Tuesday, September 9, 2014

In Defense of the Osteens (Kinda, Sorta, Not Really)




Does God want you to be happy? Is that his main concern? Does he hope you’ll be good, but mainly hope you’ll be happy? Is your main purpose in life to seek your own personal comfort and peace and happiness? Is that really what life is all about, or is there something more? Maybe life is about seeking none of that, laying yourself aside, forgetting about you and caring about others. Maybe life is about being consumed simply by what God wants, no matter what that means for your personal happiness. Maybe personal happiness is not something that you should care about at all? Is that the way it works?

Victoria Osteen, the wife of famed prosperity preacher Joel Osteen, has been a hot topic of controversy in Christian circles for the last couple of weeks because of something she recently said about what the main purpose of living the Christian life, the main purpose of worshiping God is. She seems to indicate that the main point is seeking happiness. Here’s a look at what she recently said at the couple’s Houston mega-church:


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If you don’t want to watch the entire thing, here is the part that I think upset people the most:

“Do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy.”

“Do good because God wants you to be happy,” she says. She tells the people in the congregation not to worship God for God’s sake, but to worship God for their own sake. She is telling them, in essence, “What makes God happy is for you to be happy.” Here’s the problem with what she said – it has a grain of truth in it, enough so that many people who hear it will believe it. But when you take a grain of truth and make it the whole truth, then what you end up with is untruth. And that is what I believe Osteen did in this situation. Let me explain.

The Bible is littered with promises of great reward given to those who follow Jesus. And among those rewards is the reward of happiness. Indeed, God wants you to be happy. Notice what Jesus says in the preamble to the Sermon on the Mount, commonly referred to as “The Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) Notice that word – blessed. In literally means “happy,” or “happy in God.” God wants you to be happy, and he wants you to be happy because he is happy: he is "the blessed God." (1 Timothy 1:11) So Jesus is basically saying, “Here is the path to happiness.” But his ideas of where we find happiness are not where we would generally think to look – Jesus promises happiness in poverty of spirit, and meekness and mourning, in persecution for righteousness’ sake. Honestly, this does not seem like the kind of happiness that I commonly hear the Osteens talk about.

You see, the issue with humanity is not necessarily that we are seeking happiness – it’s that we are seeking it in all the wrong places. Jesus promises happiness that comes in turning away from ourselves, not happiness in prosperity, health, or finding a good parking spot at the mall. (Osteen, Joel. Your Best Life Now) God is offering us true, lasting, permanent, perfect happiness, if only we will seek HIM instead of seeking after ourselves. If we pursue God, we will get happiness thrown in. If we purse happiness, we will get neither God nor happiness. C.S. Lewis put it this way in his classic Mere Christianity:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Our problems are not rooted in the fact that we are seeking happiness; they’re rooted in the fact that we’re seeking it in the wrong places. But just because we see that true worship of God will lead to our happiness, we can’t begin to get the idea that worship is simply pleasure, or simply for ourselves. This is, I believe, the mistake the Osteens make here in particularl, and generally with their brand of theology. Yes, there is great joy in worshiping God. But sacrifice is also required. The apostle Paul says that we must “make our bodies a living sacrifice,” and that is our “spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1) Worship without sacrifice is not worship at all. Worship that is not first centered on God, and what I can offer to God, before it is concerned about what I will get from God, is not true worship. The promise at the end is certainly joy; but the sacrifice must come first.

Let’s go back to Lewis for a moment, because he illustrates this idea beautifully in his gem of a book, The Great Divorce. In this book, a group of people in Hell get a bus ride to Heaven, and they can stay if they like. (Set aside for a moment that this would not happen, that’s not Lewis' point.) The interesting thing is that almost to a person, every one of them decide they’d prefer to go back to Hell. But there is one man, who seems at first like he would do the same, before something fantastic happens. The man has a lizard on his shoulder. A chatty lizard, who seems to be running the show. That lizard represents some deep sin in his life that the man hates, but still doesn't want to let go of. He is confronted by an angel, who offers to kill the lizard for him. The man is afraid:

“Get back! You’re burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You’d kill me if you did.”
“It is not so,” says the angel.
“Why, you’re hurting me now.”
“I never said it wouldn't hurt you. I said it wouldn't kill you.”

After a period of intense negotiation, the man finally cries out for the angel to kill the lizard. It is loud and painful, with both lizard and man screaming in agony, and both finally passing out, the man apparently unconscious, the lizard apparently dead. But what happens next is what is amazing. Slowly, the man comes back to life, and even more back to life than he was before. He grows larger and larger until he is almost as large as the angel. And something even more amazing happens to the lizard. He reawakens, and then transforms into a great stallion! The man jumps on his new stead and rides away into Heaven.

What’s the point here? Worship costs something. When you turn to God, it is not necessarily an easy ride. But it is worth it. The rewards that come after the pain are always worth the pain. This is what Gospel happiness feels like; joy that comes after intense sacrifice and pain, but joy that makes the intense sacrifice and pain feel like nothing. This is why the writer of Hebrews said that Jesus went to the cross “for the joy that was set before him.” (Hebrews 12:2) This is what real worship is; it comes with the promise of our own happiness, but it also comes with the command to first offer a sacrifice to God before we can experience that happiness.

This picture of worship, and the joy it leads to, is a far greater and more beautiful picture than simply worshiping God because it makes you feel better. Worship is not therapy. Worship is sacrifice, but it sacrifice that leads to joy. It’s like the person who found a treasure buried in the field, and in his joy, sold everything they had so they could buy that field. (Matthew 13:44). The sacrifices are real, but they are worth it for the thing that we get in return – God himself, forever. This is not the Gospel of self-fulfillment. It’s the Gospel of self-emptying and of God-fulfillment. It's the Gospel that says, "Jesus is better than anything."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

40 Things it Took Me 40 Years to Learn



Today is my 40th birthday, and it feels like quite a milestone. I certainly don’t consider myself wise, but I think I have gathered a little wisdom over my four decades. Much of it has been learned the hard way. So here, in no particular order (except number 1) are 40 things it has taken me 40 years to learn.

40. If you want to be noticed at work, be the guy who always complains. If you want to be appreciated, be the guy who shuts up and does his work right. You’ll eventually be noticed also.

39. College teaches you a lot. But you’ll learn more in your first 6 months out of college than you did your entire time in it.

38. There are very few things in life that are worth truly being angry about. It is really important that you figure out what those things are. If you don’t, you’ll either always be angry about trivial things, or never be angry, even about really, really important things.

37. Fear is a terrible emotion to let run your life. It will prevent you from missing out on a lot that life has to offer.

36. Worry is not a virtue.

35. The best things in life are hard. If you never try hard things, you will miss out on some of the world’s greatest joys.

34. On a related note, marriage is really, very, super-hard. But it’s also great. If you knew how hard it would be going in, you would probably never do it. But if you’re willing to put the hard work it requires into it, you will be glad you did.

33. Speaking of marriage, my wife is much smarter than me. Realizing this would have saved our marriage a lot of difficulty early on. There’s a good chance, if you’re a guy, that you need to realize this also.

32. One of the best things you can do for your marriage is to decide from the beginning that your wife is the most beautiful woman in the world. Decide that, and eventually you’ll believe it. In my case, it is objectively true.

31. Don’t judge anything about your spouse based on the first three months of a newborn’s life. There is only one goal during that time – survive.

30. Anyone who tells you they have parenting figured out is lying.

29. Have high expectations for your kids, but also have big helpings of grace.

28. Social media means that we have more information than we ever have had before, but so much of it is absolute garbage. Before you post something on Facebook, check its accuracy. And then check it again. And again. Then wait 2 hours. And then post if you still want to do it.

27. There are few things better than a recliner, a good book, and a baseball game on in the background.

26. People say that people are basically good. I wonder if they've ever met people.

25. You can have a lot of information at your fingertips and still be really, really dumb.

24. Racism takes on a lot of forms. If you don’t think you have some racist tendencies, you probably don’t know yourself very well. Those tendencies are to be fought against.

23. The person who does not fight against pride every day is losing the fight to pride. If you think you’re humble, you most certainly are not.

22. If you will make a point to be a dealer of truth in love, you will stand out. Most truthy people are not very loving. And a lot of loving people are not very truthy.

21. Dealing in drama may give you a temporary high, but it will ultimately make you a miserable person.

20. You can get pretty far in life by just not being a jerk.

19. Sarcasm is best used sparingly. I’m actually still working on this one.

18. The older you get, the dumber you get. I had everything figured out at 25. I have much less figured out right now.

17. You’re never too old to stop learning.

16. Faith and doubt are brothers. You don’t need faith unless you have some doubts.

15. On a related note, a lot of things can be figured out with a pen or pencil and a Bible and prayer. But it will take time.

14. Sports are fun. Sports are not God.

13. Sex is fun. Sex is not God.

12. Everyone’s worshiping something or someone. What or who are you worshiping?

11. Money is like fire. It can be very beneficial when kept under control, but very dangerous when it gets out of control.

10. Your online bank account will tell you a lot about what you think is most important.

9. Those who tell you all Christians are meant to be rich have not read the Bible.

8. Those who tell you all Christians are meant to be healthy have not read the Bible.

7. Those who tell you all Christians are meant to be wise have probably read the Bible.

6. The resurrection of Jesus is pretty much the only reason I’m a Christian. It’s the one fact that I cannot escape from. If it’s false, I am following a false faith. But since its true, it must affect every part of my life.

5. There is a LOT of stuff out there that calls itself Christian that is actually garbage. If you think you hate Christianity, let’s talk about it. I might hate what you’re talking about also. Jesus may not like it too much either.

4. Outrage is not a fruit of the Spirit.

3. A lot of Christians spend far too much time talking about the things they are against, and very little time talking about the things they are for. Strive to do the opposite.

2. True Christianity is not found mainly in the things you avoid. It’s found mainly in the things that you embrace.

1. Jesus really is better than anything. It took me most of my 40 years to realize this; wish I’d realized it sooner. I’m hopeful you figure this out sooner than I did.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Thugs, Punks, and the Image of God




I, like many people on Sunday night, saw the exciting ending of the Seahawks-49'ers game in the AFC Championship. And as exciting as the game itself was, the post-game might have been even more entertaining. For those who haven't heard yet, the game ended with Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman deflecting a would be game-winning touchdown pass into the the hands of a linebacker for an interception. The game was over. The Seahawks were going to the Super Bowl. Sherman was the hero. At least he was for a couple of minutes, until the clock officially ran down to zero.

That's when sideline reporter Erin Andrews caught up with Sherman, and he gave what has become a classic post-game rant, when asked about that final, game-clinching play. "I'm the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you gonna get!" Sherman screamed. "Don't you ever talk about me!" 



My first reaction was for my jaw to drop. It's rare you hear that kind of candor and bravado from an athlete, at least in public.My second reaction to the rant was professional: I thought Erin Andrews must be the happiest person on the planet. Reporters work their entire careers hoping for sound bites like that one. My third reaction was that the internet was about to blow up.

A quick check of Twitter and Facebook confirmed it. Some called him a thug. Others a punk. Some people called him things I won't repeat, and suggested things should be done to him that seemed a bit over the top. The bottom line is this; many people decided, based on a 15 second sound bite, that this guy was a bad guy. And nothing you could say or do would change their minds.

We all want life to be cut and dry, black and white, simple to understand. That's why we use labels. It's a shorthand way to make a judgment on someone without having to put too much thought into it. But situations, and people, are never as simple as they originally appear. When we label someone in that way, it's really an attempt to write someone off, to not have to wrestle with any of the complexities of their life. We do this in the other direction also: Good guy. Hero. Role Model. 

But as Christians, we know that it is just not that simple. First, let me be clear: Christianity says certain things are right, and certain things are wrong. It's pretty cut and dry on that. But people are a little more complicated. The best people are capable of some really bad things. The apostle Paul himself said, "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing." (Romans 7:19) No matter how "good" a person may be, outside the grace of God, they are capable of horrible sins. How many times have you been shocked that someone you considered a "good person," was caught cheating on his wife, or stealing from the company coffers, or simply losing her temper on her children or co-workers? 

On the other hand, Jesus makes clear that even the most pagan of people are capable of great good,  loving their brothers and family and friends. (Matthew 5:47-48) You don't have to be a Christian to have a major positive impact on the world. Ask Bill Gates. God's common grace stretches its hands everywhere.

This is the bottom line: every single human being is made in the image of God, and when we throw labels on them, it is an attempt to dehumanize them, and therefore de-legitimize their image-bearing. All of us are cracked images in our current state, but none of us are beyond having that image repaired and restored, eventually, perfectly. So for Christians, there are only two labels we can put on people - redeemed and redeemable. It would be good for us to remind ourselves of that regularly.

Here's what I know about Richard Sherman. He bears the image of God. It is a cracked image, just like mine. But it is not beyond redemption. Thankfully, neither was mine.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Church Attendance and Other Life and Death Matters, Part 1



We are quickly approaching the New Year, and for many people, that means making New Year’s Resolutions. I am neither a proponent nor an opponent of such resolutions; but if you are one for them, or are considering making one this year, can I make a suggestion for one? Why don’t you commit to being a regular, active member of a local church? If you are a Christian, this is vital. It’s not an extra, an add-on. It’s at the heart of what the Christian life is, and it has increasingly become neglected in our society. Many who call themselves Christians NEVER attend a church, and regular church attendance has been redefined to include people who show up once or twice a month. Over the next several posts, I hope to convince you, if you fall into either of those two categories, that this should not be! And if you are at church every time the doors are opened, I hope to also convince you that mere church attendance is not even enough, that we ought to be striving for real community with our fellow believers.
            Let’s begin with that first step; understanding the importance of regular church attendance. There is simply no Biblical way to defend avoiding a regular gathering with fellow believers, certainly not for any extended period. Take a look at what Hebrews 10 has to say about this.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23:25)

Take a look at several things from this passage. I want you to notice the connection between perseverance and church attendance. The passage begins with a call to “hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering.” Now, notice what he says. We do so, knowing that God is faithful. I’m Southern Baptist through and through, so I believe in the doctrine of “perseverance of the saints,” or the promise that all those God saves, he will keep. So the writer of Hebrews says we should hold on, recognizing his faithfulness to us. Jesus has died for our sins, and he has created a way for us to have relationship with God. So we are to hold fast.  How do we do that? We get the answer in the next verse, with a positive and a negative command.
The positive command is this - We consider how we can stir one another to love and good works. So the means by which God causes us to persevere in our faith is by having us be around people who will stir us to love more and live better. This is how our faith grows, and it is how we hold fast. And then the negative command follows the positive one – we don’t neglect meeting together. We cannot stir one another to love and good works unless we are regularly meeting with other believers. And we will not persevere in our faith unless we are constantly stirring one another to love and good works. And notice what else this passage says. We shouldn't neglect meeting together, but we should encourage one another all the more as “we see the day drawing nearer.” What’s the point here? Our society says that church attendance is less important than it once was. Hebrews says regular gathering with the saints is more important. Every single day, it gets more important. The closer we get to the return of Jesus, the more important it is that we meet together.
Now, it requires more than simply showing up at church to make this happen, but it will most certainly not require less. God has given us the church, and one of the main reasons he has given it to us is so that we will last, we will persevere, until the end. If we ignore regular church attendance, we have no reason to think that our faith has the kind of legs that will last.
Does this mean that we must be at church every Sunday morning, every Sunday night, every Wednesday night? I’m afraid this passage does not go that far, much to the chagrin of some of my pastor friends, I’m sure. But what it does say is our meetings ought to be regular and not-neglected. So if you are a believer, look back on your last year of church attendance. Was it regular? Was it neglected? Might the New Year be the time to re-commit to regular church attendance? Could you set a goal to be there a certain number of times this year? I think it’s quite clear; this is life and death. It’s not simply an extra. Your faith depends on it.
Now, I know I have made this issue much simpler than it is in reality. There are a myriad of reasons why people who profess to be Christians do not attend church. I hope to address them in a post coming up in the very near future. I also plan to talk about the difference in simply being a member of a church, and committing to it in a way that will truly help you grow in your faith. Finally, I hope to suggest a few reasons when it might be okay to leave a church, with the idea that you immediately begin looking for another one. Be on the lookout for those posts in the near future!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Everything is Not a "Thing"


 
For many years, David Letterman had a segment on his show called, “Is This Anything?” In that segment, the curtain on the stage would be raised to show a performer of some kind doing an act of some kind. Most of the time, there was real question as to whether this “act” was actually an act, or just some random person doing something equally random. After a few seconds of watching them performer, Dave and Paul would then discuss the question, “Is this anything?” The basic idea was this: “Does this performance rise to the level of something of value?” Now, it was done purely for comedic purposes; the bit itself had very little value, which was, I think part of the point. Take a look here at one of the segments.





I say all of that to say this: I think it would be good sometimes if we Christians asked that same question: “Is this anything?” This is a question that could resolve a lot of stress in our personal relationships, in our churches, in our families and in our communities. Anytime we see ourselves beginning to get upset or stressed, to simply ask ourselves, “Is this really anything?” Is this the kind of thing that is worth the stress and worry I’m putting into it?
Let me explain to you what I mean: we live in a society that seems to want to make a “thing” out of everything. Far too often we are quick to rush to judgment about a person we care about, or a politician we don’t like, or a cultural issue that we disagree with. So my wife forgets she told me she’d watch television with me tonight, and I quickly assume that it’s because she doesn't care about my feelings. Or a politician you don’t care for says something that could be taken one of two ways, and you automatically choose to take it the way that makes him look the worst, or makes you feel the angriest. Either way, we're both far too quick to assign wrong motives to people, even before we could even begin to have a clue what their motives were.
            The Biblical mandate for avoiding this kind of rush-to-judgment is clear. Jesus said you are to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) And loving your neighbor as yourself simply means giving them the same benefit of the doubt you would like for yourself from others. We don’t like it when people jump to conclusions about us. We should not do it with others. We must understand that this kind of neighbor-loving both believes and hopes and endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7) So as a Christian, I should prefer to be wrong about someone’s motivation in a way that believes and hopes in them rather than wrong in a way that cynically suspects the very worst of them. There is a time, and I think it’s fairly often, just to let stuff go. Everything does not have to be a “thing.” There is also a "boy who cried wolf" syndrome at work here. When everything is something, nothing is anything.

This kind of living very quickly runs up against our own fleshly desires, our demands for our "rights," our hopes to have things our way. And that's part of the point. As Christians, we don't have the right to be easily offended.
Now, Jesus told us to gentle as doves, but he also told us to be as wise as serpents. (Matthew 10:16) So this is not a call to gullibility for the sake of the kingdom. I’m not telling you that you must let yourself get burned again and again and again by someone. What this is, is a call to diligently hope for and seek the best in our neighbors, whether they be a wife or husband or mother or father or pastor or mayor or governor or president. Don’t automatically assume the worst. This kind of attitude has the ability to change families, to change churches, to change communities, to change countries, to change the world, for the better. Always hope. And be willing to endure being wrong. Go into this recognizing that you will be wronged, and you will be hurt. But love isn’t safe. Love doesn’t come without pain. Ask Jesus about that. And then ask yourself, in comparison, “Is this anything?”

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Offended by What?


 
My Facebook feed is full of people who are offended by something. Maybe it’s something political. Maybe it’s personal. Maybe it’s religious. But I would guess one of four posts in my feed are about someone who has gotten offended by something. Right now, there are a lot of people who are offended by people are offended by their Christian beliefs. And they’re asking the question: why is everyone offended by us? What is it about our faith that they find so offensive. I hope to answer that question in this post.

I would argue Christianity is offensive on three levels; two of them are not unique to Christianity as it relates to the other major world religions, at least the major monotheistic ones. But the last one is quite unique, and what I believe separates Christianity from the others. It’s also one of the reasons that I believe Christianity seems to get an extra helping of scorn from some people in the world. Not the only reason, but one of the reasons. Finally, it’s the reason we ought to trumpet above everything else. It is the thing that makes Christianity unique, and I think, ultimately satisfying.

The first reason Christianity is offensive is because of the moral demands it makes on the world. Christianity says certain things are wrong and certain things are right, and this does not sit well with people who would prefer to set their own morality, be their own moral compass. Most people like to believe they are pretty good blokes and know right from wrong. But Christianity says there are many things that seem right to a man, but lead to death. Now, this is not different from almost every other religion. Islam, Judaism and Mormonism, among others, all say that certain things are wrong and certain things are right. And cultural winds shouldn’t really change what are timeless moral truths. Even when the cultural mores of the day say there is nothing wrong with something, Christianity says something else. So it was Christians, among others, who said that slavery was wrong, even when other said it was right (man were Christians who claimed to use the Bible to defend their beliefs, but these beliefs could not ultimately hold up). The power of the slave trade could not ultimately hold up against the truths of the Bible. So religions that make moral demands on people will always be unpopular among the larger society, for just that reason.

The second way that Christianity is offensive is because of the truth claims that it makes. Christianity claims to be telling the truth about the way the world is. It is not alone in this. Islam, Judaism and Mormonism all do this. And those truths can’t all be correct. They could all be wrong, but they can’t all be right. And those who say that each person can pursue their own particular truth don’t really get what truth is. There are certain truths that can be true for one person but not for another. It is true that I like Snicker’s bar. This is not true for my son. But religious truth claims are not that way. Religious truth claims say that this is the way the world operates. And if every religious truth claim is true, then none of them are true, or they can’t be all true when they conflict with one another. Islam says Jesus was a mere prophet. Christianity says Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. But of these cannot be true.

Again, both of those ways that Christianity is offensive are not unique. Every religion that says it is true and the others are not can be offensive to those who do not believe. Every religion that makes moral demands on a person can be offensive to those who do not want to submit to those moral demands. But I think there is a third way Christianity is offensive that is unique to the faith, and is really the essence of what it is all about. It combines the truth claims of Jesus with the moral demands of Jesus, and explains how he deals with them both. And it is a stumbling block, an offense to many, many people.

The main offense of Christianity is this; it tells people that there is nothing they can do to make themselves right with God, but it tells them they must be right with God. Christianity says that every single person is radically sinful, and has grossly disobeyed the moral demands of God. It makes this is a main, foundation truth claim. And then it says that man’s only hope is to cease his efforts to be good enough for God, and trust that God has already accomplished what needs to be accomplished for them, through the coming of Jesus. Christianity says that God decided to come to the earth as a person, and live a perfect life as a human, but then take a punishment he didn’t deserve in substitution for all the sins of the world. Then it says he rose from the dead, claiming victory over the forces of evil in the world, and breaking the bonds of death that held the universes in its grip. And it says that man’s only chance is to stop trying to earn his way to God, and to accept what Jesus has done for him.

This does not sit well with our natural minds. We believe that if we just try hard enough, if we just act good enough, if we just sacrifice and serve and love, then God will accept us. Christianity says the opposite. It says the only way we can find the ability to be good enough, sacrifice enough, serve or love enough, is to stop trying and accept what Jesus has already done for us. This the paradoxical offensiveness of Christianity. God demands that we obey him perfectly. God says that we can’t obey him perfectly. So God himself grants us perfect obedience through the work of his Son.

This is gloriously good news. It is freeing news. It calls us to cease from our efforts. It begs us to stop trying to be good enough for God. It grants us the grace we so desperately need, but are too proud to ask for. But it’s only given to those who are willing to admit their inabilities. And this is why it is offensive. No one wants to hear that they are not good enough. But God says we can only be good enough through accepting the work of Jesus. This will always be offensive to the world, but to those who accept it, it is life!

 

Friday, December 20, 2013

And another thing . . . .


I don’t know if you noticed, but the internet blew up yesterday. I am still cleaning black and grey beard trimmings ofF my keyboard, and wiping camouflage from my screen. The controversy over statements made by Phil Robertson, the now-suspended star of “Duck Dynasty,” has fueled internet traffic like few other things I've seen in recent times. I added a very small part to this with my post, “Outrage is Not a Fruit of the Spirit,” which has turned out to be the most popular post in the history of my little blog. But as I've thought about this situation, there are a couple of more things I’d like to add to that.
Let me start by reiterating what I said yesterday. If you are fired up about this issue, you have every right to be. I won’t stop you or even try to stop you. Instead of stop signs, I've tried to put up a couple of yellow lights, cautions to help you think before you speak on this issue. So this is what I’m doing again today. And it goes for not just this particular story, but whatever issue has hackles up of American Christendom tomorrow. Issues like this demand that we look at principals, not particulars. And there are some principals that I think have been missing from this discussion.
One of the things I think I have noticed, not just with Duck Dynasty, but with many, many “Christian” culture war issues over the last several years is this; there is a tendency to treat these issues as if the future of the world is dependent on them. The idea seems to be that if Christians don’t “win” on these issues, then we’re going to lose our country. So let me be clear here; if the United States is your country, there is no doubt you’re going to lose it. This kingdom is passing away, like every other kingdom in the history of the world. It won’t last. We Christians believe that we belong to a kingdom that doesn't have actual borders at this moment, but one day will. We believe that Jesus is going to return to THIS earth, and fix every problem and set up HIS kingdom here, and it will last forever. So if you’re trying to hold on to any kingdom that is currently here on earth, you need to understand that it WILL. NOT. LAST.
Here’s the thing. If you are a Christian, the promise you have is a BILLION years as a perfect person in perfect relationship with other perfect people in this perfect kingdom ruled by a perfect God. And when those billion years are over, you will have another billion years. And another. And another. And another. Forever. You will get happier every day. It will never get old. You will never get tired of it. Every single problem that you currently have in your life, or currently see in our society, will pass away. Everything else that happens in the world must be seen through this lens, because no matter what happens in this world, you have the promise of a perfect world to come.
            Now, that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to affect change in our current world; that we shouldn't work for justice and making our society better now. It simply means we do it with the end in mind. We don’t have to worry about tomorrow. We can turn our outrage-o-meters down a few notches and trust. God wins. Everything will be set right. There is no injustice that will not be set straight. There is no problem that will not be fixed. There is no sin that will not be judged. And there is no kingdom that will not be brought down. We can count on this truth. We can live by it. And I'm pretty sure Phil Robertson would agree with me on that.