Sunday, April 30, 2006

Bumper Stickers

For some reason, my attention has been drawn to bumpers stickers on vehicles as I am driving. I ask myself questions like, "What does this person hope to communicate about themselves?" or "Do they really think that a person is going to be radically changed by this message?" or "Why do they feel the need to post the resume of their kid's activities on the back window? However, my favorite ones are, "In case of rapture this car will be unmanned," or "CAUTION! Non-exposure to the Son will cause burning," or "Got Jesus? It's Hell without Him."

First, if our faith can be slapped into a slogan, put on a sticky piece of vinyl, then what are we doing? When was the last time the weight and power of the Gospel that was purchased through Jesus landed on someone as a result of one of these silly stickers? Is the Gospel so diluted and our desire as Christians to 'evangelize' so polluted that we believe that these 'proclamations without explanations' are suitable and honoring to our King Jesus?

Secondly, it's not just the bumper stickers that bother me. There are deeper implications. If it were just these arrogant, yet content lacking stickery statements, that would be one thing. But what is becoming more alarming for me as I travel is that people don't have much more to say than what these stickers are saying. Most people serve as what I like to call "Prophetic Parrots" wherein they say stuff they have heard other people say. Hear me, I do that too, however, before I go repeating stuff, I strive to think about what was said, how it measures to the truth of Scriptures, and how I can say it in a manner that is honest and edifying to the person I am sharing with.

It is time that followers of the living Christ be able to communicate the weightier, life-transforming, all powerful truth of the Good News without resorting to over-used and under-realized cliches. From the outside looking in, we are a bunch of people who are quick to flap our gums about God's love and scream of Hell's fire in the same breath (or bumper sticker). If we say we have been born again by the real and living Jesus Christ, shouldn't we have something more to say than, "Turn or Burn!"? Shouldn't we draw near to the living God through the illumination of His Word by the Holy Spirit? Shouldn't we think through what we believe and why and struggle to find ways to communicate these truths in ways that are consequential rather than borderline ignorant?

If you have a bumper sticker, I'm not advocating that you necessarily go rip it off the car (unless it is one of the ones listed above). I want to encourage you however, to understand that our call to "As we are going through life to make disciples of all nations..." requires more than bumper sticker evangelism. How I long to hear more and more people have such a consequential faith that their words and actions become consistent rather than overwhelmed by the marketing of overly useless novelties...

Question: It seems that some who call themselves Christians like to hold picket signs to 'show the love of God or His righteousness...' However, I have been thinking... Why hasn't anyone gone to Golden Corral (or your favorite all you can eat buffet) and sit with a sign that reads, "Eat to live, not Live to EAT!!!"? They could wait for anyone who appears overweight to come back for seconds, and they could publically humiliate, I mean show the love of God to the ever increasing group of people who have a 'life-style' sin of gluttony. I'm definitely not advocating this, but it seems curious to me the things that we invest our time and hatred towards...

I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Lord help us...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Gong Song

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."
(1 Corinthians 13:1, ESV)

A few weeks ago Stephanie and I were relaxing and watching 'American Idol' when we saw a commercial for a new show coming on immediately after the show. This new show was called 'Unanimous' and the premise was to lock these people in an underground bunker and have them decide unanimously who would win the $1.5 million dollars. I was slightly curious to see how these people would interact. For those of you who do not know, I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology, so I wanted to see how this would play out.

Within the first few minutes of the show the evidence of greed and manipulation was all over the place. However, the thing that ripped my heart out the most was the interaction between a woman from Los Angeles, CA who was a 49 year old minister and a male who was admittedly homosexual. We are aware that the producers intentionally pick people with varying backgrounds to make the show interesting. The sin issue of homosexuality quickly arose as an area for discussion. As Steph and I were watching I was heart broken and angered greatly by what was going on.

To be honest, I have been burdened for a while about how we 'Christians' address people who are in sin. Many of you know me and know that I am not afraid to address sin issues, but I always strive to do it in a loving manner that will ultimately bring about reconciliation with the person and God. I was hoping in my heart that this 'minister' would answer in a loving manner when the obvious question arose. It was my prayer that when this man found out this lady was a minister and shared his lifestyle with her that she would answer honestly, but lovingly.

However, she responded as a prophetic parrot. What I mean by a 'prophetic parrot' is someone who throws out your typical heartless clich├ęs that us Christians are famous for. When the guy asked her about her opinions she said, "Your problem is not with me, you need to take it up with the Bible," "Look at Sodom and Gomorrah," and my all time favorite, "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." Sitting there in shock my heart sank for all parties involved.

"You can't be serious," I thought to myself. I was grieved. Then the prophetic homosexual said something that haunted me. He said, "YOU ARE RECKLESS WITH YOUR WORDS!!!" Wow... As Steph and I were talking about what we had seen we both lamented about the way Christians are often clanging cymbals and loud gongs. The truth is, what she was saying was true, however, the way she said it was unfortunately the typical 'Evangelical' response.

In 1 Corinthians 13:1 (as shown above) Paul makes a clarifying statement. The people of Corinth were enamored with the spiritual gift of tongues and by those who were multilingual. Paul was indicating that whatever way they spoke, if it was absent of love, then the were just a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. This woman was 'speaking the truth,' but there was no hint of any love. CLANG CLANG CLANG!!!

Has it really come to the point where Christians have nothing else to offer to the issue of homosexuality besides, "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!"? What an ignorant, thoughtless, and hateful statement. This isn't the only sin that we are 'reckless with our words' about. Has the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father left us so powerless that we just tear people down? What happened to the Gospel? What happened to Grace and Truth? What happened to loving our neighbor as our self? What happened to having 'eyes to see, ears to hear, and the ability to understand'?

I invite you along with Steph and I as we seek to grasp a deeper understanding of the all transforming power found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us consider how we can lovingly communicate the Gospel as a cure to the sin disease that is killing us all. Homosexuality is clearly taught as a sin in numerous places in the Bible. However, if we are to be loving people, let us spend some time considering the complexity of the issue and how we might craft our words in such a way that it will communicate lovingly the transforming power of Jesus Christ.

For some people, I think the greatest thing they can do for the Kingdom of God right now is to remain silent. Unless you are confronting sin from a heart of love, saturated in Scripture, with the goal being reconciliation of the person and God through a relationship with Jesus, then please for the sake of God's reputation and for the rest of us Christ followers, be quiet.

My prayer for us all would be that we submit to the authority of God as communicated through His written Word and become people of understanding who lovingly choose our words. Let's not be noisy gongs or clanging cymbals, rather let us be a people who have been so radically loved by God that our response is to radically love others.