Women in Ministry – Grappling With Controversy and Truth, Part 1

I have been contemplating writing on this topic for some time. The catalyst for me really goes back about 25 years to a conversation my wife and I had when we were 18 and I was not a Christian. It was the first time I ever heard the view espoused that I would later learn was called Complementarianism. I was quite shocked and horrified that God would design an order in the relationship between a husband and a wife. Over time, that shock dissipated and became more of an “ok, that’s what the Bible clearly teaches” type of thing, and I acquiesced and became a Complementarian. Something always bugged me about it though. The idea of marital hierarchy was problematic with other things I read about God in my Bible. God’s nature didn’t seem to dictate that conclusion, but then I would study passages of Scripture like I Corinthians 11:2-16I Corinthians 14:34-46I Timothy 2:9-15Ephesians 5:22, and I Peter 3:1-7 and I would run back to my Complementarianism. As our church leaders would say: it was obviously exactly what the Bible taught, however; my wife didn’t cover her head with a veil, all the churches we were in allowed women to talk (and teach select groups), and none of them thought women were redeemed through having babies (though all were Complementarian). It was quite a conundrum, and a haphazard application of these same texts.

Now let me be very honest, I do not really care much about what other people think. If the Bible clearly taught Complementarian theology, I would be a proponent of it no matter what anyone thought. As I studied more and more theology, I became more thoroughly convinced of a Reformed understanding of theology, and women fully included in ministry was clearly not something endorsed as a Reformed Baptist. As I read and studied modern Reformed people, it became clear to me that most people I interacted with equated women ministers as an anathema, on par with the other favorite cultural punching bag of self-righteousness, homosexuality. These two issues are not related. Almost all of the arguments cited the above texts, without exegesis and interpretation, and declared victory.

That was not a viable alternative for me because women not serving festered (even though I didn’t really want it to). I knew so many great women that were amazing teachers, shepherds, and who had borne so much fruit for the kingdom, that their systematic exclusion bothered me. I thought of my wife and how her gifting, outside of our theological bent, was that of an Execute Pastor or a Youth Pastor, a strong teacher and leader; and I had a very hard time squaring the party line with my reality of experience.

I decided I wanted to tackle this topic seriously and apply the old adage ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda: the Church reformed, always reforming. This means that we should always study our methods and beliefs and compare them with what the Scripture teaches. As we make that comparison, we adjust to Scripture and not persist in error. I have found that most people I know have inherited their stance on this issue from their parents, tradition, or pastor, and very few have actually studied it. I purposed to study the issue and figure out exactly what the Bible taught and apply it to my practice of the faith. Fortuitously, I started taking some doctoral classes at a Baptist seminary. My first class gave me 3 options of research topics and one was Women in Ministry, so of course I jumped at it.

In this series of blog posts I want to share what my study led to, what conclusions I came to, and how I think this should practically impact the church. I have felt like I should share for some time, but have not really sat down to write. Part of the reason is it will take a while to properly flush all this out, part of it was an unwillingness to write on a divisive topic while I have been looking for a new pastorate. Ultimately, the shocking revelations of abuse emanating from the church in the past months motivated me to want to address the topic of “does our practice cause abuse, and is our practice Biblical?”

I know that some of you will disagree with what I conclude, which is fine. Disagreement between family is going to happen. The Bible may leave a topic unresolved (because its ultimate purpose is about redemption, not leadership), but I would ask that all of us have an open mind considering the topic. Let’s not lean on our previous understanding, traditions, and inherited bible interpretation; but let’s look afresh at what the Bible actually says. The charge to us is serious: keep reforming and to understand why we believe what we believe.


What Kind of Book is the Bible?

I was recently sitting in a doctoral class about combining theological beliefs with daily life practices, and the professor asked this question “if you had to pick the genre of the Bible, what would it be?” This struck me as an odd question, because we know that the Bible is made up of a bunch of different books, and they fall into different sub-genres. It is almost comical to think about 15 or so trained theologians discussing a question we apparently never thought to ask ourselves, one that seems surprisingly simple but profoundly important. It took us a hot minute to start throwing out ideas about the genre of the Bible. I almost immediately knew what my answer would be, but was a little embarrassed to offer it: romance. The professor asked me why I said that, and I was expecting no small amount of laughing, but I said “it’s because God is pictured as a man who loves a woman, and the woman consistently rejects Him.”

It’s almost a bad soap opera isn’t it? I used to watch Days of Our Lives when I was a kid. When I first started watching it, I was always amazed at how many “sure endings” were not so certain. People died…. they came back! Isn’t the Bible narrative like that? How many ways could the Israelites screw up the promise (inheriting that ability from Adam and Eve, which extends through to us)? Israel consistently failed her suitor. The disciples consistently failed their suitor. We consistently fail our suitor. It is only by God’s grace through Christ’s victory that the story has a happy ending. That’s why the metaphor of husband and wife (Christ and the church) is so powerful, it depicts this epic romance, one that all humanity has a part in.

When we think about the Bible, we cannot slide it into the self-help category, or the historical category, or any other category. The Bible has pieces of it that will fall into sub-genres, but the main theme that God revealed and spoke to humanity was the story of His love. When we approach the Scripture without recognizing its purpose we can quickly lose our way. I believe this is some of the reason that the social gospel, prosperity gospel, and Bible self-help gurus miss the mark. They believe things like “the Bible is the best investing plan in history,” though investing in the stock market wasn’t a thing for 1500 years after it was written. “The Bible says God wants you to be healthy, happy, and rich,” though God’s people in the Bible suffer greatly. These category errors lead people astray, and cause them to miss out on the message that God wants people to know.

As we approach the study of Scripture, and the meaning of what we are looking at, I believe that we have to get ourselves in the right frame of mind. The Bible is not everything we can possibly know about God. What kind of God can be neatly summarized in a book? The Bible is not God’s strategy to successful living in the 21st Century. The Bible is not (just) a history book that tells the tales of the Israelites. The Bible communicates the greatest story ever told, and it’s a love story that includes us all. It begins with creation, survives the Fall through a special seed that is carried along through the Old Testament, despite floods, invasions, idolatry, and rebellion. The New Testament reveled God’s plan of redemption, and the culmination of His love for His people.

When we think of the Bible, I want us to think of this verse, John 20:30-31: “Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book, but these are recorded, so that you might believe, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John didn’t record everything that Jesus did, but what he did record was for the purpose of knowing who God was, and having life in Him. That truth should extend to the entire Bible.


Do You Even Bible?

I have been contemplating what I should write my next series on for a little while, and I have really noticed some persistent negative trends in my world. While I don’t know if there is a great benefit to social media, it does expose us to lots of different people and points of view. I am in a lot of theology discussion groups, and my friends are largely in the Christian sphere, so I see quite a lot of posts that have at least a tangential relationship to the Bible. I read lots of people I agree with, and lots of people I disagree with, and my general conclusion is that most of us have no idea how to Bible.

For me the irritation of our general Biblical illiteracy usually begins with a post or meme applying a super awesome bible verse…completely out of context. People claiming promises that weren’t meant for them, believing that things are theirs that aren’t, or promoting an American-Zionist propaganda platform.I am looking squarely at you my friends who quote II Chronicles 7:14 in relation to the United States, like this meme here:


Don’t get me started on Jeremiah 29:11. Not that these verses shouldn’t be treasured and cherished for the wonderful things that they said, but the way they are leveraged into our daily lives shows that we can be truly ignorant of how to properly read the Scriptures. I do not think everyone needs to be a textual critical scholar, or fluent in Greek and Hebrew to understand the Bible, but I do believe that we have settled for the idea that the Bible is “life’s instruction manual” and read it like that. We find the places in the manual that instruct us in our situations or feelings, read them in isolation, and satiate our need for “God to speak to us.” There is just one problem with this, the Bible is not life’s instruction manual. Thinking about the Scripture this way has led, and will lead to more misunderstanding, misapplication, and misadventures in our endeavor to really know God’s revelation to us.

In this series I will address the following issues to hopefully give us some perspective on how we should be reading, interpreting, and applying Scripture. We are going to cover topics that deal with the major themes of Scripture (I said the Bible ISN’T life’s instruction manual, so what is it?), how we should approach the different genres in the Bible, how we get from reading something to understanding it, and ultimately to applying it in our lives. Along the way we will discuss common mistakes we make in our reading, and how to avoid things like proof-texting and eisegesis. This will be fun for me to write, so I hope it is informative to read!

Only Sith’s Deal in Absolutes

The Star Wars prequels were pretty bad. Not bad enough that I won’t watch them occasionally, but bad enough that I don’t know that I want to infect Alex with them, though he has seen Revenge of the Sith. As bad as they are, they contain one of my favorite quotes. As Obi-Wan confronts the now evil Anakin Skywalker, and Anakin tells him that he is now his enemy, Obi-Wan retorts “only Sith’s deal in absolutes.” Its an interesting rejoinder when its clear there are clearly things Obi-Wan thinks are absolutely right and wrong (killing younglings for example). I like to think that Obi-Wan is hitting on a deeper principle, one that we can take and apply to life: don’t draw hard divisions when none exist.

We see this a lot in the world we live in: someone disagrees with me so not only do we not agree, that person is evil and must be lambasted. This is why Twitter is such a treasure trove of hate and insults, and maybe why our “Sith” side is fed by reading the drivel there that passes for discourse. While sad, this is not unexpected because with the power of the pen (or keyboard as it were), people have always eviscerated their foes with relative safety (check out the politics of the early Republic, it makes our time look tame).

Where I hate seeing this is in the arena of theology. We have incorporated the coldness of society into our intellectual pursuits of God. Calvinists question the salvation of Arminians, and vice-versa. Covenant Theology adherents are certain that Dispensationalists cannot possibly take the Bible seriously, and vice-versa. It’s almost unconscionable to believe that Protestants and Catholics have the same Savior, but very different ideas of how church should operate, and how grace is obtained. And please lets not bring up what is the right way to baptize someone.

As I get older, I tend to want to yell at everyone “only Sith’s deal in absolutes!” Meaning of course, that while there is much that we need to maintain absolute purity on, most of what we end up yelling about is outside the hard lines that we should draw. Now I believe that there is a “right” understanding when it comes to most positions in Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy, I just don’t feel like everyone who disagrees with me is hell bound. I don’t think I should deny communion to those who were sprinkled instead of dunked. I don’t feel comfortable condemning Roman Catholics to hell as a group. Our Sith nature tells us that we have to be right, and being right is more important than anything else, but Jesus said to deal with our brothers and sisters in love. In fact, John gave us a great assurance of salvation is the way we love fellow believers. Not how pure our doctrine is, or how many Facebook arguments we win. Sith’s deal in absolutes, let Christians deal in grace.

Barely Even Surprised

I am a giant West Wing fan. I have seen all the episodes many times, and I like to think that many of the characters on the show would be my friends in real life. In one episode, the staff receives a report that 17 school girls died in a fire in Saudi Arabia. When a fire broke out in their school, they were not allowed out into the street because they were not dressed appropriately. Women in the strict Muslim nation couldn’t be seen in public dressed inappropriately, so they were allowed to burn and die instead. At the subsequent press briefing, when asked about this event, CJ  was asked if she was horrified by this event. Her response was that she was barely even surprised. Her response was a bit shocking because it seemed dismissive in the face of this horrific tragedy, but her point was that treating women as less than human was so common in Saudi Arabia, that it had ceased to be horrifying. The horrific was normal.

That is my response in the wake of yet another school shooting, this time outside of Houston, TX. Of course I am broken hearted, and full of righteous anger for the kids and the families of this community; but I am no longer shocked by these events. It has become so frequent in our lives that while making us sick, school shootings are no longer shocking. Isn’t that the most damning indictment of our culture? We have become so used to the formerly unimaginable, that it barely moves the meter on outrage. I went to school when school shootings were not a thing, and while school was often annoying, I never feared for my life when walking through the doors. Now my kids have active shooter drills. My kids see this on the news – ALL. THE. TIME. They have walkouts because politicians cannot decide to put away their talking points and make the kids more important than their positions. Instead of being willing to try anything, we settle for doing nothing.

And nothing changes. Except the body count. That keeps changing.

I am thankful that we are free to have our own opinions  and we can discuss our divergent views. But disagreement that leads to impotence in addressing this problem  reveals an astounding leadership vacuum in our government. People buy the argument that gun regulation is the issue, but it doesn’t get done. People buy the idea that arming teachers will solve the problem, but nothing gets done. I even support the immediate action of putting metal detectors at every entrance to schools, but even something simple like that cannot get done. Maybe we think that doing something that won’t fix the entire problem isn’t worthwhile. Maybe we think that we shouldn’t have to sacrifice our rights to protect our kids (though if memory serves, the same people screaming loudly about protecting gun rights were eager to sign their rights away in the name of Homeland Security after 9/11). Maybe we refuse to believe that guns can protect people from guns because its anathema to our presupposition that guns have to be bad (though we seem to have no issue with guns protecting our freedoms when carried by the military). So there is endless debate, nothing gets done, and the message we send to our kids is that they are less important than our Facebook flame wars.

I know I don’t know the answer, but I also know I am willing to try many different things that will protect my kids in school. Let’s try 50 different things and find out what works, instead of screaming about how right we are and how wrong the other people are, and allowing these events to continue. In reality, what is more important than protecting the safe spaces our kids should have? How many kids have to die until we care more about doing instead of arguing? When will those in charge be willing to be wrong for the sake of their lives? When will leaders emerge that will choose to put themselves aside and to act for the those who aren’t old enough to vote their asses out of office? The Apostle Paul said that true love was sacrificing oneself for another, but in our day we cannot even deign to be wrong for the lives of others.

Are you appalled Jim, that these things keep happening? I am barely even surprised because We The People are failing our kids by having to be right. 


When Rachel and I lived in South Florida, we went to the same church for quite a long time. I remember the first time we had communion at this church (it was infrequent), and after we took the bread together, the pastor had us all stand up, raise up the cup and proclaim the risen Lord with a shout of joy. Up till that point in my life, I never realized how somber communion usually was. In a short moment our pastor had demonstrated the joy that is found in the resurrection, and we proclaimed it together by the sharing of the cup. I started thinking, from that time forward, that communion has become more like a funeral than a proclamation of the resurrected Savior.

Why do we do this? I think it has to do with a lack of contextual exegesis of I Corinthians 11:17-34. In this passage, St. Paul taught the Corinthians that they should take the Lord’s Supper in a “worthy manner” (vs 27), and that those who do not “heap judgement upon themselves” (vs 29). Paul goes on to say that many in the Corinthian church were sick because of their failure to take the Lord’s Supper correctly. What is Paul talking about? In the beginning of his instruction, Paul talked about the neglect of eating the Lord’s Supper together. We need to recognize that Paul tells us to proclaim the “Lord’s death until He comes” in unity: some get drunk, some go hungry; the church is DIVIDED. This is the issue Paul is addressing, and his caution (in context) is to not divide the assembly by showing preference to some over others. Remember, the believers in the 1st Century took communion in a much different manner than we do. It wasn’t a short, tacked on event in their “service,” but was more akin to a love feast: the people celebrated by remembering the death of their Savior. (Short read on this here, but scholarly research is available). When the love feast deviated from unity, Paul rebuked the ekklesia.

Often we are somber because we are “examining ourselves” (as Paul commanded) for SIN, not for unity. If we are dividing a church, hindering the fellowship, we should be on guard for judgement and not partake; however if we are in sin we NEED to remember the death of the Lord as Paul commanded. It was His death that provided deliverance, and Paul wanted that proclaimed.

There is one point I need to address about the celebration of the resurrection that I stated we should be doing, and that is found in verse 26 where Paul exhorts us to proclaim His death. Certainly that should be somber, right? Well what else does Paul tell us in that verse “proclaim his death until He comes.” We are to remember and CELEBRATE His death, because that is our deliverance. While we should never forget the suffering of our Savior, we cannot remain at the cross with Him crucified, but proceed to the Tomb where He was raised. Remember the suffering in light of the raising.

Paul doesn’t want us living in the shadow of His death, but in the certainty of His coming. Paul wants us to celebrate the forgiveness of our sin together as a local assembly. I think Paul wants us to have feasts of joy to the glory of God! I really hope we can move away from the idea of Communion as a Commun-eral, and to a place where we celebrate the joy of the risen King; maybe just once in awhile.

The Reality of Privilege

Rachel and I were having a discussion with a friend the other day about the idea of “privilege” and if it really exists. He said that on initial assessment of the idea it is really offensive, especially for those of us who grew up in poverty equal to that of many minorities. He also said that looking through that coloring of our own upbringing, we can see that privilege is not an economic problem, but one of social and cultural skewing against specific groups of people based on how society has been established. That’s a big idea and I wonder if it is even something we can understand tangibly if we don’t experience it. I also wonder if it’s something we just assume to be true because we experience hardship in our lives that is common amongst the human experience.

At times in my life I have been a believer and a denier of privilege, but in the past 10 years or so, I no longer believe that it’s something that can be denied. My belief in the pervasiveness of privilege began when Rachel and I began training to be foster and adoptive parents. The terrible stories of what kids had to experience, and the heartbreaking stories of their parents would rend anyone’s heart; but I learned about privilege when I was told that the waiting list for white kids was 10 times longer than for black kids, and 20 times longer than for mixed kids. Let that sink in for a minute: people would not want a child because of the color of their skin. Disgusting. If it was me I wouldn’t let people adopt who felt that way because they are missing the point! After having the pure joy of adopting a child of mixed race, I have noticed more and more areas of privilege in this world, and I am not ok with it, not for my son or any one else’s.

Privilege exists when those not in “power” are treated differently, with negative connotations, than those who are the dominant culture. It is because of our sinfulness and blindness that we don’t recognize it. Privilege exists in all sorts of organizations: from government to the Church, and it is always wrong. Privilege mutes the full voice of God’s people because it elevates ones group over another in direct contrast to God’s design.

Galatians 3:28 says that in Christ there are no longer racial, gender, or societal distinctions. Those of us in Christ are all equal. How is it that His people can be those who deny and refuse to see privilege and discrimination in our society? How can we not lead the charge against it? Too often we love our sinful distinctions of people over the truth of God’s word. Remember this, the adoption agency we worked with, the one where black and mixed children were not wanted at the same rate as white babies, was a Christian agency. It was primarily Christians who wanted to deny non-whites a loving home because of their color. I don’t think most people do this maliciously, but our vision is skewed by the privilege we view life through. I pray we begin to see the reality of the world, and respond like Jesus.

Modern Christianity – Neo-Gnostics?

If you ever want to denigrate a philosophy that is even remotely Christian, the best thing to call it is Gnostic. Gnostics were around during the time of the early church and the movement purveyed many heretical ideas. In a gross oversimplification, the root tenant of their philosophy was centered on the idea that matter was bad and spirit was good. Therefore what was spirit was to be elevated, and what was matter was to be abased. This allowed Gnostics to live hedonistically due to the separation of good and bad parts of their nature. In the New Testament, there are rejections of this dualism, indicating that the authors knew of this proto-Gnostic philosophy that would develop as a real challenge to Orthodoxy as the church grew.

What does this have to do with modern Christianity?

If you have not heard the #metoo movement you need to crawl out from the rock you are living under. Ever since the revelation that many powerful men have committed sexual assault we have been reacquainted (on a national scale) with human depravity. This was not at all shocking to those of us who know humanity, but it was surprising that the victims were listened to, and action against the perpetrators happened. The subsequent #churchtoo revelations also confirmed what we didn’t want to admit: powerful people in church do the same bad things as other powerful people. From pastors raping students (and being applauded for their confessions), to the child sex abuse scandals and all the other incidents in between, local churches proved to be as corrupt as the rest of society. This is not really news either if you have ever been to church, or hung out with church people. Humanity is sinful, and Christ-followers are just as sinful as anyone else. You have probably heard the phrase “not perfect, just forgiven,” which, while true, doesn’t necessarily push people to righteous living.

How did this happen?

The trite answer is “sin” or “sin nature.” While true, that simple answer is not very helpful as we try to figure out how to deal with this issue in the Church. Unfortunately for the church, the corruption of practice continues to reveal an ever bigger problem, and that is a corruption of belief. While I acknowledge that we have a sin problem, I believe our real problem is the resurrection of Gnosticism in the local church. We do not really believe that body and spirit make up our humanity, so we can try to isolate our sin from our spirit. This is why we can go to church on Sunday and worship in spirit, while living in gross sin in our body. This is why it is so very easy to decouple a woman from her feelings and personhood, and treat her as a sex object. This is why we don’t view casual sex, or premarital sex, or homosexual sex, or polyamorous sex as corrupting of who we are, but just something we do. This is how we can self-justify the murder of unborn children (they are just cells after all) in a genocide that rivals or beats the worst in human history. We don’t feel that our fleshy action is the real us. We don’t recognize that sex involves body and spirit, and that’s why we ruin ourselves spiritually when we act physically. You cannot separate the body from the spirit anymore than you can separate breathing from your lungs: they are one in the same for practical usage. Sin in your body is sin in your spirit, and vice versa. Sin always impacts who you are. Sin always corrupts the totality of you completely.

What can we do about it?

Once we recognize that our actions come from a corruption of belief we can work to correct the theology that informs those actions. As a church, we need to spend more time teaching a correct Anthropology instead of swimming in the dualistic land of the Gnostics. This has to be practical, hands on equipping of the church. People need to know how to embrace their whole self, and how to recognize the impacts that sin has on all aspects of who they are. It has been a long time since I have heard sermons on the unity of the nature of humans, and longer still since I have heard how to fight against sin because of the impact it has on us holistically. I think that’s probably because many preachers are guilty of being closet Gnostics, embracing cultural views on humanity instead of the truth of the Word.

I wonder how many more stories are lurking out in the shadows that hopefully will be brought to the light. I know many probably would rather have them stay in the shadows so that the church isn’t hurt anymore, but I want all the wickedness to be flushed out of the church. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, so pulling the covers back from what we have hidden will push us towards holiness. I want the church to be purified of those who would harbor assailants. I want the church to stand for the victimized. We can only really do that when we embrace what God teaches about humanity:

God created humankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them,
male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27 (NET)

We are unique and amazing creations of God, each of us. We are more than the sum of our material parts, and complicated beyond belief. Gnosticism is ultimately the worst form of idolatry because we place what we believe humanity is above what God says we are, and we the church must stand against it!

What the Heck Happened?

I am not fan of President Trump. I think he is less than desirable in many ways. I probably make my conservative friends upset by saying that, though Trump is not a conservative in many respects. I was not a big fan of President Obama either. I thought he was deficient in my ways also. That probably makes some of my more liberal friends upset. When I look at that state of our discourse on these things, however; I have noticed that as Americans, we are so polarized that any form of discussion of the merits of these individuals has been obfuscated by our own need to “be right.” Our friends cannot disagree with us without becoming our mortal enemies. We cannot possibly admit that someone we do not like at all had a good day, or did something that we appreciate.

What the heck happened?

I remember hearing stories of Democrats and Republicans disagreeing all day long, and then having a beer after work and being friends. That used to be common in America, but it seems like we have lost our ability to reason and be friends with people we disagree with. This is obvious by the raging hate storms you see on any discussion of politics or religion on social media if you are brave enough to view the comments of a post.

I do not really care much for politics, so my concern is always more focused on the church. Unfortunately, the same attitude is present in the church. People who disagree on matters of belief are so quick to condemn their “opponents” (not their friends who disagree) as heretics. People shun and criticize others because they believe or do things just a little bit different. There is no room for dissent about topics that can be arbitrary and no related to anything important. I do believe there are issues that should separate believers, and that there are required divisions in the big tent of the Body of Christ, but I also think those are few and far between.

What the heck happened?

I have tried to be thoughtful about this. I thought: “has anything really changed?” People have always been self-righteous, self-focused, and self-aggrandizing. I think that part hasn’t changed at all, but the rapid ability to disseminate our opinion has certainly changed with the advent of social media. It allows us to make our own platforms that we can pontificate from, regardless of our education on a topic. We can be jerks (me included!), and we can pretend like our way is the right way. We get to have one way discussions, and make sure people know that we are right.

While that is true, I think the issue is really bigger, because Jesus taught His people to behave differently. To love others. To give to others. To respect others. Even those (maybe, especially those) who disagree with us. How can it be possible that those of us who claim Christ act like we do just because we have a megaphone at our fingertips? The answer, I think, is the lack of the Spirit’s voice in our hearts. The Spirit is the one thing that should prompt us to act differently, to love more, and to be more committed to people than we are to ourselves. I believe the church has systematically silenced Him. Baptists do it out of fear (can you imagine if the Spirit got out of His box in some churches)? Charismatics silence Him by overindulging in emotionalism and fake Spirit movements. The high church Protestants/Catholics silence Him through traditionalism. The Spirit, the influence that should be pushing us to be like Christ, is speaking to those who have no room to listen. Our society is suffering for it. Our friends and neighbors are suffering for it. We are suffering individually for it. Most of all, the Kingdom is suffering for it.

What the heck happened?

We tuned the Spirit out and have become the coarse, nasty, and uncaring society that we are today.  The Bible says that those in the Spirit have peace, patience, self-control, joy, and many other things. Do these define us? They certainly do not dominate our culture, and those who claim Christ have lost that subversive, cross-cultural impact we need to keep pushing the Kingdom forward. Not in the sense that we try and be hipster cool, but in the sense that we love radically. People need to look at all aspects of our lives and see a difference.  Too often, what they see are people arguing and trying to justify themselves and their always right opinions.

What the heck happened?
We stopped listening to the Spirit, and we didn’t even notice.

Why So Sad?

The title of this post is from one of my favorite songs in Hamilton. Confession, King George is my favorite in the musical. His question is really quite revealing about the King in this song, because it captures how disconnected from reality the King was with the Colonies. He did not understand the people, and by the power of his position as Regent of his empire, he didn’t consider it something he had to care about.

I find this line of thinking common amongst those with some claim to power. We all see it I am sure. In the intellectual circles I run in its almost always related to church or theology. It’s common in the big church pastor who doesn’t quite get why people no longer want to fund the building program. It’s common in the Calvinist who cannot understand why the Arminian doesn’t understand how right he is (and vice versa). It’s common in the Protestant who cannot fathom how Catholics can claim Christ at all. It’s common in the Evangelical who cannot understand that other Evangelicals did not vote for Trump, and that some even voted for Hillary.

Lord Acton said “that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Unfortunately this seems to be proven true again and again, and while I care about the dismissing of those who are “less than” in most facets of the world, I care more about it in the Church. When we consider ourselves more important than others, and we have to if we view ourselves as powerful, we cut off discussion with those who are not up to our level. We do not make headway, and we fracture the diverse Body of Christ. That’s why we see so many people screaming at others about how right they are, and the other people tuning them out (or screaming back), and no dialogue or understanding actually happens.

The Christ-follower who wants to be like Jesus should heed His example: He humbled Himself, removing Himself from a position of power, and died on a cross. This complete emptying of Himself is called the kenosis and is taken from that Greek word in Philippians 2:7, where Paul said that Jesus emptied Himself of all His divine attributes. Jesus gave up power to reconcile humanity. He emptied Himself for us.

As Christ-followers, we have no power compared to what Jesus gave up. Colossians 1:15-20 explained Jesus power, and the Book of Hebrews exalted how much better Christ is than all other things. Why is it that we cannot condescend to those who are “less than” us, showing them grace and love, and pursuing reconciliation and unity? That’s what Jesus prayed for His church, unity; so why is it so easy to pull a King George? We look at those “peasants” beneath us without trying to understand them, or include them in our groups. Why is it so difficult to disagree and remain friends?

It took the King fighting a war to finally get that the American problem wouldn’t just go away, and the people didn’t see him as their superior. What is it going to take for us to lay down our self-perceived power (or power given to us by others) for the sake of the Gospel of love?

Maybe we would benefit by continually asking ourselves “what would Jesus do?” when it comes to understanding others and remember what He did do to reconcile humanity. I think of myself as a vile, horrendous offender of God, who disagrees with Him continually, but is loved and redeemed regardless. I have begun to pray more fervently the same thing that Jesus prayed for us: unity. God made for Himself a diverse Body, perhaps it’s ok that we do not all see things the same way.