Monthly Archives: December 2015

Avoiding Cultural Hegemony

Without compassion, even Biblical orthodoxy is ugly.  Without Biblical orthodoxy, compassion is merely an artifact of human culture.  Compassion is good for humanity, for sure, but compassion compelled by cultural norms is just another human attribute, just like greed, affection, or hairstyle.

The Christ came to earth as human in the form of Jesus of Nazareth.  Key among His human attributes was His gregarious compassion.  He “sighed” before healing a deaf mute (Mark 7:34).  Jesus cried at the loss of a friend (John 11:35).  With nails in His hands and feet, He expressed compassion for His mother (John 19:26).

TheFather'sPerspectiveBut, why was Jesus the Christ compassionate—simply because He took on human form?  Not at all.  Jesus was compassionate because He came to glorify Father God.  For example, when He intentionally waited until His good friend Lazarus was definitively dead, He re-assured His critics “…it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)

Showing compassion is easy.  Doing compassion, however, is not easy.  When we’re confronted with those who “should know better,” we want to look the other way.  Or, if compassion is needed for those of a different club, clan, or country, we feel bad for them, and do nothing because they are not “us.”

The compassion we seek as believers is the compassion which comes from following the Christ—always to glorify the Lord God, always for all people, always.  Not to glorify ourselves, our clan, our country, or our club.

When we are compassionate, it must be because He was compassionate first.  It must be because He was compassionate for the leper, the unclean woman, the prostitute, the rich young ruler.  His compassion for the sinner must be our compassion for each other.  We must be compassionate because His compassion demonstrated the righteousness, the justice of Father God (Romans 3:25-26).  Compassion demonstrates God’s righteousness.  If  our compassion comes not from God’s compassion, it is mere cultural hegemony.

Just Who Is this “Jesus” Anyhow?

One time when Jesus was teaching His followers, He needed to clarify for them just who He was.   Jesus asked them two questions.   First, “Who do others say the Son of Man is?” Answers included John the Baptizer, Elijah, Jeremiah, or another one of the prophets of old.   All these answers assumed Jesus was a resurrected prophet, but they were wrong.

Then my Jesus turned to us and asked, “Who do you all* say that I am?” Peter answered for us—“You are Christ, God.” While Peter didn’t understand Who taught him this, Jesus made it clear to all of us that His body, the church, was founded on this principal principle—Jesus is the Christ, God Himself.    And … the gates of hell shall not overcome His church!!  Yes, us, the church.  Even hell shall not overcome us.

So who is Christ to you?  A convenient curse word?  A great teacher? According to Hebrew, Islamic, and Christian scriptures, He is indeed the greatest prophet.   The last name of Jesus?  No, a thousand times no—Christ is His title, not His name.   Christ is the Lord God Jehovah.   (In doubt?  Compare Isaiah 45:12 to Col.  1:16)

But where did Jesus have this conversation with His followers?**  When you know that, only then will you fully understand His declaration—“the gates of hell shall not overcome” His church.   Attend Bible study on Sunday mornings and learn even more.   It mends the mind and soothes the soul.


*Yes, “you all” is correct; the Greek 2nd person is plural. 

**In the same area where the “mouth of hell” was presumably in Caesarea Philippi, at least as thought by the culture at the time.


How Faux-Literacy Hurts the Cause of Christ

FauxLiteracyI am disturbed.  Not really news to you?  Just ask my wife—she’ll support this confession.  But, regardless of my mental health, I am still disturbed.  People are becoming more and more illiterate, or more correctly, faux-literate.

The literacy about which I am disturbed concerns reading, simply the act of reading.  People simply don’t read anymore—notice the size of the Tribune or the Times?  How about Time or Newsweek?*  We’ve become a homeostatic amalgamation of bullet-listing, logo-induced information consumers.  You see it on the web, in The Church Bulletin, and in our printed media.

Why am I disturbed?  We need to read—words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, books.  People have become addicted to bullet lists, cute narratives, and adorable jingles, and have become—functionally illiterate, or worse faux-literate.  To wit, we dumb down ideas to simplistic lists, not simplifying ideas, and create deep pits of ignorance.  We create cute little stories which tickle the ear, but leave out nuance, substance, and essence.  Our adorable jingles clang throughout the social intellect, creating a cacophony of competing sounds.

What’s this got to do with Bible study?  The Scriptures are also composed of words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters and books.  The Scriptures have also been reduced to bullet lists (e.g., the “A, B, C’s of salvation”).   The Word of God has been relegated to milk-based narratives, good for initial growth, yet toxic when fed to the milk-addicted (c.f., Hebrews 5:12-13).

The Bible’s truths have been turned into adorable, but misleading jingles—e.g., “once saved, always saved” or “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.”  The security of the believer is more than a jingle.  The grace of the Lord God Jehovah is the only thing which keeps us out of hell itself—it is the power of God unto salvation, not a catchphrase for Madison Avenue.

Some edgy ideas have been articulated here; ironically, I doubt few will read them.  We’ve become a people who don’t read.

*Ironically, Newsweek went out of business shortly after this was written.