Condemning Hate Is Not Enough


Condemning hate isn’t enough. That’s the bare minimum. We also need solidarity. Compassion. Calling out. Standing with. Fighting for. Ground level work. Sleeves up. In the dirt. There’s the difficult brutal unpopular risk of getting on the right side of history. In the home. Out there. Over fences, across oceans. Side by side when it isn’t pretty, when no one’s looking, when everyone is, when the wounded lean heavily on our shoulders, when no one cares. That’s the stuff that changes where we’re going.
J.S.

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I Don’t Feel Bad for the Bad Guy


[An angry post.]

You know, I’ve dealt with abusive, manipulative people nearly my entire life—and more and more, people want to show “empathy” for the abuser instead of the abused, and we’re too quick to explain away how much suffering that the abuser has actually caused.

One thing the movies get wrong is that they give the abuser some “depth” and “layers” and “multi-dimensionality.” Terrible villains are given backstories to justify their behavior and make them seem like “underdogs” who got dealt a bad hand. While this idea has some merit and it makes good movies, it also creates a harmful narrative where abusive people have a supposedly good reason to be abusive, or external factors are to blame, or you should feel really bad for them.

This completely leaves behind the abused person.

It’s as if abusive behavior can only be redeemed after the abuser sees how much suffering they’ve caused, and if that’s the cost to redeem an abuser, it’s too high of a price. Remorse shouldn’t be born at the expense of trauma.

I can see why the media would “feel bad” for a disgusting rapist and his future, because we’ve become trained in glorifying and empathizing with the bad guy. We offer way too much benefit-of-the-doubt. And yes, some people are just terrible. Not everyone has depth and layers and sad backstories. No, they’re not irredeemable, but we underestimate the detestable capacity for evil and we over-promote self-esteem (perhaps because we then must admit we’re also each capable of the same evil). We use words like “empathy” without also considering boundaries, safety, and trust. Good people get used up because they are fearfully obligated to a morally heightened, hyper-dramatic view of “love,” when it’s really just enabling. And some of us selfishly appear to have empathy to be awarded as outstanding citizens, when there’s neither an ounce of compassion for the abuser nor the abused.

In all this, we force the victim to take the “higher ground.” We trivialize and simplify the victim’s role to be the “bigger person” all the time.

But if we only place the impetus on the victim to forgive, to rise up, to heal, and to reconcile, then we’re not any better than the abuser. Doesn’t the victim have to be redeemed, too, from the pain that was caused? The abuser can certainly feel remorse, but are we going to ignore the remorse that the victim feels from both their pain and “blame”? The abuser can feel bad, but are we going to ignore how awful the victim feels from the actual wound?

It seems unfair to appeal to both sides when nothing about abuse is equal, and it must be on the abuser to pay for their crimes, to make reparations, and to be restricted unless they can prove otherwise that they can be trusted again.

I always want to hear “both sides of the story,” but in cases of obvious abuse, I’m not forfeiting justice out of some misguided sense of courtesy. Justice was already forfeited by the abuse. I must stand staunchly and stubbornly with the victim, and to do that, I must sit with them first, in their pain, not at my tempo but theirs, and to look evil in the eye with courage, unflinching at excuses and rationalizations, and to offer grace when it is no longer foolish, by the plumb line of wisdom and trust.
J.S.

Justice and Dignity for Ryo Oyamada

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Ryo Oyamada, a 24 year old student from Japan, was struck and killed by an NYPD vehicle in a hit & run.  Witnesses say the police car had no lights or sirens on and was going over 70 mph.  The released footage by NYPD was proven to be heavily altered in a cover-up, showing “lights” on the vehicle, when compared to footage from the NY Housing Authority on the same street with the same timestamp.

On a personal note: I know that this will probably not be shared or reblogged very much, because Asians are not very prominent in American culture.  I understand this, because Asians (like me) are partially at fault for being so passive.  But I am begging you to please consider signing this petition out of human decency.  Ryo was just a student walking home, then struck by a nearly silent police cruiser going at excess speed, and the NYPD covered it up.

Here is the side-by-side comparison of the released video footage, including updates from the case.  This article contains a link to a graphic video moments after the crash, showing the body of Ryo Oyamada and NY citizens yelling at the police.  Please advise, it is highly disturbing. 

And the following is an excerpt from the petition, which as of this writing only has 286 signatures.


This was originally posted on my Tumblr, and the post has now gone viral. It’s at over 33,000 notes and there are nearly 7000 signatures for the petition.


*Update* 8/28/14 – The petition has almost 12,000 signatures! Peter Chin, the one who started the petition, has also made an update on the petition page.


*Update* 9/8/14 – Over 66,000 signatures! Please keep it going!



God Is A God of Wrath, Justice, and Holiness: Because He Loves Us.


Hello beloved friends!

This is a message about Heaven, Hell, and the Wrath of God.  It was a tough one.  The message is titled: God Is A God of Wrath, Justice, and Holiness: Because He Loves Us.

Honestly, I love being the voice of encouragement, but I find it extremely difficult to talk about the hard parts of the Bible.  Because I want people to like me.  But the most loving thing I can do is tell the whole truth even when it hurts.  At times my voice is shaking and it was uncomfortable for both me and my church.  I can only hope I balanced both truth and grace.

Stream here or download directly here.

To stream other podcasts, click here.

Be blessed and love y’all …!





— J

Quick To Fight, Quick To Forgive



When tragedy occurs, we are often too quick to fight or too quick to forgive.

When we are hasty to fight, we allow rage to blind our vision.  This is understandable, but unchecked will lead to bloodlust and xenophobia and too many assumptions of the facts. 

When we jump to forgiveness, we are trying to free our hearts of bitterness.  This is understandable, but unchecked will lead to a bypass of justice and become insensitive to the hurting.

There’s a time to be angry, to shake a fist, to attack evil and defend the weak.  It’s right to hate injustice.

There’s also a time to extend pardon, to pray for enemies, to hope for better and wipe the slate clean.  It’s how we rebuild for tomorrow.

God will finish this story both ways.  We don’t need to force one on the other.  If we try: we will forfeit both.  Only God can hold this equally in tension, and only He is righteously infuriated with a tender grace.

One day, this broken world will be made right.  God will unroll His love and justice on a people waiting for both, and the things that don’t make sense will be answered somehow. 

Until then: we fight.  Until then: we forgive.


— J.S.


Impossible Fruits: Completely Jaded About The Unchanged

It happens to all of us: you pour out your heart and life and hours and pockets and energy into a fresh-faced person, hoping to see them out of the miry pit and into victory — when the end result is cataclysmic disappointment, worse off than before, down the spiral of prodigal wastefulness, a bitter mess of nuclear ground zero.

I keep thinking of them, You could be more than this. You were almost there.

Years and years of ministry has jaded me about how people change. In the jailhouse and the homeless shelters, it’s not so bad: people know they’re at rock bottom and there’s a fervent dependency on God you don’t see in your superstar theologian. They have little excuse. Their faith has been chiseled into its rawest form, a pure reliance on God’s power, and their life everyday is, Only God can do it now.

But people who can fall back on rationalizations, chemicals, alcohol, ex-boyfriends, more money, and mindless luxury never hit that rock bottom. Oh, they think they do. The people who claim, “I really want to change” will cry those big effortless tears and make their own sob-story so unique. But around the corner is some justified defense for their actions, a simple twist of words that makes sense in their mind, a little bottle of distraction to numb good senses, a secret silent motto of I can do this myself.

Or they will make you the bad guy, you’re the one with the problem, your truthful words are unhelpful criticism, your help is just a nuisance, and you’ll be the one person they cut out from their life.

I’ve learned over and over that no one — I really mean no one — can handle rebuke. None of us are good at this, and you can add me to that list. The second you tell someone the truth about themselves, it’s very rare when you see humility, conviction, and repentance. It’s either a total emotional meltdown full of self-guilt-tripping despair (no matter how nice you were in your rebuke), or it’s an insane explosion of throwing-things, kicking-doors, punching-walls, and all sorts of childish temper tantrums.

People are comfortable with the lies they’re living in. Ripping the roof off the lie is a dangerous move, like getting near the den of a bear. I keep saying the phrase, “You know you’re better than this.” But the more they keep doing that stupid thing and believing that dumb lie, the less this is true. We eventually become the lie we’re living.

As I’ve heard before, when you confront a friend: you’ll either get Real Grown Folks Time or Senseless Drama. It is now the minority exception to see grown-ups working together to work through real issues. People would rather deny their sin all the way to Hell by paying the price of their own souls. Satan is cracking up at us. I’m just grieved, tired, and jaded. I wish I wasn’t.

I would like to be gracious every time, the patient pastor who listens and nods and understands, the dude anyone can talk to. At times, I am, by the good grace of God. But most times I want to grab someone by the face, shake them half to death, and yell, “Stop it man, just shut up and stop.” I’ve done almost that a few times, and it worked for a little while, but shame never really changes anyone. It’s a short-term band-aid for a deep soul-wound.

It’s a serious calling to be the guy who unravels the lie and tells the hard truth. It demands your whole life.

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