Category Archives: Grace and Spiritual Drift

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.

 

 

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On Hanegraaff and Orthodox Christianity: Or, a Church Service Worth Attending

Hank Hanegraaff, the “Bible Answer Man”, has recently converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity and apparently this is causing quite a stir in the evangelical community.

On returning from a trip to China several years ago, Hanegraaff remarked, “I saw Chinese Christians who were deeply in love with the Lord, and I learned that while they may not have had as much intellectual acumen or knowledge as I did, they had life. I was comparing my ability to communicate truth with their deep and abiding love for the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Since that time,” he added, “I’ve been impacted by the whole idea of knowing Jesus Christ, experiencing Jesus Christ, and partaking of the graces of Jesus Christ through the Lord’s Table.”

One of the recent articles I read on the subject was from Ed Stetzer. Writing on Christianity Today’s website, the focus of his article was on the possible reasons why the Orthodox liturgy is so appealing to evangelicals today. One of the things he says is,

The early church was indeed more focused on the Eucharist and was more liturgical in structure, nature, and expression. There are things we can learn from that today, but we have to also acknowledge that much of what we see was, indeed, cultural. As a missiologist, I’m not drawn into early Christian cultural forms and am concerned that some are equating them with eternal truth.
The evangelical bent towards Western individualism has opened the door to an ‘every Bible for itself’ mentality where, combined with the digital age, rogue armchair theologians can be equipped with major influence without proper ecclesiological accountability. It’s a bit of a “me version” world of Bible translation. Lacking a central definition and protection of truth can cause (and has caused) much of evangelicalism’s problems.
In Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, that is not typically the case. In these church structures, there are tighter reigns on vetting truth and defining orthodox beliefs. Some see the Church organizationally as a means to preserve biblical truth from the changing tides of cultural waves.
The question I want to answer: Are we looking for the right things? Do we want to model with exactitude the cultural form of the early church? Is that the ultimate value?”

Personally, I’ve not been drawn toward the Orthodox faith, but I can see the appeal in a return to the “structure, nature, and expression” of the first century church (or the few centuries after). The difference as I see it though is Continue reading On Hanegraaff and Orthodox Christianity: Or, a Church Service Worth Attending

Hi, My Name’s Kent and I’m a Snowflake….

snowflakeIn the past, I’ve been accused of this thing called “hypergrace”; of going overboard in such hot button areas as “acceptance” and “inclusion”. It was an accusation I backpedaled from for longer than I care to admit.

But now?
Now I gladly welcome the accusation.
Yes, I practice hypergrace. I suppose these days you’d call me a “snowflake”.

If I’m repeating myself, bear with me…I take this whole “love thy neighbor” thing pretty seriously, as if it were a scriptural truth or something.  Funny how that works.

I posted the above meme on my FB Author page a while ago, and I’ve seen it posted among several others.  I’ve also read some of the comments following these postings.

I’ve read the accusations of “not doing what’s best for our country”, and of “being selfish.”

And yet, since when did compassion become selfish?
When did courage or human rights become something other than the best for our country? Continue reading Hi, My Name’s Kent and I’m a Snowflake….

The Rebel God: Evangelicalism’s Two-Faced God

I have been interested in neuroplasticity for a few years now, especially as it relates to addiction, and in how our brains process emotion, reason, and the dichotomy between the two.  This is a fascinating article by Derek Flood that addresses a possible psychological basis for how white, Evangelical Christians can sing songs of the love of Jesus one minute, and “amen” to a sermon on the evils of ______________ (insert your minority, religion, lifestyle, etc. of choice).

“…it makes sense to think “There is just no way a person could experience love like that and be so angry and hurtful. They must experience God as angry and hurtful.” So when Mike said essentially this, my first reaction was to agree. Then the more “science-y” part of me began to kick in. The fact is, people are very capable of compartmentalizing and showing great inconsistency in different parts of their lives.”

Here’s the link. It’s a lengthy post, but one I feel is well worth the read: The Rebel God: Evangelicalism’s Two-Faced God