That which defiles us

Daily Readings: Judges 1-2, Mark 7, Proverbs 12

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” 

He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Mark 7:14-15, 20-23

In the Jewish world, being defiled was a big deal. So much effort went into remaining “ceremonially clean”. By the time Jesus arrives on the scene the Jewish establishment spent far more time worrying about a handful of regulations than actually following the will of God.

Jesus wasn’t having it.

I love Jesus.

I love Jesus not only because he was the perfect son of God who came down willingly to lay down his life for us so that we might have an eternal relationship with his father in Heaven; but also because he was unafraid of speaking the truth boldly and calling out hypocrisy.

Jesus gets angry a handful of times throughout the Bible and it was never directed at “sinners”. It was always directed at those that would claim to be followers of God and yet lead others astray by focusing on the wrong things.

The religious leaders of the day were more concerned with appearing ceremonially clean than with truly seeking after the will of God and bringing that to life in a broken and fallen world.

Over and over again throughout the scripture Jesus goes after our hearts. He wants us to truly understand this.

“What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

It got me thinking today about the American Church and what Jesus would say if he arrived on the scene now. If the Jewish leaders of the day were obsessed with being ceremonially unclean and seemed to miss the bigger picture, what would Jesus say we are obsessed with today that may be clouding our thought process and keeping us from truly striving to do the will of God?

It seems to me that there are two separate Christian universes in America today. There is the Sunday morning church service itself, where I see all sorts of amazing truth being preached. I see church leaders preaching fruits of the spirit, helping those in need, leaning on God, having courage in the face of adversity, etc. If we walked out of those doors and, as the body of Christ, were motivated to go live out what we had just heard, the world would be changed in a generation!

Then you jump on social media. Here we find a different universe entirely.

Social media does a great job of highlighting what people find important enough to share with the world. There is this beautiful platform where we can, quite literally, say anything we want to the entire world that is willing to listen!

How do we use it as a body of Christ?

Then you can click over to the news and see “Christian Leaders” on talking head shows that have been given an even larger platform to reach even more people for Jesus.

What message do we see there?

The overwhelming message Jesus would see people, who claim to follow him, putting out into the world today would be salute the American Flag, racism is a thing of the past and doesn’t need to be talked about so much, assault weapons are an absolute right that cannot be taken away, abortion is wrong, and homosexuality is ruining the country.

I am not trying to make a statement on any one of these issues. I am simply stating that 90-95% of the content that I see put out into the world from self-proclaimed Christ followers typically falls into one of those buckets.

In Matthew 7 Jesus told us, Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” 

In John 8 he said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

And today he challenges us saying, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Before God sent Gideon to take on the Midianites he told him to first get his own house in order. I think Jesus would say the same to us today.

What would the world look like if Christians first looked internally and challenged ourselves, our families, members of our church, and our self-proclaimed Christians leaders to live out what Jesus spoke of here?

What would it look like if we hated greed with the same passion that we hated abortion?

What would happen if Christians used their platform to speak out against arrogance, slander, lewdness, and deceit with as much passion as they speak out against gun control?

Jesus came with a message of love and forgiveness. He came with a message of caring for your neighbor and loving God with all of your heart. He came with a message of first looking inwardly before trying to change the minds of the world.

What would it look like if we took that message to heart?

In Proverbs 12:18, 20 today we also read that, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” and “Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.”

The world is in desperate need of Christians who call out reckless words when they see them and instead strive for words of peace and healing.

God sent his son so that none might perish. We are his advocates in a broken and divided world. The world needs an army of Christians who strive to bring more people to Jesus, not push them away through hateful rhetoric. The world needs Christians who first seek transformation personally, then in their own family and church community, and then in the greater church as a whole.

When people see that level of peace in our lives, the authenticity of our relationships, and our commitment to helping those in need, it is amazing how there is a tendency for people to want to find out more about that Jesus character.

Now life change can happen. Now people can be saved.

If we first seek to remove the collective plank from our own eyes, remember how much time Jesus spent preaching that we should take care of the forgotten and vulnerable, and spread a message of love and peace; the world could be truly changed!

Thought to ponder

If I was to compare myself to Jewish leaders of the time that were too fixated on being ceremonially clean and missed the bigger picture, what Christian hot-button issue has a tendency to dominate my thoughts and may keep me from thinking about the bigger picture?

Culture wars or radical generosity?

Daily Readings: Joshua 1-2, 2 Corinthians 9, Psalm 57

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

Psalm 57:9-11

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 

Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 

2 Corinthians 9:6-7, 13-15

As a collective whole, the American church has gotten a pretty bad name in society today. The unfortunate reality in today’s world, where we have immediate access to information and where anyone who wants to speak out has a platform, is that the most sensational and polarizing voices have a tendency to rise to the top. Our society naturally gravitates towards the controversial. This results in more clicks on stories that enrage us than those that inspire us, longer viewing time on news segments that shock us than those that lift us up.

The overall effect is that we live in a world where Christianity would appear to only be a religion of hypocritical leaders of mega churches rushing to the defense of the indefensible, simultaneously condemning large groups of people for sins that they just finished defending when it was one of their own, engaging in truly divisive rhetoric and making statements that run counter to the message of Jesus; and lots of self proclaimed Christians blindly following along like sheep to the slaughter.

All of this is causing non-believers and agnostics throughout America to say, “Christians are so hypocritical! If that is Christianity, thanks but no thanks!”

This is not the message Jesus came to advance in his time here on earth. It is simply the image portrayed in the news because controversy sells. Outrage and division is a business model that has proven profitable and there will always be false profits seeking to capitalize on this dark side of our inherent human nature. The truth is, this is not most Christians. This is not the majority of pastors.

Unfortunately, it is not the incredibly small minority either, which leaves us a lot of work to do as Christians who truly want to embrace the truth that Jesus uttered when he said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” It leaves a large credibility gap that needs filling by Christ followers who have truly turned over their lives to Jesus and have been transformed.

We are all human and, therefore, we will all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Christ showed nothing but grace for those moments of human weakness throughout his entire time on earth. However, nothing aroused his anger more than hypocrisy. Momentary lapses in self-control that lead to sin are going to happen. Jesus was always there to say, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone & First remove the plank from your own eye.” However, when people began preaching or following a false doctrine that leads others astray and keeps them for finding a relationship with God; for this Jesus had no tolerance.

So how do we counter this image of Christ followers that other’s see on their televisions, talk about over water coolers, and observe on social media? How do we make the name of God exalted throughout the earth as we read about in Psalm 57 today, so that God’s glory shines throughout the earth?

Radical generosity.

Far too often we feel completely incapable of winning that debate, if we were to engage in it, and decide to simply sit on the sidelines. The power of Christ lies in his people going out to the world and helping those in need. The power lies in the American church meeting the needs of those who are struggling in this world.

It doesn’t have to be simply physical needs of the poor that are being met, although they are many and this is a great place to start! It can also be the emotional needs of those who are well off in the material sense, but struggling with demons that they cannot conquer alone.

In 2 Corinthians today Paul tells us that, “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.” 

If you notice, he spoke of the service and generosity provided along with our confession of the gospel. It takes both.

If we are extremely generous with our time and money, and no one knows we are Christian, they are incredibly thankful for our generosity, but don’t link that to Jesus in their minds. If we simply want to share the gospel, but don’t accompany that with acts of kindness, assistance and tangible help with whatever they are struggling with in their current life; more often than not we simply end up in a spiritual debate with a skeptic. We have not yet proven to them that we believe the gospel through our actions. It is still just words.

There is so much power in generosity. There is so much power in unconditional love. There is so much power in the gospel when it is truly lived out on a daily basis and not simply preached.

Jesus did not simply preach. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, brought a message of forgiveness instead of condemnation, and was a living example of radical love and grace for others.

His disciples did the same in the midst of incredible persecution. In today’s world, there is a tendency for us to feel attacked by the media and society, retreat to our corners, and complain about how they are all out to get us.

It is far more comfortable inside of our Christian circles.

The magic happens on the outside. The magic happens when we know that nothing the world says about us can impact our true identity and cannot shake our faith in who God says that we are. The magic happens when we are willing to step out boldly…to serve. Not to boldly rage against culture, not to boldly engage in the debate on social media, not to boldly condemn everyone who doesn’t already know saving faith in Christ; to boldly serve.

The magic happens when we are joyful givers to those who would speak out against us, who clearly do not deserve our generosity by the world’s standards.

We are called to give this undeserved, radical grace and love because it was first given to us. Jesus gave it all. He wants us to be willing and cheerful givers as well.

And when we do, the results can be incredible.

Debates don’t bring people to Jesus. Unexpected acts of grace, kindness, and generosity do.

And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Generosity is capable of changing hearts and the impact is eternal.

Thought to ponder

Where is God calling me to demonstrate the type of generosity with my time and resources that would truly exalt him to those who do not yet know him?

What will I allow to shape me in 2018?

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 29-30, 2 Corinthians 6, Proverbs 10

The wise in heart accept commands,
but a chattering fool comes to ruin.

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.

Whoever winks maliciously causes grief,
and a chattering fool comes to ruin.

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

Hatred stirs up conflict,
but love covers over all wrongs.
 

Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,
but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.

The wise store up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.

Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips
and spreads slander is a fool.
 

Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
but the prudent hold their tongues.

Proverbs 10: 8-14, 17-19

I once read a quote from Charlie “Tremendous” Jones 15 years ago that “you will be the same person in five years except the people you meet and the books you read”. I thought this made a lot of sense and I could see some real truth in that within my own life. Fast forward to 2018 with the incredible rise of the information age and our easy access to the internet, television news, radio & podcasts, social media, etc. and I think we would have to edit that statement to say that “you will be the same person in five years except the people you meet and the media you consume”.

I have seen so many people I love and care about over the last 10 years that I lost touch with for a year or two and then can hardly believe the things I see them saying in person or on social media when we reconnect. It breaks my heart when I see people, that I truly believe to be good people at their core, parroting things that they heard over and over again but go against so many things I know they once believed.

We truly are shaped by the people we surround ourselves with and the media we consume. So what are we to do as Christians?

I love the wisdom in Proverbs today.

Here is my challenge for Christians throughout America in 2018, let’s all strive together to be discerning. Let’s all strive to consume less and think more. Let’s have more in depth conversations and not stray away from important topics. Let’s collectively increase each other’s wisdom. I want to grow and I hope everyone reading this would like to grow in 2018 as well.

In 2018 when you are watching TV, reading an article, listening to a radio or podcast, or consuming information in some other way; run it through God’s filter. Run it through the lens of Proverbs above. Is this person I am listening to spreading hate, lacking integrity, refusing to listen, causing grief consistently, and ultimately behaving like a “chattering fool” as described in Proverbs?

In 2018, as Christians, let’s stop following these people. Let’s stop giving a platform to leaders in churches, politics, and the media that will profess to be Christian and yet behave the opposite.

We are going to be the same person as we are today when we are about to enter 2019, a year from now, other than the people we surround ourselves with this year and the media we consume. It is time to turn the page and get back to wisdom. It is time we lean on God’s word again and not what television or radio personalities tell us to believe as Christians.

Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

Let’s not collectively allow others to lead us astray this year that refuse correction, sew hate and discord, and use their power and platform to simply build themselves up. Let’s be a collective body of Christ that embodies the correct side of Proverbs in 2018 and seek after wisdom.

When 2019 rolls around in a year I want to look back at what I allowed to shape my personal growth over the last 12 months and see God’s fingerprints all over it!

Thought to ponder

If I have been subconsciously shaped over the last year by what I have consumed, what subtle ways might I have changed that are counter to the person I want to be and how can I rectify that in 2018?

Mind dulled or Spirit filled?

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 23-24, 2 Corinthians 3, Psalm 52

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:12-18

In this passage in Corinthians today Paul speaks directly to the trap of religious activity. It is so easy as a Christian in today’s world to fall into religion instead of relationship. It is easy to show up to church, maybe occasionally crack open the Bible, check those boxes, and then move on with the rest of our day without any real relationship with our father in heaven. It was not only Paul that warned against this mindset throughout his ministry here on earth, but heard this directly from Jesus as well.

In Matthew 7 Jesus absolutely eviscerates the religious leaders of that day:

Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’”

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Don’t get me wrong; this is not anti-church. I adore the church I am a part of. I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of a church that focuses on relationship with God, outreach to the community, and discipleship instead of simply religious tradition.

I would submit, however, that there are very few things that made Jesus angrier in his time on earth than religious hypocrites. You can commit a whole laundry list of sins, but if you are willing to admit them, repent, and turn your life over to Christ; Jesus is right there in your corner, arm around you, fending off your accusers and saying, “You who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

However, if you pretend to be righteous, are unwilling to admit to sins in your own life, adopt a religious persona, and lead other’s astray; that is a different story. Now Jesus is ready to walk into the temple and start turning over some tables.

So, the question becomes, are we “being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” or are we allowing our minds to be dulled? Do we stand up boldly, speak truth in the face of obvious wrongs, and follow leaders that are chasing after God and clearly spirit filled? Or do we allow ourselves to fall for the counterfeit, with veils over our faces and not truly going after the transformation that can only come through a genuine relationship with our father in heaven?

As we watch some of the events taking place in our world today, I think there is very little doubt what God would have to say on the matter. When we see leaders in the public eye wrapping themselves in the cloak of Christianity and yet behaving quite the opposite, how will we respond as Christians?

Will we be “very bold” as Paul describes today in 2 Corinthians? Or will we be on the other end of Paul’s message, minds dulled, faces veiled, and blindly following along any charismatic leader willing to claim Christ with their lips?

We see a similar message from David today in our readings in Psalm 52. I think this applies quite directly to several prominent political figures in today’s world that would claim to be Christian but look to use Christ as nothing more than a sales tactic. On both sides of the aisle.

Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?
Why do you boast all day long,
you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
You who practice deceit,
your tongue plots destruction;
it is like a sharpened razor.
You love evil rather than good,
falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
You love every harmful word,
you deceitful tongue!

Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:
He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.
The righteous will see and fear;
they will laugh at you, saying,
“Here now is the man
who did not make God his stronghold
but trusted in his great wealth
and grew strong by destroying others!”

But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
forever and ever.
For what you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
for your name is good.
 

My sincere hope is that Christians throughout our country would stand up boldly, filled with the spirit, face unveiled, walking in true relationship with our heavenly father, and push back against any leaders in this world that would boast all day long, practice deceit, grow strong by destroying others, etc.

I want to live in a world where Christians claim Christ boldly, hope only in his name and not in a political party, and are like the olive tree flourishing in the house of God.

Let’s not allow our minds to be dulled. The stakes are eternal.

Thought to ponder

In the last year have I claimed Christ and stood up for what is right boldly? Have I been walking spirit filled and in a true relationship with Christ or have I allowed my mind to be dulled as Paul described?

The world has enough mockers

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 15-16, 1 Corinthians 15, Proverbs 9

Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults;
whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.
Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
rebuke the wise and they will love you.
Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;
teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

Proverbs 9:7-9

For most of my life I viewed this passage in Proverbs purely the way it was written, through the lens of how I should deal with others. I would read this passage and think to myself, “There is so much truth in this! There are just some people who are pointless to correct. If only they were open minded to wisdom! They are the epitome of the mocker described in Proverbs! They are so closed minded!” The fundamental flaw in this view is that it automatically assumes that I am wise and have all of the correct answers. By viewing this passage simply through the lens of how to deal with others, we miss the opportunity for self-reflection that we are offered as well.

This passage applies to every area in life, but I think it is safe to say that it manifests itself in today’s world most prominently through politics. There are very few people that have much of an interest in hearing what the other side has to say on an issue. We view most conversations as nothing more than a debate. Even the most patient of us typically only listen and attempt to appear open minded as a tactic to open the mind of the person we are with, find holes in their argument, and eventually attempt to “win them over to our side”. Very little listening is done with a genuine attempt to understand the position of the other person. Very rarely do we take down our own walls and ask, “Is there some wisdom in what they are saying?”

Frequently the answer very well might be no. On some issues, the answer is a pretty obvious and incredibly definitive no, and that is only hammered home more and more the longer we listen! However, by not being willing to actually engage, listen, and consider the thoughts of others, we become a mocker and lose the chance to “add to our learning and become wiser still.” And in cases where we come away feeling like we are on the right side of the argument after listening further, we have lost the opportunity to have any impact on the other person’s views as well. No one is going to take kindly to being called an idiot who doesn’t actually understand how the world works. No one who is mocked or insulted based on their views ends up opening their mind and coming away wiser because of the interaction.

This was absolutely my default throughout high school, college, and in my early to mid 20’s. I knew how the world worked, the correct sides to all arguments, and felt confident in making my case in such a way that would be hard to counter.

This all changed leading up to the 2008 election. (Wow that seems like a lifetime ago currently!) I was 26 at the time and decided to do an intellectual exercise for myself. I took 8-10 political hot button topics and actually asked myself, “What if I am wrong on this issue? Do I actually believe this because I have truly considered every aspect of the topic, listened to people from both sides with an open mind, looked at actual research and facts presented by each, and thought through the philosophical ramifications of the position I currently support? Or have I just always believed it and sought out sources of information that worked to confirm my already existing bias?”

Wow, that was challenging! For about 6 months I wrestled with quite a few topics. I spent time on just about every hot button topic imaginable and really tried to be open minded to the possibility that I was either completely wrong on my stance or that it might be more complicated than I originally thought and that a more nuanced approach was necessary than I wanted to admit.

I came away changing my stance almost completely on about 30-40% of topics and having a far more nuanced view on most of the others. At this point I am pretty confident I would get crushed if I ever ran for office, by both sides, because there are simply too many issues on both sides of the aisle that I support. We demand that every person get in line with 100% of the party platform or we call you ignorant! It is incredibly natural to choose a side that seems to fit more of our beliefs and then embrace what we are told to think by that side on all topics, instead of deciding what we believe and accepting the fact that “our party” might not agree with us on everything.

One of the biggest revelations I had in doing this exercise was the realization that politics, and our country as a whole, would be far better off if more people only agreed with 70% of what their party told them to support. Our country would be far better off if people looked into individual issues on their own, heard arguments from both sides, and made their own personal decision about how they feel on the topic.

I now listen with a far more open mind to people that I disagree with. I really want to understand where they are coming from. I want to know why they believe what they believe and if there is any truth in their position. Sometimes I am surprised by how well thought out their position truly is, even if I disagree. Sometimes, I find myself being swayed slightly or even quite a bit towards a portion of their argument, and am thankful I took the time to ask the question and listen. At a bare minimum, I am at least thankful for better understanding the psychology of why they believe what they believe instead of simply pigeon holing them because “I already know why they think the way they do”.

Virtually every single person you talk to today will say that the world is completely divided right now and do not like the polarized and toxic nature of our country. On this point, virtually everyone on both sides agree! (Other than those who actively seek to continue this divide for their own purposes) However, most of us prefer to shake our heads and say, “It is too bad the other side is so full of mockers and not people willing to seek wisdom.”

This past year has caused me to revert back into this tribal feeling more and more. I have found myself slipping back into a mindset where I view this passage in Proverbs 9 as advice for me on how to deal with others and not advice directed to me, encouraging me to not be a mocker, but to instead seek wisdom.

The world has plenty of mockers.

This morning I am making a decision to go back to being willing to learn.

In the words of Jerry Maguire: Who’s coming with me?

Thought to ponder

If I am being honest with myself, have I spent the last 12 months as a mocker or willing to learn?

The greatest of these is love

Daily Readings Deuteronomy 11-12, 1 Corinthians 13

This is only a 3-4 minute read and it is a post I would request you only read if you will read it all the way to the end. Thank you!

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13

We have all read these verses in Corinthians quite a few times if we have been Christians for a while. We have all probably heard them at almost every wedding we have ever attended. A lot of us can probably hear the first half a sentence and already say to ourselves, “Ah yes! 1 Corinthians 13.” Occasionally with verses like this we can hear them so many times that they begin to lose their punch until we stop and choose to read them again slowly, truly internalize the message, and appreciate them for the profound truth that they contain.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

My heart breaks for our world today. The hard part for me, as a Christian, is partially the chaos that exists in the world and terrible events that we see happening. However, there is something that breaks my heart even more; the way a large percentage of Christians are choosing to respond.

As Christians we are called to love. We are called to speak truth into the darkness. Instead I see so many Christians, that I truly believe have amazing hearts, allow themselves to be brainwashed by the media they consume. I see people listen to radio shows, watch television programs, and surf websites that pedal in fear mongering and vitriol. I watch the love of Christ that should exist in their hearts be replaced by hate and paranoia.

Christian brothers and sisters, I know this is going make some of you really mad and think that I have gone over to the dark side, but please stop watching FoxNews, listening to Rush Limbaugh, and going to sites like Breitbart or InfoWars. They are poison. They are the opposite of everything Jesus preached here on earth and everything written in 1 Corinthians 13.

Answer this honestly: When you tune in to any of these sources, that claim to have a Christian faith at their core, would you say the messages you hear are rooted in the truth that, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

This is not about conservative vs. liberal. You can be pro-life, support small government, believe in a strong national defense, believe more issues should be handled at the state level, be wary of gun control laws, etc. On some of those issues I probably agree with you and on others I might not. I have voted for Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians in different elections depending on the candidates, but in more positions that not, I lean conservative.

This is not about that. We can discuss the issues in a healthy, respectful, intellectually honest way. We can talk about the role of government in an open dialogue and then vote accordingly. That is not what is happening on the sources listed above in today’s world and it is poisoning the minds of Christians.

I think both Jesus and Paul would suggest to us in America today that either side could enact all of their political agenda, but if they did not have love, they gain nothing.

As Christians we are called to start with love.

The single biggest thing we can do as Christians is stop tuning in to TV and Radio and start picking up a newspaper or magazine. TV and Radio are mediums where sensationalism and outrage are currency. There is no nuance, very little honest debate, and ratings are determined by shock value.

Read.

There are plenty of conservative newspapers, magazines, and websites that don’t pedal in fear and hate as a business model but still lean to the right.

And here is another thing; it is totally ok to listen to views from both sides. Our society would be better off if more people did. Perhaps we would have more open dialogue and honest conversations.

I fear that this is the type of post that has people who already agree with me nodding their heads vigorously and people who don’t agree instantly outraged, defensive, and thinking that I am way off base and have been brainwashed by the mainstream media. I am sincerely praying that this is not the case.

I am sincerely praying that there are at least a few people that take a step back, as Christians, and ask themselves if the messages they are choosing to fill their minds with on a daily basis are messages of love or messages of fear and hate.

I have a suggestion for all of my Christian brothers and sisters on both sides of the political spectrum. Try a fast from TV News and Radio and spend more time in God’s word until Christmas. Feel free to read more and stay in tune with the happenings of the world, but stop listening to talking heads that use divisiveness as a business model.

See what happens when you start consuming less of the world and more of God’s truth.

I think you will find your life with far more faith, hope, and love.

And the greatest of these is love.

Thought to ponder

What content I currently consume could I cut out of my life that is filled with fear and hate?

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