What Christians Look Like

As I was preparing a sermon on Genesis 50 this past week I ran across something that I hadn’t noticed before in the text.  The very last sentence in the book of Genesis says, “And after they embalmed him (Joseph), he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.” (Genesis 50:26).  The point that caught my attention was the fact that, culturally speaking, Joseph looked nothing like a believer (Hebrew).  He looked like an Egyptian.

Now to what extent the Hebrews, at this point, would have had their own distinctive look from the rest of the world is difficult to say.  But at the very least, what we can say confidently is that Joseph, who is arguably one of the most faithful men in the entire Old Testament, looked A LOT like the culture in which he lived, a predominantly pagan society.

This got me to thinking about the “looks” of some of the other famous characters of Scripture.  One in particular with a distinctive look came to mind – John the Baptist.  Out of Jesus’ own mouth, “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11).  That is the single greatest praise that’s ever been given to a human not named Jesus of Nazareth.  Christ’s statement here is almost shocking in the greatness he attributes to a mere man.

And yet, look at the physical description of John the Baptist: “John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.”  (Matthew 3:4)  You can almost picture a wild and bushy beard that may or may not still have yesterday’s honey stuck in it, not to mention grasshopper remnants.

Alright, so that makes him sound a little crazy.  That he was not.  He probably, however, was an ascetic (in modern terms, more often termed a “minimalist”).  He didn’t partake in the luxuries of this world and he probably looked fairly strange to most.  Unlike Joseph, John the Baptist probably appeared nothing like his culture.  However, much like Joseph, John the Baptist looked very little like the believing Jews of his day.

I think you get where I’m going with this…

In traditional, conservative churches, there is sometimes a perception that the common culture of the believers is the ideal.  Taken to its ugliest extreme, that perceived ideal becomes practically canonized and everything else, while it rarely gets labeled as “sinful,” receives judgmental attention and is considered pushing the boundaries of good taste or taking license with our Christian freedoms.

Well then, one might ask, “What pray tell is a Christian supposed to look like?”    If you answer that question with anything but the word “Jesus,” I’d encourage you to rethink the importance of appearances in faith.

As a pastor who gets to work a lot with youth, I’ve heard plenty of comments about how boys wear their pants or their hats and how girls wear their hair and their make-up.  The great majority of these comments have little to do with Scriptural direction and much to do with that individual’s perception of what a Christian is supposed to look like.  Unfortunately, sometimes worship visitors who don’t fit our perception of the Christian ideal similarly get the cold shoulder from the highly religious.  Tattoos, piercings, hairstyles, facial hair, eyewear, headwear, clothes, make-up, and so forth and so on are highly culturally driven and often have very little to do with faithfulness or unfaithfulness to the Lord.

As far as I can tell, the Bible doesn’t tell us to look like anything but Jesus.  Unless someone is wearing a shirt that says, “I love the devil” or is living as a cross-dresser (1 Cor 11:14-16) or is not covering up their most intimate of fig leaf areas (1 Tim 2:9), I don’t know that any Christian has any business telling another Christian how they should look, let alone judging that person for not meeting a manmade ideal.

None of us inherently looks lovable to God.  None of us, no matter how straight our ties, neatly parted our hair, or finely pressed our slacks, stands on our own as attractive before God.  We are only attractive in Jesus.

Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with traditional and conservative dress.  I typically prefer to suit up on Sundays myself.  But God help me if I think that makes me more desirable to God than the “tax collector” with the nose ring and sleeve tats next to me.

Our simple world is material.  Sometimes we like to pretend to be God ourselves, as though we were fit for the judgment of others.  The reality is that whether three-piece suit or camel-skin, mummified corpses or cemetery casket, these are all now just temporary, material things.  Our appearance is neither good nor bad.  Just there.

God is bigger than that and beyond that.  He sees directly into the souls of mankind.  He knows whether or not the message of salvation through his Son has taken root in our hearts.  And as that root branches out, it is seen in the material world not so much in the clothes or hair as much as in the words and deeds (i.e. the love) of the Christian.

Finally, I’d direct your attention to the uniformity and diversity that the Apostle John sees in his great Revelation.  John describes the saints in heaven in interesting detail: “They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” (Rev 7:9)  At first glance we might be tempted to think, “They all look alike and act alike.  We too should all be exactly alike.”  But that’d be missing the point of how they became united.  You see, these are “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” (Rev 7:9)  These people are from vastly different cultures, with different dress and different languages.  While on earth, they looked very different.  They don’t now wear white robes because they have all chosen white robes.  They only look similar because all of their robes have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb.  In other words, it isn’t how they look or really anything they’ve done that unites them.  It’s what has been done for them that unites them – forgiveness through Jesus.  The only true similarity they’ve gathered around the throne to celebrate is God’s grace through Jesus.  “And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” (Rev 7:10)

Struggles of a 3 Year-Old Pastor and What’s Been Learned So Far: PART V – Connection to a Person More than a Belief

I would venture to say that most objections to Christianity today are personal, not data-based.

In the first half of the 20th century that may not have been the case.  However, almost simultaneous to the infamous TIME magazine article in April 1966 positing “Is God Dead?”, there was the massive paradigm shift in our culture from Modernism to Post-Modernism.  People realized that science, although powerful, was too cold and impersonal to actually be God himself.

In addition, in 2011, the average person in America can have a conversation with someone on the other side of the planet, face-to-face, through a computer screen or smart phone.  A century ago that would have probably been considered the work of the divine or the black arts.  Technology has progressed at an incomprehensible rate.  Some might argue that this truth would all the more negate the need for God, when we can produce experiences that 25 years earlier would have been deemed near-miraculous.  I don’t think that’s the case though.  I think all it’s done is awaken us to not ever doubt the potentially miraculous, particularly if there is a higher-power god out there who’s involved.  We’ve witnessed so much incredible advancement within our own lifetimes that we almost refuse to doubt what might be possible.  I think that’s conditioned us as a society to be more “okay” with the idea of the miraculous than we were 100 years ago.  Consequently, you just don’t seem to hear as many arguments against God from the science department any more.  Today, they seem to come more from the philosophy wing.

The more common, more intense objections to Christianity in this age are personal.  “I just don’t see how/why God would….” is a popular contention of modern skeptics.  You see, in a society that labels itself as “highly spiritual,” the obstacles are not as much the concept of God or the lack of need for God or certainly not that God is incompatible with the natural data we’ve collected.  The obstacle is the personal character of God – is this someone who really warrants my time, attention, and worship?

As a result, my thoughts have changed somewhat on sharing Christianity.  I used to try to convince people of the Christian belief system.  In fact, if you read last week’s post, you know that I still do this to a great deal.  However, the “convincing” comes mostly in seeking to break down the false belief systems of culture and religion, not in actual evangelism.  However, if attempting to make a set of beliefs intellectually appealing to someone is my main method of evangelism, I’ve really failed to demonstrate how Christianity is fundamentally different from worldly religions.

Why is Christianity so different?  Every religion of the world tries to connect you to the belief system of a dead guy.  Christianity connects you to a warm-bodied, living person.  The theories of religious leaders might have sounded wise.  Jesus teaching was right.  And the proof is in the Resurrection, a real historical event that over 500 saw for themselves, a fact that thousands upon thousands died for in the subsequent years and yet the movement of Christ’s followers continued to gain momentum at incredible rates, despite the adversity – people dying to uphold the most important of truths.

Muhammad told people to believe what he taught.  So did Joseph Smith.  So did Charles Taze Russell.  So did Sun Myung Moon.  So did Siddhartha Gautama.  And so forth.  Jesus didn’t tell people to merely believe what he taught, although it was true.  It wasn’t just a belief system.  Jesus told people to believe in HIM.  He said to the Jews, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.  These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” (John 5:39) John’s Gospel says that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:14)  Do you see what this means?  Jesus is a belief system that came to life, the truth of God becoming human flesh, not having a single flaw, being rejected and deemed foolishness and cast aside into death, and then appearing again alive, showing that he really is undeniable truth.  His belief system actually works.  And he calls you not to merely bond yourself to what he believes, but bond yourself to him – your living God.

The conclusion I’ve stumbled upon…

While I love systematic doctrine and know that the belief system of Christianity is perfectly accurate, that which makes what we as Christians have so obviously stand out from the other dogmas of the world is that our leader proved the effectiveness of his beliefs through his Resurrection.  And he now calls people to take part in his life.  He draws us not just to a teaching, but to himself.

This affects church work too.  As a pastor, I don’t just want people to believe like we believe, i.e. adopt the same belief system.  Yes, that’s obviously an essential part of it.  But even more, I want people to bond themselves to us, the “body of Christ.”  See how that works?  I want people to connect themselves to a person more than a belief system.

By way of illustration, historian and sociologist Rodney Stark records that when one of the more famous plagues hit the Roman Empire, there was a surprisingly high survival rate among the Christians.  Can you guess why?  While most Roman families would banish anyone with the disease from their household, left for dead, the Christians (who actually didn’t fear death as much because of their convictions about eternal life in Christ) took care of their sick.  Their connection to Jesus was what was vital, and it led an inherently better and truer belief system – one that, as demonstrated here, actually led to the love of others.

It’s one thing to have a neat and systematized set of beliefs.  But when push comes to shove, which of those belief systems actually hold up?  Which system can do more than temporarily pacify some internal anxieties.  Christianity contains a belief system, but it comes to life in Jesus, and tangibly expresses itself through his body on earth.  Let’s not pretend that all belief systems point to the true God.  Christianity is different.  It is more personal.

So, my advice for others…consider your relationship with God personal

If your faith has ever felt a little cold or hollow, my guess is that you’ve probably considered it at some point more of a belief system than a connection to a real, living person.  Practically, this has all sorts of ramifications.  For instance, if public worship is merely about reviewing and refreshing a belief system, then yeah, I can probably take a couple of weeks off and still “pass the test.”  However, if public worship is more about connection to a real person by joining with his body to communicate with him, and if personal relationships are really predicated on regular communication, than can I really have a relationship with this personal God without this sort of regular communication?  Put another way, could a husband/wife or parent/child really have a quality relationship if their “quality communication” with one another is infrequent?  Probably not.

Belief systems are fairly easy to adopt and leave alone without touching.  Personal relationships crumble without quality communication.

Your connection with God is not ideological.  It’s personal.  Sometimes well-intentioned Christians talk passionately about “getting in the Word” and “connecting to the Word.”  As a pastor, I certainly encourage people to be studying God’s Word as much as anyone.  However, I’d always want to make sure that those I’m encouraging understand clearly that I’m not merely hoping for them to improve their belief system, but am desiring for them to know their Savior better, a pursuit through which the Spirit actually does correct our false beliefs.

I don’t just want you to know what Jesus taught.  I want you to know Jesus.  And that journey will invariably lead to the revelation that we’re more damaged than we ever thought, and yet we’re more loved by a personal God than we could ever imagine.

Struggles of a 3 Year-Old Pastor and What’s Been Learned So Far: PART IV – Everyone Believes Something

You have the right to believe that you’re “right” in spiritual matters.  It almost sounds a little strange, but we live in a culture where sometimes beliefs are so neutered by relativism, that we’re taught to almost feel guilty for the mere insinuation that we might exclusively hold truth when it comes to spiritual beliefs and doctrinal stances.

If indeed you do have the “right,” heaven-unlocking answer then you also have a responsibility to share that with the world.  However, the ability to do so is tricky.  If you proclaim to people, “I’m right and you’re wrong!” you will immediately (and unnecessarily) offend people who won’t listen to a further word from you.  However, if you try to acquiesce to another person’s false beliefs in hopes of gaining their trust and affection, you’ve compromised spiritual truth.

So how are Christians supposed to reach the lost?  Is it by mere accident, that somehow we might blindly fall backwards into an unbelievers conversion?  Is that what Jesus’ Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23) is teaching us – that we should randomly scatter seed and see what happens?  Well, Jesus clearly explains what this parable means (vss. 18-23) and it really has little (if anything) to do with outreach strategies.  No, evangelism should be intentional, using the various gifts that God has given to us.  Heads, hearts, and most importantly, the gospel of Jesus.

So what is a loving way to share the truth of God’s Word with someone while still respecting their integrity as a human being and not disrespectfully questioning the sincerity of their current convictions?

In his best-selling book, The Reason for God, Timothy Keller speaks in-depth about what’s called “presuppositional apologetics.”  Stay with me…  His encouragement for talking to people about the beauty of Christ is to 1) Enter their framework, 2) Challenge their framework, and 3) Complete their framework.  Here’s what he means…

Everybody has a set of beliefs that they operate their lives by.  Everyone.  No zombie is walking around out there with no convictions, no opinions, and no feelings.  We all believe something.  We all believe something strongly.  Some of us are more vocal about it than others, but we all have a sense of passion about our beliefs. Non-Christians are often just as convicted in their beliefs as Christians are.  However, there is an inconsistency that exists in every non-Christian’s beliefs that simply isn’t found in the message of Jesus.  Allow me to explain.

Let’s say we all have several levels of beliefs that govern our lives.  The top group we’re really passionate about.  The middle group we have sort of always accepted, but don’t think about too regularly.  And then maybe there’s another group of things that we strongly dislike.  Within non-Christians, there is an inconsistency within their beliefs that most are not aware of.

For example, while we live in a general era of relativism, many young college students can actually be very moralistic.  They get really passionate about things like involvement in helping the oppressed in third-world countries, issues of starvation, genocide, human trafficking, etc.  That’s one of their top-tier beliefs.  And they’re totally justified in being upset about that injustice that they see in the world.  When God, through the natural laws that he’s placed in human hearts (Romans 2:14-15) still maintains a semblance of “what is right” in the hearts of unbelievers, that’s often called “common grace.”  That’s worth celebrating.  Here’s the catch though, while passionate about this injustice, at the same time, these young students also hold as one of their mid level beliefs that evolution is the answer to where we came from and why we’re here, thus negating any real need for God.  When those two beliefs are combined, you have a fairly inconsistent belief system.  Darwinian evolution promotes concepts like “survival of the fittest” and completely justifies the strong devouring the weak for the progression of the species.  If evolution is really correct, then there shouldn’t be anything morally incorrect about a stronger nation devouring a smaller nation.  That’s merely the evolutionary progression of the species.  You see, those two beliefs are fundamentally incompatible, but many of the people who have both don’t realize that unless it’s pointed out to them.

The truth is that we all have inconsistencies in our lives that often need pointing out for our own health.

There are many other examples of these types of spiritual inconsistencies.  It’s quite trendy today, for example, to talk about desiring a personal relationship with God but reject the notion of his inspired and inerrant Word.  Well, that’s inconsistent.  If God doesn’t have an authoritative Word in your life, if you can merely pick and choose what parts of the Bible you want to believe, how is God ever supposed to contradict you?  And if God can’t contradict you at all, you don’t have a personal relationship with him, you have a robotic relationship.  You have designed your own cardboard cutout, build-a-Jesus that’s tailored just to your liking.  That’s not a real person and therefore not a real relationship.

That false belief is only driven out of someone using the truth of God’s Word while addressing the truth of a strong personal conviction that they have.

We could go on and on like this, but it’s sort of like what Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians…“Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor 1:22-24)  In other words, much like the Jews and the Greeks who only wanted to accept Jesus as God on their own terms, we all have strong convictions about who God should be and what life should be, but if those convictions don’t fit into a biblical framework that culminates in who Jesus actually is, what he actually teaches, and what he actually designed life to be, there is going to be inconsistency that could lead to complete unbelief.  If these inconsistencies exist in the believer’s life, they will invariably lead to great frustration unless corrected.

The final, and most essential of the points here, is that Jesus is the one who completes the framework of our thoughts and beliefs.  Take the example that I used earlier of a humanitarian with evolutionist beliefs.  Finally, Jesus is the one who cares more about other people than I ever will and yet he was more powerful than any oppressive nation.  As I’ve said before, in contrast to the evolutionary ideology of “survival of the fittest,” he was the fittest who humbly descended to help the unfit survive.  Or to the example of the person who wants a relationship with Jesus but rejects the authority of his Word, Jesus was the Word become flesh in the incarnation.  In the same way that Jesus was sent by the Spirit of God through the means of a sinful woman and yet remained perfect throughout the process, the Word was sent by the Spirit of God through the means of sinful writers and yet remained perfect throughout the process.  Jesus said that these are the holy, inspired, perfect “Scriptures that testify about me.” (John 5:39)  Make sense?  Jesus completes the framework of all of our thoughts and beliefs. I could carry this further, but finally, every theme in Scripture (and our lives) finds its climax in Jesus.

The conclusion I’ve stumbled upon…

In an interview that Lee Strobel conducts with author and Christian leader Ravi Zacharias in A Case for Faith, Zacharias (a former Hindu) makes the point that every religion seeks to answer four fundamental questions of Origin, Meaning, Morality, and Destiny and suggests that only Jesus Christ answers those questions coherently.  He suggests, for instance, that Buddhism is inconsistent between the issues of origin and morality.  Since Buddhism is technically nontheistic, there is no Creator, so then where does moral law come from?  Buddhism can’t answer that question.  Or the notion of Hindu reincarnation for instance.  If every birth is essentially rebirth, each life paying for the previous life, then what were you paying for in your first birth?  The beliefs are internally inconsistent.

Christianity answers these questions consistently and in a way that corresponds with reality.  It states we are created by God (origin), not identical to him, but bearing his image (morality).  We were created with the intent of glorifying our Lord through worship in our lives (meaning), and God was so committed to that purpose for our lives that when we failed, he became part of his own creation in order to die and rise and rescue us so that we could enter heaven to spend an eternity in worship of him (destiny).  And through all of this, the Bible (on which we base our Christian beliefs) is not, like other religions, calling us to a feeling or a cold belief system, but to a real, warm-blooded Person.  On those points, it’s profoundly different from worldly religions.

Most people strongly believe certain things that are inconsistent with other things they believe.  It’s not insulting to point that out unless we do it in condescending and insulting ways.  The act itself is  a loving one – expressing concern for the eternal welfare of others.  Only biblical Christianity, only Jesus, finally answers the questions of life in a consistent way.

So, my advice for others…Share the Attractiveness of the Gospel

Share with unbelievers/weak believers sections of Scripture that make them wish Christianity was true.  Let Jesus’ overwhelming beauty, particularly his grace, speak to them.

Years ago, when the world was more on the same page regarding universal morality, seeking to root out immorality and unbelief by an appeal to a holy God who punishes the wicked might have been the most recommended way of sharing Jesus.  However, in a world where morals are deemed anything but universal, a different approach probably makes more sense.  In a world of pain and hurt and ugliness, share the beauty of Jesus.  In a postmodern world full of seemingly unanswerable questions, share the answer of Jesus.  In a world of inconsistency and injustice and hypocrisy, introduce people to the most genuine individual, the God who judges the world not on the basis of our flaws, but on the basis of his own goodness.

Whether movie or restaurant recommendations or otherwise, we eagerly share knowledge of the things in our lives that we find attractive and beneficial.  Consequently, I don’t think the biggest obstacle to sharing Jesus is a fear of “uncomfortable conversations” but a failure in our own lives to recognize the attractiveness of the gospel and the beauty in the holiness of Jesus’ will for our lives.  The solution then is in our own repentance and our own pursuit of knowing Jesus more through the Word that testifies about him, seeing for ourselves the attractiveness of Jesus and his will.  Not only will you benefit, but the people whom you care about in life will benefit too.  And you’ll not only be equipped, but inspired to share.

Struggles of a 3 Year-Old Pastor and What’s Been Learned So Far: PART III – Everything Is Personal

As a pastor, I take everything personally.  I can’t seem to help it.  Maybe that makes me just a whiny, sensitive baby.  Maybe it makes me ultra “in-tune” with the emotions of the people I serve.  Whatever the case, it is what it is and I don’t know that I can (or would) entirely change it.

In general, men tend to identify themselves with their work.  It’s part of the way God wired us.  Now I’ve never been good with my hands, so I’ve never been able to point to a beautifully constructed gazebo and say, “Look everybody, I made that!”  I’ve never been able to tinker on an engine, get it to run smoother and say, “I fixed that!”  My business is in helping people develop relationship with God, and his body, the church.  While intellectually I realize that I’m supposed to look at my work as being a “jar of clay” that merely dispenses the gospel of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:7), at the same time, unlike a clay jar, I have a mind and feelings and an opinion of myself.

Consequently, if my job is relationships centered on Jesus, and those relationships don’t seem as healthy (or perfect) as they could be, it’s easy to take it personally.  Every time someone doesn’t come to church, it’s like being stood up for a date.  Every time someone criticizes the organization, I feel criticized.  Every time someone asks the church to do more, I feel more drained and exhausted.  And yes, somewhat like a parent, when people misbehave, I feel betrayed and personally disrespected.

Whoa!  What kind of oversensitive, drama queen are you, pastor?  HaHa.  I know it certainly sounds that way.  I also know it sounds like the solution is just to “not take everything so personally.”  I don’t, however, know that that’d make for a very good spiritual leader.

You look at the prophets of the Old Testament or the early leaders in the New Testament, and they almost all invariably seem to personally identify with people’s reactions to God and the Church.  The one that actually does seem to be emotionally distant from the message he proclaims to people and unaffected by their response to it is Jonah.  And the truth is that he was NOT the best evangelist, if you can even really call him that.

In my last years of school I worked as an over-the-phone bill collector.  My job was to repeatedly dial up people around the country who were 3 payments behind on an overpriced product that they didn’t need and were heavily pressured into buying, oftentimes failing to read the fine print in the contract that stated they’d be charged the maximum interest that the state legally allowed.  My hours in that cubicle were miserable.  I heard sob story after sob story about how people’s lives were falling apart due to poor financial decisions.  Regularly their frustration also turned into anger directed at me, the disembodied voice on the phone trying to take what little money they had left.  I was called filthier names than you’d think imaginable, combinations of words so vulgar I was as impressed by the creative Shakespearian wordsmithery as I was offended by the rudeness.  At that point, crying wasn’t an option.  I really had no choice but to emotionally distance myself from the caller and simply let the individual know that if we did not receive payment in the next 30 days, they’d be facing legal action.

Interestingly, at the time, I thought that perhaps this was valuable ministry training – tough skin.  And in a sense it was.  But a minister’s job isn’t to heartlessly present a message.  A minister has to have his heart break when someone rejects Jesus’ message and Jesus’ Church.

The conclusion I’ve stumbled upon…

The answer for a minister’s personal hurt through rejection of Christ & his Church, the local church, or himself, is not to just “have thick skin” and not care.  Jesus didn’t call robots.  However, the answer also is not to bend over backwards to cater to everyone and everything to make everyone happy so that you might not be rejected.  That’s not only impossible, and potentially doctrinally compromising, it’s stupid.  The great 21st century sociologist Bill Cosby once said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

As a pastor who sometimes feels rejection, I think the answer, counter-intuitive as it may seem, is simply to feel the rejection and appreciate Jesus’ rejection.

I get offended and hurt when people reject Jesus, the truth of his Word, his Church, or me as his messenger (even knowing how flawed I am).  How much hurt must Jesus himself have felt?!  I wouldn’t have reacted as he did.  My blood boils much too fast.

When Jesus’ earthly parents questioned his behavior when he spent extra time at the Temple, I probably wouldn’t have been as respectful as he was (Luke 2:48-52).  When the hometown jerks in Nazareth questioned how Jesus got so amazing, subtly mocking his family in the process, I probably wouldn’t have let that slide (Matt 13:53-58). When those self-righteous Pharisees tried to catch Jesus slipping up on the Sabbath, I probably would have made a point of regularly and publicly exposing them as frauds (Matt 12:1-14).  When Jesus’ disciples promised to defend Jesus (Matt 26:35) and then hours later scattered from his presence like cockroaches when the lights turn on, I probably would have laid the guilt trip on heavy.  As Jesus marched to his death on the cross, the women mourned and wailed.  I probably would’ve shouted that if they truly loved me, they’d give me their blood, not their tears (Luke 23:27-28).  And when the very brothers to whom he was sent to save cheered as he breathed his last breaths, the only thing to come from my mouth upon them probably would have been spit, not a plea to God that he might have mercy on them (Luke 23:34).

I guess that’s why he’s Jesus and I’m not.

Here’s the point: Every day Jesus could have balled his eyes out at the intended and unintended, direct and indirect rejection that he faced.  Every sin that takes place in this world is a personal offense to him, a crime for which he unfairly suffered.  I can’t begin to imagine what that must be like.  And yet his secret seems to be that he simply loves other people so much that he’s concerned with what pain and ignorance must be motivating them to commit such atrocities even as they’re cruel to him.  That kind of love for others makes you incredibly strong.  That kind of strength in Christ makes us Jesus-strong, no matter who rejects you.

So, my advice for others…When faced with rejection, remember Christ’s rejection and your eternal acceptance

The experience of knowing Christ better by more fully grasping what he went through is a difficult, but valuable one.  You could argue that you simply can’t even love Christ until you get some sort of appreciation for what he’s gone through.  So don’t despise rejection, embrace it for what it is – an opportunity to see Jesus more clearly.

The impetus for Jesus facing such rejection head on is so that you might be eternally accepted in God’s family.  Never again will you be picked last.  Never again will you be broken up with.  Never again will you be forgotten.  Never again will you be made fun of.  Never again will you be alone.

Acceptance is a beautiful thing.  Our divine acceptance comes only through Jesus’ earthly rejection.  So when we taste such earthly rejection, assuming our Bibles are open, we almost can’t help but love Jesus more.  And sometimes, like Jesus, we’ll understand that the rejection we see is so often due to the hurt found within others, which leads us not to self-pity, but to sympathy, a much healthier emotion.

And finally, if you’re living out your faith as a Christian and actually testifying to the truth of Jesus, you will face rejection specifically for being a Christian.  In a sinful world, it will happen, guaranteed.  Jesus said a sign of the end of the age for Christians would be that, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13:13)  When that happens in your life, you get the excitement of seeing prophecy fulfilled before your eyes.  Cool thing.  In fact, not that being a Christian is primarily about “feeling like a Christian” but the truth is that the times when I’ve most felt like a Christian are the times that someone has outright rejected me for my relationship to Jesus and his truth.  More than any other times, that’s when I can see that I’m on to something here.

Allow yourself to be rejected by this world for your relationship with Jesus.  And when you get rejected by this world, run to the arms that always accept you.

Guest Article on “Homosexuality in the Church”

Prepping a couple of sermons for this weekend and catching up on some stuff made time a little tighter this week.  So, instead of just leaving you empty-handed, I wanted to share with you a compelling article I read a little while back.

Steve Gershom (pseudonym) is a Catholic man who struggles with temptations towards homosexuality.  But instead of trying to argue that homosexuality is not against God’s will, he lives out his faith by seeking to resist temptation.  Novel thought for a Christian, right?

I think you’ll enjoy his views.  It’s very powerful.  He doesn’t necessarily say anything I haven’t heard before, but it comes from a source more authentic than any I’ve heard before.  He’s a courageous man whose testimony can undoubtedly serve as inspiration for those who are fighting the same temptations.

Please check out, \”Gay, Catholic, and Doing Fine\”

DISCLAIMER: My posting of an article from a Catholic man does not serve as a ringing endorsement of all things (or doctrine) Roman Catholic anymore than quoting a Black Eyed Peas lyric in a sermon serves as a ringing endorsement of all things Hip Hop.  I hope that’d be obvious.  I simply thought that it served as a great illustration of a man who believes in the inspiration of Scripture testifying to that truth in his life.