Love seeks all things – or… be like John Wayne

Moral of the story? Believe the best and be like John Wayne

Moral of the story? Believe the best and be like John Wayne

We live in times where it is easy to vilify those we disagree with. This goes for people or leaders who we disagree with. Think of how we read our newsfeed.

It is easy to think the worst of people who we disagree with.  It’s easy to desire the worst; to want them to do poorly.  But we’re not called to do the easy thing but the harder thing.  Love for others is, in part, desiring the good for them.  Even if you think they’re off base. Even if it feels as though you (or your “side”) has lost to them.

Consider this reaction to the election of a leader:

I didn’t vote for him but he’s my President, and I hope he does a good job.
—John Wayne (b. 1907) on the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960

 

And then consider this reaction:

I hope he fails.
—Rush Limbaugh (b. 1951) on the election of Barack Obama in 2008  (Source of quotes)

 

Which reaction shows most confidence, graciousness, courtesy, and maturity?  Or to put it in more strictly theological terms…  love?  Love, after all, seeks the good of the other with no thought to pride of self.  Love seeks all things.  That kind of love is neither sentimental nor easy to accomplish in real time.

The harder thing is gracious and rises above pettiness. It seeks the common good and desires what is best – even for an idealogical opponent.  In times like these, perhaps, we need this reminder more than ever.

 

 

“Revive us again, O Lord” – history knows no straight lines

George Whitefield preaching

George Whitefield preaching

 

Will you not revive us again,
    that your people may rejoice in you?

Psalm 85:6 ESV

 

I once heard someone remark that history does not move in straight lines. We imagine that there is either general progress or general decline, and that pleases or discourages us depending whether we think one or the other is happening.

For instance, we imagine that our culture is becoming steadily less Christian. This can cause trepidation or panic in believers (“look how few people go to Church!”,  “Here are some sure-fire marketing techniques to attract and retain!”, “what about our young people?”).  Or it can cause gloating arrogance in the decidedly non-believing (“look how few people go to church!”, “it’s the triumph of science!”, “down with silly, bronze-age myths!”).

The truth is that history indeed knows no straight lines.  I once heard an offhand remark about American church involvement. I have no way of confirming but it did intrigue me. Around the time of the American Revolution (1776ish), only 17% of the population were involved in church life.  That’s way lower even than today.  But by the time of the American Civil War, about 90 years later, church-goers were almost 60%.  No straight line of decline.

So what happened in between?  A revival happened.  A revival of Christian faith that changed the face of the culture.  It can happen again.  This ought to keep the gloating of the secularist in check.  It should also encourage the believer who longs to see the world come to know God.

A little knowledge of Church history helps us to not be discouraged.  Times for Christian faith have been worse off before.  Read up on the 9th Century – it was arguably the most corrupt time in Christianity (for example)  And low church attendance (a good indicator of Christianity’s health in a culture) has sometimes dipped.  Apparently, on Easter Sunday, 17th of April, 1740 only 6 people were present for communion at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, England.  (source – mention made at approx. the 17-19 minute mark).  Times have been lean before.  History knows no straight lines of decline or increase.

No one knows the future but God alone. But we do know that we must be – and, by God’s grace, can be – faithful witnesses in the times which we’re given to live in.  And we can pray for God to “revive us again…”

 

 

 

Doubters

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 3.05.00 PM

and have mercy on those who doubt  Jude 22

Doubts are real.  Some have doubts that keep them from faith. Others have doubts that continually nag their faith. Doubt need not prevent or corrode true faith but it needs the right prescription. True doubt is predicated upon faith in that it would not be possible to doubt unless there were something out there which is worth believing. And so “doubt comes into the world through faith” as Kierkegaard once scrawled in one of his journals.

Doubt ought not to be condemned.  It is not necessarily corrosive to Christian faith to ask tough questions, wrestle with what we read in the Bible, or even swallow hard on some difficult aspects. Often doubts are stepping stones on the path to greater faith. We even have an Apostle know for his doubts (although he recovered and made a great confession). So doubt ought not to be condemned or the doubter vilified.

 

But neither should doubt be congratulated. Living in the “age of authenticity” as we do, often to doubt is to appear deep, real, or true to yourself. Wrestling with difficult questions of faith is a normal part of growing up as a Christian disciple. But to indefinitely chew upon questions is often a cover for a desire to not make commitments we ought to, or to pay the price for true maturity.  (what better way to not take steps God wants us to take – in the realm of our sexual behaviour, our wealth, or our ambitions or the surrender of our self-interested autonomy – than to perpetually wonder if he can be known or heard from?)

Doubters are neither to be condemned as faithless nor congratulated as the authentically deep.  They need mercy.  That’s Jude prescription. And why not turn our doubtfulness upon itself.  Why not doubt our doubts?  Or better yet, doubt our own desires that may form hidden motivations for doubts?  True and responsible doubting always leads to true and responsible searching. Undertaken in good faith such searching carries with it a promise that ought not to be doubted.  Seek, and you shall find… 

 

 

 

 

 

Scoffers

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 1.52.06 PMBut you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers…”  Jude 17 ESV

 

We live in a cynical age.  One of the ways I know this is because much of the news consumed these days comes via comedians.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for satire and sometimes they’re funny. But it speaks of how much we swim in an environment of mockery and scorn when our news is delivered within a steady diet of sarcastic jokes.

We ought not to be surprised when Christian faith falls under similar scoffing. It’s not like we weren’t told this would be the case (the apostles predicted it).

Scoffing (mockery, sarcastic scorn) comes through the media through explicit derision or just through the way it shows us faith or religious people. Bad examples of pastors, priests, churches, and so on are paraded and so loom large in the popular imagination.  All this serves to shame Christians.  We feel it, we may even shrink back from it.

Humour is from the angels.  Laughter is a blessed thing and everyone ought not to take themselves too seriously.  Scoffing, though, is diabolical in that in order to scoff one doesn’t need to stand for anything.  Irony is easy and cheap.  Sincerity is hard and costly.  To tear down another you don’t need to stand for or upon anything yourself.  This is true whether we’re atheist, agnostic, Christian, or something else, to sincerely stand is the harder job and makes one vulnerable to scoffing.

If we’re Christian, we ought not give in to the scoffing. We shouldn’t participate in the tearing down of others.  It’s too easy and we should do the harder thing. That is, perhaps disagree but do so from a place of understanding and respect.

And we’ll have to get used to enduring some scoffing.  Faithfulness takes the form of a hard forehead sometimes. What are the chances that a cable TV news anchor comedian will represent our beliefs fairly and charitably?  We ought not to be surprised.  We’ve been told.

 

Obey Rulers or God?

Daniel in the Lions Den - Briton Riviere - 1872

Daniel in the Lions Den – Briton Riviere – 1872

Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

Daniel 6:13

Earthly princes deprive themselves of all authority when they rise up against God, yea, they are unworthy to be counted among the company of men. We ought rather to spit in their faces than to obey them when they… spoil God of his right.

John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Daniel