Upside Down Commands


Like other elements of society, the Church follows trends, even fads. They might show themselves in worship styles or catch phrases (how many times have I heard a preacher “unpack” a passage of Scripture? 🙄 ) Those are certainly harmless. Less so, however, are the shifting points of emphasis which seem to change with the winds of preference.

One such shift has been toward creating “seeker friendly” (also a catch phrase) churches, which, in my opinion, seem to miss the point of believers assembling themselves together weekly. Then too, of late there’s been a noticeable increase in the attention churches are giving to service. No longer do we want to sit on the sidelines, but we are admonished to “be the hands and feet of Jesus” in our community.

And we don’t stop with admonishing individuals. We are organizing programs and partnering with para-church organizations to feed children, care for orphans, tutor those struggling with literacy, provide clothes for the needy, beds for the homeless, medical and dental care for the poor.

In short, we’ve left the comfortable pews behind and have made a determined effort to charge out into the highways and byways to reach the unreached through our good deeds.

“About time,” some say. The church in America has been trying for far too long to create a safe, wholesome place where our needs are met and our sensibilities aren’t offended. We’re overdue for a little boat rocking. In fact, the whole thing needs to be turned upside down.

There’s a lot of truth in that position, which, I’m discovering, is the place where a lot of error starts. Just as in every other area, we must look at Scripture and take our lead from God, not from what sounds good, and certainly not from what is currently trendy in the church.

So what does God think about caring for the poor and orphaned and widows? He’s all for it!

Problem solved? Not so fast.

There’s something He’s even more all for. He’s all for us loving Him. That’s the first commandment, the greatest one, according to Jesus. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Then and only then are we to love our neighbor as ourselves. It seems to me we are in the process of flipping the order of the two commands, as if doing for others is more important than loving God.

Over and over the people of Israel were admonished to love God or fear Him, then to obey and serve.

Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deut. 10:12).

So here’s the critical point. It is in loving God that we will genuinely be concerned for serving others. It won’t be a passing fancy or a program that we’ll swap out for another one later on down the road.

No, if we love God with our whole being, we will want what He wants, go where He sends, do what He says. Loving Him seems like the only sure way we will end up loving our neighbor self-sacrificially. After all, these are the people the One we love passionately came to save. Why wouldn’t we in turn love them too? Isn’t that the way it works when two people love each other—they take on each other’s interests and passions. They pay attention to what they had never cared about before.

So, sure, it’s time the church in America became less self-satisfied and self-centered. It’s time we stopped loving ourselves more than we love God. But the answer isn’t to try to make ourselves love other people more than we love ourselves. That might be an admirable goal, but it has the commands Jesus enumerated upside down. Unless we do the first, we won’t be doing the second either—not the way we could or should. We’ll simply be trending.

Reposted from Nov. 2011

Published in: on May 20, 2013 at 6:36 pm  Comments Off on Upside Down Commands  
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The Prevalence of the Christian Worldview


Police_brutality.svgSome in the US would say the heart of the nation was broken in Sandy Hook when a gunman opened fire on a classroom of kindergartners. That response is only one instance of many that shows the values of our society.

Here in SoCal, the public rose with one voice to demand justice for a homeless man, mentally challenged, who was beaten to death by police officers. Despite the fact that our definitions have become far too murky, we stand against “cruel and unusual punishment.” We decry gang members gunning down a beloved grandmother or the drunk driver who cripples the little old man on his way home. Hospitals pledge never to turn away a sick child, and donors make that promise good. Our government has passed laws to provide the disabled with access to the same venues as everyone else.

Why? Why would we care about the poor, the sick, the weak, the needy? Because we have a Christian worldview.

By “we” I mean Western culture—the places in the world where Christianity took hold for hundreds of years. Most certainly, we can’t claim to have done Church right. The Dark Ages were called “dark” for a reason. The Reformation happened because there was a need in the Church for reform. People continued to miss what Jesus was about and tried to set up His kingdom on earth using human resources and schemes.

In addition, we are now living in the post-Christian era of Western society. I won’t say “a post-Christian world,” because as it happens, Christianity is spreading rapidly in places where it once was little more than an afterthought.

What, then, am I going on about?

The message of Jesus Christ changed who we in the West are as a people, as a society, as a culture. Love your enemy, forgive those who misuse you, becomes a creed about how to treat prisoners of war, and policy about not discriminating. Give a cup of cold water to the thirsty becomes a Salvation Army of people on a Rescue Mission to provide for the hungry and hurting and hopeless.

And not just Christians do these things, to the degree that some believe the Government should actually step in to insure that no one in America goes hungry or lacks health care or grows old with no means of support. We believe in what Jesus taught, even though many, if not most, have stopped believing in Jesus.

The sad thing is, the Western world seems oblivious to the fact that our core values have come from what Jesus Christ said. And because we’ve lost the basis for these values, it’s only a matter of time before our culture starts looking more and more like the rest of the world (unless, of course, the rest of the world becomes more and more infused with a Christian worldview).

Tolerance slips to tolerance of only those who think like us. Health care applies only to those who don’t inconvenience the rest of us. Forgiveness is supplanted by revenge.

But for now, when those who care little for God rally to provide for widows of police officers slain in the line of duty or work to stop human trafficking or give to a project to stop AIDS in Africa, we’re witnessing the effects of living in a country shaped by a Christian worldview.

Because the nations in the West are unique.

The way we look at the world is still marked by the revolutionary way Jesus lived and by the Power that inflamed His followers, enabling them to go and do likewise.

Published in: on February 26, 2013 at 7:42 pm  Comments Off on The Prevalence of the Christian Worldview  
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Upside Down Commands


Like other elements of society, the Church follows trends, even fads. They might show themselves in worship styles or catch phrases (how many times have I heard a preacher “unpack” a passage of Scripture? 🙄 ) Those are certainly harmless. Less so, however, are the shifting points of emphasis which seem to change with the winds of preference.

One such shift has been toward creating “seeker friendly” (also a catch phrase) churches, which, in my opinion, seem to miss the point of believers assembling themselves together weekly. Then too, of late there’s been a noticeable increase in the attention churches are giving to service. No longer do we want to sit on the sidelines, but we are admonished to “be the hands and feet of Jesus” in our community.

And we don’t stop with admonishing individuals. We are organizing programs and partnering with para-church organizations to feed children, care for orphans, tutor those struggling with literacy, provide clothes for the needy, beds for the homeless, medical and dental care for the poor.

In short, we’ve left the comfortable pews behind and have made a determined effort to charge out into the highways and byways to reach the unreached through our good deeds.

“About time,” some say. The church in America has been trying for far too long to create a safe, wholesome place where our needs are met and our sensibilities aren’t offended. We’re overdue for a little boat rocking. In fact, the whole thing needs to be turned upside down.

There’s a lot of truth in that position, which, I’m discovering, is the place where a lot of error starts. Just as in every other area, we must look at Scripture and take our lead from God, not from what sounds good, and certainly not from what is currently trendy in the church.

So what does God think about caring for the poor and orphaned and widows? He’s all for it!

Problem solved? Not so fast.

There’s something He’s even more all for. He’s all for us loving Him. That’s the first commandment, the greatest one, according to Jesus. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Then and only then are we to love our neighbor as ourselves. It seems to me we are in the process of flipping the order of the two commands, as if doing for others is more important than loving God.

Over and over the people of Israel were admonished to love God or fear Him, then to obey and serve.

Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deut. 10:12).

So here’s the critical point. It is in loving God that we will genuinely be concerned for serving others. It won’t be a passing fancy or a program that we’ll swap out for another one later on down the road.

No, if we love God with our whole being, we will want what He wants, go where He sends, do what He says. Loving Him seems like the only sure way we will end up loving our neighbor self-sacrificially. After all, these are the people the One we love passionately came to save. Why wouldn’t we in turn love them too? Isn’t that the way it works when two people love each other—they take on each other’s interests and passions. They pay attention to what they had never cared about before.

So, sure, it’s time the church in America became less self-satisfied and self-centered. It’s time we stopped loving ourselves more than we love God. But the answer isn’t to try to make ourselves love other people more than we love ourselves. That might be an admirable goal, but it has the commands Jesus enumerated upside down. Unless we do the first, we won’t be doing the second either—not the way we could or should. We’ll simply be trending.

Published in: on November 16, 2011 at 5:34 pm  Comments (3)  
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