Tag: Christianity (page 1 of 7)

Does Nationalism Inform Your Christianity?

Without question, our country is in a tense place right now. And while I would love to speak to our nation as a whole, I think trying to do that will cause it to get lost in all the noise. And really I feel like I am more qualified to talk to Christians about what that means during these times. I have written about a similar topic before (HERE), but with all the stuff that recently happened in Charlottesville, I think it bears repeating.

I want to talk about nationalism and how we might be letting that affect how we follow Jesus. First, a couple caveats. Right from the start, nationalism is not bad. You can love your country; I do. I love being an American and spent two decades serving and defending it. So be a nationalist. This is not about that. Second, this is not strictly about Charlottesville. Instead, it is about how we respond to this type of situation. So even though it is not specifically about it, I think Charlottesville is a good barometer for measuring if we are letting something other than Christ influence how we follow Him.

With that said, I have seen a number of articles, from Christians and Christian media outlets, that muddy the issue even more. Most of it revolves around how the media is lying to us and making Charlottesville worse than it seems. While that may be true, it does not undo the truth of what occurred there and how some Christians have responded to it. Another point these Christian writers/media are pushing is how violent both sides are, specifically BLM and ANTIFA being the other side of the “racist coin” as White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi. Maybe that is also true, but it still misses the bigger picture of how a Christian should respond. It is a big enough deal that I think it deserves its own section, so I will address that later in the post.

Here are four ways you can know if your Christianity is informed by nationalism, rather than Jesus.

If you think Charlottesville was just an expression of free speech.

I am all for free speech. And, as abhorrent as hate speech is, it is permissible. Like I mentioned, I spent 20 years defending people’s right to say whatever hateful and vile thing they want. But, if your response to hate speech is, “It’s freedom of speech, so get over it” and you disregard the hurt it inflicts your fellow human, something besides Christ is influencing you.

My biggest difficulty with the free speech excuse for hate speech is that it ignores the very real oppression that it intends to inflict. Whether you agree with the speaker being able to say it is not the point. What is more important is how you respond to the people who feel those words and hate cut into them. Unfortunately we can easily let the “free speech” thing override our call for compassion for the oppressed. And, many of those words are aimed at are your brothers and sisters in Christ. That alone should break your heart. Our response ought to be condemnation of the speech and compassion toward the target of it. It is not about necessarily trying to silence the speaker, but rather standing with the person who was the target. That is Jesus influence.

If your expression of hate for the ideology extends to the people.

There is really no way to get around Jesus saying, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45) If your response is I hate BLM or White Supremacists, then likely you are missing the point of what Jesus said. You can hate the ideology all day long, and many times you should because it is incompatible with following Jesus. But, when you cross the line to hating the people in it, you leave Jesus’ camp. God is a people-ist. For God loved the world, right?

If you feel a need to point out how violent the other side is also.

This issue here is not about who is more violent. If violence or hateful speech exists on both sides, then you condemn it. But, if your response to hate or violence on one side is to point out the hate or violence on the other, you are missing the point. Our attention should focus on the hundreds of armed (with real guns) white supremacists and neo-Nazis who showed up in Charlottesville. They did not show up to peaceable assemble (see previous “armed” comment), but instead were ready to do violence. And, their language and rhetoric was intended to insight violence and fear, rather than bring attention to a broken system.

The issue at hand was not violence that occurred in Baltimore. The issue at hand has to do with what was and did happen in Charlottesville. To argue violence with others violence is to ignore and condone the present violence. In that we “bypass justice and love for God.” (Luke 11:22).

If you are mostly concerned with your rights or liberties.

This one is hard because we are taught to fight for our rights, especially the one to party. But, at the end of the day, if your rights and liberties are your main focus, maybe you are missing the point of Christianity a little. Literally every part of following Christ has to do with you being about other people. Even in Romans 12:3 the Apostle Paul is telling Christians that they ought not consider themselves more highly than others. And, every one of the Apostles, not to mention countless other Christians throughout history, have died to ensure others could have freedom in Christ. So, if your biggest concern is, “What about my rights?” then you missed the whole, “take up your cross and losing your life” thing Jesus mentions in Matthew 16:24-26.

We should be continually evaluating whether it is our love of country or love of Jesus that informs our Christianity.

 

photo: Flickr/Paul Wiethorn

Defining Gospel Centered Missional Community (GCMC)

community

For the last few years a few and my friends and I have been talking about community. The focus is on what it would look like to live in authentic community with other Christians. It is a topic that has consumed large parts of our conversations and time. During that time, we have all written down our ideas and meshed them into a conglomerate of processes. My friend and co-host of The (G)odd Show, Thomas Hogan, has been the most intentional about collecting these ideas.

In my last post I talked about being committed to building and helping others build lasting Gospel Centered Community (GCC). In order to provide a clearer picture of what that means, it is important to define that for you. So, what do I mean when I talk about Gospel Centered Community? Unfortunately, I have not taken a lot of time to write the definition. But, lucky for all of us, Thomas was good enough to write out our ideas so they are easily coherent. Here is what I mean when I say GCC or GCMC:

Gospel Centered Missional Community

We teach a purpose toward ministry called, “Gospel Centered Community” (GCC) and a method of ministry called, “Gospel Centered Missional Community” (GCMC).

The easiest way to define such a life encompassing idea is to define each word’s ideas and modes. And, the easiest way to execute this purpose is by understanding GCC as Jesus moving your heart to intentionally live toward others. And if GCC is an intent to live toward others, GCMC is the missional outworking of that intent, focused on making disciples who make disciples. In the below paragraphs, first I will define the purpose of each word and then under that, provide the practical outworking of that word as a method.

Gospel

By Gospel we mean the life altering invitation by God to come home. The cross of Jesus Christ is the extension of this invitation. He has made the way for us to be close to God, to not feel ashamed or rejected, to be clean and whole without any hindrance or condemnation.

The Gospel invites us into God’s family and we should be decorating the invitation for others. By growing into maturity, through being a disciple and discipling others, we extend that invitation through our commission and emulate Christ’s work on the Earth.

Centered

By Centered we mean complete balance in your life. Balance between Heaven and Earth, between friends, family and ourselves, and between hurts and all joy. Our lives should be experienced, not buried in a landslide of religious duty or distracted by every wind of philosophy. We must find the center of our souls. That center is found in a loving, growing, and forward relationship with Jesus Christ. It is only from a place of spiritual identity and openness that balance is maintained.

In a Centered life our efforts and actions reflect simplicity. We best experience centeredness by living at peace with others, as best we can, and revealing the love of God through unity. In areas where being right and relationship come into conflict, we should seek relationship first and being right through developing our faith.

Missional

By Missional we mean that we exist for the benefit of those around us. We have abandon self-centeredness and embrace the mission of God to reach and heal the lost and hurting. By focusing on the greatest commandment, the great commission and the new commandment we fully encompass God’s heart for the world.

In a Missional community we create opportunities for others to interact with God’s love by meeting real needs in the real world. Christ is teaching us to love each other, so we can love God and love our neighbor. We best express that love by tangible manifestations in our neighborhoods. In doing so, our neighbors are able to see Christ pursuing them without compulsion or prerequisites.

Community

By Community we mean a place and a people who are truly “your own.” We are not meant to find balance or experience the grace and power of God alone; we need each other. There is no version of community that doesn’t begin with deep-rooted love and end in freedom. In community we are free and with our people we can explore the richness of love from the Father without fear or restriction.

In Community we find our greatest purpose. Community spurs us on when we become weak and tired; in turn we use our gifts, talents, and abilities to interact in the work of the gospel. By experiencing the ebb and flow of conflict, grace, forgiveness and reconciliation of “body-life” we see the clearest picture of Christ among us.

Scriptural References: Acts 4:32, Acts 20:32, 1 Corinthians 5:13, Philippians 2:1-4, James 3:17-18 & Colossians 1:6-7.

If you have an interest in continuing to this discussion or developing GCMC where you are, I (or Thomas) would love to talk with you about it. You can contact me by clicking the below link:

Let’s talk about GCMC!

photo: Trinity Church

The President, Jesus and Our Allegiance

I am concerned about us. Not as a country. America will keep trucking along its progressive path as it always has. I am concerned about us as a church, as a body under the headship of Jesus. We are becoming increasingly divided. Of course division within the Church is not a new thing. I am fully aware of the many splits and the reasons for them, throughout our church history. I am familiar with why so many denominations exist. However, none of that changes the amount of distance this past political season has added to the divide.

Christian or Patriot

For over a year, leading up to the election this past November, I have seen and heard so many people equate being patriotic with being a “good” Christian. In fact, it is not simply the view that Christianity is the same as patriotism; it is carelessly viewed as a political issue on the same level as gun rights. Here is a couple examples of some memes that list Christianity among other political or social issues…

Allegiance

Christianity shows up right in the middle of a list involving patriotism and guns. Here is another one…

Allegiance

Again, Christian shows up right in the middle of an obviously politically charged list of issues. And it is presented in a blatantly divisive and excluding way. Not only is it polarizing, it suggests that a Christian cannot possibly hold liberal views. The inference is that a Christian has to be a gun-loving, conservative who runs around saying ‘merica. It rejects the possibility of any other view and alienates entire parts of the body of Christ. To be fair, there are many Christians who would view themselves as liberals that also contribute to this division and alienation. Unfortunately, it is the conservative side (typically White Evangelicals) who are often more verbal about the supposed marriage between American nationalism, or patriotism, and Christianity.

I did look for memes that expressed a liberal view of Christianity as American, but they almost do not exist. The best I could do was this one, that suggests conservatism is not consistent with Christianity.

Allegiance

Allegiance to Christ

My issue has nothing to do with whom you support as the president; support whomever you feel aligns best with your values. Moreover, if you are a Christian, God commands us to pray for the president regardless of your political leaning. Nevertheless, the truth is, Christianity is not synonymous with American patriotism. You can be a Christian fully apart from being an American. The reverse is also true. Still, the depth of your love for your country is not a measure for being a good Christian. Somehow, that continues to grow as the qualifier.

My concern is it seems many on both sides have forgotten the others are Christian. Maybe it is less of having forgot,and more of a rejection of the possibility. And why? Because they have different political views? With increasing frequency it seems as if Christians believe their commitment to a political candidate, or in this case a president, is allowed to trump ( see what I did there?) their commitment to fellow Christians. As Christians, when our allegiance to a political party, candidate, or president eclipses our allegiance to other believers, then by proxy it also eclipses our allegiance to Christ. The Apostle John says the same thing in 1 John 4:20. He said, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” When that happens, we need consider what we believe about unity and our allegiances.

Biblical Unity

So what does the Bible have to say about our allegiance and unity? A lot. The first commandment (Exodus 30:3) points specifically to our allegiance to God. It is clear that we should set nothing before God. From that foundation, the rest of the bible points toward full devotion to God and absolute unity among His people, both through Christ. In fact, the New Commandment Jesus gave to His disciples, and us, was to love each other so that the world would know we are His (John 13:34-35). The whole chapter of John 15 consist of Jesus explaining the importance of remaining in Him (commitment and allegiance). He goes on to describe how much the world will hate us because of Him and how unity, through loving each other, keeps us connected to Him.

In the end, following Christ requires that we be good citizens, but does not direct us to be patriots. Our real allegiance is not to the President, a flag, or even a country. Our real allegiance is to Jesus and His bride. We have to understand that His desire is unity among his body, not unity with the world. So support the President, pledge the flag, be patriotic for your country, but know it is just a shadow of what our allegiance to Jesus and His body should look like.

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