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Posts from the ‘thoughts’ Category

A freeing truth: all have sinned.

Something I wrote a few years ago on Instagram:

During my family’s roughest years, I wished that for one day over the holidays, everyone could just get it together. Put away the hate, the hostility, the infighting, the pain. At least for the day, put on pleasantries and all the cheer and warmth that the holidays are advertised to be.

When things began to crack, I became bitter. “Seriously?! We can’t even keep it together on Thanksgiving?! On Christmas?! On (fill in the blank)?!”

But over the years, the most surprisingly freeing truth for me has been this: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

All. Every single person in my family. Including me.

And seeing my family as God sees us – sinful, broken people whose most desperate need is for a Savior– has helped put my expectations in their rightful place.

What we need isn’t a façade of togetherness on the holidays. What we need is a Savior who will deeply transform our hearts and deepest agendas. We need good news in a family that spews bad news and the heart-ripping, life-shattering effects of sin.

So I can’t angrily point to this person or that for “ruining” the holidays for us anymore. Sinful people will sin, no matter what day it is. And I’m not exempt from this. But when I suffer from the crushing effects of others’ sin, I can remember that no one has greater hatred for sin, nor greater love and compassion for sinners, than Jesus.

And He entered our world to rescue us from the power and penalty and pervasiveness of sin. For real.

Don’t follow your heart.

Don’t follow your heart; instruct it.
“Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way … Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 19:2; 23:12)

Don’t follow your heart; guard it.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Don’t follow your heart; inform its affections.
“Keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.” (Proverbs 7:2-3)

Don’t follow your heart; distrust it.
“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” (Proverbs 28:26)

Don’t follow your heart; test it.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death … Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 14:12; 21:2)

Don’t follow your heart; control it.
“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city … A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” (Proverbs 16:32; 25:28)

Don’t follow your heart; submit it to accountability.
“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.  A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion … Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 18:1-2; 27:17)

Don’t follow your heart; humble it.
“Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 18:12)

Don’t follow your heart; discern it.
“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” (Proverbs 20:5)

Don’t follow your heart; remind it.
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments.” (Proverbs 3:1)

Don’t follow your heart; discipline it.
“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him … Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day.” (Proverbs 22:15; 23:17)

Don’t follow your heart; surrender it.
“My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” (Proverbs 23:26)

Don’t follow your heart; direct it.
“Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way.” (Proverbs 23:19)

On Black Lives Matter.

I’ve had many conversations since my last blog post here and have read many good articles and thoughts on this topic, so I thought a little follow-up was warranted.

Along with this “social injustice” topic, I’ve also been reading about biblical manhood and womanhood. And what I’ve concluded (at least in terms of my own convictions) is that “black lives matter,” while true as a statement, might be unhelpful as a banner statement by Christians in the same way that I think it is unhelpful for believers to use “feminism” as their banner. Because while feminism might have a stand-alone definition that says something true about the equal worth of women, it’s a word that has become too loaded with other values, like the abortion agenda, to be helpful in biblical discussions.

So, while it’s true that black lives do matter because they are made in the image of God and their lives are precious to Him, it is admittedly hard to use that phrase nowadays without the assumption that its users also hold to the values of Black Lives Matter, the political organization.

I think the phrase might be helpful still as a starting point in conversation with unbelievers, that we both agree that black lives are precious, but it isn’t so helpful a starting point in conversation with believers who are taken aback by the political and anti-Scriptural baggage of the organization that bears its name.

With that said, I was surprised that some fellow brothers and sisters in Christ assumed that my decision to be vocal about ethnic partiality against blacks was a subtle alignment with Black Lives Matter the organization, critical theory and intersectionality as worldviews, the social gospel, or all of the above. I was surprised that they automatically assumed that my grieving with the black community meant that I was anti-white, anti-police, anti-government, and pro-a lot of things that wouldn’t align with the gospel message and holding it up as of first importance. Not because I’m infallible (obviously not) but because these were friends who I thought knew me well.

But I understand a little better now — this is an incredibly hard topic, even within the church, and everyone comes to the table with their experiences and assumptions. And that’s okay — as long as we come humbly, in love, and with a willingness to be shaped by God’s Word. And we can disagree over some of its applications without being divisive about it.

I’m learning that it’s helpful to give qualifying statements, to give clear definitions of the words I use, and to invite private conversation where public conversation is difficult. I’m learning that gentleness goes a long ways in these conversations. And all of these happen best in real relationship, don’t they? I stepped away mostly encouraged, at least in my circles, with the conversations, the humility, and the openness with which people engaged. And I’m grateful.

Some people asked me to share out about the various conversations I had on this topic, and maybe I will at some point if I think it’ll be edifying, but for now, I wanted to share some helpful, free resources that I’ve come across in the last several weeks:

Racism/Ethnic Partiality

Systemic Racism

Critical Theory

Gospel-Driven Action

Gospel Issues

Navigating Social Media

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some here, or maybe I never saw some that are even more helpful than these. If so, shoot me the link. 🙂

And for those who want to dig deeper, there are a handful of books I’ve also read through in past weeks, but I’ll refrain from recommending them until I’ve thought through them some more. ♥

On #blacklivesmatter.

My heart aches for the Ahmaud Arberys and George Floyds of our society. And as a woman, I ache especially for their mothers, their wives, their sisters, their daughters, and their friends.

I’ve listened over the years, and even over the past weeks, to the different responses of different people, especially believers.

Most, I believe, are angry about these historical injustices against our black brothers and sisters. And rightly so (in my small opinion).

But others dismiss these things. They say they shouldn’t have broken the law, assuming the accusations or suspicions levied against them are true. Others say these societal events are irrelevant to gospel ministry. “Keeping preaching the gospel,” they say, “and let these other things figure themselves out.”

It is for this last group of loved ones that I feel compelled to say the following:

Christians ought to preach the gospel. And Christians ought to speak out (and appropriately act) against societal wrongs. And yes, Christians ought not sin in their response nor encourage others’ sin in response.

But wherever Christians see wrong — personally, socially, systemically, wherever — there is a call to take the real hope of the gospel to a personally, socially, and systemically sin-broken world.

We don’t just preach the gospel from the elevated pulpit (or blog or tweet or Instagram post). We take it down to actual broken homes, to actual broken relationships, to actual broken situations, and to actual scenes of injustice.

We are not the final judges of any given situation, but we can use discernment and stand with the historically oppressed whenever we see overreaches of power and abuse or patterns of racism. We can make our best judgment while keeping our ears open and our hearts humble.

We can cry out and do what we can for societal justice even as we trust that God will ultimately bring holy justice to this world, either through His gospel of grace or through righteous wrath.

The personal, social, and systemic sins of ethnocentrism (or racism) were not weeded out with The Emancipation Proclamation, any Executive Orders, or the Civil Rights Act. Legislation does not change a heart or a society; only the gospel can do that. But that doesn’t mean we preach the words of the gospel and then believe ourselves to be fulfilling God’s command to love Him and our neighbor while also keeping our hands folded back from what might be gospel-fueled action.

Preaching the gospel and mobilizing for societal change and justice do not have to be mutually exclusive. Can we take a step back and acknowledge that it’s outrageous to have to say this? Who made these mutually exclusive? (If ever our enemy had a scheme!) Because from what I see in Scripture, one is the root (the gospel) and the other is a fruit (doing good to and for our neighbor, whether on a personal, social, or systemic level).

Change happens on a personal level as people come to know Christ, but that doesn’t mean that change on a societal and systemic level should be ignored. The societal and systemic cannot reflect true gospel change until personal gospel change happens, but we should uphold the truth and love of God at every level as His salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). We don’t do this because this is trendy but because this is right.

We weep with our black brothers and sisters as they weep, we hurt with them, and we cry out for earthly justice with them while preaching the gospel to them and ourselves.

And continuing on, this next portion is for the same believers but also for those who fall so extremely to the human solutions, social justice camp that they lose sight of the greater spiritual warfare taking place:

We demand change as humans to humans (whether to individuals, government leaders, or those within the justice system), we call out human wrongs where we see them (even in ourselves), and we cry out to God; but we do this remembering that the real enemy of the human race is Satan (and sin and death).

The root issue is not white people versus colored people or black people versus the police. On the surface, it may appear so, but if our hatred and anger fall in any final way on flesh and blood, this hatred and anger is misplaced.

Don’t get me wrong. People do wrong things. They should be called out and, when appropriate, investigated and prosecuted for the wrongs they have done. Under God’s sovereignty, the government bears a sword for this purpose (Romans 13:4). And where the government fails, we trust that vengeance belongs ultimately to God (Romans 12:19).

But when our anger and hatred begin and end with flesh and blood (the racist neighbor, the police, the government, or even the murderer of the oppressed), we’ve zeroed in on the wrong enemy. We have sin to call out in each other, sin to hold each other accountable to, and a Savior to point each other to; but we do this while speaking the truth in love because the real enemy is not the one we can see:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
(Ephesians 6:12)

Be righteously angry. But also submit your notions of justice to God’s real justice, because it may not be the hellfire you desire. It might be mercy. It might be Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).

And to everyone, especially myself:

Remember the gospel. And remember the gospel is the person of Jesus Christ, whose body we are called and called to be. Sign petitions, call your local representative, march, and emotionally but peacefully demonstrate on behalf of our black brothers and sisters equally created in the image of God. Don’t make sweeping judgments of all police or all “white” or all (fill in the blank) as evil and hopeless. Do all for the glory of God.

May God give justice, may God give His comfort to the black community in America, and may God especially give His kindness that leads sinners on every side to repentance.