You don’t have to agree with each other to listen

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I watched an episode of a television show the other night where God played a character on screen. Immediately, I knew I probably wasn’t going to agree with it. And I was right. God was portrayed as an absentee parent who had given up on His children and needed a pep talk, basically.

Needless to say, it made me pretty angry. But I kept watching. And the more I watched, the sadder I became. Because is that how people really see God? Is that the lie people have bought about Him? What a hopeless existence if our Creator gives up on us, if our God struggles with the same things we struggle with.

I watched the whole episode, and I disagreed with everything. But I finished it, and I gained some really interesting insight into how the writers of the show see God. And it gave me the opportunity to really question what I believe and why I believe it.

Yet last week I encountered someone who wouldn’t even finish my novel because he disagreed with something I had written. Which is perfectly fine. People are free to like or dislike what I write, but how can you give an honest review about a story without actually reading it?

Christians are expected to lay down and hang our heads. Oh, no! Our beliefs made someone angry! Alas! But what about when people of other faiths make a Christian angry? How is a Christian supposed to react when that happens?

Ask the culture, and they’ll say we’re too sensitive. Aren’t you supposed to show grace and forgive and let it go? Ask a Christian, and they’ll tell you that you shouldn’t have been reading/watching it anyway.

So which is it? Let it go or bury your head in the sand?

I say neither.

Instead, seek to understand it.

I love Proverbs because it’s so full of good advice, and Proverbs 18:2 is a classic example. “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.

Hatred never solves disagreements, and insults rarely make you sound smarter.Too many times we stop reading a story or stop watching a show because we disagree with it. But stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and you can’t always judge the end by the way the story begins. How can you understand a story before you finish it? How can you even know you’ll disagree with it if you don’t even know what happens in the end?

It’s a very personal thing. We all have to make our decision about where (and how) we’re going to stand. And if a book or movie or TV show contains things that you believe will damage you, you should definitely stop. But that line is different for every person.

People really hate Christians now. Openly. That’s new in my lifetime. And, yes, I’m generalizing. Because I have many many friends who don’t believe the same way I do, and I love them, and they love me. But others decide that I’m an idiot without even knowing me. Others decide to hate me and they haven’t even spoken to me.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Since when do we have to agree with each other to be kind to each other?[/su_pullquote]

Since when do we have to agree with each other to be kind to each other, to be civil with each other? I know we get passionate about what we believe, but hatred never solves disagreements. And insults rarely make you sound smarter.

I know where I stand. I stand with Jesus Christ. He is my everything, and the Bible is His Word that tells me how to live. But that’s my choice. That’s my life.

You can stand wherever you want. It’s your choice, and I respect that whole-heartedly. You can write what you want. You can tell whatever story you want to tell. You can believe whatever you want to believe, and I won’t tune out. I won’t shut the TV off or stop reading your book or close my ears to your voice. It matters to you, so it matters to me. I may disagree with you, but I’ll still listen.

And all I ask for in return is the same consideration.

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Even righteous anger isn’t always wise

I don’t get angry very often, but it usually happens when I’m driving. Bad drivers make me angry. Aggressive drivers make me angry. And when I get angry, I tend to be a little more aggressive in my driving than normal. Of course, I’m ashamed to admit it. I’d much rather let people think that I never lose my cool, but that’s not the case.

The difficult thing about anger is that it’s subversive. It can make you think it’s useful because it gets you off your backside and makes you engage in conversations or events taking place around you, but if you let anger become your only motivation, you’ll end up hurting people, whether you mean to or not.

anger_steamToday’s verses are Matthew 5:21-22.

“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”

Jesus understood the danger of anger, and it can be dangerous. Anger by itself isn’t sinful, but it’s what you do when you’re angry that matters. There are stories in history of reformers who saw the inequality in our society and got angry about it, but they didn’t stay angry. They were angry about the injustice, and then they got busy doing good things to fix the problem. But they were too busy to be angry.

What’s important to note here, though, is that the intention of your anger is just as important as what you do with it. Jesus says you don’t have to have killed someone to be guilty of murder. In your mind, if you hate someone enough to kill them, you’re guilty. If the act is wrong, so is the intention.

In our world right now, everyone is angry. Everyone. And we’re all staying angry, and it’s not helping anybody.

The anger Jesus talks about here is “seething, brooding bitterness” that eventually leads to hatred and violence and emotional stress. It’s dangerous to feel this kind of anger, and it can make us do things we will regret if not kept in check. People will write off their anger as righteous indignation and in some cases that’s true, but righteous anger never leads to hurting anyone.

There are many, many things in our world to be angry about. I can think of five or six just from this past week that got my blood boiling, and that initial anger at people flipping God off may have helped me make some decisions about what I’m going to do with my life. But I didn’t let my anger continue. And I didn’t let it turn into something I couldn’t release.

If you hold on to your anger, regardless of who it’s focused on, you’ll eventually lose control, and you’ll do something horrible that will hurt someone else and that will hurt you and the people you love. Anger is dangerous.

So don’t be angry. I know it isn’t always that simple, but start by recognizing that anger isn’t a solution. It’s a reaction that can get you moving, but when you make a decision, you shouldn’t make it because you’re angry. Anger may be righteous sometimes, but I’m not sure it’s always wise.

If you’re angry, choose to stop. Let it go and trust that God is going to resolve the situation in His time. Sure, there may be something you can do about it in the interim, but I guarantee you aren’t going to see it as long as you’re seeing red.

Lamp at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Juggernaut

I said yesterday that the world needs unstoppable Christians, even though the world doesn’t want them. But what does it mean to be an unstoppable Christian? What does it look like? What does it sound like?

Lamp at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Lamp at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Matthew 16:18.

Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’),and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.

This is one of those verses that causes some confusion, mainly because English is such a strange language and doesn’t translate well. It’s a good example of how you can’t just pick a single verse out of Scripture and proclaim it to be how everyone should live without trying to understand it in context. This is Jesus speaking, and many people think He is saying that He will build the Church on Peter. That’s not the case, and that’s a discussion for another day. The Church is built on Jesus; He’s the real Rock.

But the statement I really want to focus on this morning is the fact that the Church is to be so strong that the gates of hell (or the gates of Hades) won’t be able to stop it.

Whenever I read this verse, the only word that comes to mind is juggernaut. It’s a fun word to say, besides, but the concept is true. The Church was intended to be a juggernaut. An unstoppable force that charges through life unafraid and uncompromising. And for the most part, I think the Church is there … except for the unafraid and uncompromising part. Because from what I have seen, the Church is afraid and because we are afraid, we have compromised on the things that really matter, allowing the things that don’t to turn us into something Christ never intended.

I’m not trying to start a discussion. This isn’t a political blog. It’s a daily devotional. And I had intended to post on how hope makes us unstoppable ever since I finished the post yesterday. It just so happened that today is August 1, Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day. I hadn’t planned to post anything about it, but this is what God laid on my heart last night. He actually didn’t let me sleep much because of it; I spent much of the night arguing with Him about saying anything at all.

I’m not taking sides with anyone other than God on this one. It’s too politically charged, no matter how much people say it isn’t. No one is listening on either side; everyone is angry on both sides. So I’ll stay on God’s side and let everyone else fight it out. All I’ll say is I believe the Bible. By all means, go eat a chicken sandwich; I think it’s good to support a business, and I applaud the folks at Chick-Fil-A for being courageous enough to stand for something, especially when that “something” is an unpopular opinion. I appreciate that they have comported themselves with dignity and respect.

But I’m not so sure the rest of the Christians attending Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day will behave the same way.

I think many Christians have bought into the idea that the Church is a juggernaut barreling through life, mowing people over, throwing its weight around. And the perception the world has gotten from that kind of “unstoppable” is that the Church is a bully. Whether that was our intention or not, I think that’s what the world sees.

Christians, we don’t need to bully people who don’t believe. We need to love them.

I posted yesterday that hope is part of a process. You have to have faith before you can have hope. Guess what? You have to have hope before you can love.

Do we understand the hope we have in Christ? I mean, really? Think about it. We all make mistakes. Without Christ in our lives, we would be lost and wandering around with no guidance and no direction and no security. Without Christ in our lives, we would have no purpose. I can’t imagine my life without Him. He’s my closest friend, my biggest supporter, the shoulder I cry on, the one person I trust with everything I am. He is my hope.

And people with that kind of hope are unstoppable. Not because they are confident in their own abilities or their own wisdom or their own translation of the Bible. No. They are unstoppable because that kind of hope gives them the freedom to love everybody … no matter who they are or what they’ve done or what they believe.

That is the kind of hope the Church needs. That is the kind of unstoppable the Church needs to be. Not a bully barreling through the streets, crushing the hopeless under our wheels. But a light that people can’t ignore and can’t say anything bad about.

I am upset that a respectable business (with darn good food) is being threatened simply because their CEO expressed something that people don’t agree with. The inequity of the situation isn’t lost on me. But it doesn’t surprise me either. Come on, Christians. Didn’t you see this coming? We aren’t the first ones the world has hated. The world hated Christ long before it hated us. But just because they hate us doesn’t mean we have to hate them back.

If we understand the hope we have in Christ, we don’t need to resort to hatred; we have access to something stronger. Love. If you follow Christ, you have the Holy Spirit, Who will give you the power to love people beyond what you are capable of doing alone.

Our culture is childish. This entire situation is evidence, and the world’s reaction proves it. And how the Church responds to this will determine many things. The culture wants what they want no matter what the consequences; they don’t believe in consequences. They want to do what they want to do.

Let them.

And love them anyway. It’s what Christ did for us. And let them see through our love that everything they think is important and everything they think matters most is dust in the wind. And that there is something better than what they can see right now.

If you are a Christian and you are attending Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day, I beg you to remember your witness. I beg you to ask yourself why you’re going. And I beg you to take every opportunity to show love to everyone you meet there. Don’t make this about politics. Don’t make this about bullying. Make it an opportunity to show the world what real unstoppable hope looks like.