Tag Archives: Gospel

LOVE doesn’t WIN when we bash each other

Path Broken Between People

Even God’s people don’t always get along…

If you want a post with some sizzle, post something about Chick-fil-A.  If you want it to generate a lot of conversation, make it controversial.  If you really want to make it provocative, recast a story of something that took place in Chick-fil-A with the words “Spiritual Molestation” as the title. (we’ll see, cuz I’m doing it right here!)

Recently there was this experience in a Chick-fil-A that went a bit viral on Facebook.  You can read what happened here.  A blogger from Love Wins Ministries didn’t see what happened as good, but called it spiritual molestation, and later in his blog called it a “story about power and control.”  You can read his blog here.

I think I get what Hugh Hollowell is trying to say.  As Christians we offer love and that Gospel of Jesus without strings and  without obligation.  We give a cup of water, feed the hungry and clothe the naked without obligating them to something.  But I think he goes too far; and I think he forgets…

I think he forgets Jesus and how God has often operated in the world as we see in Scripture.

If what happened in a Chick-Fil-A, then what about: God causing Jonah’s only shade to shrivel up? Isaac’s trauma at being placed on the altar? Hosea being told to marry a prostitute?

While I understand that Hugh is concerned that the man in the story is being “used,” I think it would be helpful to look at the ministry of Jesus for a moment.

In Mark 12:41-44 Jesus a very poor widow give all she has (making her maybe poorer than the man in Chick-fil-A).  Instead of letting her giving pass by in secret, Jesus uses her as an object lesson.

In the beginning of Matthew 9 some people bring a paralyzed man before Jesus, and out of love he forgives the man’s sins.  But the man is still paralyzed and lying on his matt.  The teachers of the law were mumbling to themselves about Jesus.  Knowing the evil in their hearts, Jesus uses the man and his paralysis to demonstrate his power to forgive. Healing the man Jesus says this to those around him, “I will prove to you the Son of Man has authority on Earth…” It could have been anybody with any ailment.  The paralyzed man isn’t central in the story – it is about power and control between Jesus and religious leaders.

Even Paul, in prison, when he is told others are boldly proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus only so Paul suffers more, says as long as Jesus is proclaimed he is good with it.

But all of this is an example, a microscopic example, of the fracturing taking place in the Church in North America.  Rather than being busy about the work of the Gospel, we fight, nitpick and shoot our own.  And we justify ourselves by saying the truth must be known – about those other people – who love Jesus – the same Jesus we love – and maybe love him more than we do.

Church, hear this! The world is not impressed with our inbred divisive bickering.

Hugh is right.  The Gospel of John is clear.  God so loved the world. Period.  The Gospel is Love.  God is Love.  Jesus is God and all Jesus did, and does, was done in love. Even when he heals a man only to make a point to someone else, it is Love.

Dear Church, let us love one another, for love comes from God.


The Bible, Gays, Guns, Women and Flat Map Theology

worldmapHave you ever had that feeling in the pit of your stomach?  The feeling that something isn’t quite what it should be?  And it doesn’t go away?  I had that.

The other day.  On Facebook.

During my usual late evening stroll (one letter off from “troll”) through my FB Newsfeed, there were these two posts about different “Church Conferences.”  For those of you who are all that churchy – one thing you really need to know is that churchy people like to have conferences.  Anyway, this blog post isn’t about that…

Back to the two conferences that caught my attention and the irony of it.  The first post was from a friend within my particular churchy tribe (the RCA) who was at the closing of the Room For All conference.  The Room For All folks are fighingt hard for the full inclusion of the LGBTQ community into the life and ministry of the Reformed Church.  Right below this post was one from another friend in the denomination who LIKED a conference called We Are Protestant and certain letters were in red so the words “We Protest” stood out. This conference is put on by an organization called Together 4 the Gospel, or T4G.  T4G and Room For All really couldn’t be further apart.

Or could they?

If one was to put them on a map, then absolutely they are far apart.  As far as the east is from the west along latitudinal lines. And, I dare say, they probably don’t like each other. Of course, being good Christian folks, they would tell us they love one another; but chances are the people in T4G don’t hang with the peeps from Room For All and it is hard to actually love someone you don’t hang with…

But I digress.  Let’s get back to the map.  Both groups actually represent a deeper move taking place within the Church today – a significantly growing gap between two polarizing positions around political issues: Gays, women, immigration, guns, schools, etc.  Because of this, I also believe there is an ever growing shift away from Christ being the center. I know, I’ll probably tick someone off here, but at least I can tick everyone off at the same time.

What do I mean?  Both camps have an agenda.  Room For All, and others like them, have a very expressed agenda.  T4G’s agenda was harder to find, but on their website there is a set of assertions where it was made clear – that if I did not think like them, then my theology is wrong and that their agenda is to “recover the Gospel.”  So it would seem, that the two are so far apart.

Let’s put it this way.  If we lay out a map of the world on the table and we find that very place where the Prime Meridian intersects with the Equator, 0 degrees longitude and latitude, somewhere in the Gulf of Guinea.  Let’s say that is the very place where Jesus is central to life and ministry.  If we start there and we begin to move along the equator, based upon our THEOPOLITICAL ideology and positions, we move East and West.  And the harder we become with our positions, the more right we think we are, the further we move, until we are as far apart as the East is from the West.

On a map.  That is flat.

Flat map theology is polarizing theology.  And, if you think of the world as flat – which is indeed how we experience it most of the time – then we allow our theologies to become polarizing.

But the world ain’t flat.  Google it.  So if we put these two groups onto a map, as representatives of what is happening in our church culture today around almost any issue, we would need to put them as far apart as possible.  However, since the world isn’t flat, lets take their two positions on the map and find them on a globe and suddenly they are a whole lot closer than at first we thought.

So, how is it these two polarizing sides can be so close together?

They both have really strong agendas.  They both are deeply rooted in some right/wrong thinking.  Both have moved away from keeping the Gospel central by declaring their theopolitical agendas to be what keeps them Gospel centered.  Both functionally operate from within a vacuum of relationships with the other.  Both are looking back at the direction from which they have moved in order to keep distance from one another.

And suddenly they are standing back to back, hurting the people they are closest to.

The world we live in isn’t flat.  But the world is experiencing flat map polarizing theology from the Church. And flat map theology moves us away from Jesus.  And then we will start bickering over the cups at Starbucks…!

It is time to turn around, toward each other and begin practicing the love Jesus taught & modeled. That only happens in relationships that are deep, vulnerable, and life changing.

Love Travels Far

family at lake   I have avoided writing for awhile.

I knew I was going to write about our experience with Tikumporn (Fah) for a couple of weeks but I didn’t want to face all the emotions and be that vulnerable.  But love is vulnerable isn’t it?  Love puts itself out there, feels deeply and risks everything. We risked it all! In September we welcomed a new daughter and sister in our home.  Fah is 16 and came to us as an exchange student through AFS (find out more about AFS here).

We made the decision while kayaking on a Saturday and in just over a week all the paperwork, background checks and home visits were done.  We knew we wanted a daughter (Hayley argued strongly for this) and that she would share Hayley’s room.  We read her bio and became friends on Facebook.  All of a sudden we were picking her up in Ann Arbor, MI.

I thought we made a huge mistake!

We, Andrew, Hayley and I, bought her flowers on the way to getting her. We had the truck so we would have room for all her luggage (she came with one suitcase). And we believed we were ready.  It was mostly nervous smiles until we hit the road back to Kalamazoo when all of a sudden Fah began asking questions.  That’s when I thought we made a mistake.  I had no idea what she was saying!

All the paperwork said she was great in English!  I looked at my daughter in the rearview mirror, looking for help, I found none.  Hayley looked at me with a look that said, “Panic!”  I looked over at Andrew sitting next to me in front and he said, “why are you asking me?” After 10 minutes the first question was understood.  An easy one, “what is the difference between Catholics and Protestants?”  This is going to be a fun year!  The panic and thinking we made a mistake soon gave way.

Panic and fear were quickly replaced with joy and love.

Looking back I think about how silly those first feelings really were.  It didn’t take long and I was watching my family fall in love with this young lady.  It wasn’t long and I was too.  It wasn’t long and she had captured the hearts of many in our church, youth group, school and community.  She might have been born in Thailand to a different set of parents, but she is every bit our sister and our daughter.

Fah laugh Over the course of nine months as we watched Fah change, grow, learn, and become very comfortable in the family and in the community; we also changed and grew.  We discovered just how capable of deeply loving we are.  We learned what it means to fully invest ourselves into the life of another.  We learned what it really means to let others in so that everyone is impacted and transformed.

Leadership is really discipleship and discipleship is courageously loving.

That’s really at the heart of the Gospel isn’t it?  Jesus even tells us that the heart of the Big Ten are summed up in loving God and loving others.  Really loving others is a risky proposition because it can’t happen outside of relationships. This week has been hard.

Monday we took Fah to the train station and watched her load with a few other students while a cranky Amtrak employee barked orders and complained about their luggage.  He wasn’t what made that moment so hard, though.

As Fah borded the train we all felt a part of our hearts board that train as well.  As the train pulled out and went east to Ann Arbor, we felt our hearts speed away as well.  I walked upstairs yesterday and saw her closet, empty. Today we saw pictures of her with her family in Thailand (after 17 hours of flight time!).  We saw the smile on her face and the love in her family.  And while it feels like part of our heart is now in a time zone 12 hours ahead of ours; it isn’t a part that has been taken away.

It is a part that has been added.