Last Wednesday after work, as I am entering the house my younger son runs toward me with a red face and tears in his eyes. The two words he manages to scream are, “not fair!” Over and over. “What’s not fair?” you may wonder. Is it that his brother got more sweets? Appears to have more toys? Got to spend more time with his friends? Is choosing what activity they do together next? Nope. He found out that the night before, after he fell asleep, his brother spent an hour of one-on-one time with me. It is not fair that he didn’t get such treatment. Tonight, he must have his one-on-one with me, and his brother can disappear, for all he cares. By the way, this was not the first round of such provocation, and not the last.
Few things are as precious as that for a dad.
This perhaps sounds like an odd question. What do you mean? Doesn’t it just exist? One of the most difficult concepts for us Westerners to understand is the fact that much of the world is not like us. Though we boast in our pluralism, it actually seems to backfire on us and gets in the way of our ability to truly grasp the core differences that shape our world. One such difference is the presence and nature of true liberty.
We are often confused by such places like North Korea, or the radical terrorism of the Middle East. We betray our lack of understanding when we say such things as, “They just need education! If we can bring them Western ideals and discoveries they will be enlightened, civil and reasonable, like us.” Perhaps we don’t actually say these things out loud but I think that these are the ideas often sit at the base of our thoughts and impressions.
We live in a world that seems to be more divided than ever before. The issues that separate culture today are sharp and complex. We have seen the news. Race. Gender identity. Inequality. Corruption. Poverty. Terrorism. In this harsh setting, many christians feel utterly puzzled when it comes to expressing their faith in an effective and compelling way. Often times we don’t even know where to start.
Scripture calls the people of God to be a powerful missionary force of love, wisdom and healing in a world that is continually falling apart. Something is deeply missing in the lives of many christians today. They seem to be totally blind to the power of the answers that they hold.
The problem is that many of us have been raised in the religious setting but have never really asked ourselves how our christian convictions fit into the broader landscape of ideas that fill this world. We may have accepted our christianity as our faith system but we have never asked how it extents to all of life, or how it interacts with the big questions that every person around us is asking.
How does the gospel pass from simply being our private Sunday morning routine to empowering our thinking, speaking and action in every aspect of culture and society? How do we learn to think as christians in an anti-christian society? How do we deal with the complex line of questions that are fired at the church today?
These are just some of the questions that we will ask at this year’s youth retreat. Join us for a stimulating, challenging and empowering time of rooting ourselves deeper into the true power of the gospel for all of life.
Real christian love changes us. It makes us a completely different type of people. In a world of people seeking satisfaction and security, those who are in Christ are full to the brim. He gives himself to us so that we may be able to give ourselves to others.
There are two distinct changes that love makes in us. First of all, it fills us and creates within us a heart that is burdened to serve others. A heart full of Christ and his truth is a heart that cannot just sit still and stay selfish. Secondly, the burden of love that Christ puts on us drives us to discipline, diligence and perseverance in serving others. Although it impacts our heart powerfully, Christ’s love spreads to the whole person. It causes us to stop and think. It pushes us to evaluate our lives and find ways that we can and must serve most fruitfully in the church and in his kingdom.
If your heart is full of Christ, it will drive you to think deeply about the life of the church, it will cause you to evaluate the purpose of the church and all the different ways that you are present there. It will push you to look into how God is working in those areas and how you can give yourself. Having a deeper perspective on the work of God around you will help show the deeper significance of the “little” ways that you choose to serve. It teaches us to see that in God’s kingdom and in his work, there are no “little” people or “little” moments. Every act of Christ-driven love is an opportunity to make eternal impact on those around us. There is nothing more central to the practical christian walk than growing in love.
This week I have met in my reading an individual who has been challenging me in new and unique ways. Rosaria Butterfield was an English professor at Syracuse University. She was a stalwart feminist and defender of gay and lesbian rights. Rosaria met Jesus in the life and witness of a pastor who was willing to sit and discuss her worldview with her. The book is a fascinating read and very well written. There is so much in it that is challenging me, and so much that could be discussed. But perhaps the biggest thing that stands out to me as I work my way through the first half of the book is her discussion of her entrance into the christian world, and the complexities that this process caused.¹