Monday, July 18, 2016

The Problem with "Privilege"

In a fallen world, we have become obsessed with fairness.  While there are certain admirable qualities about being fair and desiring fair and equal outcomes to equal situations, we have taken things a step further:  We have decided to trace all perceived injustices back to their ancestral roots and blame the current generation for past misgivings and the benefits they may have received (or just assumed they have received) as a result of such injustice.

It is understandable that the world is having a hard time reconciling the idea that while all men are created equal in the sight of God, not all men are born into equal circumstances because of the fallen nature of the world we live in.  However, this very plain truth should be evident for every Christian.

As I search the Scriptures, I do not see God holding people responsible for sins of a past generation, even if there was gain by the current generation because of it.  To be sure, sins of one generation can affect the generations to follow (Ex. 20: 4-6).  While unrepentant sins of successive generations do lead to national punishment, for a people pledged to God, God makes it equally clear that individually He only punishes according to each person's actions apart from previous generations (Ez. 18).

The current fervor of our culture to shame or condemn based on perceived advantages based on race or status is, in many cases, nothing more than a cover for covetousness.  As a people of God, we should be content with the circumstances that we have been placed in, as long as our basic needs have been taken care of, so that we might be a witness for Christ (1 Tim. 6:6-10).
The problem with the concept of privilege
(other than it is unbiblical) is that it is so
hard to quantify.  By only looking at
one diametric (race or economic status), we
oversimplify the differing circumstances that
may affect individuals or even whole families.

Consider:  The single largest determiner of
poverty in America today is to be raised in
a single parent home.  Therefore, by simply
coming from a two parent family, regardless of
race, there is an advantage over those
whose homes are broken.

The most common factor of those incarcerated
is the lack of a father in the home.  Again,
simply having a two parent family brings an
advantage.

The fact that the black community suffers
from a larger proportion of single parent
homes and thus also has higher proportions
of poverty and crime cannot be simply
laid at the feet of "white privilege", no matter
what the unrighteous history of the past
generations may have been.

But the idea of privilege has our culture looking to everyone else's circumstances as a excuse for grievance that destroys godly contentment.  It does this in two ways:  First, it creates a false sense of guilt in those who are bombarded with the idea that their circumstance, because of skin color or socioeconomic status, is unjust by merely existing.  Second, it produces envy, strife and covetousness in those who feel that they have been wronged by merely being born into a circumstance less fortunate than others. Many professing Christians are adopting this harmful view into their lives, as well, and it eats away at the thankfulness we should have toward God for the provision that we have, no matter how meager or plentiful.

Consider the words of James...

What causes quarrels and what cause fights among you?  Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.  You do not have, because you do not ask [God].  You ask [God] and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.  --James 4:1-3

Isn't that the state of our nation right now? Why would we, as the people of God, wish to emulate that?  Why would we trade out the knowledge, provision and blessings afforded us by God through Christ for discontentment based upon a comparison to someone else's circumstance?  Why would we choose envy and strife over joy and contentment?

As if those reasons aren't reason enough to change our attitudes, there is a greater reason still.

Listen to these amazing words by Paul in Athens:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward Him and find Him.  Yet He is actually not far from each one of us...  --Acts 17:24-27

You see, the circumstance...the family...the race...the country...the poverty (or riches)...even the very time in which we were born was hand-crafted by God Himself. While you and I are distracted by the haves and the have nots of the world, God is carefully placing each person in each home in each country and each circumstance for one reason only:  that each person might reach out and find Him.

The very idea of invoking privilege as a reason that would make us more or less ready to accept the gift of Christ in our lives flies in the face of a God who has placed you (and me and everyone) in the most likely situation where we might actually reach out to encounter His grace through Christ to begin with.  By even acknowledging privilege as a commendable value, it reveals in us as a people that the greatest treasure that we consider having in this world is actual treasure (or position) and not Christ.  It also puts us in a position of an unrighteous judge toward God basically saying that, "God doesn't know what He is doing."  I'm not sure I can go there.

Our true treasure is that Christ has died for us and counted us, unworthy as we are, as one of His own.  We have reached out to Him and found that He was not far from us, as He has promised.  He has given us new life and the promise of the Holy Spirit.  He has satisfied all of our longings and we have found Him to be enough.  He has given us the mission of spreading this message of truth, grace, love and forgiveness to a hurting world seeking all the wrong type of privileges that never satisfy and only leave people longing for more.

As such, this worldly privilege is the enemy of the gospel of Christ.  We would do well not to see through its corrupted lens. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The One Commodity Needed for Discipleship

If I were to ask you:  What is the one thing that you need in order to effectively disciple others?  What would you answer?

I can imagine a great number of you would say "A knowledge of God's Word" or "Effective ways for reaching out".  And while these things are paramount, even necessary, they are but an outgrowth of something even more necessary than that.

The one commodity needed for discipleship, above everything else, is TIME.

If I take away time, then I can take away knowledge of the Word of God.  I can take away opportunities for outreach.  I can take away everything that has to do with discipleship, by simply taking away time.

Take a look at the Great Commission:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.--The words of Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20)

How can we possibly complete this lofty mission given to us...without time?

As a pastor over youth, I can tell you that the most effective times of ministry haven't been when youth show up on a Wednesday night, but when they choose to show up outside of that time.

When they meander into my office to talk about a question that they have or when they just come in to hang for a while, that is when true discipleship takes place.  One conversation about the latest movie leads to interesting questions to ponder from a biblical point of view...and we are off.  We begin the process of seeing how the Word of God and a relationship with Christ intersects the real world that we live in.

To be sure, there may be many rounds of Super Smash or Mario Kart in between conversations, but the conversations only come because the time was there to be used.

And that is what concerns me...

Youth and adults have become more and more busy.  I speak often about, and seemingly against, sports and extracurricular activities, but in truth, I am speaking against lack of time.  The number one complaint that I have received from youth and from adults alike is the lack of time that they have to disciple others, whether it be those in their own family or the people they come in contact with, or even themselves.  But the busyness of our society has crowded out the time that we need to both become mature disciples of Christ and to make disciples out of anyone else.

Doug Fields made an astute observation that many pastors (and many people, in general) pride themselves on being busy.  It is like we wear busyness a some sort of sick badge of honor.  We equate busyness to importance.  So we fill every minute of every day with stuff to do, but we have become so busy that we have no time for people, whether it be family, friends or anyone else whom we could touch with the love of Christ.

And while the objection will come that doing some of these things, such as extra curricular activities, can present opportunities for discipleship, it is often the ones who make this observation who also give the excuse of not having time to do it.  You can't have it both ways.

So let me ask you a few questions:  Do you have time on a weekly basis just to hang with people, to have fun, but to also talk about potentially deep conversations (read: discipleship)?  Do you have time to read a good book that will encourage you in your faith (or even just the Bible itself)?  Or is your life so busy that you would have to schedule a time in a couple of weeks or months or maybe sometime before the year 2020?

Don't think that this indictment is against you alone.  I struggle mightily with it too.  As a homeschooling parent who has three teenagers, I know just how valuable time is as a commodity.  However, it shouldn't take me 6 months to plan a night out with friends to fellowship or have deep conversation with...but it does.  (And my kids aren't involved in a lot of things.)

The freedom, or lack thereof, of our calendar life on a daily and weekly basis is, like it or not, an indication of the priority toward fulfilling God's commission for our lives.  The busyness we pride ourselves in is actually the greatest barrier to discipleship that we face.

Remember Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42)...  Martha was so busy doing what she thought needed to be done that she was actually offended that Mary was listening to Jesus.  Busyness had become a barrier to holiness and discipleship.

Time is the commodity that we need more than any other...how are you spending yours?

I pray that by shining a light on the problem, together we can both make the time we truly need to both be and make disciples.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  Ephesians 5:15-16








Of Bible Translations and Heresy

Maybe you have heard the news, maybe you haven't:  Eugune Peterson, the author of the Message Bible, has recently endorsed same sex marr...