Thursday, December 16, 2010

Social Justice -Biblically Defined

What is social justice? And why do some Christians agree with it, while other do not? These are questions I would like to take a little time to deal with.

First of all, what is social justice? I believe it is ensuring that the underprivileged and needy are treated fairly. Some believe it means the removal of inequalities among people. And I guess that is the way it is largely understood.

This is where I stand. I think there are several verses in the Bible that contend we are supposed to fight for the rights and the needs of the poor and underpriviledged. Psalm 82:3-4 says that we should "Defend the cause of the weak and the fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." That, to me, is the root of social justice.

Read through Psalm 72 and Proverbs 31:8-9. Both of these passages equate justice and righteousness with caring for the poor and needy, with the oppressed. These are traits of good kings and leaders. Why would we disdain it?

In Jeremiah 22:16-17 God says through the prophet that defending the cause of the poor and needy is what it means to know Him. In correlation, James 1:27 says that true religion is, in part, caring for the orphan and the widows. How can we say that God is not concerned with justice for those in need?

Proverbs 14:21 "He who despises his neighbor sins, BUT blessed is he who is kind to the needy." The transitional but indicates by not being generous to someone, you are essentially despising them....which is sin. My footnotes say that: "Sharing food (Proverbs 28:8), lending money, (also 28:8) and DEFENDING the rights (Proverbs 31:9) are ways to show kindness. Such a person honors God (Proverbs 21:31) We see here that if we do not defend the rights of our poor neighbor , (and Jesus' definition of neighbor isn't limited to the guy who lives on your street...look up the story of the Good Samaritan if you don't believe me) we are hating him, which is sin in God's eyes.

Let's take a closer look at Proverbs 21:31. It says, "He who oppresses the poor shows CONTEMPT FOR THEIR MAKER, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God." Other verses you can cross reference are Proverbs 17:5 and Proverbs 22:6. It seems pretty clear that not only does God want us to care for, to seek justice for, the poor and oppressed, but also to do otherwise is a slap in the face to our Creator.

Some people think this is an idea limited to the Old Testament. Is Christ concerned about these things? If we read Matthew 25:31-46, we see that He is. He said, "Whatever you do (or do not do) for those who are hungry, thirsty, without clothing, sick and imprisoned, you do (or do not do) for Him.

You may ask how a Christian can be devoted to social justice. I ask, how could we do otherwise?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Deer Hunting

One morning, my five year old son comes into the bathroom while I'm getting ready for work. For some reason, he thinks it's a great idea to have a conversation with me while I'm shaving. I don't know why. At any rate, he sat down on the porcelain throne, his usual spot for thes early morning chats, and asks:

"Dad, when are you going to take me deer hunting?"

Fortunately, I didn't cut myself when I sort of jumped in surprise. See, I have never, ever, never mentioned hunting deer to my son. I've never participated in deer hunting. So the question was really out of left field. I said the first thing that popped into my mind.

"Dude, I don't even own a gun."

"Can't you buy one?"

He had me there. It is conceivable that I could, should I desire to do so, buy a rifle. But the truth is, I have no desire to purchase a gun of any sort. And so I said:

"Daddy, doesn't even like guns, buddy."

Silence ensued and I continued to shave while he mulled this over in his mind. Finally, he asked, brightly:

"Can we go fishing?"

"You bet we can buddy. I just gotta get some gear."

After that, we talked about the merits of his existing Spider-man pole versus the prospect of buying a new one when we could. He's content with the Spider-man rod, for now. But I've been mulling over this in my head for awhile now.

Here's the thing. Someday, he may really want to go hunting.

We live in a small Texas town, and that's just what you do, I guess. Apparently, he became interested because a friend of his told my son that his daddy was taking him.

Hunting has never been something I was into. I am sure there are lots of reasons for this. First of all, I am a geek galore. Secondly, I didn't exactly have a father around who encouraged that type of activity. But mostly because I'm kind of a softy and just don't like killing things.

I've tried it. I'm actually a pretty fair shot when it comes to practicing. And when I was younger, I shot a pheasant with my pellet gun under the tutelage of my mom's boyfriend at the time. Even had some experience with the "back road hunt." That's where you load up in a pickup at night and drive around on back roads shooting whatever moves.

As a matter of fact, my aversion to killing animals probably stems from one such occasion. My buddy and I found a rabbit one night. I think I had a scatter shot kind of gun, and I hit it, but didn't kill it. We had to go put it out of its misery. Turns out, it was a momma bunny, and I was tortured by the possibility we had inadvertently killed some baby bunnies as mommy would no longer be providing milk.

So yeah...hunting is definitely not my thing. But what if my son really likes it? What if, living in this small town environment, it becomes something he really wants to do? Plus, there's that whole peer pressure thing. I'd hate for my son to become "uncool" because his daddy don't hunt.

Right now, my son and I are pretty cool. He's five years old and loves super heroes. I'm thirty-five and love them too. We are pals...buddies even. I don't want to lose that. What I want, more than almost anything, is to not suck as a dad. I don't want to become irrelevant. Is that wrong?

I know that someday, if my son gets into that whole thing, somebody will take him hunting. And whoever that is, my son will think he's pretty dang cool. Am I wrong to not want my son finding father figures in somebody else? Or at any rate, in someone who instills the kind of values in him that are contrary to what I am trying desperately to instill. After all, it's my responsibility to make sure the boy loves Jesus. Right?

And that makes me think about God. He became flesh so we could relate to Him. Catch that? He became one of us, not because He didn't understand us, but because He wanted us to know Him better.

So what do you think? Should I start investing in camo and deer corn even though the thought of shooting Bambi's mom freaks me out? If so...somebody's gonna have to come along and show me the basics. Or maybe my son and I will just figure it out together.

Judge Not?

“Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Man don’t we love to throw this verse out whenever we’ve done something wrong and someone calls us on it? It’s like we think it’s a “get out of jail free” card or something. But I think if we look at in context, we realize it isn’t saying we can’t be called out for sinning. The passage in question is in Matthew 7:1-5. Come take a look with me.

First of all, what does Jesus mean when He says, "Judge"? The most basic definition is "to form an opinion of" (American Heritage Dictionary). But essentially, it means to declare guilty or to condemn. You could paraphrase it by saying, "Condemn not, or you too will be condemned."

Earlier on in the Sermon on the Mount (of which this passage is a part of) we see Jesus say, "Forgive so that your Father will forgive you." (Matthew 6:14) The same concept is found in this section. Jesus is saying that if we choose to condemn people, then by the same standards we too will be condemn. Maybe by God, maybe by other people.

Why is this a problem? It shows a lack of grace. Romans 3:23 says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." None of us are perfect. We all stumble and fall. We make mistakes. And when we condemn others for sin...we are passing judgment. Judgment is something only God, who is perfect in every way, is worthy of dispensing.

That's why Jesus goes on to say what He says about the sawdust and the plank. Do you realize that the sins we hate in others are the ones we struggle with most mightily? We can't help with someone's speck when we really can't even see past our plank. Jesus says that those who try are hypocrites.

But, as I said before, we like to use this verse to have folks lay off, right? That's not His point. Jesus said we need to remove the plank before we HELP with the sawdust.

Let's be clear. Scripture is very straightforward about helping one another avoid the entanglements of sin. Galatians 6:1 is a great example. It says, "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently." Notice a key word in the text...GENTLY.

So what's my point? I'm getting to it. I think removing a plank from your eye is a very humbling experience. Something that can only be done by the grace of God. When you experience this, you know what it's like. You can gently, and lovingly, help your fellow believer through the removal of his or her speck.

It isn't done by considering them a horrible person. How can you form an opinion about somebody when you've been guilty of the same thing, perhaps even more so than your friend? It's done by gently and loving reminding each other that the sin we encounter is not God's plan for our lives.

So the next time you are about to throw this verse out hoping someone can't hold you accountable for something you might have done, remember, if they're your brother or sister in Christ, they do have a right. And, if you are that brother or sister who's doing the encouraging...make sure you do it in humbleness and love.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Incredible I am Not

Ever feel like Bob Parr? He's Mr. Incredible's secret identity. For awhile, Bob was forced to abandon the superhero life, and work as an insurance guy. All the while, he would have rather been out saving the world.

Well now, I have never had superpowers. And I've never saved the world before. But there are times when I feel like I should be doing something else. Something...important. Something BIG!

Don't get me wrong. Marriage and fatherhood are great adventures in and of themselves. Not dissatisfied with that aspect of my life at all. I love my wife, and I adore my kids. It's the career thing that bogs me down sometimes.

Again...I am not complaining. I have a great job. I love my boss, and I'm not just saying this because he could read this if he wanted. I work with a great group of people. But is it what I'm MEANT to do?

That's what I'm wondering. I wonder sometimes if I should write more, as if I have something of substance to say. (I'm not sure that I do.) I wonder if I should go into the ministry, but I don't do well enough as a "civilian" Christian. What makes me think I could be a leader?

I think most of this is because I didn't wake up one day and say, "Gee, I want to be a banker." And if you know me, it really isn't me. It's what I do, right now. But it isn't who I am. I think I'm still searching for that.

But also because I feel I have talent. (I could be wrong.) I feel like I am gifted in certain areas, and I'm not utilizing them much at present. I am afraid that these talents, like muscles that never see use, will atrophy. I really don't want that to happen.

And so I write. Conveying thoughts to you, the general public, for no reason other than that I have to say something. I have to exercise the writing muscle. I wish I did it more.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

American Idolatry

(Disclaimer: This post may step on somebody's toes. Sorry in advance. Not intentionally trying to toe step, but I feel this needs to be said.)

I was conversing today with a friend via twitter. We were talking about idolatry. And I have come to a conclusion. It is my belief that a majority of American Christians have a least one unrealized idols in their lives.

Now an idol can be anything that we put before, or love more than, God. For me, it's been coffee or RPGs or text messaging or Facebook or any number of other things. God is gracious and refining me at this point in my life. I am sure before it is said and done, He will reveal many more.

Now idols don't have to be bad things. They are bad things because they take undue importance in our lives. One such idol I believe plagues many American Christians is Patriotism. Yes...sometimes we love our country more than we love God.

How can this be so? When someone does something you feel is anti-American, how do you react? I mean even if it's as simple as believing in gun-control to something as radical as Islamic radicals wanting to destroy our country. How do you react? If it isn't in a loving, non-negative are guilty of idolatry.

I will elaborate. God says throughout several Scriptures (and for brevity's sake I am not listing them at this point) that if you love Him, you will obey His commands. Right? And throughout the New Testament, we urged to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-45), use our tongues for good and not for evil (James 3:3-11 among others), and various other commands demanding our respect and love for others.

If we choose to curse men, to hate them, to wish them ill-will, then we are not acting in accordance with Scripture. If the reason we do these things is because they either disagree with us politically, or even are set on destroying our country, we are saying we love our country more than our Lord.

I have been bothered by this for sometime, and have just been unable to articulate it. I could perhaps go on, but time restrains me. I would be most interested in hearing your thoughts.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Phil. 2:3

Isn’t it funny how God can use things you encounter in life to teach you about yourself? Every now and again, He uses something I see, hear, or read to give me an “ah-ha” kind of moment. Well, He struck again.

Last night I tweeted about seeing two individuals looking as if they were about to start duking it out at any moment. Though no punches were thrown, there was lots of verbal sparring. I remember silent praying, “Please don’t let one of them be the person I’m delivering to.” And when no one answered the door to the apartment I was bringing pizza to, I was definitely afraid one was.

That being said, I had to stand there and listen to one of the individuals belittle and berate the other one. Now, I didn’t see the incident that kicked off the whole thing. By what I overheard I ascertained one of the guys kicked at the other guy’s dog. Who knows what may have brought that about? But the dog owner’s reaction was, in my opinion, overblown.

Here’s what got me. The dog’s owner, whom we will from now on refer to as “white collar guy” belittled and berated the individual whom we will refer to as “blue collar guy”. (These tags will become clear momentarily.) I mean, white collar guy was rude! He called blue collar guy a multitude of names, a number of which I will not repeat. But among them were names issued contemptuously, like “blue collar” and “redneck”.

During this conversation, the white collar guy insulted blue collar’s intelligence, his income, and his home stability. I never really heard what blue collar was saying, because white collar kept shouting him down. Or maybe he was trying to maintain some modicum of decorum. I don’t know.

And I remember thinking that one should never treat another human being that way. No one should ever talk to another person the way white collar was talking to blue collar. It made me sad, partially because I’m a little “white collar” myself, and I felt bad that this guy was misrepresenting.

Here’s where God showed up and tweaked my nose. You see, I tell myself that I would never talk to anybody in such a manner. But God revealed to me that, sometimes, white collar guy resides in my head.

We all have our prejudices. None of them are really okay. Not for a believer anyway. And I have to confess that there is a part of me that looks down on the rednecks of the world. Not because I am better (and I certainly don’t make more money) but because I think differently than they do.

So yeah, though I like to believe I don’t use choice words in my head in reference to others, I have been known to mutter “idiot” or “moron” to myself, or via inner dialogue about people who don’t see things exactly the way I do. And I got to see, first hand, how ugly that really looks.
Let this be an apology as well as a confession. I am deeply sorry. Sorry for considering myself better than anyone for any reason. Sorry that I would be condescending, even if it’s only in my thoughts. Philippians 2:3 says: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” I need to work on that. Forgive me while He develops this in me?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Thoughts On Open Carry

So about this whole "Open Carry" thing here in Texas. I find myself strangely ambivalent. Which is odd coming from such a hard core liberal as myself. (Just kidding. I am neither hard core nor completely liberal when it comes to politics.) I am, however, a strange juxtaposition of gun control and gun rights. Which, I suppose, explains the ambivalence.

Let me explain. First of all, I think because the Constitution says we have the right to bear arms, we have...the right bear arms. But I think where I disagree with some gun right proponents is what constitutes as an arm we have the right to bear. Confused yet? I'll expound.

The word arm, in context to our conversation and as defined by just about any dictionary, means weapon. Now a weapon can be anything from a gun to a knife, a pistol to a missile. And though you may disagree with me, I hardly think that our forefathers had nukes in mind when they wrote the 2nd Amendment. I also don't think they believed we would never advance in weaponry beyond what was available in the 17th century.

So the first question I can think of when it comes to this topic is: Where do we draw the line at what is a reasonable weapon for a common citizen to have readily available? Though I am sure Uzis are extremely cool, I don't think it's a necessary addition to Joe Blow's already extensive collection.

Second of all, let's discuss what a right really is. Again, the dictionary defines it as something due to a person or governmental body by law, tradition, or by nature. But I would ask this: Is everyone really due the ability to own a weapon?

For example, let's say we have a paranoid schizophrenic. Now, when said individual takes his prescribed medication, said individual is possibly a productive member of society. But would you really want to put a gun in the hands of such an individual during a paranoid episode? I wouldn't.

By and large, I say we should keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. You know, like murderers, mobsters, and morons. But that's just me. Seriously, we have to admit that there are some citizens of our nation who would be better off without access, and we, too, would be better off without them having access.

Now, this of course begs the question: Who decides who has the right? And this is a fair question. One that cannot be easily answered. Someone will always somehow feel slighted.

But carry...still not generally opposed to it. And here's why. You have to be licensed to carry. That means that someone, somewhere, developed a testing program that qualifies people to be responsible gun owners/carriers. Also, since we already have concealed handgun licenses at this point anyway, what's the difference between carrying where we can see, and carrying when we can't. Their still carrying!

And that, I'm afraid, is my two cents.