Friday, February 28, 2014

I Hate Facebook

I hate Facebook. In fact, I hate all public forums of social networking. They seem to be the gathering places for individuals who sit before their computers enthroned on their moral self-righteousness and who feel the urgency to disparage anyone who is not like-minded. Quite frankly, it’s been heavy on my heart for the past few days, and my spirit is really disturbed.

As for the Christian community, we are not immune or guiltless. We rant in vitriolic diatribes about those holding positions of authority in government or the latest struggling famous young person. We openly condemn those we do not know and in whose shoes we have not walked. We call groups of people evil and sinners, and in effect have deemed them hopelessly condemned to death.

Last week, one of the men in our church led us to enter into biblical accounts as though we were there. Seeing, as if frozen, the expressions on faces, the physical positions, the clothes, shoes and attitudes of those in the scenarios, and us walking around them-investigating the accounts like a detective. 

For the past few days, I’ve pictured one particular scene as religious accusers grab large, heavy stones to throw at a woman caught in adultery. She cowers as they surround her. Her clothing falls off one shoulder and she grabs at it to set it back to her neck and holds it there, face downward, eyes full of fear as she anticipates the first rock to pound her flesh, thrown from the men who shout their accusations at her. And just as one of the men extends his arm back in preparation to hurl that stone, Jesus stands between him and the woman, and looks directly into his eyes. 

Emboldened by his self-righteousness, the man says to Jesus, “This woman was caught in the act of adultery! You know what the Law says! She is to be stoned! So what do you say?” Others begin to question him as well, and he quietly stoops down, still positioned between the first accuser and the woman whose head remains down, but she has lifted her eyes to the back of Jesus’ head, wondering what he will say. 

For a moment, there is silence as Jesus, with his finger, writes something in the dirt. She cannot see what is written, and the looks on the men’s faces begins to reveal a surprised indignation. “So, Rabbi. What do you say should be done with her?” 

Jesus rises to once again to look them in the eyes and says, “He who is without sin among you cast the first stone at her.” With that, he stoops down again and writes in the dirt once more. For what seems like an eternity to the woman, nothing happens. No one moves or says a word.

“Thud.” A large stone falls from the oldest man’s hand to the ground. “Thud. Thud.” Two more fall. Then another. And another. And with each thud, a man walks away from the scene, convicted. After the last of many thuds, silence. 

Jesus stands, and the woman, still stooped to the ground looks up into his eyes. “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” 

“No, my Lord. No one!” she barely whispers in awe.

“Then I don’t condemn you either.” Jesus tells her. “Go. Sin no more.” Jesus reaches out with his right hand to help her rise, and she takes it with her left, her eyes full of wonder. Still clutching her garment, she walks away and turns to look back at him, knowing she has been saved from her sin and her wounded and broken heart has been healed. 

As I walk through this scene, I fall so in love with Jesus. He is everything I long to be. Full of wisdom. Merciful, kind, loving, gentle, and yet exacting justice in a way that cannot be escaped. And those who came in contact with him had a choice. Their hearts could be changed and made more like his, or they would become hardened, seeking self-justification. Nothing has changed. 

It’s no different today. We still accuse others, ready to hurl rocks of condemnation at them. Isn’t it time to drop our rocks? We really need to let the rocks fall from our hands. We need to walk away from the foolishness of thinking we are better than those we judge. All of us have fallen short of God’s glory. All of us deserve condemnation and death, and yet, we’ve been given the gift of mercy and grace. We are called not to judge but to be repairers of the breach, healers of the broken-hearted, those who proclaim liberty to the captives, and who open prison doors to set the captive free, to undo heavy burdens and break yokes of bondage, to share bread with the hungry and care for the poor. 

So, the next time you want to lash out at that politician because you firmly believe his decisions don’t measure up, or the next time you look on that young starlet who has fallen from your standards, instead of disparaging them in public, privately intercede for them with a heart not of condemnation with a rock in your hand, but with a heart filled with compassion. Kind of like Jesus. Right?

So What

So what would the world we live in see
And what would the world look like 
If when they looked at you and me
We looked more like You?

So what if instead of pointing out
Where we think that others fail
We did what we should and went about
Pointing them to You?

And so what if we truly understood
Our own great need for You?
That in ourselves there is no good
Except what we have in You?

Because Lord, in reality
The only difference between “them” and “me”
Is You!

The only grace that I’ve received 
That redeems me from my own deficiency
Is You!

(post script: If it were not for Facebook, I would never have had the honor and privilege to have met some of the finest humans on the planet. If you just read this and smiled, one of them is probably YOU!)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Arizona's Anti-Gay Bill Debacle

I think often about those with whom Jesus sat and ate. They were NOT the religious of the day-the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. They were those who the religious scoffed at, hated, and disparaged. He corrected them with mercy, grace, and love, and led them into truth. And he treated the religious with a righteous indignation and contempt saying they were going to hell and taking their followers with them. 

Aren't we to be like our Savior? Aren't we to love those who others consider "unlovely," offer lovingkindness to those who others scoff at, and lead them into truth with mercy, grace, and love? That being said, I must confess I am conflicted with this whole thing. Firstly, there's far too much government in everything. That which is meant to protect citizens has become an ever present bane, IMO. Our government which was established by the people, for the people, is becoming tyrannical and instead of a Republic, we are becoming a Democracy. 

But I digress. The issue I'm conflicted about is this. If I own a bakery and believe in God's definition of marriage, must I be forced by law to make a cake for a gay marriage or be sued and lose my business? If we say YES, then my beliefs are law, and then where is my freedom? If we say NO, then where do we draw the line? If I own a bed and breakfast, must I, by law, take in gay couples? Unmarried couples? The same YES and NO scenario applies. If I own a gym, a restaurant, or any other establishment, can I, as a sincere Christian, turn away anyone? And then how do I know these folks are good friends or a gay couple? 

My dear friends own a sign shop. They are Christians who stand for justice and righteousness. They are some of the most uncompromised people I’ve ever met. They have a sign in their shop saying they have a right to refuse anyone. But do they really have that right by law and by conscience? If someone comes in wanting to have signs made for a Satanic church, what should they do?

I'm not asking these questions to debate, to condemn, or to state emphatically which is right and which is wrong. I’m just asking because they can be hard questions and I’m trying to understand. And I want us to think about this together. Should Arizona have the right to say that any business can refuse any service to a gay person for religious reasons? Not to be cliche, but is this what Jesus would do if he were walking on the planet? And are we not his representatives?

Remember the Colorado family that lost their bakery business because they refused to make a cake for a gay couple? Is that justice or injustice? I have lots of questions like this, and I don't know if there are any clear answers. However, I do know this. God is love. He is truth. He is justice. And no law can regulate that. We must love individuals, no matter who they are. We must be able to show them Christ by the love shed abroad in our hearts. If we claim to be Christians and do not do so, we are no better than that church in Westboro that declares our God as a god of hate. And we know better than that. Don't we?