeal for long, but the cry he let out was loud enough that it briefly reverberated in the sanctuary and briefly overpowered the voice of the child on stage who was reading.

This struck me as strangely appropriate.

When Christ came he came into a world that more resembled this squealing child than it did any of the 75 or so people sitting quietly around him. He did not wait for the world to be ready to receive him, or worthy to receive him. He did not wait for the world to have its affairs in order (whatever that means). He just came. Into the mess. Into the sin. Into the chaos. Into the squealing.

That is wonderful.

That is where Christ meets us.

He exposes our religious pretentiousness. And our pride. And our attempts to cover the squealing of our own hearts with a veneer of sophistication and religiosity.

And he meets us there.

Perhaps our churches need a bit more squealing during Advent to remind us of the state of our own hearts, and remind us the great mercy of the God who enters into the squealing to give us love, joy, peace, and hope.