does sin matter?

I was talking with a rather clever high schooler I know about church, Jesus, the bible, all that good Christina stuff. She brought up a really common, but never the less interesting issue for Christians. How do we know what’s sin and not?

The question went something like this “how can someone say everyone is equal and woman should be able to do everything a man can, but then say you can’t be gay?”

To her there is some obvious inconsistency. In her mind the way we decided what is and isn’t sin isn’t being properly or equally applied. There appears to be a glaring inconsistency.

But too many there isn’t.

And to me that’s fascinating.

Both of these topics touch on defining what is and is not sin. The argument can be made for both sides, and as such it makes identifying sin in either of these situations hard. It’s the fact that good people working hard to understand the scripture and can come to very different understandings that leads to these debates still existing.

As I tend to do I asked a question that appears to not be particularly helpful. I asked the obvious to me question “does it matter?”

Clearly to a lot of people it does or the conversations wouldn’t come up. But the question and the reflection it dictates are important.

Does it matter if homosexuality a sin? Does it matter if woman in leadership is sin? Most would start with an obvious yes.

But why?

I may be wrong but I’ve never seen the exhaustive list of all sin. Is there a website we are listing them all so we know? Like supersinlist.com or something that we are all working towards so we can make sure we agree on them?

If it’s not for our super sin list, it’s got to be about leadership. Because no one who sins is worthy to be in leadership……..

So if it’s not about sin in leadership (because it can’t be or no one ever could lead anything), what is it?

Remember these are not actually all that clear. Most of us see these issues as clear but there is a wide divide in the church so it’s not. People are praying, reading, struggling and coming to entirely different opinions.

So back to why it matters, because I think most of us would agree it does.

Is it about accountability and love? Calling out sin in love for our brothers and sisters who have been led astray? This strikes me as ultimately the most prevalent reason. We can’t allow someone to continue in their sin. We see a better life and need to bring them into that new life.

Maybe but there is very little I would call loving in the way most people talk about sin in other people’s lives. We are really good at calling it out and expecting people to change while we do nothing about the obvious sin in our lives. In fact we often become indigent when someone does it to us.

Jarrod McKenna recently tweet a picture of a slide that I believe he is ascribing to Brad Chilcott. It reads:

“If it sounds like hate, feels like hate and makes people feel hated then it’s certainly not love. “

Do we live a life that looks like the life of Christ or one that we can defend with a verse in the bible? Do we act in love or in something that is certainly not love? Do we live a life modeled after the one who is love or one that we use to try and justify and sanctify beliefs and ideas that may not be as great and loving as we once thought they were?

Remember, those are different and I worry too often we try to live a life that we can defend with scripture rather than one that is modeled after Christ. Sure we sprinkle some Jesus in there but it’s right along with some old testament practices we like, an in or out perspective on a certain sin we find particularly offensive, and a belief that 7 days were 7 literal days.

Somehow all of those beliefs make us Christian or not rather than the obvious, is our life more like Jesus’ example of how to live than it was before?

This isn’t about salvation. That’s a big topic and to be honest I have no idea how it works. I don’t know when you cross the line form saved to not.

This is about being a Christian.

This is about being Christ-like.

This is about being love.

So, does it matter?

It’s hard to say, but I can be sure of this. Unless I’ve been invited to working it out with a person I know and love, I’m going to try and not make any judgments on what is and is not sin in their life.

Too much in my own to sort out.

to what end?

Lent started this week.

Lent leads to two obvious questions in a lot of Christian circles.

“Are you doing lent?”

“What are you lenting?”

But I often struggle with talking about it. This is more of an internal struggle than an external one because I love to hear myself talk. To an extent it’s the same reason I struggle with a lot of social media.

My mother’s voice runs through my head every time I think about posting anything. The question of “to what end?”

I can’t escape it.

That said, my mom and I have never talked about Facebook or Twitter with any real depth. We do however talk about work and life and often the idea of “to what end” comes up. I try to consider it with any important decisions, but Twitter and Facebook aren’t really important so why is it creeping in here?

It creeps in I suppose because lent is important. Perhaps more to the point who I am, my actions and the way I share myself is important.

And what does my online sharing say about me?

What does it say about what I value?

To what end am I posting _______?

Is it to encourage people, is it to draw them into community, is it to love them…

Or am I just saying look at me, look how smart I am, look how much I care, look what I’m doing, aren’t I great? Why does everyone know that I am lenting ______ and that it’s such struggle? Why do I make sure people see all the volunteering I’m doing and all the people I’m meeting?

We’ll most of you have come here through Facebook, so I’m clearly not opposed to Facebook entirely.

I just wonder if we should be more critical of what we post, why we post it, and what it says about us.

Are we commenting to be encouraging, to build community, to support others or because everyone else is and we want the world to know we care to. I worry that the ease with which we can say happy birthday, I’m sorry for your loss, excited for you, etc takes away from our desire to really engage. We miss being in the moment, in the messiness, in each other’s lives as much as we once were.

I think this is where community becomes so central.

Community is where we can go and share because our community knows us. They know why we’re doing what we’re doing. They can call us out when we’re being boastful and showy. They know our intentions and our hearts. They want this type of encouragement and challenge, because we know them relationally. We can lean on them and they will support us, because sometimes we need more than a few likes to get by. Sometimes we need someone to hold our hands, wipe our tears and listen as it all falls apart.

I worry that if we sat and reflected we’d find we pose/share/comment so others see how caring, smart, funny we are rather than to love. That when the option is presented we’d rather comment on a post then send a message, make a call, walk to their house because if we were being honest, part of why we’re doing it is so people know we’re doing it.

It’s not everyone, nor is it always, but if we never think “to what end” it might be happening more than we think. I know it does for me.

lent, coffee, and a life never the same

I love coffee.

I love coffee with a deep and complex love.

However, despite my love for this rich and life giving elixir, I gave it up for lent a few years ago. It went about as well as you’d anticipate.

I made it through but wow was it ever terrible. I really wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be to give it up, how much I enjoy it, and how unbelievably addicted I am to it. I started a new job during that time. I was like a walking zombie trying to make good impression on my new co-workers for weeks without caffeine coursing through my veins.

They noticed instantly when I started drinking it again.

We even joke about it now. They simply cannot believe that I could do it again if I wanted to, nor do they want me to even try.

But reflecting back, I don’t think it worked.

There are loads of reason why people participate in lent but I think this one missed the mark.

I guess there is value in praying more and I suspect I did, but not to the point that I remember or can say with certainty that I did.

I am however acutely aware that I’m not different because of it.

It didn’t change how I saw God or Jesus or my faith at all.

It didn’t draw my closer to God.

When all was said and done Easter came and went and I was the same person I was when it all started.

It was just a couple weeks where I was uncomfortable.

This year I hope it’s different.

I hope that my lent experience will draw me closer to Jesus.

I hope it will show me more the heart of God.

I hope that this will actually change the way I live. That by investing my time, energy and money in this I will be a different person when I’m done.

I want to be a better disciple when Easter comes around. I want to understand what Jesus is calling his followers into and realize that it’s not always easy. I want to act differently on the other side of Easter. I want to be changed by my investment in this process. To be open to Jesus changing me.

I want to see the world in a different way. In a way that won’t allow me to go back to the way it was.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe giving up coffee and chocolate haven’t really done it.

Might I suggest trying something new?

It will be different for all of us, but let’s not lose the power of this time because the tradition makes it easy to coast. Let’s pick something that changes the way we see the world. Let’s pick something that forces us to truly experience the world in a way that we have never had to before, not simply un-caffeinated for a few weeks.

How will this fast change you? How will it make you different when it’s done? How does this push you to be a better disciple? How will your actions be changed?

It’s not that you’ll never take up coffee again, but rather how will this lent make you see Jesus in a way that you can’t be what you were before?

Let’s not pick something inconvenient this year. Let’s pick something that changes the very world around us.

maybe Christian isn’t the right word

I don’t like to read my bible. Never have.

It’s just one point in a long list of reasons I’m not a great Christian, but I’m’ trying.

If you know me you know that everything is a question to me. My wife could not be less interested in all the things I find interesting, the actions we need to consider the implications of or the obvious questions everything we do seem to raise. Everything raises an interesting question. The problem is that more often than not, they are really only interesting to me.

But this issue I have with reading the bible lead to what is an obvious question to me, can you be a Christian without the bible?

The clear answer is yes but wow does that seem strange the write.

But the idea is so foreign and strange. The bible has such a place of esteem, and rightfully so, in the churches I have been a part of the idea that you could be a Christian without a bible seems ludicrous.

How would I know how to live, or what to believe about creation, head coverings and pork without a bible?

I dunno, but the early church, who the letters we now read as the bible, were sorting it out.

But how?

Well, they were Christians not Biblicists. They followed Christ not the bible and yes those can be really different.

Strictly speaking, it is entirely possible to be a Christian without a bible. While formative and massively important, it’s not required.

And we implicitly understand this, thought we live often in a Christian culture that refuses to acknowledge this. Again we know the early church didn’t have a bible.

So let’s take a moment to look at how we interact with the bible today

Be it head coverings, eating pork, selling all we have, or simply loving our neighbour, the bible is full of commands and actions we choose not to follow. Some, like head coverings and pork we interpret as cultural or part of a covenant we are no longer held to. Some like selling all we have we interpret as contextual or an outward example of the in workings of someone’s heart. And still some we rationalize away creating systems, categories and excuses to not love people because it’s hard and messy and requires more than we’re really willing to give.

The bible is interpreted.

Is the creation story a poem, an account handed down that mixes history and mythology from a people group, or a purely factual account that can and should be scientifically proven and defended?

I dunno but those are some really diverse ways to read the same thing.

All of those question and issues are important and worth of discussion, but they don’t make us Christian. But we feel, argue, and sadly condemn people as though they do. I worry that at times we defend the bible more vehemently than we defend Christ. His way, His love and His call to discipleship.

We understand the bible is important because it points us to Jesus. We should also get that while bible is important it’s when we make it more important than Jesus that we lose our way. It’s when we transition from Christian to Biblicist that we lose our way.

It’s when we use the bible and tradition to justify a system/belief/desire rather than look at the life of Jesus and try to be more like him.

It’s when we’d rather hide behind the bible than be the people Jesus calls us to be that we should really consider if Christian is the right word for us.

our love has a limit

For something that is supposed to be so naturally human we struggle with love.

Not the idea, we get it. But being love to someone? We struggle.

We understand that Jesus loved everyone and called us to do the same. We understand that He died for us in large part because He loves us. We know the verses that talk about how we are to follow His example and how people will know we are His disciple by our love.

We get it as an abstract concept but when it comes to real life it really breaks down.

This seems to be the underlying issue to me. While we would say “Jesus has called us to love everyone” we follow that up with a really reasonable and practical “expect _______.”

Of course we don’t say it that way. Let’s be honest, we’re more clever than that. Our brains wouldn’t allow for that kind of a statement. We need a better frame to allow us to accept that “love everyone but _____” proposition.

We talk about accountability.

We talk about holiness.

We talk about how we cannot condone sin.

We talk about plain reading of the scriptures.

We talk about justice.

We talk about when Jesus said “go and sin no more.”

But here’s the problem. We aren’t the woman caught in adultery and we aren’t Jesus. We are the religious leaders of the day. We are the ones dragging people in front of Jesus hoping He will condemn them. We are the ones using the law and the rules to dehumanize and belittle people.

We are the ones who refuse to see all the ways we’ve missed Christ in our own lives and point out the flaws in everyone else.

Yes Jesus tells the woman to go and sin no more. But it’s Jesus who tells her. It’s when she meets and connects with Jesus she leaves with the call to sin no more.

We are the ones in power, we are the ones trying to maintain the system, we are the ones raging against the outside world hoping it conforms to us and condemning it when it doesn’t.

We could be Jesus in this story.

But too often I think it’s just too satisfying to be right rather than to be love.

what hole do you leave?

I was thinking more about the song lyric from yesterday.

It drew to mind the idea of legacy. What do we leave behind?

Often when someone talks about legacy it’s in relation to death. What will you leave for your family? What will the world be like when your gone? I think those are important questions. If you are in ANY relationships you there will be some kind of impact when you’re no longer around.

Who are you?

What do people see?

Have you ever asked?

It’s an interesting process. Asking people who can be honest with you. Finding out how the world sees you. Hearing about your legacy while you still have time to impact it.

Are you who you think you are? Want to be? Have been called to be?

I suppose the easiest way to alter you life legacy once you start to see what it’s becoming is to break it down.

Consider this, when you leave a room/conversation/party/whatever, what do you leave behind?

What is the space like when you’re gone? What hole do you leave?

Is it more fun?

Happier?

More pleasant?

Quieter?

Less encouraging?

Less loving?

What do you leave behind? Do you leave a hole that people are excited about because that hole means this space is now better?

Or do you leave a hole worth leaving? One that speaks to your love and care and impact on the people your in relationships with? A hole people notice for all the right reasons. One they hope you will come and fill again and again.

If the hole you leave day by day isn’t worth leaving, the hole you leave when you die won’t be much better.

not more but how

Things always get strange when money comes into it. I don`t know why but it just does.

The idea for this week was to take the money you would spend on yourself and spend it on others. I did that but it was far from a perfect science.

Ultimately I found that I’m still fairly selfish. I’m happy to be generous with others and to give, but when it comes to money I still want for myself.

Here’s what I mean.

There were all kinds of opportunities to be generous and I took a bunch of them. No problem. A couple times I thought, I’m going to get a coffee, then didn’t and spent the money on someone else. Good it worked.

But when I checked my wallet at the end of the week I spent more than I usually do. Great right? More generous than I usually would be.

Well, sort of.

I just spent more. I was generous with other people and gave money away. But in the end I probably only didn’t spend the money on myself twice. 2 coffee’s I didn’t get. In all the other instances I spent the money I wanted to spend on myself and then also made a point of being generous too.

Kind of an odd response, especially considering it was my idea.

I suppose it’s a good first step. I was more generous with the people I my life than I normally would be. But I still felt like I needed to spend money on myself. I couldn’t just for one week leave myself totally out of it and be entirely generous.

I have no idea if it’s good or bad but it’s something for me to think and reflect on. If in the end I only had $10.00 would it go to me or someone else? Or would I try to rationalize why I should split it?

I don’t know.

So we’ll call this week a successful failure. I did it and I was more generous, but I’m not sure I ended up in the space or mindset I was hoping for. I’m going to ponder it some more and hope that I can really start to put others before my need for coffee or whatever else I bought. It’s not about spending more but how I spent what I have.

So many baby steps.

apathy, likes and life of compassion

You could make the argument that tools are neutral.

A knife can be used for good or evil. I could use it to provide shelter/food/safety or for harm and darkness. I think this is why you hear people talk about things as a double edged sword. Good and bad.

The internet is very much the same. We talked about opportunity and connections yesterday and how the interest does so much for someone with intent. But wow do we ever misuse it. We abuse this tool in some really powerful ways. Like with so many tools, when we abuse it people often end up hurt.

It doesn’t take much to find the harsh and evil side of the internet. Go read a comments section on YouTube and you’ll get it.

But I think it can also build apathy for us.

“Well I said happy birthday on Facebook, what more do I need to do?”

“I liked all their pictures I don’t understand why we don’t connect better.”

“Of course I love my community I Facebook/tweet/email all the time”

The internet is the perfect space to, with almost no effort, present yourself as someone who cares. This is by no means universal but it’s so easy to do. So easy to like all the right things and share all the “proper” links so every can see and know how great we are. And then be done. No action, no follow through, nothing.

It’s so easy to be harsh and cutting to someone sharing a dissenting opinion when we don’t have to see them face to face. So easy to pick a fight and show how righteous or smart or whatever we are.

So easy to not love.

So easy to try and be right, forgoing unity and grace.

I’ve often wondered how true a representation of ourselves the internet is.

Is it the ultimate who we are when no one’s watching? We can look at things and no one will know. We can be cutting and mean because no one knows we wrote it. Just a screen name. It’s in a space where our local community will never see it. Does our real self come out when we know there are no eyes on us?

I don’t know but I wonder some times.

Facebook is the opposite. A perfectly crafted image of the person we want people to think we are. All the right movies, books and causes. Witty posts all to present some sense of togetherness or wholeness.

We have to be so careful to be consistent. That love dominates our online selves the way we try for it to dominate our offline self. We don’t get a pass because it’s the internet. We don’t stop being a disciple once we log on.

Even if no one knows it us.

growth can happen

A lot of these challenges are things I’ve tried before. Stuff my wife and I have done to try in some small way to get better a living this other centred life. Practical things we can do as a start.

While this time wasn’t the first time I’d tried this challenge it was different.

This week we were trying to give a compliment once a day. As I noted on Monday, it’s more than a little sad that this works as a challenge for week. It’s sad on a societal level but more so, and I didn’t touch on this on Monday, sad that it works on a personal level.

It’s a sober reminder of how far I have to go when it comes to living a live marked my love and grace.

It’s sad for those of us who identify as Christians that this could be considered a challenge. That edifying and building up those in our lives isn’t a calling card of who we are.

But as I said earlier, this time was different.

It wasn’t weird.

Every other time I’d done this it was weird. Weird for me and I think at least unexpected for the people I was complimenting. It wasn’t how they saw me.

Not this time.

This time it felt natural. This time it wasn’t a struggle. This time it happened without so much effort and intention to seek it out. I’d reflect on the challenge and think if I’d gotten there and find there were more than just the one compliment I was challenged to pass along.

I often talk about how hard reflection is. We see our brokenness and shortcomings. We see all the gaps and how far we are form where we want to be.

But every now and again it’s invigorating. Every now and again it’s exciting to step back and see that all the hard work and effort and intent have led to some actually change in how I see and approach the world and how people in my world see and expect me to be.

If this is truly a journey then we should see change and growth.

Who knows, maybe all this effort might actually help me be the person I hoped I’d be.

less thinking, more loving

I think to much.

Everything is interesting to me. Most of if it, interesting to no one. I can’t tell you how many times I ask Sarah “Hey, have you ever thought of ______?”

“No.”

“Isn’t that interesting though? It’s never crossed your mind?”

“No.”

I love to know why things happen and how they work. But this need I have can cause a lot of damage.

On more than one occasion I can think of someone sharing their excitement, “look at this” or “you’ll never guess what I got” or “look what I’m being asked to do”.

Instantly I want to understand. Why is that interesting? Why would you buy that? Who would possibly ask you to do this?

I can be a real jerk.

I just can’t understand the why or how and so I try. I start to ask questions, but my questions don’t encourage, the discourage. Often my questions don’t add to the excitement but quash it.

Often my need to understand robs the person I’m speaking with of their joy and happiness.

Maybe this never happens to you. Maybe you’re great at being excited with someone.

But if you’re like me, we have got to be less selfish, because there is nothing loving about it.