Just Put It on My Card

People are tricky. Hurtful, even. We all have deep and painful memories of hurts caused by people.

And sometimes the sharpest arrows shot in our direction come from those we least expect: fellow Christians.

Christian Disagreement

Christian discord and disagreement can be hard to put a finger on. If we are all one family, adopted by God and redeemed by Him, how is it that we even have relationship difficulties with each other?

Sometimes we forget that we are still humans. Sinners. And so are they.

There will be friction between any people, whether or not they believe in Jesus Christ. Sometimes it can even be harder to forgive a fellow Christian because our expectations for them are higher and the relationship is—or should be—deeper.

So what do we do when hurt happens?

Charge It to My Account

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:12-13).

After reading this passage, late theologian Jerry Bridges wrote in The Blessing of Humility: “In effect, Paul is saying that we don’t have a choice: Because we have been forgiven so much, we have an obligation to forgive those who sin against us. Yet our motive for forgiving should not be our obligation but the realization of how much we have been forgiven.”

Bridges goes on to share the story of Philemon, a friend of Paul’s. Philemon owned a slave. (That can be so hard for our 21st-century minds to wrap around, and there is no question that slavery is a dehumanizing practice. That being said, first-century slavery was not always as horrendous as the racist and genocidal slavery our American history is more familiar with. The Bible does not condone slavery, but does acknowledge its existence.)

Onesimus had run away from Philemon and likely stolen from him in the process, but then spent time with Paul and became a Christian—like Philemon. Now, Paul wrote, Philemon and Onesimus have more in common than they have different. He asked Philemon to accept Onesimus back as a brother. What’s more, Paul assured him, if he owes you anything, I will pay it.

“These are touching words,” Bridges wrote. “Paul, in prison, says, ‘charge that to my account.’ This is what Jesus says to the Father: ‘Charge Jerry’s sin to my account’—and He paid for it all through His death on the cross.”

It’s Paid

In full. In this world, we will sometimes have bones to pick with our fellow Christians—people “for whom Christ died” (see Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11). This doesn’t mean those hurts aren’t valid. But they’re already covered.

It’s as if, instead of meting out punishment and arbitrarily declaring winners and losers, He hands us His card with that pierced hand and says, “Charge it to My account.”

If someone is a Christian, all of their sins are paid for by the blood of Christ. All of them. Sins they already committed. Sins they will commit tomorrow. Sins they committed in secret. Sins they committed against us. There is no question those wrongs hurt—but they are already paid for. By the same God who paid for ours.

How can we argue with that?

For When It’s Hard…

Which is always, by the way. Forgiveness is hard. Sometimes the situations seems complicated and tricky to work through, and sometimes they actually are very complicated.

When we are in those hard situations, it will help us to remember that our God is the One who “sees in secret” (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18) and He knows how much that forgiveness costs us. It cost him, too.

Yes, it is hard, but we still push through it to reach out to our fellow believers. We still forgive.

As we have been forgiven.

When a Princess Meets Reality

I grew up watching Beauty and the Beast. The yellow-wearing princess has always been my favorite of the Disney lineup, and songs like “Be Our Guest” or “Tale as Old as Time” bring back nostalgic childhood memories like few others.

There’s just something about princess stories. We have pulled application from them before, and preschoolers aren’t the only girls drawn to them, as evidenced by The Princess Diaries and even William and Kate’s televised wedding.

So a Disney live-action remake? Count me in.

Sad, Sad Story

I finally watched it recently, and was not disappointed. The music, the animation, the effects—all blew me away right down memory lane.

There were a few things I didn’t remember. (For sure, this Disney remake had more controversy than Cinderella, but this post is neither a review nor an endorsement. Everyone needs to make their own decisions on movie choices, and if you would like more information before making yours, please check reviews like this one by Focus on the Family.) There were a handful of scenes and songs that I don’t recall from the animated version, but then I haven’t watched it in awhile.

In one memorable scene, Belle is beginning to realize the hopelessness of the castle residents as they live under the spell. Will anything change for them? Mrs. Potts firmly tells her not to worry about them, and the housewares calmly—but a bit sadly—begin to walk away.

In Disney fashion, a song breaks out, begun by the Beast as a child and joined in by Maestro Cadenza, Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, and others. They sing of days gone by that they wish they could see again, and wonder if they will ever see the end of this spell.

Then the focus returns to Belle. “How in the midst of all this sorrow, can so much hope and love endure?” she asks. No one answers.

“I was innocent and certain, now I’m wiser but unsure. I can’t go back into my childhood, one that my father made secure; I can feel a change in me, I’m stronger now, but still not free.”

Belle and the Beast had already begun to experience the love the enchantress spoke of, but still the effects of the spell bound everyone in the house. It was sad—really sad. But hopeful.

We know another story like that.

Spells and Curses

Just days after I finally watched the Disney remake, and not far from where I live, a young bride and groom were in a car accident the day after their wedding. Both passed away within forty-eight hours.

How does hope still live with something like this?

In less traumatic ways, every single one of us knows that life is hard. There are griefs and regrets, hard and draining things that sap our energy and—sometimes—make us wish for that childhood we remember as so carefree.

All of creation groans under a spell of its own, a curse (Romans 8:22-23), wondering if it will ever be broken. Love has come and broken it, sacrificing Himself for our freedom, but still we live here. We are different, for sure, but still here in this mess, and still not experiencing in full the freedom Jesus gave us.

How do we live in this dark world when we know we are made for and set free for a greater one? How do we keep our hope and love one other when we’re constantly surrounded by sadness that only seems to get worse?

“How in the midst of all this sorrow, can so much hope and love endure?”

Real Hope for Real Pain

We are in the midst of so much sorrow. But it is temporary sorrow—still very, very real, and oh so hard, but temporary. “Take heart,” Jesus told us. “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And all the sorrow in it.

Our hope doesn’t ignore or deny any of this pain. If anything, as followers of the God whose own Son died a horrific death, we know that pain and suffering and grief and trouble are undeniable and painful. But in our grief and trouble, we remember that the Son who died also rose again; He is now living victorious and extends that victory—and life—to us.

We know the spell is already broken.

This pain is real, yes. But so is hope—an unshakeable hope founded in God who promised that there is an eternity of life and love waiting for those who are His children. We can bank on it.

We can know that every tear will be wiped away.

We can know that there is something so beyond our belief waiting for us—and for those we love who love God, too.

We can know that the purpose of our lives goes beyond our time on earth, and that at the end of that time we will not be absorbed into soulless oblivion—or turned into inanimate objects (“Rubbish,” Cogsworth insists).“This world is a great sculptor’s shop,” C.S. Lewis wrote. “We are the statues and there’s a rumor going around the shop that some of us are someday going to come to life.” It’s not just a rumor: it’s real, and it’s coming.

The sorrow is still here. It will be for awhile. But hope and love endure with it, and one day we will fully, completely, finally come to life.

Image source: Disney

The Love of a Father

I didn’t mean to think of Him like that. I didn’t realize how lacking my view of God was, how off-course it was.

Growing up, I had – unconsciously – always thought of God as more of a wishy-washy Someone who “asked” to be “let into” my heart, and who only intervened in human problems when we asked Him to.

But that’s different now. I have come to a deeper understanding of the grandeur and big-ness of God—the One who created the world with a word and who sustains it day after day, molecule by tiny atom, without ever becoming tired or changing His mind or dropping the ball, so to speak.

The “Sunday School God” ideas I remember have given way to an all-knowing, unstoppable God. But at the same time, I wonder…maybe there are some things from Sunday School I shouldn’t forget.

Strong Views

I am truly, honestly, deeply grateful for reformed theology. In the last few years as I have come to (slowly) understand more of these doctrines, it has grown in me a trust in God’s ability over a reliance on my own lack of ability. I have found assurance that He is able to do the work in me that I can’t produce on my own, and I have found rest in doctrines that are well-supported biblically. Salvation is through His work and not mine. There is great peace in that.

But I have also learned to be careful. In swinging from one extreme (wishy-washy Sunday School God) to the other side (sovereign, all-powerful God), I have to remember to follow Biblical truth and not just doctrines organized by man—however Scripturally supported they are. I have to remember that “[s]uch is the human tendency to overcorrect,” as one historian noted.

Reformed theology can have a somewhat negative reputation. Absolute sovereignty, if referenced out of proportion to other doctrines, begins to sound like a power-crazy king who rules without tenderness or any concern for others. We hear phrases (and sermons) like “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” and remind ourselves constantly of the total depravity of man.

All of which are true, but they aren’t the whole story. Continue reading The Love of a Father

Why, Why, Why

As a toddler teacher, I am no stranger to The Why Stage. It seems like they just started forming words at all and now all of my words have to have articulated reasons to support them.

Every child gets there. And every parent that comes in my classroom has experienced it—or will very soon.

“It’s time to go home, honey,” a mom will say when she picks her child up.

“Why?”

“Because it’s dinnertime.”

“Why?”

“Because we’re hungry.”

“Why?”

Because. Just because.

But toddlers are people, too, and their “Why?” questions point to a human reality that may be hidden deep but resides in each of us.

There are things we wonder about.

Mark 2

I know that headings aren’t inspired, but my Bible translation divides Mark 2 into four passages which are (paraphrased): Jesus heals a paralytic, Jesus calls a tax collector to be a disciple, people notice Jesus’ disciples didn’t fast, and people saw Jesus disciples’ pick grain on the Sabbath.

If we take each of these as separate stories, we can draw out applications and catalog the stories in our memories. We can make our little outline and determine what we’re supposed to think about it.

But they’re one story—just like the entire Bible itself. And if we read them together, we’ll see something: In each of these four passages, somebody asks “Why?”

And none of them are toddlers.

Continue reading Why, Why, Why