Would Your Political Enemies Say You Are A Follower of Christ?

At church I regularly talk politics without talking politicians. What I mean is that I don’t talk about specific politicians, while I do talk about how the kingdom of God should direct how we live as aliens in this world, ambassadors of the kingdom who live in this country, and a royal priesthood who get to vote for those who represent us in this republic. You see I am positive that a person’s faith in Christ should affect the way they act and live as a citizen. Therefore, as a part of church I talk about issues that often butt up against what our current politicians are at the very least talking about (which doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing anything). But in church, or on this blog, I don’t talk about who I am voting for.1

Presently though I am saddened to see how some who claim to be followers of Christ are responding to those with whom they disagree. I understand that people feel strongly about the election. I feel strongly about it too. I will freely admit that while I am not thrilled with either of the major party candidates, there is one that I am truly scared of, and I hope and have been praying that this candidate loses.2 Of course, I also have a decent amount of faith in the system to work even if we elect the unthinkable. I just really hope the American people don’t decide in such a way that I have to find out if I am right or wrong about the American system being able to handle the unthinkable.

Still I know people are heated over this election and I have seen some people say things about their political opponent and the people that support that opponent that are, frankly, repulsive. Mean, hateful, ungodly things about the people on the other side. People who have been created in the Image of God who because they hold a different political ideology are treated as the other – intrinsically different, non-bearers of the Imago Dei. I understand that they may be your “political enemies” but Christ said the following concerning how we should treat our enemies.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-38

Pretty straight forward in my opinion. Just in case it isn’t that straight forward here is a quote from Justin Martyr describing Christians in the second century living this out in the following manner:

We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.

This is in the 2nd century, the 100s, people. They understood what it meant to have enemies back then. Want another source, well the Didache, possibly the earliest non-scripture teaching of the church, says the following concerning how we are to live out loving our enemies.

“Bless those who curse you,” and “pray for your enemies.” Moreover, fast “for those who persecute you.” For “what credit is it to you if you love those who love you? Is that not the way the heathen act?” But “you must love those who hate you,” and then you will make no enemies.

Again they knew what enemies were back then and they understood Jesus to say “love your enemies”, and therefore they tried to do it. But some who claim to follow Christ seem to have forgotten this in regard to political candidates that they have never met and even worse people whom they claim to love who are voting for a different candidate than they are. It isn’t just in this election, I’ve seen it happen many times before, but it does seem to have amp’d up a good bit during this election. If we say we are followers of Christ then we need to do what He says.

I wonder if when we see Jesus face to face if He isn’t going to ask us if we really loved Him, because our actions towards Hillary, Donald, and those that support them didn’t seem to reflect that love. The problem with Jesus is that He really meant it when He said things like “love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.” If we are going to claim to be children of the Most High then we should try to live out what He says. So stop treating your political opponents so badly. Love them, or at least be honest and admit you aren’t following Christ right now.

  1. I don’t mind discussing who I am voting for and why I will vote for them if you ask me in private, just not during the message. 

  2. Again, I won’t say who on my blog ,which is on the church website, and you don’t know if I am talking about your candidate or not. 

Slacktivism? ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Here’s a fun one. The Ice Bucket Challenge, which some labeled as slacktivism, accomplished quite a bit. Here’s the CNN article on some of what was accomplished through the money raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge.  To quote the article:

In just eight weeks, $115 million was donated to the ALS Association, 67% of which was dedicated to advancing research for treatments and a cure, the non-profit reports.
One million dollars went towards Project MinE, a University of Massachusetts Medical School Project that was able to identify a gene that is responsible for the degenerative disease.
I understand why some people jump on this and similar campaigns as not actually doing anything other than making the individual feel better about themselves. Sometimes for some people, I believe, that can be a valid complaint. Of course, the complaint about “slacktivism” can also just be a way of the complainer trying to feel better about doing absolutely nothing by decrying the small thing that another has done as being useless. I don’t usually hear people who are really doing something about an issue complain about slacktivist.
“What you want to change your profile picture to reflect the issue that I have spent my life working on? Sure, I’m down with that.” Realistically most of the acts and small and rather insignificant. Yet together those small acts can add up to truly magnificent things.  Raising awareness. Raising money. Getting people to think about a subject. Those can be great things because often small acts very often help accomplish great things.
In this case the results of many people spreading a small challenge was some research with great findings.
HT my awesome wife, Pamela.

Good News / Bad News

So lets start with the good news each time:

Good news: I am safe and my minivan is fine.

BTW, I am not sure why minivans get so much junk said about them. I love my Grand Caravan. It has been the best car that I have owned other than the Sentra that I bought from Eric for $100 and then tried to fix up. Dollar for dollar that Sentra has been the best vehicle, cost per mile, that I have ever owned. Of course, it was also bought and used as a bit of a joke. Just a joke that I ended up loving. If Pam would let me I would buy another ’91 Sentra coupe and fix it up. Such a fun car to drive. So back to the minivan and why do they get so much junk said about them. Fred the minivan is basically my covered truck. It is just a truck that I can fit 7 people in and gets better gas MPG than a truck of its age. Hauled a load of stuff to our solid waste transfer site one weekend and Noah used it to take his friends hiking the next weekend. Minivans are awesome!

So once again both I and Fred are safe.

Bad news: I had a high speed blow out of my front driver’s side right tire on the interstate 40 miles from home. A high speed front tire blowout can be a pretty scary thing.

Good news: The blowout was much less dramatic than a typical front driver’s side high speed blowout. As a matter of fact, initially when I heard it, I actually thought it was the car beside me because there was no change in the vehicle’s handling.

Bad news: I now have to get a new tire and it is close enough to the the life expectancy of the other front tire that I will probably go ahead and replace both front tires.

Good news: This didn’t happen when Noah was driving his friends to Devil’s Lake to go hiking yesterday.

Bad news: It did happen when I was driving to work and therefore most of the day has been/will be wasted waiting on AAA or the company working on the tires.

Good news: I have been meaning to try Auto Select because of my friend Conor who works at one of the ones in Point.

Bad news: The blowout occurred around Weston so I am trying out the Auto Select in Weston rather than the one in Point. BTW, quite good service thus far and a free Diet Coke. Can’t go wrong with that.

Good news: As usual I have my possible with me so I have things I can do and work on.

Bad news: While I almost always pack whatever book I am reading into my possible each day, for some reason today is not one of the days where I did this. I could have finished John Krakauerer’s “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town” today. BTW, very mixed feelings on this book. One that I think I will be thankful I read, once I am finished with it, but also one that I don’t think I will ever want to read again because it is incredibly disturbing.

Good news: I am going to get a second free Diet Coke. I stress the word free because things like that make me happy. Also I have a fire starter in my possible so I can entertain myself with that for a while. The photo attached to this post is of my fire starter since I didn’t take a photo of the tire when I had the chance. Basically I don’t like posting to my blog without a photo of something. The fire starter seemed as good as anything. It is a pretty awesome fire starter.

Alton Sterling & the Imago Dei

So in the midst of a busy day I have been reading the thoughts of some of my friends from a city that I love and praying for Baton Rouge throughout the afternoon. I am just confused by the whole thing and I don’t have any answers. I would say that I know the One Who is the answer and I believe I do, but the problem is saying that just sounds trite and usually seems to shut down thoughts and actions that might lead to working towards justice for all, rather than doing what I believe Jesus actually does, which is be with us in the midst of our pain and push us to look for the actions that reflect the kingdom of God (Thy will be done on earth as in heaven).

So instead I sit here thinking what would I be doing right now if we still lived in Baton Rouge. Would my family and I be doing something gloriously stupid that might cost me the position I had at a overwhelmingly white church? Would I be asking my black friends how I could assist them in using the moment to push for greater justice for them and a society where African-American males don’t have to walk in fear just because of the color of their skin? Because, I fear for my friends who are young black men and what they often have to face. Would I be encouraging the BR police force to consider its actions and attitudes while also listening to the police men and women that I knew and hearing their fears? Because I fear for my friends who are peace officers and what they have to face. Would I be helping my friends and neighbors work toward a better society? Because need to continually be forming our country into a more perfect union.

I hope so but the reality is that I am just a transplanted Southern living in Wisconsin. I’m no longer down there so I don’t really know what I would be doing.

I do hope that I would be encouraging myself, my family and friends, and everyone else to purposefully be looking for the image of Christ in the people we would be talking and interacting with over the next weeks and months. Encouraging both sides to look with eyes hoping to discern the face of God in the others around us. Seeing Christ in someone changes the way I act. Noticing His image (the Imago Dei or Imago Christi) in someone else tends to shake me out of just living my own agenda and reminds me to act out the upside down kingdom of God –  a kingdom where the weak are strong and leaders serve instead of lording their power over people. My problem is that I often forget to remind myself to look for the Imago Christi in the people that I am having trouble or the people I am scared of. When I don’t see that image I tend to do really stupid things in the way I treat people.

I guess if I were in Baton Rouge I would be constantly reminding people at the church I served of the 25th chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew. I’ll paraphrase it how I believe the passage fits in the current situation.

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the peoples will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was different from you and you treated Me fairly and didn’t let your fear control you, I was scared and you didn’t see My fear as a threat to you, I was a stranger and you invited Me in rather than wanting Me out of your area, I needed protection and your protected Me, I was culturally sick and you helped Me see past what the cultural was telling Me, I was imprisoned in a system that was destroying Me and you fought to break through that system and help Me be free.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see You different and treat You fairly, or scared and not see Your fear as a threat? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing protection and protect You? When did we see You culturally sick or imprisoned in a system and be a part of Your healing and escape?

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.”

Then He will say to those on his left, “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was different from you and you took advantage of Me because you saw My difference as a threat to you, I was scared and you saw My fear as a threat and sought to hurt Me, I was a stranger and chased Me away, I needed protection and you turned your back on Me, I was culturally sick and you thought you were better than Me, I was imprisoned in a system that was destroying Me and you just said it was all My own fault and doing.”

They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you different or scared or a stranger or needing protect or culturally sick or imprisoned, and did not help you?”

He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.”

I hope that if I was still in Baton Rouge I would be helping people to act like sheep to one another because of seeing the Imago Christi rather than not seeing it and acting like goats. I hope I am doing this now in Wisconsin. It is the only answer I have right now.

Ramen Noodles

I never ate Ramen noodles until I was in middle age. I know the stereotype is of a poor college student eating Ramen because he/she can’t afford anything else, but my food of choice when I was unable to afford anything else was rice. I would make rice and add anything else I could find to the rice. There were points where I added things that were never meant to be added to rice – like mustard and ketchup. Not a taste I would recommend.

Anyhow I ate cooked Ramen (I’ve eaten uncooked Ramen as a part of various dishes but that doesn’t count) for the first time when we moved to Wisconsin. I would boil the Ramen in my own proprietary mix and then add whatever I find leftover in the fridge. I’ve gotten where I really like this. Mhmmmm, Ramen!!!!

Anyhow I order a custom bowl for my Ramen to enhance my Ramen eating experience. It came in today. I’m pretty excited about using it. I guess I will use it Friday.

How had I missed the joy that is Ramen all those years?!?!?

Sinner – Quote from Bonhoeffer’s Life Together

“Confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16) Those who remain alone with their evil are left utterly alone.  It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness.  The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. For the pious community permits no one to be a sinner. Hence all have to conceal their sins from themselves and from the community. We are not allowed to be sinners. Many Christians would be unimaginably horrified if a real sinner were suddenly to turn up among the pious. So we remain alone with our sin, trapped in lies and hypocrisy, for we are in fact sinners.

However, the grace of the gospel, which is so hard for the pious to comprehend, confronts us with the truth. It says to us, you are a sinner, a great, unholy sinner. Now come, as the sinner that you are, to your God who loves you. For God wants you as you are, not desiring anything from you – a sacrifice, a good deed – but rather desiring you alone. God has come to you to make the sinner blessed. Rejoice! This message is liberation through truth. You cannot hide from God. The mask you wear in the presence of other people won’t get you anywhere in the presence of God. God wants to see you as you are, wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to go on lying to yourself and to other Christians as if you were without sin. You are allowed to be a sinner. Thank God for that; God loves the sinner but hates the sin.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 93.

I’m about to head out to do some work but was just re-reading a passage from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic “Life Together” and loved this passage. I love the way Bonhoeffer writes and I love this passage. He has more trust in the grace of God than he does anything else. That’s a good thing to trust in. I believe our sins are destructive to us and God wants to save us from that, and from ourselves, but at the end of the day it is all about God’s grace and not our effort.

Martin Luther puts it more succinctly. “Sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be bolder.

Gilead Quote on Predestination

At Pam’s suggestion I have begun reading Marilynne Robinson’s book “Gilead”, which is written from the perspective of a dying pastor. It is good thus far and according to Pam it gets amazing at the end. Her suggestions a usually spot on so i look forward to the end of the book.

Just read the portion and really liked it.

I was sitting there listening to old Boughton ramble along (he uses the expression himself) about a trip he and his wife made once to Minneapolis, when Jack broke in and said to me, “So, Reverend, I would like to hear your views on the doctrine of predestination.”

Now, that is probably my least favorite topic of conversation in the entire world. I have spent a great part of my life hearing that doctrine talked up and down, and no one’s understanding ever advanced one iota. I’ve seen grown men, God-fearing men, come to blows over that doctrine.

I like the passage because I understand the feeling. Predestination is an oft spoke about doctrine that very rarely seems to help either the speaker or the listener follow God. I believe it can help the follower of Christ but I just haven’t experienced many conversations where that has been the end result.

Quote on Being Alone

Alone. Yes, that’s the key word, the most awful word in the English tongue. Murder doesn’t hold a candle to it and hell is only a poor synonym.

Stephen King, Salem’s Lot.

Mr. Beaver Quote

I feel like this is super good advice for today.

But, in general, take my advice, when you meet anything that’s going to be human and isn’t yet, or used to be human once and isn’t now, or ought to be human and isn’t, you keep your eyes on it and feel for your hatchet.

Mr. Beaver, Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, p. 147

Pastoral Ministry & Neo-Calvinism and Mega-Churches

I’m sitting here beside Pam as she watches the Academy Awards (I can’t really say that I am watching it because I am really just here because I like her and she likes the Oscars) and I am wondering if New-Calvinism and megachurch mindsets are killing pastoral ministry. Both seem to put all the focus of importance on a pastor’s preaching to the exclusion of pastors actually being involved in the lives and needs of their parishioners. I am wonder if Neo-Calvinism does this because of a mindset that right belief is all that matters (possibly a little Gnosticism here) and therefore preaching becomes the best thing a minister can do for his/her people, and in the megachurch because there isn’t enough time for the preacher to be involved in people’s lives. I believe this is why I run into pastors who brag about spending 30 hours a week in sermon preparation and not having any time to really spend with the people of the church. I’m not sure if this is really true or not, it is just something I am considering while I also wonder how many awards Mad Max: Fury Road is going to win.