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Justice: Healing Wrong v2

I first published this post over a year ago. Given the current climate I believe it is good to republish with some edits.

The common view of justice is one of punishment. Someone does wrong and they receive a ‘just reward’ for their wrong deeds. This is, at best, an incomplete and warped view of justice compared to the biblical view.

Justice is: make something wrong, right. It is making something bent or crooked straight again. As all injustice and evil is a perversion of the just and good.

Punishment in and of itself does nothing to correct the root causes of pain and suffering. Punishment that focuses on restitution and correction of wrongs brings justice to its fullness in the area of law and government.  However, in the social sphere, we must also look at the root cause in the human condition.

The human heart which is shaped by the environment needs healing beyond punishment. Individuals need a relationship with someone who will mentor them, guide them, and show them goodness. From a relationship, individuals can really begin to change. More on the dichotomy of individual and civil justice later.

Next, justice as “making wrong right” expands justice to include active good. Some things in life are just broken. People will lose their jobs. Parents will fail. People die. Although facts of life they are also ills, like getting a cold. True justice reaches out and attempts to heal the sickness.

Justice feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, is a father to the fatherless, and a husband to the widows. It does the good that fills the void left by brokenness.

We are just when we assist a woman who is abuse in escaping that abuse. The abuse is part of our broken world. It is a wrong in this world and is evil. It must be made right.

We make her life more ‘right’ when we remove the abuse. Counseling can help make her internal world more right. For the right world is the one with goodness, gentleness, kindness, love, joy and all such good things.

The same can be said for feeding the hungry, providing shelter for those who have lost homes, consoling a loved one and any other action that causes a move towards what is right, good, and beautiful. A shattered ceramic in Japan is repaired with silver and gold along the cracks. The one that is made right is not without marks, but it has been made right again for its intended purpose and is beautiful.

Love Despite Flaws

I recently listened to a lecture regarding writing on family. He continually qualified everything he said with, “I love my family.” “I want to make it very clear that I do love my family.” “People often ask me how I can love my family”.

              I found this repeated declaration odd. It rarely occurs to me that some irritating trait or negative experience would cause me to question my affection for those I love. People are annoying. Relationships are difficult. People are flawed.

              The idea that we don’t love someone because we are open about their flaws, or that we don’t love someone despite any number of major blunders I find problematic. This can breed fear of losing a friend for even petty things.

The Individual vs the Masses

“The more I love humanity in general the less I love man in particular. In my dreams, I often make plans for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually face crucifixion if it were suddenly necessary. Yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone for two days together. … But it has always happened that the more I hate men individually the more I love humanity.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

I dream of being the spark that changes the world. The speaker that moves the masses. The writer that moves a nation. I love political discussion and the advancement of civil thought that fixes what is broken. The problem is that given limited resources energy put towards social justice and government policies replace our energies towards those directly in front of us.

I love public speaking and if I ever have the opportunity to speak in front of groups for the intent of specific, researched, thought out policy changes, then I will. However, day to day experience allows me far more time to care for a hurting friend, supply food for a homeless person, loan money to someone in need, buy gas for someone who has run out, help a young kid with homework, or even just smile at a stranger.

The more I see first hand the plight of the unfortunate, the bullied, the poor, fatherless, and widow the more I desire to see individual care and support. Do not stop voting for policy changes. Don’t stop making those around aware of evils. But, do not cease to be aware of the needs directly in front of you. If we vote in to provide more government support for the homeless, in whatever fashion that is, but do not stop to talk with them, feed them, cut their hair etc. then do we really care about them? Or do we just want to feel good about ‘making a difference’?

If I say I care about the cause of anti sex trafficking, but do not support and pressure my friends to cease viewing pornography that supports the evil institution, then I do not care about stopping sex trafficking. I care about policy. I must choose people over policy.

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Friendship and The Lord of the Rings

              I have been in 7 weddings as a groomsman or best man (I regret it not being 8 as I declined once to be a best man due to travel difficulties). The last three weddings I have been in I always give the same speech. Below is a piece of it.

              In the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring we follow the characters Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin as they are caught up in a journey to destroy the Ring of Power.

              Frodo is elected to take the Ring because of his relationship with Bilbo, the one who found the Ring and left it to him. Sam is found outside Frodo’s window when Gandalf is discussing with Frodo the journey and is tasked to go with him (though also with a full commitment of loyalty). The two of them run into Merry and Pippin stealing from farmer Maggots crop and are then caught up in the adventure as they are chased by the Nazgul.

              They sort of get caught up in this adventure by circumstance. JRR Tolkien tells a different story in the book. Frodo leaves the Shire with the ring under the guise of looking for Bilbo. Merry, Sam, and Pippin all choose to go. They all encounter the Nazgul together and find themselves at Brandyhall. Here Frodo had made up his mind to leave them and was figuring out how to tell them.

              Frodo is shocked to find they have ponies ready, everything packed and all are determined to go with. They knew he was leaving on some long journey. He is shocked again when they can tell him details of his journey about the ring he had kept hidden. His friends commend him that he had been careful. But they, being his close friends were with him and new him so well they saw all the little changes and hints that let them put it all together.

              Finally Merry speaks for all of them,

“It all depends on what you want,’ put in Merry. “You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin – to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you can keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo”

              The theme of friendship continues through the rest of the series. When I give a speech at weddings I add in bits bout a fellowship and “I can’t carry your burden but we can carry you” and so on and so forth with emotional things and strong analogies.

              But here we see a picture of friendship that we do not see very often anymore. Friends choose to give up their lives, their rest and good comfort, to help someone else in their specific journey. They knowingly face danger to help one carry a burden or finish a task. When I read the LOTR I don’t desire to be a Frodo, or Gandalf, or Aragorn – I wish to be a Merry, a Pippin, or a Sam.

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Key Issues and Direction of Future Posts

              Social media and the news pulls us in all directions. There seems to be an endless number of issues and it is a full time job just keeping up with issues without time spent changing them. I have several friends overwhelmed in complete distress over what to focus on. I always remind them the news is not to be our guideline for the issues we choose to respond to. Though it can give a pulse on what is going in the world they can easily take a statistical anomaly and make it appear to be a daily issue.

This distracts the Christian from responding to what they should. The Christian is called to take care of, those directly around them. The people they can directly impact. “give a cup of cold water to a little one” I attempt as often as possible to make my postings relevant to conversations I am having with those I am interacting with daily.

              I see five major issues affecting the church at large and my friends that I directly impact. Though I only wish to speak to four of these. They are “Calling and the will of God”, friendship, sexuality, dating, and social justice. Admittedly dating can be categorized under friendship, however, due to how much damage that it causes behind the curtain I believe it deserves its own section. The issue of social justice and political involvement is one I have an interest in but am behind on current trends and have not place to speak on it.

              Every young person, and by that I mean under 40, that I have talked to has struggled with understanding what they should do with their lives as well as how their lives are to impact the kingdom of God. When we understand the calling of God as it relates to every part of our life from how we dress, to food choices etc. it creates freedom, not stress, in serving Him.

              Social media primarily has affected friendships. Both in how it can undermine true community and how it encourages poor character such as petty-ness. I believe, outside of Christ himself, building solid friendship is the root solution to all other issues. Friendship supports all aspects of our life, calling, sexuality, dating, and our involvement in social justice.

              Sexuality has run rampant in culture and the church seems to still be undecided on how to respond. They oscillate between ‘sexuality as a single person’ and a near monastic lifestyle that encourages no thoughts of sex to complete freedom in marriage. Neither of these extremes are beneficial.

              Finally, I only know a handful of people undamaged by terrible dating choices. The amount of time lost to nights sobbing, stressing, playing games, or just wandering through romantic feelings lost is astounding. I wonder how much more we could do for the kingdom if we just fixed how we find a spouse.

              This is a brief summary of the issues I will be writing on over the next several months. What specific sub topics would you like to hear more about?

Woman Amen – a lesson in humility

I am a hopeless romantic. When I listen to Dierks Bentley’s “Woman, Amen” for the first time my heart jumps a bit. I dream of the day when I meet the woman who gives “this drifters heart a home”.

Friends always at some point always seem to drift away. As careers, school, and spouses begin to take up time it becomes more difficult to keep up on consistent daily or weekly schedule. I myself have difficulty deciding what to do with my time: guitar, piano, voice, mountain biking, sailing, kiteboarding, writing, hiking, dancing, cooking, martial arts, lifting, and reading are just a few of my hobbies and interests. I want that day when I will have someone to stick with and who becomes the first one to say, “yes to” and the reason to say, ‘no’ to everything else.

Words matter and I cannot listen to songs without careful analyses. The song is not a cute romantic song about a mans love for a woman, but a ballad representing my sinful obsession with marriage.

The Christians call is to seek first the Kingdom of God and love the Lord your God with all your heart. As C.S Lewis teaches, we are to become little Christs. Our relationships and marriages are intended to make us more like Christ and help us seek His Kingdom. They are not an end in themselves. Kingdom first, then your spouse. If you miss this order you become as Solomon who was led astray by the women he married.

“She gives me faith, she gives me grace, she gives me hope… … strength … … love … love without end” “Thanks for the moon and the stars up above, Forgiveness’ a sin and your undying love, every twist every turn for the way you made sure, all my roads led to her” each verse focuses on the woman, with a nod to Christ.

I live the same priorities. In grade school I wanted to be good at everything  in preparation to seek the Kingdom in all things. After two heartbreaks and difficulty dealing with a revolving door of friends and friend groups, I started obsessing over the stability of a spouse to always be there.

Everything I chose revolved around a future spouse, even to the detriment of my own soul. I have given up new cars, motorcycles, trips, vacations, and my own hobbies (including writing) in an obsession with being able to provide my wife with whatever she wanted.

Did I have conflict with my family? It was practice bearing with someone difficult. Nothing involving doing good for the Kingdom of God in the present or the future, or about being more like Christ. (We will skip over the terrible marriage picture I had that bearing up under ‘relational suffering’ was a primary virtue of a good marriage relationship).

“This world has a way of shaking your faith / I’ve been broken again and again / But I need all the cracks in my shattered heart / ‘Cause that’s where her love gets in” The cracks in my life is where Christ’ love gets in. It is also through the brokenness that God worked to show me how I had replaced a desire to be a man after God’s own heart with a desire to be a husband after some fictitious future spouse. Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven, and all these things will be added unto you.

Epilogue:

I wrote the above piece in April of 2018. I am humbled that I learned nothing from what I wrote with my own hands. More than a year later and I found a girl that was everything I wanted on paper. From physical appearance to personality quirks and her relationship with God. Ironically what attracted me to her most was her very clear knowledge of her calling in all things to help those who need just a little bit of extra help in life. Something I had completely lost. Regardless of the lack of a ‘spark’ I became obsessed. Here was the kind, hospitable, spunky, slightly wild girl that I could go through life with.

Graciously God ended that relationship. It is the most painful breakup I have been through. I was breaking up with not just her but all my hopes for a spouse and family. God was cutting away the obsession that crowded out all desire for the kingdom of heaven. Cutting out part of ourselves even when good for us is painful. It is part of me learning to say ‘yes’ to the call of God to serve his Kingdom and ‘no’ to everything else.

Love is Simple

Hollywood produces a steady stream of movies that portray stories of fantasmagical proportions. Heroes such as James Bond and Captain America are both larger than life, but are portrayed in a very rapid carefully strung together story line with a seemingly endless rising action. Even true to life stories are cut and edited to grip the audience. Even the most mundane become spectacular.

A simple father becomes a hero to find his son. A child becomes a king. Several ordinary men save a country. Most significantly love is built up to almost scripted perfection. Though some hero stories are based on real life, and some real life love stories are worthy of the big screen, these are few and far between, and are, in actual life, more filled with the mundane than the spectacular.

In real life we eat pizza, cook soup, walk past stores, sleep, clean, drive, make coffee, and work for most of our lives. Love is involved in simple flowers, chocolates, a smile, a clean dish, a folded article of clothing, a short walk and a hand picked flower, kisses on the cheek, and even a slice of cheese.

Love can be very simple. All of the large plans, carefully thought out trips, and adventures lose their luster if we cannot say I love with the very things that we touch and do every day. And that is why, I love country music.

To be continued…

My Broken Crown: Pride

In my crown I have found another large crack. Pride.

I have always thought myself humble. Even though I am loud and will quickly express my opinions, I am generally (at least believe I am) quick to change them when I am presented with sufficient evidence to the contrary. I act confidently (in most areas… except relationships… then I cower) in what I believe is true because that is all I have to go off of. When I turn out to be wrong; thank goodness for grace.

Although I perceive that I do not think that highly of myself in the present; I often do not understand when people compliment me. When I think about myself in the past I am arrogant.

I am one that is prone to regret, guilt, and a rehearsal of what could have been. Whenever I think back on my mistakes, sin or just choices, I always think, “I knew better” “I should have known better” “that isn’t like me” or “It is just because I didn’t try” and “I knew what to do, I just didn’t care”

Under this is the presupposition that I am better than my choices. Rather than giving myself grace because I am flawed, I prove my arrogance by believing that I was better… and just made a slip up. I could not come to believe that I am dishonest. My arrogance could not except such a flaw. “I was caught up in such and such” “It is because of this” or “I deserve more patience” What I should have done was admit: This is where I am at. These are my flaws. I may be 24 years old but I still have not grown up to such and such a level of maturity.

It is only when I can accept the truth of my flaws being who I am (not some restrained version of a better me that needs release from society, family, or the like) that I can then accept grace in a way that allows for growth. Without this truth, grace leaves open the door for laziness and licentiousness.

I have made many mistakes as of late. I have a lot of growing up to do. I have been humbled by those younger than me who are more honest, have more follow through, are better time managers, love others better, and show wisdom far beyond what I have been able.

My crown is not one of someone who has arrived. I talk about how I could do this or that if only I cared to. No, regardless of reasons who I am is who I am. So I present that my crown is that of a child slowly waking up to the world. Embarrassed, crawling, I sit up and spin the propeller on top and say, here I am, this is me: thank goodness for grace because I am still growing.

Writing Your Life

I have journaled off and on since I was eight years old. When I was young, I just wrote about what I did and how u felt, happy, sad, excited. Playing outside with AJ, sad over the death of one of my chickens.

When I was in high school, it was dreams and a bit of drama from relationships.

In college, I wrote about all of the other people that I hurt. I wrote prayers regarding my struggle watching others suffer and not knowing how to help. 

I would cry and be at a loss over friends who lost friends because of human nature, those who were depressed, lost, cutting, or just at their wits end from school. I was focused on others.

I recently read through the last two years of journals. 

Post college it turned almost completely to issues with my girlfriend. Almost all of them were prayers of confusion a to marry or not. 

Comically, after the break up they turned to dramatic woes and throngs of love and anguish for my loss an a struggle to deal with a broken relationship. As time went on they move more and more into centering on the pain in my own heart. Journals of praise and gratitude became more in frequent. Journals regarding my care for others, no longer written.

Even after an unfortunate event that left a friend with deep wounds, rather than care for her, my entries focused on how the situation affected me.

I am embarrassed of these sections. I am tempted sometimes to remove them. But I keep them as a reminder. As they how were my focus really is.

We don’t get to write out our lives. We don’t decide what decisions other people make or how it affects us. But we can always choose how we respond and what we focus on. 

How will you write out your life?

I am going to re write whatever happens to me as care for others. Not myself.

Gay Marraige

I was at a LGBT workshop put on by the Flood church this last Sunday. It was a very well done conversation that highlighted several key points that should be considered when talking about the Church, Christ, and those with varying gender identities.

I seek to only highlight one thought from the discussion. Identity. The individual who shared, who himself was a man who was attracted to other men, and is also a brother in Christ emphasized one very important point. Ones attraction to one sex or another, heterosexual, homosexual, or bi sexual, or ones identifying as male or female is secondary to ones identity in Christ.

As a Christian, it is our relationship with Christ that defines us first, everything else comes from that.

For those that do not know Christ, lifting Him up and leading them to Him is the first step. For if they do not believe or know my Christ Jesus, why should I expect them to live as He calls me to?

I am very guilty in letting titles or identifying traits define me; male, adult, employee at such and such a company, boyfriend to so and so, brother, sensei, extrovert, etc. But first, my identity is in Christ, and I must live like Him.

For those that are not Christians reading this, please, don’t be shy about reminding my brothers and sisters where their identity is, gently of course. 🙂