Archive for the ‘real Christianity’ Category

illumination

April 5, 2010

Once again I sit on my family room couch looking out the expansive south-facing window. My husband and I enjoyed the quiet this morning as we sipped our coffee, gazing, watching the birds come and go. It’s a windy day, I can tell. Though I haven’t yet stepped outside, the wind chimes and clouds’ speed tell me so. It’s one of those days that can be sunny and brilliant one moment and shrouded in gray the next.

A male goldfinch perches on a feeder snatching seeds from the little feed-slot. The sun lights his feathers just right and transforms him from a yellow bird with a black cap to a torch of gold. He is magnificent! The green buds emerging from the branches of the aspen beyond him become illuminated by the sun as well. They are vibrant!

A little potted fake fern sits on a glass table just this side of the window and the sun graced its plastic leaves also. It came alive for only a moment, its leaves radiant with green warmth.

Then all went terribly wrong. I made the mistake of glancing at the table top. Not only were the plastic leaves of my faux fern illuminated, but every finger print, glass water mark and every piece of dust on that table were also highlighted, brought to my attention, pointed out as if with a giant neon arrow! The streaks on the window that were left the last time we windexed it are now painfully apparent and I feel the urge to get up and start cleaning!

The sun does that. It can make things look absolutely gorgeous; better than they are on their own. It can also show just how ugly other objects are, how messed up or unattractive they truly are, once the light does its work.

Light is truth. It brings out the reality of an object. It accentuates the beauty or exposes the ugliness.

Jesus is the Son of God, and he is the sun – the light of God that reveals the truth about who we are.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”

Jesus is truth. His life shows us the truth about our own lives. He is the radiance that makes us beautiful or he is the beam of light that shows our falsehood and sin. We can look pretty good on a gray day, but when the Son shines in all his radiance, what comes out of us for all to see? Fingerprints and dirt?

I’m so thankful that because of the Son’s great sacrifice and resurrection, I can be clean inside, so when Jesus, The Light of the World shines on me, I can reflect his glory just like that little goldfinch at my feeder!

kindness of God

March 25, 2010

I was reading in Luke the other day and this passage I’ve read numerous times, just stopped me in my tracks. I think reading the Bible in different translations/versions is very helpful for this very reason. Reading something I’m familiar with in different words brings to light nuances or meanings I’ve totally overlooked before. Here it is:

“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are un-thankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. . . .”  Luke 6:35-37  New Living Translation

Jesus’s words are powerful. I have known since I was a small child that we are supposed to love our enemies, yet I never really saw that modeled very well in Christendom. I saw plenty of judgment. I saw Christians huddle together as if protecting themselves from sin getting on them by proximity. Sadly, I was often in that huddle in high school through my early adulthood, until I spent time around ‘radical’ Christians. Over the years, I have seen the smugness and religious superiority of many who say they are Christians, and it’s these self-righteous people who haven’t learned compassion, who are skilled judge-ers.

This hit home recently to me when my husband and I were watching a show on addictions. I, who don’t have an addictive personality and haven’t had to struggle with an addiction, can look at someone doing drugs or fighting an eating disorder or hoarding until they can’t get into their house, and I, in all my obvious lack of understanding can say, why don’t they just stop? Just stop doing the drugs. Stop starving yourself. Stop hoarding.  I mean, just stop already. Then it’s over. Done. Then they can get on with their life. (Gee, I’m so profoundly wise.)

If I had an understanding, it would lead me to compassion. Since I don’t understand, I must choose compassion. Once I make the choice, the feelings always follow.

I’m learning it really isn’t about the drugs, the food or the stuff. It’s about heart issues. It’s about longing for acceptance and love. It’s about wounds from the past clinging to a tender, confused or angry broken heart with talons that fiercely refuse to unclasp their grip without a terrible battle.

Compassion says, whether I understand or not, I’m so sorry you have to struggle with that. I’m just so sorry. Someone working with the addicted or the hoarder will need to use different methods and consequences, but for those of us not in the process, love is the only response they need from us. Compassion is a balm that promotes healing.

Most Christians don’t understand and unfortunately underestimate the powerful draw of addictions, and even homosexuality. In our ignorance we say, that’s wrong. Stop it. (Or worse, “You’re bad; you’re wicked; God hates you . . .” None of those statements are true, by the way. We’re all bad, sinful and wicked before we go to him in repentance and he forgives and cleans us. God doesn’t hate us. He is kind and merciful to us.) The problem can arise between Christians and those who don’t know Christ yet because too often we Christians don’t see the person, we just see a behavior. We judge. We neglect compassion. We don’t behave like children of the Most High.

I’ve heard a scripture verse misused far too often. “Judgment begins in the house of God.” People have misquoted and misinterpreted this and used it as permission to be harshly judgmental towards others. If they read in context, they’d see a completely different message.

The context is the suffering that Christians faced and will increasingly face for their faith in Christ. 1 Peter 4:17 says, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” The judgment here isn’t punitive, rather it’s purifying. Suffering purifies and refines us. No one is exempt from suffering. The point is that if suffering is so difficult for those of us who know and love God, how much more difficult it will be for those who don’t have his purposes and love to cling to in the midst of suffering! These people need compassion from us! Things are hard enough! Why pound on the judgment?! Judgment is God’s job. Even then, the Bible says that God’s kindness leads us to repentance. (Rom. 2:4)

If God is kind to the un-thankful and wicked, Christians, because we are his children, should act like him, being kind and compassionate! James 4:12 tells us, “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?”

So, taking this to heart, as I look at people around me every day, in cars, in the grocery store, at the gas station, in a book store . . . I have no idea the struggles they face, the sorrows they carry, the anxiety or depression they live with. It seems we all are broken in some way. We all suffer in some way at some time. Rather than making things worse by judgment, I need to see people with eyes of compassion. I need to behave as the child of the Most High that I am. I need to leave the judgment to him and be a healing balm with compassion and kindness.