Tag Archives: Jesus

Silent Night | Seeking the Savior Amid the Noise of Christmas

15 Dec

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Christmas comes the same time each year—but does it always seem to just blaze by at lightning speed and go careening off into January before you get a chance to breathe it in? Perhaps it seems like the more Christmases you experience, the more Christmastime feels like a striving for a feeling—that warm, peaceful feeling you’ve always associated with the birth of Jesus. Yet Christmas comes faster and faster each year, and the feeling you’re so desperate to feel just seems to sweep in and out, muffled by the whirlwind of gifts, lines at the mall and Christmas parties you arrived late for. So you buy tickets to Christmas concerts and holiday expos, penciling in time to get some Christmas in your life before the 25th arrives. But these efforts are in vain. They offer a short flicker of the feeling, but it is quickly snuffed out once you re-enter your life, where the bills are waiting to be paid, dinner is waiting to be made, the dishes are waiting to be washed and, of course, Christmas gifts are waiting to be be bought. Perfect gifts that will make everyone you love feel special and make you look like a thoughtful friend—not like you’re trying too hard or anything, but not like you’re just cheap and in a rush either. It’s a tough balance to master.

Before you know it, it’s New Years Day and you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to take down the lights, when to disassemble the tree, where in the world you’re going to put all the new stuff you got, and when you’re going to have a few free hours to go back to the dreaded shopping center to make your returns and exchanges. Maybe you feel a bit of remorse for never really obtaining the feeling, but it’s not something you can dwell on. It’s a new year—you’ve got to try to make some feasibly obtainable resolutions, lose that holiday weight and get on with life. You made it through the season, though, and maybe things will be better next year when your life is a little more together.

But we all know that won’t be the case. Life is unpredictable. New seasons bring with them new joys and sorrows, and by the time Christmas rolls around again who knows what your laundry list of things keeping you busy will look like?

The trick isn’t to put the joy and peace of Christmastime on the back burner until all of your duties are accomplished. You can’t push the manger aside until you feel like you’ve done enough to rest in the promises of a silent night. There will always be more to do. Consumerism and our own self-induced societal expectations do an excellent job of drowning out the cries of the newborn king with the ringing of jingle bells and the stampeding of shoppers. The peace of Jesus is unlikely to be found amid such madness. Expecting that Christmas feeling to overwhelm you while you’re caught in life-altering traffic trying to get out of a packed-out parking lot is naive at best.

Jesus made his entrance into the world quietly and discreetly. The greatest gift ever given was given on a silent night two thousand years ago, in a barn, to an audience of poor shepherds. 

Try to bask in that simplicity for just a moment. The God who gave us that gift is not a God of grandiose, complicated expectations. He is a God who had every ability to give this gift in an elaborate, over-the-top experience for the whole world to see, but instead He sent his son to a little-known couple traveling to their hometown by donkey. The gift was delivered in the deep stillness of a silent night. Even the grandest part of the story, the choir of angels declaring his birth, was only revealed to a group of shepherds watching their flock in the night.

The promise of Christmas is the same today. It can’t be achieved by constant striving for more Christmasy experiences. It can’t be put off until a more convenient time comes around. It is here, now, in the stillness of a quiet and receptive heart. It is here when you allow it to bubble up inside of you until it spills over into everything you touch. It’s here when you slow down, give up your striving and simply ask for Jesus to meet you in this place at this time.

He’s waiting for you to wait for Him—expectantly, joyfully, with all the hope and anticipation of that first Christmas.

Wait for him in these last few days of Advent. Allow him to join you in your waiting, to point your heart in the direction of the stable. Let him show you the beauty of his gift—the only gift that really matters when the blur of December fades and gives way to the new year. Be still and receive it.

Rambling of the Day: Why Phil Robertson deserves his suspension from A&E

20 Dec

Phil Robertson

I really was going to stay away from this topic, as I don’t even watch or care about “Duck Dynasty,” but as usual, I have an opinion burning a hole in my brain so here goes.

Here’s one of the statements that’s gotten Phil Robertson, the no-nonsense, self-proclaimed Bible-thumping star of “Duck Dynasty,” into trouble with A&E:

“‘Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,’ he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: ‘Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.’” Phil Robertson, quoted by Drew Magary, GQ Magazine

Alright, alright, let’s all settle back down into our seats and take a deep breath. I’ve done the article about how Christians need to change their mindsets about gay people, and you can read that here if you’d like, so I’m not going to reiterate all that information here. I’m just going to look at this at first from A&E’s perspective as a for-profit business, and then from the viewpoint of a Christian looking at this situation from the outside (as I said, I’m not a fan of the show nor do I know anything about the stars beyond what I read in mainstream news).

The statement released by A&E Wednesday says, “His [Robertson’s] personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supports and champions of the LGBT community.”

Honestly… I don’t see why people are surprised or somehow offended by A&E’s decision. It’s their network, their image and their reputation that’s at stake if they continue to have an affiliation with someone who expresses “anti-gay” sentiments (whether Robertson’s statements are actually anti-gay or just the ranting of someone too ignorant or thoughtless to know better is left up to interpretation).

If A&E has a legitimate issue with the things said by Robertson, then they have every right to suspend him from the show on their network. Because of the show’s popularity, it’s not like this is some kind of profit-making move on their part. They’ll probably lose a good amount of viewers to outrage over the decision. However, it’s their choice to make as a network, and therefore there’s really no good reason to be incensed by their choice. (And really, if you think this guy’s career is over just because one network suspended him, get real. This show is hugely popular and someone else is bound to scoop him up.)

I’ve heard a lot of chatter about how this is all an infringement on freedom of expression, but I find that ridiculous. Robertson is free to make any kind of comments he wants, unless they directly affect national security or the welfare of society. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t real-world consequences for publicly expressing a controversial opinion when you are employed by a company that doesn’t want to be affiliated with that opinion.

So for example, I work for a magazine that is not affiliated with any particular religion or religious organization. They do their best to appeal to everyone regardless of their religious beliefs. So if for some reason I decided to go on a rant about how horrible Jewish people are, and for some reason I decided to do this very openly in a publication I knew my employers at the magazine were sure to read, it is very likely I would lose my job over it. Oh, and I would deserve it. Because it doesn’t matter if I hate Jewish people (I don’t, by the way. This is an example.). Just because I have that opinion doesn’t mean that expressing it publicly—especially in a purposely degrading and lewd manner—isn’t going to cost me my career. It would, and there’s nothing about that fact that infringes upon my freedom of speech. Just because you have the right to say something does not mean that you should. You have to have the discretion to know when you’re crossing a line that might interfere with your professional life.

Moving beyond the freedom of speech argument though—the comments Robertson made are not exactly the shining beacon of Christian love and principle that some people are insinuating they are. The problem is not necessarily that Robertson believes homosexuality is a sin (read that other blog post if you want to read my opinion on that), but it’s the way in which he addresses it that I take issue with.

First of all, Robertson is not a psychologist. He has no evidence whatsoever that homosexuality “morphs out” into things like beastiality and sleeping around with tons of people. And even if he were a psychologist, that evidence does not exist. Being gay doesn’t inherently make you a slut, just as being straight doesn’t inherently make you a devoted partner (I think the divorce rate in this country can attest to that flawed logic). It’s insulting, cruel and just purely ignorant to say this of people who Robertson claims, in later statements, to love and not judge.

Another statement Robertson makes in the GQ story is this:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

Oh, okay, so homosexuality is not “logical.” I don’t suppose Robertson would see anything “illogical” about his heterosexual orientation. That’s right, he wouldn’t, because that’s something that’s ingrained within him, so strongly it may as well be DNA. He feels so strongly that heterosexual sex is the only way to go that it’s like second nature to him. Congratulations, Mr. Robertson, you’ve found the secret to human sexuality—it’s second nature, it’s a vital essence of who we are, it’s so much of our identity that we can’t be separated from it. So how do you think a gay person feels when you say that his instinct not to have heterosexual relationships is “illogical”? Probably like he’s somehow less than human than you are. This is why that old ridiculous “love the sinner, hate the sin” adage has just become an eye-roller to the gay community. They don’t want or need that pity-inducing sentiment. And the idea that Robertson can go from making that degrading and unfounded assumption and then go on to say “I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me” is totally hypocritical.

Now, I’m going to let up on Robertson for a minute here to say that I don’t know what’s in his heart. Maybe he just had a moment and didn’t think about the implications of what he was actually saying and how hurtful his words would be to the gay community. And perhaps he really isn’t a judgmental person (although it’s hard to believe considering what he said). But even if he’s actually a great Christian guy, making statements like these that come off as purposely demeaning to gays and in no way show the love of Jesus only does a disservice to the Christian community.

Christians get enough of a hard time that we don’t need people claiming ridiculous things in the name of our Creator that, very simply, Jesus would never have said. Disagree with me? Come on now. Quite frankly, Jesus was never sarcastic, degrading or cruel when he spoke to the broken people he chose as his followers, nor was he condescending to the hurting people who came to him for healing. He would never have said, “Hey, why do you like ass? Vagina is better.” No—Jesus stared in the face of Pharisees who tried to call him out for eating with “tax collectors and sinners,” telling them, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

A conservative Christian’s unconventional approach to gay rights

28 Mar
Photo by Doug Wheller via Flickr

Photo by Doug Wheller via Flickr

Yeah, right, you scoff as you read this headline. There’s nothing unconventional about that. I know exactly what she’s going to say.

My liberal friend, I hope to prove you wrong.

Oh, goody, you say, as your Google search of “Christian arguments against gay marriage” somehow brought you to this blog, and now you’re wondering if I intentionally tagged this blog post wrong to trick you into coming here.

My homophobic Christian friend, I hope to speak to your heart.

This week is tantamount in the history of gay rights. The Supreme Court is hearing cases that could potentially change the course of history and the lives of gay people around the country.

And tomorrow is Good Friday – a day when I am reminded of the most incredible act of grace and compassion that has ever, and will ever, be extended to me. Through a sacrifice incomprehensible to the human mind, a scandal of unmatched proportion, a man who knew no sin endured the harshest brutality his society could issue in order to pardon the sins of his beloved people. This was compassion. This was Jesus’ message.

It’s a message Christians are called to extend to others. An undeserved extension of grace and compassion is to be our signature characteristic, setting us apart from the culture of selfishness and greed around us. But is this the message we’re sending to the gay community during this tumultuous time in their cultural history? Most importantly, if Jesus had instead come at this time and place, what would He be doing right now?

I am increasingly more disturbed listening to my favorite talk radio programs and watching my conservative representatives on TV using phraseology like, “Forcing their lifestyle on the rest of us,” “It’s their choice,” “That perversion,” “Imagine putting kids in that kind of environment.” Such commentary has overridden HIS phraseology – “Beloved, let us love one another,” “Let all that you do be done in love,” “See to it that no one misses the grace of God” – and ultimately: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Where is our compassion? Where is our grace? Where is the unconditional love we are to extend, from the grace and love we have been so undeservedly given?

We will never be anything more to the gay community than Bible-bashing rednecks if we can’t get around our severe case of homophobia that we try to play off as simply following our Biblical principles. We will never shed the stereotype of hypocrisy that shrouds the church, the “religious right” and Christian conservatives.

The saddest part about this for me is that between all the bickering, the noisemaking, the slander and the name calling, the most important element of the argument is lost in the melee – the person. The person who we are called to love, to show compassion to and extend grace to. Not the gay person. Not the person with the perversion so much more severe than the log in your own eye. Not the person unredeemable by God because of a somehow special sin that inherently renders him too far from grace to be saved. Get that person out of your head. I’m talking about the person whom God loves with a love so passionate that He sent the same Son to redeem him as He sent to redeem your perfect, sinless ass.

Let me be straight (pun… intended. Get over it.) I believe in the Bible as God’s truth and the ultimate authority in my life. I’m not saying the Bible says homosexual behaviors and the gay lifestyle are right. However, I’m removing myself from that argument right now to focus on something I wholeheartedly believe is more important than explaining to gay people why their lifestyle is or is not right. Why? Because in my Bible, Jesus explains to us what is most important. I don’t know if you caught that or not, but let me refresh your memory if you’ve forgotten. The Pharisees (these guys basically represent everything that was wrong with followers of God back in the day… aka we’re supposed to try not to resemble them. Just a thought.) try to trick Jesus into saying one of God’s laws is more important than the others by asking Him which of the Ten Commandments is the greatest. These guys can’t fathom how Jesus will get around this question, because all they know is law. They really think this is their “gotcha” moment… sound familiar? But Jesus blows them away, saying,

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

Get the point? The point is love. Love God and love others. Show compassion, show mercy, extend grace. Don’t stand outside the Supreme Court with a sign that says, “I SUPPORT TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE.” Even if you do. That’s not demonstrating love. Let the court do what it will. Give to Caesar what’s Caesar’s. Your job is to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Do you think Jesus would be protesting outside the Supreme Court? I have a feeling he’d be elsewhere – breaking bread, washing feet and speaking healing into people’s lives.

Thanks to my incredible life group at Greenbrier Church, my best friend, and Andrew Marin’s book Love is an Orientation for inspiring this post.

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