Check out the video for this week’s teaching! This is such an important concept to grasp.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably read articles, or have seen news segments about recent allegations surrounding pastors who have morally fallen. Some of these stories involve sexual misconduct, and others imply that the leaders have mismanaged funds belonging to the church or organization they lead. The fallout of these allegations can be devastating. They can give their families a deep wound and tear apart the church they were once pastoring. Some ministers have been arrested, or publicly shamed for their actions and when this happens, we all know social media goes wild with comments. Certainly, if these allegations are true, we should hold the leaders accountable and they should repent of their actions. These actions come from a prideful heart and sometimes the money and influence become intoxicating.
The circumstances alluded to above can cause energetic conversation at the dinner table. These scandals are not just confined to those serving in a pulpit, though. We can all tell stories of people who we once trusted yet let us down in a catastrophic way. Odds are, if they have developed trust with us, they are probably considered a “good person” by the world’s standards. They have given to charity, encouraged their neighbor, and they even were once considered a model citizen. Then, something goes wrong, and their affair is exposed, or their unflattering mugshot is displayed on the evening news.
When these things happen, what is our response? Well, if you are the average human being with a social media account, you have 1 of 2 reactions. Either you are shocked and thrown off balance, or you proclaim with arrogance that you “knew” they were not as “squeaky clean” as everyone thought. The sad part of all of this is…far too many people have the second reaction. It is one that is very common in our culture. When we experience a person who seemingly has it together, and is living a “great” life, it is tempting to always retain a level of suspicion about them. That way, when someone messes up, we can immediately jump on the “I told you so” wagon. The reflex of distrust in these situations only takes a microsecond to develop. As a culture…distrust comes quickly.
What about the inverse, though? Why does it not work the other way around? Let’s say a person who has lived an unscrupulous life experiences a complete transformation. Perhaps this individual has hurt us many times in the past without repentance. In cases like this, our minds have been conditioned to distribute grace slowly. Why is this? Can’t forgiveness come as quickly with a person who hurt us as distrust comes after an infraction?
The reality is we live in a fallen world that is very bad at reconciliation. When someone is restored to a new life, it is tempting to not believe them until we personally see some benefit from their life. This makes us just as selfish as the transgressor. Grace is a rare commodity, and I understand that healing takes longer than being wounded, but we must get to a point in our maturity when we develop a quick forgiveness reflex. Does this mean we could be hurt? Yes…yes it does. I won’t sugarcoat it. The purpose, though, is not for us to live in euphoria…it is to share in the redemption of others. Let go of fear, and embrace forgiveness.
If I were to be completely honest with you, I would say that this blog post is one of the hardest I have felt led to write. The reason is not because the topic is a difficult one to articulate or the fact that it is a particularly controversial stance on a “hot button” issue, but because of my heart attitude behind it.
As I get closer to Jesus, I have learned that God honors thoughtful response over angry outbursts. He values the offering of hope over a self-righteous decree of condemnation from my own personal soapbox. So, I want to write today out of love, grace, mercy, but firm resolve and I pray that God will be in my words. I want to talk about the concept of racism.
I sat in a big leather chair in front of a woman who had cried so much that I was afraid she would become dehydrated. He husband had cheated on her. The adultery was getting to be too common in their marriage, and after multiple transgressions, he once again told her it “would never happen again”. This woman was broken, angry, and had practically given up on long term joy in her life. My heart filled with my own brand of anger when she told me the lies that were told and the sins that were committed. The man that she was married to made her feel inferior. He made her believe things about herself that were not true. He made her think this was all her fault. On top of this, over the period of several years, he had made sure that she was removed from opportunities, relationships, more education and much of the outside world as a method of domination and control. She prayed that God would help her and He did. She divorced him and years later, she married the man of her dreams. She also forgave her ex-husband.
The problem is, I really want to hate this man. The carnal part of my human existence wants to show him how wrong he is, and make him pay. I know, however, that a life lived controlled by God’s spirit compels us to seek a much higher level of conduct.
You see, if Christ lives in a person, has complete control, and has forgiven them…it is really hard to go on living with hatred towards another human being. That doesn’t mean that the temptation is not there, but there is a power that is greater in you than that which is in the world.
Racism, at its core, is a systematic desire for a group or groups to express their perceived superiority over others. Often times they will single out a particular community, and do what they can to separate them from society, tell them lies, and openly display their hate for them. In essence, there is not much difference between an adulterer and a racist individual. With that being said, there is a part of me that wants to treat someone who is racist with the same contempt as I would the adulterer. I can’t though. I can’t because I have no idea what type of lies that person has been told throughout their life, and I have to believe in my heart that they are eligible for restoration and love as much as I am. If Jesus cannot heal them, then His death on the cross was a waste of time. Sin is sin.
This doesn’t make the whole issue any less frustrating though. I have heard people who wear gold crosses around their necks say the most awful things about people of different races. This is confusing for many reasons.
So, here is my overall thought. There is no such thing as a Christian racist. I say this, because I have heard people getting upset at the Church for racist acts they have seen in media outlets. And, there have been people who have displayed racism in their lives who claim to be believers. Let me make this very clear. Not disagreeing with the Bible, going to church on occasion, and being raised in a semi-religious home does not make someone a Christian. Nor does giving oneself the label of “good”. A Christian is someone who desires to be like Christ, associates themselves with His crucifixion and resurrection, allows God to transform them, allows the Holy Spirit to guide them, and who has accepted the forgiveness that Jesus offers; all while bearing the fruit of the Kingdom. So, there is no such thing as a “Christian racist”. It cannot exist. Christianity and racism are like oil and water. Sure, there are people who have accepted Christ and who have had to repent of old habits that have arisen temporarily, but that leads to deep grieving and change.
Jesus led by example, and when He wanted to emphasize a virtue, He displayed the virtue through His action. Look at the story of the Woman at the Well in John chapter 4. There were two main issues being addressed when we look deep into this story. The first issue was the sin (and thus the cure) in the life of the woman (who happened to be a Samaritan). Water was just the illustration. Jesus offered her a way out of her constant searching for love, fulfillment, and forgiveness. Jesus took care of all of that, and offered her abundance. The second issue pertained to race. This woman was astonished that a Jew would even speak to a Samaritan, not to mention offering her something to drink. This was unheard of, because of the deep racial divide. In other areas of scripture, the implication is that even the disciples accepted this divide as common. Jesus shatters this mentality, loved this woman, and contradicted the culture.
Hope exists, because there is a God who fashioned all of us from the same dust. This same God declared that we were made in His image. This is a foundational belief in the Judeo-Christian world view. Hope comes from the fact that God forgives and transforms human hearts. He forgives.
The old me wants to hate people that are full of racism and hatred. I have realized that this type of hate is the same brand of hate as those wielded by racist individuals; only in different packaging.
So, a Christian, if guided by the Holy Spirit would spend more time serving, loving, giving, feeding, clothing, proclaiming truth, and praying than complaining and allowing anger to fester and grow. In fact, Jesus did his ministry in the shadow of pagan statues, unholy temples, and hateful hearts. His mind and heart were focused on the people, and He knew the only true kingdom was not this way.
The heart of the Christian is occupied and Jesus does not need a roommate. Hate does not fit.
As followers of Jesus we are called to speak out against hatred of every kind. We are also called to serve those who are not following God.
I end all my blogs the same way…but today I mean it more deeply than I have in the past. With a broken heart yearning for reconciliation, I say it once again…
Love you all.
If you are a normal Christ-follower, you have probably failed in the past. In fact, I guarantee that there was some crisis moment that called you to repentance. Whether it be something one would consider catastrophic to a simple recognition of the need to change. Whatever the case may be, there was once a time in which God woke you up from a spiritual slumber. The purpose of following Jesus,though, is not to make mean people nice, or even bad people good. It is to reveal to people that resurrection is possible, and in fact, needed. As a Christian, I mishandle the treasure of salvation daily, and there are times I forget that God’s power is available to me. I am in need of a resurrection.
As I have observed Christians as a whole, I have noticed that I am definitely not the only one that struggles (as implied above). There are unhealthy behaviors that become natural temptations for the believer and I think they need to be addressed in all of our lives. I have named a few here but there are many more. Yes, they are sinful and need to be stopped.
The following are 8 Unhealthy Christian Behaviors
1. Gossip– This virus…This rotten, hate-filled, ugly monster of a behavior easily rips through souls and congregations as if they are a paper bag. Think I am being a little harsh? I feel it is not harsh enough. Countless numbers of families, friendships, and churches have been split apart because of the seed that gossip plants. There is a difference between “hearing a prayer request” and gossip. Pray that God gives you the discernment (not the desire to justify) to make the distinction. AND, before pointing fingers, evaluate your own heart. So what if Sandy Smith (made up name) was seen at a rated R movie…have you been in God’s word consistently lately? Take this as a caution not an accusation.
2. Duplicity– One of the hardest things to convince a nonbeliever is that this Christian life is relevant outside of the walls of the church. It absolutely is, but how much of a testimony are we displaying if we abandon our beliefs when we leave the worship service and pick them up again next Sunday? It just doesn’t make sense. The spirit of God is available to us 24/7. He desires to make us whole at home as well. Don’t be a different person in private…stay consistent.
3. Unforgiveness– The Christ-centered life revolves around forgiveness. It is the most unique doctrine in the world. The fact that the Creator of the universe, knowing that we messed up everything, has forgiven us… THAT is powerful. Why, then, do we think we are more powerful? I mean, why do we think we can withhold forgiveness to ourselves or others? Think about that… A precious gift that is given to be distributed. Amazing.
4. Arrogance– Christians should look at themselves as the servants to the world, not the rulers of all in it. This is how we operate. So, to think that our belief system somehow makes us superior to anyone is absurd. Sure, we have an excellent eternity to look forward to, but we are called to serve…not to be served. Yes, we are God’s children so there is a royal implication, but this kingdom is much different that what we are used to reading about. It is a kingdom of willing sacrifice, worship, and surrender.
5. Ignoring Conviction– If you get tired of defending your actions (even when no one is condemning them) you may be under conviction about something. This is okay. It is natural. It is simply God telling you to do something else. Aren’t you glad that we serve a God that cares enough to convict you? Give up your need to be right all the time, and defend your habits, or life patterns. Truly listen to what God has to say. Then, make the changes necessary. You will find joy in it.
6. Discontentment– There is a gray area here that I will openly admit. On one hand, it could be that God is calling you to something bigger. On the other hand, it could be that God is calling you to bloom where you are planted. In any case, though, it seems like we often get into the destructive habit of constantly being unhappy with God’s provision or His call. We want more, and bigger, and better, and rarely praise Him when things are rough or seemingly sparse. Why? He created the universe with His voice. Why can’t He create more out of our little? Sure, we can tell Him we will give more if we have more, but should He really give us more if we are not extravagantly generous with what we currently have? Will He not provide? Be content each step of the way, and pray that you recognize when He is calling you forward.
7. Apathy– I encounter Christians, regularly, who just don’t care anymore. Perhaps they are in a spiritual slump or have unplugged from God for a while for some reason. They would not consider themselves and unbeliever, but there is definitely a hallow feeling…a “blah” feeling in their spirit. In these cases, I think God wants us to pursue Him harder than ever. Get back to the fundamentals. Reading scripture, prayer, and community worship are a great start. You will break through this… Keep reminding yourself that God’s grace does not run out just because you are tired. His power is still fully charged and ready to engage the enemy.
8. Worry– Christians call it “concern”. Stop it. He’s got this. Do I really need to remind you of the thousands of times God has come through? Do I need to remind you of the times God’s people helped you through hard times? Do I need to remind you about the times where God revealed a little personal message to you through His word? Nah…of course I don’t. You remember. If you haven’t heard this lately, let me be the one to say it…everything is going to be fine. Bigger things have happened and greater miracles are right around the corner.
I hope, as you read these, you realize that I am in the same boat. Let’s all get on an exciting new journey where we reject the things that look nothing like Jesus. It’s okay to change direction as long as it is facing toward the Father. Unaddressed unhealthy behaviors can lead to a domino affect that will create a bitterness in your heart for what God considers good.
Reflect. Recalibrate. Return to His design.