Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Charlottesville, racism, and where we go from here...

As many of you already know, there was a tragic incident this past Saturday.  Neo-Nazi's and other hate groups gathered and protested in Charlottesville,VA.  There was a violent clash that culminated in a person driving a car through pedestrians murdering one and injuring more.  It was horrific and homegrown terrorism.  The hatred was racial.  The hatred was vehement.  The hatred ended in death.
That was Saturday.

Then on Sunday we had our church picnic.  I am blessed to be the pastor of a very diverse congregation.  I have not sat down and tallied it, however off the top of my head I will say this - we have Hondurans, El Salvadorians, Sierra Leonians, Liberians, Nigerians, Colombians, Puerto Ricans, White Americans, African Americans, etc...in our congregation.  [And forgive me if I forgot a couple nationalities and you read this! :)] Having said that, we are not some huge congregation.  It is not sporadic diversity.  We all sit together and worship God together every Sunday morning.  And this past Sunday was our church picnic.  It was hosted by a couple themselves that are diverse - a white man and a Salvadorian woman.  They have a beautiful home and they were gracious enough to host the church family.

I sat on the edge of their pool this past Sunday and looked in the pool.  White kids.  Black kids.  Immigrant children as well.  All together.  All having fun.  No problems whatsoever.

Later that evening I went to the grocery store.  [Before I go further I will say that our congregation's diversity represents the city's diversity in which I live] In the grocery store I was one of a few white patrons and the rest were of a different skin color than myself.  I did not feel out of place.  I did not feel threatened.  The checkout lady that served me was black.  The people in the line around me were black as well.  We smiled at each other and we made small talk.

Then I got back into the car and listened to the news.  Hatred.  Anger.  Division.  That is all that I heard.  Then I checked my Facebook feed.  Hatred and division;  emotive outbursts from people that I know personally and have always found pleasant in real life interaction.  And then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I asked myself a question, "who is profiting off of all this hate? Who is profiting that so many are encouraging and inviting us to hate one another?"  And make no mistake - there is money to be made off of our anger.  All the internet click bait causes advertising revenue.  Every hate group wants more sympathizers that will make them more money.  24 hour news cycles demand viewership.  Politicians need us to be motivated to vote and think in lock-step.  Hate sells.  Anger motivates us to action.  But...to what kind of action does it motivate?

There is a lot of money to be made and earthly power to be kept through the motivating power of hate.  There is very little money made and very little earthly power created through love.

And beloved, make no mistake - racism and tribalism is not new.  Even as Jesus walked the earth 2000 years ago He combated racism and tribalism.  The Jews did not talk to the Samaritans.  They were, "half breeds."  The Samaritans reciprocated.  The Greeks hated the Jews and the Jews hated the Greeks.  The Apostle's themselves were not immune.  One of the most comically sad verses in the Bible is when Peter figures out that Jesus wants to save not just the Jews but the Gentiles as well.  He is simply dumbfounded in Acts along with other Jewish followers when the Holy Spirit is given to the Gentiles in Cornelius' house.  This is vv 44-45 of Acts 10, "While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.  And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles..."  It is that little word, "even" that always gets me.  "Even them...God wants to save even them!"  

And here is the answer, "yeah people...even them."  Let us simply get this straight - we are all equally sinful and equally in need of a Savior.  Let us all remember that.  Human beings are naturally sinful.  Human beings are naturally tribal.  But remember my Christian brothers and sisters - our nature is what God gives us the Holy Spirit to overcome.

My concern is not that I can add that much to this discussion about race in America.  I am not going to solve the problem with a little blog.  However, I do have a goal.  Please beloved friends - do not allow those who want to pull the strings of hate pull you into it as well; because if we are not careful, the hate we saw in Charlottesville, endlessly reported, will make us look at the people in the pool a little differently.  It may make us look at the people in the grocery store differently.  We are all susceptible.  Please simply remember wise words from Dr. Martin Luther King, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."  Or if you will not listen to Him, listen to the Apostle Paul in Romans 12, "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Or if the Apostle is not authoritative enough, listen to the Christ Himself in John 15:12-13, ""This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends."

Please remember - we are all created in God's image.  We all have lost part of that image in that we have sinned.  We are all in the need of a Savior; and that Savior is Jesus, the Christ.  He gave up His life for His enemies.  And if you are unfamiliar, you and I were those enemies.  He died for you before you loved Him.  He died for me while I did not love Him.  He rose again to defeat our final adversary - death itself.  And for all who trust in Him, He intercedes on our behalf.  Please remember that the next time the media tries to get you to hate.

Your friend,

Chris



Sunday, April 23, 2017

''I am god..."

I was forwarded an article by a friend recently.  It is linked here so that you can read it.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/12/health/monogamy-sex-kerner/

As you can see, it's an article about having more than one sexual partner within a marriage.  While both, "sides" are presented, the thrust of the article is to inform the reader that monogamy - staying sexually exclusive with only your husband/wife - is not necessarily  healthy or beneficial for all marriages.  I will quote one sentence at the beginning of the article:

"consensual non-monogamy can be a healthy option for some couples and, executed thoughtfully, can inject relationships with some much-needed novelty and excitement."

I am not going to spend much time in this blog debunking the above sentence - or the article as a whole for that matter.  This blog is not about marriage or exclusive sexual relations within marriage.  I take those things to be self-evident.

Instead, I am going to spend the rest of this blog on the underpinning philosophical grounds that gives license to an author to make such ridiculous statements as the one above - and the grounds are this: I get to decide what is good, right, and moral for myself; and what I decide IS moral.

Basically, as the blog is entitled, the new American philosophy is, "I am god..."

It used to be that the world would look to their, "god" to find out what was good. People recognized that they needed authority to inform them of what is right and wrong.  Well, interestingly enough, that is still true today.  It is simply that in America, to a great extent, we have unashamedly declared that our, "god" is self and the self's desires.  Desire trumps all other things.  If I desire it, it is good.

I know that in the past people have mocked the old adage, "if it feels good, do it."  But I am convinced we have reached new heights in our adoration of self.  No longer do we even hide the fact that we are stripping away any moral constraints given to us from outside of ourselves.  At least in the past we used to make rationalized arguments about why we were allowed to break the moral code; but no longer.  Now, from popular news organizations we simply make it clear, "I get to decide what is right and wrong for myself."

This will not end well.  It cannot.  Reality will have its say.  Or, better stated, God will have His say.  When Jesus stated in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life..."  He wasn't being arrogant; He was speaking truth.  He is that which is true - He is truth personified.  So when He says in Matthew 19:5, "A man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one flesh - so they are no longer two, but one" He was not stating opinion. He was stating truth.  This is the truth of marriage.  When the Father spoke to Moses and said, "you shall not commit adultery" He was speaking truth. Therefore, even if it feels good, healthy, and exciting to cheat on your spouse and have multiple sexual partners, it is adultery, it is bad, and it is unhealthy.  Even if she agrees you ought to do it and she can do it to.  Simply because two people consent to break the rules does not for that reason change the rule.  It does not matter if you, "feel" the negative effects of immorality right away - God will have His say.  Truth will have its say.  It will not end well.  

But some people do not find mongamy pleasurable.  Some people do not find life-long marriage pleasurable.  So they fit to change it.  In the past, we used to make excuses for our adultery.  There were reasons why, "well in my case I had cause for my adultery..." The existence of the excuse was evidence that the conscience was not entirely seared; the adulterer thought up an excuse.  But now, no excuses are necessary.  We simply say, "marriage is not what the ancients taught...it can be something that I make up for myself..."

Marriage is not the only area. All throughout the landscape of our society we see the evidence of, "I am god..."  We get to decide what is moral and right in our schools, society, etc...But this will not end well.

Beloved, the Bible calls us all sinners.  What that means is that we have all failed - miserably.  This is why God gave us His Son - so that He could take our sins upon Himself and pay for them; and then rise from the grave to give us new life.  However, if we are not sinners - if adultery is no longer adultery - if we can simply change the rules to fit our sinful desires - who will repent?  Why will we repent?  If we are not wrong, if we get to make it up, then why change?  The Bible's beginning premise is no longer true - we are not sinners after all!  Who knew!

The evidence is in.  You and me making up morality does not benefit anyone; including ourselves.  Reality has its say.  Our over-sexualized culture has produced no good benefits.  Disintegrating families, children born without involved fathers, and 55 million abortions that have left the physical, emotional, and psychological toll inform us of this.  We cannot wish away moral constraint - it is built within us by the God who is - whether we want Him to be or not.

It is time we come face to face with the facts.  If we do not like the moral code, the problem is with us and our sin.  Come to terms with it.  We are wrong.  You are wrong.  I am wrong.  God is right.  His way is right.  His way is holy, good, and healthy.  If we do not like that which is objectively healthy  that is because we are in dis-health; or put another way - we are sinners.

But beloved, here is the good news.  God loves sinners.  He loves sinners so much that He sent Jesus to right our moral selves.  He healed us every place we were hurting or wrong.  He died to pay for our wrongheadedness and sinful selves; and He rose again to give new life.

Beloved, please do not try and rewrite the rules; they are etched in stone.  They cannot be changed.  Let us just admit we have gone awry of the stated rules - and seek forgiveness and restoration.

You friend,

Chris