Author Archives: gaimee

Sobs for the Synagogue

I wrote the following in 2019 when a local synagogue became the target of an anti-Semitic gunman. Since then, the news has moved on, but the fallen human heart has not. With the rise of anti-Semitic comments as we approach the election, I felt it a good time to remind us that there is no place in the Christian life for such hatred.

Real time news headlines take real time to sink into my soul. As the shock at the Poway Synagogue shooting has receded, my soul is finally catching up. One human heart cannot hold every tragedy, every shooting, every diagnosis. It is entirely too much. Yet,  the heart of God is more spacious than we dare dream.

After a busy week of treading water, I finally had a little corner in my heart clear enough to hold a drop of the heaviness of what occurred this past week in an incredibly  peaceful portion of San Diego.

The tragedy is made more atrocious by the fact that the shooter claimed some religious motivation in carrying out this terrible and chaotic deed. Anti-semitism breaks the heart of God. After all, God chose the Jewish people and set them apart as His own people. Jesus Himself was a Jew who wept over the nation of Israel.

In her book, Christianity is Jewish, Edith Schaeffer beautifully explains a right view of Judaism from within Christianity.

“People act as if Christianity  is a new religion, which just sprang up two thousand years ago, but it is not new, it is simply a continuation. It is a fulfillment. It is a next step. It is the proof that the covenant with Abraham was true. It is Jewish. It goes back to the promise given after Adam and Eve fell – the seed of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent – and it turned out to be Mary’s seed.”

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The Apostle Paul, though he spent the majority of his adult life on mission to spread the Good News to the Gentiles, wept for his own Jewish family, saying, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1).  He speaks extensively about his heart for Jews in Romans 11, calling them the natural branches of God’s family.

“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although  a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in’.” Romans 11:17-19. 

Paul even goes further than simply honoring and admiring the Jewish roots of Christianity. Divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit, he writes a promise concerning the Jewish people.

And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree? Romans 11:24.

There is no place for anti-Semitism within the Christian church. Rather, there is a place for pleading, with great respect and admiration, that the natural branches might believe in Christ and become completed Jews.

Paul, a Jew opened the way for Gentile believers. And now, we, as Gentile believers, are called to pray for a way to be opened for the remnant of the Jews. Edith Schaeffer writes the following of this privileged role we have as a kingdom of priests.

“So now all who believe and have therefore been born again, are in the place of ‘priests,’ and have a responsibility to pray for the rest of the people. It is a terrible thing to run  away from this responsibility – it is a cruelty to those for whom we are the only priests.”

May we sob over the synagogue shooting. May we refute anti-Semitism in all its forms, be they subtle or overt.  May we cry over the pride in our hearts that have forgotten that Christianity is Jewish.

Entangled

Every once in a while, I delve into reading about something that is far beyond my mental scope. It’s almost like forcing my brain to run a mental marathon (and remember that people who live in these lanes are way out of my intellectual league). Just as it is healthy to push our bodies to their limits, it is healthy to stretch our minds.

In such an ambitious state, I picked up Louisa Gilder’s fascinating book The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics was Reborn. Unlike most physics-related books, she sought to tell the stories of the conversations and interactions between the key players in the quantum era (names you probably recognize if you took chemistry or physics courses in college: Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger, et al).

While I cannot say that I fully understand (or even remotely understand) the complex atomic realities into which these men were delving their entire lives, I can say that I am more in awe of the God who created such an intricate, seemingly inexplicable world. The more the most brilliant minds sought to understand the world, the more they realized that human language, even numbers, simply cannot capture the nuanced and quirky (or should I say quarky) realities sewn into the very fabric of the universe.

The entire book revolves around the debate over quantum entanglement, a strange phenomenon that cannot be explained by the classical model of quantum physics (supported by Bohr and an entire cast of his cronies). Einstein, Schrodinger, and a few brave others continued to insist that the long-range entanglement of particles long after a brief interaction, proved that our traditional understanding is gapped, at best. In fact, Einstein died trying to figure out a unifying theory that would teach us the relationship between the traditional model and the quantum model.

Entangled with God, Either in Enmity or Intimacy

The concept of the unseen, but very real entanglement of the smallest units of matter shouldn’t surprise believers (even those, like me, who don’t claim to fully understand it). After all, our God exists outside of time, yet he chose to step into time to interact with those whom he created with a mere word. He is not the disinterested clockmaker deists would have us believe. He is actively, eternally-engaged in his creation, even down to the level of electrons and quarks.

As I read Gilder’s book, I was simultaneously reading a very different book which talks about a very different form of entanglement: The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God by John Frame. While the physicists are trying to describe the strange entanglement of particles, Frame is speaking of the entanglement of people to their Creator. God is Creator and therefore authority over all created matter (his transcendence) yet he is involved in his creation in intimate ways (his immanence). God draws near in space, but he also draws near in time. In the words of Frame, “God is unavoidably close to His creation. We are involved with Him all the time.”

In Acts 17, the Apostle Paul says something similar to the truth-seeking pagans gathered in the Areopagus. “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar to ‘the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made my man…” (Acts 17:22-24).

The writer of Hebrews also acknowledges the omnipresent, omniscient God “with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13).

The lives of believers and non-believers alike are tangled up with God. Denying him (atheism) or claiming a hung-jury (agnosticism) does not change the reality that our lives are entangled with the God of the universe. There are two ways to experience this entanglement: enmity or intimacy.

When we refuse to accept the reality of the Lordship of God, we are locked into enmity with him. Even if our words don’t say that verbally, our lives are entrenched in enmity. We are going against the grain of the universe and fighting a losing battle. According to Frame, unbelief is eventually found to be exhausting and infuriating, “a self-frustrating task,” because in unbelief of God we are trying to do that which is impossible: set up another not-god (even if it is self) as God.

The life of a believer, however, is intended to be a life of intimacy with God. Going with the grain of the universe and acknowledging reality as it truly is, believers are invited into a relational knowledge of and interaction with our Creator. In bending the knee (and more importantly the heart) before him, we acknowledge him for who He is and experience the entanglement of a loving Father.

These thoughts, far from being purely theoretical, have wide-ranging implications in our daily lives. When I think of those whom I love who deny or seek to ignore God whether actively or passively, I long for them to know the glorious reality of the entanglement of intimacy with God. In my own life, I want to enjoy his active-involvement in my life rather than chafe against it in stubbornness.

This God with whom we have to do is the Lord of heaven and earth, but he is also the suffering servant who died on our behalf. That he would entangle himself with our affairs, even when we stood in enmity against him, this is a wonder beyond all wonders!

What Scares Me Most this Halloween

San Diego takes Halloween deathly seriously. One of our neighbors starts decorating his home over two months before Halloween, slowly transforming his yard with massive, homemade themed decorations. Grim reapers abound, as do every size and texture of spider. But they are not what scare me most this year.

This year, my heart is most scared about the ho hum attitude we have towards mass shootings and physical violence done to political adversaries, as if these were par for the course.

This year, my heart is most scared about what we will do to other image-bearers in a week’s time when elections stir up all our inner crazy. I fear that, even as believers in Christ, we will forget to heed the Apostle Paul’s warning, “But if you bit and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal. 5:11).

This year, my heart is most scared for the twenty-something generation so desperately screaming, “More life!” that they flock towards crowded streets for experiences that lead only to more death. Emptied and disillusioned as many of them are by the vacuum of truth in which they were raised, their extreme need to chase life and experience to keep up with Insta-images scares me and brings tears to my eyes. I want to shout to them the timeless truths of the Scriptures: “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply” (Ps. 16:4) and “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love: (Jonah 2:8).

This year, my heart fears our collective ability to see and magnify (in order to cancel) the mistakes and failures of others while being comfortably complacent with our own. We have become experts as assessing splinters and ignoring logs (Matt. 7:3).

This year, my heart is most scared by my own sin. I see my own fear over situations I cannot control (especially as my children become teenagers) and it fills me with more fear. I see my own hunger for man’s approval and it deeply frightens me. I see the amount of selfishness even in my obedience to God, and it causes me to shudder.

What Strengthens Me This Halloween

If I were to leave myself in this massive pool of fears I would be no different than our present news outlets. But, thanks be to God, fears press the believer more deeply into an anchored hope. When fears loom large, our hope can loom larger.

My mind has been meditating upon the Heidelberg Catechism, Question One.

“What is your only comfort in life and in death?”

“That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.

When the news leaves me dizzy, this comfort holds true. When circumstances seem to spin out of control, this comfort holds true. When political enmity boils over and spills into our streets, this comfort holds true.

I can think of nothing better to offer my soul, the souls of my children, and the souls of the younger generations than the good news of the gospel.

The Love that Fights Against Me

We love the biblical idea of God fighting for us. We love quoting Moses standing with his back to the Red Sea and his face towards the approaching Egyptian army: “The Lord will fight for you, you have only to be silent” (Ex. 14:14). We rightly love to reference another set of words by Moses to the people of God:

“And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory’.” (Deut. 20:2–4).

Yet, we struggle to receive and cling to the reality that the same love that fights for us is also deeply committed to fighting against us.

Love that Stands Against My Sin

I’ll never forget something my husband said to me during our first year of marriage. We had come to an impasse (which is a euphemistic way of saying that we were in a bit of a disagreement). I think I said something alongside the lines of “I need to know that you are for me” to which he wisely replied, “I am for the Spirit in you, but I am against your sin and your flesh.” In the moment, I don’t think I liked his response very much; however, the reality of a love that would stand against me and my sin has deeply shaped me and helped me understand God’s fiercely faithful and faithfully fierce love for his children.

Now that I have children, I can better understand the ferocious side of love. While I am not generally a yeller, I have yelled loudly at my children to protect them danger. I remember crying as we disciplined our very young children for touching the stove. And now, as my children are becoming adolescents, my husband and I have had to keep them from things they have deeply desired to protect them from harm. I will never forget the story of a father friend of ours. His daughter was in the depths of depression which was leading her to seek escape in rebellion and substances. In love, he would sleep in front of the front door to offer himself as a physical barrier to that which would cause her lasting harm.

An Unsettling Promise

I was stopped dead in my tracks yesterday when I was reading the book of Jeremiah. At this particular part in the book of the weeping prophet, Jeremiah has recently been imprisoned and tortured by the priest in the house of the Lord for speaking truthful (but very hard-to-swallow) words from the Lord. God’s people simply wanted nothing to do with the truth that would check, challenge, and convict them in their sin. Their spirit is summarized in one verse:

Then they said, “Come, let us makes plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, not counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us strike him with the tongue and let us not pay attention to any of his words” (Jeremiah 18:18).

Later, when Babylon began to attack them, they conveniently decided they would like to hear the word of the Lord again (as if God and his prophets were lucky rabbit’s feet to be rubbed when desired). God sent Jeremiah back to the same priest who had tortured him with these startling words, “I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath” (Jer. 21:5).

God refused to relent and yield to his people’s desire for prosperity and security apart from him. He loved them too much.

A Deeply Settled Love

For those who are in Christ, God’s wrath has been poured out upon Jesus. He drank the cup of wrath down to its dregs. Thus, God does not punish his children. The Holy Spirit, does, however, stand against them in their sin, waging war against the remnant of flesh that lives within us in the already/not yet of the kingdom of God (Gal. 5: 16–26). Just as Jesus loved Peter and therefore rebuked him when he had his mind set on the things of the earth rather than the things of God, God will lovingly rebuke us through his discipline (Matt. 16:23; Heb.12: 3–11).

If God allows us to be wounded or corrected, it always comes from his scarred hands and issues from his deeply settled (and publicly-shown) love for us.

Martin Luther wrote the following about the loving correction of God:

“When God sends us tribulation, it is not as reason and Satan argue: ‘See there God flings you into prison, endangers your life. Surely He hates you. He is angry with you; for if He did not hate you, He would not allow this thing to happen.’ In this way Satan turns the rod of a Father into the rope of a hangman and the most salutary remedy into the deadliest poison. He is an incredible master at devising thoughts of this nature. Therefore, it is very difficult to differentiate in tribulations between him who kills and Him who chastises in a friendly way.”

If we are buffeted and checked by the Spirit of God who wars against our indwelling sin, this is ongoing proof of our place as true daughters and sons. Receive his fierce love as marks of ownership from the Father.

Even the Ravens Do His Bidding

Our dogs have a strong distaste for crows and ravens (which is a nice way to say they lose their ever-living minds when we see one). Halloween is not a good season for walking these fools, since everyone loves to decorate with creepy crows in our neighborhood!

Corvids are a family of birds that include ravens, crows, and their kin. They appear creepy and have been associated as harbingers of bad news (thanks to Edgar Allen Poe for ruining them for us all). They have a highly developed avian society and are known nest-robbers and scavengers. Essentially, crows are like the mafia of birds.

I used to be creeped out when they landed in our tree like foreign spies gathering intel; however, lately, they have been reminders of the goodness of God.

For months, the story of Elijah and the ravens from 1 Kings 17 has been continually brought to my heart and mind by the Spirit. It’s a short tale, and a favorite for Sunday School classes for its unique and memorable nature. But as an adult, it is been shaping and strengthening me.

That our God would command his prophet Elijah to hide in a harsh place from an angry ruler does not surprise me. That He would create a draught yet provide for His servant from His own provisions is not shocking to me, though maybe it should be. But the ravens? They have my jaw-dropping.

Ravens are notorious for stealthiness and selfishness. They are cunning and have long been associated with bad news, harbingers for evil and ill. Yet, in a singular display of His gracious sovereignty and care, He commanded such birds to provide for God’s vulnerable servant. His powerful provision made them harbingers of hope.

Birds known to steal shared. And not just once, but twice daily for countless days.

When God call His people to extremity, He provides richly and uniquely. While most of us won’t know what it is like to hide in a deserted place in the middle of a drought in the kingdom of an irate ruler, we all have our own seasons of extremity. Extreme financial distress. Extreme loneliness. Droughts of hope. Deep hunger pangs for direction or company.

In these places, we must sit with Elijah in expectance of the Lord’s gracious provision. He knows our haunts. He knows our hunger. He knows our frames (Psalm 103:14). And He who apportioned such lots also commands the necessary provisions. While He could have easily commanded angels, he chose ravens to do His bidding.

The earth is the Lord’s and all the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has established it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers (Psalm 24:1-2).

Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens, he does all that he pleases (Psalm 115:2-3).

These all look to you to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things (Psalm 104:27-28).

He may not send you ravens. But He will provide for His children. Our extremity is His opportunity. Not only that, but He commands us to be ravens to one another, to be the unlikely harbingers of hope.

Even the Ravens

The ravens which circle
I’ve sent to do my will.
Even in fierce famine
Mine will eat their full.

Even evil omens become
Servants at my command.
Even ravens can deliver
Provisions from my hand.

When silos seem empty
My storehouses, unseen,
Supply son and daughters;
My love is never lean.

To whom is He calling you to be a raven this week (a messenger sent with timely provision from a loving Father, be it physically, emotionally, or spiritually)?

What ravens has he sent your way of late?

The Friendships of Women

Every year the stores put out their Christmas decorations early. Y’all, I have no candy for Halloween and no concepts for costumes. In fact, I think I just filled out the last of a legion of “Back to School” forms. Such preemptive action in the commercial world is encouraging me to prepare liturgically.

I woke up this morning thinking about Mary and Elizabeth’s friendship, specifically, and the friendships of women, generally.

You know the urge to call or text your sister or your tribe when you have news, whether weighty or wonderful. You have heard the laughter of two women sitting at a coffee shop reconnecting and remembering. You have seen women hugging, attempting to hold each other up under unthinkable loss. God made many mighty and beautiful things, but few can compete with the transformative power of human friendship.

As astounding as Mary’s visit with the angelic herald must have been, I found myself more moved today imagining her subsequent visits with Elizabeth.

As soon as she could, Mary ran for the hills, quite literally the hills of Hebron, to tell Elizabeth the news. She knew to whom she could safely carry the news that she was carrying a child! I am certain that as she traveled, both anticipation and nervousness grew. She had plenty of time to think about Elizabeth’s potential responses. How would she receive such strange news? Would the fullness of Mary’s cheeks and chest serve only as a reminder of Elizabeth’s long-empty womb?

Imagine their shock upon greeting one another, each brimming with life and an unlikely story to share, each eager to find a resting place for their fears, hopes, and insecurities. It was probably a good thing that Zachariah couldn’t speak, because he probably wouldn’t have gotten a word in anyway!

But as I imagined the joy, I also could not help but imagine their shared sorrow. While we don’t know how long Elizabeth lived, it is possible that both women bore and buried promised sons who died painful deaths.

Imagining these two women sharing their burdens together, laughing and wondering at the interwoven stories God was writing left me thankful for God’s gracious gift of ordinary friendships. It is no small thing to have a safe place to know and be known in a largely anonymous world.

Two Women, Four Hearts

Two women, four hearts.
A pair of promised sons.
Crying in fits and starts.
Laughter-laden lungs. 

“Mary, A miraculous child so young?”
“And you, a miraculous child so late?”
Immanuel from Heaven flung?
A son after so long a wait? 

Interwoven stories, intermingled tears. 
Kinship coupled with kindred souls. 
Angelic messengers, human fears. 
Different women, similar roles. 

Poised to magnify the other’s joy, 
Both destined for terrible pain;
Each would be bereft of a boy;
Their losses spent for our gain.

Two women walking side by side, 
Multiplying joy, dividing sorrow.
Comforting places to confide,
As we move toward the morrow.

I bet Mary and Elizabeth smile from heaven every time they see women walking alongside one another, pointing one another back to the hope their sons gave their lives towards.

All Without an Asterisk

In a world prone to hyperbole and full of lofty promises bound to disappoint, it is easy to grow cynical and become distrusting of words.

But God’s words are both sure and pure, making wise the simple (Pss. 12: 6; 19:7). Distrust is a wise disposition towards self and the world, but a dangerous disposition toward God.

All the Alls

As I have been studying the Word lately, all the alls have stood out to me. It’s such a small word to carry such a huge connotation. A lot hangs on such a small word. Below is a small sampling of the”all” verses upon which I have been meditating:

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corin. 9:8, emphasis mine).

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8: 28, emphasis mine).

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinth. 1: 3–4, emphasis mine).

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence”(2 Pet. 1:3, emphasis mine).

“For all the promises of God find their yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Corin. 1:20. emphasis mine).

Incredulous Hearts

if I am honest, I often approach these alls with a squinting, searching, cynical eye. It’s hard to turn off the tendency to want to read the fine print hidden underneath promises.

My flesh wonders if all grace would abound to me even if I lost a child or received a cancer diagnosis. My flesh assumes that the God of the universe could not possibly care about the common trials of my day. My flesh tells me that there is scarcity, not abundance, in God’s provision. I buy the same lie that baited Eve: God is withholding.

My flesh finds it hard to believe and receive the reality that God’s all means all without an asterisk. No fine print. No hidden clauses.

But God’s all means all. He does not lie. He never changes. Even when we are faithless, he is faithful, for he cannot deny himself (2 Tim. 2:13).

All Without an Asterisk

We live in a batteries-not-included world 
Offering inflated promises (with fine print).
Over-hyperbolized, we doubt promises;
Incredulous, we search and we squint. 

Our God gave all with one small asterisk-
Forbidding that which would cause harm.
Dangerously deluded, we dared disobey,
Initiating pain we could not disarm.

We ruined all without an asterisk.
Our sin sent shockwaves near and far. 
Self-bent love leaves indelible stains.
It’s notorious for its ability to mar. 

He gave all without an asterisk,
Coming as man to take on our curse.
He spilled his blood and offered his life,
In his own body the curse to reverse.

He asks all without as asterisk – 
Full submission without reserve.
Trembling trust is a fitting response 
To costly love we don’t deserve. 

He provides all without an asterisk- 
We have full access to all that we need.
In seeming lack, we still have Him:
The high priest who lives to intercede.

We are called to trust him entirely because he gave himself entirely.

Politics & the Primary Language of Individualism

‘Tis the season. Political season is upon us (not that it ever took a break). If I am completely honest, I dread election seasons more than I dread just about anything. I think I would rather walk a mile on Lego pieces than dance the delicate dances that will be required in the upcoming months.

Under normal circumstances, election seasons are exposing; however, the stakes and the tensions in our nation are higher than they have been in decades. Our patience is already worn down from the pandemic. Anger and confusion are boiling in our blood as conversations around racism seem to grow more and more polemic. What used to be funny caricatures of both sides are becoming scarily realistic as the ideological delineations become more and more entrenched.

Our political leanings will be questioned, cornered, and cajoled. As much as I want to run away from these conversations, I know I must engage.  I long to be prepared to chime in to the chaos, but to to chime into as a citizen whose primary citizenship and hope is another kingdom led by another king.

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In Habits of the Heart, Robert Bellah and his associates use Tocqueville’s seminal study on democracy as a loose guide to studying the the role of individualism in American culture. He rightly claims that the first language of every American is individualism, though that individualism can come out in different forms, namely expressive utilitarianism and utilitarian individualism. Utilitarian individualism most prizes the capital gains, power, and status (all rolled together into the complicated term success), while expressive individualism tends to highly prize feeling, emotion, and freedom of self-expression. While on the surface these two seem to be completely different camps, they share in common a base of individualism: I have the right to go after what I deem to be success and/or freedom in my eyes and government exists to secure that right.

While both sides tend to vilify the other, they share a primary foundation of protecting that individualism which is inherently and intentionally laced into the American spirit. They just define freedom and rights differently and go about seeking them differently.

The upcoming political season will expose more than our political affiliations; it will expose the idols and hopes of our hearts, the longings and rights that wake us up in the morning and keep us up at night. As much as I don’t look forward to this exposure, as a believer in Christ, the discomfort can be more than something to survive. While everyone else might be frantically or fanatically doubling-down on party lines and their respective idols, Christians are invited to double-down in dependence upon Christ.

For the believer in Christ, primary citizenship has been shifted and a new primary  language is learned. Devotion to and dependence upon Christ slowly uproot deeply engrained patterns of individualism (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Short term hopes shift from our own increase to the increase of the kingdom (see John 3:30 and Philippians 3:7-9). Long-term hopes are lengthened to converge on the consummation of the kingdom of God in the New Heavens and the New Earth (see Philippians 3:20, Hebrews 11:10, Hebrews 11:14-16).

This primary citizenship does not extinguish our earthly citizenship, but it does right-size and inform it. It allows us to engage in politics but to do with loosened grips and increasingly humility, knowing that we do not know all things but our Heavenly Father does.

Within the body of Christ, both at large and in our local expressions of the church, there will be those with very different political leanings. We do not need to pretend otherwise. To do so would be naive and dangerous.  We do not need to attempt to manipulate and convince people of our leanings. To do so would be narrow and narcissistic.

We are, however, called to ensure that our primary leaning is into the person of Christ and our primary allegiance is to His Word and His ways. May we guard our hearts which are the wellsprings of our lives (Proverbs 4:23) more than we guard our political stances or positions. May we be more concerned with a humble and obedient posture to Christ than we are with the way parties are positioning themselves for power. May our deepest allegiance be to the One to whom all allegiance will ultimately given (Philippians 2:10-11).

May election season only deepen our dependence upon Christ. See you on the other side of November.

 

 

Isolation: the Ultimate End of Cancel Culture

Long before Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook, C.S. Lewis understood where cancel culture led. In The Great Divorce, his fictional depiction of Heaven and Hell, Lewis paints a picture of serial conflict that leads to further and further isolation in the cities of hell. Lewis had no way of knowing how accurate his description would be regarding our current culture.

Moving Away From One Another

While traveling on a bus going from Lewis’s creative depiction of hell for a visit to heaven, the main character gets into the following conversation with a long-time inhabitant of the hellish city:

“The part of it that I saw were so empty. Was there once a much larger population?”

“Not at all,” said my neighbor. “The trouble is that they’re so quarrelsome. As soon as anyone arrives he settles in some street. Before he’s been there twenty-four hours he quarrels with his neighbor. Before the week is over he’s quarrelled so badly that he decides to move. Very likely he finds the next street empty because all the people there have quarrelled with their neighbors – and moved. So he settles in…He’s sure to have another quarrel pretty soon and then he’ll move on again…

“They’ve been moving on and on. Getting further apart….Millions of miles away from us and from one another.”

While we do not have a physically expansive and inexhaustible place like the hell-town Lewis described, we do have the internet. This technology, which does have its positive contributions and capacities, provides a seemingly inexhaustible, albeit two-dimensional, way to separate ourselves from others with whom we disagree or whom we greatly dislike.

Algorithms are not ultimately to blame, though they certainly stoke the flames of our sinful desire to separate and isolate. Left to ourselves in our fallen state and captive as humanity is to the prince of this age, we tend toward isolation when hurt, misunderstood, or misaligned with others (2 Corinth. 4:4). When Paul was contrasting the works of the Spirit with the works of the flesh in his letter to the Galatians, he included “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, and divisions” among sorcery, orgies, and drunkenness as evidence of the flesh (Galatians 4:20-21).

The Enemy loves to divide and separate, while the Spirit seeks to unite and bind. There is, of course, a command to be separate from evil doers and to separate the immoral brother; however, even then, such actions are to stem from a deep desire to see the parties with whom we are in conflict (over clear Scriptural commands) brought to full repentance and restoration (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

The Scriptures have much to say about the dangers of being quarrelsome and quick-to-separate. When people hurt us (which they most certainly will) or when we disagree with a brother or sister on matters of political opinion or conscience (which most assuredly happens on the daily), it is our flesh’s knee-jerk response to want to create distance from them. Distance breeds further distrust and miscommunication. As such, it is easy to recreate, at least in our hearts, Lewis’s description of astronomical distances.

Moving In, Not Away

To live among one another, to hurt and be hurt by one another, to see the world differently even from our own brothers and sisters in the faith, are inevitabilities this side of glory. Apart from the binding, humbling, convicting work of the Holy Spirit, we have no hope.

But with the Third Person of the Trinity, illuminating the Scriptures to us and acting as a search light in the dark recesses of our own hearts, we stand a chance to fight the clarion call of cancel culture. The discomforts of disagreements and disappointments, when we resist the urge to flee from them and the relationships that occasioned them, can serve to press us more deeply into the gospel. Rather than moving out and away, God can use these to press us further down and into Him.

Rather than make the other our enemy, we remember the enemy of our souls (Eph. 6:12). Even more importantly, we remember that we long stood as enemies of the Cross (Rom. 8:7-9), offending and disappointing God. As those who have been forgiven much, we have much forgiveness and grace to mete out to others (Luke 7:47). If God has closed the eternal breach between us and him, he can help us to close much smaller distances between us and those with whom we disagree on secondary or tertiary matters.

Disagreements compel us to move. By the power of the Spirit, we have a choice to move away from one another (following the lead of cancel culture) or to move more deeply into dependence upon God to biblically and sacrificially love those with whom we do not see eye to eye.

Opportunities Found Only This Side of Glory

As Americans, we hear the alluring phrase “Limited-Time Offer” frequently. Often such enticements are attached to special deals on hotel rooms, vacations, flights, or large-ticket products. If you doubt our love for taking advantage of limited-time opportunities as a culture, wake up before the sun on Black Friday and see the throngs drawn to such deals (my husband and high school boys included).

Hidden within the dark clouds of suffering are a few limited-time-only offers that offer perspective to our experiences of suffering on this earth. In the New Heavens and the New Earth, suffering will be no more. When the Apostle John recorded the glorious words he heard and visions he saw during his exile on the island of Patmos, he assured us, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). While it is right and good to hang our hope on such potent promises, it is easy to miss some significant implications.

The God of All Comfort

Our time on earth is the only time we will be able to experience the comfort of God and subsequently offer comfort to others. Comfort is necessitated by discomfort, the presence of pain, or a lack of ease. In the presence of the Triune God, we will never lack security. During our time on earth, we are uniquely poised to receive comfort from the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3). Having received such comfort in all our afflictions, we are entrusted with another limited-time-opportunity: to comfort one another with the comfort we have received (2 Cor. 1:4-5).

The sigh of relief that comes when we proverbially crawl into the lap of the Father who holds us and quiets us with his love is birthed out of the temporary discomforts of being away from his presence (Heb. 4:14-16; Zeph. 3:17; Ps. 131:2).

Hope has an Expiration Date

The human propensity to hope is astonishing even to those outside the faith. Accounts of survivors from concentration camps repeatedly recognize the power of hope, even amidst atrocious evil and horrendous circumstances. As Emily Dickinson so beautifully writes, “Hope is the thing with feathers -/ that perches in the soul- / and sings the tune without the words- / and never stops – at all.”

I would add “In this life.”

In the New Heavens and the New Earth, there will be no need for hope for the flower of faith will comes to full fruition in sight! As Paul said to the Romans, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom. 8:24-25).

Our time here on earth is our only chance to practice lifting our eyes to the mountains from whence shall come our help (Ps. 121). When we are like him, seeing him as he is, we will have no need for hope (1 John 3: 2).

A Chance to Show Our Preference for God Over Sin

During our time on earth we are saved from the penalty and power of sin, not from the presence of it. Only in the New Heavens and the New Earth will we finally and fully be saved from even the presence of sin. This means that our days of exile here are our only opportunity to show Christ that we prefer him over sin and the fleeting pleasures of this earth. To be clear, he must be prior in our lives to enable us to prefer him since apart from him, we can do no good (John 15:5). Even so, I long to live a life worthy of the calling I have received. I long to string together days and moments which show Christ his surpassing worth even over the greatest offerings of this world (Phil. 3:8).

Likeness to Our Suffering Savior

Finally, and most importantly, our days on this broken earth are our only chance to share in the suffering nature of our Savior. As paradoxical as it sounds to our flesh, God grants us the gift of being partakers in his suffering (Phil. 1:29). When we suffer for doing what is right, we share in his likeness and show our semblance to our Savior (1 Pet. 4:16-19).

The fullest picture we have of God is Christ on the Cross, the suffering savior whom Isaiah foretold. This means that God’s glory is inextricably bound up with suffering. To be a partaker of his glory is to be a sharer in his suffering.

In a book entitled Suffering is Never for Nothing, published posthumously after her death, Elisabeth Elliot writes in depth about the mysterious gifts of suffering. Speaking of the martyring of her first husband, she says, “Jim’s absence thrust me, forced me, hurried me to God, my hope and my only refuge. And I learned in that experience who God is…. And so I can say to you that suffering is an irreplaceable medium through which I learned an indispensable truth.”

Endless days of wholeness and satisfaction in the presence of our Savior await those who are in Christ. But there are only limited days to know his comfort, to experience hope, to show preference to him over sin, and to meet him in his suffering.

Let’s not miss these limited-time opportunities!