Racism, Transgender, and Being a Christian

I have had a lot of opportunity recently (last few months) to think about culture and the gospel. I was privileged enough to sit in a class that discussed the Christian worldview of everything including moral issues. Instead of talking about the ones that we as Christians already have a good understanding of (i.e., abortion, homosexuality, etc.), my professor decided to talk about racism, a lesser talked about subject. It was a profound time in my life when I started to understand the whole conversation much more clearly (shout out to Dr. B and Richie Luna).

On top of this, many discussions of transgender issues came out as well, and I, of course, read Rachel Held Evans’ perspective on the whole thing.

To put it succinctly, I have had a good amount of time to spend thinking, discussing, and wrestling with these issues and there is a tension here that perhaps Christians do not realize, and it is one that I am coming to feel.

This is the tension of love and truth. I’ve noticed that more progressive Christians are more focused on social issues and cultural reform by the power of love (which there could be a much longer discussion on what it means to love). On the other hand, more conservative Christians are concerned about doctrine and beliefs. If I had to choose which camp I’d place myself in, I would say I’m much more conservative, but as I’ve said, I am feeling a tension of love and truth.

This tension exists, I believe, because there is confusion and grayness. Let’s take the transgender topic: the progressive Christians are crying out to love these people and accept them as they are. Conservative Christians are crying out that transgenderism (the belief that you can choose your gender) is wrong. I feel this tension because Christians are only demarcated as such because of our beliefs. Someone will certainly quote John 13:35 where Jesus says, “By this [loving one another] everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Certainly this is true, but non-Christians also express what we identify as “love.” Both a Christian and non-Christian could go out every week and give meals to homeless people, but those people won’t know the person giving them food is a Christian simply because of his kindness towards him. While it is true that Christians should be known for this, doctrine is at the heart of that love.

Because Christians are separated by their doctrine (and thus their actions), we do need to draw lines and separate ourselves from the world. BUT, we also need to love as Christ loved. Let me propose this in the case of transgender:

Yes, let’s decide that this is something that is not acceptable, but let us then provide a safe place for people struggling with gender dysphoria to come and discuss their struggles if they are a Christian and struggling with gender dysphoria. I remember having a place to come and discuss my struggle with pornography and lust as a high school student, so why should there not be such a place for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are struggling with a different sin?

I don’t think many Christians think this way unfortunately and that is evidenced by another blog I read criticizing The Babylon Bee for making headlines such as “Brave Man Self-Identifies As Man”. I gotta say, I sympathize with that critic. That is not helpful satire. We are only distancing ourselves from those very people we claim to love and want to know the gospel.

The same is true, I’ve noticed, of the discussion of race. I admit that any time I heard “Black Lives Matter” I rolled my eyes at what seemed like the unwarranted the cry for attention. (This is a whole other discussion in and of itself and I am aware of many great leaders in the theological world having conversations and talking about this).

We live in such a privileged society where freedom of speech reigns, but let’s be careful, pensive, and thoughtful about our freedom of speech. I think Paul’s exhortation to the Galatians is an apt word to remember here (though the context is freedom from the law, the general principle of freedom and responsibility, I think, applies): “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).

All this to say, there is gray area and there are a lot of things that one especially such as I (a white, conservative, Christian) do not understand about some of the conversations going on. I, especially, was grossly misinformed about the discussion of race and racism. As well, I have now thought more thoroughly about the fact that people have homosexual and gender dysphoric desires and how I, as a herald of the gospel of Christ, respond to this reality other than just saying, “you’re wrong.”

I want to be clear, though, I think both sides have aspects of truth. Conservative Christians nobly and passionately seek to protect and keep the gospel and the faith clear and unstained by the world. Progressives Christians, I hope*, seek to wrestle with Jesus’ command and example to love and care for the marginalized, broken, and hurting.

I know this was not a very eloquent piece of writing or that it even had any flow. If anything, writing this was for my own sake to flesh out my thoughts. If they may be helpful to anyone else, however, then may God be glorified and may His love be known through us.

 

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*The reason I say I hope is because, sometimes, some progressive Christians I’ve spoken with just want to be controversial and pious in their assertions of “loving like Jesus.” Granted, Conservatives can be accused of dead orthodoxy and desiring to be contentious, though the conservative Christians I was thinking of show no evidence of such.

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Christian Speaking

Hello, it has been a long while since I have posted. It seems appropriate to give some sort of greetings to whomever read or follows my writing for whatever reason. The reason for my absence is because I noticed an influx of “college-age-Christian-bloggers-who-have-ideas-that-change-the-world,” and I did not desire to be a part of a trend or movement. I decided that I would rather take my ideas and what I’ve learn to the real world with real people. Albeit, there have been times where I’ve commented on something on Facebook because I think, perhaps, my input could be helpful. Now that I’ve explained my leave of absence, I digress.

This post comes from a rumbling of raw thought that has been trying to find a more precise and refined verbiage that appropriately expresses the thought. The idea in mind and of the current topic is sensitivity.

Growing up, I was always very sensitive to what others said about me, God, my friends, or really anything dear to me. It was not uncommon that I would find myself crying and being hurt at what a person might say. I always thought this was a good thing because it showed that my heart had not grown hard in a sinful and broken world.

As I got older, though, I noticed that there were things that I didn’t feel like I should be hurt or offended by, but I just was. I shrugged off the feeling under the thought and assumption that being sensitive is a good thing and I shouldn’t worry if I’m too easily hurt or offended. In fact, being sensitive is an incredibly good thing and something desperately needed in a cold world in which it is easy to grow apathetic and indifferent. However, I’ve realized that my “sensitivity” was really just a way to guard myself from growing and becoming a different, more mature person.

I recently, very recently in fact, just experienced this in a conversation I had with my wife. I made a comment that hurt her and made her feel as if I was attacking her. Granted, I’ve given her reason before to think this way unfortunately (something that God is currently working in me). This time, however, I simply made a comment to help her see something perhaps she couldn’t see and to help her grow.

If you’re reading this and you’re completely lost, perhaps an example will help. Maybe you have or heard of a friend who is in a relationship with a guy who just isn’t good for her, but she is happy and likes him a lot. If you were to confront this girl and say, “Hey, I think this guy is not who you think he is and he does not have sincere intentions in dating you,” often times that girl will react by explaining his behavior, or flat out rejecting what you said. Perhaps we’ve had similar moments happen to us. A friend confronts us with something that isn’t particularly pleasant and we either defend ourselves with explanations, or we simply can’t see or understand what they are saying.

When we hear things that are hurtful to us, we should ask ourselves two questions: (1) what is the source of this hurtful thing (i.e., does it come from someone I trust or someone who desires to hurt me/be malicious)? (2) Why would this person say this to me (i.e., do they want to hurt me, or do they want to help me)?

It might help to take these questions to the scenario stated above. If the girl dating this terrible guy asked herself these two questions she might come to something like this: (1) this person who is telling me this is my friend (2) she is probably saying this to help me. After evaluating the hurtful feelings through these questions, the girl can see clearly that her friend has no malicious intent and only desires good for her life.

We often do not ask ourselves these questions when we’re hurt. We immediately feel hurt and assume that it is bad and that this person is trying to hurt us. But we must realize the role that pain has in making us more like Christ. In understanding that this hurt or pain comes from a sinful desire to continue in my sinfulness instead of becoming more like Christ, we will more quickly begin to trust people and grow in wisdom and maturity. We will no longer be like a small boat in storm tossed by every wind of hurtfulness and sunk by every word that passes through our hears.

I am reminded of Paul’s concluding exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 where he simply states:

Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast to what is good.

-ESV

In the NIV, it says “do not treat prophecies with contempt.” I imagine this was speaking against an attitude that says, “Eh, all prophecies are garbage and I don’t really need to listen to them. I just gotta listen to Paul.” This might not be the context, but I do think, applicationally, it holds us. Essentially, we should mature believers and respected leaders and friends the benefit of the doubt when they speak something that may come as a shock or maybe hurtful to us.

An example that I think of right off the bat that may help wrapping your mind around this abstract idea is this:

There was on Facebook a post that included a picture of Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”. Of course, it garnered a lot of attention and some people listed their opinions of this book without having read it. Others commented saying that they cannot rightfully have an opinion without first reading the book. Generally, this is a good principle and we should follow it. However, in this case, we have seen many leaders (John Piper for example) condemn this book as heresy. Some may roll their eyes when they read that John Piper condemns this, but I think we need to give him the benefit of a doubt. He is a mature Christian and respected leader who has given no reason to think poorly of his opinion. In fact, we should regard his opinion highly because of who he has made himself to be. This is not to say we should not read this book, but simply that it is not foolish to form an opinion based on mature and respected leaders’ opinions about such a book.

All this to say, there is a level of sensitivity that must exist today to empathize with the hurting, lost, and broken. However, there also needs to be understanding that hurtful words do not necessitate malicious intent. As a family in Christ, we should always give each other the benefit of the doubt that each of us has good intentions for one another and that we are helping one another grow closer to Christ. A difficult task to be sure because of our experience in this world that people are generally self-centered, mean, and unkind. But isn’t this exactly what Christ is seeking to undue in His people, and thus our trust and disposition towards other Christians should be that of love and humility?

A Gracious Response

This blog or article or opinion piece or whatever you may call it is prompted by a few popular articles floating around regarding the issue of lust, leggings, and “the greater problem”. My hope and desire to reply graciously (as the title implies) instead of pumping out a reactionary response. With this reply, I hope that it provides new insights and provides correction where needed and, ultimately, bring unity to our faith as our Lord has desired (John 17:20-23). This is primarily in response to two specific articles namely “Not a dick: a man’s perspective on modesty” and “Ten Things We Should Get Angry About Before Yoga Pants.

With all that here are some thoughts:

My initial thoughts about these two articles is that they are trying to avoid a real issue by saying it isn’t important or that we’re better than these low accusations of being animals.

To address the first one, I think Ashley has completely missed the point with her argument. She absolutely brings up some great points that should be heard. Christians (including myself) have a tendency to get hooked on matters that are of little or no significance (i.e. republicans should be in office, styles of worship music, etc.). However, I do not think that the topic or discussion of leggings is one of little significance.

Before I share why I think these two writers have erred in their recent writings, I would like to establish a Biblical background that, I think, is essential to being involved in this conversation.

Throughout the New Testament (and even the Old Testament) sexual immorality is shown as a snare to men. There is the example of Israel in Numbers 25 when it mentions that the people “began to whore after the daughters of Moab” and as a result “they yoked themselves to the Baals of Peor”. The Israelites were swayed to follow idols because they women had seduced them. Of course, the focus here is that Israel yoked themselves to Baals and thus the Lord was faithful in fulfilling the covenant curses. Moses comments on this issue later in Numbers 31:15-16 saying:

“Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord”

So, sexual immorality was a means to “act treacherously against the Lord”, which was the idolatry of Israel of the Baals.

Another OT book that talks about the deadliness of sexual immorality (specifically adultery) is Proverbs, specifically chapter 5 and 6:20-7:27.

The Old Testament makes a pretty good case against sexual immorality, but let’s take a look at what the New Testament has to say because it is much more internal. Two passages in particular come to mind 1 Corinthians 6:9-20 and 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

What’s interesting in the first passage is the first few verses (9-11) Paul talks about the “unrighteous” and how they will not inherit the kingdom of God. Sexual immorality is a part of this list. Of course, this refers to those who steep themselves in these activities. Wouldn’t this be surprising, though? Why wouldn’t people such as murderers, rapists, tyrannical leaders, and the like be listed as those who do not inherit the kingdom of God. Surely having sexual relations isn’t that bad, and most certainly not lusting after a woman? Paul continues on in verses 12 and 13 essentially saying that just because everything is permissible doesn’t mean everything is beneficial, and that the body is made for the Lord, not for sexual immorality. From there, Paul builds his argument that sexual immorality is bad.

The things I’d like to point out in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 is that 1.) Paul says that it is God’s will that we abstain from sexual immorality, and 2.) verse 7, “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”

So, with all this in mind, I would like to say that I think Ashely errs in her argument by essentially saying, “Look, yoga pants aren’t a big deal. Worry about these other issues”. This type of argumentation is employing a red herring, which is one of many logical fallacies that exist. Essentially, this person is arguing that we shouldn’t worry about A because B, but B has nothing to do with A. There isn’t a valid argument as to why one shouldn’t worry about yoga pants.

Argumentation aside, I think it is worth mentioning that so many people want to champion social justice over, well, everything. This is a great thing! I want to affirm that this (my) generation’s concern for social justice is so good and Ashley is right that the things she mentioned we should be concerned about. Before you send out the troops, you’ve got to train them. There is no different with Christians.

On the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had a lot of “You have heard it said…but I say to you” moments. What he was doing here was internalizing these sins, not necessarily equalizing them. What I mean is this: Jesus wasn’t equating lusting after a woman with adultery. He was simply pointing to the fact that these sins aren’t merely external, they are internal, and, in fact, that is where the begin. No one just commits adultery, it is a progression. It starts with an internal desire to view women and sex as yours to please you. Then, it fleshes itself out in different ways, perhaps it goes to adultery, but usually it begins in “small” ways like masturbation and pornography. Soon, those are not enough to satisfy this addiction that has developed and thrill and the rush is not enough.

My point here is that the internal is equally as deadly, if not more deadly. So, here is why I think both Ashley and Hannah’s (and her friend Austin) arguments are not quite accurate.

It is factual that human beings are visual creatures. It is perhaps our strongest sense. It logically follows that it is difficult for men in particular to look away from something that pleases and satisfies them visually. As well, I think Austin (from Hannah’s blog) gives to much credit to humanity. We have to remember that humanity is born with sin and inherently evil (Romans 1). Our tendency is always toward sin, so arguments such as:

“That my hormones and sexual instincts control my life on a day-to-day basis and I am constantly resisting the urge to mate with anything that moves.”

aren’t too far from the truth. It is only by the grace of God and the Holy Spirit that we can resist sin and temptation. Romans 6 describes an unbelieving person as a slave to sinfulness. St. Augustine described the state of humanity after the fall using the Latin phrase non posse non peccare, which simply means we are not able to not sin.

With all that said, yes, the way that women dress is an issue. However, I will never say the responsibility is fully on women. Men have a responsibility as well to pursue purity. It is interesting to me that, from my experience, men have, for the most part, embraced that their impurity and sexual immorality is a problem that needs to be fixed. Perhaps sometimes there is an overemphasis on females’ dressing.

I have, however, seen a very small percentage of women accept responsibility for what they wear. At this time, I would like to bring up my fiancée as an example. For me personally, it’s never been an issue for me to look lustfully at her because she doesn’t expose or emphasis certain areas of her body with her clothing. Sometimes she just wears a regular T-Shirt and some workout pants (the non-form-fitting kind). This is her graciousness towards me, and quite frankly it gives me more of an opportunity to love her and not just her body. As well, she doesn’t draw attention to herself with her clothing and I never worry about other guys looking at her, which is even more grace on her part to me.

Sex is a good example of this. Being close to marriage, I’ve learned more about it and its purposes. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that sex is all about the other person’s pleasure, denying themselves so that the other can have the most enjoyment. They lift each other up above themselves to satisfy the other. This is most certainly not the attitude of today’s culture on either side of this conversation. In fact, I think we should take our cue from 1 Corinthians 7: that love is our guiding principle, and that, even though you know something isn’t inherently wrong, you still go without that thing if it causes the other to stumble.

I hope this is informative and that it has been communicated graciously. My desire is to see needless conversations like this to happen and that we would come together men and women and be willing to die to ourselves for the betterment of the body.

Know God Now.

Once again, it has been a while since I’ve posted. This time, it has been due to some serious thought. Thought about why I post: is it so I can shine in my “high spirituality”? Or to communicate ideas that will strengthen and encourage the body of Christ? I’ve learned how much selfishness and arrogance can rule my life. It is a battle indeed. However, even writing this now, I realize how I have neglected a passion of mine. How good it feels to combine words to create sentences and have those sentences communicate ideas and thoughts. It was good to take a break and take a good look at my heart, but now it feels wonderful to write again! 

My main inspiration for writing this post is because I have seen more and more where this generation is going. It is interesting for me to look at high schoolers now and then look at who I was in high school. They look very similar. A lot of my high schools years were spent chasing my pleasures be it girls, skateboarding, or video games. You name it. If it was something that I enjoyed and brought entertainment to my life, I pursued it. In the midst of those pursuits, I look back and see how very confused I was. Because the things I pursued (mainly women and relationships) ruled over my heart, I did everything to attain it: lying about who I am physically and as a person, changing parts of me to seem more appealing to whomever I was trying to impress, and ANYTHING I could do to have a girl like me or be in a relationship. 

Thankfully, most of my plans failed and I was continually humbled to the point where I was frustrated. Granted, there were other times when my scheming succeeded and I regretfully got what I wanted. If God had not frustrated my plans over and over I do not think I would have been led to Him, and would be, to this very day, seating my desires on the throne of my heart and doing everything I could to satisfy them. I praise the Lord that He pointed out the idolatry in my life, which was an incredibly painful process. 

Anyway, my point is that when I look at this society in which we live, I begin fear and lose hope. I cannot imagine raising a child in this day in age. All the things that kids (children mind you) are exposed to today. I could list them all, but that would digress from my point. In spite of all this, I am reminded of a God who redeemed me from a similar culture. If I had to offer any piece of advice to the youth of today (meaning high school and younger) I would say to pursue God now. Too common is it thought that, “I will have fun while I am young, and then do the ‘Christian thing’ later on in life.” Or sometimes, perhaps not consciously, there is a thought that says, “Sexual pleasure, partying, alcohol, drugs is the best thing I can get in this life.” 

I, too, have erroneously thought this, but that was before I had tasted the sweetness of the fellowship I have with God. I think C.S Lewis said it right when he said that our desires are not too strong, but too weak. We desire these things, which are good sometimes. Our flaw, though, is thinking that they can bring any satisfaction to our lives. And I would distinguish pleasure from satisfaction by saying that pleasure brings excitement while satisfaction brings rest. So then, let us take heed to this word:

 

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

-Hebrews 12:14-15

 

Knowing God.

It has been quite a while since I’ve written anything. I think between school and the myriad of “20 things you should know so you can conquer the world before being 21 that singleness is goodness…” articles I just got tired of writing and found it overrated. But, I realized that writing is a passion of mine. Expressing the glorious truths of Christ using intellect and eloquence just fuels me!

Anyway, there has been a lot that has happened between January and now. A majority of tension or struggles in my life has come from relationships. The question that has most recently popped in my head is as I observe people in my life is, “Do you know God?”

It is quite common, I would argue, in Christian circles to challenge the “fan” mindset of society and encourage the “follower” mindset. In a sense, that is what I’m doing, but I want to approach it differently, so here it goes:

The reason that question pops in my head is because the way that people act. I am a whole-hearted believer that everything we do flows from what we believe about God and our relationship to Him. This is true even for non-believers. They’re belief about God is that He is non-existent and, thus, their relationship to God is, very sadly, an enemy. There are differences among Christians. One example is that some believe God exists, but more specifically that God is a God of wrath and their relationship to God is fear; they constantly live in condemnation. These people live in the false idea that each of their sins condemns, and that God continues to look upon them with disappointment. Then you have some who believe God exists and wants to give you everything and wants you to be prosperous. These people live in complete ignorance that the Cross was a bloody, horrendous sacrifice that allowed them to live, and live pseudo victorious lives.

Then there is a group who doesn’t have a particular view of God as far as I can discern now other than He exists. Perhaps they have really no understanding of belief of who God is other than He exists. This causes the person to have no relationship whatsoever with Him. God and His love and grace have become arbitrary things to admire. In the same way someone could admiringly say, “The red of this square is so good!”, one could unknowingly say, “The love of God is so good!”. There isn’t understanding there. They simply admire a pleasing quality about a God they know nothing about.

So, this question “Do you know God?” comes from an observation of people who hold no conviction of who God is as well as those who do. You know these people because they are very easy to spot out. Other than the constant admiration of an ambiguous quality or god, these people have sincerity. They have a deep conviction of a Holy God that is lovingly involved in their lives. That the Spirit of Christ dwells in them richly continually affirming their lack of condemnation in their lives (Romans 8:1) and constant outpouring of abundant love and grace (Romans 5:8).

So do you know God? God is a person to know and grow closer to. He is not solely an object to be identified and admired like the mountains or the sunset. Surely, it is good to marvel and admire Him, but do you marvel and awe at who He is? His character, His being? When you read the Scriptures, do you hear His voice and see His personality?

I challenge you to ask yourself: “Do I really know God?” I’m not asking you to reevaluate your salvation, the Spirit will affirm your adoption as sons and daughters. I’m asking if you know the One who has taken you into His family.

Jesus, Here Is My Heart

My heart feels like bursting
nothing can truly express it’s cry
It groans as it recognizes the hurt
The pain is a signal
that I am not truly home
The sinful nature looks to this world and persuades me to find comfort there
I’ve been there too many times
No true satisfaction can be found
Not in relationships
Not in pleasure
Not in happiness
These things only last a moment
In their wake they leave hurt or even depression
People think that love is the center of life
But life is at the center of Love
To go outside of it
Or to stray away means to abandon hope and true comfort
That is why, like a fetter, bind my wand’ring heart to thee
My heart aches and groans for the Almighty, the Eternal, the King
No thing can possibly replace such joy
Nor can no thing last

Praise the One who made me alive
The very day that He died

I can't live a single day without you     
I don't even want to try                                      
And I won't take another step without your light           
I need your light
-Phil Wickham

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
-Psalm 73:25

A Kingdom Perspective

I started a tradition that, every year on the 1st of January, I read last year’s entry in my journal and reflect upon the past year. I, then, write about the upcoming year and speculations as to how the year will unfold. So this year, I wrote about what I think this year will bring and such, but another thing I decided to do was add a passage as a theme for this year.

I decided on Colossians 3:1-3 which says,

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
-Colossians 3:1-3D

I have many reasons as to why I chose this passage. My primary reason, though, is that I realized something in 2013: I focused a lot on earthly things (relationships, marriage, future careers, etc.). None of these things are inherently bad, but I made these things my highest pursuit and they ruled my life. I know that I will never escape sin this side of death, so I don’t expect to be perfect in anything I do. However, I do want this year to be more focused on the eternal and I want to have a kingdom perspective because, as I’ve read through Matthew, Jesus is ALWAYS focused on the Father and His kingdom. You can see that kind of mindset and attitude in literally everything He does. It would be annoying how often He is focused on just the Father and His kingdom if it weren’t exactly what we’re supposed to do.

This year, I want to be driven by the hope that God has given me. He knows what I need and so I need to surrender and trust that He will meet those needs. There will most certainly be pain, struggle, and temptation. Even though I will experience all of that, I want to see God’s glory in the face of Christ and see His loftiness and surrender to a great God who cares and loves. For there is no higher pursuit than the pursuit of God.