In a first world nation, particularly our own, we have not often faced our mortality up front and personally. When that happens it significantly disrupts how we process things. Our prosperity, overly busy lifestyles, and brushing aside all things pointing to death leave us Ill-equipped … Continue reading Why faith is needed
On occasion the Holy Spirit, whose operations are mysterious no doubt, taps you on the shoulder. The tap is often a kind way of saying you need to do something different or correctly. This occurred when on a spiritual retreat. I wanted to try something different by reading through the whole Bible in one week. Right up from I got a tap on the shoulder that I was reading it wrong. Here are some things that stood out when going through the whole book.
You’re likely not the hero
We like to identify with the protagonist in the story, and not the mob. Chances are very good that we’d be like the mob. Reading through the Bible will break you and it will challenge whatever perspective of the Bible you hold. Rather than asking how people in the Bible could make the mistakes they make, ask yourself how you could make those same mistakes. Why? Because we do. The Bible was written to people like you in me. Different time and culture, but many of the same challenges.
Scope and Sequence
In reading through the Bible in a week, aim to see the big picture of what is going on. Speed read it. The win isn’t details, it’s the big picture. If something catches your attention, flag it to study later. In hitting the New Testament I suggest this order: Matthew, Hebrews, Galatians, Revelation, and then the rest in order. Coming fresh off the Old Testament, those books in the New Testament will make a TON more sense. But first, pray and tell God that you’re going to listen and keep you mouth shut. Bible reading is ultimately about listening to God. For me, the process took about 6-8 hours of 216ish pages a day.
Reading from beginning to end is interesting. Genesis carries a lot more weight than we realize, as do the first five books. God’s standard is perfection in every sense of that term. This is massive when suddenly in the New Testament Jesus touches people who were forbidden in the temple. The prophets will depress you. Even heroic moments ultimately become let downs. But before that lets you down, there are the writings. Those books show how things can be done. Psalms is a pain to read. Great content, but repetition of various phrases make it challenging reading. The Gospels are a breath of fresh air! The New Testament carries common themes from the Old, but Jesus gives TONS of up. Things move ahead.
Reading through the Gospel makes you VERY thankful for the Gospel. Without the Gospel we are very stuck. What is also amazing is how gracious and merciful God is throughout the entire Bible. The mean curmudgeon feeling we associate with God in the Old Testament isn’t there. God is truly the loving father who doesn’t give up on his family, even when his family abuses or takes advantage of him.
The key message from God nearly always been an old story of hundreds if not thousands of years old. We ask the question of why we should listen to a book that is 2,000 years old. But that comment could easily be made in Noah’s day, Abraham’s, Moses’, Davids, and Jesus’ day. But given this span of time, God’s Word became more and more fulfilled…literally.
You are loved
A repeated phrase throughout the Bible is God’s love endures forever. It is a major theme in the Bible. If God chose to orient himself with humanity through the lens of justice, we would not exist. Instead God chose the lens of grace and mercy. A BIG reason for the chaos we live in now is God wants you to be a part of his family. God willingly endures what he hates to get what he most loves, and that is you. God doesn’t give up on those he loves.
The bottom line:
Take the time to read through the whole Bible as fast as you can. It may seem intimidating, but it is very refreshing. While it will break you, scare you, it will also leave you feeling incredibly loved. Ultimately the Bible is about God revealing himself and being available to us all. Even when we try to run from him.
We tend to react or repeat things rather than respond to things. Many level headed Christians have grave concerns with the “prosperity Gospel.” This teaches that being in Jesus gets you massive Earthly blessings. Living it up is seen as being godly. This is wrong. In the last decade a “poverty gospel” developed that sees being godly as neglecting Earthly goods as a sign of contentment and holiness. This is also wrong. We need to learn how to live in contentment. This means when we have much or we have little.
What is asceticism
Asceticism is a movement throughout Christian history where people under go significant discipline or give up on the pleasurable things in life in view of trying to be godly. Some have even taken to actually beating themselves. (The cutting movement seems to have ancient ancestors.) Asceticism is taking on new forms today (hence neo-asceticism), but it is not a new movement. Here is why asceticism is problematic:
Problem #1: Things don’t control us
It is easier to blame an object than take ownership for our own responsibility. This comes up all the time in the area of technology. An object has no power over us. It is the choices we make that is at issue. I often take breaks from technology to keep me from choosing technology over more important things.
Problem #2: Collecting things is a form of worship
Solomon repeatedly said “Eat, drink, and enjoy the fruit of your labor, for this too is a gift from God.” Having things that we enjoy is truly 1) A blessing from God and 2) Enjoying Him. When Paul discusses contentment, it includes when he had much as much as when he had little. BOTH require the power of Christ, and hence the “all things” that we can do through Jesus. Giving up things can be as unholy and unspiritual as hoarding things selfishly. Saying God blessed me when we gained a good job or things are going well or we received game tickets to our favorite sports team. Life is a gift that God intends for us to enjoy.
Problem #3: Godliness trumps working out
Yes, we are to take care of ourselves. But, we are also at times called to sacrifice ourselves. We can worship the temple instead of the God of our temple. We can worship the Bible instead of the God of our Bible. We can worship worship, instead of the God of our worship. Paul warns us that we can go to far in the health craze. Being healthy and working out has value, but it’s not the most important thing. You can have a great health and body, and not be holy.
Problem #4: Works is a false gospel
The point of Jesus is we cannot earn our way to heaven and we can’t good enough. Deep down the problem with asceticism is we think that God doesn’t REALY love us. We blame other things for our lack of holiness, or worse we take the asceticism route to look better than what we are. (Ironic that giving up things or being extremely disciplined can actually be really selfish.) The point of Jesus is that he free’s us to be our best. Fear, anger, etc. is antithetical to being a Christian. Jesus us gave us his best up front. There’s nothing we can do to earn more of his love. He gave it all! So what’s the cure for neo-asceticism?
Cure #1: Learn to make wise choices
We are often the choices we make. God does give us free will. Use it. Freedom does not have be anarchy. So take responsibility for your own actions.
Cure #2: Enjoy the Earthly blessings
I love fountain pens. I collect them. Such were gifts from friends and family. I use them for work and take great pleasure in using them. This is a gift from God. I had a friend recently buy his dream car. Life is going well, he’s blessing others, generous to his church family, and he enjoyed the fruit of his labor. Enjoying life is part of worship. (When he had little he gave up what he loved because that was the wise choice.) Like a dad taking delight in giving his kids something they love, God delights in us when we enjoy the blessings he gives us. A big part of this cure: Learn to be happy for others when they’re blessed and you’re struggling.
Cure #3: Be healthy, and eat that piece of cake
The purpose of being healthy is to splurge. Sometimes it’s about sacrifice, sometimes its to party. God instructed Israel to collect money for the poor. God also instructed them to save up to party. Same God. Sacrifice and splurging are both aspects to worship and godly living. With work also comes rest. God worked. God rested.
Cure #4: Cease striving
Know that God is God, and that he deeply loves you. Stop operating out of fear and learn how deep the father’s love for us is. Jesus did the asceticism thing so we wouldn’t have to. While there are times of frugality and suffering, God also gives times of plenty and wealth. Whichever you’re in, focus on who God is and how you can bless others. If you’re trying to be a good Christian, you’re really missing the point.
The bottom line:
We too often struggle with the idea that God loves us, deeply, and significantly. We often choose to live less than comforting lives in order to be more noble or holy. We can easily blame things or other such things for lack of whatever, and family to recognize our own choices. Let’s stop operating our of fear and guilt and enjoy the life God gives. As Solomon said: Eat, drink, and enjoy the fruit of your labor, for this too is a gift from God. Cheers!
Let us change the discussion from navel gazing at ‘the why’ of our problems and look to solutions. One sentence on the why of the “church” problems: Unbiblical thinking combined with lack of thought and theology leads to poor discernment and a mess. Now that the problem is out of the way, we can stop reading numerous church is blah blah blah articles. A wise professor drilled three concepts that will help us overcome: Think. Judge. Redeem.
Proverbs teaches us to be wise is to be godly. Ephesians 5&6 teaches us to be godly is to be wise. In Ephesians 4 as well as Romans 12 the Spirit points directly at the life of the mind. Christianity must work in the midst of suffering and chaos of our current world. And it does. Our fear stems from a lack of thought. Reason and faith are not opposed to one another. Our devotional life must ponder the deep questions of life as we study the Bible. Renewing our mind is a critical aspect to worship. Jesus did say we will not only worship in spirit but also in truth.
God is the source of all truth. In our current reality there is evil and suffering in the world. The question we then need to ask is how to we discern good form evil? Developing the mind is for the pragmatic result of discerning between good and evil, and between better and best. It is to, as Jesus stated, be wise as serpents but innocent as doves. This level of discernment is expected of us as Christians. (Read Hebrews 5:11-14)
Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. The world is not a mere reference to people, but all creation as well. As we discern truth from error we must answer the question of how to redeem it. As Paul states, redeeming the time for the days are evil. How can we take an object that is depraved, discern the truth of it, and then use such for God’s glory? We are not to live life as a great waiting room for heaven. We are to engage in life and assist in the process of making it new in anticipation of Jesus return. This takes courage.
Lights. Trees. Action.
Think. John talks about Jesus being the light of the world. Judge. Martin Luther, a pastor in Germany, is faced with the paganism of the people he is trying to reach. One pagan ritual was bringing in evergreen trees to celebrate the winter solstice. The people needed to move away from false religion and instead focus on Christ. Redeem. The solution was to add lights to the evergreen tree to represent Jesus as the light of the world. A tradition once tied to paganism is renewed to a symbol of an incredible truth.
Act, don’t react.
We react negatively when our mind and discernment lacks development. Worse, we act in fear. Developing the mind is a critical spiritual discipline. Discernment is essential if we are to not only speak the gospel but also live it. Redemption is a critical role we play as ambassadors for Jesus Christ. Developing the mind does not take away from faith. Truly, developing the mind bolsters the reasonableness and truthfulness of the gospel.
The bottom line:
Developing the life of the mind is a solution to help the church radiate the truth of the gospel, bless our culture, and act with gracious courage.
I’ve had many conversations with believers who hold socialistic views from a seemingly biblical standpoint. While the marriage of church and state is disaster, it is essential for both to be in the public square. The marriage of church and state is disaster, yet too many vouch for that idea. Secularism/socialism is also disaster. What is a biblical solution to this seeming paradox? Freedom! Freedom is a consistent theme throughout Scripture. Ultimately, tyranny is the absence of God whereby humanity rejects God and is unable to govern itself. Socialism has the appearance of justice, but in the end it is anything but just.
Socialism is government codified legalism
Are you for or against legalism? The answer is obvious, a whole book of the Bible decries the false gospel of legalism. Why then, if for freedom’s sake Christ set us free, would we yield to a governmental structure that is legalistic? The common thread I am hearing from “christian socialists” is not congruent with biblical thought. This is often couched in the “tax the rich” or “universal healthcare” discussions. For, those with more should help those with less. Such is a true biblical principle, but not when mandated. Forced outward conformity does not produce inward change. Besides, there are selfish socialists too. Further, people can covet power as much as money.
Socialism is stealing not generosity
“Tax the wealthy to lower interest rates for college students.” If one were to take money from a wealthy person to pay for a nobel thing such as education, one would be in jail for stealing. The money was not theirs. If one could get the government to tax that money away, which is still not theirs, such is considered ‘noble.’ This coercion may give the appearance of generosity, but lacks the heart change God is concerned with. It is forcibly taking one’s private property and giving it to another. The justice of this is questionable at best.
Self interest is not selfishness
The problem with “christian socialism” is the merging of self-interest with selfishness. The acquisition of wealth to leave an inheritance is wise. Being stingy and lacking generosity is unwise, especially concerning the poor, as one is to love their neighbor. If by coercion we take what is not ours via the government, how then does a person have the resources they desire to help their neighbor, friends, and family? When you or I are forced by coercion our compassion decreases, not increase.
Write down a couple of people or families you wish you do more to help. With that in mind, about 40-50+% of our money earned goes to taxes. Moving more towards socialism means more will need to be taken from you. Pretend you’re rich, and in the name of justice the government takes more of your revenue, inhibiting your ability to help your neighbor. By having less of your money, you’re ability to build a business to employ others is diminished. Ask this question: How do African-American families, who have been gravely wronged from past sins of our country, build up generational wealth? It is in the self interest of our families to build wealth and security. It is also in our self-interest to be generous with our wealth to those in needs. Socialism inhibits both.
The Big 10
The Bible teaches private property. Do not steal, and do not covet make little sense without such. People have equal dignity or do not murder, the Sabbath, and not bearing false witness makes little sense. God will judge, or the first couple commandments make no sense. In his judgments both nations and people are included. The core is actions based on an inward belief system. If we become a “christian socialist” nation, does our outward performance match the nation’s heart or will our nation be judged for taking that which was not ours? Will we be judged for ruling as the gentles do?
Acts and all things in common…
Acts describes sacrificial generosity, not socialism. The church started with nothing and holding to “the way” was socially unacceptable. The radical sacrifice from a changed heart, not governance, allowed the church to be established. Because of this Gospel a greater concern- people’s salvation- was at heart. Now whether a prisoner, slave, workman, employer or rich, the issue was mutual respect under the equality of the Gospel AND to use one’s station in life as a platform to share the Gospel.
The Gospel is shrewd
In the Gospel and becoming more like Jesus, the issue of slaves submitting to their masters and teaching on contentment is not an endorsement on slavery to the neglect of freedom. It is a keen shrewdness centered on heart change. Submission to government is not a blind thing, but rather a shrewdness of “overcoming evil with good.” Why? Ultimately the Gospel is the truest source of freedom. And the promotion of that freedom doesn’t come from claiming rights, but rather in loving submission. Not blindly, but with wisdom and shrewd living. In the Gospel we have freedom. In that freedom we willingly set aside rights and property to spread the Gospel. Not by compulsion, but as free people.
The bottom line:
Freedom is an efficient mess and tyranny is inefficient graveyard. Only God can rule justly, and given our fallen state, only freedom can pragmatically counterbalance our propensity to tyranny. Socialism, as a Christian choice for governance, is essentially codified legalism. It may give the outward appearance of justice, but it fails the heart. The inefficient reality of socialism will ultimately lead grave injustice. In the name of justice, socialism will erode our ability to love our neighbor, and act in the self-interest of our family and friends. Let’s be a voice for freedom.
I am not surprised. The news that broke this week about Planned Parenthood is a natural outgrowth of secular thought. Just as superiority of a certain ethnicity is an outgrowth of evolutionary thought. Treating aborted babies as a cash crop is consistent. Stating the alternative of just throwing ‘it’ away a dry juxtaposition on an empty system. We must realize that secularism is not morally neutral.
Religion as a whole has its problems. Though by religion in North America people usually mean Christianity. After all, the voice of the church was not loud when slavery was around, though there were Christians and churches that decried the barbarism. The ills of the past are often thrown in Christianity’s face. Such misses the point of Christianity, but that is for another day. In reality the problem is not religion specific, but of the marriage of church and state that is the issue. What is often decried as “church” was really “state” in past history.
That is the past, let us focus on recent history. In the 20th century secularism took on greater vigor. As evolutionary thought exploded and theologically conservative Christians (unwisely) abandoned centers of cultural influence, secularism blossomed with greater speed. Along with the explosion of secularism was the political movement of socialism/communism/fascism. Society formed a spectrum of tolerance whereby religion was either forbidden, ‘tolerated to a point,’ or said to only be placed in one’s private life, not the public square. The premise of this form of thought is fairness, justice, and what is best for society as a whole. Humanity paid a price.
Racism now had scientific backing, not just a mere political/colonialism one. In the name of the greater good and the shelving to outright forbidding religion the human soul was lost. Religion was no longer to “force” it’s views on morality, though morals were being forced on everyone through secular society: Conform or be labeled and destroyed. In this seemingly progressive period of history, racism fell out of favor, though the strongest supporters of secularism and racism still had cards to play: government and “best for society.”
The slavery of the confederacy was outlawed, and the KKK type things were formed. These too slowly fell out of favor, but eugenics and then the abortion issue came into vogue as KKK types lost favor. Social safety nets also formed under the nobility of the “war on poverty.” Going against the wisdom or the effectiveness of such social help programs is to be going against the poor. Going against abortion is to be on the wrong side of the war on women. Standing for morality based on a religious premise is to be like the racists of the past, except such people are not.
In the United States, slavery, the Confederacy, the KKK, Socialism, Secularism, and Planned Parenthood have one common ancestor. Globally secular and evolutionary thought pays a common price. In recent history secularism slaughtered millions. In the name of the common good or even choice a terrible price was paid: people can be less than human. And when people are less then human, discarding such lesser beings is consistent both scientifically or for the common good. Harvesting human body parts from abortions instead of dumping them in the trash is not unreasonable. The wretchedness of such a juxtaposition is lost upon secularism. Gone (maybe, doubtfully) is the racism, but the pillar of racism isn’t: that a group of people can be less than human.
Secularism is not the answer, for in it we have more people slaughtered than any event in history of mankind, minus the flood. If avoiding religion brings the slaughter of millions, and the abuse of religion brought on its own tragedies, what then is the solution? For humanity could not live up to the ideals of religion, nor could humanity live up to its own ideals in secularism. Racism is bad, that is nearly universal now, but abortion kills more African Americans than any other type of death, bar none. Our social safety nets have destroyed families and heaped upon us the problem of absent fathers. Fatherless homes have a massive impact on crime, mental health, the economy, and education. We now live in the mess created in large measure by secularism. What, then, is the solution?
The misunderstanding of Christianity is that the church is perfect. The church is not perfect, but it is about being perfected by the only one who can change us. The good news, known as the Gospel, is that Jesus showed us a better way to solve problems: Loving sacrifice. Jesus demonstrated this by dying on a cross, though he is innocent, for our sins, though we are guilty. The concept of freedom comes from God and specifically the person of Jesus. For freedom’s sake Christ set us free. Government or secularism cannot solve humanities ills, nor can religion.
Can there be good and nobel secularists? Yes. But, there cannot be a good and noble secular society. Secularism is not morally neutral and has it’s own sins to atone for. But justice and the good of society cannot come at the price of our humanity. We bear the image of God. All people of all ethnicities do. If this were not true, than why did Jesus say go into all the world and preach the Gospel? The greatest mark of equality is not by law, but by Jesus. The only answer for religion and secularism’s ills is the forgiveness that Jesus already provided. There is no other way to balance the scales of justice. Humanity’s sin is too great.
We are too often incoherent in our treatment of alcohol. I delayed writing this for sometime as I have friends on all sides of the issue. More frequently I see posts of articles decrying alcohol in a way that is frankly void of biblical thinking. Being asked about this question often, I suppose publicly stating a position is important. What, then, is a Gospel centered approach to alcohol? Simple: discern how, when, and if you should drink or not drink. Simple enough…
Alcohol is not sin
It is not a sin to drink alcohol. It is a sin to get drunk. Period. Too much preaching points to alcohol as being sinful, which is unbiblical. Some even hedge this a bit by saying strong drink is a sin, also unbiblical. Why? Because God allows for it and he also drank and will drink. At this point my abstaining friends are thinking “yeah, but…” The problem is unbiblical preaching is inherently unstable, and frankly for my pastor friends, poor preaching. There are clear benefits to drinking supported by both science and Scripture.
Getting drunk is sin
The Bible EXPLICITLY states that being drunk is sin. There is a line clearly drawn in Scripture. I am all for preaching against drunkenness for it has firm biblical handles from Genesis to Revelation. There are even groups of people who shouldn’t drink based on certain passages, and there is practical application to those in our modern context.
Preach broader than alcohol
The fruit of the spirit lists self-control. This issue is much broader than alcohol, but I’d submit includes alcohol. If one is predisposed to lacking self-control, or specifically lacks self-control in a particular area, that area should be avoided. Lack of self-control in playing video games can have a similar appearance to a person on drugs. In the Gospel we are free, but not free to sow to the flesh, but to the spirit. Preaching on self-control nails everyone and has the benefit of being biblical.
1) Wine is different… People got and get drunk Genesis through Revelation. Whether it takes 1 drink of 10 drinks to get drunk does not matter. Drunkenness is the sin. Also, the relationship of water to wine is such that one based on sermon on the topic a doctor told me a person would drown in their own tissue for consuming too much liquid, yet people got drunk in Bible times.
2) The Bible says to avoid the appearance of evil… This is a mistranslation (sorry KJV only crowd.) The issue is to avoid any form of evil. This is a BIG deal. Meaning, a pastor walking into a bar may appear evil but it may very much be a holy, missional thing (counseling, removing someone who is drunk, graciously attending an event, etc.) Taking a drink is not evil for it is not a sin. (Preaching wrongly on alcohol is a form of evil.)
3) We are not to cause stumbling… Causing someone to stumble means causing them to sin. It is sin for a Christian in their freedom to place a shot or a pint in front of an alcoholic. At times it may even be a sin to drink in the presence of those who struggle with self-control or who think one shouldn’t drink. Much preaching based on the stumbling is illogical. Based on many sermons I have head people should not eat based on people’s struggle with gluttony. The issue of stumbling makes many issues full color and not black & white.
4) I think it is wrong… Then if you drink you sin for you are not doing it in faith. It is OK and biblical to, in your conscience, believe drinking alcohol is wrong. Based on those who destroyed their lives because of alcohol, taking a strong stance against alcohol is not unbiblical. In some instances it is even prudent. But, in doing so, be biblical.
5) No good comes from a Christian drinking… I read this all too often in articles arguing for abstaining. Yes, good can come from a Christian drinking. For instance, there are many medications I cannot take, so alcohol helps prevent traumatic medical events from occurring. Meaning, it is helping me maintain health and the temple. I would submit that is a good thing. At this point what people say is “oh, for medical reasons that is ok.” But, in the Bible alcohol is consumed for worship situations as well. A person drinking in self-control and with discernment can and does bring out good things. Paul likely told Timothy to take a little wine because Timothy was probably over reaching on qualifications of a pastor. Alcohol doesn’t help an upset stomach.
The bottom line:
The Gospel sets us free. In living for more than ourselves, we bear fruit of the spirit, which includes self-control. We should seek to demonstrate this in all areas. We all struggle with sin. Whether, how and when to drink should be carefully discerned. The answer will change as your ministry context changes. For sure getting drunk is sin, and the Bible gives clear warnings about the potential dangers of alcohol, but the Bible does not declare drinking a sin.
If you lean towards getting drunk and/or alcoholism runs in your family, abstaining is the prudent choice. If you work with minors and others who struggle with drinking, abstaining in public is a prudent choice and perhaps in private as well. If in the presence of those who struggle with alcoholism, abstaining is a prudent choice. If you drink in the privacy of your home and/or in public because the previous situations are not in play, God bless. But for both sides, do not use your freedom or abstaining as a measure of superiority or holiness for the Bible argues strongly against you both. For those who drink should be commended for self control and those who abstain should be commended for their sacrifice. Both of these are demonstrations of a thirst for holiness.
This may not be a clean and simple answer, but neither is life clean and simple until we see Jesus face to face.
- Life is hard and not fair. He was taken from his family and put into slavery. He went back and suffered severe persecution for sharing the Gospel to the nation that enslaved him. Even the church was against him, deeming Druids unworthy of being saved.
- Patrick prayed. He prayed often. He prayed a lot.
- Patrick was admittedly opposed to idols and he WENT to people and shared the good news of Jesus.
- Patrick taught in ways that people could understand. And, while we knock the object lessons he used today, the point is he taught in meaningful ways.
- Patrick put others before himself. As Jesus took the bread and said this is my body which is for you, Patrick did the same by serving sacrificially.
- Patrick demonstrated love and forgiveness and it cost him.
- The Irish, deemed less than human, saved western civilization. Much of this is to the work of a man who accepted that life is hard and not fair, took the harder path of forgiveness, and preached Jesus to all who would hear.
- Slavery, persecution, and idol worship are alive and well today. And, they are equally unpopular to discuss or push against.
The topic of euthanasia is in the news again. The discussions on the topic are quite troublesome to me. It is not really a question of should we or should we not. The issue goes far deeper. As a culture, we lost the art of dying.
The problem with ethics is we try to define right apart from God. The question of whether something is ethical is actually unbiblical. Biblical “ethics” is what we call progressive sanctification. Here we align all things to the image of Jesus, over time, and as the Spirit leads. This includes death and suffering.
How one views death determines how one views life. The issue with euthanasia and its kissing cousin abortion is our view of death and suffering. We as a culture, including Christians, are buying into the notion that inconvenience and suffering are not worthy of life. Such a view dehumanizes us. Seeing euthanasia as dignified or abortion as wise is robbery at best. To view suffering as God not blessing is to ignore the cross.
Long ago there was a nobility and aspiration to how we faced death. It was viewed as a testament to ones character and constitution. The process of mourning and lamenting was accepted, encouraged and viewed with dignity. We need to return to this.
The worst crime in our culture, including Christianity, is suffering. To be in-convinced, to be in pain, to be lamenting is to be an unwelcome burden. In a culture so enthralled with authenticity, we jettisoned a massive part of being human. Many of our churches worship in more hip-hop fashion than in grief. Both are essential. Euthanasia is the symptom not the disease.
I could share stories of people who wake up in severe pain and call it a good day. They get up and live. I could recount people who died, suffering in pain, and did so with dignity. One of the greatest honors in life is to serve the helpless who suffer. Because of this we have lost the value of suffering. Because of this people who do suffer have the added burden of feeling less human.
We are drunk with happiness and it is robbing us all of our humanity, Christians included. Let us as a culture admit that we hide from death. Let us also admit that this means we do not truly know how to live. To suffer is not to be less alive or less human or less spiritual. Sometimes suffering is the most spiritual thing you will walk through or walk through with someone. Let us also admit as a culture that hiding suffering is to also remove compassion and love in one of its purist forms.
In running from pain, Christians, we also lose sight of the Gospel and Jesus’ process of making all things new. God painfully allows suffering for a number of reasons, and often for more than just one reason. But His delight is not in the suffering but in the new covenant whereby all pain, sin and suffering are dealt away with. Sadly, in suffering we see the glorious hope of Jesus’ return and our desperate need of God. We see our need to love one another.
To those suffering, facing death and are tired. You are facing a most noble challenge. Your value is in Him who knit you together in your mother’s womb. When you see Jesus face to face all pain and suffering will pale in comparison with the majesty of God. You are not less human. You are not an inconvenience. We, your fellow humans, need to do a better job of showing love in its purist form. We need to mourn and see that as dignified. We need to sober up. You who are suffering have much to teach, much wisdom to impart. We need you. Rather than hide you, we need to compassionately embrace you.