Friday, July 7, 2017

All Abooooaaaarrrd!

How many times a day is Hitler referenced on social media, do you suppose? (I defy anyone to read an on-line political fight—past 3 paragraphs—without finding a mention of Hitler, fascism, or Nazism.)

So I thought I’d finally join the chorus!

Just kidding (sort of).

I want to talk about something much more important: The church.

The odious truth is, “Hitler was an opportunist who was quite happy to use the church for his own ends.” 1

This is the truth but not the odious part. We expect politicians to try to exploit the church.

The odious thing is this: the church, by and large, was quite happy to be used by Hitler.

In general, Protestants in Germany found a way to be both believers in Christianity and supporters of Nazism.2

While this was appallingly generally true, thankfully it was not universally true.

One detractor was theologian and pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Someone asked Bonhoeffer if it would be wise to participate in the “German Christians” party and try to work within the system towards a good end (a kind of “lesser of two evils” approach…sound familiar?).

He famously replied: “If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction.”
  
Bonhoeffer causes me to think of my own nation and how it seems to be headed off the rails. In my estimation, politics in America is a runaway train and has been for a long time.

Most of my adult life I rode the rails with my fellow travelers as we culture-warred against anyone and everyone too stupid to be in our particular car. It never occurred to me that my “enemies” and I were on the same train, going inexorably in the same direction—away from Christ and His Kingdom.

In Hitler’s Germany, most churches went along with the Nazis. Some did so reluctantly but many were enthusiastic. . . . Bonhoeffer reminds us that there are people of conscience and moral courage everywhere—there are just too few of them.3

My prayer is that more and more American Christians will open their eyes, exit the train, and walk with Jesus.
___________________________





Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Kingdom of Love

As I reflect on the United States and how it is polarizing within and diminishing without, my thoughts turn to GK Chesterton’s assessment of Rome.

There was nothing left that could conquer Rome; but there was also nothing left that could improve it. It was the strongest thing that was growing weak. It was the best thing that was going to the bad. (The Everlasting Man, p. 162)

Couldn’t the same be said of the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Mongols, Turks, and Brits?

In with a “bang” and out with a whimper. Such is the way of empire.

But such is not the Way of the Kingdom of our God.

Of Christ and His kingdom prophets and angels agree: There will be no end.

Clearly, Jesus’ kingdom is superior to all earthly powers, and it is different in quality and in kind. He teaches,

The Kingdom of God can't be detected by visible signs. You won't be able to say, “Here it is!” or “It's over there!” For the Kingdom of God is already among you. . . . My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world (Luke 17:20-21; John 18:36).

To be sure, Jesus’ kingdom is a present reality that is in the world but not of or from it. He rules in the hearts of His followers.

Hence, Jesus’ kingdom is a kingdom of love, not force. Jesus says that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. This is true of all earthly kingdoms. They come into existence and pass into non-existence by coercion.

Not so with the kingdom of heaven. It does not kill and it cannot be killed. No one is forced into or out of it. The kingdom of love has no end.

Furthermore, Christ’s kingdom is a domain of peace with no geographic borders, nationalities, or economies to advance or defend. In other words, His realm transcends all things that would divide and conquer us. Thus, the Apostle Paul writes, 

In this new life, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us. (Colossians 3:11) 

Christ is all that matters. Do we really believe this? 

Think about it. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Politics & Prostitutes

Ronald Reagan once quipped, “Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”

Quite frankly, this is an insult to prostitutes everywhere.

Is it any wonder Jesus had no use for politics, religious or secular? Yet politicians were certainly interested in Him—all for selfish reasons of course, just like today.

Matthew tells us that a group of politicians (“the chief priests and the elders”) confronted Jesus regarding the matter of authority (21:23). They wanted to know who gave Him the right to teach and preach; the implication being, He had no authority since they hadn’t conferred it upon Him.

Politics is always about power.

So Jesus asked them a simple question: The prophet, John the Baptist—did you give him authority or did God? Fearing the crowd, the politicians refused to answer.

Then Jesus dropped a truth bomb: “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”

Why would Jesus say such a thing? Is He trying to embarrass or anger them? No, though He surely knew He would do both. Rather, He is doing what He always does—speaking truth.

The leaders already confessed that they did not listen to the voice of God as it fell from the lips of the prophet. But Jesus says prostitutes and tax collectors did. They listened and they believed.

We learn from this that entrance into Jesus’ kingdom has absolutely nothing to do with one’s social status, gender, wealth, race or any other worldly identifier or achievement.

It’s a kingdom of pure grace.

As such, the kingdom of God—which is in the world but not from it—is antithetical to and transcendent over all earthly domains. And Jesus would like for you to be part of it, to follow Him in His Way.

Would you seriously consider it?  

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Prince & The President

Then the devil took Him up and revealed to Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give You the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to You if You will worship me.” ~Luke 4:5-7

Without apology I imbibe as little news as possible. Nevertheless, this trickled in last week.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday meant to allow churches and other religious organizations to become more active politically, though the actual implications of the document appeared limited. . . .

[Trump said] “We are giving our churches their voices back and we are giving them back in the highest form."

Since reading this, I’ve had two nagging trains of thought—theological more than political.

Trump is quoted above as saying “we” (I don’t know if this is a magisterial we or if there’s a Republican in his pocket) “are giving churches their voices back . . .” 

As a Christ-follower this raises very serious questions.

First there’s a matter of fact: Were churches silenced prior to Trump?

Really?

Then there’s a matter of faith: Who gives the church her voice—the State?

Roll that around awhile…

Let’s board my second thought-train now.

Greg Boyd asks, “If Jesus viewed the desire to acquire political power to be a temptation of the devil, why do so many American Christians fight to acquire as much of this political power as they can?” (Keith Giles, Jesus Untangled, p. 16)

That’s a good question, Greg!

A few hundred years after Jesus, the church was seduced with secular power and she’s been hooked ever since.

Politics is the church’s worst problem. It is her constant temptation, the occasion of her greatest disasters, the trap continually set for her by the prince of this world. ~Jacques Ellul

Dear reader, the devil’s promises are hallucinogenic poison.  

So just say “No.” Jesus did.  

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

God & Kenny Wallace

Last week Shelly and I enjoyed a baseball game at Busch Stadium (aka, “Baseball Heaven”) with some dear friends of ours.

Midway through the game, a gentleman struck up a conversation with my pal and we began to talk shop about Cardinals baseball. (Yes, I butted in because I’m friendly like that.)

Before long the game got exciting and we were all reveling in the thrill of victory. It was a glorious day, dear reader!

As we were leaving the parking garage my friend said, “Man, that guy looked familiar. It was his mannerisms and the way he talked. I feel like I’ve seen him before…”

A few days later he realized who it was: NASCAR driver, Kenny Wallace.

(After a walk-off Grand Slam, a jubilant Kenny shot this video. If you watch without blinking you can almost see us behind him and his wife.)

What?

I was yelling, laughing, and high-fiving with Kenny Wallace? I hadn’t a clue. But how could I?   

I’ve heard of him but I don’t follow NASCAR. I’d never seen his face. I wasn’t expecting to run into a race car driver. It wasn’t like he was carrying a sign or something. Kenny was incognito.

So how could I possibly have known?

Naturally, such an encounter makes one think.

My mind went to C.S. Lewis.

We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him. (Mere Christianity, p. 50)

My premise is this: It’s entirely possible to meaningfully interact and connect with another person whom one does not actually know.

If this is possible with a human person, is it reasonable to think it’s possible with a Divine one?

It seems plausible, in fact it appears highly likely, that one could relationally experience God but not truly know who He is.

Of course, there’s a big difference between Kenny and us and God and us.

I didn’t know Kenny and Kenny didn’t know me. (I’d imagine if Kenny reads this he’ll think: “I didn’t know that was Steve Griffin!”)

But God knows the one who doesn’t know Him—and He loves this person immensely. Upon what levels does God mercifully and lovingly relate to those who sincerely, yet ignorantly, interact with Him?

Jesus is our only hope of salvation. He’s the only Way to the Father. But is it possible that the narrow way is wider than it appears?

I know some will label me a heretic for having, much less expressing such ruminations.

So…

If you find me burned at a stake, don’t believe the suicide note.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Moral Injury

Last week I pointed out that over the last 30 years or so, the US has killed around 3,000,000 people in the Middle East. Now, I’d like for us to think about what we’re doing to our own sons and daughters. 

A Vietnam veteran and dear brother in Christ shared this affecting video with me a couple of weeks ago.


The soldiers…they just wanna go home.

It’s a great line delivered by a great actor. And I’m sure it’s very true.

Yet many of them don’t get what they want. They don’t go home.

Thankfully, most of them do. But here’s the thing: the soldier who goes home is not the soldier who left home.

There are physical wounds. There are mental wounds. Some heal, some don’t.

And then there’s suicide.

We may quibble over how many and why veterans are killing themselves. Still, it’s alarming that,

Suicide rates within the veteran population often were double and sometimes triple the civilian suicide rate in several states. . . . Almost one out of every five suicides committed nationally is a veteran. . . [yet] veterans make up only about 10 percent of the adult population in the United States.

Something’s wrong.

That “something” is what Robert Meagher calls moral injury.

“Moral injury” has most commonly come to mean the transgression, the violation, of what is right, what one has long held to be sacred—a core belief or moral code—and thus wounding or, in the extreme, mortally wounding the psyche, soul, or one’s humanity. (Killing From The Inside Out, p. 4)

Meagher’s thesis is many war veterans are morally injured. They suffer not only from what they’ve seen, but also from what they’ve done.

He shares a scribbled note from Noah Pierce, a veteran of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Mom, I am so sorry. My life has been hell . . . I am freeing myself from the desert once and for all. . . . I am not a good person. I have done bad things. I have taken lives. Now it’s time to take mine.

Noah then shot himself in the head.

Two questions, dear reader:

1) Why is the US killing 3,000,000 people in the Middle East?

2) What’s it doing to those doing the killing?

Think about it.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Killing For Peace

Making war has apparently become as addictive to American political leaders as crack cocaine or heroin. ~Jonathan Shay 

War is big business and under our new businessman-in-chief, business is absolutely booming.


 Using poorly paid professional soldiers for profit is old hat. We all know this.

But did you know that the US has been waging war for 222 out of the last 239 years?1

Please, take a moment. Let that sink in.

Here’s something else to contemplate.

The Washington DC-based Physicians for Social Responsibility (PRS) released a landmark study [in April of 2015] concluding that the death toll from 10 years of the “War on Terror” since the 9/11 attacks is at least 1.3 million, and could be as high as 2 million. . . . In Iraq alone, the US-led war from 1991 to 2003 killed 1.9 million Iraqis; then from 2003 onwards around 1 million: totaling just under 3 million Iraqis dead over two decades.2

So, over the past 3 decades the US has slaughtered around 3,000,000 people in the Middle East—I’m guessing the vast majority of them civilian.

Again, take a moment. Let that really sink in.

Dear reader, this is the way of empire. It’s the way of “the thief” who comes to kill and destroy (John 10:10).

This is not the Way of Jesus who comes to give abundant life.

Here’s my concern…

How can people who claim to follow Jesus support the savagery of empire?

Evangelicals who self-identify as “pro-life” and yet shamelessly vote for warmongering politicians are deluding themselves. They may be anti-abortion but they’re certainly not pro-life.

I confess that I was once among this crowd—the “Christian Right.” But as I walk with Christ (I speak only of my own walk, not yours) He is leading me in a different Way.    

Jesus teaches, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). 

Yes, and they’ll be called lots of other things too.

Even so, killing our way to peace doesn’t seem to be working, does it?

__________________________


Friday, April 7, 2017

"Just War" Or Just War?

Please note: These thoughts (and others) were first published on September 13, 2013 (see here). So, no, I’m not picking on Trump. I’m simply observing that some things never change.

Dear reader, the appetite for war is voracious.

**************************

Something to consider: How would we Americans feel if the top leaders of a country (a country we never threatened or attacked) assaulted us with missiles? 

This is precisely what our leaders did to Syria. 

Syria is in the midst of a civil war. And as is the case with many civil wars it can be more than a little challenging to know who—if anyone—is wearing the white hats. 

Furthermore, like all civil wars, innocent non-combatants are caught in the middle. (Hence the “noble rebels” are fond of fighting Assad by murdering Christians.) 

Speaking of Christians

The 16th century reformer Pierre Viret said, “There is nothing which Christians should be more wary to employ nor which is less suited to their profession [than war]” (Joel McDurmon, The Bible & War in America, p. 29). 

Yet oddly enough, it seems American Christians are often eager to beat the drums of war (especially if the President is a Republican). After all, what’s wrong with killing people when one is always on the side of the angels?

But are our wars “Just” or are they just wars? 

Reflecting on the unconscionably high rate of suicide among US veterans, Robert Emmet Meagher observes,

Every war is just, from the perspective of those waging it, and every killer is a hero, to the side they are on. That is the wall our veterans still run up against today. They are expected to deny their own pain, ignore what war has taught them, and take up their civil status as heroes. (Killing From The Inside Out, p. xv)

Jesus calls His followers to a different Way.

He says: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). 

When He speaks of the blessedness of peace-making, I don’t think He has blowing up Syrians in mind. Do you? 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Fear & Trembling

Fear is a powerful drug.
It’s a fantastic political tactic.
It’s a wonderful manipulator.
It’s an effective motivator.
But it’s a really lousy religion.
~ John Pavlovitz

Have you ever thought about how fear is routinely used to manipulate or motivate us?

Fear is used to sell virtually everything: cars, tires, and life insurance are classics. But, clever marketers also use it to sell breakfast cereal and deodorant. As a result we purchase all sorts of things that a generation ago were considered unnecessary. . .

But it’s not just marketers who use fear to control others: doctors, politicians, newspersons, preachers, parents, peers…the list is lengthy. Sometimes it’s warranted. Many times it’s not. It’s the latter that concerns me.

Like never before, we need to recognize and reject fearmongering. To be sure, propaganda isn’t exactly new. But with the unparalleled influence of today’s social media, discernment is sorely needed (as is an “off” switch).

Jesus once told a weary crowd: “Come to Me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Maybe today He would invite those with anxious minds: Come to Me and I will give you peace.

“Why are you so afraid?” He asks (Mark 4:40).

It’s a piercing question: Why do the things that trouble me so, so trouble me?

Think about it, won't you? 

Jesus is no scaremonger. He says, “Don't be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

You see, the Kingdom of God is governed by something far greater than fear: Love.

Love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love. ~1John 4:18

Would you like to walk peacefully with Christ in the Way of perfect love? You certainly can.

But you’ll have to leave the fearmongers and their fearmongering ways behind. 

That’s the deal. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Something's Missing

As I catch snippets of news, Facebook fights, and sometimes actually talk to people; I’m finding that lots of folks primarily think of evangelicals as people who: 1) hate abortion, 2) hate gay marriage, 3) love guns, and 4) vote Republican.

Dear reader, what do any of these things have to do with Jesus?

Now, we can debate over who is more to blame for how evangelicalism in America is perceived—the media or evangelicals themselves—but what seems beyond dispute is that this perception is very real and widespread. (Personally, I believe it is real, widespread, and deserved.)

A philosophical question: Is evangelicalism—divorced from Christ—a meaningful or logically consistent term? 

I don’t think it is.

Evangel is defined as “the Christian gospel (good news).” When evangelicalism is no longer rightly or truly associated with Jesus—the only Evangel—it’s simply another failing “ism.”

We [evangelicals] proclaim to follow a man who chose to affiliate himself with the poor and dispossessed, who called the political and religious leaders of his day to account, who saw and loved people whom others had discarded. . . . When “evangelical” starts to sound like very bad news for very many Americans, it has drifted far from its roots. . . . I can’t defend my people [evangelicals]. I barely recognize them.

Perhaps when Jesus says, “apart from Me you can do nothing” He means it.

The culture needs more Jesus. So does the church.

Maybe you and I can work on that. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick, The Humble & Fearless

Once again, St. Patrick’s Day is upon us. While we commemorate the patron saint of the Emerald Isle, we should pause for a moment to thoughtfully consider: Who was this man?

Legends about Patrick abound; but truth is best served by our seeing two solid qualities in him: He was humble and he was courageous. The determination to accept suffering and success with equal indifference guided the life of God’s instrument for winning most of Ireland for Christ.

Details of his life are uncertain. Current research places his dates of birth and death a little later than earlier accounts. Patrick may have been born in Dunbarton, Scotland, Cumberland, England, or in northern Wales. He called himself both a Roman and a Briton. At 16, he and a large number of his father’s slaves and vassals were captured by Irish raiders and sold as slaves in Ireland. Forced to work as a shepherd, he suffered greatly from hunger and cold.

After six years, Patrick escaped, probably to France, and later returned to Britain at the age of 22. His captivity had meant spiritual conversion. . . . His great desire was to proclaim the Good News to the Irish.

In a dream vision it seemed “all the children of Ireland from their mothers’ wombs were stretching out their hands” to him. He understood the vision to be a call to do mission work in pagan Ireland. Despite opposition from those who felt his education had been defective, he was sent to carry out the task. He went to the west and north, where the faith had never been preached, obtained the protection of local kings and made numerous converts.

He suffered much opposition from pagan druids and was criticized in both England and Ireland for the way he conducted his mission.

In a relatively short time, the island had experienced deeply the Christian spirit, and was prepared to send out missionaries whose efforts were greatly responsible for Christianizing Europe.1

I like the opening observation that he had two “solid qualities,” viz. humility and courage. Oh, that we would have such solid qualities of heart and soul!

It is further observed,

Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man, whose love and total devotion to and trust in God should be a shining example to each of us. So complete was his trust in God, and of the importance of his mission, he feared nothing -not even death.2

Here we discover the bedrock of his exemplary character: love for, total devotion to, and complete confidence in God. This is not the way of the world—and look at the rotting fruits of godless living and thinking!

But Jesus calls us to a different Way than that of the world. He says, Follow Me.

Will we do this? Will we trust Him and His Way in every aspect of our lives? I assure you, following Jesus and His Way is the greatest privilege we will ever have in this life or in the life to come.

I leave you with a prayerful verse penned by St. Patrick.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_________________________

1http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/Saints/saint.aspx?id=1325

2http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=89

Friday, March 10, 2017

Jesus & Other Emperors

I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him. ~attributed to Napoleon 

Jesus is a different sort of king with a different sort of kingdom. Even Napoleon (Bonaparte not Dynamite) could see this.


Not only does he acknowledge that Christ is incomparable to all others, but he readily concedes that all emperors—himself included—and all empires are inferior to Jesus and His Way.

Napoleon can see it. Can we?

David Gornoski thinks we cannot.

We believe in the way Karl Marx and other counterfeit Jesuses in history have offered: violent power is the highest good we should desire. Might makes right. Majority rules. The Public Will can sacrifice a misfit who objects. All those crusty, stinky, stupid barbaric mantras are shortcuts to heaven that lead to hell.

Did you notice how Napoleon and Gornoski speak of force and violent power? These are the ways of the kingdoms of the world. Everyone is striving for power over others.

Our King—King Jesus—shows us the way of power under. His is not the way of coercion but of persuasion; not of sacrificing others but of laying down our own lives for the sake of others.

Jesus invites us to come and die—not go and kill.  

“Take up your cross and follow Me,” He says.

Thus, an early follower of His writes: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh [i.e. their sinful nature] with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).

We are called to love. This is the highest ethic of Christ’s kingdom.

Will you join me in taking a quick look inside?

Our motives, desires and aspirations; the way we think about and interact with others: Who do we truly emulate—Jesus or other emperors?

I wonder if the folks who know us best would agree with our assessment. I wonder if Jesus does.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Americianity

I believe a significant segment of American evangelicalism is guilty of nationalistic and political idolatry. . . . Rather than focusing our understanding of God’s kingdom on the person of Jesus—who, incidentally, never allowed himself to get pulled into the political disputes of his day—I believe many of us American evangelicals have allowed our understanding of the kingdom of God to be polluted with political ideals, agendas, and issues.

Greg Boyd published the above words in his book, “The Myth Of A Christian Nation,” back in 2005. This book and other experiences have served and continue to serve in opening my eyes to my own long-held blind spots.

My thesis is this: While evangelicals strove with secularism, they succumbed to syncretism.

Syncretism is defined thus:

A combination, or coalescence of varying, often mutually opposed beliefs, principles, or practices, esp. those of various religions, into a new conglomerate whole typically marked by internal inconsistencies.

Specifically, I believe a large portion of evangelicals are fusing Christianity with American civil religion.

American civil religion espouses ideas such as material prosperity, American exceptionalism, the spread of democracy, militaristic superiority, and so on. Its hallowed texts are The Constitution and The Declaration of Independence. Its confession of faith is the Pledge of Allegiance. Its songs of worship are “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America The Beautiful.” Its holy symbol is the US Flag.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these things per se, or with patriotism in general, the conflating of Americanism with Christianity is detrimental to those within evangelicalism and confusing to those without it.

For example, last week I saw a T-shirt with a Cross painted in stars and stripes. It read: “STAND FOR THE FLAG, KNEEL FOR THE CROSS.”  Talk about a mixed message!

You see, dear reader, Americianity is not the good news of scripture.

You may think I’m wrong. You may sincerely believe that many, if not most, evangelicals do not hold to a form of Americianity; that they are not syncretistic in their beliefs.

But I would simply ask you to reread the definition of syncretism above and then think about how evangelicals commonly react when someone “sins” against the Pledge of Allegiance, the Flag, or the National Anthem.

Think about how evangelicals relentlessly beat the drums of war, persecuting any and all “heretics” who are pro-life when it comes to foreign policy.

How many evangelicals do you know “excommunicate” folks for daring to question their sacred political opinions? (How many of you are angry with me right now, just for asking you to think about these things?)

Jesus is clear.

He says His kingdom is in the world but not of it. He says to give to Caesar what belongs to him and to God what belongs to Him. He asks His followers to pursue His kingdom with all that we are and to never confuse it with the kingdoms of this world—including the American one. 

Evangelicals and everybody else would be better off if they’d do things His Way, don’t you think? 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Good Life

Beware of these teachers of religion! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. They love to sit in the best seats in the synagogues and at the places of honor at banquets—but they shamelessly cheat widows out of their homes and then, to cover up the kind of men they really are, they pretend to be pious by praying long prayers in public.
~Jesus   

A couple of weeks ago we thought about Jesus’ warning against the sinful influences of politics and religion (read here). 

Now we see what He thinks of people who use God as a manipulative means to political, social, or economic ends (Luke 20:46). 

Many of the religious teachers around Jesus were quite enamored with special clothes, special greetings, special seats in church, and special places at parties.


Rich and powerful scribes—their protracted and pretentious public prayers notwithstanding—don’t impress Jesus. He fully understands the kind of people they truly are.

And He doesn’t want us to be anything like them.

Accordingly, He teaches us that we cannot follow Him and pursue prestige, power, and popularity. If we decide to follow Him it will be in the Way of the Cross. He says,

If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me (Matthew 16:24).

This isn’t to say that a follower of Jesus can never experience fame or fortune; but to insist that such things—if they come—will not be the focus or goal of the Christ-follower’s life. The wealthy and/or admired Christian will seek to use these things to further the kingdom of God as humbly as she can. Enjoying God now and forever will be her highest end or good.

So why trade a full life with Jesus for an empty one without Him?

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world,
and yet lose or forfeit their very self?
~Luke 9:25

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Love, Marriage, and CS Lewis

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. (CS Lewis, The Four Loves)

The Four Loves is a marvelous study on the various types or kinds of love within human experience. Lewis examines our “loves” in light of four Greek terms: storgephilia (also phileo), eros, and agape.

I’d like to consider eros

Eros, in Hollywood, is the end all and be all of all things between a man a woman. Hollywood knows only one sort of love and it knows it wrongly.

Hollywood, more often than not, simplistically equates eros with sexual desire (from eros comes erotic). But eros is more than sexual desire and sexual desire is often less than eros. Human sexuality may operate within eros or without it. (When it operates without it, it is little more than—in fact it may properly be thought of as less than—animalistic.)

Eros, as conceived by Lewis, is the state of “being in love.” Healthy marriages certainly enjoy romantic love. But eros in marriage cannot simply be enjoyed. It must be encouraged. Godly spouses will seek to stir eros in their covenant lover’s heart, as well as in their own heart.

Yet, as vitally important as eros is to marriage, it is but one aspect of it. We dare not elevate eros too highly. We must not make a god of him as Hollywood has done.

As Lewis observes,

Eros, honored without reservation and obeyed unconditionally, becomes a demon . . . what costlier offering can be laid on love’s altar than one’s conscience?

How many homes have been decimated, honor betrayed, and hearts vitiated in the name of “love”? Eros must be submitted to Christ and His word. And when it is, it is glorious.

Rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love (Proverbs 5:18b-19).