Where I Stand

Where I Stand

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:14-21

Over the past several months I’ve been assigned many titles. I’ve been called a Marxist, a baby murderer, a libitard, and my favorite…a racist. While many of these summary slurs are recent terms popularized and used by conservative church members, some, such as baby murderer and libitard have become commonplace by the conservative echo chamber over the years.

One of the most disappointing situations I’ve encountered from the Church is the assertion that the discussion of my personal experiences are political statements because my family members are black. This desire to control the narrative and negate actual experiences is spiritual abuse.

I’ve never declared allegiance to a political party and refuse to allow myself to be pressured by those who claim real devotion to God is determined by voting a certain way. However, the quickest way to lose my vote and my loyalty is consistently revealing character traits contrary to Scripture. When it comes to politics I strive never to be a nationalist.

“Nationalism is an ideology that emphasizes loyalty, devotion, or allegiance to a nation or nation-state and holds that such obligations outweigh other individual or group interests.”

Definition of Nationalism

I’m Growing and Learning

My convictions are shaped by my faith first. As a Christian, I’m called to value the lives of immigrants, minorities, and the unborn equally. These lives are all image-bearers of God. I’m called to be salt and light to a dark and dull world. I am called to seek and save the lost and to make disciples. While this may seem like a heavy and overwhelming calling, Jesus was clear with the disciples that the actions are simple. Love your neighbors. Love your enemies. Serve humbly. Thankfully, resources such as “For the Health of a Nation” exist to help guide me where former mentors fail.

I’ve learned through the years that I must always cautiously filter every view through my theology. This is especially true of politics. Without this boundary, I run the risk of creating worldly idols out of political affiliations and developing a level of nationalistic thinking such as the one I encountered. I refuse to reduce anyone to a singular assumption. However, that is the norm these days and now it’s time to remove the ambiguity where others have filled in blanks rather than leaving space for nuance.

Where I Stand with the Distinction Between Believers and Unbelievers

Jesus warns us that not everyone will enter heaven. Even those who do good things in his name will be sent away for eternity. As a believer, I cannot think of a more heartbreaking scenario than to spend eternity in hell having thought I was doing the things I needed to do to get into heaven.

Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that to be separate from God for eternity is a tragic unlike anything we can experience on earth.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Matthew 7:21-23

As believers, we are called to be the salt and light to a dull and dark world. Matthew 28:18-20 says, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'”

With these thoughts in mind, I am always saddened by non-believers’ decision to deny Christ. While their sinful choices may frustrate me at times, I don’t expect anything less. Their morality is measured by a different compass than that of one who says they follow Jesus.

In 1 Corintians 5:1-13 Paul addresses this with The Church members:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.  And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?  For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this.  So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present,  hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—  not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

1 Corinthians 5:1-13 NIV

Jesus didn’t withhold his criticism of religious leaders and neither do I. Jesus is clear that hypocrites were not tolerated. Matthew 23:13 says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

Today it is believers who enable unbelievers to thrive in their sinful ways sometimes even joining in and paving the way for additional sins that are more commonplace than The Church is willing to admit. These Jesus followers dishonor God and the Church and when they aren’t held accountable for their poor choices they impede all believer’s opportunities to build bridges of trust with unbelievers.

Of course, it would be arrogant to look at others without first admitting my own imperfections. I fail every day. I am a sinner in need of accountability, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Thankfully, I am not an island.

Where I Stand with The Church

I have a deeper appreciation for The Church today than I’ve had in many years. This is because we attend a church that strives to reflect Christ even when it means saying and doing difficult things.

Their posture is always one of humility, and they aren’t afraid to admit when they need to adjust something because it’s not quite working the way they thought it would. I’m grateful for the leadership’s commitment to value and steward everyone’s gifts and talents in ways that glorify God. One common phrase heard around our church is “There’s no junior Holy Spirit.” Our church engages our youth in prayer, discipleship, and worship and I’m so grateful for the ways they train up the youth and adults.

We learn about all of God’s character when we allow ourselves to learn humbly in community and listen to others as well as willingly contribute.

Because The Church is so important for growth and accountability I hold it, leaders, and believers to the standard of Scripture and I expect in return to be held to the same standard.

Where I Stand with Personal Callings

Everyone has specific things God is calling them to do. There are some things that all Christians are accountable for, like reflecting God’s love, and then there are areas that we will have personal convictions about where we may be called to step up and lead in partnership with God. Callings are individual and we can’t expect everyone to understand our callings or to join us in our pursuits.

You can learn about my calling here. You can learn about my conviction regarding one specific area of raising our sons here. My calling and conviction have recently combined in an area that has upset some and led many more to feel supported in areas where they have previously felt very isolated. I don’t claim to have perfected my response to biblical justice, however, I strive to stay in a posture of listening and learning, and my goal is always to ask what God says about something before settling on an opinion. I do not seek out opinions on something until I find people who agree with my preconceived stances. Rather, I seek out those who are living examples of the scenarios and listen to their experiences, needs, and wants. Jesus didn’t sit with the Pharisees and tell the poor how to live their lives. He lived with the poor, healing them, eating at their tables, and sleeping in their homes. He loved them. Then when they asked their friend the teach them, he did so.

Where I Stand with Biblical Justice

Tim Keller has written a 4 article series titled Justice in the Bible. I’ve pulled several paragraphs below that summarize the areas where I believe his explanations are far superior to anything I could present.

Only biblical justice is comprehensive enough to address the needs of the human condition. 

Tim Keller

Biblical justice is radical generosity. While secular individualism says that your money belongs to you, and socialism says your money belongs to the State, the Bible says that all your money belongs to God, who then entrusts it to you (1 Chronicles 29:4; 1 Corinthians 4:7). In Luke 16:1-16, Jesus calls us to be wise stewards of our wealth. A steward was the manager of an estate under its owner, making him both a master and yet a servant. So our wealth belongs to us and yet does not belong to us.

Biblical justice is universal equality. Biblical justice requires that every person be treated according to the same standards and with the same respect, regardless of class, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or of any other social category. Leviticus 19:15 says: “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness (sedeqah) shall you judge your neighbor.” Deuteronomy 16:19 says: “You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous (sedeqah).”

Biblical justice is significant, life-changing advocacy for the poor. Psalm 41:1 says, “Blessed is the one who gives active consideration to the weak and the poor.” [27] The word translated “consideration” means believers are to pay close attention to the weak and the poor, seeking to understand the causes of their condition, and to spend significant time and energy to changing their life situation. [28] “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern” (Proverbs 29:7).

While we are to treat all equally, and not show partiality to any (Leviticus 19:15), we are to have special concern for the poor, the weak, and the powerless. Proverbs 31:8-9 says “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves… Defend the rights (sadeqah) of the poor and needy.” Is this a contradiction? No. The Bible doesn’t say “Speak up for the rich and powerful.” It does not mean that the powerful are less important as persons before God. They certainly are. But they don’t need you to speak up for them. However, the poor do need you. 

Corporate responsibility is at the very heart of the Bible and the gospel. We can only be saved because Jesus was punished for our sins, sins he did not commit (Romans 5:12ff; 1 Corinthians 15:21-23; 2 Corinthians 5:21). But how is that possible? It is because faith and the Spirit of God create a union between us and Jesus. Corporate responsibility depends on the kinds of bonds and unions that human beings have in community.

So how do corporate and individual responsibility relate to each other?

The answer is that there is an asymmetrical relationship between them, with the individual responsibility being the strongest. For example, leaders should feel responsibility for wrongs done by others under their authority that they themselves did not do. And yet, individuals actually committing those wrongs always bear the greatest responsibility.

Where I Stand with Loving Others

While The Church fights over the value of life whether born, unborn, black, American, immigrant, legal, DACA, blue, or otherwise the truth is the answer is nuanced and most bury their head in the sand so as to care most about themselves without burdening their hearts.

 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.  If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. 

John 15:9-14

It’s easier to stand from afar and judge those who we believe are making “the wrong” decisions than to wade into the complicated truth that we can’t control other adult’s decisions.

Since the Lent Season God has drawn my attention repeatedly to the passages of Scripture that command us to love God and to love our neighbors. The call to value all those created in God’s image has been Israelite law since their time in the wilderness and continues even today under the new covenant.

“‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.'” Leviticus 19:18-19

John 13:34-35 “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

We cannot control the thoughts, emotions, or choices of other humans. Any attempt to do so would be done in vain with techniques abhorrently opposed to God’s call for loving that which he created in his image.

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:31-40

The one things we can always do to glorify God is love our neighbor.

I hope this clarifies a few key points. If you’re interested in learning more about why I believe what I do check out my book Lessons from the Sidelines.

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