Changing the Conversation on Abortion

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Abortion_debate_20121010115149_640_480The Church has been involved quite a bit in regards to the conversation on abortion. It is a controversial topic on which everyone has an opinion. Unfortunately, the pro-life and pro-choice sides are having two completely different conversations. One advocates the sanctity of life while the other advocates the importance of choice. One is trying to protect the rights of the unborn while the other is trying to protect the rights of those already living. The conversation is obviously a deeper one than just “yes” or “no.”

But sometimes the Church treats the conversation as a “yes” or “no” conversation…myself included.

Most of the conversation, for Christians, surrounding abortion has been, “when does life begin?” We propose that life begins at conception. I am not going to argue with that. Therefore, we consider it murder to abort a life. We debate this with people who are pro-choice and we never back down from our stance. I’m not proposing we do.

I am proposing that we change the conversation on abortion.

I think that much of our conversation on abortion has been so centered on protecting the life in the womb, that we have neglected the life when it is born. I remember John Perkins once saying that he was more pro-life than most Christians…because he was pro-life after the baby was born. My observation is that many of us, like Perkins proposes, are pro-life…until birth. Even the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are misleading because they don’t really paint an accurate portrait of either side. This opens up a conversation on labels that I don’t want to get into during this post.

What if instead of having debates about when life begins, Christians began having conversations about preserving life? I am not saying that Christians should back down from their stance that life begins at conception. Instead of focusing on that, what would happen if we added to the conversation aspects of preservation?

Conversations on adoption reform?

Conversations on quality of life for underprivileged children?

Conversations on parental upbringing?

Conversations on equality for all children, despite what they are born into?

I honestly believe that we, as Christ-followers, believe in these tenants. I just don’t think that we are talking about them as much as we should be.

We have seen how far arguments get us. It just gets everyone disgruntled and frustrated at the other side. We paint each other as enemies — when, as Christ-followers, we are told that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Could our fight against abortion have become more of a struggle against flesh and blood? Are we fighting against something or for something.

I believe there is an extreme difference. If we believe we are pro-life, then let us begin fighting for life…even once that life leaves the womb. It’s easy to say, “it’s a sin to kill an unborn child.” It’s more difficult to say, “I believe it is such a travesty that I will be willing to care for your child if you are willing to give life to him/her.”

Remember, where death was once seen, Christ brought life. Where hopelessness was once a grim reality, Christ brought the beauty of hope.

Instead of picket signs, let’s hold up letters to our senators advocating a restructuring of the adoption process.

Instead of yelling, let’s encourage parents in the upbringing of their children — both born and unborn.

Instead of proclaiming that people are killing an innocent life, let’s advocate for the underprivileged children that receive less-than-adequate care.

Instead of complaining about the government rulings on this being unfair, let’s fight for the equal treatment of children, no matter what they are born into.

Where there once was death, let us bring life.

I don’t advocate we back down from our beliefs; although I am certain that many will believe that I do. I advocate we change our message to one that promotes life to its fullest — life as Christ intended it. I advocate we shift our language to one that provides opportunities.

Will it change anything? The optimistic side of me would like to believe that it will. The more realistic side of me says it may not. However, I do believe that it will move the church away from being seen as something that’s anti-abortion and something that is truly pro-life. One that protects life. One that preserves life. One that fights for life. One that moves mountains so that life may take root.

We show how serious we are about this issue by what we are doing to protect and fight for the life of the children once they are born. Where some see how death is the only option, may we show them how beautiful life can be. Because in all reality, some of these women are in dire situations where death seems like the humane thing to do. True, some aren’t in that situation. However, let us fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

Truth be told, my heart breaks for those who believe abortion is the only option. Perhaps it is because I do believe there is much work that we, as a Church, should be doing to make life the only option. Inequality, poverty, injustice, and abuse will only fully end when Christ establishes His Kingdom on this earth. But we can begin to make that Kingdom evident in our fight for life…and life that exists far after the child is born.

We have fought for so long. I don’t think we are done. I don’t think we should be done. But I do believe that we need to be fighting for life instead of against abortion. For in the fight for life, we show how much we are really against abortion.

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Why I Believe the Only Kind of Marriage Worth Having is a Dysfunctional Marriage

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xhouse-of-cards-season-2-scene.jpg.pagespeed.ic.CldABmRHm3For the past week, I have been obsessed with House of Cards. Don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers for you that haven’t indulged in this incredible drama. I feel bad for saying it, but I watched both seasons in less than a week’s time. Throughout the entire show, I was fascinated with the marriage between the main characters, Francis & Claire Underwood. They have a horribly dysfunctional marriage and it destroys anyone in its path.

But there was something to that marriage that made me, at one point in time, say, “That’s a marriage worth having.” Now, being a single male, I don’t have much knowledge when it comes to the marriage department. I did read a book on it once, and that action seems to make everyone a professional when it comes to other topics. However, I know it does not make me a professional. As with every post, I do not seek conversing with people to tell them “why they are wrong.” As much as I want to do that (as in, my personality is geared toward that kind of thinking), I know I should not and cannot. I am simply hoping to create a space for conversation with which something the Church is obviously struggling (look at divorce/marital issues within your own church and you will probably see what I’m talking about).

“Does your wife/husband know?”

This is one of my favorite questions in any film/television show. Whenever this question is asked, there is undoubtedly a secret that has just been revealed. A friend is usually a witness to it and in utter disbelief asks, “does your wife/husband know?” The answer can go one of two ways: yes, I’ve told him/her or no, please don’t tell him/her. Too often it seems like the answer is “no, please don’t tell him/her.” Sometimes this secret is brought to life; but other times, it is left hidden.

This is normal. This is functional.

In my mind, the question should never have to be asked because the answer should always be “yes.” I see this in the marriage of the Underwoods. They have a few secrets, but most of the time they know each other’s dirt. There is a sort of refreshing honesty in that. Some of their secrets are terrifying. If it had happened to other marriages, it would most likely destroy those marriages. But not for them (it probably helps that they are both rather…um…evil?).

Once again, I speak as someone not married, but it seems to me that this kind of brutal honesty is what is missing from many marriages. Honesty about thoughts. Honesty about motives. Honesty about secrets. Honesty about ambitions. Honesty about habits. Honesty about struggles. Honesty about dreams.

Of course, you cannot be brutally honest with someone else until you are first brutally honest with yourself. Many of us run away from ourselves every day. We do not want to face who we are.

For seeing it played out over and over again, I am still at a loss for why we choose dishonesty over honesty. We see these kinds of marriages over and over in television and film. There is a level of distrust in the marriage due to a lack of honesty and transparency. Of course, it is a systemic issue that goes all the way up to the pulpit. We do not do a great job at teaching transparency, so why would we, as pastors, believe couples in our church will be transparent with one another?

The most obvious answer is “fear.” We fear being honest with one another because we don’t want to ruin a beautiful relationship/marriage. We don’t want to ruin the functional/normal relationship/marriage.

If that is what is viewed as functional/normal, then give me something dysfunctional. Give me a marriage like the Underwoods. Give me a marriage where I spend a night plotting evil schemes with my wife. Obviously, I’m not being literal.

But for some reason, I see beauty in two screwed up people sharing their dirty laundry with one another. I see beauty in two sick people talking about their real motives for doing things (even if it is something like, “I bought you flowers so you would forgive me for…”). I see beauty in two broken people relying on the grace of God every day because they know their brokenness.

If functional/normal marriage is:

not telling your spouse something because you are afraid it will hurt him/her…
spraying on cologne because you don’t want your spouse to know you smoke…
hiding receipts because you don’t want your spouse to see you have a money problem…
clearing your internet browser each day so your spouse won’t see where you have gone…
not sharing a dream/aspiration because you are afraid how he/she will respond…

then give me the dysfunctional marriage. Because I want nothing to do with this “stepford,” functional/normal marriage. I want the exact opposite of that.

I think that is why Francis & Claire’s marriage has been a bit refreshing. They are definitely corrupt people. They are not role models. But in their marriage, they are brutally honest about everything. And they are comfortable with it. Why? Because they are both equally screwed up and they know it.

I think that’s where the problem lies for many of us. We think our spouse is perfect. So we don’t want our honesty to taint his/her perfection. In reality, each of us is equally screwed up and we are all thinking, “I don’t want my honesty to ruin this.” Honesty, however, is the only thing that can save whatever we already have.

Now, go watch House of Cards and may your life forever be changed.

12 Years a Slave

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MV5BMjExMTEzODkyN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTU4NTc4OQ@@._V1_SX214_One of the more powerful films of the year (if not the most powerful film) was 12 Years a Slave. The film is based on the life of Solomon Northup, who was a free man that was taken and illegally sold into slavery. It is difficult to watch; not only because of violence, but also because of our ignorance. But then again, history can be difficult to watch.

Films like Schindler’s List, Hotel Rwanda, or Letters from Iwo Jima can be difficult to watch because of the content. I’m not speaking about violence as much as I am speaking about how we, as Christ-followers, ignored the cries of the broken and destitute. That was one of the reasons why 12 Years a Slave was so difficult to watch. It was difficult to see Christians twist Scripture to support slavery and the near-deadly beatings of slaves. It was difficult to see oppression and Christians not do much about it.

Before I continue, some of you are probably going to object by saying that there were some Christians who fought against slavery. That is right. There were some of them. Unfortunately, as my mother would always say, “the squeaky wheel makes the most noise.” Even if some of them did fight against it, we have some who remained silent and others who spoke out in favor of it. Just because a few might have fought does not, unfortunately, mean that we can erase this smear from the history of the Church.

Christians have a tendency to erase the smears from the history of the Church. I think we do this to protect ourselves. It’s not fun learning about the Crusades or the Inquisition. It’s not fun hearing about all those we killed because we saw them as “heretics.” It’s not fun learning about the debauchery of the Popes.

But it is necessary.

I think it is important that Christians address our mistakes….as well as our successes. We need to talk about both. Why? Because we are responsible for our history. When one calls himself/herself a Christ-follower, he/she becomes part of the Church – in all of its stain-covered glory. This means we become part of the history as well as becoming part of the future. One cannot build the future without accepting the mistakes of the past. We as a Church will never be able to move forward until we address the mistakes of our past. This means there is a constant teaching that occurs. With each new generation, they are taught about the mistakes as well as the successes of the Church. And in it, they will see just how necessary Christ is in our lives.

I think we need to be constantly aware of our past mistakes. That sounds bad. It sounds negative. I don’t think it has to be, though. To me, it shows healing. Some people would like to run as far away as they can from the past. But it is absurd to think that will solve anything. How then can the Church try to run away from our past mistakes and think that will solve anything? There is healing in seeing how Christ worked in your life when you hated Him the most. There is healing in seeing how Christ worked in the Church when we represented Him the least. When we see how Christ worked in the Church when we failed to represent Him, then we can begin to see how Christ wants to work in the Church as we seek to become Him.

Judaism is great at remembering the past and bringing it up. They tell the stories…both good and bad. History is sacred to them. Is history as sacred to evangelical Christianity? How do we make that known?

Christ is calling the Church to do a great work: be the Kingdom. We’ve messed that up, unfortunately. But thankfully God freely gives us grace. I hope that the Church can begin to learn how to incorporate all of our history in our teaching. It’s important that people see where we have come from. For in seeing that, I think we can begin to see where the Church needs to go.

I’ve always wondered what film will be made about this time period. What oppression is there today that is going unnoticed? That the Church is being silent on? Some will argue that it is abortion. Others will state it is equal rights for sam-sex couples. It could be modern-day slavery. My thought is this: we, as a Church, screwed up horribly with slavery 150 years ago…maybe we should learn from our mistakes and speak out and take action against the current slavery that there is today. But I don’t think we will be able to until we understand the travesty of our errors over 150 years ago. When we see that, then we will become impassioned all the more for what Christ wants to do in us today.

Woody Allen: Pedophile

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esq-woody-uuUfoD-allenYou would have to be living under a rock to have not heard about the scandal surrounding Woody Allen and the allegations that he molested his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow. Recently, Dylan Farrow wrote an open letter to Allen in the New York Times. It was a rather vicious letter that began like this: “what is your favorite Woody Allen movie? Before you answer, you should know: when I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me.”

It goes on from there to describe, in rather gritty detail, the relationship between Allen and Farrow. It is horrific to read things like this. To see innocence robbed is tragedy enough…but to see the man who robbed innocence be set free is even more of a tragedy. Conversations surrounding these events are difficult and yet, essential.

But not for us.

The unfortunate thing is that we have idolized celebrities so much that now we feel like we should know about everything that is going on in their lives. Conversations around the dinner table consist of who is getting a divorce, who is cheating on whom, and who recently got arrested (most likely Justin Bieber). In reality, our conversations consist of gossip. Plain and simple. But since it is gossip surrounding celebrities, it is not a big deal.

Or at least we tell ourselves that.

This is difficult for me to write because I am one who loves to talk about the lives of those in Hollywood. Sometimes I even wish that I had their lives. But in times like this, I am glad that I don’t. In times like this, I see just how deadly gossip can be.

Even if Allen is innocent, he will be forever remembered as a man accused of molesting a child. Why? Because all of America talked about it for a month. We sat in Starbucks talking about the details of this event. We went to work ready to talk about new things we found out. We even sat around the dinner table with our families talking about how sad it is to see these things.

And in all of this, we forget that Allen might be innocent. In all of this, we forget that Allen is just another person. In all of this, we forget that we are gossiping about someone’s life.

And as Christ followers, is this really the best way to spend our time? Is this even displaying Christ?

No.

Recently, I watched a film called The Hunt. This is a fantastic movie that talks about a man who is wrongfully accused of molesting a child and the consequences that come from that wrongful accusation. He is cast out from society. He is ridiculed and beat up. He becomes the focal point of the town’s anger.

And all the while, he is innocent.

His innocence isn’t even a thought, though, because the gossip of the town fueled everyone to believe something else. That’s what gossip does. Gossip convinces each of us of things that might not have happened. It affirms wrong beliefs about people. And it also destroys the lives of everyone…including ourselves.

Why does gossip destroy our lives? Because gossip causes us to throw logic and privacy out the window. We stop thinking logically about situations and instead think about what others are telling us…no matter how ridiculous those things may be. Gossip destroys privacy because everyone’s business is now our business. That way of thinking permeates all aspects of our lives. It becomes the norm for how we think about things.

The saddest part is that we don’t even think about the lives that we are destroying in this process. We just want something juicy to talk about.

That says a lot about our lives. It says a lot about what we consider to be culture. It says a lot about what we think of ourselves.

Here’s the truth: whether or not Woody Allen is pedophile is none of our concern. Why? Because none of us know him personally. None of us hang out with him on a weekend. His life is completely separate of our lives. As far as we know, we could be completely destroying his reputation by spreading vicious lies about him. The best response I have heard about this whole situation has actually been from Alec Baldwin. He tweeted this about the whole situation: “What the f&@% is wrong w u that u think we all need to b commenting on this family’s personal struggle?” he tweeted Sunday. “So you know who’s guilty? Who’s lying? You, personally, know that?” he continued, adding: “You are mistaken if you think there is a place for me, or any outsider, in this family’s issue.” This issue isn’t about us…and we need to stop talking about him.

But not just about him. We destroy innocence every time we open our mouths to spread another piece of gossip. We burn down reputations every time we make an “innocent” remark about others. We blemish the bride of Christ every time we do this. And yet we think it is completely innocent…but our words destroy lives.

When we gossip about a pastor because we disagree with him/her…
When we gossip about a girl who may or may not be sleeping with someone in the church…
When we gossip about a guy who might be struggling with addictions…
When we gossip about a couple who might be going through marital issues…

We destroy their lives when we open our mouths. Every single one of us is guilty of this. When we open our mouths to gossip, we label someone opposite of what God has labeled them. Gossip conflicts with God.

How do we move past this blatant sin? If you hear a rumor about someone, grow up and go talk to them personally. Stop gossiping. Stop hanging around the same group of friends each week talking about the dirty details you’ve heard. It’s ugly. It’s disgusting. It’s not the church.

If you hear a rumor about someone you don’t know, you most likely can’t go talk to them…so it probably doesn’t concern you…and it probably means you should shut your mouth about it.

Gossip causes headlines like this: “Woody Allen: Pedophile.” As the Church, we cannot accept the possibly inaccurate labels that are put on people by our gossip. 

The Sin of the Church

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ImageOne of my favorite films of the year has been Philomena. It is a beautiful story about a journalist who tries to find Philomena’s son. Philomena was sent to a convent by her father after becoming pregnant. While in the convent, she gave birth to a son who was then forced illegally into adoption and Philomena was never able to say goodbye to him. 50 years later, Philomena tells this painful secret that she has kept for so many years.

The film is difficult to watch at times. As a person who deeply loves the Bride of Christ, it is painful to see the wrongdoings of the Church. There are an approximate 60,000 women in Ireland that were forced to give up children because they were unwed mothers. Not only that, the Irish government has refused to release the records of these children and the adoptive parents. But Philomena is fighting within the church to see change. She even recently had an audience with Pope Francis.

Philomena Lee has said, “You can’t go through life being so unyielding …so you’ve got to forgive. You’ve got to. You just have to forgive.” This is a seemingly easy concept to live by when the pain the Church causes you is “mild.” Forgiveness is a little more difficult when the Church forces you to give up a child.

But no matter what the pain, “we can’t go through life being so unyielding.” Why? Because we are really being unyielding against ourselves. The Church is a community of people. And each of us make up that community. So when you are angry at the Church, you are, in a way, angry at yourself.

So the church said something with which you disagree? I’m sure no one has ever disagreed with you…

So the church hurt you? I’m sure you have never hurt anyone else…

So the church lied to you? I’m sure you have never lied to anyone…

The sin of the Church is the sin of its people. Our greed, corruption, manipulation, and selfishness is the sin. The Church is not some unknown group of people. It is you. It is me. And we have all made countless mistakes.

This reminds me of the story in John of the woman caught in the act of adultery. As she is brought to receive judgment, Christ makes the simple, yet profound statement, of “let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone” (John 8.1-11). I feel like for many of us, we have tied up the Church and are throwing the biggest rocks we can find at it. We are relentless in our pursuit of destroying it for the pain it caused us. And yet Christ is saying, “let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” But we can’t hear Him over the sound of stones smashing through the Bride of Christ.

Many of us inside of the Church seem to think that there is some extravagant evil force that is trying to destroy it. This may have some validity but I think it gives far too much credit to that which Christ said, “the gates of hell will not be able to overcome it.” I think we are doing a pretty outstanding job on our own of destroying the church. I’m guilty of this. Sometimes in the pursuit of trying to create something that resembles the Bride of Christ, I find myself trying to destroy the Bride of Christ to create something that resembles Caleb Trimble. I need to learn that balance.

When we throw stones at the Church, we really just hurt ourselves. We cannot go through life being so unyielding. We just need to learn how to forgive. How do you learn to forgive? Remind yourself of what it was like to be on the other end and needing forgiveness. Remember the relief you felt when someone said those three incredible words, “I forgive you.” Remind yourself that you are a part of the thing that you are destroying.

I think we can learn something from Philomena. She was deeply hurt by the Church and yet she kept her faith in God and in the Church. She chose to forgive rather than walk through life being bitter toward it. Perhaps it is because she realized that she would really just be mad at herself. How beautiful would it be if we were quicker to forgive than we were to cast stones from our tower of righteousness? Or see how we have wronged people instead of seeing how the Church has wronged us?

The sin of the Church is me. The sin of the Church is you. But praise God for His grace to each of us. May we exhibit that same grace to the Bride of Christ.

Destroy Your Pastor

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One of my favorite books in the Bible is Exodus — even all the parts about what priests are supposed to wear and what to do with your oxen. But one story in particular astounds me each time I read it. It’s the story of the Israelites building a golden calf because Moses was taking too long talking to God. Exodus 32.1 gives us insight into what Israel was thinking: “When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. ‘Come on,’ they said, ‘make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.’” The Israelites built an idol because they needed to see something in order to follow. When Moses left, they no longer saw a leader figure and felt the need to build one. Had Moses become an idol to them? Did they actually just build another idol instead of building an idol?

Perhaps Moses had become an idol in the Israelites’ lives because it is almost a natural impulse for followers to idolize their leaders. Unfortunately, this is still true in the church today. We idolize our leaders and then when those leaders disappoint us or leave a particular church, it cripples us. When I was a part-time music pastor at a church, I can remember leaving and kind of hoping that people would leave with me. It’s horrible to say that but it’s the truth. I felt like I would be vindicated if that happened. In retrospect, I had hoped people idolized me to the point they would follow me. That may make me seem like a terrible person, but it was where I was at that particular moment. The church has to be greater than those who are leading it. People need to be active in the church, not in following a particular leader in the church.

So how do we move past attending a church because we idolize the leaders, to being part of the church because of what God has done? Simply put: transparency.

Why do we think too highly of our leaders? Because we don’t see faults. Maybe this is because leaders in the church don’t talk about faults. Perhaps it is out of fear of being fired. Perhaps it is out of fear of losing respect of the people. Maybe it is even out of fear of appearing to be human. Preachers talk about how God uses flawed people but then fail to reveal their own flaws. My favorite is when preachers talk about their flaws, but in a vague sense like, “I’ve made countless of mistakes,” or “I have messed up as much as the next person.” These blanket statements give the false appearance of transparency but, in reality, are cowardly attempts at relating with our audience.

Pastors strive to use illustrations that give the appearance of an imperfect life. These illustrations tend to be humorous references to a muttered swear word, a lie to the wife, or an extremely hyperbolic reenactment of an argument with a child. Honestly, however, we see, in the pastor, a struggle with anger and dishonesty in a marriage. We have masked faults with humor and the results have been fatal to transparency. The more disheartening truth is that these are the sins that are acceptable from the pulpit because now these sins aren’t even considered sins by a majority of people in the church.

If a pastor stood on stage and said, “I recently had an affair with a married woman and when she became pregnant, I had her husband murdered.” He would most likely be arrested for murder. But if that hadn’t happened, the leadership of the church would have most likely met and asked the leader to step down. However, God never asked David to stop being King. I am not advocating we allow the church to have leaders who regularly practice debauchery. The church cannot tolerate people who refuse to change. David changed. But he still had to live with the consequences of his actions, just like we will have to live with the consequences of our actions. What would happen, however, if that leader stayed and worked through those issues with the support of the church? Would he/she be no longer fit to lead? Or could God work through that? If your pastor was completely transparent with you, would you lose respect or would you gain respect? The leaders I respect are leaders like Brennan Manning, who was not afraid to talk about his tragic mistakes.

In his Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis says, “We are not asked to be flawless, but to keep growing and wanting to grow as we advance along the path of the Gospel; our arms must never grow slack.” Leaders and pastors are not asked to be flawless. Unintentionally, we ask them to be flawless through our idolization of them.

What’s the quickest way to break idolization of leaders? Destroy them. Destroy the image you have of them. See them as real, honest, messed-up, and flawed people. Why else would Paul boast in his weaknesses? Because then Christ, not he, could be seen. We are seen when we cover up our weaknesses and flaws; Christ is seen when we are transparent about our weaknesses and flaws because those weaknesses and flaws show a recognition of just how human we are. When we recognize we are human and not a god or an idol, then we begin to fully rely on God’s grace in our leadership and life.

Nebraska & Reconciliation

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Image“Have a drink with your old man. Be somebody!” — Woody Grant (played by Bruce Dern)

I’m a huge fan of Alexander Payne. I could talk for hours on his ability to craft a humorous and yet painful look at serious subject matter. Nebraska wasn’t any different. Although it still isn’t my favorite Payne film (The Descendants definitely stands at number 1, still), it is still highly ranked.

[Some of you may view what follows as spoilers]

The film is shot in black and white and has this sort of faded grittiness to it. It centers around a son and his father going on a road trip from Montana to Nebraska so the father can claim his million dollars that a Publisher’s Clearing House type company told him he won. The father, who is either senile or suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, has not had an ideal relationship with his family. Alcoholism has consumed him for a majority of his life. But family is family. And the sons still love and care for their father no matter how mean he can get. Even though they don’t know much about his life, they empathize with him and stick up for him as a good man who provided for his family. He was a man that was always willing to help out when someone needed help.

But I don’t want to focus on the details of the film. Instead, I want to focus on the beauty of seeing relationships reconciled.

Nebraska pulls on the heart because we all long to see relationships mended. Brokenness was never in God’s plan for humanity. And yet, it rears its ugly head in every single relationship. There are several things we can blame the brokenness on: alcohol, addictions, self-harm, disagreements, finances, etc. But here’s the point: it all comes back to us.

We’ve all been hurt by people. It’s inevitable. Unless you live your life as a hermit and don’t talk to anyone, you will undoubtedly walk around with scars from what someone has done to you. Likewise, someone is probably walking around with scars from what you’ve done to them. We all hurt each other. But how do we move toward reconciliation when the deepest cuts are ones that will never heal?

The easy (and extraordinarily difficult) answer is that we must learn how to forgive even if they will never ask for forgiveness. That’s a difficult process. It’s one that I still am trying to navigate how to do in my own life. As a person who wants justice, I feel like my grudges are forgiven because of how much the person wronged me. That’s not true. I know it isn’t. But most of us walk around our entire lives believing things we know aren’t true but refuse to admit it because of our self-righteous attitudes.

But Nebraska reminded me of the urgency to reconcile relationships. If you asked me right now of a name of a relationship I needed to reconcile, I could probably give you 10 names. If you asked me what I’m doing to reconcile those relationships, I would probably mumble something along the lines of, “but they are the ones who hurt me…” It’s almost like we forget what it is like for someone to come up to us and say, “I forgive you,” and we refuse to allow someone who has wronged us to experience that same grace.

I understand that there needs to be healing. I am not trying to diminish the pain that you are going through. Believe me, I wouldn’t do that. Work through the pain…but work toward reconciliation, as well. The problem with working through pain is that many times we work through something to find ourselves…when we really need to work through things to find Jesus. Christ will always point us toward reconciliation because Christ was all about reconciliation.

And He gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

Are we doing anything to work toward reconciliation? Are we asking ourselves questions each day about what we are doing to reconcile broken relationships? Has the sun gone down on our anger one too many nights?

I think too often we convince ourselves that we are in a healthy place because we only have a few broken relationships. And since we aren’t around those people anymore, we are fine. But do not be deceived: a shred of leftover bitterness is enough to destroy every single relationship you will ever have. We would be naive to think otherwise.

Nebraska looks at a broken relationship between a father and son. It’s humorous as much as it is heartbreaking. The truth is, is that the film will be true of many relationships in our lives. The truth is, is that God never intended it to be that way…nor does He want us to be content with things being that way.

Reconciliation will hurt. But so does most of life. What hurts even worse is seeing, at the end of your life, all of the relationships that you will never be able to reconcile because you waited too long or allowed your heart to become too hard. Let’s begin being the church and seeking reconciliation before we begin justifying our actions because of our scars. We all have scars. And we all cause scars. Let’s move beyond that and to something greater. Something that resembles the Kingdom.