LentBlog 2015, Day 40: Towards Outsiders…

Colossians 4:2-6, NRSV:

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should.

Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.[a]Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.


We live in the great State of Indiana. I like Indiana. I grew up here, and being back in the state after 16+ years away is in some ways like putting on an old, well-fitting T-shirt. In some other ways, though, it’s also like a bad Twilight Zone trip.

This week, the Indiana governor signed a bill into law that supposedly promotes something like “religious freedom.” Lots of right-wing, politically conservative Christians are celebrating in the streets, touting a major victory. Lots of centrist and left-wing, politically liberal Christians are shouting just as loudly, claiming this new law is a license to discriminate.

I’m left shaking my head. My non-Christian friends are taking to their Facebook walls and Twitter accounts  pointing out that we all look like a bunch of idiots.

I haven’t read the whole law. I know I need to. We celebrated Sabbath today and did a sum-total of not much around the house.

But here’s the deal for me tonight: this passage from Colossians calls us to:

Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.[a]Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.

Conduct yourselves wisely towards outsiders. Towards folks not yet in the faith. Towards folks who might not believe God even exists, let alone that Jesus is the savior. Towards folks who live as if they haven’t met Jesus, not forgetting that some folks in the church act as if they haven’t met Jesus.

Let your speech be gracious to them. Now repeat that. LET YOUR SPEECH BE GRACIOUS TO THEM.

Folks, in the midst of Facebook wars, boycott threats, and “religious freedom” acts, could we please… like, pretty please with sugar on top… stop trying to win some culture war and start seeing people with Kingdom eyes? PLEASE? 

It seems to me the role of the Kingdom in this world is not to defend my rights. It seems to me we’ve got far too much work to do living-out prevenient grace to spend too much time worrying about such things. Because here’s the thing: as Christians called to live out a Kingdom ethic, we will not agree with the lifestyle choices many people make. It happens. But our speech, our attitudes, our politics, and for Pete’s sake our Tweets and Facebook posts can and must be gracious. And if that means someone infringes my “rights” every so often, so be it. We’ve got bigger fish to fry and a much more redemptive calling.

Blessings,

Mark

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LentBlog Day 4: We’re All in the Same Boat.

Romans 1:26-2:16.Image

As I read this passage today, I found my mind wandering to the recent nightmare aboard the Carnival cruise ship Triumph. I found myself wondering if the people who paid top-dollar for a corner cabin with a nice balcony wound up eating the same half-rotten food as the folks with interior cabins near the waterline. Did they all have to trudge through sewage-soaked halls? I’m imagining that answer is probably yes. They were all in the same boat. Maybe something like the Titanic disaster is a better image. Once the boats were gone, super-rich First-Class folks died just the same as Third-Class steerage peasants.

In Romans 1-3, once Paul starts laying-in to people, he gets everyone in trouble pretty quickly. He starts with sexual sins, but he doesn’t stay there long. Pretty soon he expands that list to include everyone:

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips,slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them. (1:28-32 NRSV).

And lest we become tempted to pick a particularly nasty sin from the list and start pointing a judgmental finger, Paul reminds us: God shows no partiality. We’re all fried. We’ve all got a thing or two on that list we’ve been guilty of. Don’t thumb your nose at God’s patience and grace. Don’t spend your time pointing out everyone else’s sin.

You’re all in the same boat, Paul says.Image

Our pleasure cruise has become a cesspool. White-collar, private, victim-less sins are still sins along side the more culturally obvious ones.

Now, I think it’s a mistake to use that level playing field as a reason to feel good about ourselves. Just because our sins are equal does not mean they won’t equally incur God’s wrath (according to Romans.) Thank God the end of Romans 2 is coming, because we all need God’s grace and are legitimately, really, truly fried without it.

The point here is it’s silly for one blind, hungry beggar to ridicule another blind, hungry beggar because he smells weird or she’s got dirt on her face.