When it all looks out of control: He’s still at the helm.
I talk about the church’s tendency to gloss over pain and spiritualize tragedy, and how we can find real healing within the unresolved tension. I also go over the misquoting of Jeremiah 29:11 and David & Goliath, grief and depression, the problem with Job and “inspirational Instagrams,” finding “God’s Will” when we’ve already messed it up, handling terminal illness and disability, how Christianity makes sense in a crazy world, and the theology of Louis C.K., True Detective, and The Shawshank Redemption.
Be blessed and love y’all!
If you try to trap someone with a question to prove a pre-judged bias, you’re having a monologue, not a dialogue.
If you drop a word-bomb of selective stats and facts and accusations disguised as satirical sass, it’s a monologue, not a dialogue.
If you preach to the choir to win internet-points and high-five your platform, it’s a monologue.
If you resort to name-calling, it’s a monologue.
If you set up a double-binding lose-lose situation with your mind already made up no matter the response, you don’t even care about dialogue.
If you’re not open to the possibility of being wrong, the worst part is that no one will hear you when you’re right. The good monologues go to waste.
If we listen: we’ll make it.
I think the Christian media needs to quit this trend of latching onto vaguely spiritualized quotes from actors and artists and then labeling them “fearlessly faithful in a secular world.” It perpetuates a wrong divide between faith and culture, and at its core is merely smug ammo to secure our ivory towers. It’s already enough that we force mega-church pastors on a pedestal of celebrity. They’re people too, and such impossible expectations only breed false accusations of hypocrisy.
I don’t want to diminish the genuine faith of those in the spotlight, but I think the church needs to stop digging for non-existent nuggets of click-bait to validate an idolatrous “me-too” mentality. We can only pray for those who have been gifted with the unique platform of influence. And maybe support the unknown few who are doing the unsung work of ground-level change and charity.
see-the-good-life asked a question:
Any advice for a young couple planning a wedding?
Hey dear friend, first of all: congratulations on your engagement if you’ve indeed been engaged! It’s an exciting and scary time, and can be very stressful, too. Here are a few things I learned both during and after the wedding to help. It will be a different experience for everyone and you may feel free to take these as you like.
1) Please enjoy the whole process. My wife and I tended to freak out about the tiniest details, and after the wedding, we realized how much we could’ve relaxed and enjoyed our engagement together. A lot of our fears about the planning turned out to be completely unfounded, like most fears often do. Every married couple told us the same thing, to just relax and enjoy. If there’s anything I could go back to change, it would’ve been this.
2) The wedding doesn’t have to be perfect. Your wedding cake might have fingerprints on it. Your florist might get sick. Your photographer might not be as great as their website. It seems the more you add on to your wedding, the more it can go wrong. But these little things are not very important in the bigger picture. They can, in fact, be totally memorable.
The night before my wedding, our hotel caught fire and everyone had to evacuate. There were about twenty police cars and fire trucks outside, and the entire wedding party slept just a few hours. We were cranky, but we also laughed the whole time like crazy. What a night, you know. The hotel also gave us all the rooms for free.
Sometimes we have to admit:
I’m not doing so well.
If you’ve never admitted this, then I have to say: you’re probably not doing so well.
Is it okay to say so? Can I be honest about that? I know I’m not supposed to stay there in that dark place, not for long. I know the proper inspiration and theology and clichés to bring me back. I understand I have to crawl to the light soon. But before I climb, I need to tell you:
I’m not doing so well. It hurts. I’m not okay. This is not all right. It’s twisting me in the guts and I’m bleeding from everywhere. Man down. No me gusta. I’m busting up at the seams. And I’ll be down here for a while.
Look me in the eye and tell me it’s okay to say this out loud. Let me feel this out. Let me bleed a little before we clean it up so fast like it never happened. I need to hurt. Then it might be okay.
It’s written for you or to help your friend, regardless of gender or beliefs, and has info on what porn does to your brain, practical steps to quit, and how to quit for good.
The book has officially been endorsed by Craig Gross of X3Church, of which I’m also a contributing blogger.
Total freedom and sobriety is possible.
Be blessed, dear friends!
I believe that sometimes, pain is just pain.
Sometimes it just hurts.
Until we see the face of God, we mostly won’t know the why. Even then, I’m not sure there will be a neat bow-tie at the end.
In the waiting, I don’t want to moralize my pain. I refuse to connect the dots at someone who is hurting in the lowest bottom of their soul. I cannot pretty-up grief with retrospective hindsight or poetic reflection. I will not diminish someone’s tragedy into an allegory. I cannot take a human wound and flip it into a cute outline for my logical sensibilities.
Pain sucks. It’s dirty. It’s not fit for books and movies. It doesn’t always resolve. It’s not romantic. It doesn’t need an answer or a fix-it-all. That drives me crazy, but nearly every answer has always come up short and trite and impractical. Pain is a terrible teacher who we try to force answers from, but maybe we’re demanding something that it can’t give.
I want to let pain be as it is, because it’s part of what makes us human. It’s to be experienced, not always explained. I’m trying to be okay with that. I’m trying to live with the wounds. I want to let life unfold, not to escape or avoid or deny, but to let the deepest hurt become part of me, a part of our human story.
— J.S. from Mad About God: When We Over-Spiritualize Pain and Turn Tragedy Into A Lesson
My friend: I know you might have had a picture of how you wanted your life to be, but some uncontrollable tragedy swept it away. We all have a certain picture of how we want our lives to be, and sometimes it gets ripped from our grip and smashed to pieces. Our dreams can get crushed in an instant, in the most horrible ways, with irreversible results.
We might be living in a life right now that doesn’t feel like it’s ours, you and I. We might be in a different place than we had hoped for. Today could be different than you had imagined and planned a year ago. Your heart will pull for another chance, another door, another world.
We wake up in a daze, wondering how things changed so fast.
We wait, hoping it’ll go back to the way it was.
The three hardest words to live with are often: In the meantime.
Yet — in the meantime is the whole thing.
If you’re waiting for your “real life” to start, after graduation or when you’re married or when you get to the big city, you’ll stay in a holding pattern. The time will pass anyway. The tide doesn’t wait.
So I hope you’ll consider starting in the meanwhile.
When a dream dies, it dies. We can mourn. We can pound our chest. We can bleed. And at some point, we must let go and not linger. You can open your hands to another dream. I hope you find this new dream. I hope you don’t try to revive something that’s dead.
You can get over what’s over, because you’re not over yet.
When the ten count is over: you can count to eleven.
What comes next will not be what you had envisioned. It might be better or it might be worse. I hope you will keep dreaming anyway. I hope you will consider God can do a new thing.
You are free to pursue something new.
– J.S. | Mad About God
The doctors were sure if I fell asleep, I wouldn’t wake up.
It was too late to pump my stomach. Half a bottle of Excedrin. They were about to insert the tube down my throat. Instead they fed me liquid charcoal to neutralize the acid. My vomit was the color of midnight, of tar.
I waited. I fell asleep.
You can feel death, you know. It’s like someone is unraveling a thread at the back of your skull, like sinking into yourself. My legs felt like they were dangling in water. My life didn’t flash before my eyes. It would’ve been so easy to keep falling, to sink, to follow the thread to the bottom.
But in that moment, hanging over the abyss — there it was. Not some neon sign or some grand eloquent entrance, not a voice from the rafters, but a simple expression of something beyond this world.
“You’re not done yet. You have more. You have Me.”
I woke up. I was Baker Act’ed into a mental hospital. I wore someone else’s clothes. A man with a clipboard asked me questions about my father. A patient in the next room pulled the fire alarm and tried to jump out the window. Another patient tried to fight me. I was let out after regaining “social acceptability.” I lost thirteen pounds in three days and had roomed with others who had far worse problems than I.
Back into the sunlight, I suddenly didn’t want to waste my life anymore. I couldn’t stand the thought of having died in that hospital bed.
I wanted to believe it all had meaning,
that a purpose awaited me,
that I was made to save a corner of this universe,
that I am much more than what I feel.
It took inches before death to find the beginning of trusting Him. Maybe part of trusting God was trusting that He might actually like me — not because of what I could do, but simply because I was breathing the air He had whispered into my lungs.
I thought of the verse: It does not profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul. If this is true, it means your soul and mine has infinitely more value to God than the whole world. For every person who is tired of living, God says,
You’re not done yet.
You have more.
You have Me.
– J.S. | Mad About God
I imagine that when Moses split the Red Sea, there were two groups of people.
The first group was composed of victorious triumphant warriors saying, “In your face, Egyptians! This is our God!” They were pumping their fists and thrusting their spears. The second group was composed of doubtful, panicking screamers running full speed through whales and plankton.
I’m a Screamer. I’m a cynic. I’m a critic. I’m a Peter, who can make a good start off the boat, but falls in the water when my eyes wander.
I’m not endorsing a halfway lukewarm faith. I believe God wants us to have a robust, vibrant, thriving relationship with Him. But as for me, I’ll be limping to the finish-line. I’m more of a Thomas than a Paul. I’m more Martha than Mary. I’m more David than Daniel.
Yet the Warriors and Screamers all made it through.
It’s not easy to have faith the size of a mustard seed. But Jesus promised that this would be enough to move mountains, and I’m learning to be okay with that.
— J.S. from Mad About God
My mom and dad came to this country separately over thirty years ago and met in New York City, where they were married; my dad came to the U.S. with sixty dollars in his single pair of pants, and my mom couldn’t speak a word of English. My dad was a Vietnam War Veteran, 2nd Lieutenant in the R.O.K. Army on the side of the U.S., and the only escaped prisoner of war from the Tet Offensive in 1969. He’s also a licensed veterinarian and a Grand Master of Tae Kwon Do, a ninth degree black belt, the 54th 9th degree in the world.
Before my parents divorced when I was fourteen, my mom owned a laundromat and a grocery store next door to each other and would run back and forth between them to serve customers; sometimes she took old clothes that people left behind because we were too poor to afford any. My dad owned a martial arts dojo and mopped the entire floor every morning, then taught four classes in the evenings almost all in Korean. Between the two of them, they worked almost 200 hours per week and slept maybe three hours per night.
One summer, someone spraypainted a swastika on the front wall of the dojo. My dad painted over it, but on those hot humid days, we could still see that Nazi symbol like an angry pulsing scar.
We got a message on our answering machine — maybe the same Nazi artists — who spent a good ten minutes making fun of my dad’s accent. I remember seeing my dad listen to it several times, staring quietly out a window. When he noticed me, he turned it off and said, “Just boys playing a joke.” The voices were from grown men.
When we visited with friends, we felt the invisible walls of cliques and class between us. We were aliens from another world, just a foreign prop in the hero-story of the Westerner. I was the token Asian. When I visit churches, I still am. Christians feel proud to know me because I meet their diversity quota; my other friends are proud to know me because they can make Asian jokes and explain, “Don’t worry, I have an Asian friend.”
In elementary school, when I first made friends and came over, I would immediately take off my shoes and bow to their parents. I remember freaking out the first time I saw a fork. I asked for two sticks to eat my food, and they said, “No, you can stab your food now.” I still slightly bow to people as a reflex, and I still don’t get forks.
When I meet native Koreans from my own country, they call me kyopo, which is a slang term for misplaced native. They make fun of my heavy American accent when I try to speak Korean. They’re surprised I’m taller than them and say, “It must be hormones in the McDonald’s.” They think I’m arrogant because I watch American TV shows and I have a blog written entirely in English.
I live in two worlds. I do not fully embody either, yet belong to both.
About a year ago, I donated half my salary to charity to fight human trafficking. I had saved for the entire year to make one check for $10,000.
I don’t say this to brag, at all.
I say this because I’m a selfish person. I love comfort, my shiny things, the safety of a new gadget and adding things to my wish list. I am naturally lazy and indulgent and self-absorbed.
But I also believe in a God who humbled Himself to become one of us. I believe in a God who paid an infinite price to set us free. I believe in a God who wrote Himself into the story of humanity to enter our struggle, to lead us into life, and to ultimately exchange our brokenness for grace.
Because I believe in a God who has this sort of heart —
I am compelled to have the same heart for others.
The selflessness of God utterly melted my selfishness to pieces. His grace tenderized my conceited heart. I gave my life away because God did the same for me.
Image from http://couragehopestrength.tumblr.com
I was going through followers the other day and noticed some blogs that were “last updated 6 months ago” or longer. There were a lot of these.
Maybe they got bored or distracted or busy — but my guess is they probably didn’t get the huge number of likes and follows and reblogs they were expecting, and just gave up.
Please don’t do that. There are very few things we do consistently in this life. We’re quick to jump from island to island of halfway commitment. Taking a break is totally okay: but I exhort you to persist in sharing your one unique voice with the world community.
If you’re about to jump ship: please do NOT bail on your blog. Do what you must — take a sabbath, go on hiatus, commune with nature, restore relationships, try new things — but come back and tell us about it.
It doesn’t matter if you only have a few readers. You’re not doing it for that. And even if you were, those few people who follow you might really be encouraged by what you have to say. You might be the only one saying it.
But more than that: your blog is a captured snapshot of your one fleeting transitory life, like the dust mote suspended in a sunbeam that shimmers for a spectacular moment in time. It is beauty wrapped in expression, and you are putting something into the world that no one else can. God made you for it.
So keep sharing. Keep making art. Keep writing music. Keep taking pictures. Keep encouraging others. In some small way: you are healing your part of the universe. You are needed more than you know. You are making a bigger impact than you think.
If you ever met me, you would think I was an extrovert — I preach, I lead praise, I talk to everyone, I talk too much, and you can hear me laughing from across the street — but I am a full-blooded introvert.
If it were up to me, I’d rather be in my boxers all day eating Godiva while browsing food photo blogs and bothering my dog and cracking up at YouTube videos of Whose Line Is It Anyway and leaving dry ironic comments all over Facebook while reading the latest theory on how Sherlock survived the second season finale.
I intensely guard my personal space and my private life. It takes a herculean effort to step outside my comfort zone and interact with messy, fleshy, real live human beings.
Here’s how you handle us.
Ever prayed more for someone just because they’re hot?
Come on, I’ve done that too. Let’s not act like we’re above judging looks here. We give more cred to someone based on their defined jawline and bigger bra size than their less tangible patience and hospitality and compassion.
A very fleshy part of our human nature presumes that good-looking people are also just good, or that less good-looking people don’t really count somehow.
In church it’s easy to ask for prayer requests from the well-off, well-dressed, clean-cut, easily approachable mid-twenties demographic. Not the weird cat lady off the street, not the dude with the one rotten tooth who talks up a storm, not the pale socially awkward kid who says dorky things.
Most Christian books have the same problem: they’re geared to that same easygoing group of believers who attend the same megachurch in a crimeless suburban gated neighborhood with the sparkling 2.5 kids and Hollywood acceptable appearance, but they have nothing to say for the sick struggling screwed-up former addict who can’t find a job because he just “looks wrong.”
Wired into all our unaware brains is the deception that appearance means more than it should: but if I could give you a pair of X-ray goggles, you’ll see a bunch of skeletons with the same hopes, dreams, ambitions, anxieties, and worries that everyone else has too.
That seventeen year old pimply kid who loves Call of Duty is the same bag of meat and bones as the athletic football captain with the perfect hair; that girl who everyone hates because of her so-called overweight body could just as easily have been the same girl with the slightly higher cheekbones who runs the gang of cheerleaders. You can honk your car horn at the punk teenager on his skateboard crossing the street, but wave at the old lady on her walker: when both are just people who run deeper than what you see.
Take a Spiritual X-Ray and we all have the same vacuum of eternity within our souls with the same desperate longing inside. You and I could do way better than our visual addiction to all things sight, and instead see by vision.
An ongoing discussion about victory over sexual addiction.
Edit: December 21st, 2014
– My new book on quitting porn addiction is here! In paperback on sale for only $5.69 and e-book for 2.99 on Amazon! It contains this entire series of posts plus brand new info, fully updated and fleshed out, with specific steps to quit.
Why Do I Use Porn? Why Can’t I Stop? Here.
Every question submitted about porn on this blog, here.
**Updated: May 2013
For the podcast episode based on this post, click here.
The science behind porn addiction will not surprise you. It can be easily mocked as apocalyptic research with an old-fashioned bias, but excuses to use porn are also biased by the hand down your pants. Objective evidence of pornography’s effects has one goal: to show how much porn screws up your brain. For some that will be enough to quit.
Obviously, something serious is happening in the neurology of a person who will not stop using porn. Constant exposure to graphic, unreal, out-of-bounds sex doesn’t just go in one hand and out the other (bad pun). Like the heroin addict or the gambler or the alcoholic, several key things are happening.
Much of the following research is borrowed and not my own. Please keep in mind that the term “addiction” is a serious term and might or might not apply to you, but it’s worth investigating. I don’t mean to over-dramatize here or make a big show of scientific language, but porn use does have a particular undeniable effect on the brain.
Sources include Craig Gross’ Pure Eyes, Eyes of Integrity, and Dirty Little Secret, and William Struther’s Wired For Intimacy. I’ve read and re-read these important resources and highly recommend them to you. There is also Michael Leahy’s Porn Nation, Mike Wilkerson’s Redemption, Tim Chester’s Closing The Window, and David Powlison’s tiny booklet Slaying The Dragon. Where possible, I’ve tried to research articles and current news behind pornography and the porn industry. And of course, there is personal experience with addiction plus countless hours spent with young and old porn addicts.
The Addict’s Path:
Is suffering a “part of God’s Plan”? Does God use trials to teach us a lesson? Does everything really happen for a reason?
A hard look at the Problem of God vs. Suffering, and why easy answers won’t work in the middle of the mess.
Get my new book on persevering through trials & suffering, Mad About God.
Remember, you are:
– A work in progress, looking towards the work finished, Jesus.
– Under construction, in a process, two steps forward, one step back.
– On a journey of faith, because faith is not a light-switch.
– A messy, gritty, raw, real, complicated creation called a human being, and no one should ever shame you for being human. Jesus was one of us, too.
– Not defined by your mood, situation, or circumstance.
– Not defined by the “amount” of your faith, but rather by the perfect author of your faith who receives even your weakest stumbles towards Him. It’s not about your grip, but rather the strength of the branch that holds you.
– So loved that God preempted your failures with the gift of His Son Jesus, who died to pay your price of Hell and who also died exactly for those times you would feel far from Him.
– Always allowed to approach the throne room of God with all your anxieties and fears and requests, no matter how petty, because God can handle your venting and clenching of teeth and He will not bite your head off. It’s also His very grace and acceptance that begin to restore the broken pieces back together.
– A Christian, a profoundly broken person who has met Jesus the Messiah, who radically transforms you by being who he is: the Savior, Redeemer, King, Brother, Friend.
I saw a quote written from a guy I know, and it was a great quote and he probably really meant it.
I wanted to be gracious here, but — this thing he was telling everyone else to do is the very opposite of how he really is. He knew the exact right words to phrase it, the keywords to tug the heartstrings, that slightly aggressive tone to preach to the choir, the vivid imagery and active verbs to pull it off.
It felt so icky. This was the paragon of a pot calling a kettle black.
If he had said it any other way, with any kind of nuance or self-awareness or humility: it would’ve made sense. He’s not a bad person or anything, and there is value in hearing from someone who is still overcoming their own issues. But this wasn’t that kind of honesty. It was all finger-pointing, just abrasive and hollow and laughable. It’s the sort of thing that instantly makes you say, “Well-what-bout-chu?”
I always have six phrases at the top of every sermon I preach. Here they are, explained.
An open letter to Christian artists and creative minds.
The Christian subculture tends to celebrate mediocrity because we think it’s Christian to be “nice” even when something sucks.
I mean like, hey man, that’s my kid playing Noah up there in the annual performance of “The Loving Wrath of Jehovah.” Never mind the boat is a rusty shopping cart.
Suburban churches have an extremely high tolerance for bad sermons, bad Christmas plays, bad drama skits, bad music, and all-around poor production values.
We lower our standards with an almost forceful resentment, as if having approval in God gives us permission to be cheap and shoddy.
Most Christianized media is a safe, sanitized, bubble-fringe ghetto that appeals to certain mindless demographics which will eat up anything labeled “for the Kingdom.”
But as the great DC Talk once said, “If it’s Christian, it ought to be better.”
So while I was writing my upcoming book The Life of King David, I had writer’s block and decided to update my first book, What The Church Won’t Talk About. Yes, I’m a little bit crazy when it comes to writing.
I ended up adding over 16,000 words, including all new questions and topics such as racism, ministry, career, and the pros and cons of social media. I also added a few more of the interludes, as they were the most popular sections. Again, I’m slightly crazy.
The paperback version:
The digital version:
Be blessed and love y’all! — J.S.
p.s. — After the book on David, I’ll be working on a book about Proverbs, with a twist.
The book is a journey of seeing how the Bible can actually inform our love life, peeling away all the layers of our church culture. It’s for singles, couples, the heartbroken, and those with sexual regrets. I talk about Taylor Swift and Joshua Harris. I also talk about overcoming my fifteen year porn addiction, the time I tried to take my life over a girl, and the messy process of finally getting married. And like my last book, I answer real questions from real people about relationships.
Be blessed and love y’all!
Romance is wonderful, but it’s one of the many things that actually points to the Creator of everything, just as a strand of sunlight points back to the author of the sun. The heat of romantic emotion is a window into the Eternal Romance that you were made for.
Before thinking about relationships, we’re designed to have relational intimacy with God. It’s not merely that Adam and Eve “disobeyed” God in the Garden, but they were disconnected from Him too. They severed their true source of love and goodness and glory. Our significance and validation comes from Him. Without this, we’ll merely pursue our latest loudest feelings to accumulate more feelings, which is a bottomless perpetuity that will crush others and crush ourselves. You know what I mean. If you finally land that relationship you so badly wanted, your initial illusions always go out the window, and suddenly this person isn’t fulfilling you like you’d hoped. It hurts that person and hurts you, too.
We must first know ourselves before we get to know anyone else, and our one irrevocable identity is found in Him.
Hello beloved wonderful friends!
This is a seminar I gave on dating and relationships to a wonderful ministry of college students and young adults in Gainesville FL, aka Gator Town.
It’s called The Adventure of Dating and The Reality of Relationships. It’s about the exciting prospect of dating and the gritty, difficult, raw reality of relationships. Stream here or download directly here!
Some of the content is from my new book on relationships called The Christianese Dating Culture.
The e-book version is on sale this week for only $1.99!
Be blessed and love y’all!
Can you talk a little bit more about the pentecostal church and how it works in Asian communities and even other ones? Because I really find that stuff super useful and important to know, and I dont know very much about it at all.
Hey dear friend! You’re referring to this post.
As far as I know, the Pentecostal or “Charismatic” movement (I’m using these terms interchangeably, though I understand that one is a denomination and the other is a tradition) has been a huge part of churches in the last two or three decades, though it’s actually been a part of first century Christians, too. I think it appeals to Asian, Eastern, and third world communities because the spiritual/transcendent aspect of faith is more emphasized, such as communing with the Spirit, getting visions, interpreting dreams, gifts of healing, and exuberant praise.
While I know that we can get carried away with these things, the Bible is pretty clear that believers are meant to have a full spectrum of faith that covers both intellectual and metaphysical elements. God is always trying to make us more human, and that means we grasp the entire range of the spiritual experience in all its glory.
Singleness doesn’t define your value, ever.
What exactly is “singleness”? I wish we would stop defining things by the absence of something else. Being single doesn’t mean you’re somehow “incomplete” until someone else completes you. Let’s pause to consider that even the idea of singleness is false at its best, and oppression at its worst.
In the first century, Apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 7 specifically to address single people. To paraphrase, he said, “If you want to get married, good. If you want to stay single, good, and it could be better.” To you, this might sound ordinary. But at the time, it was a loaded bombshell. This was actually an entirely revolutionary view of sexuality that had been previously unheard of.
During Paul’s life, the Emperor of the Roman Empire was actually charging a fee for the unmarried because it was considered bad for the economy and the family (never mind that Caesar was already bad for both). Being married with a family was considered the gold status of society, and a single person could only have been a widow or prostitute; there was no middle ground.
So Paul comes along, and moved by the Spirit of God, completely wrecked the whole idea of family and marriage and singles. Though marriage is desirable, it’s not a “state of completion,” and we have an entire church of brothers and sisters in Christ who are meant for deep soul-community, for both singles and couples. Paul legitimized singleness as an absolutely acceptable life-choice, but more than that, said it can often be better for carrying out God’s mission on earth (1 Cor. 7:29-35). Paul himself was single, which itself would’ve been quite a scandal.
The way of propositional politics in the hands of fallen men always crushes the people it was meant to restore. It weaponizes an idea into picket signs, angry rants, loud bloggers, hapless trolls, and mob mentality.
Our minds are so Pavlovian-conditioned to lock people into categories that we forget: no one ever fits the one-dimensional cartoon-caricature that we wish them to be. This sort of prejudice makes it easier to bash others by dehumanizing them, until all we’re left with is an unrecognizable political tapeworm that feeds itself and helps no one else.
Jesus knew that we could not affect change by categorical conflict, because it would be like fighting for a territory that becomes a scorched wasteland after the fight is over.
So Jesus stopped the human cycle of binary wars by calling us all equally loved, equally dignified, and equally heard. Jesus saw each individual as a holistic, multi-dimensional, complex, conflicted person and met them in their own condition, wherever they were — because this is what grace does.
Without the same compassion of Christ for the people he loves, all our bravado and chest-beating is absolutely pointless. We will be buried with our picket signs without having known a single human life. We will have succeeded at minor skirmishes and stomped on human stories. We will win at social reform but still be spiritually deformed. We will legislate laws on disagreeable issues but lose the human heart — on both sides.
I hope we’re not just clamoring for faceless disembodied ideology, but that our sleeves are rolled up in the mess of hurt people.
The only credibility left is compassion.
I pray our voices be burdened with the weight of such conviction.
— J.S. | What The Church Won’t Talk About
nenakristiani asked a question:
Hi, lately I’ve been confused about “working on our salvation” that’s generally our job after receiving Jesus. How do we do that exactly? How do we know we’re doing it right? And I’ve just listened to a local sermon and it says that after we received Jesus, we have to seek perfection through our struggles and efforts to meet His standard level of perfection. We have to strive for a perfect life, no flaws in His eyes. That’s what Christian life is about. Is that how we do it?
Hey dear friend, thank you for your honesty and candor. Before I say anything, I hope you’ll consider watching this sermon. I watch it about once a month and it continually feeds my soul, especially in moments of confusion about my faith. (There are a couple glitches in the video but they pass quickly.)
Essentially, one of the biggest points of the Christian Gospel is that it takes burdens off and will never add them on. Everything else in the world is squeezing you by demands, deadlines, dichotomies, and impossible standards that will destroy you the second you infringe on them. Every community will kick you out or kill you if you disobey their directives, and that includes Tumblr, Facebook, a high school football team, and political tribes. Every other religion and philosophy and system of thinking is prodding you to close the gap between who-you-are and who-you-want-to-be by striving for an arbitrary goal-line, only to move it further away when you get there.
Only Christianity says that the gap has been closed for you by grace, that every demand has been met in God’s very own provision, and that it’s from this gift of grace that you strive, and not for. In other words, the Christian Gospel is the news of what God has done through His Son, and not advice or formulas for a better life. It can certainly advise you, and there are certainly divine laws that are for our good, but the motive to follow His way is because of the grace He has given us. It’s inside His preemptive approval that we can find both rest and resolve. Since we’re no longer “working off” our existence to justify who we are, we can move outward from God’s fixed love without worrying about getting better or getting results. Perhaps ironically, when you have such a supernatural confidence, you actually get better and get results.