Sunday, March 28, 2010

Challenging Conventional Christian Wisdom – Part 2 – To love?

I’m tired of hearing that Christianity is all about love.

Not because I don’t think it’s true. I’m tired of hearing it because I seldom see it. What do I see? I see Christians SAY they love people different from them. But what are Christians DOING to show people they love people different from them?

Answer these simple questions:

How many atheists know that you love them?

How many democrats know that you love them?

How many gays know that you love them?

How many people radically different from you know that you love them?

Some might argue, “I love them when I tell them their sin.” Which, of course, as I stated in my last post, truth is just as important as grace. But I find no good reason for us, as Christians, to let our display of love end at mere words.

If my wife doesn’t believe I love her, is that my fault or hers? It’s mine. I have failed to both communicate and display my love. When people different from us do not believe that we love them, whose fault is that? Ours, or theirs? Ours. Because we have failed to both communicate and display love.

If I only told my wife what she was doing wrong and how she needed to change for the sake of our relationship, then I would be an insensitive (probably unloving) husband. If we, as Christians, only show what they do wrong and how they need to change for the sake of their relationship with God, then we come across as insensitive (even unloving) fanatics.

Relationship is essential to love.

Too many times, when communicating our faith, we as Christians come across as bad salesmen, caring more about the product we sell (convincing people to believe), than trustworthy friends.

I want you to take a long, hard, honest look at yourself. Ask, “Do people different than me believe that I love them?”

Most important of all, Jesus' words on love:

"If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" (Matthew 5:46-47)


I know I sound pessimistic. I do not think all Christians are like this. In fact, one person who I believe loves everybody different from him is my friend LJ Gay. I watch him love people that are the opposite of him, and he inspires me. Thanks LJ.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Challenging Conventional Christian Wisdom - Part 1 - Grace and Truth

As Christians, there is a fine line that we have to walk.

And it is not easy.

Impossible if you do not even know the line exists.

That fine line is Grace and Truth.

Allow me to start with a quote by Gabe Lyons.

Embracing truth without holding grace in tension leads to harsh legalism, just as grace without truth devolves to compromise.” Gabe Lyons

On one side of the line is legalism, on the other, compromise. And I think lack of one is a response to lack of the other.

Legalists exist because of their fear of compromise. They create rules upon rules to avoid sin. Their boundaries are rituals behind rituals. The Christian life is no longer about relationship, but about legality.

Compromise is a response to legalism. Those burned or hurt by legalists live a life without boundaries. Everything falls under grace and forgiveness. But problems arise when there is no truth to convict or correct.

Jesus lived in perfect tension of Grace and Truth.

We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

In John 8, teachers of the law pointed a finger at an adulterous woman. Citing the law of Moses, they called for her death. Jesus’ simple question disarmed the would-be executioners. “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” In this moment of controversy and ill deed, Jesus strips the accusers with a touch of grace.

Yet to leave the woman in her sin would be rob her a life of repentance. He commanded her to leave her life of sin.

To side with the accusers would be to starve grace. To overlook her adultery would condone a life of falsehood and sin.

In this holy moment, God has shown us the power of a life lived in both Grace and Truth. Forgiveness of sin and freedom from sin.

Forgiveness and freedom.

So what am I saying? I’m asking you to take a look at your own life. Are you the type to point out people’s sin, their imperfections, and allowing your observations to prevent you from developing a relationship? Do you cast judgement with grace no where in sight?

Or do you condone, afraid that any sort of attention drawn to the subject will sever the relationship?

Do you exhibit truth yet withhold grace?

Do you compromise your beliefs?

Or, most difficult of all, have you found balance? We are called to be Christ-like, balanced. To be full of Grace and Truth. To offer forgiveness with freedom.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I’d like to bring up a difficult subject: The NEED to be right.

The NEED to be right is a dangerous thing.

Ever been around someone like that? It can be annoying enough to where you don’t want to be around that person.

Needing to be right ALL THE TIME is wrong. Why? Because you destroy the relationship. Here, John Maxwell talks about his first two years of marriage. It’s a fairly wordy passage, but worth the read.

“Like most people, I thought I was right nearly all the time, and I let my wife [Margaret] know about it. I’ve always been a good talker, and I can be pretty persuasive, so I used my skills to win arguments. We never yelled or screamed at each other. It was always very rational and controlled, but I always made sure I won. The problem was that with my approach, Margaret always had to lose.

We did a lot of things right during those first two years of marriage, but this wasn’t one of them. Unknowingly I was slowly but surely beating Margaret down emotionally. We’d disagree, I’d overreact, and I’d unwittingly lay another brick in the wall that was building between us. I didn’t realize that winning at all costs could eventually jeopardize our marriage. Then one day Margaret sat me down, shared how she felt when we argued, and explained what it was doing to our relationship. It was the first time I understood I was putting winning the arguments ahead of winning the relationship.

From that day I decided to change. Realizing that having the right attitude was more important than having the right answers, I softened my approach, listened more, and stop making a big deal out of little things. In time, the wall that had begun to form came down, and we began building bridges. And since that time, I’ve made a conscious effort to initiate connection anytime I’m in conflict with someone I care about.”

“The problem was that with my approach, Margaret always had to lose.” Thats powerful.

Now allow me to bring this home. And it’s probably going to hurt.

I think we (Christians in general) do this all the time concerning spiritual matters.

We have to be right about homosexuals.
We have Scripture that says so.

We have to be right about abortion.
We believe it is a life inside of the womb.

We have to be right about politics.
Our politics match our religious belief.

We have to be right about the Bible.
It’s the foundation of our religion.

We have to be right about how sinful the world is, so we stand on street corners and yell.
We have to get the message out somehow.

Even if we are right, our need to BE right pushes people away.

Ouch. I know. It hurt me when I figured this out, too.

We believe whole heartedly that we are right. And we are passionate in our need to be right because it’s our religious conviction. I am not saying that we are wrong in our dogmatics. And I don’t for a second want us to compromise our beliefs.

But I think we are wrong in our approach. We push people away.

Think of the last time you talked to someone who disagreed with you on homosexuality or abortion. Did you ask, “Well, what do you think?” and respectfully listened?

We quote this passage a lot concerning sharing our beliefs, but I think we miss some key words.

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Here is another,

“And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

These passages talk about keeping respect while sharing your beliefs. And a powerful way to show respect is to listen. Listen to beliefs that differ from yours.

One of the quickest ways to form a relationship, respect, and credibility is to simply ask, “What do you believe?” Of course, you have to listen too.

Also, just to let you know. Conservative Christian beliefs are widely known. Chances are, they already know what we believe. And they assume we don’t want to hear their opinions. So when we ask, it surprises them.

A few months ago, I was listening to a sermon by Jay Bakker. I’ve quoted Jay a few times. He is a liberal pastor in New York who receives a lot of harsh criticism from conservative Christians because of his liberal stances.

During the sermon, Jay was speaking of his critics. He wondered if those harsh critics really loved him. They were so quick to point out where he was wrong. But then he asked a hard question, “Where were you when my wife left me? You were there to pick apart my theology, but where were you when my life fell apart?”

Do his critics really love him? Or do they just want to focus where they are right and where he is wrong?

Do we really love those we disagree with? Are we willing to pursue a relationship with people whose opinions contradict ours?

Do we believe that our need to be right is wrong?