The Judging of the Pitter-Patter of Little Feet


2589Home is a sacred place to me. When I get home I like to sit down, read or watch television, and ignore everything outside of my door. So I guess one could suppose that I’m not the most friendly neighbor. I’ll say “hello” to someone if I see them. But I don’t go out of my way to get to know my neighbors. I’m not that much like Jesus.

Lately, I’ve been challenged to get to know my neighbors more. It could be because a few weeks back, one of my neighbors invited me to her church and I had to sheepishly look at her and reply, “Thank you so much! But I’m a pastor at another church so I don’t get many weekends off.” She looked a little astonished. I realized at that moment that either A.) I didn’t look like Jesus in the slightest bit or B.) I didn’t talk to anyone that lived around me. In fact, that was the first time I learned her name…and I had been living here for a little over a year.

One of my neighbors invited me to her church and I had to sheepishly look at her and reply, “Thank you so much! But I’m a pastor at another church so I don’t get many weekends off.” She looked a little astonished.

Every morning, I am awakened by the sound of the pitter-patter of little feet in the apartment next to me. Only it doesn’t sound like pitter-patter. It sounds like a stampede of elephants have been frightened by several gunshots. This usually happens around 5:45 in the morning and then it will happen around 6-7 at night. I am less than thrilled. I would think to myself, “Goodness…get your kids under control. Teach them the proper way to live in an apartment. I don’t have kids so I shouldn’t have to suffer the early mornings of parenting.” Throughout the rest of the day, I’ll hear them scream or cry and sometimes I’ll even loudly say, “Shut up!” in my own apartment…loud enough that they might hear…but not loud enough that I know that they hear.

This has gone on for over a year. It’s a single mother with three kids. I judged her situation. I figured it was another statistic of a single, African-American woman raising three kids because the dad was out of the picture. It hurts me to write that because I don’t consider myself a racist. But looking at that statement, I see the lens with which I viewed the world was tinted with something other than Christ.

I justified my thought because every morning they scream and run. There’s not enough coffee in the world to get me in a good enough mood to deal with that.

Something happened today, however. I was outside trying to clear away my potted plants because I knew the unforgiving winter was upon us. I hear a quiet, “Hello?” I turn around and I see my neighbor standing there. I put on my smile that says, “Oh gosh…please don’t ask me to do anything difficult.” She says, “My mother-in-law saw a dresser on the side of the dumpster that she was wanting. Would you be willing to help her move it? She told me to ask you and I didn’t really want to, but would you be willing to help?” At this moment a thousand thoughts race through my mind:

“I just had an epidural a few weeks ago to help my back because of issues I’ve been having.”

“This probably isn’t the best thing for me to do today.”

“How long is this going to take?”

“You’re going to owe me a pound or two of coffee if I do this…”

But I pushed those thoughts aside and said, “Sure, no problem.” As I go inside to put on my shoes, I begin wondering, “Mother-in-law? Where’s the husband then? Divorce?” I walk around to the dumpster and look at the dresser. It looks heavy. “Great,” I thought. “Guess I’ll be back to the doctor soon.”

We load up the dresser and the mother-in-law is telling me how excited she is because she has 6 grandchildren and this will provide the perfect piece to store all of their toys for when they come over. I smile and agree. I ask her if she has someone to help her unload it and she says she does and that if that person won’t, she’ll just call her son to come help. “The son who is the father of those three children?” I wonder. Through a longer conversation she then says something that catches me off-guard, “Since my other son, her husband, died a while back…” I immediately stopped listening because all of a sudden I realized what a horrible person I had been…which not listening made me an even more horrible person but this was a baby step for me…one thing at a time. I had judged the pitter-patter of little feet.

The lens with which I had viewed the world was tinted with something other than Christ.

I had to fight off tears from the realization that I had been terrible in my judgment. The sound of the pitter-patter of feet isn’t the sound of children running wild. It is the sound of children trying to find their father. The screaming isn’t spoiled children whining because they’re not getting their way. It is the sound of questioning and sorrow. The sound of their crying when their mother leaves for work isn’t the sound of children missing their mom. It’s the sound of children worrying that she, like their father, might not come back.

People need more grace than we are willing to give. Judgment is much easier for us than giving the grace of God. We probably don’t give grace because we don’t know the person and their story. That, at least, was true for me. Or maybe we don’t give grace because we have a hard time accepting grace for our own lives. Whatever the case, less judging and more grace is a good prescription for how we should live.

I guess I’ve misjudged many a person. I guess that puts me one step further away from being like Christ. I should extend more grace. Lord knows I need more grace. But I’ll probably judge people again. I’ll try not to, but I know I will. But here is what I also know: I will never again judge the sound of the pitter-patter of little feet.

Heaven is Painful


city-heaven-new-jerusalem-heaven-duplantisFor many of us, we think of heaven in a way that makes it about us. “Everything you love will be there…” “No more tears, no more pain…” “Whatever you love doing, it will be in heaven…” We have turned heaven into some ethereal place where it’s all about us receiving our reward. It is the end that justifies our means of living. This picture perfectly illustrates that.

But looking through the prophets, or the martyrs, or the early disciples, or even Christ, one cannot help but see the painful reality of heaven. The picture we have painted about heaven has led to many jokes (just take a look at The Invention of Lying). We have responded to the nature of evil with “one day, we will be free from it all.”

Heaven is a work in which many of us do not want to participate.

For instance, this past week at CIY:MOVE (a youth conference), we spoke about reconciliation. I hate reconciliation. And most of us do. Jesus talked about disagreements in Matthew 18 and then after talking about it, he told the parable of the unforgiving debtor. Coincidence? Most likely not. It may be easy for us to mutter the words, “I forgive you,” but it is a lot harder for us to live out forgiveness on a day-to-day basis. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4 not to let the sun go down on our anger because anger is a foothold for evil. But many of us have slept while we are angry at someone else.

Heaven is painful.

Some of us have a lot of religious head knowledge. We could talk for days on end about the nature of atonement or how transubstantiation is the correct view of communion. We know all the different church movements and can debate with the best of them. We can talk about “the gospel” all day long and walk away feeling like we solved all the problems in the world. But to live out Christ is a completely different task. We are like doctors who have studied but have never cut open a body. We have convinced ourselves that giving money to the church and/or a non-profit is our “spiritual act of worship.” This is us being Christ. But it isn’t.

Heaven is painful.

Mission trips are fun for us because we feel a sense of accomplishment. We built a house for someone, or we put on a fantastic week of VBS for a group of kids, or we fed the homeless. We met a need and it made us feel accomplished. Trips like that are fun and good for the soul. But it is much harder for us to be Christ in our everyday lives. Our friends will make fun of us. People will curse and spit at us. We will be rejected. It’s harder for us to live out mission every day because that requires a daily commitment rather than just a week or a couple of weeks.

Heaven is painful.

We grant grace and forgiveness to the sins around us that meet our criteria. You lied? Here’s grace. You stole? Here’s forgiveness. You slept with someone before marriage? Here’s grace. But it is harder for us to grant grace and forgiveness to the sins that make us uncomfortable. You hit a woman? You molested a child? You raped someone? You’re a terrorist who’s responsible for killing thousands of people?

Heaven is painful.

NT Wright talks about how praying “may your will be done on earth as it is being done in heaven” is one of the most important prayers we could pray. For in that prayer, we are reminding ourselves that we are to usher God’s Kingdom to earth. The evil nature of earth is colliding with good nature of God. It is in birthing pains — and that is painful and dirty and ugly, but something beautiful is coming if we only endure. Heaven might be painful for a little while, but new life will occur.

Unfortunately, the work of heaven will be painful. It is counter-cultural to what we live in today and it will be met with great resistance. But, giving up is never a choice. Refusing to fight is never an option. Accepting that the “world is full of evil” is never a proper worldview. God says that He is reconciling the entire world to Himself. And that has to be painful.

Sometimes I wonder how painful heaven actually will be for some of us. We will see the homeless guy we ignored every day. We will see that person who used to do those things. We will see people we spent our entire lives ignoring because of how they hurt us.

Here’s the point to this: if we truly live out what Christ told us to live out, we will experience pain. It happens. Making heaven (and not the ethereal place) a reality is full of pain. We have to reconcile with the murderer. We have to forgive the child molester. We have to take in those without shelter. We have to give our last piece of bread to the hungry. We have to stand up and get hit for those who can’t take another beating. We have to fight for justice.

I’m not great at this. But the more I think about God’s Kingdom, the more I realize how painful it will be for me because I’m not even doing it right now. I’m not being it right now.

The process of bringing heaven to earth is going to be painful. It’s time we all jump in and get a little bruised up.

Stop Going to Church


church-at-night-iceland_00449588Whenever I hear the phrase, “I need to start going to church” or “I go to church,” a little piece inside of me dies. It’s not that I don’t want people to be a part of the church. On the contrary, I believe everyone should be a part of the church.

But instead of people being a part of church, most people just go to church.

One of my fears as a pastor is that many people in the western evangelical world have the tendency to view church as a service to attend. Because of this line of thought, we focus extraordinary amounts of energy on crafting a service that people will want to attend. I’m not arguing against excellence. I do believe that we should do things with as much excellence as possible. As a person who has been involved in theatre, being a part of something done well draws me closer to God. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong about pursuing excellence in preaching, singing, teaching, or any other aspect to the gathering.

 But instead of people being a part of church, most people just go to church.

But church cannot be confined just to people gathering to view a service. It has to be so much more.

I, like many of you, have been guilty of using the phrase, “The service wasn’t that good today,” or “The service was really great today.” Our view of church is primarily based upon the quality of the songs or the emotional weight of the sermon. Because of this, our involvement within the church is shallow, at best. What I mean by this is that when things change or when a particular church doesn’t meet our standards, we are quick to abandon.

We treat the church like numerous whores with whom we divide our time.

There are various reasons we do this:

  1. We don’t like turmoil. We have an unrealistic utopian view of what the church should look like.
  2. We like to be surrounded by people with similar beliefs and opinions. It makes us feel more comfortable.
  3. Church is more of a hobby than a defining characteristic in our lives.

Church isn’t something that we can attend. Church is something that we must be. In our own lives, we all have good and bad days. There are days we wish that we could go back and and redo. There are days we celebrate milestones. There are days we mourn over missed opportunities. There are days we curse God. And then there are days we praise God.

 We treat the church like numerous whores with whom we divide our time.

And just like in our own lives, the church often functions the same way. Which is why we cannot just attend church. This is why church is something we must be. When we are the church, then we work together to prepare the bride for her bridegroom.

Christ is calling us to be part of the bridal party…not just attendees of the wedding. He wants us to be active. He wants us to serve. He wants us to remain faithful. But many of us are just sitting in the crowd waiting for the wedding to start while the bride remains in the back waiting for her faithful bridal party to join her in preparation for her big day.

Perhaps I am a bit optimistic in my belief that people can still gather and disagree yet partake of the Eucharist together. But wouldn’t that represent the Kingdom a bit more than what we have today? Wouldn’t Christ’s prayer in John 17 be a bit sweeter if we did that?

Christ is calling us to be part of the bridal party…not just attendees of the wedding.

Here is what I propose: we stop going to church.

We stop attending and we start participating. We stop sitting in on a service and we start helping. We stop looking to the church as a place and we start looking to the church as a people. Just like we have our good days and our bad days, so the church has her good days and her bad days. We wouldn’t abandon our own lives, so why do we abandon the life of the church?

In an age of consumeristic driven churches where there is a brand for everyone, we spend too much time shopping around and not seeing the damage that is doing to the bride. I said it before and I’ll say it again: we treat the church like numerous whore with whom we divide our time. This is the problem with simply going to church. It makes it easier to leave. It makes it easier to separate oneself from the life of the church (and I’m not talking about potlucks and game nights). It makes it easier for one to abandon when things get rough or when things don’t go “the right way.”

I have “left” 2 churches in my lifetime. I was heavily involved in both churches. One, I was active in the youth group. The other, I was serving with the worship team. Whereas both circumstances may have seemed right on paper, I cannot help but think, “is this what Jesus had in mind when He established His bride?” I never left the Church but I have left local churches. And how we view/treat local churches determines what our view is of the Church.

Just like all throughout the Bible, the life of the church (both local and universal) is going to be messy. There will be disagreements, fights, uneasiness, and pain. But aren’t these the signs of the earth groaning in labor? Aren’t these the signs that the Kingdom is “now but not yet?”

If we all stopped going to church and started being the church, perhaps things might change. If we remembered that Christ called us to serve His bride, perhaps reconciliation before desertion would be our first thought. If we remembered that one day we will be united in the Kingdom with the Church, perhaps that would change how we treated one another. Heaven could be awkward for many of us (myself included).

Let us begin serving through disagreements, fights, arguments, uneasiness, complacency, apathy, and anything else that stands in the way of us preparing the Bride for her Bridegroom. Let us begin being the Church that Christ called us to be.

The Heroism Lie


ImageA few weeks back, I watched Short Term 12. In this film, a girl named Grace works at a short-term treatment facility for at risk children/teens. She is passionate about her job even though she works in a place that seems hopeless. She presses on even though it seems easier to give up. And she stands up for what is right even if it means losing the job she loves the most.

All throughout this film, I was astounded at the nature of heroism. When we think of heroism, we most likely think of the newest superhero movie out. Or we think about celebrities like Bono who are doing so much for the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa. Perhaps some of us will remember Mother Teresa and her unprecedented work in India. Some think of the great strides that were made because of Dr. King and his fight for equality. For some, Barack Obama’s message of hope and change made him a hero in their eyes.

We think about these faces who, everyday, are making headlines with the heroic work they are doing.

I go back to my senior year in college where a good friend of mine, Chris Hall, gave his senior sermon. To this day, I remember his main point: “treat the small things as if they are big things.” It has stuck with me because I think for myself, and perhaps for you too, I fear that my life will not amount to any kind of greatness. We all go through this. Stand Up Guys says it perfectly: “They say we die twice. Once when the breath leaves our body, and once when the last person we know says our name.” Many of us live life in fear that we will never mean anything to anyone.

As a pastor, I see this played out frequently. I think there is something to be said about how much we have idolized pastors to the point of celebrity status now. Because of this, as a student in Bible college, I never thought my leadership would mean anything if I didn’t become that. I thought my life wouldn’t mean as much if I never became that. We have defined the godliness of a pastor based upon the size of his/her sanctuary. We say things like, “God is moving in this leader,” or “The Holy Spirit is really at work through him/her.” And to the pastor who hasn’t seen any kind of growth (numerically and more important, spiritually), the Holy Spirit must not be in him/her. We don’t want to hear the stories of a pastor who made a small change in his/her community. We want to hear these fantastic stories about how God used this one pastor to lead millions to Christ.

We have defined who is and who is not a hero.

What intrigued me about Short Term 12 was that stories like this rarely get told. Maybe from a cinematic stance they do. But rarely from a news stance. Rarely do we want to talk to those people. When asked who we want to talk to one day, our minds go to our heroes. It doesn’t go to the social worker who has worked tirelessly at protecting kids. It doesn’t go to the school teacher who has taught the same subject for the past 40 years in the same school. It doesn’t go to the struggling addict who has been sober for a year.

Instead, our minds go to those who have made it into the spotlight. It goes to someone who was recognized for what they have done; all the while forgetting that at one point in time they weren’t recognized. Getting in the spotlight is what defines a hero.

This is a pretty sad definition. And because of this definition, many people, who do heroic things every day, do not consider their lives meaningful. The truth is that there is no act too small to not be a heroic. As Chris said, “treat the small things as if they are big things.” Perhaps that is the definition of heroism.

Think of the difference we would make if we would stop trying to get into the spotlight and instead, sought to help those around us. What saddens me is that we read these books or see these stories and we think we have to go do these incredible things in order for our lives to have meaning. And then we neglect the lives around us; not realizing the impact we could be having on them. In doing this, we actually do more harm and, for the sake of continuity of the metaphor, we play the villain.

There have been some great heroic giants who have done amazing things and have garnered a lot of publicity for those things. But the heroism lie is that someone who doesn’t amount to that is not a hero, as well. Greatness should never be defined by who notices but for whom and by whom you are doing things.

My heroes are those I see doing basic, everyday things that may seem trivial and meaningless to many. But in reality, they are making an impact in the lives of people they may never know. One of the most heroic acts in the film (spoiler) was when Grace went to rescue a girl who she knew was being abused. Everyone told her not to, but she did because she knew the pain of abuse. And she refused to see another girl put through that kind of physical and emotional abuse. It was an emotional scene but to Grace, it was her doing what she normally did. It was her looking after the kids and making sure they were safe. To some, it may have seemed like she could’ve done “so much more with her life.” But to me, I realized that she actually was doing so much with her life even if it might have seemed mundane.

Noah & God’s Justice


NoahThis week, I was able to get to see Noah. I had high expectations going into the film because I am a huge Aronofsky fan. His ability to delve into the psyche of a character is fascinating. That’s what drew me to the film.

Before watching it, I had read a majority of the “controversy” surrounding it. I say it like that because I am pretty certain that at any given time, we, as the church, will pick a wrong battle to fight. We tend to make mountains out of molehills. Since Aronofsky is an atheist, we began preparing our rebuttal for whatever film we saw from him. Even if the film was 100% accurate, we were ready to make our case as to why the film was not 100% accurate. Most had their minds made up before the film was even released.

And then we wonder why people claim Christians are full of hate?

I’m not going to dive into a piece by piece dissection of the film. To do that to any kind of film does a disservice to the work of art. So I tend to steer clear of those kind of reviews of films. Most people who write those kinds of reviews are usually the kind of people who do not appreciate art or culture as much as they want to be right and want to make sure that everyone knows that they are right.

Instead, I want to highlight what I think this film displays beautifully: the justice of God. After Noah receives the vision from God as to what He is going to do to the world, you begin to sense in him a disturbance. But wouldn’t you be disturbed if you knew what was going to happen to the entire world?

As a child, I think I misread Noah. I read it as this wonderful story of happiness and singing animals. There was even a rainbow at the end. In reality, it is this horribly destructive story that shows the justice of God. That should disturb us. That should shake us to our foundations. That should cause us a sense of uneasiness. Because God’s justice will never be comfortable to us. We will never fully comprehend His justice because we will never fully comprehend Him.

In my mind, I could never understand why a mass genocide would be necessary. No matter what kind of evil takes place. Try as you may to put it in your own words, but it will never sound right. And we need to be okay with that. We need to understand that there are parts of the Bible that will cause us uneasiness and disturbance. If we read through the Bible and do not have those feelings, I don’t think that means that we’ve finally understood the justice of God as much as it means that we have tried to justify it in our minds (and that is never a good idea).

God demanded justice be served for the way people treated one another, nature, the animals, and ultimately Him. If you’ve heard anything about the film it is probably that Aronofsky works from a position that Noah was the first environmentalist. People were immediately upset because obviously God never said to look after the earth…well except that was His first command to man. What I loved about this element was that it showed that God’s justice demanded a verdict for all of creation. Not just mankind. Everything.

God’s justice is much larger than we can ever comprehend. In the film, it drove Noah to insanity. He was disturbed by everything that had just taken place. And he should have been. God’s justice is not an easy pill to swallow.

So why have we made it that way?

Christ is ultimately the fulfillment of God’s justice. But I fear that doesn’t disturb us as much as it should. A living man, the son of God, had to be killed in order for the justice of God to be fulfilled. I can give you answers as to why this makes sense. I can show you in the Bible why it is the way it is. But in my heart, it is harder for me to comprehend. Maybe that’s a lack of faith. Maybe that’s a lack of understanding. Or maybe that is the difference between mankind and God. We can say the words that make perfect sense but that doesn’t necessarily mean we truly understand and comprehend. And for that, there are no words.

This film helped me see that. It helped me see a glimpse of God’s justice. Is it hard to watch? Yes. Is it disturbing? Yes. And it should be. The more it disturbs and upsets us, the sweeter His mercy and grace is to us. The harder it is for us to explain why things had to happen like that, the more powerful Christ’s sacrifice is to us. We will not fully understand it, but that does not mean that it is meaningless. Far from it. I think the things that we cannot fully understand are the things that are more meaningful.

So yes. Go and watch Noah. It is an incredible film with a powerful story. I mean…it’s not as funny as Evan Almighty, but Russell Crowe is no Steve Carell. Wrestle with God’s justice and wrestle with God’s mercy. Be uncomfortable and at a loss for words. Not everything will be able to be explained. And even if it can be explained, that doesn’t mean we will understand it.

*Oh — and the Nephilites are awesome. Believable? Unlikely. But still, they are awesome.*

Doing What You Love


If there is one thing that describes my generation (20-30 year olds), it is definitely that we advocate doing what you love. We go against traditional desk jobs in order to pursue what we love. It is not uncommon for us to not stay at a job very long because we don’t feel “satisfied” and that we should be doing something “greater.”

We are dreamers.

Part of me loves the dreaming part. But another part of me questions when dreaming becomes unhealthy.

Film still from Inside Llewyn DavisRecently, I watched the movie Inside Llewyn Davis again. It is a tragically comical look at a musician in Greenwich Village in the 60’s, right before Bob Dylan hit the scene. In this film, we see a man, Llewyn Davis, who dreams of becoming a well-known folk musician. The struggle in the film is trying to like Llewyn Davis. He dances a line between likable and unlikable. Part of you roots for him and another part of you scolds him.

The thing that I noticed the most was that Davis dreamed so much of what could be that he completely missed what already was. Do we miss what is already happening because we spend most of our lives dreaming of what could be?

As Christians, we can be the worst at this. We say things like, “What does Jesus want you to do with your life?” or “What do you think God is telling you?” or “Where do you feel the Spirit leading you?” (that’s right — we go all out trinity in answering life-questions)

The saddest part of Inside Llewyn Davis is seeing a man fight for what he loved but realizing that it would never take him far in life. I’ve had this realization several times. I could never make it far as a musician. I could never make it far as an actor. Heck…I might not even make it far as a pastor.

So how do we respond to when all of our dreams come crashing down? How do we respond when we realize that our dream is simply just that: a dream…a pipe dream at best? Do we continue fighting for something that won’t ever come true? Doesn’t that take away from living the life we have right now?

I think about Jesus a lot in these situations. Christ said that He came so that we could have life abundantly. Many health and wealth preachers have taught this passage in the direction of “God will give you great health and great wealth” (I mean, obviously…what else would health and wealth preachers teach?). But if my dream doesn’t come true, does that mean that Christ hasn’t given me life abundantly?

Living life to the fullest sometimes means sacrificing dreams.

This is a difficult concept, especially in our generation. But sometimes in sacrificing dreams, we can truly live life abundantly. I’m not saying it is wrong to dream. We should dream. We should aspire. We should dare to live a life that brings God pleasure.

But how many of our dreams are selfish attempts at making us happy? And, is happiness the only thing we should strive to attain in this life?

One of my dreams is to plant a church. I have slowly, but surely, come to the conclusion that I am willing to sacrifice that dream if it begins to interfere with how I am living currently. If I begin only focusing on that instead of the lives around me. If I begin hating where I am because I long to be somewhere else. If I begin coming up with a strategic plan for how I’ll do things differently because of how angry I am with what is happening around me. I am willing to sacrifice that dream if it begins negatively affecting my life.

Are you willing to sacrifice your dream for that? I think we must be willing to say, “This dream is destroying people around me. The constant longing for something greater is causing me to live a life less than abundant right now.” It’s hard to say those things because, once again, we are dreamers. We fight for our dreams and say we will not settle for anything less than those dreams. In the pursuit of those dreams, however, we settle for something less in how we are living life in the now.

Dreams can quickly become a means of escapism. That’s when they get dangerous. That’s when they evolve into something deadly. That’s when we must be willing to say, “I’m done.”

One of my favorite scenes from Love Actually is the scene when Andrew Lincoln’s character confesses his love for Kiera Knightley’s character. It’s this beautiful scene where he confesses everything he has been feeling through a series of comments on poster board. But at the end of the scene, the dream that he had always longed to come true, he mutters, “that’s enough.” I love that. He knew that his dream would destroy friends in love.

Is this notion of doing what we love something that might destroy the lives of those around us? I’m not saying that we sacrifice things purely for the sake of others. But I do think that we cannot be selfish and cover up things with, “I feel like God is telling me to do this…” when God is simply telling us to bring honor to Him…wherever we are and in whatever we are doing.

What do you think? How have you seen dreams ruin your life or the life of those around you? When is the best time to sacrifice dreams? Should we sacrifice dreams? Why do Christians feel the need to constantly ask the question, “What does God want me to do with my life?” Let me know in the comments below.

Living in American Stained Christianity


flagWhether you like to think about it or not, the age of the “Christian country” is over. I have read a few blogs on how we can turn America back to God. There is still a chance that God can rule this country once again. The fight isn’t over yet.

But maybe it should be.

Most of the blogs that I have read on turning America back to God consist of turning the American government into a form of church leadership. We believe that the greatest hope for the evangelical church’s version of Christianity is in the newest senator who prays before every meal. We believe that the greatest hope is found in the traditional, biblical marriage, which is exemplified in the newest governor. In all honesty, some of us still even believe the greatest hope for the evangelical church is found in the Republican party (as demonstrated by the voting for a Mormon, who, in any other election, wouldn’t even be considered because of his religious beliefs).

For too long, the evangelical church has taken comfort in the freedoms provided to us through our government. I, like you, am grateful for these freedoms. But I am fearful that in the midst of comfort, we have lost our purpose.

Instead of freedom being something that should benefit us, it has become something that has enslaved us.

For in freedom, we sat idly by while the hungry needed food.

For in freedom, we ignored the cries of the unwed mother.

In freedom, we watched marriages fall apart.

In freedom, we saw the numbers of those without health care.

I could go on and on but I think you get the point. In freedom, we shifted the responsibility of the church to the government. Here’s the worst part: now, Christians are seen as wanting the hungry to go hungry, hating the unwed mother, refusing to allow love flourish, and hoping that only the select receive health care. How did we get this image? In who we checked on our ballot.

I don’t believe that we want of those things to happen. We want to feed the hungry. We start up food pantries and soup kitchens to try and meet the needs of the hungry. We don’t hate the unwed mother. We show her love and offer her a place to stay to raise her child. We don’t want marriages to fall apart. We encourage couples to fight for their marriage. We want everyone to receive health care…that’s why the church has been so influential in the medical world.

We want God’s “thou shalt not” commandments legislated but we don’t want to legislate His “thou shalt” commands. In other words, we want the sins of commission legislated but not the sins of omission. But we cannot legislate God…let alone, half of Him.

We have tried, though. Unfortunately, someone who wants to feed the hungry, help the marginalized, and allow abortions is considered a horrible person. But someone who wants to cut food stamps, ignore the lower-class, and make abortions illegal is considered a great person. If Christians want the government to cut food stamps or other programs benefiting the marginalized, then we need to be prepared to step up and do what Christ commanded us to do — to love God, and love our neighbor as ourself.

We are living in an American stained Christianity era. As things become legislated, we fear the future of the Church. In reality, the Church has survived far worse situations. It actually excites me a bit; because hopefully we will see that the way we are to be the church is not through the government — but by being involved in our communities, in our cities, and in the lives of everyone around us. We don’t legislate God. We live like God. God never forced His decrees on people. Why do we think that we can?

I think most of us are upset with the government because it is not being the church we want it to be. It is allowing people to commit the “thou shalt nots” even though it is also providing people with the “thou shalts.” But Christ never limited Himself to those in need and neither should we.

The government is not the Church. We, as Christ-followers, are the Church. Legislation from the government will not ruin the Church. Parties cannot ruin the Church. Elections cannot ruin the Church. Nothing can. Christ promised us that.