Can we be brutally honest about something?

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After seeing all that’s happened in the past year, we can honestly say this:
Hate seems to be alive and well in our world.

For all the progress we have made as a society in so many areas, hate has not been eradicated. In some ways, it’s still growing – in our culture, in our politics, in our lives, and even in our churches.

And, this is problem. Because, there is almost nothing more antithetical to Christianity than hate.

More and more, in the political process, in conversations, and even across pews, hate is pouring forth. And, it’s no longer enough to simply “call out” hate as wrong – we definitely need to do that – but, we also need to change this reality.

As Christians, we need to be partnering with the Spirit to rid our world of hate. Because, hate is toxic, it is infectious, and it spreads. Hate is insidious on the left and the right, and it is a problem.

So, what do we do? How do we rid our world of hate?

Well, the answer is to love those who hate. But, that is a real challenge. Because, loving hateful people is just plain hard.

Recently, I read something by James A. Baldwin that I believe is both true and helpful. He writes,

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hate so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

I think this is insightful, true, and also helpful.

As Christians, we are called to love others. We are called to make the world a better place. But, in a world of shouting, anger, and hate, it can be hard to love others.

What Baldwin is getting at is that often hate gets attached to pain. And, perhaps that’s where we need to focus. To not just focus in on changing people’s hate, but also on the pain underneath the hate. To hear, listen, care, and, yes, at times even challenge the pain, if necessary.

We need to see others not just as their hate, but rather as a people who might have pain as well.

This has been helpful for me. Because, now when I hear a hate-filled speech, I also hear pain attached to lost jobs, fear-filled futures, and uncertainty and lies. Of course, this pain never excuses the hate, but it does help me to love those who hate.

It also helps me to be part of changing the hate around me, as well as the hate that is within me.

So, I write all this because I think in our world full of sound bytes, talking points, yelling, name calling, and hate-filled speeches, we can find a better way. It begins by healing deep pain, not just seeking to stop hate. Maybe one way to live in this world of hate is to focus on its healing.

Because, hate will truly be stopped when healing happens.

The Problem Inside All of Us

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I was reading the other day, as I often do, and the following quote made me stop completely. I actually couldn’t read any more for the rest of the day.

“How can we Christians claim to proclaim atoning reconciliation through the cross of Christ when we contradict it by refusing to be reconciled with one another, or to allow reconciliation through the body and blood of the Saviour to be translated into our Church divisions.” – Thomas Torrance

Read it again, if it didn’t stop you the first time.

Torrance’s point is for us to examine how we can proclaim that God reconciles us to Himself when we refuse to practice that with each other. How can we hold onto our divisions, debate and disagreements when Christ died to bring us together? How can we share the good news of reconciliation when we refuse to give up our inner Church disputes and divisions?

The easy (and preachy) thing to do would be to call out all the pastors who continue to divide over silly things. The easy thing to do would be to call out all the Christians who continue to hate one another and not forgive. The easy thing to do is to get on a soapbox and slam all of you who continue to hold onto grudges and divisions, and ignore the fact that Christ brought us together.

That would be easier, but not godly.

Because, the truth is, I struggle with holding onto bitterness and grudges sometimes. The truth is, I think my theology is obvious and right, whereas others is misguided at best and stupid at worst. The reason this quote stopped me isn’t because it highlighted the problems in the Church (although it does that); it’s that it highlighted the problems in me…

  • That I would rather divide than work through things.
  • That it’s easier to be right instead of reconciled.
  • That sometimes I love my theology, my perspective and my opinions more than other’s.

Torrance’s point reminded me that I’m part of the problem. That the church’s tendency to place personal opinions, past hurts or theological preferences above people is a problem. Jesus died to reconcile us together, and we shouldn’t contradict it by refusing to reconcile with others.

So, this post isn’t meant to point out anything wrong in anyone else, rather it’s meant to remind us that often the problem isn’t with “out there,” but “inside us.” And, that’s why I stopped reading. Because I realized I had some things to work on.

 

The gods all around us…

945751_89422954Sometimes I think it would be easier to live in Jesus’ day and age than ours.

At first such a statement seems ridiculous. I mean the church was facing persecution, you could be martyred, you would be dealing with famine, poverty, and immense struggle. And this is all true. But at least you’d know the enemy you’re facing.

Here is what I mean. In the time of the early church you knew that following Jesus meant that you couldn’t follow the gods of Zeus, the emperor, or Dionysus. Those gods were explicit, seen, and prominent in culture. In essence, those gods were named.

Yet in our culture our gods are just as powerful, pervasive, but are so much more subtle. We don’t think twice about following Jesus all the while working 60 hours for more money, a better office, or new promotion. We don’t think twice about following Jesus all the while filling ourselves with entertainment based on sex, hate, or anger.

The point is that our gods hide in our culture.

So on Sunday we are going to look at how Jesus calls us to follow him and him alone. We are going to name some of the gods around us that vie for our attention and pull our allegiance from Christ the King.

The question I have for you is this: what gods do you see around you?

It’s easy to name the gods of Greed and Sex. But what other gods are there out there? Because before we can resist and reject them, they need to be named.

So take some time and look at our culture, and see who is asking for your allegiance? What demands your time and attention? What gods are all around us that Jesus might say to us, ‘you can only follow one master’?

That’s where we’re going on Sunday. Maybe not the easiest topic in the world, but being prophetic and imagining a different world has never been easy. But often the hardest things in life are the most worthwhile…

The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us. We need to ask if our consciousness and imagination have been so assaulted and co-opted by the [culture around us] that we have been robbed of the courage or power to think an alternative thought.

Walter Brueggemann– The Prophetic Imagination