Sunday, December 22, 2013

being intolerant

Tolerance.

It seems to be something of a buzz word lately, with everybody demanding tolerance and accusing the opposition--whoever that happens to be at the time--of being intolerant.

My original plan for this post was a call to tolerance for both sides, but as I've been looking into it more deeply I've come to a conclusion some people might find alarming:
Christianity is and must be inherently intolerant.

Now, hopefully you'll stick with me for a bit and hear me out--I know that probably sounds strange, but I promise I'm going somewhere with it.

tolerate: allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference

Society tells Christians (and so do some preachers and teachers in the church) to be tolerant, that we should respect the beliefs of others as being equally valid. Many today try to say that loving others--which is what Christ stressed above all commandments other than loving God--means being fully accepting of everything they do.

People claim that for a Christian to stand against something and come out and call it sin is wrong and even "not the Christian thing to do." We are called judgmental and hateful and bigots and told to keep our opinions to ourselves. We are called out for standing up for our own beliefs by the very people who are demanding we "tolerate" the beliefs of others.

So what are we supposed to do?

Do we go along with what society demands of us?
Do we keep our mouths shut and our eyes closed to what is happening around us?
Do we gloss over what the Bible calls sin because somebody might be offended?
Do we give in and go along with the idea that all religions are equally valid and that as long as someone lives a "good life" nothing else matters?
Do we temper our words in the name of being politically correct?

Or, like Paul, do we say, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10)

We are called "Christians" because we are called to become like Christ--One who was most definitely not concerned with being seen as politically correct. We are told to speak the truth, and to do so in love (Ephesians 4:15)

Do we ignore sin? In Jesus's own words, "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him." (Luke 17:3b) We should take our cue from Him, then, and rebuke those who sin.

rebuke: express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions

We can't stop there, though. We are also commanded to forgive those who repent

repent: to experience sorrow for and seek to change wrong behavior

--which is something we all tend to forget about. The rebuking part is necessary, but it is nothing without the forgiveness part.

In the 8th chapter of John, we're given a wonderful example of how to deal with sin. Jesus had just sat down to teach when He was brought a woman who had been caught in adultery. The Pharisees and teachers of the law wanted to be able to trap Jesus. Here was this man who was going around preaching love, so in their eyes that meant He would have to either ignore her sin and go against Scripture or say she should be stoned as the law demanded and therefore contradict (in their eyes) the message He had been preaching.

What was Jesus's answer? He told the woman's accusers that whoever was sinless could throw the first stone, then He scribbled in the dirt.

That wasn't the end, though. After everyone else left, Jesus didn't condemn the woman to death as would have been His right. At the same time, though, He didn't ignore her sin. Instead He told her, "Go now and leave your life of sin." (verse 11)

Like Christ, we should speak in love when addressing sin. And like the men who wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery, we should realize that none of us is without sin before we catch ourselves throwing the first stone. If God grants us mercy and doesn't give us the punishment our sins deserve (Psalm 103:10), shouldn't we extend that same mercy to others? Especially since it is God who is the judge, the only One with the authority to dispense justice.

And what about the idea that there are many equally valid paths to God? That stands in direct opposition to what Christ Himself said, no matter how loving it may sound. "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'" (John 14:6) He also said, "I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the One I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." (John 8:24)

So speak the truth. Take a stand for your beliefs and refuse to bow before the idol of political correctness. Confront sin, but do so out of love while remembering that we are all just sinners saved by grace.

And when the world rises up against you, take heart. Remember Jesus's words: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." (John 15:18&19)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

out in the fields

*Today is a link-up (well, actually Thursday was supposed to be...this whole writing late thing is starting to become a habit it seems!) with the Faith Barista.
 
The question she asked for this week was, "Who in the Christmas story do you identify with most deeply?"
 *****  

Can you imagine what it would have been like?

Put yourself there for a minute: out in the fields one night, everything business as usual. You're watching the sheep, probably half asleep. You're listening for anything out of the ordinary, but really not expecting anything to happen.

Everything's peaceful out in the fields.

I've sat out on the hills many times myself, at Pop and Mom's.
 
Day or night, the pasture is a good place to think. The herd I got to watch was a bit different than the flock the shepherds were watching, but I imagine the peacefulness would have been the same--  

--away from the hustle and noise and general busy-ness of town, just the hills and the animals and the stars 
and the quiet.

Then, out of nowhere, the sky wasn't quiet anymore. The night wasn't dark anymore, because God's glory was shining all around. An ordinary, simple, unassuming night was interrupted by the sudden appearance of an angel.

And like anybody in his right mind would be, the shepherds were terrified!

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. An angel of the LORD appeared to them, and the glory of the LORD shone around them, and they were terrified."
Luke 2:8&9

Sometimes I feel like that's me: just going about my business in my own quiet, unassuming,ordinary way, then suddenly I'm in just the right spot to see God's plan start to unfold and I'm scared beyond belief.

Like the shepherds, though, despite my initial fears I know there's a next step for me. I listen to the rest of the message when I'm told not to be afraid, and I leave the safety and security of the hills that I know and,
like the shepherds,
I say, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which  the LORD has told us about." (verse 15b) 

Do you see yourself in anyone in the Christmas story? Tell me about it--I would love to hear from you!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

giving myself permission to...

I've stared at that title for a while now, trying to figure out what to write. It's part of a link up with the Faith Barista, so it is actually an assignment of sorts that was "due" Thursday...


 

For some reason, though, I just don't know what to write.

What do I need to give myself permission to do, or to be? It really doesn't seem like it should be such a hard concept. Maybe the problem, then, comes from the fact that I don't really know what I want to be when I grow up.

"Wait, what?" you may ask. "But you're in grad school and you're writing--not to mention you're almost 30! You're kind of already in that 'grown up' part of life, you know."

I hear you, I promise. But you see, there's still this nagging feeling inside that I really don't know what to do with the rest of my life. I think it's an inheritable trait--I got it from Pop (that's my dad, for those of you who may not know). He was told just a few years ago that he needed to decide what he wanted to be when he grew up and stick with it, and he's got 27 years on me!

That's a strange thing for me, the not knowing. I've always been a planner--I probably had a 5 Year Plan laid out in kindergarten (I'm exaggerating, but not much). Growing up, for the most part things even went according to plan.

And then I got married, and suddenly things changed on me. I'm not going to go into all that right now, but if you're interested you can read that story over here and get all the details. Long story short, suddenly my tendency to have everything planned out just didn't matter anymore.

Life was out of my control.

Of course I know it was never really in my control, but for the first 20 years of my life I guess I was lulled into a false sense of security. There will little things that didn't work out back then, but really all the big stuff seemed to fit into my plans nicely.

Over the past 10 years my view has changed. Now, even the things that most people would count on as absolutes--grad school, for one, and the career that entails--are things I hesitate to make plans around.

So I guess that's what I'm giving myself permission for: permission to not know. Permission to stop planning and instead rely on God's plans.

Permission to "Trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. In all my ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct my paths." Proverbs 3:5&6 (with a slight change in pronouns there).

What are you giving yourself permission for?

Monday, December 2, 2013

for friday...

I saw a welcome home sign this morning on my drive in to class, and I almost started crying.

It's strange to me that even now, close to 10 years since I last saw my brother, little things can get to me. This morning it was the banner in a front yard welcoming home a Marine. A couple days ago it was a picture I found tucked away of Michael in Iraq--made even harder when Raiden walked in and saw it in my hands. She said, "Uncle Michael," then went on to say, "I'm really sorry for you, Mommy."

Friday is Michael's birthday, when he would have turned 33. Sometimes, I'm overwhelmed by the thought of how young 23 really was and how much life he has missed out on.

I know they say it isn't the years in someone's life that matters, but the life in someone's years.

To be honest, though, sometimes I wish "they" would just keep quiet.

I'll be 30 next summer, and I can't imagine anyone who would have teased me more about that fact than my big brother--even though he would have reached that milestone 4 years ahead of me.

I'm incredibly happy for that family who is getting to welcome their Marine home, just as I am happy for all Michael's guys who made it back. Today though, so close to a birthday that will never be the same, it was hard to see.

If you get a spare moment on Friday, I hope you'll think about Michael--and our family--on his birthday. Maybe have a slice of cherry cheesecake...or some barbeque little smokies...or a game of Risk if you have more than a moment.

Take a minute to say a couple of prayers in his memory: a prayer of thanksgiving for all those who made it home, a prayer for safety for all those in harm's way, and a prayer of remembrance for those who are missing out on birthdays way too soon.