Tag Archives: society

For what does it profit a man?

“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?'” -Luke 9:23

“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” -Luke 12:15

“Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.” -Luke 12:33

“Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no theif approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Luke 12:33-34

“Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” -Matthew 5:42

“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” -Luke 12:48

“And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses.” -Luke 14:17-18

Advertisements

The sound of a low whisper

This weekend I’ve been frantically studying for a test on Monday. My routine is to wake up, study all day, and then go back to sleep to study again the next day. I usually manage to take a few breaks with my wife, but test weekends are hectic. This evening my wife is in bed, and I’ve taken a few moments to read Scripture and pray.

It makes me wonder why I ever let busyness push these quiet times out of my life. All the noise of school and responsibility stops, and everything feels silent. It reminds me of being in a dense forest, miles from any road, with thick, fat snowflakes muffling even the sound of the breeze in the trees–the quiet is complete.

Somehow, this is when God speaks. It’s nothing profound, but he’s here.

Scripture is a very, very good gift. It gives me times of silence like this. God speaks through it. For some reason, the Lord has chosen to work in our world this way–quietly and slowly. He shows himself through small, insignificant things.

God could work more obviously and with greater haste, but I imagine the world as we know it would cease immediately. We would all be so terrified, loved, and humbled that all our culture and commerce would fade to silent awe as the world was purged of evil and glorified to show God’s goodness.

Instead, God remakes the world silently and slowly, through quiet moments.

And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire, the sound of a low whisper, a thin silence.”
-1 Kings 19:11-12

Don’t be surprised if you see the Christian church screw something up

An old professor of mine hated Paul the Apostle. If you read the Epistles, Paul is always correcting someone. It’s almost like listening in on a mother scolding her children. My professor liked the tranquil, albeit edgy and revolutionary, teaching of Jesus, but all this fighting and scolding in the epistles–he hated it.

In the gospels, everything is going pretty well, but that’s because God himself was walking with us. Jesus and his small band of disciples was the church. Jesus always knew what to say to his critics. He knew how to balance true teaching with genuine love, and he always did the right thing. He was the central figure of the church until he ascended. Of course, Jesus is still the central figure of the church–I just mean that he’s not physically here anymore. He doesn’t walk around and say “I agree with you, and I disagree with you.” He left us with the message we needed, and now we choose rightly by reading his Word and praying. The problem is that we don’t always come to the right conclusions.

After Jesus ascended into heaven, church got messy. By design, the church welcomes sinful, fallen people into its fold. It’s full of searching people, saved people, and probably a few sinister people. Of course, Christians still sin. When we die and are taken to heaven, God will perfect us. But for now, we’re still on earth, and now that Jesus is no longer physically incarnate in our church, what did you expect would happen?

This, I think, is why Paul is always scolding churches in his letters. Humans are fallible, and we do damaging things to each other. Paul was doing his best to maintain order, but this is battle. The church is doing battle against the ideas and the values of the world. Through the church, God is advancing his kingdom. Through the church, God is offering grace to the world. God’s love and grace are present, and God is changing people’s broken lives, but it shouldn’t surprise us that those same broken people sometimes make a terrible mess of things.

The crusades are the classic, heartbreaking example of this, and if you don’t think “the church” is messing up today, then visit Westboro Baptist Church’s www.godhatesfags.com (but prepare to be saddened and infuriated). God doesn’t hate anyone–he loves the world. Racism is another example of people in the church–the white church–messing something up. But listen to Dr. King’s sermons. When one church is doing something wrong, you can usually find another church doing something right.

Despite our brokenness, God is working good through the church. The unseemly things done by people in the church are from sinful, fallen men, not from God. I’ve given some extreme examples, but all of us are fallen. I’ve certainly done things that misrepresent God’s love and mercy, and I imagine that Paul might write a very stern epistle to the American church today.

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
-Matthew 9:12-13

And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the prophets.'”
-Matthew 22:37-40

Cocaine

At first I thought he was alive.

His swollen, bloodshot eyes looked sad.

The photograph was taken at a strange angle, looking up toward the nose, so that a line of white powder could be seen plastered to the inside of his nostril. The point of the picture was to show all us students that the man had died while snorting cocaine, but the only thing I could think was, “I don’t understand this.”

Cocaine causes hypertension, lethal cardiac arrhythmias, heart attacks, seizures, renal failure. One picture our professor showed us was of a brain covered in thick, partly gelatinous blood. Normally the brain is clean and grayish-white post-mortem, but this person had died of massive intra-cranial bleeding caused by a cocaine-induced spike in blood pressure that ripped through one of his arteries.

The lecture was about chemical injury to the human body, but the fact that a chemical had damaged this man’s body seemed so far from the root of the problem as to be almost comical.

The world is broken.

Things are not right here, and this is not where we’re meant to be.

Married young?

[Note: I posted this earlier, but when I read it over again a few days later, I decided it was a terrible post and didn’t at all say what I meant it to say. This is a revised version that’s a little more on target–my apologies to whoever read the first one!]

I was married at age 22, and marrying my wife was the best decision of my life. I haven’t once regretted it, and I don’t anticipate that I ever will regret marrying my wife. This is in contrast to what people seem to expect when they say things like, “Congratulations, but you look like you’re about 15.” (And yes, that was a comment someone actually made to us–on our honeymoon of all places.)

I imagine that’s the type of person who wrote this New York Times article. It’s a very long article, and rather poorly argued, so don’t read it unless you’re bored. The argument was this: In our current society, people aged 20 to 30 are going through an identity crisis, and they just can’t make up their minds about what they want to do. “Kids” these days are living at home longer, changing jobs madly, getting more education because they can’t find anything else to do, getting married later, etc. Because of this, goes the argument, we should consider 20-something-ness to be a sort of second adolescence, and we should find ways as a society to make it possible for them to travel, explore jobs, stay a little under their parent’s wing, etc. That might be the sentiment people have when they remark that I got married young–my brain just wasn’t well developed enough to make those sorts of decisions!

Now, I think finding ways to further prolong adolescence is a terrible idea. My generation is getting married later, and we’re getting more educated and living at home longer and whatever else. However, this isn’t because we need more time to grow up or develop further. Most of my friends who are living at home don’t want to live at home–they just can’t find a job. And all of my friends who can’t find a job desperately wish they could find a job. Before I started medical school, I worked in the food industry, which isn’t a bad job, but it’s a bad job when you have a college degree. Young adults who move from job to job aren’t doing so by choice; it’s just a little hard to make ends meet.

As for getting married older? Well, most of us are responsible people, and we wouldn’t get married until we can support ourselves, until we’re satisfied enough with our future to be able to plan ahead a bit, and until we’ve met the person we want to spend our life with. (As an aside, I know plenty of people who were married younger than I was, and 22 doesn’t seem young to me at all.) This is something everybody wants to do eventually, but we can’t get married if none of us have jobs. If anything, society needs to make the transition to adulthood easier and quicker, rather than drawing it out longer–the article was just terrible. I sincerely hope you didn’t read it.

For me, marriage has been a way to become more mature and to understand another person in a profound way. Marriage has made me a wiser person, and it continues to make me a wiser person. Things have gone the same way in other parts of my life also–getting a job, paying bills, making a budget work, etc. It’s not that I needed to grow up before I got a job–it’s that I needed to get a job in order to grow up.

I got married because I met the woman I love more than anyone else in the world. I went into it knowing that there would be hard times, and that everything wouldn’t be rosy and happy like it was when we were dating. Armed with the knowledge that arguments, money problems, and even worse things will come, my wife and I are doing just fine. But I certainly have learned a lot. In fact, I think I wouldn’t have learned these lessons unless I got married, meaning that if I waited until I was 35, I would still need to learn the same lessons without being any wiser to begin with.

Live Quietly

Christians are obnoxious.

Well, okay, not all Christians are obnoxious, but some of us certainly can be. I’m sure you can tell I’m a Christ-follower, so I need to give you a bit of an explanation. In America today, Christians are loud.

Christians vote Republican.
Christians protest at abortion clinics.
Christians are anti-gay marriage.
Christians are pro-Israel.

These are some sweeping generalizations, and they’re untrue. There are Christians who disagree with all of these, but for obvious reasons, these generalizations are often what come to mind when people think of Christians.

But is this really what God wanted people to see of his church, of his representatives on this earth? Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians was gently written and full of encouragement. In the letter, Paul reminisces frequently about the joyful time he had when he visited them, but he also has some interesting advice about how the church should relate to “outsiders”, to the greater cultural and societal context of the church:

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”
-1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 (ESV)

Paul advises the Thessalonians to live quietly and to mind their own affairs. Why? So that they may live properly before outsiders. Everything the church does should be motivated by a love for God and a love for other people. God is love, and the church should also love. As a church, our imperative is to tell people about the gospel, about how God loves them and wants them to know him. Our imperative is not to improve society–our society is broken beyond repair, and the only way it will ever be made right is when the Lord makes all things new at the end of time.

So should we really be so politically active with our beliefs? Maybe not, especially because not everyone in the church even agrees on these smaller issues. Focusing on these small issues and doing so with such vigor is only likely to make people angry, rather than drawing them to Jesus. The Gospel is already divisive enough without making it political. Even the simplest claims of Jesus incite people to argue with each other, and he knew this (“For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother.” Matthew 10:35). Even claiming that God exists is controversial. Claiming that we should love this God and give him our lives is more controversial still.

God is love, and he wants us to love people. Perhaps we should rethink our approach to this.