Re-Imagining “Us” and “Not-Us” (Part 1)

There’s been a lot of ugliness in the past couple of weeks. But I believe that God brings beauty out of the ugly. Even when it feels like the walls are closing in and the ugly is smearing everything I hold dear—I’ve staked my life on the belief that the beauty God brings is more convincing than the ugly that soils.

What strikes me most about the ugly conversation swirling around the Syrian refugee crisis is how incredibly clear we’ve drawn the lines between “Us” and “Not-Us.”

What strikes me most about the beauty of the gospel is how completely it blurs the lines between “Us” and “Not-Us.”

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The victims of ISIS need more than #prayforParis (and Beirut, Kenya, etc).

They need us to #prayAND.

Let us be clear: #prayforParis and French flags over profile pictures are good first steps–we cannot underestimate the value of standing with and for the victims. But let’s be equally clear on this point: empathy left on its own soon withers into mere pity. Also, please don’t hear me saying that prayer isn’t of huge value; God clearly calls us to pray.

But here is a truth we must live out: people of faith have always begun with prayer, but true people of faith never stop at prayer.

There are so many victims that its hard to know where to start. But since we have to start somewhere, my family and I have started with some of the victims who have born the brunt of the evil of ISIS.

Syrian refugees would give everything to be as safe as the people of Paris were the night of Nov 13th.

Let that sink in.

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ISIS is telling a story. And so are we.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

ISIS is telling the world a story. It’s a terrifying story, full of hatred and murder, and ends with war. In their story, they are called by God to initiate the apocalypse, from which they  will emerge victorious.

Because of this, ISIS communicates exclusively in terms of fear, anger, and suspicion. These are central themes to their story; without them, they have no story to tell.

I believe we have a better story to tell.

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Re-imagining Church

I believe in reimagining the church.

Which isn’t really a controversial thing to say; it’s actually normal to the point of being routine. People who reimagine today might consider themselves progressive or cutting edge, but are bound for disappointment when they discover that they’re late to the party–by a couple thousand years.

The church has always reimagined herself. Church as we’ve inherited her has been reimagined so many times that today’s Western church would be unrecognizable in many ways to the first Christians. Here’s just a handful of things the first Christians wouldn’t have recognized (and aren’t found in the New Testament):

  • senior pastors
  • church buildings
  • church membership
  • youth group and Sunday School
  • the phrase “a personal relationship with Jesus”
  • worship services without the Eucharist/communion
  • the Eucharist/communion without a meal
  • unbaptized Christians (who were not planning on being baptized)
  • 501c3 non-profit status, tax exemption, incorporating with state government

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The most excellent way

I will show you the most excellent way.

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them on Facebook or Twitter; pray that God will bless them. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. 

Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with generosity.

Love everyone who is opposed to what you believe! Pray for those who take away your rights!  If you love only those who agree with you, what reward is there for that? Anybody can do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? 

But if you try that, and you still suffer for doing good, don’t worry–God is pleased with you.

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.

So don’t worry or be afraid of threats. Instead, worship Christ as Lord of your life.

In fact, it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Instead of being angry, praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, just keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.

Never forget that God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

Oh yeah, one last thing–you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

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Jesus loves the people of Planned Parenthood

“I would say, it’s anywhere from $30 to $100… per specimen. A lot of people are looking for hearts these days. …Some people want lower extremities too, which, that’s simple. I mean, that’s easy. I don’t know what they’re going to do with it. I guess they want muscle.” –Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Planned Parenthood’s Medical Services Department

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies!” –Jesus

“We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.” –Dr. Deborah Nucatola

If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?” –Jesus

Jesus loves Dr. Deborah Nucatola just as much as he loves the babies she so causally discusses. Continue reading

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What if?

  1. What if “same-sex marriage”  didn’t make us think about gays or lesbians, but instead about people we know and love?
  2. What if we talked with the LGBT community instead of about the LGBT community?
  3. What if everyone agreed to not say anything about same-sex marriage until someone they love is in a committed, same-sex relationship?
  4. What if people in the church understood that same-sex marriage isn’t a “they” issue, but a “we” issue?
  5. What if when elder boards prayed about including gay people in their churches, gay Christians had a seat at the table?
  6. What if we sought to understand as much as we seek to be understood?
  7. What if same-sex marriage wasn’t about someone else’s kids, but about our own?
  8. What if pastors listened as much as they preached?
  9. What if instead of saying “love the sinner, hate the sin” we loved the sinner and hated our own sin?
  10. What if we extended as much grace to the LGBT community as we do to the greedy people in our community? (1 Cor 6:9; Eph 5:5)
  11. What if Christian wedding vendors refused to provide flowers, cakes, photography, etc to extravagant weddings, citing their Christian beliefs against greed and idolatry?
  12. What if we talked more about suffering for the gospel than about preserving our rights?
  13. What if we grappled with loving the person in front of us as much as we grappled with interpreting the verses on the page?
  14. What if mercy triumphs over judgement?


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