Give Yourself to Others …

Archive for the ‘opinion’ Category

Most are deluded with the idea we can say something to another person, which will cause that person to change their mind about a particular topic.  We think we can persuade others to think like us.

I repeat — that is a delusion.

Now, granted, sometimes we do say things and then, coincidentally, other people changing their view of things.  But even when that happens, it’s not because of us, it’s because of them!

People are free-will individuals.  They get to make up their own minds.  They get to make their own choices.  They get to set their own priorities.  They get to decide what is important and what is not.  They choose what they believe.

People are neither good or bad, just because they disagree with us.  They are just different, and that is their choice.

What we can do is inspire or motivate others to act on what they already believe.

I spent much of my career in the direct mail fundraising business. Fortunately, for me, early on, I learned this:  It’s not about persuading people to agree with me, it’s about finding people who already agree and motivating them to act on what they believe.

An example:  Most political campaign communications are not about changing Rs to Ds or Ds to Rs.  It’s about convincing your opposing voters their cause is lost and there is no point in voting; and, at the same time, inspiring your supporting voters, theirs is the winning side and they should “get on the bandwagon” to victory.

In matters of commerce, you’ll never convince someone to buy your product or service, unless they already believe they have the “problem” your product or service resolves.

People do change their minds all the time.  But those changes are unpredictable and are caused by far more factors and considerations than what little anyone of us may contribute to them.

So, speak out about what you believe.  Believe what you say.  But let everyone else do the same.

I admit, I get pretty annoyed when Christians attempt to attribute to Jesus, their own political views. Whether on the political Left or the political right, I think they are wrong.

Just for the record, I’m more on the political right — pretty close to libertarian.

I see the controlling factor as “free will.”  God gave it to us.  It’s what makes us fundamentally different from animals.

From where I sit, Christians on the political Left want government to implement policies around caring for others; but then object, when those on the political Right want the government to implement policies which criminalize “sins.”

The Left wants to institutionalize charitable activities.  The Right wants to institutionalize Christian morality.

I think both miss the point of Jesus’ example.

The emphasis of Jesus’ life was two-fold:  First, conform your personal will to God.  Second, seek with your whole heart and being to life consistent with God’s will.

One of the central reasons for Jesus’ life on earth was to provide the example of how to conform our will and behavior to God’s will.  But at the same time, he taught we need to recognize our inability to conform completely to God’s will.  Such failure is the reason we need redemption.  And our redemption is individual, not corporate.

That is, the government’s success or failure to provide a “safety net” does not affect our salvation.  At the same time, if another person lives inconsistent with God’s will, that does not condemn me — or anyone else.

The issue, from God’s perspective, is whether I am seeking to conform my will to his.  It’s not about how successful I am — it’s about whether I’m trying.  

So, my liberal friends are trying to do what they think is right.  My conservative friends are trying to do what they think is right.  My libertarian friends are trying to do what they think is right.  My socialist friends (I’m not sure I know of any) are trying to do what they think is right.

None of us know, for sure, if we’re doing the right thing.

Give yourself to others, for their good, expecting, nor requiring, anything in return — even if they disagree with you politically.

Carey Nieuwhof has written a great post on Audience Analysis applied to Sermon preparation & delivery:

How To Know What Your Audience Is Thinking BEFORE You Communicate

Too often, people who present material (on any topic, not just spiritual topics) focus on what they have to say, rather than what their audience will hear.

In his post, Carey describes his process to bring those two things closer together.

This is worth review by any preacher or teacher, or even sales rep!

When you have the time, you should do a little research on the history of the doctrine of the Trinity.  I’m not going to review the whole history in this post, but it’s useful history to be aware of.

The short version goes back to the First Council of Nicaea, in 325.  There were a lot of theological disputes back in those days, so Emperor Constantine pressured the leading bishops of the day to gather and resolve these.  One of the issues centered around the nature of Jesus Christ.  Ultimately related to that question was which of the writings in circulation at the time, should be considered “sacred.”

As part of the discussion, one guy promulgated what we know call “The Trinity”, God in three persons, but one God.

I don’t have any huge objection to the use of this “paradigm”, but I think we should recognize it is an attempt to explain something about God, which we cannot understand.  So, it’s more a statement about our capacity to grasp God, than it is a statement about God.

As you may know, one of the significant objections Muslims have to the way Christians talk about God, is that we have three gods (Father, Son, Spirit), while Muslims have but one God.

I think the Muslims have phrased it more properly.

God has presented himself to us in three different ways.  But that has to do with our intellectual capabilities, not the limits of God.

He presented himself as Jesus, to give us a living example of what it means to be the person he wants us to be.

He presents himself as the Spirit, because of his continuing presence and influence in our life, if we are persistent in seeking him.

But God is God.  He is sovereign.

We should acknowledge him and him alone, and admit we can’t comprehend everything there is to know about God.

Humility is a good thing.

Have you ever noticed, being a disciple of Jesus is inconvenient?

As a Jesus disciple, our focus is ideally, and continually, on others, seeking to do what is best for them. Figuring out what is best for others takes time and thought. Then actually doing it, may be even more difficult — either in terms of time or effort.

But all of that is inconvenient — but then, it’s not about us, is it?

But the law of loving others could not be discovered by reason, because it is unreasonable / Leo Tolstoy (Anna Karenina)

For Jesus’ believers, this post by Seth Godin raises and interesting question.  Worth your consideration

The reality is that, for most people, that’s not a very exciting invitation.  (I struggled a little with what adjective to put in front of invitation).

The reason, in my view, is the connotation surrounding “church.”  Many theological people are typically quick to point out that the “church” is truly made up of Christians.  And I acknowledge that fact.

However, also true is that the word, church, comes from the German word, kirche, which refers to the cathedral, not the people.  And in everyday usage, church more often refers to the building or facility, than to the people who gather there.  It also often refers to the organization more often than to a generic gathering of people.

So, when you say, “come to church with me”, what does your audience really hear?

It seems to me most likely they are hearing you invite them to an organizational meeting, which you hope they will join.

Perhaps we would be better off, if we invited people to “come worship with me.”

Like many people, I’ve probably read 1 Corinthians 13, a thousand times.  The description of “love” by Paul, is beautifully inspiring.  I often read it when I perform weddings.

On a side note, the old King James Version translation of agape as “charity” is probably a better translation than “love.”  But that’s a topic for another time.

What I’ve missed in the thousands of times I’ve read 1 Cor 13 are the first three verses (this is from The Message):

13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Am I the only one who missed this?

I can be the smartest person in the world.  I can understand everything … even the greatest mysteries about God … I may have so much faith that I can perform miracles … I can be the most generous person in the world.

And if all of this is true, but I’m not loving others, the way Jesus loved me, then it’s all pointless.

If we are not loving towards one another, we’ve missed the whole point from Jesus.

Think about that, the next time you argue about doctrine!

I have to start with a little Greek lesson … old news for some, news to others.

The English word, church, comes from the German word, kirche, which is actually the word for cathedral, or the building.  The word in the Greek NT is ekklesia, and actually refers to a called assembly.  Among it’s earliest uses is a as a reference to gatherings of the citizens of a Greek city, when they gathered to vote on city ordinances.

There is no basis in how ekklesia is used in the NT to understand it as an formally organized group.  All of the evidence is that when used, it refers to all of the Christians in a local area or everywhere globally.  Even in the earliest days of the ekklesia in Jerusalem, all of the evidence is they met is numerous homes, scattered around town.

Assuming you accept this, so what?

Well, the so what is that many well-known evangelists … from Billy Graham to Francis Chan, often speak about the importance of being a part of a local church.  I’m not going to bother to repeat all of the NT citations they use.

But the problem is they infer a modern day understanding of “church” when the inference is not there.

When we give our lives to God, we become part of God’s family.  The NT admonitions about the ekklesia do not have to be understood in a modern context.  The ekklesia exists because people who share this relationship with God, quite naturally, will want to spend time together and sometimes collaborate to do good things.  But that is truth, whether the group is 3 or 30 or 300 or 3,000.

You do not have to meet in a building, you don’t have to have a preacher or a pastor.  You don’t even have to have a church checking account!  Imagine that!

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with “mega-churches” as they’ve come to be known.  But there is also nothing wrong with gathering with a couple of Christian friends at the coffee shop, or your home, or at the beach, or around the camp fire.  Such a gathering is as much ekklesia as is a gathering of 10,000 at Saddleback Church in California.

It seems to me Jesus knows us well enough to know we need to be around other Christians.  We can encourage each other.  Teach each other.  Advise each other.  Worship with each other.  So we should be together.

But there remains a lot of freedom to find the gathering most helpful to each person maturing and remaining faithful to Jesus.


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,368 other followers

Twitter Updates