Can we be brutally honest about something?


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 with Humanity

Today’s blog post might seem a bit funny at first. It’s not only completely orthodox, but also absolutely needed.
Jesus is not only the Son of God (and fully divine), He is also the Son of Man and fully human. This means that Jesus not only came to earth to demonstrate and reveal who God fully is, but also to reveal who we are to fully be as humans. Jesus demonstrates what true humanity actually looks like, feels like and, most importantly, lives like.
Marilynne Robinson writes, “It is a truism that humanity is deficient in humanity.” And, that is absolutely, unequivocally true.

When you look around the world and see evil, hurt, violence, racism, destruction and a whole host of other evils, the problem is not with “humanity” per say, but rather our lack of “humanity.” The problem is that we are not living as we actually should; that we are missing the mark (the Biblicial term for sin), and it is having disastrous consequences.
To put it positively, true humanity is seen whenever love, generosity, grace and justice flourish. Anything short of this is actually anti-human. Which brings us back to Jesus and why we need Him.
As a Christian, I fully affirm that Jesus is divine, but also that He is fully human. I believe that Jesus reveals to us the path we are to take as human beings. He reveals to us how we are called to live in this broken world. He models a life of forgiveness, grace and justice in the presence of oppressing powers. We need Jesus to not only make us more Christ-like, but also more human, not less.
So, what does this all mean practically? It means that if you want to be part of changing the world, it means embracing your humanity and especially embracing Jesus to guide you into it. Because it’s the path of Jesus that will bring healing to this world. Not just us denouncing evil, but us living differently. Us living into our full humanity. In essence, living like Jesus in and through Jesus.

3 (Marks): Serving the World: Canaanites, Dogs, and Us Vs Them

jesus-1233747Well on Sunday we looked at a passage most people have never heard preached. Because well there is no other way to say it, but this passage makes Jesus to seem to be a racist; it’s Matthew 15:21-28.

But when you dig into it you start to realize something that should be obvious – Jesus isn’t a racist, we are.

And I mean that in the truest sense, that we all have groups of people that we struggle with. Maybe it’s not along race lines, maybe it’s along sexual lines, or theological lines, or geographical line, or political lines. But the truth is that we all have groups that we love to exclude, scapegoat, and blame. Groups of people that don’t really deserve to be in on what God’s doing. Unless of course they change and become just like us…then they can.

But it’s this underlying “us vs them” thinking and scapegoating that Jesus challenges in a unique passage. In this story Jesus is actually enacting out a parable. He is telling the truth but as Emily Dickinson says, he is telling it slant.

Jesus teaches the disciples that what makes someone clean is what comes out of hearts. And he then takes them specifically on a trip into Canaanite country. You know the hated enemies of the people of God. You know the people that God said wipe out. You know the blood enemies of the Israelite people. There is bad blood between these two groups.

And a woman comes up and asks for Jesus to heal her daughter. And then there is this odd interaction between Jesus and her where he seems reluctant. Where he seems to privilege Israel as a group over an individual right in front of him that needs healing and hope. This is a completely uncharacteristic with Jesus in every other part of the gospel. So what’s going on?

What’s going on is that Jesus is trying to reveal the blatant racism and us vs them thinking in the disciples. And this type of thinking lurks in our hearts and is so hard to change without experience, teaching, and blog posts certainly don’t do it. The power of the Spirit through relationships does.

So Jesus leads his disciples to have this encounter with this woman. And when she first approaches him, says nothing, but the disciples do say something. They try to get rid of her, and ask Jesus to send her on her way. They demonstrate what’s in their hearts, hate, hurt, and lack of desire to help and heal. They don’t believe she deserves their help.

So Jesus has a conversation with her that sounds odd to us. But to the disciples it must have been rupturing and revealing. Because I believe Jesus is saying everything that is going on in their hearts, their excuses as to why she should be sent away. 

Let’s be clear on one thing, Jesus didn’t travel all the way into this country to avoid this woman or refuse to heal her. He travelled all the way here to heal her, and the disciples’ hearts which are fixated with us vs them. He wants to heal them, and her.

So Jesus brings the disciples into this interaction and experience where their hate is exposed so that it can be changed. Because if there is any hate within us, it needs to be changed.

So the main point we landed on Sunday after working this all through was that we are called to serve and help everyone, even those we hate. Especially those we hate. We asked the Holy Spirit to convict us if there people, groups, or individuals we believe “God can’t be active there”, or “I don’t need to help them” or “they don’t’ deserve my help”. Because what we see is that God is active even in the enemies we think where God can’t be found. What we see in this passage is our need to serve and help and heal everyone. And we all know that. Christians are to love the whole world, the trouble is when it gets to specifics to that person, that group, that co-worker. We find excuses and reasons not to help and heal. And that’s what this passage is about – taking away our excuses revealing the ugliness of hearts and giving us a chance to change.

So we left with a challenge. To be open to serving the needs of those around us this week – especially those we hate. That if there are people we struggle with, these are the people to serve this week.

Not an easy challenge, but following Jesus has never been easy. It’s been life-changing but not easy. So don’t settle for easy, challenge yourself, reach and love and see what God might do in you, through you, and around you. Because God is moving, and he wants us to join him.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: You are called to serve and help everyone, even the ones you hate

Teaching Points:

  • Disciples are to love God, love others, and love the world.
  • Love towards the world is to mark our lives
  • “Tell all the truth but tell it slant” Emily Dickinson
  • The Canaanites are ancient enemies of Isreal
  • We think with “us vs. them”
  • Faith and hope and God’s amazing working can exist outside the people and places we expect to find it
  • We are called to serve the entire world, not just the people like us who we like.
  • You are called to serve and help everyone, even the ones you hate
  • The mark of a disciple is to be someone who serves everyone.
  • There is no “them”, there is only “us”.
  • There is no one who is outside the scope of God’s love and healing.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Was this a new passage for you to think through? Why do you think that sometimes “experiences” teach us more than straight “teaching”? Who do you think we as the church struggle with loving – like the disciples with the Canaanite woman? How can we serve them? Who do you struggle with loving? How can you serve them?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Today talk to your kids about loving and serving everyone. Ask them who they think gets left out, and needs some love. Then do something about it. If it a classmate invite them over, if it’s a family make some food for them. Serve, but do it together.

Challenge for the Week: To go about your week looking for needs, and meeting them.