Christianity 201

February 2, 2014

True Compassion Comes Judgement-Free

Sometimes in our zeal to be right about issues, we can offer what is genuine heartfelt compassion but it has moralism attached to it. When Jesus encountered situations where he could have preached, he first loved unconditionally.  Consider this article by Deb Wolf at the blog, Counting My Blessings, titled “I’m So Sorry. I Care. I’m Praying.

The other day I did something I rarely do . . . and it wasn’t long before I realized I should have considered the place before sharing my thoughts.

I was on FB and saw this headline – Marlise Munoz removed from life support; baby ‘executed by judicial tyranny,’ pro-lifers say – LifeSiteNews. You can read the article and following comments here.

I have been very upset about this story since it surfaced weeks ago. While reading the article my emotions took over and before thinking as carefully as I might have . . . I left the following comment:

This case has made me so sad, and I don’t feel any of us has a right to judge. I believe life is God-given, all life. But we must stop attacking this poor family. We have not walked in their shoes. This is a time to extend grace and love.

Those of you who know me, know I am pro-life. I believe that every baby is a blessing, and I am against abortion (but that is not my point here).

What is my point?

To a grieving family this is the time to say, “I’m so sorry. I care. I’m praying.”

That’s it!

I didn’t always feel this way. I must confess that I’ve voiced more than my share of judgmental comments in the past. Something I deeply regret and that I’ve repented. I am especially sad that it took being on the receiving end of judgment for me to change.

I wish I’d always honored Jesus’ words:

“You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:36-37

“If another follower sins, warn him, and if he is sorry and stops sinning, forgive him.” Luke 17:31

Be compassionate, don’t judge, don’t condemn, and warn him (personally).

I’ve come to believe it’s important to live by the saying…

“Hate the sin. Love the sinner.” 

And “the sinner” includes every one of us. You and me.

Speak the truth. Tell people about the value of life, all life. Talk about God’s command to live with sexual purity. Explain God’s truths about coveting, gossiping, and stealing. Carefully respect the use of His name, and show people what it means to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. 1 Peter 3:15 (MSG)

“Always with the utmost courtesy,” other translations say with, “gentleness and respect, humility, reverence, meekness, and fear.”

Is it possible that too much of society has become comfortable with . . . Hating the sinner, and excusing the sin. At least the sins they commit. We don’t like the word sin anymore, but sin is everything that separates us from God.

God hates sin, but He loves sinners. So much so, that He provided a Savior for us. And it is that Savior who told us not to judge others. It is that Savior who told us to show compassion, who told us to forgive, and who told us to “go and sin no more.”

Will you join me today in telling the Munoz family, “I’m so sorry. I care. I’m praying for you.”

May 27, 2012

Many of Us are Guilty of Religious Violence

Or should that “many” actually say “all?”

While sourcing an image for the second of two posts today at Thinking Out Loud, I ended up at Wilderness Wanderings, the blog of Jon, pastor of Lights of the Canyon (LOTC) United Methodist Church in Anaheim Hills, California.  There were a number of great devotional posts there, but this one got my attention; he titled it Sticks and Stones.

Matthew 23:29-39

New International Version (NIV)

29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Jesus said a lot of things that make me uncomfortable. This scripture passage from Matthew is a case in point. Jesus passionately criticizes (perhaps “condemns” is not even too strong a word) the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus’ says that they are complicit in killing the prophets of old. This is impossible, of course, because none of the people that Jesus is speaking to were alive during the age of the prophets. Jesus, knowing that he himself is going to be crucified soon, and knowing also that many of his followers will face persecution, is pointing out the scribes and the Pharisees complicity in those acts of violence.

Since this subject is disconnected from us at LOTC, we talked yesterday about violence in general (physical, emotional and spiritual) that people perpetuate in the name of God. The point I really wanted to communicate was that we are all guilty, to one degree or another, of the sin of the scribes and Pharisees. We have all committed a degree of religious violence at some time in our lives. Whether we passionately criticize someone for their beliefs, whether we lean on the tried and true technique of just calling people names, or whether we simply look down on other people, we are doing violence to the gospel.

Yesterday, I shared about my experience in college and in seminary. Another experience that I had in college that speaks to this issue involved our rivalry with Biola University. At the first Westmont/Biola basketball game in our gym, the fans from Biola held up letter signs that ultimately spelled out a word. Their sign read l-i-b-e-r-a-l-s. I was surprised by two things. First, that there was a place that thought Westmont was liberal. But, I was also surprised that the Biola students chose a theological critique at a basketball game. Not to be outdone, when Westmont visit Biola later that season, students held up the following letter signs; l-e-g-a-l-i-s-t-s. And the debate raged on.

It seems sometimes that Christians are more eager than we should be to be critical of others, when perhaps our “go to” response should involve love and compassion first and asking questions later.

~Jon Wesley Waterson

February 22, 2012

Living the Red Letters

For the past few nights our family has been working its way through The Red Letters a 6-part DVD series produced by World Vision Canada, in preparation for my reviewing it at Thinking Out Loud. The video features outspoken author and speaker Tony Campolo being interviewed by Colin McCartney, director of Urban Promise in Toronto, and author of Red Letter Revolution. If you know Tony, and you noted the title of Colin’s book, the combination of Campolo and McCartney on the subject of Jesus’ teachings is going to produce a thought-provoking video curriculum.

But last night I decided to venture into some of the recommended websites and discovered Colin McCartney’s blog at RedLetterInfo.com including this post from a few days ago:

Last night I had the privilege to worship with a group of young believers at a house church in Anaheim, California. It was a refreshing time for me being with these vibrant Christians and hearing them share about their journey with Jesus all within such a caring environment. The majority of the believers in this simple house church are from total unchurched backgrounds so to worship with them was a real treat. I was especially impressed by the fact that every one of them worshipped and shared from their hearts. The honesty and intimacy present within the living room of this house church was contagious. Grace permeated throughout the room and it was obvious to me that this was a safe place to come and meet Jesus no matter who you are or what you have done.

 Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name there I will be among you.”  (Matthew 18:20) Jesus was among us in that house last night. That’s one of the things I like the best about Jesus – he loves to be with his people and especially those who hurt. He does not restrict himself  to the mantras of professional clergy nor does he limit himself to only making appearances in sacred church buildings.  He is not into religious posturing or rituals. No, he is present in the simplicity of the poor (“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:40) and the gathering of two or three or more of us meeting together in a living room of a house in Anaheim, California.

 While we worshipped there was no “proper” worship protocol that is present in so many of our church services today. There was no evident “order of service”, no special musical arrangements with guest singers and there was no passing of the gold coloured offering plates for our tithes and offerings (though we did pass a baseball cap around that was a little sweaty and dirty as it came from the head of one of the folks attending the house church). Needless to say what happened last night was raw, rootsy and real. People shared how their week had went and I was amazed how many of these people talked about the times they shared their faith and cared for others especially the poor. People spoke about loved ones who were now homeless. Youth asked for prayer for their freinds who are cutting themselves with razors. Best of all were the groanings that rose from the mouths of everyone in that room when they prayed for God’s intercession in their lives and in the lives of those they know.  When it came time for me to share the Word I had a captive audience hungry, willing and thirsting to learn from the Scriptures. Now that is a church!

 I loved last night because this is what I always dream and pray about – to see a movement of Christians in love with Jesus, embodying his “red letters” in word and deed, just simply living out their faith. This sounds like the New Testament church to me and it is to this form of missional movement that I have committed myself to.  I seek to work with churches who are committed to activate their people to this kind of “red letter” missional lifestyle where they challenge their people to “go”!  I also dream of church plants being birthed naturally and organically in homes, community centers, prisons, bars and wherever else “Red Letter” Christians do mission. It’s that simple yet it is so rare!  All it takes for this to happen is for us to go! So, what is holding us back? 

Since Colin ended with a question, here again is the link where you can post your response.