Tag: Jesus (page 1 of 21)

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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

The Continuous Call to Follow Jesus

follow

I was recently studying the passage of scripture about Jesus restoring Peter after his denial of Him (John 21:15-19). I was studying it for another post I was writing and discovered a couple things that warrant their own posts. One was in verse 19. It says, “He said this to signify by what kind of death he would glorify God. After saying this, He told him, ‘Follow Me!’”

Peter’s Backstory

To make the point, jogging our memory with a little back story refresher is necessary. We are first introduced to Peter in Matthew 4:18. That passage tells us that Peter and his brother, Andrew, were fishing when Jesus walks by them. Upon seeing them, Jesus tells them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At that invitation, Peter dropped his nets and followed Jesus for the next three years.

Those three years would reveal deep truths to Peter. He would learn what faith is and gaze upon the visible image of his invisible God. I can hardly imagine what it must have been like. His time with his savior would provide the conviction for Peter to say, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away” (Matthew 26:33). But Peter would fall away and fall away hard.

Peter’s Call… Again

While the other disciples fled and hid, Peter outright denied multiple assertions that he was with Jesus. After Jesus’ crucifixion, we can assume Peter did not see a way back to Jesus, because he returned to the life Jesus had called him out of. And then we see Jesus, likely on the same shore, with Peter performing the same task. After reinstating Peter, Jesus tells him, for the second time, “Follow Me!”

Jesus’ Call to Us

And, this is where Peter ends up; with Jesus offering the same call to him as He did three years prior. The good news is, He offers the same to us. No matter what you have done or how far you think you have fallen, He still says, “Follow me.” His is a call we get to answer every day. And as sure as darkness will come, His merciful call to follow Him, comes more.

photo: Flickr/Simon Matzinger

Walking Together Toward Community: Cultivation

Cultivation

Cultivate disciples who make disciples.

Gospel Centered Community (GCC): a body of committed believers, connected by a shared purpose and vision to see Jesus glorified and who challenge each other into deeper relationships with Jesus and one another.

Gospel Centered Missional Community (GCMC): the practical outworking of GCC and is focused on cultivating disciples who make connected disciples.

I call the process for growing into community The Walk and it looks like this:

The Walk

This is the third and final post in which we will examine the committed actions, and their associated elements, for developing community. In this post, we will examine Cultivation:

The committed action of Cultivation is:

 We will cultivate disciples who make connected disciples by sacrificing our time, resources, and self.

Cultivate Disciples who Make Connected Disciples

I changed the word for this final, committed action at least five times. The intent in action never changed, but I struggled to find a word to fit the message. I chose cultivation and not just because it alliterates. Cultivate is defined as:

1. To develop or improve by education or training, 2. to promote the growth or development of, and 3. to devote oneself to developing or growing.

When a community commits to cultivation, they devote themselves to developing and promoting the growth of disciples who make disciples. In committing to developing others, we honor Jesus’ call to be His witness to a lost and dying world.

When we honor His call, we take part in His commission to make disciples. Making disciples:

  • Moves you from GCC into GCMC
  • Moves you from the experience of growing found in GCC, into the experience of living with a mind and heart set on Jesus’s mission found in GCMC.
  • In GCC we enjoy receiving the love of God, and in GCMC we learn to reveal it to others. If we do not cultivate a mission-minded heart, we cannot fully experience the abundant life Christ promised.

The heart of living in GCMC is a commitment to a life of sacrifice, so others have an avenue to connect to Jesus and community.

By Sacrificing our Time, Resources and Self

Time

When I mention sacrificing your time for your community, if your first thought is “I have no time,” then you need to reevaluate how you spend your time. Or, you may need to realize you are not ready to commit to GCMC. Living in authentic, gospel-centered community, and making disciples requires much of you, including your time. As our example for growing disciples, Jesus dedicated three years of his life and was always with them. This should clue us into the time investment required for making and growing people for the sake of the kingdom.

Resources

Few Christians would argue with the truth that God calls us to be generous with our finances. Whether or not you agree with tithing is irrelevant. Sacrificing your resources in the context of GCMC goes far beyond giving 10% of your income to a local church. Sharing your resources is the practice of maintaining an open hand with ALL God has blessed you with. We can look at Acts 2:45 and see Christians selling everything and doling out the proceeds to people according to their need. This was a generosity in which the Christians divorced themselves from ownership of property that would appear to be theirs, and viewed it as God’s. Because of this view, they were able to honor Jesus by decreasing others’ burdens.

Self

We can use any number of scriptural references to talk about sacrificing ourselves for the sake of our Christian community. However, we must recognize the most important aspect of self-sacrifice is love. Jesus, and later the Apostles, continuously exhort Christians to love one another. Self-sacrifice will always spring out of love for Jesus, and by proxy, our love for each other. When we sacrifice ourselves, for the sake of our brothers/sisters, we identify ourselves with Christ and His sacrifice. One of the best descriptions of love like this is in Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

How is this Biblical

A heart of sacrifice is easy to see, in the early church, when we read Acts 2:42-47. Verse 45 is the clearest evidence of the early Christian’s willingness to sacrifice. In that verse, we read they “were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” This verse makes clear that they viewed their resources as a means to diminish the needs of those around them, both believer and unbeliever. We find their commitment to growing as a community in the time they invested into being with each other. Verses 42, 44, and 46 tell us that all the believers were together every day, attending the temple and sharing meals.

The time they invested was a sacrifice. They gave themselves up to grow others in Christ, and advance the Gospel. And to what end? For the sake of making disciples as Christ commissioned them to do. And that was their purpose. All of their charity, generosity, invested time, and willingness to give themselves for the sake of Christ drew people to God. Their commitment to cultivating disciples had a noticeable impact as “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).

photo: Don Caywood
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