Tag Archives: humility

Hypocrisy of Language: “Homosexuality is a sin.”

In Genesis 1 God speaks the whole universe into creation. In John 1 those words become living, breathing, human flesh and live among us as a man named Jesus of Nazareth.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… the Word became flesh and lived among us…” (John 1).

All four gospels are filled with people worshipping Jesus “The Word” Christ. Philippians, though, tells us that Jesus had a very different view of himself.

“Though he was in the form of God, (Jesus) did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.” Colossians reminds us that in Jesus the whole fullness of God dwells, but he never used this to his advantage.

One such example of this is in John 8; Jesus refuses his God given power of judgement to condemn a woman caught in adultery.

Philippians extends this refusal of power to us saying, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility regard others better than yourselves.”

Which brings me back to the title of this post and why it is hypocritical to voice that homosexuality is a sin… because whether you believe that being gay is a sin or not; saying so is a sin itself.

In the verse from Philippians ‘vain conceit,’ is better explained as, ‘pride that produces no results.’

Again, we go to John 8 when Jesus is confronted in the city temple by a group of men dragging along the woman caught in adultery, they ask him whether or not to kill her according to Moses’ law.

We already know that Jesus doesn’t condemn her, but his full response is, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Jesus does not tell us to, “Love the sinner, and hate the sin.”

Rather, Jesus encourages us to, “Love the sinner, and hate our OWN sin.”

Jesus knows that condemnation does not produce results (it doesn’t show the love of God); which is vanity. Jesus also knows that all condemnation does is stroke our own ego; which is conceited.

Whether or not you believe being gay is a sin, saying it out loud has never caused someone to become a Christian or feel loved by you, by God, or anyone else that is connected to you or your God (read: useless). That’s vanity.

The only effect of saying that homosexuality is a sin is to convince yourself that you are somehow better than someone else or that you are mistakenly doing God’s work by calling out sins in the world… that’s conceited.

Saying things that alienate others while making ourselves feel better is the very definition of selfish ambition. It also doesn’t show an attitude of considering others better than ourselves.

If you are somebody who believes with me that Jesus is the son of God and as such carries the very fullness of God; then you either need to stop using that as an excuse for your words of pride and selfish ambition (because Jesus doesn’t agree with you) or stop speaking words of condemnation and alienation.

Christianity is not about making personal beliefs known and forcing others to live by them regardless of the consequences; it is about humility and looking out for the interests of others ESPECIALLY when we carry the power to do so (Philippians 2:1-11).

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Lies my BIBLE teacher taught me: Blame Others

In the field of psychology there is what is known as self serving bias. Self serving bias leads us to believe that good things in life are our own doing and the bad is because of people and things outside of our control.

For example, the good, “I got a raise because I’m so hardworking and dedicated,” versus the bad, “I got fired because the boss hates me.”

See the difference?

My actions are responsible for causing the good, my boss’ preference is to blame for the bad.

There is also what is called the fundamental attribution error. This is essentially the same thing, but reversed and pinned on someone else.

For example, “He got a promotion because he went to the same school as the boss,” versus the opposite, “He got fired because he is always late and messing things up.”

While the Church isn’t the group that created this bias, it also isn’t doing anything to stop it. In fact, most churches seem to do a great deal (subconsciously, I’m sure) of spreading it.

When someone outside the church sins we love to point the finger at all the things they do wrong as an explanation, “He doesn’t pray enough, she doesn’t read her Bible, he doesn’t come to church, she really isn’t a believer, he needs to grow up, she just needs to make better choices,” etc. etc.

However, when we find ourselves chin deep in sin we’ve been taught to use Romans 7 to explain that it’s the sin inside of us and not our own fault.

Really..!?

Actually, I agree with that.

What I don’t agree with is when we flip it around on members of our own body and on to non-Christians, as well. If we really are to own that we believe the best of ourselves, then we must also believe the best of others.

Plenty of studies have been done on “Teacher Expectations” for behavior and academic achievement. When others believe in you, you perform your best. When other don’t believe in you, you perform poorly.

How much better would our world be if we believed the best of each other, rather than the worst?

How much better would our world be if we used our religion to love and pray for our enemies, rather than condemning them?

How much better would our world be if our Church actually looked like Christ?

Research says… a lot. Church, it’s time to step up, take responsibility for our own actions, and give others the encouragement to be the best they can be. Stop with the, “Love the sinner hate the sin,” and start with the “Love the sinner, hate my OWN sin.”

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Lies my BIBLE teacher taught me,” is a series of posts about general statements that have been emphasized by the prevalent attitudes and beliefs of Western Christianity. It is NOT a list of doctrinal statements that the Church is or was teaching at any point in time.

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Prosperity Gospel or Joyful Living?

There is no doubt that God wishes for the fullness of joy in our lives (John 15:11). The question that comes next is how are we to obtain that joy? If we keep Jesus’ commandments are we really more blessed or joyful? Does God love the people who follow the rules more than he loves the people who don’t? Is it OUR responsibility to increase or decrease God’s presence in our lives?

To answer these questions and more here are two ways of looking at it.

The ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is…

… a Christian doctrine that teaches us if we believe in God and follow God’s commands, then we will be made healthy, wealthy, and wise.

In this belief structure we are told that in order for God to “bless” us with the things we desire we must first follow the commands in the Bible; specifically, giving money to the church.

However, there are MANY versions of this religious attitude. For example, ideas that people who go to church every Sunday, pray everyday, sing the loudest, commit the least amount of sins, etc… are more connected, hear more clearly, or are “blessed” by God more than people who do not do those things.

The problem with this sort of belief is that it backhandedly supports the idea that if you AREN’T blessed with a healthy family, or a well paying job, or intimate interactions with God that either (a) you are doing something wrong or (b) you don’t love God as much as you say you do.

This belief is unbiblical and does not align with what Jesus taught us. For THAT reason, we must conclude that the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is disconnected from the Christian Gospel, what Christ has taught us.

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

The poor are not poor because of their sin, the sick are not sick because of their sin, and those who don’t see or hear God clearly are not that way because of their sin. Likewise, the rich, healthy, and ‘Godly’ are not that way because of their righteousness, love of God, or their ability to follow 2,000+ year old rules. That much is clear.

Now, if following God does not GIVE us more or MAKE us more blessed, then what’s the point?

(What I call) ‘Joyful Living’ is…

…believing in God, following God’s commands, and doing so joyfully regardless of earthly circumstance.

The point of living joyfully is to fight our natural self-attribution error (the idea that all good things are because of ourselves and all the bad things in our life are other people’s faults). Joyful living recognizes that ‘all good things are from God’ (James 1:17) and that the negative things in life are a result of sin (Romans 7:16-17).

The Bible is clear that we are born with the very image and breath of God (Genesis 1:26, Job 33:4). When we come into this world God is as much a part of us as our heart and lungs. We cannot make our lungs pump blood, we cannot make our heart breathe air, and we cannot make God bless us in ways that he does not choose to.

If you think that you have ANY control over whether or not God blesses you look to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 for clarification.

He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

God does not play favorites when it comes to passing out ‘blessings’ (Matthew 20: 1-16). So again I ask, what is the point of obeying God if it is not directly related to what we receive from him?

The answer is joyful living.

Even if we cannot coerce our heart and lungs to do more than they were made to do, we can surely exercise and make them more efficient at what they were made to do.

As we follow God’s commands we can exercise his presence and know him more. As we grow in our understanding of who God is we will naturally have our eyes opened to, develop gratitude for, and become joyful over the blessings already in our lives.

Long story short, the Prosperity Gospel tells us to obey God and God will give us things that we want; Joyful Living tells us to know God and we will develop an appreciation for what we have already been blessed with.

Let me end with one final question, do you think we will receive the fullness of the joy of the Lord that Jesus speaks about in John 15 from things that we want or from things God has already blessed us with?

Let’s go on and live our best life now… with what we already have!

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Easter, Boston, and Beautiful Things

I’ve never quite understood James 1:22-24.

Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

I suppose it could be attributed to the fact that for so long I had been taught that “the word” told us all the things we weren’t supposed to do…

  1. Don’t drink
  2. Don’t smoke
  3. Don’t have premarital sex
  4. Don’t vote Democrat
  5. Don’t cuss
  6. Don’t disobey your parents

…and so on, and so on.

As life has gone on I’m realizing that God cares a lot more about encouraging us to do good things that build the Kingdom up, rather than punishing us for doing bad things. As far as I’m concerned, this is humanity’s next step in becoming more “Christ-like.”

After “turning off” Christian radio for the better part of the last 7 years I was surprised to hear Michael Gungor’s song “Beautiful Things” on one of the local stations while I was flipping through. On top of that, I was surprised to hear more and more Christians talk about how they like that song of his (secretly I was wondering if they listen to any of his other music).

I think people are obviously drawn to that song because it allows us to believe the best about ourselves. It allows us to, in our self pity and self loathing, sing about the hope that we will one day achieve something worth calling beautiful. Essentially it is a song that let’s us focus on our need for forgiveness.

Forgiveness from God, from each other, and from ourselves.

What’s funny to me (in a sad way) is that we (as Christians) are so quick to claim forgiveness for ourselves, but are so unwilling to spread that forgiveness to others.

In a country that is over 70% populated by Christians I can’t understand our government’s decisions to take military action against other countries. The man we worship taught us to put away our swords, turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, and to love and pray for our enemies… not persecute them.

In a country that is over 70% populated by Christians it is incredible that the death penalty even still exists! The man we worship was, by our account, executed on wrongful charges. Now WE are the ones shouting “CRUCIFY!”

In every Christian church around the country, we read about, accept, and praise Jesus for his words, “Forgive them, Father, they do not know what they are doing.” Then, like Pilate, we ‘wash our hands’ of the problems the opposing political party is creating; blaming them and doing nothing to move towards forgiveness and understanding.

In the book unChristian, David Kinnaman makes the assertion that Christians are becoming known for being hypocritical, insensitive, and judgmental. Being seen in this way, to me, means we have failed the test of being a religion based on forgiveness.

This religion of forgiveness is exactly what James is advocating for if we only read verse 21 just before the passage I shared earlier…

…welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

The only words that have the power to save our souls are words of forgiveness. When we beat our chest at the altar asking God to forgive us on Sunday, then call the guy who cuts us off in traffic an “idiot” on Monday, we have looked in a mirror and forgotten what we look like.

We are better than that, and I am happy to share this article talking about all the people already praying for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev; the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing. While it is much more difficult to forgive him, it is the only way that we will look more like Christ.

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Equality is at the heart of achieving peace

“Only a peace between equals can last. Only a peace the very principle of which is equality and a common participation in a common benefit.”

-Woodrow Wilson

The Bible tells us of a God who acknowledges, believes, and engages in this form of equality to achieve peace.

Genesis tells the story of a God who walked among humanity, in peace, as their equal. Well, that was, until humanity was convinced that the relationship was one sided. As the story goes, Adam and Eve were convinced that God was superior to them and instead of enjoying the fact that God would choose to be more like them, they took action to make themselves more like God.

The repercussions of this story have been reverberating throughout history ever since. Humans are STILL trying to make themselves more like God, despite God’s efforts to meet us on our own level.

The gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) tell us the story of a God who took love and peace so seriously that he renounced his own divinity, his God-like qualities, and took the form of a human being; but not just any human being… NO! He took the form of a poor, homeless, no-good, hick-town, Jewish boy who’s mother was an unmarried fourteen year old girl that gave birth in a barn. That means blood, guts, cow shit… the whole nine yards.

The ultimate Creator of the universe. The Almighty. The Alpha and Omega. The All Powerful…

…gave it up and became flesh and bone. Became breakable. Became poor. Died. To achieve peace.

Humility is the cost of peace. The strong must become weak. The proud must be humbled. The rich must become poor.

It applies to humanity. We are to follow in God’s footsteps. The example that Jesus Christ has given us for achieving peace is the path of love. As a nation, as a state, as a community, and as individuals we must break and humble ourselves if we truly wish to achieve peace.

The United States must relinquish it’s military and nuclear power, not make it larger, to achieve peace.

Each state must patiently endure lost autonomy, not fight at any perceived slight, to achieve unity.

Every community must consider others better than themselves, not vice versa, to achieve completeness.

And every individual must spend as much time, money, and energy giving rather than taking, to achieve harmony.

Shalom does not simply mean peace. Shalom means peace, completeness, well-being, right-living, harmony, and unity.

Shalom is when everyone prospers.

Politically, parties would have you believe efforts focused on helping one group or another will lead to benefits to all groups, but even that hinges on the belief that the one group being blessed will in turn bless the others. What we, our communities, our states, our nation, and our world need is more humility.

Humility of the rich to choose less money so others can have more. The humility of the strong to choose not to oppress the weak. The humility of the wise not to abuse the foolish.

We must follow the example given to us and choose humility for the sake of equality and to bring about peace.

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Christ cannot be removed from Christmas…

This “movement” (if you can even call it that) is absolutely ridiculous.

First of all, Christians, you cannot take ‘Christ’ out of ‘Christmas.’ The word cannot be spelled without it. If you were to take ‘Christ’ out of ‘Christmas’ you would be left with mas. Coincidentally, mas means more in Spanish; which is exactly the amount of money we spend on ourselves, our friends, and our families rather than on the poor in the streets (something Christ advocated for).

I believe Jesus exact words were, “When you host a feast do not invite your friends or family or even your rich neighbors because they might invite you back and you will be repaid. Instead invite the poor, the homeless, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed.”

If you really want to keep Christ in Christmas, maybe you should do what he said and stop buying presents for your friends and families and wondering why the checkout counter at Target can’t just say “Merry Christmas.”

Also, if you are upset because December is a STRICTLY Christian season used for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ… think again. Scholars and historians agree that Jesus ACTUAL birth took place in our current spring time. The reason we celebrate his birth in December is because Constantine moved the date when he instituted Christianity as the national religion in order to cover up the holidays of other religions (even Christian groups agree on this point).

What is disgusting about this is that it is an instance of Christianity being married to government and society; something that Jesus was also an opponent of (albeit somewhat more subtly). This is the man who entered Jerusalem as a “King” riding an ass rather than a war horse. He let himself be crucified as a rebel leader and refused to acknowledge the power of both Herod and Pilot.

Christianity is a culturally subversive religion and thrives best when it is persecuted.

“Keep(ing) Christ in Christmas” is a poor attempt to create the image of persecution. Christians are NOT persecuted in the United States. For goodness sake, 76% of the country is a self described Christian.

The reason we say “Happy Holidays” is not to persecute Christians, but to build up, to acknowledge, and to respect other faiths. The hypocrisy of “Keep Christ in Christmas” is that we manufacture persecution of ourselves in order to ACTUALLY persecute other religions as well as non-religious folks.

We as Christians are acting as the opposite of Christ.

I will conclude with the statement that if we have the mindset that we need to “Keep Christ in Christmas” then we ourselves are taking him out. When we generate our own perceived slights and fight against it, we are ego-stroking. Celebrating Jesus is about humility and sacrifice on the behalf of others who cannot repay us.

If we wish to truly make Jesus the “reason for the season,” then we need to worry about our actions rather than someone else’s words.

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Corporate Sin: Fact or Fiction?

I was just now reading a review of the movie ‘Blue Like Jazz‘ (I know I’m late to the party). There are a lot of things I could say about it, but one line specifically caught my attention.

The writer said, “Clearly, the church doesn’t condone adulterous affairs, which are an individual’s own sin, not the church’s.”

This is a piss-poor attitude and probably why the author felt justified in critiquing an autobiographical movie like it was a Sunday sermon.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12 that just like a body is one thing and has many ‘members’ (arms, legs, eyes, ears, etc.), so the Church is ‘one Spirit’ and many members. He writes specifically, “If the foot would say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.”

Which means we cannot dissociate ourselves or cut ourselves off from other people who claim to be a part of the Christian body, even if we want to. We are bound to those who confess Jesus in thought, word, deed, and action because we are the same body.

Paul continues, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you…”

Which means we can’t cut THEM out of our lives either!

We can’t remove ourselves and we can’t remove them.

If you don’t think this is fair, let me remind you that in Jesus’ final prayer in Gethsemene he asked that God make all of us “one, as [God and Jesus] are one.”

Jesus prays that all of us Christian brothers and sisters share the same kind of relationship that He has with God the Creator. If you don’t know what that relationship looks like, the author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the “reflection of God’s glory” and the “exact imprint of God’s very being.”

Jesus WAS God. We ARE each other.

If my tongue sins, my mind and heart are still guilty. When my hand sins, my foot is guilty. When my eyes sin, my ears are guilty. When my father, mother, brothers, or sisters sin, I am guilty.

Still not convinced?

James tells us that if we have broken just ONE POINT of the law, then we have broken all of it.

That means if I am a liar, then I am also an adulterer, a thief, and a murderer. The sin that you are committing now, I have already committed. The law that you break now, I will break tomorrow.

There is no such thing as individual sin. Not if we believe Paul and respond to Jesus’ request. Not if we believe what James (the very brother of Christ) taught about keeping the commandments.

Nope. All sin is corporate because it never affects only ourselves. Every single member is guilty…

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