Sunday I sat with other kids ministry leaders at my church to plan and pray for our kids and families. One of the concerns we have is the way we teach kids.
This generation is born into the world of the cloud. They learn via visual images on screens that change quickly to keep their attention. This is what our kids are used to. This is the air they breathe. But I think it’s important that we do not trade in matter for the cloud when it comes to how we teach our kids.
I think there’s something spiritual that pushes back against the zeitgeist of AI, virtual reality, and screens when things you can touch are upheld as good and necessary.
Our kids need to touch books, open pages, hold their tiny fingers under the lines of scripture in paper bibles. They need to sit with us on the floor and sing together and dance and clap. They don’t need flashy attention-getting images on a screen. They need dirt in their hands. Leaves under their toes. Arms that are safe to hold good boundaries and love them well.
They need matter.
The Christian’s faith in God in the flesh, bodily risen from the dead is a tangible hope and solid ground for a generation confused and lost in screens.
God made the earth and all that is in it. And he said it’s good.
I fear our children and grandchild are facing an age that believes matter doesn’t matter.
They need the body Christ to have hands and feet and books and gardens and songs and stories told face to face. They need the security of the good creation of God.
This morning I stood in my kitchen trying to force myself to think on what it means that Christ is risen when I’m angry with my son. I stood there waiting for the french press coffee to sit a minute before stirring, thinking, “Christ has risen. It’s Easter, Sheila. That’s what your entire faith rests on. You say it changes everything. So why is it that all you can think about right now is how mad you are at your son for not doing what he said he would do?”
Finally I opened my mouth and asked God the questions brewing in my head. “What does it mean that Christ has risen, right now, to me, in this moment, Lord? What changes?”
I need to know my faith has feet.
I don’t get miraculous answers from God when I ask. I get what most get I suspect. Silence. I went on with my morning.
I left for church talking to God about my struggle with my son and my long born desire to be a Jesus-worshipping family.
I got to church and greeted kids eager to hunt for candy-filled eggs, and then sat with those kids as we talked through the story of Christ’s death and resurrection using the symbols in the Resurrection Egg set.
We used our bodies, making sad faces when Jesus’ friends were sad that Jesus died. We made the motion of the sunrise with our arms and popped our eyes wide, mouths open, when the women found Jesus’ tomb empty. We fell to the floor (in the dramatic ways 5 year olds do) when Mary encountered the angel. And we ran in place with excitement when Jesus revealed himself alive to Mary and sent her to tell the guys he was alive.
I stood and sang and released my arms to fly high declaring to my soul and any powers listening, “Praise the Father. Praise the Son. Praise the Spirit three in one!” Because no matter how I feel, no matter what I am currently struggling with, the God who has laid down his life for me in Jesus and promised me undying life in his rising, is worthy of my praise.
As I held the torn bread and deep red juice in my hands, I heard the Spirit answer my prayer from the kitchen. “His rising means you can reconcile with your son.
“leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”
Matthew 5:24 CSB
Right there I put down the remembrance of Christ’s body and blood and picked up my phone to text my son an apology and a request to talk face to face. And right there I knew what Christ’s resurrection meant for me in my anger.
“Jesus answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.”
John 14:23, 25-27 CSB
Christ has risen and I can’t explain it, but I love him! And that means he and the Father can be at home in me (mind blown) and the Holy Spirit will teach me Jesus’ way ways. And that means when I’m angry, tired, sad, overwhelmed…lost, I can call on him and he’ll lead me.
When I was little, pre-school, I would hop off the wooden pews every Sunday to make my way over to the place where Clarice Lemley sat. Clarice, was in my mind, exactly Aunt Bee from The Andy Griffith show. She was plump and grey headed and wore flowered dresses. And she always had gum to give to kids who asked for a piece. She also had a beautiful garden and made a mean pot roast with gravy and mashed potatoes for Sunday dinner.
Clarice is one those women who influenced my life without trying. She was just her kind self. She made me feel welcome. And she evoked a desire to make something delicious and beautiful.
Today at church, a smiling, silver-headed woman, asked me about my week and listened as I shared my current struggle with the transition into mothering young adults. She shared some of her experience and hugged me.
This kind of modeling and engaging conversations between generations is something I value and deeply desire. When I experience it, I feel built up. I feel connected to something greater than me and my circumstances. I’m part of a one-anotherness. A community. I need the elders and I need the young-ones too. And they need me.
I hope to be a Clarice to children growing up in the church where I teach them in Sunday school, and sing with them on the front row. And I want to be the woman who hugged me and encouraged me today from her place a few years up the road in motherhood.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.
There’s a handmade wooden sign in the hallway leading to my bedroom with these words in black:
” And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20
I walk by that sign daily and don’t give it a thought, but the other day I stopped and read it over and over. I considered whether I really believed what it said. I mean, Jesus told his followers to go out and tell all kinds of people all over the world about him and what he has done and taught. He told them to baptize them and teach them, make Jesus-followers out of them. And then, he said, “Hey, pay attention (which is what I take “Behold” to mean). I know what you all are thinking. I know this will feel, and is, impossible for you. So get this: I WILL BE WITH YOU. All the way to the end.”
Do I believe that? Do I believe Jesus is with me? The Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus who told a storm to stop after being woke from a nap, and it did. The Jesus who touched untouchables and healed them. The Jesus who suffered the torture of Roman execution and the rejection and abandonment of his friends and came back to life after three days of rigor mortis in the grave. Do I believe this Jesus is with me?
I am surrounded day in and day out with people I love who don’t turn to Jesus as, “…the way, the truth and the life.” And I can’t explain my belief to them. I just know, even in the midst of my own lack of faith, that he’s with me.
In Colossians, Paul wrote that there’s a mystery going on in those who follow Jesus, the mystery is: Christ is in us. I can’t explain this mystery. I can’t even get my own mind around it. But I know, something greater than me and my tired pea-brain compels me to, cry out to a God I’ve never seen but love, reach out to a people who look at me with condescending sighs (because I’m their mom) and constantly seek to love God and love people better. For Jesus’ name’s sake. Because he’s worth it. That is happening in me. And it’s a mystery.
I’ve been in a church since the week after I was born. Every church I’ve been part of has impacted my life in a unique way. Like an arm is different from the liver, these churches were all very different. Among them were bad teachings. But at each church I grew. I learned. I love Christ more because of them all.
It seems there’s a reckoning happening in the American church. There are good reasons why some have left titles or denominations behind. The Church is in need of washing and pruning, discipline and rebuke. But She is also the source of health and growth for the Christian. See 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.
Where I learned the hymns that saved me
From birth through fourth grade my parents brought me up in a non-instrument, no classes Church of Christ. I didn’t realize it until I was in my late teens, but the church of my childhood believed it was sinful and a show to use musical instruments in the church gathering. We were to “sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to one another” in the church gathering.
My childhood church also prohibited classes of any kind. Not for kids. Not Sunday school. No classes. But they loved to sing well. Since there were no instruments I guess they honed in on making sure we were all in tune.
I remember seeing the man leading us in hymns blow on his tuning pipe, then humming to tune his own voice, then putting his arm in the air to conduct the congregation in the right tempo of the song. We sang, “Some glad morning, when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away,” and “There is power, power, wonder working power. In the blood. Of the Lamb.” The women harmonized with the men. The heart rumbling tone of the baritone men, singing their part, is forever in my memory.
My childhood church’s doctrine on water baptism, women being silent and submissive, singing strictly acapella, and classes being prohibited made a huge impression on me. And not for the good. But despite the bad teaching, the Holy Spirit reached me there.
At age sixteen, listening to an acapella singing of Amazing Grace at a Bill Gothard conference, I heard the Lord call me to follow Him. At my childhood church I learned to love the hymns. And I learned to love the simplicity and commonness of the gathering of God’s people. My childhood church taught me to receive the reading of scripture, engage in the singing of hymns to each other, and to partake of the Lord’s Supper in memory of Jesus.
Where I learned to love the Bible
In my early adult years I looked for a church alone. My husband and I were newlyweds and I was newly aware of his lack of interest in going to church. I was also a new believer. I was hungry for God’s word. And I found a church that fed me. Calvary Chapel.
I remained in a Calvary Chapel for more than ten years. During those years I learned about the Holy Spirit, prophecy, spiritual gifts and the power of the Bible. The pastors and teachers at Calvary Chapel showed me that anyone, in the context of the church, under the authority of elders, could open a BIble and teach God’s word.
In those years at Calvary Chapel I didn’t realize how the emphasis on a certain interpretation of the end times was impacting me. I would later come to see this over-emphasis on a pre-tribulation interpretation of scripture as distracting from the gospel and discipleship. But in my years at Calvary Chapel I learned to pray, listen to God, and study my Bible.
Where my childhood beliefs were challenged and I was loved
When my sons were just entering elementary school I began attending a Bible church. In this small Bible church I learned about church history and the words church people have for different theological stances.
I learned about Calvinism and Armenianism. I learned about cessationism and dispensationalism. And I learned that there are churches that don’t baptise people in water.
This was a source of wrestling for me. I grew up with a theologically heretical teaching that said you had to be baptised (emersed) in water at a Church of Christ to be accepted into those pearly gates we sang so well about in our accapella hmns. I knew that teaching was off, but no water baptism at all? The Bible church’s pastor challenged me to examine the meaning of baptism.
Even though I don’t agree with the reasoning for no water baptism, that Bible church showed me what it means to love the members of your church. That church supported me when my marriage was about to end. They bought me a car. Gave me a bed. And sent me to Oregon to visit my family. They also whet my taste for church history.
Where the gospel was held high and I learned to lead
This brings me to my current SBC affiliated church. This church, I love her. The pastor and leaders in my church have made the preaching of the gospel powerful and applicable. They’ve taught me the importance of discipling others, making friends about Jesus with open Bibles and open lives in small groups. They’ve taught me to lead, which has filled in a void from my childhood where I was taught women were never to lead anything. But mostly, they’ve taught me to respond to the gospel as a believer with faith and repentance on a day-in, day-out basis.
The Church has sin that needs to be confessed and repented of. Wickedness that needs to be purged. Abuse that needs to be exposed and condemned. But She also has the truth that builds up the Christian, deepening her roots in the love of Christ and helping her to produce fruit for the glory of God and the good of the kingdom. I’m grateful for the Church. I love her.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21
So much of what I was read in Welcher’s book I am currently struggling with in raising my teen sons. Growing up, I didn’t read any of the books popular in the purity culture of the 1990’s. I was married for four years by the time I Kissed Dating Goodbye came out. But I did grow up in a church and youth group that taught the lessons those books promoted. And I bought Every Man’s Battle for my nephew when he graduated from high school without ever reading it myself. I was guilty of what Rachel pointed out, “…we need more… conversation. Instead of trying to find the perfect book, let’s keep talking about sexuality and purity out loud.”
So many of us have tended to reach for a book to give to a teen when we should have been reaching for a conversation over their favorite fast food. Years have past since those early adult days when I was fresh out of a church culture strong on women’s modesty, submission and avoiding dating, but the weeds from those days are still popping up. I look at my sons who have not grown up in a church culture like I did, who in fact have grown up in a mostly secular culture, both in our home and in their school, and I wonder how in the world I’ll ever reach them with the hope of the gospel. And I fear they’ll believe the culture and use people, sex and power for their own pleasure and give no thought to the way of Jesus in their sexuality, relationships and manhood.
Welcher’s book examines how Purity Culture is the fruit of our tendency to to make rules or laws a savior that only Christ can be.
Dane Ortlund said, “Our natural of-works-ness is a resistance to Christ’s heart.” The books and methods of a generation of parents and leaders in the church, trying to ward off the culture that we viewed as causing teen pregnancy, STD’s and a disregard for family values, is a result of being what Ortlund refers to as an “of-works” people.
It’s my natural bent to try to guard myself or my kids from what I fear will overtake them with rules, methods, pledges, programs and other works. Rachel’s book looks back on the effects of purity culture and demonstrates that our attempts to live for the heart of Christ through programs that prevent undesired behaviors may be well intended, but this posture of living has damaging effects that actually make it harder to see the gospel in all it’s scandalous beauty. As Ortlund wrote, “You can live for the heart of Christ or from the heart of Christ.” Which position we take makes all the difference.
The Damaging Fruit of Purity Culture
“It’s a dangerous thing when married sex becomes the ‘finish line’ for sexual purity.”
When I read those words from the first chapter of Welcher’s book I felt challenged and grieved. For me, married sex had been the finish line for purity, but I had disqualified myself from the race two years before I got married.
In my teens I attended youth group and went to a youth camp where the speaker sent a rose to be passed around to the members of the audience. We were instructed to each hold the rose, smell it, look at it and pass it to the next person. While we waited our turn to handle the rose the speaker preached the dangers of pre-marital sex and the permanent damage that would be done to us if we had sex before we were married. Afterwards, I pledged to stay pure until marriage. Then I went on a walk with my friend who shared she had already had sex and felt lost. I didn’t have an answer for her. I didn’t have the gospel. All I had was a stay-pure program in one hand and a friend who felt rejected in another.
At sixteen I wrote a list of requirements I wanted in a husband and gave them to my dad in the form of a contract, asking him to give me a promise ring. My dad wasn’t a big spender and certainly wasn’t going to buy me a ring, but he was a carpenter, so he made me a hope chest and I put our signed contract to keep me pure in it.
Gosh, just writing this gives me the creeps. But it was well intended. I thought I was doing something that demonstrated my new zeal for the Jesus I had just recently decided to follow. I was trying to live for God’s smile, as Ortlund put it, not from his smile.
Less than a year later I met a long-haired boy with a pink corduroy hat and ripped, bleached Levi’s from the big city. I loved the way he made me feel and by the time I was seventeen we had sex. I was torn. I hadn’t lived up to my contract with God and my dad. I reasoned in my mind that I could make up for what I’d done by getting married. And in the two years before our wedding day I vacillated between guilt, shame and wanting to run away. I was disillusioned and confused.
Three Areas to Look for Purity Culture Weeds
Rachel’s book examines landscapes of life where purity culture’s efforts produced noxious weeds that must be separated from the fruit of the gospel when it comes to virginity, being a man or a woman, marriage, sex, sexual abuse, and what we tell the next generation. Of these, three stood out to me as good places we can start looking for weeds of purity culture in our lives.
According to Welcher, women are delivered a confusing message through purity culture. On one had we’re told we’re responsible for guarding sexual purity because we’re less lust-driven than men and therefore we’re the “morally superior” ones with the skills to keep sex out of the picture until marriage. On the other hand we’re told we’re dangerous. If our bra strap shows, or our clothes are deemed to make us look too sexy, then we’re causing the prey-drive of the men around us to kick in and therefore we’re responsible if they go too far.
Like that slithering serpent of old, purity culture deceives us into blaming, shaming and hiding. Scripture, and the gospel tell men and women they both bear God’s image and they both receive the gift of being heirs with Christ of the kingdom he’s promised us. Rachel calls we who’ve tried using purity culture’s tactics of modest dressing and careful distancing from men in an attempt to be pure in God’s eyes, to see that our purity doesn’t come from our clothes, but from Christ.
For men, purity culture paints a picture of manhood devoid of Christlikeness and pumped full of lust-steroids. Rachel calls those who’ve used the tactics of purity culture to excuse ungodly aggressive behavior from men and employ stereotypes to cast an image of biblical masculinity that’s lacking, to give those up for a gospel-born vision of men.
“Instead of teaching men to avoid women, a proactive strategy for battling sexual lust urges men to see women as neighbors,” who we are command by God to love as we love ourselves.
Rachel draws men to remove their personal-purity blinders and take a broad view of the community God calls his people to live in. She calls those tainted by the lust-focused weeds of purity culture to look up at the character of Christ and the gift he has given them as they put their trust in him.
There is a high view from which men and women should see themselves, and it is not the view purity culture has tried to produce through its rhetoric. God said he made man and woman in his own image. And Christ has given us his own spirit, his promised faithful love and he will never stop making us more like him. Welcher encourages men to look to Christ, their hope of glory right alongside their sisters, mothers, wives, and friends.
What Will I Tell My Kids?
This is the question that has haunted me from before I began reading this book. What will I tell my kids about what to believe about sex, marriage, girls, women, lust, porn, and abuse?
Call it coincidence, but even as I write this my senior in high school son walked in the door. I stopped to ask him for a few minutes of his time. I asked him if he feels like Jesus impacts his everyday life and relationships. His answer was, “Mom, I get told all the time by so and so (he named names) that my relationships should be about marriage. But I don’t think so mom. Yeah, I think Jesus wants me to treat others with respect and dignity, but I don’t think I have to think about marriage just because I like a girl.”
I was gobsmacked. He had no idea I was reading this book or writing this review. Listening to him, I realized, there’s a lot of pressure in our culture, whether from purity culture’s children (in high school with my son), or from the current spirit of the age, to conform to that culture’s idea of what relationships should look like. And as a mom, I don’t need to give my son a book or program, I need to spend time with him, listening to him, asking him questions and helping him remember Jesus.
As Rachel points out in her book, the message we give our kids about sexuality, marriage, singleness and the gospel is important. I know my tendency as an “of works” person with a “lawish” heart naturally wants to hand my sons a manual or a class or commitment that will keep them from the pain of sexual sin and idolatry. But it won’t work. If I want to give my sons a message that will not spring up life-choking weeds and breed disillusionment and confusion, I’ll leave the books and extrabiblical practices to the side and point them to the beauty of what Jesus has done for them.
My son confessed today that he doesn’t think about Jesus very much. I told him, “Well he thinks about you. A lot! And he likes you! He wants you! He’ll never give up on you! And I love you too.”
Rachel’s book exposes that at the bottom of all of purity culture’s “relational leveraging, fear stuffing, nervousness, score-keeping, neurotic-controlling and anxiety-festering silliness” you find a “gospel deficit.” ( a phrase from Ortlund’s book)
We all need people in the church to help us see when we go down the path our fallen nature is bent toward, trying to achieve godliness with our own methods. Rachel does that. And her book loves the Church in doing so. I for one am thankful to have read it at this time in my life. I needed to be redirected back to the gospel as the only hope and power for me and my sons.
References and quotes from Ortlund are taken from Gentle and Lowly- The heart of Christ for sinners and sufferers by Dane Ortlund
Whether your church calls it family ministry, children’s ministry, kids ministry… whatever it’s called, here are three reasons people often give for why they shouldn’t serve in a ministry that involves children. I propose these three reasons are exactly why you should sign up this Sunday to serve in your church’s ministry to the next generation.
Because You Aren’t a Kid Person
I hear this a lot. As a kids ministry leader at my church, I often hear people say they aren’t kid people. That’s why they don’t serve in kids ministry. And to a point there’s good reasoning there.
Not everyone is suited for holding babies, singing Jesus Loves Me with toddlers, and teaching elementary students to discern Jesus from the Bible lesson. In fact, there are some really good reasons a person should have no contact with kids in church. But just because you don’t feel all warm and fuzzy when kids are around, and you don’t talk to babies like you’re in a cartoon, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t serve in your church’s ministry to the next generation.
In fact, if you are quick to say, “I’m not a kid person,” you should sign up to serve in kids ministry. Let God take that aversion you have to kids and the chaos they may make you feel, and use it to lower yourself and listen to Jesus say, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
If you’re not a kid person, you don’t have to be the lead teacher or the one who guides the toddlers in a game of follow the leader. But get on the ground next to a kid playing with the Noah’s ark play set. Let God use those kids to show you how much he loves and accepts you as you are, and is leading you to grow up to be like Jesus.
Because You Work With Kids All Day Long
A reason many give for not serving in a ministry to children is that they work with kids every day during the week. They don’t want to work with kids at church too.
Teachers, daycare workers, preschool aides… you all are the pros! Your church’s kids ministry needs you to help them learn how to manage a classroom. We need your skills!
In Exodus 35, when Moses called the people of Israel to build the tabernacle as God instructed, he called for people with different skills to use their abilities not just for their own homes, but for the house God was having them build.
“Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded… All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair… ‘See the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Juday; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship…” Exodus 35:10, 26, 30-31
Jesus is building his church. And one way he does that is by calling people with different abilities in the church to serve one another using those skills. There’s an ability needed to guide a group of kids to listen and learn together. If you have that skill, sign up this Sunday to serve in your church’s ministry to the next generation. Build Jesus’ kingdom with your classroom management talents.
Towards the end of his message, Piper responds to Paul’s desire to go to Jerusalem in Acts 20:22, as a fictional American trying to talk some sense into the elderly apostle:
But Paul, you’re getting old. How ’bout a little cottage on the Aegean Sea? You’ve already done more in your ministry than most people could do in five lifetimes. It’s time to rest. Let the last twenty years of your life be travel and golf, shuffleboard and putzing around the garage and digging in the garden. Let Timothy have a chance. He’s young. Don’t go to Jerusalem. Agabus the prophet has told you, they are going to bind your hands and feet and hand you over to the Gentiles (Acts 21:11). And whatever you do, don’t go to Rome. And get out of your head the crazy plan of going to Spain at your age. You could get yourself killed. It isn’t American! It’s not the American Dream of ‘the sunset years.
The point of Piper’s message is old age in Jesus’ church isn’t a reason for sitting back and relaxing while younger folks do the work of the ministry. And it isn’t just John Piper preaching this message. In the Bible the psalmist pleads with God to give him a ministry even when he’s old, “So even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” (Psalm 71:18)
And in Joshua 14:6-15, when 85 year old Caleb finally enters the land God promised Israel, he tells Joshua, “And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.”
Not every person of retirement age can get down on the ground with toddlers, but if you’re a retiree and you can enter a church building, this Sunday you should sign up to serve the next generation of parents and children in your church.
Ok, that’s four, and it’s not a reason people give for not wanting to serve in a ministry to children. But I think it’s a reason many of us serious folks might unconsciously use as a reason we avoid kids ministry.
I tend to be too serious. In fact, it’s a prayer of mine this year that I will laugh more. I know that’s pathetic, but its true. Serving in kids ministry has caused me to laugh and have fun even while the hard things of life happen around us.
Proverbs 31 speaks of the woman who is clothed with strength and dignity. She opens her mouth and teaches others with kindness and wisdom. And she laughs at the time to come.
When you lower yourself to sit criss-cross and sing Jesus Loves Me with toddlers; when you learn to teach Jesus to a child, you will grow in strength and dignity and you’ll find yourself having the best kind of fun. You’ll laugh with a pure heart and it will be good!
I pray this stirs your heart. I pray if you’re not a kid person, and if you’re a teacher person or a retired person, you will turn your reasons for not serving the children and parents in your church into the reasons you sign up to serve them on Sunday.
In the days after the November 3rd election, I scrolled through my Twitter and Facebook feeds, reading posts from people with crosses, fish symbols and scripture references in their taglines, that left me grieved.
They used words like, “go to hell,” held up their Bibles, guns, favored-candidate’s flag, and accused other Christians on social media of being “baby-killers” and “lost” because they pledged to pray for a pro-choice democrat if elected. In response I tweeted this question:
“Christian, if you’re cutting people off, calling them names, mocking and slandering them, how exactly are you loving your enemies?”
But simply sub-tweeting a pained reply to what I read on social media isn’t going to make the difference I long to see.
One of the writers I follow on Twitter, recently said:
“It’s easier to write a book about a subject than to live the subject in a low, slow, & consistent way. If we think we’ll make a bigger difference in the world thru publishing our message than by simply living our message, God will (hopefully tenderly, softly, kindly) correct us.” – @lorewilbert
Social media and the internet make it easy for anyone to write anything. But as Lore points out, living the words we publish in a, “…low, slow & consistent way,” is the real world-changer. The incarnation of our words is a demonstration of power. To persuade a group of people to like what you say or repeat what you say is a kind of power. But to take the words you say and live them out changes lives.
It was easy for me to post my subtweet response on Facebook. It will be much harder, and much more an evidence of the power of Christ in me when I love the people who post such things, the same way Christ has loved me.
It feels weird to say it, but my “enemies” are people who use mean words on social media to demonize people they don’t agree with. Living out what I wrote, “low and slow” means praying for those people. Taking actual time out of my day to move my lips and complain to God, not social media, seeking mercy on their behalf just as I have been shown great mercy from Jesus. And if possible, meeting with them personally to humbly listen and share the truth and grace of Jesus.
Jesus is clear. The way he has prescribed and empowered us to follow him is from a humble, gentle, yet bold posture. A posture that doesn’t use words to tear people down or prop yourself up. The way commanded to us is a way of wisdom, self-control and gracious speech. But, is there a time for Christians to mock or use name calling?
In the Bible, Jesus called the religious leaders who tied heavy burdens on their followers and used them for financial gain a, “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23).
In the Bible, Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:27) in an ancient showdown.
These examples make us stand up and cheer! We latch on easily to the person with the wittiest comebacks and sharpest jabs. We hear meek Jesus put those Pharisees on blast, and Elijah drop the mic on the prophets of Baal, and we arm ourselves Biblical support for mocking and name calling.
I doubt that any of us can, with a pure heart, call another people group a degrading name, or make fun of another religion’s gods, in a way that fulfills Christ’s commission to make disciples. But even if there are times when such shocking words are spoken with humility and boldness, these biblical examples don’t prescribe a mode of operation for Christians.
If our mode of operation as Christians turns from the humble, bold way of Jesus, to the in-your-face, mocking, proud, name-calling way of the culture and wayward leaders, I fear we will offend our neighbors and enemies and wall ourselves in tight from all opposing views so well, we will lose the chance to win them to Christ.
A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle. – Proverbs 18:19
Despair. That’s the word that comes to mind when I hear the news stories of late.
This morning, while I was getting ready to go to church, my husband sat at the kitchen table shaking his head. The news story about the two L.A. police officers, shot while they sat in their police car was on his news feed. “This is just disgusting! What is the world coming to!” he moaned.
My husband doesn’t yet hope in Jesus. I’ll spend my life praying, believing and living so that one day he will. Today, it was apparent to me, knowing where your hope lies is so important.
I asked my husband, “What’s your hope?” He struggled to voice a solution he thought might fix the problem of violence against police officers and the rhetoric he sees playing out in the public that makes it seem he’s the bad guy for being a police officer. His hope is that someone will someday fix this societal problem of violence and hate. He sees the bad guys, and hopes someone will stop them. The question that looms is, who’s going to fix the problem of evil?
What is my hope? A politician? Philanthropy? More police? Stricter laws? A different governmental system? Who’s going to fix this mess we’re all in?
When I voiced my hope to my husband this morning I got a bit of what the apostles got in Acts 4 when the leaders around them were, “…greatly annoyed because they were… proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” (Acts 4:2). My husband wasn’t greatly annoyed. But he was a little annoyed. “I don’t buy it!” he quipped. “I don’t think Christ is going to change these thugs’ and make them good people.” He couldn’t believe that Christ could make life-giving good people out of murders. And I get it. I don’t want Christ to make them life-giving good people. I tend to want Christ to just destroy them! I have a Jonah problem. But that’s another blog.
What my husband was annoyed at is my hope that the resurrected Jesus I believe in, who can’t be seen and touched, can make any difference in the world. And that’s just it. I believe he does, and is and will.
Right now, he’s in me and many others, moving us with his heart of perfect love and justice to self-sacrificially love others, forgive, stand up for the truth, for those who are oppressed, extending our lives and the good news that this Jesus we love is the only one who really can make all things new.
It’s good for us to use the systems we have to do as much good as we can, but ultimately, it is only Jesus who can take a dead, evil-infested heart, and make it alive with love and truth.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)