All posts by Kent

Author of the Drifter Series and blogger at spiritualdrift.com. Check out my novels of Christian suspense and spiritual warfare at the all new kentrobertsbooks.com

Would You Pick Up Your Cross and Walk?

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)

This is what taking up your cross looks like. As many as 1000 or more White Supremacists, and “alt-right” protestors, armed and well organized. Maybe a few hundred or less clergy from all walks of religion and faith, spit on, ridiculed, insulted, hit with tear gas and urine-filled balloons.

We (white evangelical Christians) want to believe that taking up our cross invites us—expects us actually—into the realm of persecution. And make no mistake, these people in Charlottesville endured persecution. But this persecution came at the hands of other so-called “Christians.”  This persecution came from our own. This persecution came from us.

We (white evangelical Christians) need to acknowledge that our legacy, our history, our very cultural makeup, consists, at least in some small measure, of white pride, of white privilege, of racism, of nationalism, of the ugly underbelly of humanity that is present in all of us.

We can overcome this ugliness. But overcoming does not equate to denial of its existence, nor does it equate to fingerpointing at the other side and screaming, “Well, they’re doing it too!”

This is not an “us vs. them”. This is not about “them”. This is us.

Taking up our cross and standing arm in arm with our brothers and sisters, with our neighbors, our poor neighbors, our black neighbors, our Native American neighbors, our Muslim neighbors, our gay neighbors, our immigrant neighbors.

THIS is what taking up our cross looks like, because when we take up ours, we take up theirs as well.

Here are two well spoken essays from two Christian writers who were there, who stood with their neighbors, who took up their crosses,

And walked.

From Brian McLaren: What I saw in Charlottesville

And, from Lisa Harper via Ann Voskamp: Would I Pick Up My Cross 

Related post: Persecution…Comes With the Job?

How is this, in ANY way, Making America Great?

We are creating a nation of “us” vs. “them”; of leftist elites and conservative Bible-thumpers; of West Coast liberals and the common man of the “fly over” states; of those who “resist” and those who hold to the “clenched fist of truth”.
Whoever the “they” is… (Look no further than this latest NRA ad.)

We are creating a nation whose government is telling its citizens to distrust the media, ALL media (except one), those entrusted to being the watchdogs of our society, the 4th estate.

And the touchstone of it all this is this man. THIS man. Our president. A man who thinks tweets like this are okay, funny and, I suppose, necessary, all while simultaneously holding the highest position of our nation.

Continue reading How is this, in ANY way, Making America Great?

Persecution…comes with the job?

“Being attacked either verbally or physically is part of being a true Christian in this world. It comes with the job.”

This is something I read this morning from a Facebook page called “The Christian Resistance”. And this is actually one of the things I’ve come to appreciate about social media: despite the differences of opinion, it enables me to dive into the text, to dive into my beliefs; it causes me to reevaluate my ‘position’ on a given topic and either move or affirm my understandings.

The full post says this:

Being attacked either verbally or physically is part of being a true Christian in this world. It comes with the job. If you preach sound doctrine and truth, you WILL be attacked and that is a guarantee. Don’t complain over it and don’t cry over it. When necessary/possible, counterattack and defend yourself, and no matter what give God glory and thanks because the marks of being a true Christian… the marks of belonging to God and not this world… ARE persecution in many various forms.

Several things in here got me thinking:

  • 1) How should we define “sound doctrine and truth”?
  • 2) Where is the mindset to “When possible, counterattack and defend yourself” affirmed through this sound doctrine and truth?
  • 3) “…the marks of being a true Christian…the marks of belonging to God and not this world…ARE persecution in many various forms.” Is this true, and represented in scripture?

Here’s my contribution to the debate, take them for what you will:

Re: question #1: How should we define “sound doctrine and truth”?

“Sound doctrine” is in the eye of the beholder, and truth ≠ certainty.

Everything we read, including scripture, is interpreted through the lens of a lifetime of experiences. In addition, even the numerous translations of scripture have given subtle differences to the meaning of words and phrases. And, to me, this is a good thing.

It invites conversation. It invites discussion and debate. It invites us to wrestle with the text. In fact, it’s a prerequisite. It invites us to put ourselves and our life experiences into the story. This is why it’s called the “Living Word”. (Why do you think Matthew, for instance, describes two donkeys in Jesus’s triumphal entrance? Who did you think the other one was for?)

Shouldn’t the mark of a true Christian be in our deferment to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in her many forms? And, that we “have ears to hear”?

Re: questions #2: Where is the mindset to “When possible, counterattack and defend yourself” affirmed through this sound doctrine and truth?

In Luke 6, Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23)

But who is Jesus speaking to? And, how does He conclude His teaching?

Jesus starts (vs. 20) by comforting the poor and hopeless, including those (thru vs. 22-23) who choose to follow Him. (John actually echoes a fair amount from Matthew 5, the Beatitudes.) Then (vs. 24) He shifts to admonishing those who are rich and powerful, providing contrast to His first thoughts and possibly addressing those who keep the ‘lessers’ poor and hopeless.

The key though, is in how He concludes His teaching (vs. 27 and on), “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you…”

In other words, you are blessed by those who persecute you because it’s an opportunity to show a radical kind of love in the face of such persecution. There’s no “counterattack and defend yourself”. Only blessing, prayer, and love.

Shouldn’t the mark of a true Christian be shown in our love? Benevolence? Mercy? And, grace?

Re question #3: “…the marks of being a true Christian…the marks of belonging to God and not this world…ARE persecution in many various forms.” Is this true, and represented in scripture?

“Persecution” has almost become a point of pride for American Christianity today. BUT…it hasn’t come through scriptural fulfillment, but more through our own stiff necks and arrogant stands (oh no he didn’t) on issues in which, quite frankly, we need to have an entirely different conversation.

For instance: Is homosexuality a sin? Wrong question! I believe the better question would be: Is there anyone not worth making a place at the table for? Is there anyone not worth inclusion in our churches, in our pews, in our lives? Would you make room for the destitute? The poor? Those of a differing nationality? Those of a differing faith? Say…I don’t know, a homeless, penniless, Middle-Eastern Jew?

There’s a verse in Nichole Nordeman’s song “Dear Me” that goes, “And you cannot imagine all the places you’ll see Jesus. But you’ll find Him everywhere you thought He wasn’t supposed to go. So, go….” Persecution should not be a badge of honor. Compassion however….

In John 15, Jesus also says, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you…If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you…If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also…But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause’.”

Who, exactly, is “the world” that Jesus is speaking of? Who is this “they”?

“If they persecuted me…”

“If I had not come and spoken to them…”

“But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled…”

Most often, we need look no further than within our own ranks to find persecution. Forget what “the world”, or “culture”, or other religions will do to us. We’ve become quite good at eating our own.

I listened to a podcast the other day featuring Jewish scholar, A.J. Levine, and one of the questions asked was, “What do you wish Christians could see, or take as an example, in the Jewish culture?” Her answer was immediate: “Oh, I wish you argued better! I just don’t see that in Christians. There’s no conversation, there’s no dialog. Debate is a hallmark of the Jewish culture and the thing is, no matter how heated the argument is between Jews, at the end of it, we both walk away still knowing we’re Jewish because that’s just engrained in our culture. It’s what we do and I just don’t see that with Christians. At all.”

It’s not what I see either.

Shouldn’t the mark of a true Christian be in our humility?

 

Why is there so much division in our country today?

Why are young people leaving the church at such alarming rates (70% at last poll)?

Why is the fastest growing religious affiliation in the U.S., “None”?

I believe it’s due to the pride and arrogance we Christian’s have shown within our so-called persecution, along with the fear of those who differ from us, culturally or religiously; those who look different, talk different, believe different, think different.

The apostle James says, “So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free.  There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.” (James 2:12-13)

As for me and my household, I prefer to stand before the throne of God being accused of having loved too much, having shown hypergrace, having set an extra seat at the banquet table even for my enemy, rather than to have closed the door, barring it shut from those who differ from myself, culturally and religiously, for fear of either persecution or infection.

I believe in a bigger God than that.

 

 

Dammit, This is Not how we Make America Great Again

2 stabbed to death, 1 injured on Portland train by man hurling racial slurs

Source: 2 stabbed to death, 1 injured on Portland train by man hurling r – Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Christians, Muslims, Republicans, Democrats, Americans…My God people, when is this going to be enough??

I mourn for the families of those who tried to stand in the way of injustice and bigotry. I also mourn for the family of the man who stands at the heart of this tragedy, who belittled those women, who convinced himself it was okay to take the lives of those who tried to stand up against him.

Something was wrong within him, and something is wrong within all of us who allow this to continue to happen, and who remain silent in the aftermath of such horror.

35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian was booked on charges of Aggravated Murder (two counts), Attempted Murder, Intimidation in the Second Degree (two counts), and Felon in Possession of a Restricted Weapon.

This is the face of fear.

This is the face of cowardice.

Now, look in the mirror–those who remain silent, and those who self-righteously defend such heinous actions against “different”; whether your defense comes from the bully pulpit, or in the silent sniggers and elbow jabs between fellow “believers”–is your face any different?

Muslims are not the enemy. Headdresses and brown skin and middle-eastern accents are not the enemy.

Oh, we have an enemy. And he’s laughing in the face of our God who we’re supposedly acting on, defending, or upholding. How soon we forget that he doesn’t have the last word, he doesn’t win. And how small must our God appear who needs defending in such evil ways?

We need to do better. For our faith. For our politcs. For our country. And, for our future. America deserves better. The world demands better. And God mourns.