Here we are at the end of a week. Was yours pretty?
Sometimes things aren’t pretty.
Sometimes things are downright ugly. The parts of us that want pretty may cause us to turn our faces, glance the other way, hope it all goes away. Or maybe we hope it will all just get fixed—by someone else—by time.
Did Jesus just look away, just look up, just keep quiet, just expect others to do his work, just thinks time fixes everything?
I saw some videos last night. Enraged, screaming human beings. Part of a movement supported by some of our highest elected officials.
Some folks have been calling publically for the killing of white cops in a number of U.S. cities.
The chants are chilling . . .
“Pigs in a blanket! Roll ‘em up and fry ‘em like bacon!”
“Oink! Oink! Bang! Bang!”
“What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want them? NOW!
Another video easily accessible on the Internet shows a man spewing murderous rage, inciting his audience to “kill all white people—every single one of them . . . three seconds out of the womb”. His words received cheers and laughter.
Then, I saw another. A man of color. He told how Facebook took down his video plea for civility with no notification. So he found another venue. I watched.
Yes, he was lengthy and redundant. But maybe redundant is good for ears who won’t hear on the first hearing.
He’s calling for respect—for forgiveness—for the cease of vitriolic language—for the realization that ALL lives matter, not just certain lives. He’s calling for leaders and media to speak up and speak out against violence—against torture—against murder—no matter the color. And he wonders why our leaders are silent these days. Me too.
Nowadays, voices rise like river water after a downpour, flooding us with media soundbites from all points on the political spectrum.
Opinions rapid-fire, super-imposed on each other to the point where you can’t hear either voice.
No listening. Just yelling.
The furnace is blazing in bellies of the furious.
I’m mad too.
I’m not just mad about the racial issues of present.
I’m mad about ALL sin, especially my own.
I’m remembering the scene from the 1976 movie, Network, where Peter Finch’s character has had enough—too much. He stands and screams while on-air and exhorts others to do likewise:
“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
I’m mad, alright, and I’m calling all to get MAD along with me!
But I’m not mad the way some are mad . . .
I’m not speaking out as some are speaking out, trying to rev up hate, trying to stir up division, trying to promote violence, believing that vengeance is ours—or theirs.
Aggression isn’t loving.
I’m not mad the way others are mad either . . .
I’m not staying silent, sitting pretty, making superficial and offering dainty vocal niceties while I seethe below the surface of my smile.
Pretension isn’t loving.
Let’s face it . . .
None of us are saints.
So why don’t we stop pretending that we are and get on with the messy business of trying to relate the way God wants us to—speaking truth in love and working toward reconciliation in healthy ways—in our families—in our communities—in our nation—in our world?
Where do we start?
With two fundamentals . . .
Love and truth.
God is love. God is truth.
If you have truth without love, you don’t have God.
If you have love without truth, you don’t have God.
Love and truth are inseparable.
That is truth.
And about feelings?
We can have our anger and still not sin (Ephesians 4:26).
We can ask God to use our anger for good.
Here’s another fundamental truth . . .
There are two forces at work in this world, even in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12)
The mad of Heaven is more powerful than the mad of Hell (the whole Bible declares from Genesis to Revelation).
Because only one, the only One, is righteous and holy. The other is wholly murderous.
Let’s remember Christ’s words (Matthew 5:22) that murder originates in the mind that broods bitterness. But Christ wasn’t brooding or bitter when he called the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs” and “a brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:27,33).
Jesus showed us how to use anger for good, not evil. He showed us how to use anger, truth-filled anger, to expand the kingdom of God, not shrink it. All because of his—great—love.
Problem is, some voices are rising, gaining momentum. Others are being dammed or not even flowing in the first place.
Problem is that too many who still have the freedom to speak up and speak out and stand on a solid rock in the middle of a raging, rising river have become scared—or complacent—or confused.
Are we scared to speak up because we fear social consequences (or the government!) might drown us?
Are we becoming complacent against sin, pulling in our oars, refusing to paddle and do the work Christ calls us to do? This sin of omission is often more deadly than any sin of commission. Jesus would agree with the Dalai Lama here:
It is essential . . . to address directly our tendency to put things off and while away our time in meaningless activities and shrink from the challenge of transforming our habits on the grounds that it is too great a task. In particular, it is important not to allow ourselves to be put off by the magnitude of others’ suffering. The misery of millions is not a cause for pity. Rather it is a cause for developing compassion.
We must also recognize that the failure to act when it is clear that action is required may itself be a negative action . . .inaction is attributable less to negative thoughts and emotions as to a lack of compassion. It is thus important that we are no less determined to overcome our habitual tendency to laziness than we are to exercise restraint in response to afflictive emotion.
–from Ethics for the New Millennium by the Dalai Lama, edited by Alexander Norman, translated by Dr. Thupten Jinpa
Some want others to stand up and speak out for what is right, while we sit comfortably on our couches complaining about the moral bankruptcy our nation and our world.
What would happen if we brought the conversation into our homes, into our “living” rooms, into the center of our families?
What would happen if we had some real, meaningful, truthful conversation and started the reconciliation process with God—and then with each other—right at our own kitchen tables?
What if we started opening our mouths about the sin in ourselves, asking others for prayer (James 5:16)?
What if we confronted the sin in our children, no matter their age, doing so gently but firmly, loving as God (Colossians 3:16)?
What if we stopped excusing ourselves and those we love most with the lie that another’s sin is none of our business?
Is this love?
Not according to God’s word.
This is IDOLATRY—loving something or SOMEONE more—than—God.
But we don’t want to make anyone mad.
We don’t want to offend.
We don’t want to risk what we think is hurting relationship.
We don’t want to do anything personally costly.
Is this love?
Not according to God’s word.
We say with spiritual pride that WE don’t sacrifice our children on altars like the pagans of old.
When our children bully us into silence spewing their relativistic religion they call Christianity that justifies their ungodly decisions because they’ve been swept away by our ungodly cultural current, haven’t we made our children our greatest idol, sacrificing them on the altar of Hell?
When we let our families bully us into behaving in ways that run counter to our convictions because they say we wouldn’t be “loving” if we do, are we really being loving?
Are we confused?
Have we let the collective mind of culture cast doubt in our own minds about the absolute truth of Scripture—the absolute requirement that those who profess to be Christians must LIVE as Christ and DIE to Self? That we don’t have the right to rewrite God’s word or twist it to fit whatever we want—whatever current culture deems “right” and “normal”?
Have we rationalized ourselves into oblivion, where right and wrong are no longer clearly delineated—like when Elizabeth Swann confronts the pirate captain Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Black Pearl, pleading for her life with the pirate code, and evil Barbossa says, “The code is more what you’d call GUIDELINES than actual rules,” as he proceeds to welcome her aboard his ship where she’s become—his—captive—surrounded by those who believe plundering and killing are acceptable means to an end?
We humans can justify just about anything—even the most wicked. Thus declares Self-interest.
So here we are, humanity in 2015.
The pirates have arrived, people!
Are we going to stand by and welcome aboard those who abhor God’s ways? Are we going to run for cover, hiding ourselves in the belly of the boat, hoping wickedness will leave quickly, magically?
Or would we rather just join them than resist?
That would be easier, of course, many might think.
But they are wrong.
Evil unchecked begets more evil until it overflows and drowns us all.
So what’s the solution?
I offer some black and white . . .
How about a white reformer like Martin Luther?
How about a black reformer like Martin Luther King Jr.
How about doing something God’s way, like the white and the black?
Who will kneel and pray?
Who will rise and speak?
Where are the leaders of righteousness and love?
Where are the leaders—those who hold positions of authority—those who hold positions of power?
Where are they and why aren’t they DOING something to stop all this hellish madness all around?
I’ll tell you where they are.
One is right here.
Another is reading these words right now.
It’s YOU, my friend.
If we’re people who still believe in Judeo-Christian morals and principles, WE are the leaders.
If we are truly Christian, WE are people who hold positions of authority, people who hold positions of power.
Because if we’re truly Christians, we have THE power that trumps ALL powers of Hell.
His name is Jesus Christ. He modeled how to bring down the power of Hell on earth . . .
Always stand for truth and love, which means always wanting what will produce an expansion of the kingdom of God—in another—in the world.
Love is NOT a complacent silent approval or tolerance of anything else.
Fear and complacency—these are our most deadly enemies.
If the Holy Spirit is living inside us, we need fear nothing.
But we must be willing to sacrifice everything.
Because if we’re truly Christians, we must be about Kingdom work—about working in tandem with the Holy Spirit to spread the Kingdom of Heaven right here on earth where the powers of Hell and its demons roam, searching for whom and what they can devour (1 Peter 5:8), not stopping until they have their fill, which they never do.
Evil is insatiable. But love is invincible.
TRUE love stands up for what is TRUE—for what is noble—for what is right—for what is pure—for what is lovely—for what is admirable—for what is excellent—for what is praiseworthy. And TRUE love doesn’t just think about these things. True love puts it into practice. (Philippians 4:8-9)
TRUE love does not abdicate personal responsibility with the lame excuse in the form of a question . . .
“What can one person do among so many?”
I’ll tell you what one person can do . . .
One person can die to all Self-interest and do the work of God in defending and expanding His kingdom on earth.
One person did it already.
His name is Jesus Christ.
And many, many true Christians have walked His road of righteousness, with the Holy Spirit empowering, with the promise of God’s peace ahead of them.
We are not to sit on the sidelines, or in our pews, or in our comfortably padded church seats (Starbucks in hand), complaining—even praying—and waiting for God to raise up ONE.
We are MANY.
Indeed, there is strength in numbers.
The number line starts with a ZERO and moves to a ONE—and then to a TWO—and then to a THREE until the forward movement gains momentum and MULTIPLICATION begins.
But if not even ONE will get on their knees and open their mouth and do something noble?
We all need to repent of our fear, our complacency. We all need to repent of any thought, word or deed that doesn’t align with God’s ways as revealed in his Word.
We all need to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Then, and only then, will ALL we need be added unto us. (Matthew 6:33)
Who will get MAD as HEAVEN and drop to their knees seeking GOD’S ways?
Who will get MAD as HEAVEN and submit to God, resist the Devil and watch him flee (James 4:7)?
Is there any ONE out there who has the nerve, the drive, the determination to put their wick to the holy flame of GOD and let themselves burn brightly instead of hovering in the shadows, hoping to remain unseen, untested, their wick still black?
There will be a cost, no doubt, for either choice.
Is the cost of complacency less than the cost of discipleship?
Don’t be fooled.
And don’t be bullied into believing that because you’re a sinner, you can’t make a difference—that you should stay quiet—that you don’t have a right or a responsibility to speak up and act.
I say so with sadness—because I am one of the boldest of sinners—because I have a big mouth that still opens too much saying things I shouldn’t—too often. I speak up and make mistakes. Some stay silent and think they make no mistakes. Minds can sin without speaking a word.
So we’re all in the same boat.
Lord, let us not stay as captives in pirate ships when you died to set us free—when you commissioned us to go and set other captives free!
We are sinners saved by grace (Ephesians 2:5) predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son (Romans 8:29).
There is a Voice today calling us all Heavenward. As evil appears to grow, so too will holiness.
How will I respond, this day?
On which ship will we sail through our days?
Every thought, every word, every deed stands on one deck or another.
We will sink the ship of Hell when we stand on the deck of the Holy where Jesus Christ is now and forever at the helm.
Stand up! Speak out! Man (and woman) the sails!
Let the wind of the Holy Spirit move us closer toward our victory—already won—by Jesus—and all who stand with him, saved by him.