I was listening to Saturday’s with Mark and Tony and Tony Campolo mentioned the quote, which you’ve maybe heard before:
“God created us in his image, and we decided to return the favor.” -George Bernard Shaw
He was acknowledging that we tend to have churches divided by race, socio-economic status, political views, etc. because we each make God in our image. This made me think about another thing someone once said to me when we were talking about politics and I was saying that the best way to vote is to vote find out how the poor vote and he said:
“Well, the poor are selfish too.”
He was acknowledging that, just like everyone else, the poor wouldn’t do what was in the best interest of everybody, but rather what was in their own best interest. So, the poor have created a god who cares about the poor, the rich have a god who cares about the rich, the liberals have a god who cares about liberals, and so on. But this is what struck me, while God does care about all humankind, if you look at Scripture, God does seem to care about a certain group quite a bit. So, as flawed humans, that create god’s that selfishly serve our own interest, I think the god that most accurately (though still flawed) aligns with the God I encounter in Scripture is the god of the poor. God cares about the poor and oppressed. I think we usually give a knowing nod to the mention that there are literally thousands of verses in the Bible that talk about the poor, but then somehow we spend maybe a few hours a year actually reflecting on those verses or discussing their implications for our lives. This is a long way of saying that I think I’m going to focus (as I probably already have) my Sunday post to be devotional thoughts, specifically though, reflecting on the wealth of verses in the Bible that talk about the poor.
Originally Posted in February 2006
The story goes something like this:
A typical church in a well-to-do neighborhood is inspired by the stories shared by a visiting missionary. In an effort to contribute to the needs that the missionary has shared the church has a clothing drive and encourages members to donate their winter coats for those who don’t have a coat to keep warm. The drive is a wonderful success and the missionary sends word of how the coats have benefited the people she works with. This is a wonderful thing.
The following year, the church again encourages it’s members to donate their coats and clothing and again they fill boxes with used clothing and coats. Now we have a problem.
Why is this a problem? The needs of the community are being met, with coats and clothing coming their way. And to the degree that those needs are met it is hard to critique without being looked at poorly. Yet I will still address my concern about the church.
Let me entertain you with some questions:
1. Have you ever participated in a clothing drive?
Having heard about a need in the world, you recognized that you had more then enough for yourself, and you where compelled to share your possessions with those in need.
2. Look at your closet now. Does it reflect those same convictions that moved you to donate your clothes in the first place?
3. More specifically, if I looked at your closet now, would I be able to see your convictions reflected, or would I say you are a prime candidate for our next clothing drive?
See, the problem with clothing drives is that often they result in a “hand me down” sort of charity. We donate our old, out of fashion, and undesirable clothes and make room in our closets for the new wardrobe we’ve been eager to purchase. Not only do we physically clean out our closet, but do it in the name of “charity” as if these actions are a noble act of giving. (If I am not describing you, please don’t feel judged or feel the need to defend your actions). This is a “false charity.”
What am I suggesting instead? I would like to see convictions drive our actions, not events like a clothing drive. If you have two coats and you only need one, then you should give the other away. The next time there is a coat drive your only option should be to buy a new coat and donate that one to the coat drive, because the one you currently have you need. If you have more shoes then you need you should give them away, and if you have more clothes then you need you should give those away too.
A church full of people living out their convictions would have no use for a clothing drive (unless it was to collect new items), because every member would have already given away their excess.
“The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”*
It’s the age old question of pacifist, last January I gave my spin on it:
It’s the typical question that get’s asked of anyone who declares themselves a “pacifist.”
What would you do if someone was attacking your family (loved ones)?
It’s the magic card up someones sleeve to stump that said pacifist into agreeing that sometimes violence, and war, is okay and necessary. I’ll be honest this was a difficult question to handle when I first started thinking about pacifism. What made it difficult was the passage we talked about previously, “Love your enemies…” What suddenly happened was that now both the attacker and the victim are my loved ones. It’s like having to change the question to:
What would you do if your wife was attacking your father?
(or pick the two people closest to you)
Now I’m not so sure killing the attacker would be my pat answer. If I love that person I certainly wouldn’t want their death. I love the victim though as well and I don’t want them to die, so the situation is now far more complex then the original question presented.
For me, this question simply confirms to me that thinking as a pacifist, or rather, thinking about what to do with ‘killing’ not being one of the options.
So, What would you do if…
This is more question time for the readers then me giving answers.
In a discussion at the house the other day, and a couple email conversations with some readers, I’ve started to rethink what topics, facts, concepts, etc. are essential to the Gospel.
There’s all kinds of cliches and sayings about the gospel: “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” There’s all kinds of things we spend far too much time talking about and others we simply neglect. So, take a minute to think about this. I’m wondering, if someone were to come up to you and ask you write now, “What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?”
What would you say?
There was quite a bit of conversation last week after I posted about the benevolent act of Philip Workman, a man executed in Tennessee last week for murder. The initial comments put me deep in thought and I’ve been trying to think through my values and ethics and trying to make sure I’m not holding double standards. This is not a direct response to those comments, but it was provoked by those thoughts. Today, I simply wanted to write a brief devotional thoughts post about some of the heroes of the Christian faith.
Moses seemed to often be in the right place at the right time. As a baby, when his fellow Hebrew tots were being killed off, Moses managed to get in with Pharaoh’s family and grow up as royalty. Then he grew up, learned a bit about his history, and in a moment of zeal kills a guy. He lives as a fugitive in the desert for about forty years and then goes on to lead one of the greatest freedom movements of ancient times, the exodus of the Jewish people out of Egypt. Moses was a murderer, though never captured and convicted, and he then went on to be a famous leader and a pillar of the Jewish and Christian faith.
David is the original Cinderalla-story: Shepard boy becomes Israel’s great King. Every kid in a church grows up hearing about how David slays Goliath. And we don’t really see it as murder, it’s the epic good vs. evil story, redemptive violence at its finest. So, most wouldn’t agree that David qualifies as a murderer for that. But the other story we don’t teach many kids in church, is about David committing adultery and then having a man killed to protect his crime. And as repentant as David might have been, David was a murderer. David even recommended the death penalty for a person who committed a crime such as his, but the sentence was never carried out. David is remembered as one of Israel’s Greatest Kings, which seems to overshadow his death-deserving crime.
Paul is, next to Jesus, probably the most influential forefather of the Christian faith. The guy wrote half the New Testament, established churches all over the Roman Empire and was a martyr for the faith. Paul was so special, Jesus even paid him a special visit after he’d already ascended to heaven. By his own admission Paul was a murderer of Christian’s prior to becoming one himself. The fact that Paul’s murderous campaigns were one of the greatest original threats to Christianity does not seem to phase us now as we lift him up as one of the founding pillars of our faith.
Jesus himself was more or less a fugitive for part of his three years of ministry. He constantly avoided certain areas and had to duck away from persecuting crowds (how he managed that is a mystery to me). And Jesus, who maintained his innocence until the very end received the death penalty.
The point of this short run down of Biblical figures was not to make a statement that murder is okay, by no means do I think killing someone is ever a good idea. It was a chance however to reflect on how four of the greatest figures in the Bible were or were treated as criminals, and yet we are able to look through that, around it, in spite of it and see the great good that was accomplished through them as well. I have the great honor to work with many youth who in their own moments have made grave mistakes and they are paying a price for that. However, I would hope I, and no one else, ever stamps a permanent label on them that keeps them from having a second chance and keeps others from recognizing each benevolent act that they make. Here’s to every murderer who has turned their life around and contributed to the well being of humanity, I applaud you.
I’ll start by saying I love writing, I also love reading. I enjoy talking to people and hearing others thoughts. I love that this blog has to a small degree become a place of dialog and a place were daily I can share and discuss with many others from different walks of life. I also know at times or maybe by some natural inclination, we might tend to flock towards people similar to us. It’s nice to be around people who will agree with you, but it’s probably not best.
I’m not sure how to do this in a way that works, but here’s my thoughts. Reading through my blogs you can get an idea of some of my values. If you read the comments of some of the regular readers around here, you can see that to some degree they share some of the same values. That’s not to say that we all think the same, but there are a number of shared beliefs, yet we still have interesting and constructive dialog. However, at the risk of offending someone, I think this dialog is lacking.
I’d like to open this blog somehow to those that think differently then me, that might disagree with my beliefs, my faith, my lifestyle choices, or anything else. I want to listen, not for a chance to argue, but for a chance to grow and learn. Hopefully for a chance to think through and experience a glimpse of life from a perspective I haven’t thought of before, or haven’t considered, or previously dismissed.
The Floor is yours. And there’s two ways we can do this. If you’d like just feel free to leave a comment below. But if you want to put a little more time and effort into it, use the contact form or mention below that you’d like to make an official post, and I’ll take five posts and make them each a daily post next week. Those posts will show up in the feed readers and email boxes of all the subscribers to my blog, it’s your chance to step on the platform and give voice to your concerns, my ears, and others are listening. If you drive an SUV, or wear Nike shoes, or drink lattes daily, the floor is yours. If you don’t believe in Jesus, or you do believe in Santa Claus and presents, the floor is yours. If you just wanted to finally have a chance to speak your mind to me, the floor is yours. And you have my word, I’ll do my best to listen and learn.
It’s Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, a holy day to many, a day for chocolate and presents for many more. I’ve been thinking for a while about what I wanted to say about today. I’m well aware that not everyone who comes across my writings here believes in God, nor do many believe in the Bible or Jesus Christ in any way as authorities. I’ve appreciated those who have stuck around and interacted with me despite my off-the-wall radicalism and extremism at times, and have taught me many things I would not have been able to see myself. I’ve been trying to think of what brilliant thing I could say to allow me to acknowledge my belief in the resurrection without being written off as a complete fool and a loony.
Whether you or I believe in the Easter Bunny or not, in no way affects whether an Easter bunny really exists. Someone said they found Jesus’ bones a few months ago, but whether you or I believe it has no effect whatsoever on whether they really are ‘Jesus’ bones’ or not. There are some things, such as the Easter bunny, that you and I could examine the evidence, and more then likely come to an agreement on a belief, and if I continued to disagree with you, you might say I’m nonsensical. We might also be able to examine the evidence concerning the Tomb of Jesus that was discovered, but if we come to different conclusions, it is probably not fair to write each other off as nonsensical in the same way that we did concerning the Easter Bunny.
I will be the first to admit that there are a great many things that I currently believe that are wrong. I recognize I am a flawed human being, and that is why this post is not a structural argument for why you should believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s also not an attempt to say that that idea is nonsense. I think my point is to say that I believe there is truth out there and we are all wandering travelers on a search for that truth. You might think it is nonsense that I believe I have found truth in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, but that’s okay, because I’m willing to believe it is nonsense too. You might say the impact this belief system has had on my life is all psychological, and I’m willing to believe that might be true as well (though at the moment I disagree).
I don’t intend to come across in any way as relativistic. I believe there is absolute truth. In the same way that there is a truth concerning gravity, there is also a truth concerning whether Jesus Christ rose again or is dead and buried somewhere. I’m not sure what that truth is, as a finite and flawed being I’m not sure I’ll ever have an exact answer to that. And I can understand anyone’s critique of my beliefs, because they to do not see conclusive evidence to prove one way or the other.
If you remember anything from this rambling remember this:
A while ago I wrote a series of posts “Thoughts on War.” It mainly involved an on going conversation with Brian (glad to have you back).
Below is a brief take of mine on the famously referenced Romans 13 from, Let the discussion begin:
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
This is the first verse of the primary passage I hear cited in reference to why we should support the war. The argument I think is that quite simply God has put our president in place and therefore if our governing authorities call for something we should submit (support) it. To a large degree I find no disagreement with this argument. The struggle with this type of thinking for me comes when I start to think about who “Everyone” entails. That means an Iraqi Christian, if called to join the armed forces under Saddam, should join, and support the cause of the governing authority above him. That means the Nazi German soldier’s where simply following this same Scriptural reasoning when they begin killing the Jews. That means if the authorities in this country have deemed abortion as an acceptable practice, Christians should stop protesting Abortion Clinics and instead should be supporting them.
What followed (and preceded) was an ongoing discussion entitled, Thoughts on War.
A great series I enjoyed writing that I wish I continued was about the church. And it started with this post, Why a Building?:
I think my initial hesitation about the whole building thing came when the church building craze started my last year of high school. My church decided we need to add a $2.5 million addition on to our building. I didn’t realize we were outgrowing the original building in the first place, and now they wanted to add on. And in adding on they wanted it to look really nice, which is understandable since the current building looked quite nice. But I thought to myself $2.5 million is a whole lot of money, and it just doesn’t seem necessary.
Little did I know over the next few years practically every church I went to was doing a building campaign. Some of them really needed it, others I wasn’t so sure. We attended one church for a while and then they started a building campaign for a second building and they where putting an indoor waterfall in it. That was it, I was gone.
Then at some point I started thinking… Why the heck do we need a building anyways? I mean we all live somewhere, why don’t we meet in our homes? It seemed to me that’s mostly what the early church did. I mean, it’s true we couldn’t all pack in to hear the really good preachers, but since when is that what it’s all about? Some would say that’s what small groups are for, to meet in smaller communities in our homes and stuff (I’ll address this later).
I’m not saying church buildings don’t have a purpose, I’ve just started questioning if they are really necessary at all. I mean is it feasible to do the things we do in a church building in our homes instead? And what about bigger events? Is it possible to do those in a place other than our own building?
One of my main concerns about the building is that seems to be all we spend our money on, or talk about spending our money on. The main time you hear about making tithing pledges in most churches it seems is usually related to a building campaign. And then the church goes into debt to purchase the new building before they even have all the money.
That was just a rant of sorts, I really should fine tune it a bit, but there it is raw.
The conversation that began from that post was great and it continued into a brief series entitled, Considering Church.