Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why Christian Boundaries Are Necessary

Yeah, we all want to be welcoming and friendly like Jesus. And yeah, we can be cautious about dealing negatively with other people. In fact, we may believe that agreeing with people is the best approach for dealing with differences.

But the truth of the matter is that Jesus wasn't a pushover either. He was very clear about who he was, and he wasn't backing away from that. He was clear about what he was about (seek and save the lost), what he would do (die despite what Pete thought; Matthew 16:13-28), and where people stood with him (he didn't trust them; John 2:23-25, John 6:25-27). He was kind and gentle with people, but he did so in truth (John 13:1-5). He didn't back away from what he stood for. And that made some people very uncomfortable.

People either loved him or hated him. He didn't allow for any middle ground. There were no centrist or reasonable accommodations. "You are either with me or against me," he would say. This included folks who were on the periphery — observing him from a distance, afraid of being associated with him, but believed his message (John 12:42). Jesus did not allow people to believe whatever they wanted to concerning him or God the Father.

So, what business is it of the church to be embarrassed about Jesus in order to not "offend" other people? What sense does it make for the church to be off mission in order to make peace with the world? How should the church respond to people who hate what it stands for?

Whether individuals or a corporate body of believers, we have to have boundaries. Even if we choose to relax those natural boundaries of beliefs and practices, we still erect boundaries unconsciously. We choose to sacrifice our allegiance to Christ to win the approval of men. Or we sacrifice our integrity to "go along to get along." In doing so, it causes a great amount of pressure internally — even if you choose to ignore it. So, why not just be real.

Let's just be the church. Let's just be truthful about Jesus identity. Let's just say that the message of salvation is critical to all mankind. Let's accept that not everyone will agree.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Hero is More Than a Sandwich

After the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — and the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration — it got me thinking about the idea of heroes. What is a hero? What makes a hero? How do we decide who a hero is?

Some people would call those, who eventually stopped the gunman's rampage, heroes. Some may even call Ms. Giffords a hero for fighting to survive. Though others would disagree and say she was simply a victim. This discussion was also around right after 9/11. Who are our heroes? Were our heroes victims, or just those who risked their lives to save others?

I think the national discussion misses an important point. If we define heroes by the demonstration of courage to bring about a social good, we have to ask what we mean by "good." What is good? How do we determine what is good, if we do not consider God? And if we do consider God, doesn't it only matter what God thinks is good, not what we say is good? Because we don't all agree. If we don't agree in what is good, how can we agree on who a hero is? We may have some consensus on public servants such as teachers, firefighters, and police officers as heroes. But what about people like Carrie Prejean, Sarah Palin, Margaret Sanger, Barak Obama, or George W. Bush? We can't agree on them.

I think the best definition for a hero is whomever God would commend. And specifically, whomever Jesus commends. That is our best objective criteria. Otherwise, we pick our heroes by opinion polls, likes, or political alignment. God doesn't see it that way. That's why people such as poor widows or working parents can be heroes — worthy of emulation.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Why The Reason for the Season Isn't Jesus' Birth

I was in a Christian book store not too long ago. And an older woman was in there talking on her cell phone quite loudly. It was very annoying. I tried to ignore her, because I am nervous about approaching an older woman. But she had very bad manners, and the conversation was way too loud. So, I started to approach her when, thankfully, she hung up. I quickly went back to browsing the books as I was before, relieved that I didn't have to talk to her.

I think sometimes we live our lives oblivious to how we come across. We get so engrossed in our own worlds we don't notice how our behavior affects other people. Sometimes we just don't care because our concerns are so important to us at the time. And we do this on a grand scale as well. We don't realize how our thoughts and behaviors offend God. We assume our actions and attitudes are minor infractions (if any) to a busy God.

During the Christmas season I was struck with the thought that the season has little to do with Jesus' birth per se. Rather it has more to do with who Jesus is and why He came. God came because our sin was going to damn us. And he entered the human race to become the perfect sacrifice for our sin — to divert what was coming to the whole world. So now we have the opportunity to be at peace with God through Jesus, only because of who Jesus is — the Son of God — and what Jesus did.

To truly understand the reason for Christmas, we must understand the reason for Easter.