In my message on Sunday, I explained how the Bible raises the dignity and value of women to an equal level with men, which is great news in a world that still regularly discriminates against women. After citing several examples of how Christianity has historically been very good for women, I said:
“Christianity was and has been very good for women…And we need to recognize how tragic it is when we see examples of women not being highly valued in our churches today.”
I went on to explain how the Bible demonstrates that representation matters, saying:
“In Christ’s household ethic, we see that representation matters. This is something I’ve been learning from many of my minority friends, particularly my Korean American friends…You see, it matters to us that we are represented, that our lives, that our personhood, is seen by others.”
Two days later, we witnessed the wicked actions of a man who had been conditioned not to see women, particularly Asian women, as equal in dignity and worth. Robert Aaron Long professed to love God and was a baptized member of a Reformed Baptist church. He was even described by others as being “deeply religious.”
Upon his arrest, Long said that his actions were not racially motivated. Instead, he said that his actions were a result of his sexual addiction; that the spas were a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate. The sheriff’s office has painted Long as a victim of addiction who has just had a bad day, cementing a narrative that Long was a victim to his ongoing addictions. Continue Reading
One of the overlooked consequences of turning from God is fear. In the book of Leviticus, a long list of consequences for disobedience is sealed in the fear that will overtake the hearts of God’s people:
And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues. 37 They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. (Leviticus 26:36-37)
In her oft-quoted essay on fear, essayist Marilynne Robinson comments on this passage,
Those who forget God, the single assurance of our safety however that word may be defined, can be recognized in the fact that they make irrational responses to irrational fears…There are always real dangers in the world, sufficient in their day. Fearfulness obscures the distinction between real threat on the one hand, and on the other the terrors that beset those who see threat everywhere.
When fear consumes the hearts of an individual or a group, they will be inclined to see threats and enemies everywhere, and they will no longer be able to discern what is true from what is false.
Any honest evaluation would recognize that this kind of fear is running amok in American Evangelicalism. Indeed, some historians would argue that it would be impossible to give an account of Evangelicalism in the United States without describing the role fear has played in shaping our collective conscience. Fear has become such a powerful force in American Evangelicalism today that we have become what pastor and author Skye Jethani has dubbed the “Fearvangelicals”. Continue Reading
In his high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed for his Church in this way:
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. (John 17:14-18)
These words have commonly led to the sentiment that Christians are called to be “in, but not of” the world we live in. To many, this idea might seem simple enough on paper. But as most of us know, the lived reality of this expression is far more complicated.
Every Christian is a product not only of her theological beliefs, but also of her surrounding culture and personal experiences. As a result, Christians often relate to their surrounding culture in very different ways. While one person might be inclined to have a positive outlook both on the culture and the Church itself, others might be far more critical on the culture and the work of the Church in the world. These differences are no small matter. A quick glance on Twitter and the major Christian websites reveals that we are quite divided with one another over how to faithfully live and witness in the world. Continue Reading
A few weeks ago, I met up with a friend to catch up and discuss some things on his heart which he wanted to share with me. After sharing how each of us were coping with the unique challenges of COVID and quarantine, my friend said that he wanted to share some encouragement with me. I was deeply moved by his willingness to do so. In fact, one of the things that I’ve appreciated most about this friend is how concrete and specific he has often been when giving encouragement. He does not give vague “Thank you” or “You did great” handouts. In this instance, he highlighted some specific elements of my ministry he benefited from and told me how much he greatly appreciated them. He took the time to specifically and intentionally strengthen my soul with his words, and for that I was grateful.
However, after his encouragement he transitioned to a new topic with this sentence: “I have some other things I need to share with you, and I suspect you won’t be as pleased hearing what I have to say next.” He proceeded to give some very specific critical feedback of my ministry he believed he had observed as a pattern in me. Now I’ll be honest – it didn’t matter how much he had just encouraged me, of course it still stung to receive this critical feedback! Yet I received it in love, and I felt no urge to defend myself or protest his criticism. Why? Because I knew he loved me, and he had proven it over a two-year relationship that was filled with constant, specific encouragements.
Scripture is packed with exhortations for Christians to be regularly filling one another with encouragement. There are many examples in the book of Acts which should be instructive for us. One such example can be found in Acts 14, where we read that Paul and Barnabas were in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. There, they “strengthened the souls of the disciples, and encouraged them to continue in their faith.” I love this language used to describe encouragement: it strengthens the souls of others. What a wonderful image that conveys the importance of encouragement for Christians. Our desire to strengthen the souls of one another ought to be very great! Continue Reading