Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A time for choosing

It's quite possible that I am getting curmudgeonly in my old age (though I haven't yelled at any kids to get off my lawn in a while), but I find I have less and less patience with those who say they have come to faith in Christ yet do not seek to obey Christ in any meaningful or difficult way. I seem to be meeting more and more Christians who are content to live with their girlfriend/boyfriend before marriage, who accept homosexual behavior as normal and even moral for some, who see no problem with gossip, or drunkenness, or swearing, or porn, or divorce, or cheating or pride. The only sins they renounce are hypocrisy and judgmentalism. But Christianity is more than being a nice person. It is a personal commitment to following the Risen Savior and reshaping your beliefs, your worldview, and your behavior, bringing them into conformity with and obedience to the Word of God empowered by the Spirit of God.

It's time for choosing. Either yes or no. It's like this famous scene from The Karate Kid, one of the iconic movies of my youth:
Mr. Kesuke Miyagi: Now, ready?
Daniel LaRusso: Yeah, I guess so.
Mr, Kesuke Miyagi: [sighs] Daniel-san, must talk. [they both kneel] Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later, [makes squish gesture] get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do "yes", or karate do "no". You karate do "guess so", [makes squish gesture] just like grape. Understand?
Daniel LaRusso: Yeah, I understand.
Mr. Kesuke Miyagi: Now, ready?
Daniel LaRusso: Yeah, I'm ready.
Mr. Kesuke Miyagi: First make sacred pact. I promise teach karate. That my part. You promise learn. I say, you do, no questions. That your part
It really is this simple. We have made a "sacred pact" with Jesus. Some would even call that a "covenant." Part of the deal is that what He says, we believe and do. It's either Christianity do "yes" or Christianity do "no." There is no middle ground, no Christianity "guess so." And it's past time for us who follow Christ to allow that truth to transform our lives and quit pretending to follow Jesus if we aren't going to follow all the way. Either the Bible is true and Jesus is Lord or it isn't and He isn't. If it's not and Jesus is just another religious leader, then why not find something else to do with your life and time? But if Jesus is Lord (He is!) and the Bible is true (It is!), then it's time to get serious and stop wasting your life in "kinda Christianity."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Islam and barbarism

So on 9/11 enraged Muslims have killed a U.S. ambassador and assaulted the Egyptian embassy. This morning brought news that similar groups of the professionally enraged have attempted the same in Yemen. And predictably, we are witnessing the same self-flagellating members of the ruling class here in the U.S. reminding us once more that "Islam is peaceful" and these are "extremists." Apparently, this is to prevent us rubes out here in flyover country from drawing the entirely logical connection between the deepest beliefs of these excitable young lads and their actions. We are supposed to believe, instead, that the same people who insist that women must be subject to FGM and the sartorial equivalent of the burlap sack, that you may convert to Islam but never away from it, that Bin Laden is a martyr rather than a murdering thug, and so on have such finely honed sensitivities (sensitivities which are, evidently, not dissimilar to those of a land mine) that we do well to keep from offending them with provocative films and free speech critical of Islam, its "prophet" and its "holy" book.

I'm all for acting like a civilized person and not deliberately sticking a finger in anyone else's eye. Why unnecessarily provoke the perpetually provoked? War is a dirty business best avoided when possible, etc. That being said, it is better to die for freedom than to live in slavery and sometimes all some people understand is the business end of a gun. With such people, treading lightly is seen as weakness rather than forbearance and begets more of the same.

Moreover, it seems to me that the sort of people doing these atrocities are doing them specifically as expressions of Islam. Not being an Islamic scholar, who am I to tell them they are wrong? Moreover, Islamic institutions, such as Al-Azhar University (located, not coincidentally, in the recently much more Muslim Brotherhood friendly confines of Cairo) which are presumably full of Islamic scholars are telling them they are correct. So who is the fool here? It's past time to stop telling ourselves pretty lies and recognize that the views of the embassy raiders and ambassador killers have become the mainstream of the Middle East. That may be a scary reality, but at least it has the benefit of being reality rather than hopeful wishing.

Love and judgment

I read something an old friend wrote the other day. She said, "Love with judgment isn't love." I respectfully diagree. In fact, I think love without judgment is a good definition for indifference, which is first cousin to hatred. Who loves their child more, the parent who imposes boundaries, standards, and rules, even if they are temporarily hated by their child, or the parent who simply says, "Hey, whatever blows your hair back kid, go for it"? Absence of standards equals absence of caring about the other person at all. Reminds me of one of my favorite exchanges in Casablanca, where Peter Lorre's Ugarte asks Humphrey Bogart's Rick, "You despise me, don't you Rick?" Bogart answers, "If I gave you any thought at all, I would, yeah."

On to my larger point: My friend is a practicing lesbian who evidently believes that it isn't Christian love to warn people about the dangers of that life (spiritual, emotional, and physical). To this there are a couple possible responses: 1) Jesus frequently warned people against sin in the strongest possible terms (cutting off limbs, plucking out eyes, brood of vipers, whitewashed tombs, etc.), so doing as he did minus the graphic verbal images isn't non-Christian or unloving, at least not obviously so; and 2) Which is more loving, telling a friend you love that the road they are on is the broad highway leading to their destruction, or simply standing back and affirming them in their choices as you witness the train wreck their life becomes? How much do you have to hate someone not to warn them away from self-destruction?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Ministry Parable

This little poem by Charles Osgood used to hang on my paternal grandmother's fridge back in the day. Worth remembering when it comes to ministry in the church...

There was a most important job that needed to be done,

And no reason not to do it, there was absolutely none.
But in vital matters such as this, the thing you have to ask
Is who exactly will it be who'll carry out the task?

Anybody could have told you that Everybody knew
That this was something Somebody would surely have to do.
Nobody was unwilling; Anybody had the ability.
But Nobody believed that it was their responsibility.

It seemed to be a job that Anybody could have done,
If Anybody thought he was supposed to be the one.
But since Everybody recognized that Anybody could,
Everybody took for granted that Somebody would.

But Nobody told Anybody that we are aware of,
That he would be in charge of seeing it was taken care of.
And Nobody took it on himself to follow through,
And do what Everybody thought that Somebody would do.

When what Everybody needed so did not get done at all,
Everybody was complaining that Somebody dropped the ball.
Anybody then could see it was an awful crying shame,
And Everybody looked around for Somebody to blame.

Somebody should have done the job
And Everybody should have,
But in the end Nobody did
What Anybody could have.