Category Archives: Love

Bullying the Bullies

Stephanie thinks I may be a bit confrontational when it comes to subjects like ecclesiology or eschatology or even the best flavor of cheez-its, so, yeah, pretty much everything. She’s right, as she tends to be on a fairly regular basis. So we were talking and I was thinking the other night. Why do I think it is ok for me to be a bully when it comes to theology and not for other people to be bullies?

The first thing I realized was the obvious hypocrisy of my attitude. The thing I rail against on this blog most often is people bullying others into believing certain things and doing certain things and conforming to certain traditions. It drives me insane to see people being pushed around by pompous know-it-alls. So, in like fashion, I, the pompous know-it-all, tell all the other pompous know-it-alls what I think of their overpowering and oppressive ways. I employ the very attitude that I am trying to prove wrong in my attempts to prove it wrong. That is frustrating to realize!

So then the other part of my brain got rolling, the part that wants to justify my actions, and it explained to me that the difference was that I was bullying the bullies. This part of my brain told me that I saw some kids out on the playground taking money from the nerdy kid with glasses, so it was justified, no, necessary, to go out there and show those stupid bullies what it’s like to get picked on until they run away into their little corner licking their wounds.

That made me feel good … for about ten seconds, until I realized the absurdity of my reasoning. First of all bullying bullies only serves to prove that bullying is indeed the right approach, they just need to get better at it, strong and more powerful, like me (metaphorically speaking). This will only serve to create a power struggle and brings me to the major flaw: none of it is about loving God or loving people. It’s all about showing my strength, my reasoning, my knowledge, my righteousness, and that is all garbage compared to the love and peace and unity we can have in Christ. It’s all about Him and when I make it about what I know and what I can prove then I miss the whole point, the point I am supposedly trying to prove.

Will I stop being a bully? I would love to think so, but probably not, but I think that this is something important for me to remember, and maybe writing these thoughts down may help remind me and hold me accountable to chill out on the self-righteous, arrogance that I sometimes demonstrate when trying to prove to people that we should stop being self-righteous arrogant jerks to each other!


Just Trying to Stay Married

To sort of piggyback on the discussion from a few days ago on the post Just Trying to Get By, it seems that, along with a person’s faith being a struggle that should be the source of strength through struggle, marriage seems to be another struggle for many when, if properly understood, it should also be a source of strength for both spouses in times of struggle. Yes, there are many divorces in our country, in our time, but that isn’t even what I’m talking about. So many books are out there trying to teach people how to be happy in marriage, how to continue to love their spouse in marriage, how to make marriage “work.” A successful marriage seems to be nothing more than a marriage that doesn’t eventually end in a divorce.

Is that what marriage is intended to be? Nothing more than something that must be held together? It seems that so many people have found strength in their marriages, in their spouses. Their marriages were something that helped them remain strong as they struggled through whatever difficulties they faced. I wonder if staying married were not the goal, but the given, that maybe there wouldn’t be as many divorces, and maybe more people would start seeing their marriage as a source of strength, not a drain on it.

Imagine for a moment that the parent/child relationship were treated this way? Can you imagine (assuming you are a parent) ever thinking that it was good enough just to let your kid live at home as they were growing up? We don’t even think about caring for our kids; it is a natural and assumed responsibility/privilege. What if they are bad? What if they treat us with disrespect? What if they do not obey us? None of that matters, we love our kids, we want the best for them, and we put all we have into their lives. They are a source of joy and strength for us, a reason to do better and be better and hold on through difficulties, to never give up, to do whatever needs to be done.

I realize that the spousal relationship is not the same as the parent/child relationship but I just wonder why we are so quick and willing to give all of ourselves for our kids, when many times they do not “deserve” it or have not “earned” it or maybe even cause us severe heartache, yet we find it so easy to harbor anger and frustration and disappointment toward our spouses. Maybe I’m young, maybe I don’t understand all this stuff, but I hope that Stephanie and I continue to see each other as partners in the face of a difficult world, as fellow pilgrims on the journey toward Christ, as sources  motivation and strength for each other throughout our lives.

You’re All Sinners!

Today at The Assembling of the Church, in the post How Does the Church Respond to Poverty, Alan shared an email he had recently received. The person wrote to him about the church’s treatment and general attitude toward those in poverty. This person wrote from experience as someone who has seen both the generosity and love of some in the church as well as the judgment and selfishness of others. Something in the email caught my attention and got me thinking about something:

[a common response from the church is to a]ssume the [impoverished] person or family has committed some error or sin that has left them in their current situation. Because nobody in America is poor unless they are either lazy, foolish, or sinful.

So it is typical to assume that people are in poverty because of some sin. I have definitely heard this same line of reasoning from Christians, so I would certainly be willing to agree that, among Christians, this is a typical response to poverty.

I also remember talking a couple weeks ago about another struggle that many people face that is blamed on sin. Depression.

Then there are those crazy people who say that earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes are the result of the sins of the people in those places.

Then there are the political/religious folks that say America better support Israel or we will lose our country for our sins. Or maybe we already are losing our country from the horribly sinful lifestyles of our citizens. Maybe that is why our sons die in war, because of the sins of their country.

There’s also this story in the Bible about this guy who loses everything and some of his buddies come along with good intentions. They try to help him solve his issues. They know that Job must be sinning. If he would just repent this would all go away.

And then there was this other story in the Bible that talks about a blind man. Jesus’ disciples want to know who sinned to make this man blind. They assumed that he was blind because of sin.

I’m starting to notice a pattern.

So we know for sure that Job’s friends were wrong, Jesus’ disciples were wrong. I wonder if that should serve as a warning to us …

Mourning with those that mourn

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. – Rom 12:15 NKJV

Recently two people in my life have lost a parent. It is very easy as a Christian to want to jump in and try and give those people answers and take these times as “opportunities” to share the Gospel, but I think that sometimes it is important to simply mourn with them. They are hurting and if we care about them how can that not hurt us as well? I’m sure that they are not looking to be attacked with the Gospel, but will be much more encouraged by someone genuinely sharing in their pain, someone demonstrating how important that person is by being truly and deeply upset by the hurt that person is feeling.

Jesus wept with Mary and Martha although he knew that he would raise their brother from the grave, not to mention he knew that he was about to provide the way to overcome death and grant abundant eternal life to all who follow him. He didn’t say any of this to them. He saw their hurt and it hurt him and he cried. Not for any kind of demonstration or to make any point, just because he loved them and their hurt troubled his spirit.

It is difficult to see the people we love in pain. We can’t always take that pain away, but if we truly care for them we will feel that loss along with them and mourn along side them. Please pray for my friends who have lost their loved ones. Pray that they might find peace and comfort in Christ and his resurrection.

This is Serious: a warning to christian counselors

There are people in my life who I really like, and enjoy the company of, who are involved in Christian counseling so please do not mistake what I am going to say as an attack against believers who care and want to help others deal with struggles in their hearts and minds. I believe that many Christian counselors truly do care and truly want to help people find helpful and meaningful answers to their struggles.

Having said that I would like to issue a word of caution: Christian counselors, you are dealing with incredibly serious matters, and the words you say and advice you give may have an impact far beyond, and far more serious, than you may know.

I am no expert on depression, so I won’t try to explain the way any of this stuff works, but I do know a few things from observation.

The first thing is that there are two types of situations:

  • The first is the one where people of completely sound mind are having a hard time dealing with something, in which case helping that person  understand whatever it is they are struggling with, assuming that person wants to make a change, will most likely result in helping that person overcome whatever their issue is: whether fear, sadness, anger or whatever.
  • The other type of situation is where someone struggles with something far more serious then your everyday pedestrian fear, sadness, anger and so on. This person is severely oppressed by darkness and sadness many times in spite of the life-situation they find themselves in. This person may not be able to think or pray through this darkness no matter how hard they try, no matter what advice you give, no matter how bad they want to change, no matter how much logic and truth contradict the thoughts and struggles in their head. This person may feel lost, hopeless, overwhelmed, overcome, overpowered, tired, weary, exhausted, empty, alone, afraid, confused, discouraged, defeated, useless, and maybe even betrayed and angry, and many times these feelings are directed at themselves, not others.

Another thing I know: we know much less than we think we do. If we aren’t humble and we don’t realize that things are much more complex than we can understand then we will tend to presume to know the answers to these struggles. Many of these answers are circular in logic (this is happening because you are sinning, if it doesn’t go away it means you are still sinning) and discouraging for the person who is already struggling with this heavy darkness in their minds. The truth is that we don’t understand all the details of how the human brain works, we also can’t even begin to understand God’s plans, intentions, or workings in the hearts, minds and lives of others. To presume we know these things, which we do when we give simple definitive answers, is nothing more than arrogant ignorance, and it can be incredibly destructive to someone who is already feeling defeated.

So, please, if you are a Christian counselor, or simply a Christian trying to help a friend, tread lightly, act in love, and humbly understand there is no way you can know the other person’s heart, mind, situation, and life. Confronting sin in a loving way is obviously an integral part of helping each other become more like Christ, but assuming some sin is the cause of a person’s mental health issues is unfounded and dangerous and could do serious harm to that person. As I stated at the beginning of this post, I truly believe many people who teach this and counsel this are well-intentioned, but good intentions are not enough when people’s very lives could be on the line. Be cautious.

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