Being Jesus to Atheists, Homosexuals, and Abortionists

One Sunday we showed up at our rented church building.

Someone had spray painted a Nazi swastika on the front of the building.

We didn’t pay much attention to it as it looked like the work of some foolish children.

But after a couple of weeks the swastika was still there.

I heard some people in our church musing over an idea to use spray paint to turn the swastika into a cross.

I didn’t pay much attention to the idea.

I thought everyone was just having fun with ways to “redeem” a terrible symbol.

I didn’t think they were serious.

However, a few days later I was riding my bike passed our building, I noticed that, sure enough, the swastika had been transformed into a cross.

With the word “love” written beside it.

I didn’t say anything about it.

But I did not like what had been done.

As I anticipated, my fears came to fruition.

I returned back to the building later in the week to find that the word “NAZI” had been spray-painted on the building again.

And this time along the entire front of the building.

Including the windows.

This was retaliation for our naive move.

Lesson learned.

Violence begets more violence.

Even when it is just spray paint.

Here’s the point.

When we respond to people in the same way they treat us… the vicious cycle begins.

One group tries to rise above the other group.

Tit-for-tat.

Eye for eye.

Tooth for tooth.

Retaliating.

Responding.

Escalating.

This approach creates more hostility and divisiveness and antagonism and conflict.

This approach NEVER changes hearts.

It may change behavior for a bit.

But it NEVER changes hearts.

It just embitters and callouses and hardens and begs for retaliation.

The cycle never ends.

Unless someone stops the cycle.

And that someone has to be us.

The followers of Christ.

The proclaimers and extenders of the kingdom.

Our way must be the lowly and humble and meek and loving and blessed and non-retaliating approach of our Christ.

Our way must be the way of Christ, the peacemaker.

No other way will do.

Because when one submits in love… the cycle stops.

That’s the way of Jesus.

And it has to be our way as well- to atheists, to homosexuals, to evolutionists, to members of different political ideologies, to abortionist, and anyone else we perceive as “fighting us” or “waging war against us” or “jamming their agenda down our throats.”

It is only the way of Jesus and the kingdom that changes hearts and changes minds.

And it is that way that will eventually change the world.

But that is the true dilemma.

How will we ever respond to real affliction and persecution in the way of Jesus and his kingdom… if we neglect the way of Jesus and his kingdom when other people simply inconvenience us or frustrate us?

How will we ever love someone who beats us and is trying to crush us… when we don’t even love those who simply make fun of Christianity with their words?

How will we ever bless someone who imprisons us… when we don’t even bless the atheist who says God doesn’t exist?

How will we ever humbly and lovingly serve someone who takes everything from us… when we don’t even serve those who try to remove “In God We Trust” from our currency, who try to remove the Ten Commandments from public property, who keep Creationism out of the public school system, or who try to keep prayer out of school? 

How will we ever say “Father forgive them” about someone who kills our loved ones… when we don’t even ask God to forgive someone who paints our church building or who steals something belonging to our church?

How will we ever be entrusted and given more of this kingdom to extend… if we can’t even be trusted with a little?

The truth is that we have a lot of kingdom to discover and embody before we will ever be prepared for anything that resembles “End Times” affliction.

For if we are not like Jesus when times are relatively easy, there is no way we will ever be like him if our lives grow increasingly difficult and hostile.

This text is a modified excerpt from AND THEN THE END WILL COME! (www.andthentheendwillcome.com)

peace…

brandon

Mother

We are drawn to stories.  The heroes.  The villains.  The supporting characters.  The conflict.  The hurt.  The pain.  The bitterness.  The comfort.  The grace.  The mercy.  The forgiveness.  The climax.  The resolution.  The triumph and celebration.

I believe we are drawn to stories…because we always try to find ourselves in them.

Who am I?  What part do I play?  What is my role?  Am I the one causing hurt…or the one comforting?  Do I inflict pain…or do I grant mercy?  Have I become bitter…or do I forgive?  Do I continue to hate…or do I choose to love?

Of course there are choices throughout the story.

A character can be molded and shaped by situations and circumstances, or by the lessons learned as the story twists and turns.

But woven into the fabric of every situation, circumstance, and lesson learned, we find a supporting cast with their own unique stories that have, and will continue to, influence and shape our own stories.

While it is true that some of these individuals carve valleys into the landscape of our story, others work the fertile soil of our lives to show us heights we would have never seen otherwise.

They pass along their heart and sense of selflessness to their sons and daughters… and the sons and daughters of future generations.

But it is not by word alone…but by word and flesh.

This perfectly describes my mother.

For her daily example in word and flesh… I am eternally grateful.

Her uniqueness

Her influence

Her tender and gentle shaping

Her undying love for her children

Made me who I am today.

And she continues to work the fertile soil of my life so I might see greater heights.

It is because of her that I stand tall and see more clearly.

But my mom does more than simply nourish the soil of my life.

She is also a seed sower.

The school bus pulled up early on a cool fall morning.  A little man stood with his red satchel beside his mom in anticipation.  The doors opened wide.  The little man took the gifts from his mom and stepped onto the bus.  He handed a box of handkerchiefs and a Snickers bar to the bus driver.

I gave because my mother always gave selflessly.

She has always been a giver.

A giver to her family and to others.

Time, gifts, money, and instruction, she has never failed to give.

Even when we did not have much.  Even when she battled cancer.

She continued to give.

Not begrudgingly.  She did it without complaint.  She did not expect anything in return.

She gave of herself to others.

The seed of selfless giving was planted in me.  This seed took root in the fertile soil of my life.  This seed was watered by the Spirit.  And the shoot broke forth from the fertile ground.

The tree extended branches and produced an abundance of fruit.  The fruit fell to the ground and scattered more seeds.  The seeds of giving and selflessness were planted in me by my mom.

They grew to produce in me the fruit of giving and selflessness to others.

And that cycle continues.

From person to person.

From generation to generation.

My mother made me a fruit bearer and a seed sower.

A part of her will always live and carry on with me… as I continue to pass along what was given to me.

In and through my own children.

To my friends.

And even among my enemies.

I know who I am today and I know what role I play in this life because of my mother.

Happy Mother’s Day mom.  My words are insufficient… but it is the best I have.

I love you.

Brandon

 

A Prayer of Reconciliation to the World

Somehow I forgot to post this when it was written in 2010. Of course it seems as relevant now as it did then. This piece is an excerpt from my 2010 book Unearthed: How Discovering the Kingdom of God Will Transform the Church and Change the World.

Father God,

Too many times we as Christians have been the loudest and most vocal voices and many times we have not represented or embodied the way, life, and teachings of your Son Jesus.

Our judgmental and condemning voices have become a poor representation of Jesus in the community and the larger world and have left many who do not know anything about Jesus with a bad taste in their mouths and a deep contempt for your Church.

Too many times we are quick to say that we are the “defenders of the faith,” or the “protectors of our Christians heritage.” Yet in our zealousness to defend, we have compromised the way of your son, Jesus, and have many times done it in his name.

Father we repent and ask for forgiveness, for we know that Jesus did not spend his time isolating and targeting special “sin groups” or trying to defend his positions through arguing and debating.

Father we ask humbly that you replace our ways with your ways.

For we know that the way of Jesus does not have to be defended; it must be demonstrated.

It never moves out in judgment; it moves out in love.

It never extends in condemnation to the world; it extends in grace and mercy.

The ways of arguing, defending, judging, and condemning always build up walls and embitters those in the world who are on the receiving end.

For every way that we as the Church have fallen short of representing you to the world, we ask for forgiveness.

Father, we are so eager to accept your grace, but are so unwilling to extend it. We are so eager to accept your love, but are so unwilling to demonstrate it. We are so eager to accept your mercy, but so unwilling to give it.

While we have known that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it, we have believed that it is our responsibility to condemn it.

While we have known that Jesus said he did not come into the world to judge it, we have believed it is our responsibility to judge it.

While we have known that Jesus told his followers to “judge not,” we have instead decided to judge anyway.

And while we have known that Paul asked the Church, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the Church?” we have instead decided that we should be the judges of the world?

God forgive us for not being like Jesus to the world.

Father, we need the strength to sacrifice our own wants, needs, desires, and pursuits.

Forgive us for the ways we have put idols within the Church ahead of you and your Kingdom.

Forgive us for the way we have worshipped facility and program over you.

Forgive us for the way we have followed human convention rather than your Spirit.

Father, we desperately need the fresh breath of your Holy Spirit to mold us and shape us into something useable and to open our eyes to the things that are not important to you.

We know that while we have been ignorant and negligent in understanding and extending your Kingdom, our calling and pursuit should be to model Christ by living and extending your Kingdom, giving ourselves self-sacrificially in love and service to the world, embodying a life of peace, justice, and mercy that becomes the yearning of all humanity.

Father, it is in this calling and pursuit that we have fallen woefully and painfully short. And it is because of our shortcomings with the world that we desperately need forgiveness.

Father, we need your power and strength to apologize to,and seek forgiveness from, any and all of those who have been on the receiving end of judgment, condemnation, or abuse from those of us who have labeled ourselves as Christians.

We deeply and prayerfully apologize and repent. We have not represented the love, grace, mercy, and heart of Jesus very well…and we desperately need your forgiveness and the forgiveness of the world.

To the atheist, agnostic, Jew, and Muslim, we prayerfully ask for your forgiveness.

To the homosexual, African-American, or any other minority that we have judged and oppressed in the past, we prayerfully ask for your forgiveness.

To the poor, enslaved, or victim of injustice, abuse, and neglect, we prayerfully ask for your forgiveness for judging you and turning a blind eye.

To every single expecting mother who sought an abortion, we ask for forgiveness for judging you and turning you into an issue and not demonstrating the lengths to which we would go to show you love, guidance, help, and assistance

And to every single person who has experienced anything less than the unconditional love of Christ from the Christian, we prayerfully ask for your forgiveness.

In Jesus name we as the Church in unity pray, Amen and Amen.