Write It On Your Heart

Write It On Your Heart

In 2017 I had the privilege of attending a Catalyst conference at which the keynote speakers were pastors Craig Groeschel and Andy Stanley. As they wrapped up the conference, Andy Stanley said something that has stuck with me ever since.

“Do not criticize that which you do not understand.”

Those instructions resonated with me having grown up in a household that, although was full of love, was also full of criticism towards others. With both my parents, decisions and situations were very binary (i.e. black or white), and there was never much consideration given to the nuance of a particular issue (i.e. the gray area in which we all live and operate).

I am sad to say that worldview dominated my way of thinking in my young adult life, and it was such a huge hurdle to overcome. To this day, I struggle with reverting back to that mentality, but I thank God for surrounding me with women and men of faith who, when it comes to this particular personality tick, help keep me focused on the nuance and not the binary.

So as I watched the video below about Billy Joe White, an artist in Ohio who covers up racist tattoos for free, I felt myself want to be judgemental towards the people who had the offensive ink and were now looking to have it hidden. The video does an excellent job in allowing the individuals to explain what compelled them to get those tattoos, and it steers our attention to where it should be; not on a decision in the past that propagated the rhetoric of hate, but rather on actions in the present that are rooted in love.

“Do not criticize that which you do not understand.”

The video is not about people who were/are racist. The video is about a man seeking to make a difference in a culture where racism and hate are prevalent. He does this not to bring attention to himself, but rather to help bring healing and renewal to others. The lesson here is one of extending grace.

In his book Irresistible, Andy Stanley writes:

For John, Paul, and Jesus, loving people is loving God. Not because people are God, but because they are loved by God. Refusing to actively love a brother or sister is paramount to refusing to love God. Under the new covenant, we do not love God and love our neighbors. Under the new covenant, we love God by loving our neighbors.

I pray the next time I feel myself leaning toward that old habit of judging and dismissing, I remember that as a follower of Christ I am commanded to love my neighbor, without exception and without conditions. It is a commandment we should all have tattooed onto our hearts.

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.1 John 4:20-21 (NIV)

Why ‘Christians’ Need to Shut the Hell Up

In the midst of the Kim Davis saga, there has been a plethora of divisive commentary on both sides of the argument. Do a search in Twitter on the hashtag #KimDavis, and you’ll find yourself drowning in sea righteousness, rhetoric, and ridiculousness. I will admit I’ve been enthralled by the issue, and much to my own chagrin, fervently active, as well as a bit snarky, about it on Twitter.

#KimDavis meme

This post is not meant to add fuel to the divisive commentary, although I will admit the choice for the title was deliberately bold. I imagine some people will quit reading this post right about here (and go block me on social media), and that’s fine. But if you do continue to press forward, let me explain why I felt compelled to write this post.

I need to also state I don’t claim to have all the answers. As binary as people claim this issue to be, there really is a lot of nuance that is overlooked as the vitriol and mimes are hurled in this Internet brawl. I was deliberately avoiding blogging about this matter, mainly because I’ve been know to put my foot in my mouth and, at times, rock an already sinking ship. But what drove me to write was the commentary I found in the wake of turbulence.

I am a Christian. More specifically, I consider myself a Christ follower. To be even more granular, I believe Jesus Christ is God, came to earth in human form, sacrificed himself so that all of humanity could be redeemed from sin, and conquered death through His resurrection. I also believe we are all sinners, incapable of perfection, and that we’re each striving for betterment in our lives.

As a Christian, I believe I am called to reach out to those who are not believers. I am called to reach out to those who are away from God, to be a light for those in darkness. I like to think I do that through my words and through my actions. As I’ve written before, we are called to evangelize God’s word. The actual soul saving part, however, is done by God.

And there’s the rub that’s at the heart of the Kim Davis controversy. I am sure Mrs. Davis feels she’s evangelizing. There’s no doubt in my mind she feels in her heart her convictions are true. To a certain extent, I commend her for standing up for those convictions. Where I disagree with her, however, is in what I feel is the imposition of those beliefs on others.

I don’t want this post to go down the tangential conversation of First Amendment rights, separation of church and state, and what contempt of court means. Instead, what drove me to write this post is what I perceive as the non-Christian approach many of the vocal supporters of Kim Davis are using to further their argument. With defiant hands in the air and signs lathered in fire and brimstone, the message I see them convey is, “Obey our God …. or else!” It’s a message not of compassion but of condemnation. It is not a message inviting others to share in the celebration of God’s love, but rather one cloaked in spite and bathed in fear mongering. It’s a message that makes me wonder if they’re talking about the same Jesus I love and worship and praise.

Perhaps this is simply a matter of style. I am not an ‘in your face’ kind of person. I don’t have the ‘come at me bro’ bravado the seems to work well for others. I subscribe to the school of thought my friend Rick employs in his approach to ministry, one that calls for us to be gentle witnesses to God’s amazing grace.

Rex

 

But what I find sad are the casualties this conversation – if you want to call the circus that is the Kim Davis issue a conversation – is producing. At the end of the day, are we, as Christians, presenting God as a loving and forgiving God? Are our words and actions working to bring others closer to Him? As Christians, regardless of what side of the argument we may find ourselves, is what we’re doing glorifying His name? The following tweets seem to indicate that for some, at least, the answer to those questions is no. And that’s the really heart-breaking part of all of this.

“We were not created to settle for mere religion. Jesus did not die so that we could have a religious belief system, but rather a life-giving relationship with our Father.” – Christine Caine

Friendly Friday – Rick Christensen

It’s a known fact. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. In life, the chapters we write often occur as we travel between differing points in our lives. Some journeys are shorter than others, almost none of them a proverbial straight line.

I often refer to my belief in God as my faith journey. I have set out to walk in faith toward Him, every day hoping to be or do a little better than the day before. Sometimes my faith journey finds me on my own in a dialogue with God. Other times, it’s a walk shared with others, be it through church, charity events, or just simple fellowship.

Lee and I attend meetings of a writer’s group once a month. Brandon Christian Writers has been a wonderful experience for both of us as it’s energized our writing and creative thinking process. It has also introduced us to so many wonderful and talented people, and I would like to take a moment to introduce one of them to you.

Rick Christensen is a dear friend whom I’ve come to know through both his writing as well as our conversations. Although we’re at different stages in our lives, we’ve shared similar paths. We talk about how we’re both on our faith journey, oftentimes apparently walking side by side as we talk about the struggles and challenges we face every day. We both have a love for writing, as well as a desire to grow towards Christ.

This is very evident in Rick’s writing. His words and tone have a delicateness to them, and they are such a joy to consume. Rick calls it gentle witnessing when he shares in his blog Discovering and Sharing Grace his daily experiences with regards to his relationship with God. What I love most about Rick’s writing is that it’s never preacher or verbose. Rather, it’s open and honest stories, metaphors, and anecdotes that tell how he connects with God every day.

Rick has compiled his work into a book, and he was also recently featured in the Tampa Tribune. I hope you take a moment to check out his blog and his book. After all, who doesn’t want a little more grace in their life?

“Walk with the wise and become wise.” – Proverbs 13:20

Rick Christensen