Tuesday, May 29, 2012
I was thinking yesterday ( a dangerous proposition to be sure) when I was reminded of what citizenship is, and its implications. We call ourselves citizens of the Kingdom of God, I have but one question, just how serious are we about that proposition? We say over and over again that we are in it but not of it, when faced with true occasion to prove this how well do we do on the test. Trust, this question does not come without a great deal of self-examination, and I must confess I do find myself wanting. In this election year no doubt there are many who cling to Romans 13, yet ignore Roman 12 Many in this country get confused with regard to the role of the state vs the role of the church. To them may I point this out of both chapters . Romans 12 tells us in no unclear language (Rom 12:14-21) 14 Bless those who persecute you [who are cruel in their attitude toward you]; bless and do not curse them.15 Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief].16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty (snobbish, high-minded, exclusive), but readily adjust yourself to [people, things] and give yourselves to humble tasks. Never overestimate yourself or be wise in your own conceits.17 Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is honest and proper and noble [aiming to be above reproach] in the sight of everyone. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for [God’s] wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (requite), says the Lord.20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head. 21 Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome (master) evil with good. If you note there is nothing here that states that we should become activists willing to attempt to legislate from the top down… Keep in mind many of us can barely keep our own homes together, some of us have barely mastered our own passions, and yet we feel it is our job to legislate.. Well I did mention Romans 13 did I not, and here is what it has to say about the state (Rom 13:1-7) 13 Let every person be loyally subject to the governing (civil) authorities. For there is no authority except from God [by His permission, His sanction], and those that exist do so by God’s appointment. 2 Therefore he who resists and sets himself up against the authorities resists what God has appointed and arranged [in divine order]. And those who resist will bring down judgment upon themselves [receiving the penalty due them]. 3 For civil authorities are not a terror to [people of] good conduct, but to [those of] bad behavior. Would you have no dread of him who is in authority? Then do what is right and you will receive his approval and commendation. 4 For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, [you should dread him and] be afraid, for he does not bear and wear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant to execute His wrath (punishment, vengeance) on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath and escape punishment, but also as a matter of principle and for the sake of conscience. 6 For this same reason you pay taxes, for [the civil authorities] are official servants under God, devoting themselves to attending to this very service. 7 Render to all men their dues. [Pay] taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, and honor to whom honor is due. Once again nothing here about attempting to legislate our viewpoint from the top down, and why not? Well for one thing we are not (or at least we are supposed to not be of this world), meaning that our citizenship is not here. I am an American citizen, however that tie pales in comparison to my Citizenship to the Kingdom of God. Why is that? Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5: 20) 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors, God making His appeal as it were through us. We [as Christ’s personal representatives] beg you for His sake to lay hold of the divine favor [now offered you] and be reconciled to God. Allow me to provide an example. If you as a citizen of the US were to work in say France, would you be a citizen of that country? Of course not however there would be things that would be required of you, you would be required to pay taxes on monies made on the country of course, you would be subject to its laws of course but if France were to go to war against Germany (yeah yeah same old story I know) would you be required to fight in said conflict, of course not, why, because you are not a French citizen. Same principal applies. We are Citizens of the Kingdom, and Ambassadors at that, we are supposed to not be concerned with the affairs of state, and why not, because if we are Citizens of the Kingdom and we actually believe that no state can be in power except God ordain it then why would we worry about the affairs of state. There is a difference my friends between being passive the way the world sees it and being passive the way the Kingdom sees it . There is a difference between bringing about Justice and equity by any means necessary a la Malcolm X and bringing about Justice by way of love a la MLK. Here is what I mean. If Christ is our example if He really is, then we ought to be willing to lay down our lives out of love, even for the ones coming against us. We look the most like Christ when we are serving especially when it comes from the example He set on the cross. That is something that Western christianity does not get. We are visitors here yes we are called to serve, yes we are supposed to leave this place better than when we found it, but we are not to be so wrapped up in the state or culture that we find ourselves becoming part of the culture and even using the tools of the culture to try and make change. Jesus never did. Yes, He walked among us. Yes he spent more time around those whom society and the culture of His day would claim are the throwaway people. He never engaged in the methods of the day to change the culture, nor did He ever forget He was not from around here. How many of us are willing to so serve the poor, the homeless, the prostitute, and yes the homosexual to the point of death? How many of us really live like we do not belong so much that we are willing to lay it all down, in order to render service to and show love for those who our society at large disregards? How many of us are willing to go to in my city its lower Wacker drive and serve food to the homeless down there, or bring them clothes when its bitterly cold. How many of us are willing to go to the strip where the prostitutes hang out and actually do ministry there? How many of us are willing to go to the gay pride parade and serve water to the participants, no strings just serve, no preaching unless a door open to where you can share the gospel and not in the “I am coming from the book of Leviticus” way but rather , yes I am a Christian, no I am not here to berate you, but rather I am here to serve you, and yes to apologize and beg your pardon for the way things have been both said and done to you by those who call themselves my brothers and sisters. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/06/nyregion/06ministry.html . I wonder when will the day come that we really believe what we preach? I long for that day. We can work for peace we can agitate and we can make this place better than when we found it, but in order to do that we have to first let go of the religious methods of looking like the state. We cannot be citicens of the state, and Citizens of the Kingdom at the same time. What Jesus said about serving two masters concerning money also applies here as well , the old saying is to wear this world as a loose garment. We cannot do that if we find ourselves so embroiled in the actions of the state that we are seeking to intertwine ourselves with it. We do not seek to intertwine ourselves with the affairs of sinner so as to participate in them, then why is it that we seek to do this? Why do we seek that power? Why do we go after that preeminence? Some would say that we are to “occupy” until the Lord’s return, they would say that it is a military term. They are right it is a military term were the language used be military. First let’s pull it apart contextually. Jesus never said this to the disciples, it was used in a parable. Secondly the term occupy is the greek word pragmateuomai, this is not a military term, it means to continue the business of a banker, or to continue. Somehow this has come to mean a military term, and this is very wrong. We are not to be about using the tactics of the world to initiate change. Everytime the church has used the tactics of the state, not only has it been an ultimate failure, it has all but closed doors to the church’s ability to be effective. Anybody remember the failure of the church in Europe during the 13th through 18th centuries. This was due mostly to people resisting the state, and of course the state was so intertwined with the church that inquisitions took place in both Spain and France leading to murders taking place in the name of Jesus. Why is it so hard for us to understand we are not to be about legislating our faith? But I tell you this, if we really believe what we are saying about this, we need to lobby to have an amendment to constitution to outlaw divorce……I mean really if we are going to go after things that God hates, one would think that this would be at the top of everyone’s list… But I digress as a character in Tombstone retorted to the main character of the film, “my hipocrasy only goes only so far, and I quite willing to believe that to be the case for most of us. So, any takers on outlawing divorce???
I have long thought that the mission of the church can be and has been co-opted by our political system. I have long considered the repercussions of some of my stances on things that could warrant a deeper search of my own heart first before breaking into public discourse. I belong to a long line of ministers, my dad felt it was important that I know that there are several generations of ministers in my familial line. While that is something that truly one cannot help but be proud of I cannot help but wonder how would those men feel about some of the things I am going to say here. My father would definitely consider my theology very liberal, and he would be half right, however I do not consider that a pejorative statement, I hold it as a high honor. I have always held that Christianity is not for those who want to be told what to do. It is not for those who do not want to think. We are not automatons created for God’s pleasure. We are created in His image with a free mind and free will. I frankly agree with CS Lewis’ thought that God’s greatest demonstration of his omnipotence was the creation of beings who could tell him “No”. Thing is thought that with that ability does come a great deal of responsibility. Free will means that we have the ability to choose God, with the understanding that just as Jesus said that the only way someone can come to Him is that the Spirit of God draws him. Here’s the thing is the drawing overruling free will, of course not, the Spirit does not make you do anything you still have to yield yourself but it is YOU making the decision. We have free will on how we treat each other as well. And there is the rub. We treat each other with respect, we treat people that we know are involved in sin or I should say some sins with respect, we see them as people, we see them as people in whom Jesus saw enough immeasurable worth in that He died for them. What I find in the black church especially is a totem. We have some sins that are higher than others, for example, cheating on taxes is not so bad, so that gets relegated to the bottom of the sin totem. Others have cheating on one’s spouse on a lower totem position. However if someone is gay, this is at the top of the totem. The person who might be struggling with homosexuality is relegated to the top of the sin totem. They get scripture thrown at them, they get a lot of condemnation, a lot of man made conviction, but very little love thrown their way. I know some might say that the fact that some throw scripture is a form of love but to them I would say “So really having someone rub your nose in your sin was helpful in you accepting the truth. People are not dogs I have a dog, Maestro did not like his nose rubbed in his feces anymore we would care for someone to remind us of how sinful we are even when we do miss the mark. So why is it that when we feel the need to remind someone of their sin, we want to have the world blink at our own. I am sorry we cannot have it both ways.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
I have a confession to make. I am told that confession is good for the soul and that we should confess our sin to one another in love, the basis being that if restoration is needed, it can be done in an honorable manner that shows God’s continual love and grace shown to all of us, which is why Paul said that we should “restore such a one considering ourselves”. I have been for the past year and a half angry, perturbed, apoplectic, and downright cheesed off at God. Here’s why. Five years ago Nicole and I were planning a move here to Chicago, back then we were still in Tacoma, (actually Milton) my father had just died, and we were thinking that maybe it was time to start having kids. We did not know how much of a miracle getting pregnant is and how much of a struggle it can be. There were issues that had to be overcome but each time I saw Nicole rise to the occasion, every time I saw her just take it in and move forward. A year and a half ago we were given news that she would not be able to conceive and that our only choices were IVF (which was automatically eliminated or adoption. This is a confession so I have to admit that it was hard accepting that fact. I did my best to put up a good front for my wife, so that she would see that we could get through this. It was hard believe me it was hard. I found myself questioning God, like hey, you gave my wife a word concerning her becoming a mother, and you said that she would be calling the church letting them know that she was having a child. Now mind you I fully understand that sometimes with God there can be nuances, sometimes you have to hang on every word and pay close attention to what is being said. Now while I have to admit I pride myself on being able to do this with people because let’s face it sometimes people will couch things in a certain way or form their words in a certain way to sometimes get out of whatever it is that they do not want to deal with. Now while I am not attributing this to God I am aware that sometimes when you deal with a word from the Lord, you have to pay attention. I was upset really peeved because I had to deal with the fact that I would not look into the eyes of my child and see my mother’s eyes, I won’t watch my child and see some traits of people who influenced me. That is a hard line to walk. I admit I did not exactly walk it well. It hurt, it really hurt yeah I was in pain for me and for Nicole. But the thing is that I took it out on the one that I felt caused the pain. I forgot that while God is in control He is in only so much control. He does not always get what He wants, CS Lewis put it this way: “The most spectacular demonstration of God’s omnipotence was to create beings who could tell Him no”. Here’s the thing, I knew and know that God can do whatever He chooses, the thing that I have had a hard time wrapping my head around is why is it that He would not perform a miracle for Nicole and I. I understand that He can totally still do it, but the thing that I could not handle was why us why not just heal and let us go on our way? The thing that is starting to inch its way into my thoughts is this. In adoption you definitely get a child that needs you, but you need that child as well. When you really stop and think about it is a symbiotic relationship at its very best. The child needs a home where he or she can be loved, raised and set on the path for their life. You need the child so that you can express in a tangible way the love that God has placed in your life, now keep in mind I am not saying that adoption is the only way to do this; I am saying however that I am finding that this is one of the more powerful ways that you can express it. Believe me when I tell you this has not been an easy thing to wrestle with, please know that I am still healing, but I have to say this, when you have people in your life who love you, or simply care, and you give them the freedom to speak to you, about you, it is a blessing that you really cannot measure. All things work together, and I guess that is something that I am going to have to try to hold on to. I always thought that my first marriage and subsequent divorce was hard, I always thought that since I had made it through that situation that there was nothing more that I could experience that could knock me to my knees like that. I find that I was sadly mistaken. When I was in my early 20s I dated a young woman, she had a little boy who had been born almost a year before we met. I remember that I got tons of unconditional love from him he was anxious to see me every day as I was to see him. I would drive to her house, and I would lock my car and engage the alarm system, I would do this and he was able to recognize the chirp of my alarm and all I would hear was this long squeal that would start on the top floor of the house and quickly come to the front door. I learned two things from that, 1. I learned what it is to love fiercely, completely and unconditionally, I had never felt that before. 2. I learned that I wanted to have children it was the thing that I discovered that I wanted a lot. I know now that unless God works a miracle that Nicole and I will be adopting, and its ok, I may not be able to look into the eyes of my child and see my mom’s eyes, or see a trait of my grandparents there. But something different something a lot closer, a whole lot of love, I plan on spending the rest of my life nurturing, protecting, when necessary correcting, and yes loving that child because no matter what, l know love has no boundaries, has no measure of depth, and even survives death. Yes I am confession I am peeved with God, but this too is and shall pass. I cannot stay angry forever, I was not designed for that, and besides how can I continue to be upset and put out by someone who has blessed me the way that He has? Has allowed me to find and marry someone like Nicole, and allows me to be in a position to support her and our family, yes my furry firstborn Maestro counts too, I am reminded about that every time he smiles at me.
Monday, May 7, 2012
This is going to be a long and likely unpopular entry. I am just going to come out and say it, I am sick to death of the church being used by politicians to further their agenda’s regardless of who they hurt. I am sick and nauseated by those who call themselves ministers who prostitute the church to gain political power. I am tired of preachers who have no clue that the one they claim to serve would be embarrassed to own them as they pontificate as the Pharasees of old did. These have gone from opening a path for people to know the Saviour, to barring the way and locking all the doors, being those who callously agree to keep those who are disenfranchised in such a state for reasons that are political, not scriptural. How is it that we have so forgotten that the One we follow came here and ate, drank and yes partied with the same people, who today would be ostracized by the church as the Pharasees did in their day? Why is it that this is acceptable? Why is it that we have so allowed ourselves to be lied to, and for what? So some of those in leadership can gain political power to rule over people…Here’s the problem with that, Jesus while he did not run from His mission here, He did run from one thing, He ran from those who would use Him for politi:al advantage. (See John 6: 1-6) why is it that so many run to something that Jesus ran from? Why is it, that while preach about the love of God, we rarely show it to those who do not look like us? In this country we are quick to dismiss those that are disenfranchised, in Jesus’ day it was prostitutes, tax collectors, publicans and the like. In America in the 21st century we have the porn star, the woman who got an abortion, the divorcee, the single mother, and yes, the homosexual. In this country we practice something that I have labeled Americanized christianity, (I use the small c because this denomination practices a version of Christianity that the Apostles would not recognize). It is the unofficial official state religion, and that is a problem, a huge problem… We are supposed to be different from the culture, tell me how can we be different if we preach the same thing that the politicians preach? How is it that we can wrap ourselves in the flag of a nation, any nation and feel that we are actually doing Kingdom work? How is it that the language of politics has made its way into our midst? Did we not recall the lesson that Paul taught to the Colossians where he told them that they should not allow themselves to be overcome by the rudimentary elements of the culture in which they lived? (see Col 2:20) Why is it that we have come to feel in this country that to be an American one has to also be a christian? How is it that we have bought into the lie that so many politicians have told that “America is the shining light leading the way to freedom”, or the one they told that America is the worlds last best hope”? Both of those things are lies because we know that both of those things are reserved for one person and one person only Jesus Christ, and yet so many of us remain ever so silent, while others force the church on her back and allow her to be raped of her influence, make her of none effect because lets face it many in the world when they hear the fact that you are a christian and American a certain image fills their minds, and its not at all one that reflects the Kingdom of God. How has this happened, how is it that the church is now viewed as nothing more than a symbol of political power run amuck? Why is it that we cannot find it within ourselves to minister to the groups that are marginalized? Who are we to stand in judgment? How is it that we have suddenly become the guardians of morality? How is it that we feel free to pass judgement on groups because they exist outside the doors of the church? Why has preaching the gospel often become exercises in who can be the most boorish? Even Paul when he preached knew that in order to reach his audience he had to use their own philosophy in order to bring forward the message of the gospel. Why is it that we would rather run people away from the church rather than go out and lovingly serve, lovingly draw? Just this evening a prominent pastor feel s that instead of walking, instead of serving, instead of ministering, this man wants to throw people in jail for no other reason other than they are homosexual. Really!!???!! Is this what being a christian in this country has come to? To borrow a phrase from some of these men, there needs to be some repentence but from inside the church first rather than the outside it seems we have forgotten why we are here, and truth be told we really need to reclaim it. The church has got to stop letting these so called men of God get away with the nonsense that they have. The church needs to stop enabling these men , Jesus said of the Church at Ephesus : 2 To the angel (messenger) of the assembly (church) in Ephesus write: These are the words of Him Who holds the seven stars [which are the messengers of the seven churches] in His right hand, Who goes about among the seven golden lampstands [which are the seven churches]:2 I know your industry and activities, laborious toil and trouble, and your patient endurance, and how you cannot tolerate wicked [men] and have tested and critically appraised those who call [themselves] apostles (special messengers of Christ) and yet are not, and have found them to be impostors and liars. (Rev 2:1-2). Here is my point in a nutshell when is it that the church will wake up and actually shake herself and realize that she is being used by men who mean only to do one thing, gain in power politically, by any means necessary even if it means the use of slander, innuendo, and hate.