Tag Archives: people

the illusion


I was very hesitant to write today. Not that there aren’t a lot of thoughts running through my head. Honestly if people heard my inner monologue I think they would think I was even more strange than I appear to be. No, I think my hesitancy to write today’s blog post stems from the type of dialogue that I see going on in our world…particularly from those of us who claim the name of Christ. You see, for a couple of weeks now I’ve been listening to and watching the rhetoric going on between my friends about issues surrounding things like guns and rights and everything in between. And I honestly think as Christians we’ve evidently been operating under a very false pretense that has absolutely nothing to do with the gospel of Christ. I hear people say things like, “It’s obvious it’s a gun problem.” Or, “It’s obvious it’s not a gun problem, but a people problem.” Or even, “If they take away one right, what’s to stop them from coming for all my rights.” And I don’t want to invalidate any of your arguments or stances. Hear me again, I don’t want to invalidate any of your arguments or stances…but…

I think as Christians we need to have the veil pulled back from our eyes. I think we find ourselves in this world operating with an illusion created by sin and it mask itself in the most clever of ways. It looks like rights, defense, independence and even love…and yet, it’s an illusion. The illusion is the belief that my life, or the life of any one I love matters more than the life of anyone else on earth (I know I just lost some friends with that one). But honestly, if the gospel doesn’t teach us that we all come to the foot of the cross as equals, then we have misread the gospel. The writer of Matthew puts it this way in the words of Christ, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them’.” – Matthew 16:24-25 If you wish to follow Christ, then you must realize your life is forfeit. If you choose to follow the crucified Messiah, then you must realize your life is worth no more than the person you despise the most.

Now you may say to me, what in the world does this have to do with all the debate about guns and rights and sin…honestly, everything. Until I can come to the table with any one of the human race realizing that Christ gave his life for them as much as for me, then I might as well not enter into the fray. So by all means, continue to have your debates and discussions and solutions ad nausea, but if you don’t pull back the illusion and think of each and every life as just as valuable as your own and those you love, then you need to reevaluate the Christ you have chosen to follow. Because he may have ended up looking more like you than you think. I’ll leave you with one more thought that I think continues to pull back the illusion for us all and it comes from Dorothy Day. “I really only love God as much as the person I love the least.” You are loved, Grace and Peace.


in the flesh


I once heard a story about a little girl who was having trouble going to sleep one night. Her father came into the room to remind her that there was no reason to be afraid because God was right there with her. However, even after this reassurance, a few minutes later the girl was calling for her dad again. Her dad came back into the room again and tried to remind her once again that God was right there with her. “But dad, I need someone with skin on.” We might hear this story and think of it as just being a cute anecdote, but it might be a story that calls us to the greatest Christian action that we could practice…being present.

The very beginning of the Jesus story goes a bit like this, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” – John 1:14 The thing that makes the Jesus story so powerful, so compelling is that God was willing to put on human skin and join us. He was willing to suffer, laugh, play, dance, sing, work, cry, think, move, and share in every other human experience. Not only that, but He set the example for us as to what it meant to be truly human because He was always fully present. As you read the story of Jesus throughout the gospels, you begin to see a trend in his approach towards others. Regardless of the person’s station in life or their spiritual state or status, Jesus was always fully present with them. I even think of the most extreme example where we may even think of Jesus not being present in Matthew 15. A Canaanite woman approaches Jesus and he really doesn’t seem to want to take the time to interact with her as He feels compelled to continue taking His message of healing and redemption to Israel. Yet at the end of the encounter we read this, “Then Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment.” – Matthew 15:28

Now think about this with me for a moment. If Jesus proved His love for those around Him by being present in each and every situation, how much more should we work at being present to those around us? Perhaps if we began to value each conversation, each interaction, each moment as God would have us to, then people might begin to respond to us differently. I can’t help but think of the marvel Jesus had each time He encountered someone new. Even though He knew them, all of a sudden it was real…because they both had skin on. Perhaps if we could come to realize that people are more than agendas, schedules, products, customers, numbers, etc. we might begin to see them with the same awe and wonder that God has for each and every human that ever walked the face of the earth. So may you today seek to be present in a new and real way to those around you. Because you never know when they may need somebody with skin on.

we really do

Yesterday I was in a funk. I’m not sure if you are familiar with this terminology or not, but it basically amounts to a feeling of being overwhelmed, anxiousand even feeling physically ill. And what does one do when they are in a funk? Well dive deeper of course. I withdrew, isolated myself even further and simply tried to disconnect from everything. The only problem with this is that anyone who knows me knows that I am an extrovert. And the last thing an extrovert needs to do is withdraw from others. So by the end of the day, with my wife’s help,  I had doagnosed said funkiness and started to reconnect and finally went to bed feeling a little less funky. It’s almost as if we really do need each other. 

At face value this seems like a really simple statement. Yeah sure, we really do need each other…but at what costs? In his letter to the church at Rome the apostle Paul writes these words, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans‬ ‭12:18‬. Live at peace with everyone? That seems like a pretty tall order. Especially in a world where we are rewarded for our individualism. Especially in a world where we are defined by our differences and by our distinctions and by the lines that are drawn in the sand every day to make sure we fall on one side or the other. But surely this is not the case in the church… Contemporary culture often serves as a wonderful assessment tool for the health of the church. Is the church reflecting the culture, or is the church transforming the culture? Right now we are surrounded by a culture that is at best divisive and at worst hostile to the ideaof healthy community…so how is the church doing?

The word most often used in the New Testament for the church is the word ekklesia. It means, “the called out ones” and it was a explication of the church’s distinctiveness. The church is always meant to be a different embodiment characterized by love and unity and community. In fact, the term heresy is translated from the Greek hairesis, which means, “a taking or choosing for oneself”. In other words being divisive by finding difference over commonality. The very first way heresy was understood was as the division of community. And now we as the church are meant to be a model of healthy community for the world and are we doing this or are we just reflecting contemporary culture?

One thing we need to understand in all of this is that unity doesn’t always mean uniformity, but it does mean that we live at peace with one another. We really do need each other but when we reflect the cultural wars and attack and belittle and show disrespect to the members of the body of Christ, we divide His body all over again and this should not be so. It was once said of the characteristics of the church that we come to our ideologies and doctrines in the following fashion: In Essentials Unity, In Non-essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity. Maybe this is the way forward; remembering that the things that bind us together and the things we have in common are stronger than the differences we allow to divide us. We really do need each other. I don’t think I can say that enough. And the world needs to see that we understand and live this out; living together at peace reflecting the Christ who called us out to be a community in a world that really needs us. 


How many of us love traffic? How many of us love standing in line at the grocery store? How many of us just absolutely love being inconvenienced by other people? I am sure, as is the case with me, that the responses on most of these probably found themselves in the negative column. After all, we are a busy people. There is so much to do, so much to accomplish that it would be so much easier if there weren’t other people getting in our way.

There is a rule that pretty much all of us in the church are very familiar with and a lot of the people outside the church are even familiar with. We refer to it as the Golden Rule and Jesus spoke it in The Sermon on the Mount. It simply states, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 7:12 I love the sweeping arc of that command…”in everything you do”. So whether we are in line, in traffic, inconvenienced, etc. our behavior towards others should be a reflection of how we wish to be treated. And this sums up all the law and the prophets!?! How could it be so easy?

I was reminded of this concept in a discussion recently. I found myself saying, “You know, God loves all of us the same. Regardless of our actions and so I think it is on us to try our hardest to see everyone we come into contact with as God sees them.” Ouch. But I think that’s the rub of it. Those of us who know the truth of God’s love and grace are bound by it as well. In his essay The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis put it this way, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

In other words, every interaction we have with someone walking and breathing could bear eternal rewards or consequences in their lives. So when we find ourselves in traffic, in line, inconvenienced, whatever, our actions, or better yet our reactions, could be priceless in view of eternity. And honestly, we never know what the people around us are going through until we know what they are going through. So may we live out the golden rule and know that as we fulfill the law and the prophets we just might be helping to shape the eternal destiny of our fellow sojourners.

who’s counting

I love people. I really do. And it’s not just something I tell myself or other people to convince me that it’s true. But sometimes I think we underestimate the cost of a word like love. For instance, I in any given day will utter the phrase “I love Dr. Pepper” and a few breaths later tell my wife, “I love you”. But obviously these two things don’t, or at least shouldn’t carry the same weight. So what does it mean for us to say we love each other? Just last night we were hashing out a portion of our church’s mission statement (Worshiping God, Loving People, Serving the World) and we got a bit hung up on what it means to truly love people. We even read the famous passage from 1 Corinthians 13 about love and realized the gravity of the call to love. The one phrase that always seems to trip me up is, “Love keeps no record of wrongs”.

Let’s be honest for a minute. There are some people we keep at a distance because of their behavior. We may not physically push them away or go out of our way to avoid them, but we do create space between us. Whether it is through things we say to to other people, posts and articles we share on Facebook or other varieties of social media, or views we have espoused in the past, we have inadvertently kept a record of wrongs and it has been killing our witness. I think another way to look at this is from Paul’s other letter to the Corinthian church. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” – 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. I want you to catch this…God was reconciling all people to Himself not counting their sins against them. And then the craziest part? We are now ambassadors of that same reconciliation…as if God himself is working through us.

So let’s backtrack a bit. When I say that I love people, it takes on a whole new dynamic. I need to see people as God sees them. So desperate to reconcile that he doesn’t even count their sins against them but instead reaches out with arms of love and draws them into Himself. So when I see people I no longer see their sins, their depravity, their brokenness…I simply see someone that God is desperate to reconcile and in that fashion I love them. If we say we love people then we are called to throw away our agendas, our preconceived notions, our biases, our fear, our misunderstanding, our political alignments, our view of their sins and simply love. And what does love do? “…love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8. May we learn to stop counting and stop distancing ourselves through any kind of medium and simply, truly, deeply, love.

evil eye

Okay, let’s get something out of the way. Sometimes the Bible is just weird. There I said it. And I am still typing so I didn’t get struck by lightning. But really. Sometimes when we try to take concepts or illustrations from the Bible and put them in today’s context…it’s just, well weird. I ran across one of those instances just this last week as I was preparing for youth group with our students. The passage is a familiar text to most of us. It is commonly referred to as The Parable of the Workers in The Vineyard and it is found in Matthew 20. But in verse 15 it get’s a little weird. The owner of the vineyard is speaking to the workers hired first and he says, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”. At first glance this isn’t that weird (and I just realized I have used the word weird a lot…I need a thesaurus). But there is a phrase in the Greek that stands out a bit if we go back to the original text and it is ophthalmos ponēros. Which the translators in the NIV labeled envious, but a more literal translation would be ‘evil eye’.

I don’t know what this sparks in your mind, but I almost picture a pirate or something with his evil eye staring down at me, ‘arrrr’. But that doesn’t really help us here. We have to look a bit more about what Jesus was saying in regards to the owner of the vineyard and the early workers. He is actually asking them if they are looking to do harm to the later workers because of his paying them the same wage. Now I don’t know about you, but this strikes me as strange at first. Why in the world would Jesus accuse these workers as wishing harm upon the other workers? But then I think about human nature.

We all have those people who we are a bit envious of, frustrated by, hate to be around, etc. etc. Maybe it’s someone who seemingly has been blessed more than you. Maybe it’s that person who has made a life of taking advantage of the system. Maybe it’s the person who just rubs you the wrong way because of the life they lead. But here’s the true rub of it…Jesus died for all of those people. And he extends Grace (unmerited favor) to not only us but to EVERYONE. I think sometimes we forget that. Sometimes in our desire for retribution or equality (really this version of fair is only about us coming out on top) we really want some people to get their just due. I think if some of us were honest we might even wish Hell upon some of these people…talk about an evil eye. But if God doesn’t want Hell for any of these people, shouldn’t we be the same way? Shouldn’t we be so consumed by Grace that we become instruments of God’s imbalanced economy? I know for me this is insanely convicting and I hope you and I can start to see people a little bit differently…regardless of when they start working in the vineyard.

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