WindstormSunset

“He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lord God Almighty is his name.” ~ Amos 4:13

The wind is howling outside this morning. It reminds me of a day a few weeks ago when the weather service issued a severe wind warning for my mountain valley. Now this is no minor thing; the mountains can funnel the wind in some mighty destructive ways up here. This particular warning said gusts could reach 90 miles per hour.

Needless to say, I was nervous about it. Sometimes the howling gets so fierce it feels like the house is going to rip right off the mountain. As I prayed that morning about the coming windstorm, trying (unsuccessfully) to surrender my anxiety to God and trust Him, I felt as if He whispered in my heart…

“Pay attention today. I’m going to teach you something about myself through the wind.”

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LuvYo

“Those who are at war with others are not at peace with themselves.” ~ William Hazlitt

As I mentioned in my previous post, too often our efforts at self-discipline are motivated by feelings of self-hatred and self-rejection, rather than love or self-compassion. Any discipline fueled by shame, I said, cannot produce freedom. It leads only to a soul divided, at war with itself, continually bound in a struggle that can never be won.

To continue that thought…This internal war with self is what inevitably leads to war with others as well.

Here’s how that happens:

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runningstairs

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.” ~ Brennan Manning

Something I heard in an interview the other day got me thinking. A well-known actor was asked about his preparation for a difficult role, and he said it took a lot of work but it was good for him because “Freedom lies on the other side of discipline.”

“Freedom lies on the other side of discipline.”

I’m really drawn to that statement. It’s a beautiful phrase, for one thing. Simple. Clear.

But…is it really true?

I think it all depends on what sort of discipline you mean.

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gaysandxtians

When I was in high school, one of my good friends came out to me as gay. And because I was a Christian, I broke off all relationship with him. I did this because I believed this is what I was supposed to do. At least, that’s what I told myself then.

But the deeper truth is, I did it because I was afraid. I was afraid he wanted to have sex with me, and if he did, I didn’t know how to handle that. I was afraid his influence might corrupt me or draw me away from my faith. I was afraid of what my Christian friends would think of me if I kept hanging out with him. Despite how coldly and abruptly I broke off our friendship, he was never harsh with me, and never judged me for my decision. His last words to me? “Anytime you need anything, call me.”

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3rdworld

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” ~ Mother Teresa

The old morality tales don’t work anymore. The world has got too big for them. And we, perhaps, have grown too small.

It used to be loving your neighbor was a relatively simple matter of noticing the need of the old widow two doors down, and doing what you might to meet it. Or seeing the mother overburdened by her children since her husband got taken by the war, and making the choice to take her in as a part of the family without really giving her any say in the matter.

To be a good neighbor is still all that (thank God), but it’s not just that anymore, because your neighbors are no longer just the people living on your street. Now, thanks to technology and social media, the whole world lives at your doorstep, which is to say billions of souls ~ the vast majority of them far poorer than you are (if you live in the West), many with no water, or toilets, or education, or meaningful opportunities to explore their potential as image bearers of God. It’s so overwhelming to try to take it all in that we invented a term to describe it:

Compassion Fatigue.

And yet, the world is here now, daily knocking on my television screen, buzzing on my phone every hour, and I cannot pretend any longer that the way I chose to live my comfortable life has no effect on how those souls on the other side of the world have to live theirs. Suddenly, I find compassion dangerous, because I know if I really let it take hold of me, it might completely unravel the life I have so carefully crafted for myself.

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whoisneighbornow

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa

Continuing my train of thought from last week’s post, here are five groups of people whom I believe fall under the category of “my neighbor” as Jesus described it in Luke 10:25-37.

  • Followers of Islam
  • The Third World
  • Gays & Lesbians
  • China
  • That “Other” Political Party

I’ll address each of these in turn over the next several weeks. I don’t pretend any of these are easy situations or relationships to address; but I do contend it is high time for Christ followers to start having honest, humble conversations about what it really means to love these neighbors in a way that authentically honors Christ.

This Week’s Neighbor: The Follower of Islam

In our ever-shrinking world, what is the proper way for a Christ follower to love the Muslim people? I think our great danger in engaging the peoples and nations of the Middle East is in our tendency to confuse an ideology with a human person. We wrongly think that standing against a belief system with which we don’t agree means we must attack or suppress or diminish the human souls who were born under that belief system or choose to follow it. I think this is both contrary to Jesus’ teaching and supremely ineffective at inspiring souls toward faith in Christ, which we must remember is the Great Commission every true follower of Jesus is bound by love to follow.

I have a friend whom I believe is living out the Good Samaritan teaching with our Muslim brothers and sisters in a way Jesus loves. She’s a single woman ~ blond, sassy, a bit of a princess by her own admission, and very American in every way we would all relate to and appreciate. But more important than her citizenship in the United States, she is a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. She’s in the Middle East right at this moment, serving refugees displaced by the Syrian conflict, and the conflict in the West Bank. She’s not preaching the gospel from a place of superiority and western arrogance; she’s living the gospel by standing with the oppressed and displaced human souls there and serving them in the name and with the love of Jesus.

Her example inspires me more than I can say. She’s a hero of the faith, and though you may never know her name I’m convinced she’s already famous in heaven, and her story will be told and celebrated by Jesus himself throughout eternity.

It is in large part her example that has led me to this belief: We should stop trying to defeat Islam, and simply start humbly loving and serving its people. That will do more to advance the Kingdom of God in the world than any debate or war ever could.

 

What do you think? Do you agree with my perspective? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Who is My Neighbor Now?

September 22, 2014 — Leave A Comment

whoisneighbornow

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be addressing a handful of topics I believe are crying out to be discussed in a fresh, humble way within the Church, particularly here in the West. I’m calling this series “Conversations The Church Needs to Have.” This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I invite you to add your own ideas in the comments. My intention is not to dictate solutions, but to raise the questions themselves and invite my fellow leaders and Christ followers everywhere to begin to explore them in light of the changes happening to our world. The question I’m addressing this week is: Who is My Neighbor Now?

Jesus taught when it comes to living the life God wants for you, everything you need to know can be pretty much summed up by these two simple directives:

  • Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and
  • Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.

Hearing Jesus point to these directives on one occasion, someone asked him: “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded by telling the classic story of the Good Samaritan. You can read the story yourself by clicking here. Two important things to note by way of context in the story:

  • Jews and Samaritans largely hated one another. The Jews of the time, in particular, saw the Samaritans as half-breeds, forsakers of God’s command to remain set apart from other nations, and therefore worthy of contempt.
  • Jewish priests and scribes of the time were considered the most religious (and ostensibly, therefore, the most holy) of all the people in the land.

Jesus’ story illustrates his bold assertion that loving your neighbor means loving the “other” ~ that is, the one who is not of your tribe, the one who is not like you, the one you think of as an enemy, the one you consider worthy of contempt.

Each year, the world gets a little smaller. Through technology, world markets, and population growth, more and more people of different tribes and often oppositional worldviews are getting pressed closer and closer together. We can’t distance ourselves from those unlike us as we once did. We can’t make believe we are safe across an ocean anymore from those who say they hate us and want us dead.

In this brave, new, shrinking world, I think Christ followers need to begin having fresh conversations around the question, “Who is my neighbor now, and what does it look like for me to love him?”

What do you think?