Tag Archives: grace

Humility

There’s been one word that won’t escape my mind recently: humility. It’s one of those words we use a lot, but is typically left up to the interpretation of the one using it. We all have this idea of humility in our minds. We can see it being displayed and recognize it, but it’s difficult to define.

Even more difficult is recognizing that we are often not nearly as humble as we wish ourselves to be. Maybe we don’t stare at ourselves in the mirror in vain. Maybe we don’t spend our time bragging over our accomplishments. At first glance, it’s easy to come off as fairly humble, but are we really?

Some things to think on:

Do you feel the need to one up? I had a conversation recently where, no matter what I said, the guy would come back with a bigger, badder story. “Disc golf? I used to be ranked in the state!” “Baseball? I hit over .400 one time until the coach sat me down for some reason, but I was so good” “Hopscotch? National Champion in 4th grade…” O.k., kidding about the hopscotch, but there was always this tension of him wanting to one up any part of the conversation. I’m completely guilty of this sometimes. I think we just have this tendency to feel validated and so we look for ways to share our exploits. You want to make someone feel good? If they are excited about their accomplishment or something their kid did, just affirm them. Be excited for them. Don’t just look for the next opportunity to jump in with your even crazier, awesome story.

Do you compare yourself to others? Many times people think about this in physical terms. That’s certainly true. But, I’m more referring to when we verbally use other people as affirmation that we are better. Recently, it’s Pat Buchanan and Tiger Woods. If you want to score some points with the crowd you are around, just throw out a random Buchanan or Woods bashing statement. It automatically sets up this moral hierarchy where you are above them. We’re always going to talk about the news and that’s not necessarily wrong. But here’s the question. Do people’s moral failings tend to validate your own self-righteousness or do they remind you of how easily we can screw up? I think a proper response to stuff like that is worship. “God, I screw up all the time. Thank you for your love, grace, and mercy.” Humility doesn’t use others to prop itself up.

Humility is certainly not self-hatred. We can be proud of our accomplishments. We can even hold each other accountable, but I think we have more of a tendency to automatically assume we are humble rather than think about it.

Have a great Thursday.

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We Are All Tiger Woods

Take a deep breath. Relax. And say it with me now: “My name is _____ and I am Tiger Woods.”

In no way do I want to condone or legitimize what Tiger did. I’m not his apologist. He failed his wife. Big time.

But, I’m more concerned about our reactions to events like this. Sure, there is disappointment. I bet there are many kids who looked up to him. There may even be some anger. No one likes cheaters or repeat offenders (and he was both).

At some point though, shouldn’t we eventually get to a place where we say, “I am Tiger Woods.”

You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Jesus (Matthew 5:27-29)

I’m sure many of us have read those verses. We probably felt good about reading them and said, “Yup, Jesus is right. He’s so smart.” But when a situation like the one with Tiger Woods becomes news, our hearts rage against verses like these.

We think, “Jesus didn’t really mean that!” But He did. I figure He probably even chose His words carefully considering He knew they would be recorded for all time. The principle is there:

Looking lustfully = Committing Adultery

Tiger Woods is an adulterer and unless one of us claims to have never, ever looked lustfully¬†at someone, we are adulterers too. But that grates at our pride. It’s one thing to admit we’re flawed. It’s another thing altogether to admit we’ve screwed up just as much as Tiger. We want to weigh all our sin/junk/screw ups and come out lighter and holier than him. We want to pretend we’re better. But we’re not…unless Jesus was joking.

Shortly after the scandal broke, a buddy of mine sent an email to a bunch of folks. I can’t remember his exact words, but essentially he said, “Without the Holy Spirit and God’s grace, we are all Tiger Woods.”

His point is not to justify what Tiger did. He’s saying, given the right circumstances, we could find ourselves in Tiger’s shoes. Most likely, he made small decisions over time that steamrolled into larger, more destructive decisions. If we just count on ourselves being really good, we could very well end up in his situation.

Maybe it’s not adultery, but maybe it’s gluttony. Maybe it’s gossiping. Maybe it’s pride. Again, we want to have this hierarchy of sin where we can say ours isn’t as bad, but it all comes from the same place: a defiant heart.

Would it be unchristian of us to love the guy? He doesn’t “deserve” it, but again, do we really deserve God’s love? Who are we to have been given unmerited, unlimited grace and mercy to deny extending the same?

There are consequences to actions and rightly so, but as I said, I’m more concerned with our response as Christians than what he did. Did Christ not befriend prostitutes? Did he not dine with “sinners”?

There is a Tiger Woods in all of our lives: someone who has messed up big time in a public way. I believe it’s our job to help them through it. Not condone it, but be there unconditionally to help them make the right decisions. It’s easy to love people when they are perfect. It’s Christlike to love people when they aren’t.

And when we hear news of someone failing that we’re not closed to…shouldn’t we be the place where the gossip stops? No matter who we hear about that screwed up, shouldn’t we be the wall that puts out the wildfire of “news”? I once heard that “Christians don’t gossip, they share prayer requests.” How true.

When we hear the latest failure of _____(fill in anyone’s name), it’s right to pray for them. We should. But we don’t have to tell everyone, “Did you hear what so and so did? Imagine that. Terrible. Oh, we should pray for them.” I know there is a way to share a request legitimately, but where’s the line between gossip and sharing? It’s probably more prudent to leave it anonymous unless you really trust the person and you will actually pray for the “offender” right then.

It’s the times when someone screws up the most that they need prayer and a rock-solid friend. If someone at your church was making destructive decisions, would they feel good about confessing and receiving help, support, and prayer or would they be afraid they’d be kicked out, shunned, or slandered behind their back? Again, I’m not saying there is no time for discipline or consequences, but those should never be done without a healthy portion of grace, love, faith, and mercy.

Remember, we are all Tiger Woods.

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Christians, Politics, and Christ’s Love

Occasionally I’ll write on the Christian’s responsibility in the political process. Today, my interest was piqued by a friend who brought up the topic of illegal immigration. How should a Christian respond to this issue?

It’s certainly more complicated than giving them all amnesty or shipping them all back. We like to make the world black and white, but life is rarely so easily juxtaposed. As Christ-followers, it’s a good idea to look to Christ for our example.

If we’re all made in God’s image (Gen. 1), it would seem logical for us to have compassion regardless of whether people look, dress, or speak the same way we do. Looking in the Gospels, Christ was consistently found with the “least of these.” The hurting, the oppressed, the sick, the lost – they were all genuinely loved by Christ.

Those are just two examples of a rich collection (love your neighbor, mercy, grace, etc…) of Scripture that could speak to this issue. Clearly, as a Christian, there is a calling to love the immigrant as we would love anyone else. But, here is where things get tricky.

A Christian’s responsibility does not necessarily directly correlate with national policy. America is not a theocracy. We are called to love every single immigrant. We should give them the shirt off our backs. But, that is as individuals and as churches. If we were to adopt that policy nationally (any poor person just come here, we’ll support you), we would bankrupt and put everyone in that situation. This does not mean we have no part in the political process, but it does mean that our primary expression of faith is not fighting for specific legislation.

My point is not that there should be no reform. I’ll be honest. I don’t even pretend to begin to know the outcomes of all the possible policy angles. We should certainly stay informed and vote our conscience, but I think the church misses out when we completely rely on politics.

If we feel illegal immigrants should be loved unconditionally, love them, provide for them, and help them become legal. If you think abortion is murder, begin loving some teenagers in your community, get involved in their lives, and help them make better decisions. If you believe we need to send aid to a certain country, have your church start a ministry there.

Certainly, we need legislation, but that is not our sole or even primary responsibility. Think of the goldmine of resources, talent, time, imagination, wealth, and creativity that resides in our churches nationwide. Imagine the beautiful stories we could hear if we took our convictions of faith and began living them out. We don’t have to beg and plead for people or politicians to do something. If we are the hands and feet of Christ, what does that look like in our communities? Christ didn’t come as an earthly king. He came to seek and to save what was lost. Stay engaged in politics, but ask God how He could use you and your church to love the immigrants, the hurting, the broken, the struggling, the lost, and the unloved.

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