Secular and Sacred Pt. ii

The separation of secular and sacred is rooted in Gnostic Dualism. The belief that the perfect state of man and woman is spiritual. There is a perfect design or blueprint of a person. The only way to reach perfection is to shed the physical state and become a perfect spirit.

               This is not Biblical. God made us with a physical body. When Christ returns and makes a new heaven and earth, we will have physical bodies. Christ himself is raised from the dead in his physical body and ascended into heaven in his physical body. We will be like him in the resurrection. We are made to be physical.

In the creation narrative Adam and Eve were gifted the responsibility of tending the garden. The command to subdue the earth is prior to the fall (Gen 1:28). The narrative then moves into a detailed look at Adam and Eve. God commands Adam to tend the garden God made (Gen 2:15). The intent for responsibility and work is present before the curse.

The curse after disobedience extends from our calling to be stewards of the earth. Adam’s curse was to toil with the ground. His job and life endeavor did not change.

The law that God gave to the Israelites continues the theme of earthly importance. Contrary to several surrounding religions, God gave commands regarding food, building their houses, and even their waste hygiene. Other religions gods did not care about the ‘earthly’ and ‘mundane’, only the spiritual.

Our spiritual health is important. But the spiritual is present here. The laws given to the Israelites to separate them from the surrounding nations were specific regarding how they lived their physical life. The Israelites were commanded to be different in their daily lives.

Finally, as James tells us, “Show me your faith without your actions and I will show you my faith by my actions.” The actions that show our faith is every aspect of our lives. Job, free time, shows we watch and don’t watch all point to what we believe in.

The Secular and Sacred

There are two great lies the church hands out freely. We are to love ourselves first and there is a separation between secular and sacred. The first is more widely held and defended. When I politely suggest that loving yourself first is not scriptural it is Christians who respond viscously. Those who do not profess Christ easily accept it. Christians are supposed to love others more than themselves. That is Christ like, is it not?

               More subtly is the separation of the secular and the sacred. The separation is not taught as much as implied. Sermons, books, conversations, bible studies, and tweets imply that the unseen spiritual world is of more importance. Church ministry, worship songs, winning souls for Christ, reading the Bible all have value. Everything else is just pointless filler.

               If you are working a secular job, it is good to tithe and not do wrong things in front of your coworkers and invite them to church. But your real life is the spiritual things you do around your job. You have the unfortunate position of only getting in a few hours of spiritual work. Blessed be the church ministries that get to do spiritual work 40 hours a week.

               Christ cares for conduct of all people, everywhere, in every action. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it well unto the Lord. If this means taking extra time to clean the runners in your sliding door unto the Lord, then do it well. If it means leaving that task undone to respond to a friend on Facebook, then do so to the Lord.

                 The separation degrades most of our life from diligent stewardship of God’s gifts into pointless tasks. Those not in full time ministry feel lost and without purpose. It strips lives of opportunities to serve and glorify God. Worship moves from all people, all places, everywhere to fifteen minutes on Sunday morning and listening to Phil Wickham in the car.

               Our crowns are created and shined on earth. They are shown in heaven. The next several posts I will be covering how to change our thinking to undo the separation of secular and sacred.

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.

The Christian in Two Cities – Provide What You Cannot Keep

                The Christian lives in two cities. We are part of this world. It was built by God and is good. It is also the place where we get to live like Christ through trials. This is the only chance we get to be like Him in struggles and suffering.

                We also live for eternity with Christ. Our final hope is eternal. All the riches and opportunities of this world have no weight when compared to eternity. Neither do the sufferings or pain. No matter the consequences we are to do good and respond with good.

We are responsible travelers walking with a the message of the gospel in  a world that is not our own.

                Because of these two things the Christian should be both aloof and engaged in this world. We are to be aloof in that changing governments, policies, laws, wrongdoers, sinning, is expected and nothing to be concerned with. Christ is in control. So why get upset, bothered or worried? The only concern one should have is compassion and care for our loved ones that it affects.

                Love for those whom policy affects is the primary motive for being involved in politics. If a law prevents the Church from doing good that is an issue. For example: let us say that there is a ruling that no outside person is allowed in a prison to meet with or teach inmates. This would prevent Christians from helping them make connections to get back on their feet once freed and prevent an avenue for sharing the gospel. A petition or lobby to change this policy would be a good endeavor for the church.

However, even in the absence of being able to pass laws that make it easier to share the gospel, the church must be willing to fill the gap where needed. Even more importantly, regarding the removal of ‘free’ benefits from the government  for the those in need,  the church must step up and provide what they are asking the state to withhold.

More on this in the next post.

Christians and Politics: Asking Questions?

Where is our hope? Where is our allegiance?

I do not believe the Christian Church in America has figured out how to live politically involved and serve Christ first. As I said to my mother the other day, I do not believe the best book on engaging politics as a Christian has been written yet. Nor do I believe that the church as a whole has ever truly ‘figured it out’.

                This is not an indictment against the church, but an example of Christ faithfulness to his people despite their flaws. Regardless of the church as a whole, or societies stereotype of the church, Christ remains faithful. This is true even in my own writings, thoughts, opinions, and life choices. I hope that I speak with the grace of truth and may contribute well to the conversation of, “How should we then live?”

                Generally, the Christian should be aloof in politics. That does not mean un-involved, it means involved with a disconnect of hope or belief in governing bodies. The Christian faith and call transcends cultural, political, or socio economic standings. Regardless of whether you live in South Africa, Communist China, the USSR or the USA your job is the same: Follow Christ. Be kind, put others before yourself, feed the homeless, take care of the widow, be a father to the fatherless.

                In the USA it doesn’t matter if the president is democratic, republican, or has purple skin: Follow Christ. The question is, what does following him look like in these contexts? In Africa one who is trained in Nursing may need to provide free medical services. The same nurse living in Orange County, CA may choose to not “work off the clock” especially for those who have insurance. A refusal to help in one case would be a failure to put others first. The failure to say no in another may be a foolish use of time.

                How do we discern what to do? That is the subject of my next several blog posts. But think on these questions:

                Am I afraid of the current political climate? If so, where does that leave my faith in Christ as King?

                What do I spend most of my time thinking about, talking about, or doing?

                Is the political position regarding a policy or leader going to help or hinder a life lived for others?                 Is my obsession with politics preventing me from seeing the good deeds that are set before me?

The Church and Covid-19

              California has recently reclosed religious services. Churches are left with the option of defying ‘government’ orders and potentially blamed for the spread of Covid-19 and associated deaths or following orders and ceasing to be the church as we have known it. The Christian, and the church at large must decide when to disobey government orders and ignore all social opinions  in service of the Lord and when to submit to the government and be aware of the image of Christ (for the only stumbling block should be Christ and not us).

              The answer is simple. If church is simply an event to attend to receive teaching on scripture and enjoy a spiritual high in music, then quite honestly, there was never truly a compelling reason to value church in person above online lessons and worship music. If that is all church has been, then one should not go, and the church should not meet. We should live at peace and submit to the government.

But — if Church is a place where God works through his people, where God changes lives despite any flaws in the way we do worship in its emotional focus, the sermon in its disproportional length and emphases, and often marginal involvement in others’ lives; if communion is more than just remembrance like Thanksgiving and is something that the Holy Spirit shows up for; if it is the place that God calls all Christians to show up, fully present, in obedience to him just as much as feeding the homeless, doing good and avoiding sin; if going to church is where we obey the command to love one another and is the place through which we learn, focus, and fixate on this love for another – then, and only then we must… we absolutely must continue to meet regardless of the consequences.

              This church is worth showing up for even if the consequence is death.

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.

I love my friends

I originally had written a much longer post, but as I wrote it turned into the substance of three or four. So finally, a short one.

I recently listened to a writers 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.

                I would hate for my friends to question my devotion to them even when I may be telling them how annoying they are. I am saddened for people constantly qualifying devotion towards friends. I wish for honesty in love and confidence in loves commitment