Christianity isn’t about a search for comfort

“Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort or truth — only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair. Most of us have got over the pre-war wishful thinking about international politics. It is time we did the same about religion.” — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 

Remembering Dr. King

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

— Excerpt, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

A seed falling into the ground

The earthquake in Haiti that claimed over 200,000 lives took place five years ago.

NBC carried a story last night that remembered that tragedy and how one family came out of that tragedy after losing their daughter. She was there on a mission and had texted her parents that she knew what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. Three hours later the earthquake hit and she was gone.

Today, something powerful rises up out of her heart and sacrifice. This is a wonderful story.

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (Jn 12:24)

The Kingdom of God and severe reactions

It’s a bit of an odd world when, in the past few weeks, we’ve had some deep American need to “defend free speech” by going to see a very stupid movie about North Korea.

And now, it’s everyone claiming, “I am Charlie Hebdo” in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris on a satirical newspaper. We’re defending the right to “free speech,” which was all about offending Islam and other major religions.

David Brooks quickly reminds us that “free speech” may be a great idea for a French magazine, but it wouldn’t exist on most college campuses in America.

Islamic fundamentalists have severe reactions as well. Kill opposition. It’s a new Middle Ages the world has been plunged into: “I’m right. You’re wrong. Therefore, you must die.”

The Kingdom of God MUST be different. In every way.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom. 12:21)

Christianity will continue to be ridiculed, just as Islam will be poked at. We must be different. We don’t firebomb newspaper offices or kill writers.

At the same time it is the harsh realization that Christians will suffer far more than just a stupid cartoon. It’s the crisis going on throughout the Middle East and some parts of Africa. They are simply killed and cleared out of villages.

It’s also important to note that we don’t overcome threats, real or perceived, by going to stupid movies or supporting poor speech. Free speech allows for poor speech, but that doesn’t mean you call free speech “good” speech. Satirists have a place in society, but as David Brooks points out, they don’t all get to sit at the “adult table.” Rejoice in free speech, but that doesn’t mean it’s “good” speech.

In the Kingdom of God, move toward “good” speech. Move toward blessing. 

It is a more difficult way that must be empowered by the Spirit… but as believers in Christ, THAT is our call.

Fearing Muslims?

Last Friday I began to see a link being passed around from an opinion piece on Charisma Magazine’s site. I didn’t have time to read it, but the reactions from it today are so strong, I went back to read it. The piece is no longer on Charisma’s site, but links can be found to cached sites and the “author’s” original site.

Rod Thomas and Brian Zahnd had strong responses and their posts have the links to the original piece as well.

Two things (among many) stood out to me reading the original piece:

1. Whatever happened to loving our “enemy”? We’ve sunk to an “eye for an eye” and forgot the words of Jesus himself.

2. The “author” uses the twist that is dangerous. He starts with the word “Islamist” then quickly switches to Muslim and equates all Muslims with radical groups like ISIS. All Muslims hate Americans. All Muslims are sworn enemies of God (meaning Christians).

This is horrifying at every level. And it is not Christ. My dearest Muslim friends abhor ISIS and it is clear ISIS doesn’t represent them any more than Westboro Baptist Church represents me and my love for Jesus.

We are not like this world. We are not following the spirit of this age. We will not meet violence with violence. Not in this irrational way. The Kingdom of God is far more powerful than visceral responses like Charisma dared to post. Let us live with transformed minds.