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The Christian dissonance of the “pro-life” movement

I opened my previous post stating that I try to avoid political topics on this blog.   This post is going to make a liar of me as I step into it once more.   I promise (I think) this is the last for quite some time.

My last post was about the Christian dissonance in the phrase, “It’s my body.”   That is to say, for those of us who follow Christ, the Lamb of God who laid down his own life to save ours, it makes little sense for any Christian to claim “It’s MY body.”   Our bodies are gifts from God, temples of the Holy Spirit, and exist to bring glory and honor to our Creator.

The push back I received from my pro-choice friends over that post and others is this: They rightfully point out the dissonance (or hypocrisy) in most of us who are pro-life when they insist we care only about the baby in the womb but fall short in our compassion for humanity beyond that.

If we are honest, we have to admit they are right.   When I have these discussions with people I discover that I am often in the minority among pro-life people.   By this I mean I fully support and desire to see universal health care for all people.  I want to see free maternal care for mothers and mandatory maternal (and paternal!) leave granted by employers.   I want to be part of a nation that cares more about showing empathy and compassion towards the strangers and minorities among us  – refugees, immigrants, etc – than they do about it’s flag.  I want to see the death penalty done away with and real rehabilitation programs for convicted criminals and everyone suffering from addiction.    I want to see real gun reform laws passed and a concerted effort to end mass shootings, particularly in our schools where our children are at greater risk than in any other country on earth.

I guess you could say I am truly pro-life from womb to tomb.

Pro-choice people are right to point out the hypocrisy in many of us when we scream as loud to keep children from crossing our borders as we do to ensure children our born within our borders.

When we argue “I have a right to own a gun,” we sound alarmingly like pro-choice people arguing “I have a right to my own body.”

When we support policies or demonstrations which demean or take lightly the plight of black Americans (who proportionally speaking, are most susceptible to feeling they have a need to have an abortion) we demonstrate to a watching world that we are not really pro-life.

When we argue against health care for every person in our country and continuously vote for leaders who strategically position corporations and the wealthy to get ahead while removing safety nets for the most vulnerable among us, we shoot our cause in the foot and appear to a watching world as white-washed tombs.

When we discourage sex education or free birth control for all, we guarantee a rise in the number of those distressed and hopeless and feeling as though abortion is their only option.

Many of the positions taken against these life affirming policies are rooted in the same beast that gives birth to a pro-choice movement:  Fear of losing what’s rightfully mine.   In essence, it’s a lack of faith in God.   Both the woman who fears she cannot adjust her future life to that of a newborn and the person who thinks allowing in more refugees will water down their culture are committing the same sin:  They lack faith in a God who promises to provide for our needs if we will humble ourselves before him and honor him in all that we do.

I wonder what would happen if we who are pro-life would actually be pro-life in every area of our lives?   Maybe, just maybe, it would bear witness to a watching, confused and hurting world that God truly is the God of all nations, all tribes, all tongues – born and unborn – and loves them dearly.   After all, they will know us by our love.

 

 

 

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The Christian dissonance of “It’s My Body”

I try to avoid political topics on my blog but the latest news regarding “heartbeat” bills and discussion around women’s right to have an abortion has been occupying much of my head space.

Which is interesting to me because I wasn’t this occupied with it in the past.   The reason I felt it worth writing about here is because I think my views about abortion have changed some, aligning more with my views on sexual integrity in general and the rights I believe we have over our bodies in particular.

It’s this latter portion that is most concerning to me, especially as it relates to those of us who are Christians.   For the record, I don’t believe it’s the job of the Church to legislate morality (in most cases), but I do believe it’s the job of the Church to serve as a conscience to the State.   We may not get to make the laws, but we certainly should be witnesses to the light.  What we support (or don’t support) while bearing the name of Christ makes an indelible impression upon a watching, confused, disbelieving world.

Having said that, allow me to state my premise clearly, and then I’ll unpack it.   Whether you agree or disagree with this statement, I hope you’ll continue reading and even comment.

The deeper we pursue Christ and his holiness, the more incoherent and dissonant is the world’s message declaring, “It’s your body, it’s your choice.”

This should come as no surprise to Christians, but it’s amazing how much we muddy the waters with the things we support.   The dissonance between the messages “Come, pick up your cross and follow me,” and “It’s your body, it’s your choice,”   which are often proclaimed from the same pulpit and pew can only further confuse a world in such dire need of Christ’s liberating, healing, saving word.

Our primary task as Christians is to make disciples.  How can we expect the disciples we are making to understand what it means to lay down one’s life for the sake of the gospel when we tell pregnant women, “It’s your body, your choice”?

Scripture teaches us that when we become Christians we recognize that we have been bought with a price.   Paul, if writing today, would no doubt ask us the same question:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Cor. 6)

Do we not know that our bodies are not our own?   Why, as Christ followers, are we telling people the exact opposite?

Paul writes in Philippians that we who know Christ are to have his mindset:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

He goes on to declare that it’s this mindset – this lowly, humble, it’s-not-MY-body mindset – that God will exalt and this spectacular display of selflessness, one that seems utterly foolish to the ways of this world, will cause every knee to one day bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Friends, this means that the degree to which people are not calling Jesus Lord of their life is in large part the same degree to which we, his Body on earth, are not bearing witness to the sacrificial, self-denying life of Jesus.

Naturally, this has implications in how we live far beyond (and before) thoughts of abortion are even entertained.   Understanding that this body I have is a gift from God and not my own dictates how I use it moment by moment.  It means I can’t just say “yes” to something because I desire it because I understand that my desires are not always holy desires.   Thus, questions about sex outside of marriage, masturbation, pornography use, and of course, abortion, all must be held up to the light of the gospel and it’s demand upon not just my doctrine (what I believe) but upon my body (what I practice).

It’s only when I surrender my body, along with my heart and my will and my thoughts, to God that I can begin to know the sort of freedom and joy and peace Jesus promises to those who seek him and his righteousness first and foremost.

I’ll conclude by stating my premise once again:

The deeper we pursue Christ and his holiness, the more incoherent and dissonant is the world’s message declaring, “It’s your body, it’s your choice.”

Grace and peace,

Chad

Rachel Held Evans: On Origami and Trust

The news concerning the death of Rachel Held Evans this past weekend has been hard to swallow.   She leaves behind a loving husband, 2 young children, and a family innumerable who have been blessed, encouraged, and loved through her speaking and writing ministry.   She will be greatly missed.

I first met Rachel back in 2010 when were were both actively blogging about faith and the church.  She graciously shared some of my writings on her blog (which was far more popular than mine ) and we met at a few conferences.  When I was moving from seminary back to Tennessee in 2011 we kicked the idea around of starting a church that would minister to the outcasts and misfits – those who had lost faith in the church but hoped God hadn’t lost faith in them.   Sadly, that never transpired.

Over the years we drifted apart but I continued to read her work.   While we didn’t always land in the same place, I always admired her gift with words and her ability to articulate the questions of faith that all of us have or have had and she did so humbly and honestly.   Never did I doubt that she was and is deeply in love with Jesus and her neighbors.   Today, I don’t doubt that that love is only magnified and more truly known.

I’ve been moved by the many tributes written these past few days.   But I’ve also been appalled by comments and posts from many of her detractors. I won’t reference them here as I don’t want to give them life, but they reveal the dark underbelly of the Church at which Rachel devoted much of her time aiming her prophetic voice, and the remainder of her time creating places of grace and healing for it’s refugees.   She wanted them, and us, to know that the church imperfectly reflects the goodness of our Father and that we can trust Jesus to make all things new.

I fell prey to something these last two days, be it my hero complex or simply boredom, to defend Rachel to some of her detractors.   In the midst of this I realized that this is not something Rachel would have done herself, nor expect any of us to do.  Rather, she would likely pray for them, and instruct me to do the same (or teach me how to turn their hate mail into origami).

But it did get me thinking about trust.  When the judgments of those self-avowed defenders of pure religion are stacked up against the grace-filled, humble words of Rachel and her many friends, a blinding, stark contrast is on full display.  The former is only able to give lip service to trust, whereas the latter embodies it in word and deed.  They do this, I think, because they trust not the frame of their religion but the One who frames them in perfect light to the Father.

This came to me as I was singing this weekend the song, “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less.”   The first stanza goes like this:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

As in life, Rachel’s death is also inviting me to trust Jesus.   To trust less in my understanding of Jesus, or my doctrinal purity, or who I agree or disagree with on certain matters but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Yes, no doubt there are important things worth contending over, but may my hope and yours be first and foremost in Jesus – the one who loves us and died for us in the midst of our ignorance and sin.  This trust in the work of this Person, I believe, is what is most important, and making this our business is what I believe will best honor the legacies of both Rachel and our Lord.

Rest in Peace and Power, RHE.

 

Praying for Faith (Resurrection is real, or all this is in vain)

Every Easter this tired trope gets trotted out that it’s not necessary to believe Jesus literally was raised from the dead. It’s fine, these progressive skeptics tell us, to embrace Easter as a beautiful metaphor describing the indestructible qualities of things like hope and love.

One example of many is found in the opinion piece linked above.  Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary, says,

For me, the message of Easter is that love is stronger than life or death. That’s a much more awesome claim than that they put Jesus in the tomb and three days later he wasn’t there. For Christians for whom the physical resurrection becomes a sort of obsession, that seems to me to be a pretty wobbly faith. What if tomorrow someone found the body of Jesus still in the tomb? Would that then mean that Christianity was a lie? No, faith is stronger than that.

Yes, Ms. Jones.   It would mean that it’s all a lie.   For if Christ is not risen from the dead, all of your preaching and mine is in vain (1 Cor. 15:14).   The faith proclaimed in Scripture is not one of sentimentality, it’s object being the stuff that makes up inspirational Hallmark cards.   No.  The faith found in Scripture of which we are compelled to receive is a gift whose object is the living God, through whom we only know what love is because of the life, death and resurrection of his incarnate Son.   It is a faith far stronger than sentimentality and cute slogans.

And it’s a faith that must be contended for.  Within myself, perhaps in each of us, is a wandering heart which all too easily falls prey to cultural accommodation. This is why scripture is replete with commands to guard our heart (and our doctrine) closely.

And so it is that this Easter I found myself praying for faith. Perhaps you, too, would like to join me.

Father, you promised that those who seek you will find you. Open the eyes of my heart today so that I can see you in all your glory. Give me the faith of a child so that I am never outside your Kingdom.

Jesus, I want to believe the improbable and impossible because in you everything exists, and nothing exists apart from you. I want to believe that you were there when all that exists came into being. I want to believe that in the beginning you walked with Adam and Eve. I want to believe that you saved Noah through an ark. I want to believe that you parted a sea to save your people. I want to believe that you caused the sun to stand still, rained bread down from heaven, made water come from rocks, spared faithful men from a burning furnace, and toppled a giant with a sling and a stone.

Jesus, I want to believe that you were born miraculously of a virgin, fed 5000 with meager means, walked on water, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, made the lame to walk, calmed the storm and raised the dead with your word.

Jesus, I want to believe that you laid down your life willingly to save me from my sins. I want to believe that your Father in Heaven raised you bodily from the grave, defeating sin and death. I want to believe that you now sit beside him in glory, interceding on my behalf and empowering me with your Spirit to destroy the works of the devil in my mind, body and soul and throughout your creation.

Spirit, where there is any doubt in me I pray you would guide me into truth. Give me life not according to my words but Yours. Make me to believe that the desires of God’s heart are to be mine, and that I will never know true joy unless my heart is beating with yours.

Give me childlike faith, Father, and surround me with your true followers who will sharpen me and encourage me to press on till the day we are brought into the eternal home you have prepared for us. Grant me to live each day emboldened by a robust faith that does not fear death because I know I am the child of the Creator of the universe who literally came to earth to give me the opportunity to become his child.

I ask all of this in the powerful, holy name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you now and forever. Amen.

A Prayer for Sanctuary Cities

I try to avoid politics on this blog but sometimes it is unavoidable.   News this week coming out of the White House is that our current administration is considering busing immigrants into sanctuary cities.    Trump tweeted today:

Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only.   The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy – so this should make them very happy!

This probably amounts to little more than a childish taunt.   Setting aside the very well documented fact that Democrats are not advocating for “open borders,” the attempted dig towards a group of people or a city for having “open arms” should strike any follower of Jesus as unchristian.   Christians should be the most welcoming people on earth because we ourselves have been welcomed with grace upon grace.   Our adoption as heirs into a kingdom of which we were once alienated – based on no merit of our own – is a spiritual adoption to be sure, but one that Jesus insists should be reflected in how we welcome physical strangers both near and far.

Governments are not meant to be Christian.   They have a purpose which is different from that of the Church, but sometimes (by the grace of God) those purposes overlap.   Where the government fails to act justly – even giving preferential treatment to the poor, the marginalized, the stranger – the Church must and should be it’s conscience.    This is one of those times.

And so it is that these sanctuary cities may have in the near future an opportunity to live out in radical ways the grace of God.   Should Trump follow through with his threat, these cities will be inundated with people in need.    Often, our greatest ideals sound great on paper but in reality would overwhelm and sink us.   Who among us doesn’t give lip service to the goodness of Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek but when afforded an opportunity to practice it fall short of the glory of such an ideal?   We all have been there.   And without the power of prayer and the support of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, we would fall often.

So it is that I want to offer up a prayer for sanctuary cities.    This prayer is really for any city or church or person who determines they will have open arms extended towards the least of these – fellow children created in the image of God, the Father of every nation and tribe and tongue.

Most merciful God, we pray today for cities across this land  – land which is not ours but Yours – which have felt called to become and remain cities of refuge.   If the plans of some – plans meant to cause confusion and strife  – come to pass, we pray that in your power these places would prosper.   We pray that you would rise up in these cities men and women of faith who trust in a God who turns meager loaves and fish into abundance to supply multitudes.   We pray that they would not succumb to a theology of scarcity but live into one of abundance.   We pray that you would fortify them with wisdom, patience, and endurance to fight the good fight and not grow weary in doing good.

Father, we pray for those families being torn between political ideologies.  These are mothers and fathers and children whom you know by name.  Grant them every good gift, Lord.  Do for them instead of us this day.    Wherever they are planted we pray you would water the soil and produce abundant fruit.  May the cities that welcome them prosper. May creativity flourish.  May your favor shine upon them.   May their fields increase.  May the spirit of peace and love, which casts out all fear, abound.   According to your word, give them every good thing.  

Holy Spirit, raise up more cities like these.  May the love and goodwill shown to your nomadic children serve as judgment against we who have closed the eyes of our hearts from seeing them as Your beloved.  Stir up in Your church a revival where we will never again be known by our political party but by our love.    May your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.  

We ask all of this in the mighty name of Jesus.    Amen.  

Everyone should read John Piper

Every Christian should read and listen to the sermons of John Piper.

I have not always believed this.  In fact, I would have laughed at such a suggestion for most of my adult life.  But I’m convinced of this now more than ever.

Last year I wrote a post taking issue with John Piper’s advice on how to defeat lust.   I took exception to the fact that one of his six steps was Enjoy Jesus more than sinful pleasure.   In my thinking at the time, I felt like this was heaping unnecessary shame and guilt upon people who already know they should enjoy Jesus more, but don’t.    Not a terrible feeling to have, but not a terribly correct one, either.

I think sometimes it’s easier to concern ourselves over the shame and guilt others might feel than we are with sharing them truth in love.   In doing so, I think we rob people of opportunities to experience the power of God resurrecting their life (the resurrection assumes a death) in favor of ensuring they feel comfortable in this present life.

Piper will have none of that.  His sole purpose is to glorify God.   He wants everyone to discover that they are only truly happy when they find delight in God.   And this is why everyone should read him.

I’m reading now his wonderful companion to Desiring God entitled When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy.   In this book he masterfully and pastorally handles the issue I took with him suggesting we enjoy Jesus more than sinful pleasure but, even more, he awakens in me a desire to know and love God more intimately than I ever have (a thirst that, to be sure, will never be fully quenched).

I have some theological disagreements with Piper to be sure, but there is no doubt in my mind that he is head over heels in love with Jesus and submits himself wholly to the holy words of God with child-like awe and wonder.

That is something I desire.   And the good news, according to both Jesus Christ and John Piper, that desire is a gift of God and one which will grow and grow and be filled and filled, also as a gift of God, assuming we continue to pursue Christ and his righteousness.   Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things…

If you are experiencing a lack of faith, a dry spell in your walk with God, or if you know it to be true of yourself that, quite frankly, you enjoy and find delight in many things more than God, then I commend to you the works of John Piper.    It is often said that the reason we worship together corporately is so that in those seasons where we may not have faith, we can lean on the faith of others.    If you are in such a season, I pray that Piper’s deep and abiding faith and utter joy he finds in the Person of God might serve as a crutch for you today, and inspire you to new heights and greater desire tomorrow.

Grace and peace,
Chad

Weapons From Wounds

I love this testimony from a guy I met when I was doing recovery ministry. He helped launch it with his wonderful talent as a musician, but what really captivated me and the church was his heart for God. I love this line!…

The wisdom I would share would be “Find out where you’re weak and let God transform it and use it.” Don’t be ashamed of your wounds cuz they’re now weapons!!

davis mitchell

Heart
“Find what you’re good at and go do that”. I think I’ve heard people tell me that all my life. I’m not sure it’s bad advice but it’s made me think there’s more to it than just that as I get along in my journey. For years I think I’ve followed this very advice. Let me explain.

I got into music when I was a sophomore in College at the University of Tennessee, many moons ago. I had a roommate named Jeff who was from my hometown of Columbia, Tn. Jeff was/is an extremely talented musician. He had been in a couple bands in high school and I thought he was the coolest guy. He had long hair and earrings(cuz that was cool then) and he had a bumper sticker on the back of his car that said “Question Authority.” (My parents have me hell about being friends with Jeff…

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