Imagine that you’re severely stressed. Maybe that’s not too much of a stretch for you right now. If you’re anything like me in tense times, then in addition to stress-pounding Skittles to cope, you develop an irrational suspicion of other people’s motives when they encounter you in your turmoil. Someone asks “How are you?” But the inquirer seems afraid, and you interpret the nervous eyes to say: “The answer to my question is any number of positive words, followed by your grateful acknowledgement of my asking.” If you do give an upbeat answer, no matter how dishonest, and you follow it up with your thanks, no matter how insincere, you think you spy in their smiling response not only happiness, but relief. And that makes you boil. Or, someone just looks at you in your stress but doesn’t ask how you’re doing, and you get mad about what seems to be an obvious lack of concern and you suspect that they’re silently condemning you. Either way, they can’t win. Stress and the charitable judgement of others are not natural friends.
What is your greatest desire in life? And what is right now your most difficult situation in life? And how do to the two relate?
If you know Christ, you know what the answer to the first question ought to be. Your greatest desire ought to be to glorify God, to live so as to reflect the glory of His saving grace in the risen Christ. That’s your heartbeat, but maybe as you read this, that desire feels faint, more like a murmur. Enter, then, your greatest difficulty.
How much of our Christian courage is a function of the comfort and convenience of our surroundings? How much of our boldness in Christian witness would wilt if the cozy accoutrements of a wealthy modern culture were taken from us?
Imagine if our words in praise of Christ no longer had the internet as an outlet, if every word of public witness had to actually be spoken in public, or at least in private to a living, breathing, and potentially hostile human being. Imagine if there were no more church conferences to attend, no more family camps, no more youth group outings at which to find Christian fellowship. And, perhaps worst of all, imagine if there were no more coffee shops – !!!!!- at which to study Scripture, write sermons and do theological cyber battle with Christians from different denominations, all comfortably and anonymously as one among many happy, well-caffeinated people.
It makes me so sad to see Evangelicals heaping praise upon Donald Trump and abusing the Bible to do so. “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7) has to be one of the most misused texts of Scripture in our day. Politicians and their supporters use it to tell Christians to look past the commandment-breaking lifestyle of their choice for President, as if Jesus taught that someone’s doing some benevolent things in addition to blatantly evil things was sufficient proof of authentic faith.
Is your loyalty as a friend being put to the test? It might be, publicly, and you might have no idea it’s happening. It could be happening right now as you read this! Perhaps you’ve seen something like this in your Facebook feed, posted by one of your friends: “I’m tired of people just pretending to be my friend. So I’m going to see who among all my so-called ‘friends’ on Facebook really is one. Whoever cares enough to take a few extra seconds – seriously, how hard is that?! – to read this ENTIRE post, please copy the last line and post it on your page. Then, I’ll “like” it and know that your friendship actually means something. Everyone else I’m just going to unfriend. I’ll leave this up long enough for my real friends to notice and to make themselves known. You have one day. Go.”
When I was five years old, my parents took me and my sister to a farm – I think it was a farm – I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings so much as the reason for the trip. We were getting a puppy! Pretty soon I was standing in front of a wire-fenced, makeshift kennel in which a litter of mutts happily yipped and played together. They were a mix of Golden Retriever and German Shepherd, and the one with a white tip on his tail immediately caught my attention. So did the fact that he nipped me. Yep, this was going to be our dog.
God has blessed the Geneva chapel program with some absolutely wonderful sermons and testimonies this fall, and I say that with no reference whatsoever to my own work. From Dr. Dan Doriani of Covenant Seminary, to Dr. Bill Edgar, Geneva’s interim President, to Dr. Christopher Yuan from Moody Bible Institute, and co-author along with his mother of Out of a Far Country, A Gay Son’s Journey to God and a Broken Mother’s Search for Hope – these men have brought the chapel crowd wonderful biblical substance expressed in their own pastoral, engaging styles.
We have such low standards for heroes. And I don’t just mean comic book superheroes: Green Lantern…Hawkeye….Robin (!?!) No matter how much we equivocate the term, these guys don’t deserve the title “super.” But that’s a subject for another blog. In this one, I’d like to explore the tendency among Christians in our modern, Western culture to laud as heroic any non-fictional person who seems even vaguely virtuous. In a time of moral famine, Christians seem far too eager to gobble up and praise what little signs we see of basic good behavior and to celebrate them as Christ-like. To borrow and adapt C.S. Lewis’ expression: When it comes to distinctly Christian heroism, we are far too easily pleased.
As Bible-believing Christians continue to speak out against sinful, seismic social changes and against atrocities enacted in the name of health care, they are met with predictable charges of hypocrisy. “You have no right to protest when people of your faith fail so miserably to tangibly care for the people you claim to champion.” Despite the civilization shaking significance of the evil these Christians decry, some people are far more interested in decrying (sometimes without specific example) the evil of Christian hypocrisy. The mere existence of Christian hypocrisy apparently invalidates all public Christian protests. We could expect such thinking and accusations from opponents of Christianity. What’s unnerving is that these predictable accusations and the imbalanced moral outrage they represent are coming more and more from Bible-believing Christians.
There is a difference between freedom and autonomy (literally, self-law). Freedom allows flourishing within a defined context conducive to life. To bloom bright and beautiful, flowers are “constrained” by their need for water, good soil, and sun. Autonomy demands the right to redefine terms and refuse any restraint. Pop culture and political activists in black robes have made it clear: We demand autonomy. No fixed definitions for social institutions and therefore none for us as individuals. We demand the right to self-define, no matter whose freedom gets trampled in the process and no matter who gets hurt, including ourselves. As we will increasingly see, but will likely keep refusing to learn, self-definition is self-destruction.
The following satire is barely hyperbolic. As these recent articles show – doctors in Belgium to kill healthy 24 year old and Aggressive pursuit of the right to die – this scenario is now nightmarishly close to materializing.