Continuation

In case you couldn’t tell from the title, this is a short continuation of my previous post.

So I talked about how Jesus hung out with the people who weren’t good enough – the people who would have today’s Christians shaking their heads. Today, I want to apply that to our relationships.

I have a friend. Originally, he is a friend of a friend. And while I’m not super close to him, I would still call him a friend. However, he is gay. And today, I had my roommate (who is not religious) ask about whether or not it was okay for my friend (who is a strong Christian who I admire) to be friends with him. After all, isn’t being gay something the bible tells us not to do (I’d like to point out briefly that the Bible NEVER associates being gay with…well…being. It never refers to it as an identity, only an action)? And yes, it does. And this friend is also “religious” (I only use that term because I’m not entirely sure where he stands in the “religious field”, if you will). I don’t know how he resolves the two, but that’s a discussion for another time. But if Jesus hung out with people like the apostles, what excuse could I possibly give for not hanging out with people we would refer to as “better”? None. The answer is none.

I recently read “The Lipstick Gospel”. And I encourage you to read it as well. But one of the things she talks about is how she thought Christianity was about “old grannies and ugly shoes”…-and how she found out that is isn’t. That it isn’t sterile and clean, but rather messy and dirty. At one point, she used smell references – that she thought Christianity was “boring, plain vanilla” and she was more interested in something “eukelyptic-y” (excuse my spelling). I think that maybe I have been thinking too in line with “boring, plain vanilla”. I was raised in a Christian home, I’ve been a Christian since I was four, and I’m finding out that we are rather conservative. Not that that’s bad – for example, I believe in one-piece bathing suits rather than two pieces, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But sometimes, being raised in a Christian environment, you come to expect the sterile. So meeting the messy – someone who struggles with cursing, or crude jokes, or anger, or anything else – can be a bit of a shock. If you’ve never encountered it before, you might not know how to respond. Or maybe you automatically respond with a judgement about their faith. And by you I mean me. And so we forget that a foundation of Christianity is love and grace. We forget that judgement is not ours to give (James 4:11,12). We forget that God’s love is not sterile and boxed up, but unconditional and without bounds. Something that the writer of “The Lipstick Gospel” wrote struck me: she wrote that “I didn’t even have to give up having sex for God to love me”. She did – because she saw a hint of God’s plan for her life and “wanted in on it”, which is what I believe happens when you’re trying to seek God – but God would love her anyway. Rahab in Joshua 2 comes to mind.

Maybe this thought will be radical for you, but God loves the prostitutes. God loves the drunkards. God loves the unfaithful. God loves the thieves. God loves the criminals. God loves the murderers. God loves the abusers. God loves the rapists. God loves the perverts. God loves everyone. Unconditionally. He loves everyone unconditionally.

Those same people who all too often we hate? The people we look down on? The people we despise? God loves them. Even when what they do makes us sick to our stomachs, He loves them. And we are called to Love them too. Love, with a capital L. Because it isn’t dependent on our feelings, or on them. The love we are supposed to have is supposed to transcend any circumstances, and go straight to the deep, neverending, unconditional love that God has. We are supposed to love like Him.

So to wrap up, just remember. Our faith, as Christians, is not supposed to be sterile. It isn’t supposed to be squeaky clean. It’s supposed to be messy, because we are messy. We are not perfect, so neither should our faith be.

You should read “The Lipstick Gospel”. It’s interesting and has some good thoughts. You can find it at http://stephaniemaywilson.com/lipstickgospeldownload

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Hidden Gem

I get really frustrated with myself sometimes. I was supposed to post this Sunday, and I even knew what to post! Argghh! But it’s getting posted today. So.

How many of you have ever had a moment reading the Bible when you just stumble across a whole random section of it that you can’t remember EVER really reading before? Like, maybe never ever ever? And then it’s like, woah! And of those of you that have, who found a passage that was just a little gem with double the woah factor? Yeah, that was me Sunday. And I was pretty surprised. I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember (I was four when I became a Christian; I’m 16 now) and I’m a reader. I’m also smart. So between the reading, smarts, and lifetime of Bible, I’m usually sitting in class thinking I know this story, and I’ve heard these points before (Side Note: that’s pride, people. The “I know the Bible” thing, not the smarts. Stop pride before it starts). But then, I found this little nugget! And it has a name. It’s James. Yes, as in the book of James. (I’m going to smack myself for this, but James the Gem people. James the Gem. Okay, I’m gonna go sit in the corner now. Not really, ’cause I’m writing this.)

Really, you should just go read James for yourself. The whole thing is amazing. But let me highlight a few things that popped out at me.

  • Favoritism is a Sin – Yep. James 2 starts out with calling favoritism a sin. It uses the example of showing favoritism to a rich man over a beggar, but it applies everywhere. Christ’s love does not show favoritism. Neither should we.
  • Warning Against the Tongue – Not as new, sure, but still a valuable piece of advice. Even when it feels like you’re about to explode and you can’t help but think how unfair it is  (especially if they’re being mean to you), hold your tongue. It doesn’t matter who it is, do NOT let something unkind and/or venomous come out of your mouth.
  • Submit Yourselves to God – Seems obvious, but I realized I’ve been kinda prideful lately…instead of submitting. I did a post about rebellion a while ago. That and this are cousins or siblings, who knows. They’re related. I found verses 11 and 12 especially interesting. I’ll give you verse 12: “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?”
  • Warning to Rich Oppressors – Yep, this is in here too. God doesn’t ignore those who are suffering under others. He tells them to bear with it. He tells their oppressors, Watch out. Your judgement is coming. Verse 3: “Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire.”
  • Other Notes – I was not kidding when I said you should read this book yourselves. It’s extremely powerful. I just wanted to point out a couple other things that popped out to me but didn’t have a whole section. I’m just going to type the verses, since they speak for themselves.
    • James 2:26 – “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
    • James 1:26-27 – “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
    • James 2:8 – “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.”
    • James 4: 5 – “Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?”
    • James 5:12 – “Above all, my brothers, do not swear – not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.”
    • James 5:20 – “remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

Aaarghh! There were so many more good verses! Seriously, read this book. I love it. Anyways. One of my favorite verses in this book is James 2:26. I have this sneaking suspicion that my spiritual gift is serving – I love being able to help people, especially elderly people and anything to do with children or (ohh, yes) babies (don’t get me started on those cute little bundles). However, there is a problem with that: I am very, very, VERY socially challenged. I’m shy. I’m an introvert. I’m socially awkward. The worst thing in the world for me is having to start a conversation (I can order for myself at a restaurant now without too much discomfort, and just last month I called several places to get myself an internship for school, so I’m slowly improving!). Getting involved with peopleInitiating that? Umm…no. Oh, wait. James 2:6. Wow, okay, I just got sucker punched. There’s also a verse in James that says something along the lines of, If anyone knows what he’s supposed to do and doesn’t do it, he’s gonna get judged. I am caught between a rock and a hard place. But really…there’s also a verse in the Bible that basically says If you have not received, it is because you have not asked! (John 16:24 might be it, I don’t quite remember). Not too long ago I was thinking about how I would definitely join a club that would provide me with the opportunities to help people, that’d be great! Guess what happened. Yep, such a club appeared! (Side Note: While I encourage you to do it, I’m always terrified to offer myself to God to use because I know he’ll challenge me and say, are you really willing? And that usually involves social interaction. He knows where to hit *gulps*. He will absolutely put me between a million different rocks and hard places, and it’s SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO uncomfortable. But I know it’s good for me so I do it anyway. Every once in a while (I should do it everyday. If you need something to pray for, pray that I gain the strength to do that)). So yeah, now I need to follow up on that club. But the thing is, God provides. If you want a service opportunity, ask him. If you want personal growth in Him, ask him (But be prepared to work yourself. He changes willing hearts, but your heart should be willing first). Ask, and you shall receive. Even when it’s uncomfortable and feels like a slow, torturous death, God will help you complete his commands. I know I’m supposed to be serving. I also know I’m not going to lack service opportunities anytime soon.

Anyway! Thanks for putting up with my rambling. Read James for yourself. Let God speak to you. It’s so much more effective than when I do it. Ciao!

Late Night

Wow! I’m typing this really late tonight (it’s 2:00 AM where I am right now). I also still have an English assignment I have to type, but I can sleep in on Tuesday so it works out. If I’m tired tomorrow, it’s what I get for procrastinating and watching anime instead of doing homework! So here’s my day’s overview: I went to church, came back and ate, tried to do homework, fell asleep, woke up, tried to do homework, was invited to do homework in a friend’s room (psshh, we all know that doesn’t actually doesn’t happen), left to watch the anime episode that just came out today because it’s ongoing, was interrupted in the middle to go have dinner with said friends, came back, watched anime, did a tiny bit of homework during the opening song, etc., and I just finished the anime. Which is not ongoing. Grr! I want more! So, my thought for today will (sadly, I’m sure) be brief (probably not really).

In church today, the leader leading the lesson mentioned a challenge given out two weeks ago (I was not there, I was at home for Thanksgiving break). Apparently, this challenge was to talk to someone most people wouldn’t: a social outcast, if you will. I started thinking about it, but as hard as I tried I could not come up with a social outcast at my current school (which I spend most of the day in my room, so I don’t really know…). As far as I could tell, I’m the most “socially outcast” person in the school (I put it in parenthesis because it’s not to say I’m rejected but rather that I don’t have many friends). Which led me to another thought…my dad. Recently, just this past year, I really started noticing and thinking about my dad’s interactions with others. He has fun shaking hands with little kids, he’ll talk things over with teenagers, and he asks how adults are doing. He’s more introverted, like me (I’m DEFINITELY a daddy’s girl), but he will go out of his way to meet with others and ask how they’re doing. That includes teenagers too. He finds unique ways of bonding with people – I remember one “girl” (she might be out of college by now, I don’t know) in particular. I don’t even know her real name, but I know he calls/called her Francesca and she calls/called him Ralph. He does it with another dude too. So a couple months I asked him about it. I know where he got it from – I see my grandfather do it too when I’m at their church – but I was curious about when it started and some other stuff. He said – and this is the point I want to get at – that he made an effort to care about people. Let me elaborate a little – all this stuff I’ve been describing isn’t easy for him. He told me he kinda started when he was a teenager, just asking how people were. He’s the guy that goes out of his way to care. He does the little things. He listens. He takes the initiative. And people like him because they know cared. They know that it takes more effort to say that hello when you’ve had a bad morning. They know that he cares about them because it’s authentic. It’s not fake, it’s not passing – every week, I can guarantee you that he’s out in the crowd asking people how they’re doing and what’s up. And it’s this idea that is so much more important than I think we realize. I don’t have a bible verse on hand to support this. But we are commanded to show God’s love. What if we started caring? What if we started investing in others’ lives? What if we stopped thinking and started leading – with our hearts? I’m a shy individual, but if I feel comfortable with you then there are times I won’t shut up. My parents do not need to prod me to tell them about my day. They’re more likely to tell me to stop talking about it. But I don’t get close to people who never talk to me. It’s the ones who do talk to me, who take the time to say hi and then say it again. It’s not a one-time deal. I feel like guys have an easier time doing this than girls do. My dad, my grandfather, another dude at my church here – but I don’t think it’s just a guy thing. I think girls can do it too, if they bother to look at the person .You can come up to me five times to talk about make-up, but I won’t care less. If you came and talked to me about me, though…that’s another story. Sometimes, it’s better not to have a topic. It’s not enough to casually do it. You have to do it with purpose. I apologize for not using that term sooner, it would have saved some explaining. That phrase is really important. How often do we follow God with purpose? We try to work on any number of things, but how often does it have a purpose? If I had to guess at my dad’s purpose, I’d guess it to be forming a relationship with people so that they know he cares. Because then he can do so much from there, working through God’s power. Could I guess the purpose in what you’re doing?