Tag Archives: Grace

Greater Love: Jesus or Chicken?

It’s been a long couple of weeks since the whole Chick-fil-a fiasco.  I’ve spent some time discussing it with people, both in person and online, and I’ve also read several news stories and blogs covering many aspects of the story.  I also have close friends and family whose opinions are across the spectrum on this issue, and some who are just fed up with it all and can’t wait for it to blow over.  Honestly, the only way I can now describe my feelings after seeing this whole thing unfold is simply to say that I am sad.  I’m saddened because I know people who are hurt by the backlash from one or both sides, and I’m saddened because I don’t believe our actions as Christians have glorified God through any of this.

I could spend a considerable amount of time debating the specifics of the issue, and still not convince anyone that I am right (nor could they convince me I am wrong).  So rather than going down that rat hole, I would like to challenge my fellow Christians to be better.  Let me start by asking this question: find a story in the Bible where Jesus lashed out at someone who was already marginalized by society at large?  Before you open your Bible or your browser to do some research, let me save you some time…..you won’t find one.

In everything that I read about Jesus, both in his actions and in his words, He never further marginalized anyone who already feels like a lesser human being than the rest of society.  In fact, the people that riled his anger the most were the religious elite or zealots (i.e. Pharisees and Sadduccees) who were more concerned about keeping the law than they were about showing compassion or love for their fellow man (Mark 7:6-8).  You will also find stories where Jesus reached out to outcasts like tax collectors (Matthew 9:9-11), Samaritans (John 4:1-26), and lepers (Matthew 26:6).

One of the most notable stories that is often discussed is when these pious men brought an adultress to Jesus (John 8:1-11) and wanted him to agree that she should be stoned, just as Mosaic law required (Leviticus 20:10).  Without saying a word, Jesus knelt down and began to write in the sand.  He then raised up and said that the person without sin should throw the first stone.  That ruled out everyone except for Him.  But what did He do at that point?  He knelt back down to continue writing in the sand, and the men left him one-by-one until only the woman was left standing there.  He then told her to go and sin no more.

When Jesus was brought before Pilate on trumped up charges, He didn’t fight back (Matthew 27:14).  He hardly said a word.  Instead of defending Himself, or pointing out that proper protocol was not being followed for His trial, He actually prayed for them (Luke 23:34).  He then allowed Roman soldiers to mock Him, spit on Him, beat Him, and eventually crucify Him (Mark 15:16-37).  This is our model, and the One who gave His life for us, for all of us who daily betray Him with our sinful actions.

Compare that example now to where we were the last few weeks when we felt not that we were going to be put to death, but only that our freedom of speech was being threatened.  What is our reaction?  We throw a big rallying party at fast food locations across the country and post on Facebook and Twitter with actions and words that largely are not meant to glorify Him, and in fact, further marginalize an already downtrodden group of people.

Not only did Christians pour out en masse that day, but our actions also served as a sort of safe haven for people who actually are full of hate, fear and bigotry.  Did you read any of the stories that interviewed homosexual employees of Chick-fil-a?  Many of them had to serve people who said they were glad that their company was against “perverted gays”.  Regardless of your opinion on the morality of homosexuality, the legality of same sex marriage, or whether or not this had anything to do with free speech, if you are a Christian, I hope you re-evaluate your response to this whole mess.  The minute we divide the people of this country into and “us vs. them” mentality, we have lost our witness.  Maybe some think it was justified, but honestly, I cannot find evidence in the Bible that would support that claim.

I get that we need to stand up for rights that we feel are being infringed upon, but I don’t think we can attach our religious beliefs to every single political movement out there.  Not once did Jesus make a stand on a political issue during His ministry, even though he was asked directly to do just that (Mark 12:14-17). We scream when we are being persecuted in arguably the country with the most freedoms in the world, but remember that freedom of speech guarantees only that we will not be arrested for speaking our mind, it does not guarantee that we can say whatever we want without someone disagreeing with us.  Not only that, why should we be surprised that people won’t like our values and what we stand for?  Jesus promised this would happen if we followed Him (John 15:20).

I guess if you fully realize that God poured out an endless amount of love, grace, and mercy onto people like me; a lying, thieving, prideful, hypocritical, envious, blasphemous, sinner; then it makes you think about how you should treat others.  Maybe if we are going to err on one side or the other we should do so on the side of showing too much love, grace, and mercy.  The truth of the matter is that no matter how much love, grace, and mercy we can muster it could never match the amount that God has shown to us.

In the end, I just don’t think this was the place to make our stand.  Where I think we should make our stand is in finding homes for orphans, or feeding the hungry, or not allowing someone to go through an illness alone, or any other of the countless social issues that the church has shown such a rich history of combating.  We are on this Earth to be a light, to offer hope, and to show people a glimpse of our Father in Heaven, and I don’t see how waiting in line for an hour for a chicken sandwich did any of that at all.  You’ve heard it said that to whom much is given, much shall be required (Luke 12:48): by being richly blessed to live in a country with freedom of speech, we’d be better served to use that freedom to speak out against real persecution around the world vs. using it to fuel the flames that have caused a great rift such as this.

In college I was in a fraternity that had no secrets and all our creeds, oaths, and principles were available for anyone to read them.  We used to say by doing so, we made it to where anyone could hold us accountable to them.  I believe it’s even more important that we, as Christians, hold ourselves accountable to what we claim we believe.  Given that the Bible is the best selling book in history, if we don’t hold ourselves accountable to it, we’ve already seen that others will.

May we think and rethink our positions both politically and morally so that when we deliver the truth, we do so out of love and we show that the reason we point it out is not because we want to be “right” but because we actually care about people (Romans 12:9-21).  We will never be able to control what people think about us or what will be said about us, but we can manage our reactions and show that we are His people by speaking with love in our words and compassion in our hearts (Philippians 4:5).

How Much is Too Much Grace?

I had a great discussion this week with several folks regarding the plight of the poor, and our country’s social economic policies. It’s a topic that I have wrestled with quite a bit lately in an effort to determine where God is convicting and leading our family to help those less fortunate than us. With that in mind, it’s always interesting to get others’ viewpoints and challenge your own so long as you can maintain the proper level of respect for one another and your differences in opinion (which we did). For the most part, I understand the usual arguments on both sides of the discussion, and there are some merits of nearly every point with which I agree.  I decided to pull some of my points from that discussion, and expand on them a bit more in order to challenge people to actively determine where they fall on the issue and why.

When thinking of helping the poor, we sometimes shrug our shoulders and think “we can’t help them all”, so we do nothing.  But consider how much it means to the one person that you can help provide a meal for this week, or offer an encouraging word to them.

Other times we make broad generalizations that many people in need aren’t willing to help themselves, or they are lazy, or they don’t manage their money well.  That makes me wonder if we think we know better than what Jesus himself actually taught, since after all, He called upon people to help the poor.  In Luke 11:41, He told the Pharisees to “be generous to the poor”: do we think that somehow that message wasn’t meant for us as well?

Do we make these kinds of arguments as to why we shouldn’t help others because we believe that is truly part of being Christ-like, or are we doing it to provide ourselves an excuse to ignore God’s call to action?

It’s ironic that we will chide a poor person for how they choose to spend what little money they have, or assume they are lazy, but we will let rich people run companies like Lehman Brothers into the ground and we don’t speak of them with the same sort of disdain.  Wealth is destroyed all the time due to the greed of others, but we provide an excuse that says they are “job creators” and so we seem to give them some sort of untouchable status.

When we talk about the poor as if they are taking from the rich or that somehow they are unworthy of our help, even if those comments are directed only at those who abuse government programs, why should we expect any of the poor to accept a helping hand from Christians or our churches for us to lead them to Christ?  Why would they turn to people who seem to have distaste for them and ask for help?  The answer is simple – they won’t.

I’m not trying to divide us into the haves and have nots because the rest of the world has already done a fine job of that.  I also am not trying to say that we should increase the funding of entitlement programs in the United States.  I certainly don’t want to inadvertently create a larger group of people who are dependent on the government.  In my opinion, if a person is dependent on the government, they are less likely to take a stand against policies that are detrimental to the people and our nation. However, I am trying to challenge people to care for the poor and defenseless in America and the rest of the World.  I don’t believe that God will bless us for defending the rich as much as he will for trying to help the poor, and give them guidance on how to improve their situation vs. just sitting back and watching them continue to suffer or self-destruct.

Just to be clear, I’d prefer that people and charitable organizations provide these kinds of services as well, because then they can see the direct benefit of their actions and hopefully get the feeling that they are making a difference.  Unfortunately, it’s just not happening at the level that it needs to be. It’s time that we Christians step out of our glass houses en masse, and help the needy.  If more Christians and churches stepped up
their benevolence to those in need in this country, would we even need our current level of governmental assistance programs?  Until such time that we step up and provide that level of assistance, then it’s hard for us to argue that these programs are completely unnecessary.  If you continue to argue against these programs entirely, then I would like to see what you are doing about the gap other than complaining about it.  I’m referring to real, meaningful, active assistance, not just donating a few bucks here and there and allowing others to do it for you (including others in your own Church).

There are numerous points in Scripture that tell us that we are to help the poor. As you research this topic, it becomes quite evident that God isn’t making a suggestion; he’s directing us to do it.  We are to be examples of Christ and to be His hands reaching out to help the world around us.
What better way to be His witness than to share with others what He has blessed us with (i.e. some of our time on Earth, our wealth, and His gift of grace)?

Now, the question for all of us is, “what does this help look like”?  I believe that each of us has to answer that question in our own lives based on our convictions and where God is leading each of us.  God blesses every one of us in different ways and with different levels of material things. I don’t believe that a rich person is necessarily overly blessed by God, just as I don’t believe that poor people are not blessed enough. Blessings are not all counted in material possessions, in my opinion, but if we insist on using this as a measuring stick, consider this: those of us in the United States are far wealthier than the average citizen in the rest of the world.  If you would rather see the direct impact of your help, there are great
needs closer than we care to think about, as there are countless people in cities around us that are without a home, or without food.  How many of them are also in need of not just hearing but actually SEEING the love Christ has for them?

Is there such a thing as too much grace?  When we help others, God has not promised that we will never feel taken advantage of, or that our benevolence will automatically help a person up another rung on the ladder to self-sufficiency.  If we don’t offer love and grace in the name of God, then how can we expect that from Him when we ask forgiveness for our own sins knowing that because of our very nature we surely will sin
again?  Sometimes the change that God is after may not be in those we help, but in the attitude of those He has called to offer help?

There are two books that I would highly recommend for those looking to discover what God has called them to do in helping others.  One is “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan, and the other is “Radical” by David Platt.  I’ve just recently read both of them, and found them not only challenging, but very interesting reads.  The takeaways from reading these for my family and I was to help the needy at least one time per month in 2012.  We’re already on the right track having volunteered at a food pantry last Saturday, and creating our own opportunity to offer meals to the needy before the end of the year.