We must speak our pain

One of the hardest things anyone could ever do is share the deepest struggle in our lives. Maybe it is the baggage you carry from childhood or something that happened to us. It could be lies that we believe about ourselves or insecurities over our inadequacies.

We all have a story of pain. Why? Because we are all human. We are all alive. To live is to experience pain. Though at times, I wish it wasn’t, it is.

I believe that the story of pain in our lives must be told. We must speak our pain. If not, we allow the pain to hold us captive. I love what Zora Neale Hurston says,

“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.”

When we embrace the pain and speak of it in healthy ways, it holds us accountable. Our pain becomes like a wet cloth on a dirty window. As we move the cloth across the surface, the pain attaches to the cloth, slowly revealing the clear glass underneath. As our story escapes our lips, it begins to reveal our actual state. Are we broken, embittered, jaded, cynical, angry, apathetic? As Rob Bell writes,

“Pain has a way of making us more honest.”

He continues,

“The ache reminds us that things aren’t how they’re supposed to be. The ache cuts through all the static, all of the ways we avoid having to actually feel things. The ache reassures us that we’re not the only ones who feel this way.”

Here’s the thing…

We often do feel like we are doing it alone. I believe we all know that in the words of REM, everybody hurts, sometimes. The thing is that though we know, we don’t always believe it. The silence of pain has a way of tricking us into thinking we are alone. As we begin to speak our pain, others hear, and it helps them realize they aren’t alone. There is no need to suffer in silence. Bottling up and hiding away the pain that eats your heart and soul isn’t doing you or anyone else any good. It is not until we begin to speak what has happened or is happening that change can occur.

Society, families, cultures, organizations, governments, circles are all made of broken people acting in broken ways. If the wrong is never voiced, things continue as they once were. If your pain is never told, no one can help you put together the broken pieces. If it is never voiced, someone can’t confirm that what happened to you is wrong or speak words of truth into your life. If you don’t speak your pain, that status quo is allowed to continue.

Richard Rohr writes, “Pain that isn’t processed is passed on.” And that’s the kicker.

When we don’t speak our pain, we give it a life to continue and it continues through our life.

The passing on of pain is what we see in the life of Jacob found in the book of Genesis. The man has some serious baggage in his life through choices his parents have made, and the lies he has chosen to believe. Jacob has a choice to live out his pain or speak it. Jacob lives it out, and it affects his whole family.

Dysfunction doesn’t even begin to explain Jacob’s family. The pain is passed on and never spoken. After all, as Rohr also states, “Pain that isn’t transformed is transmitted.” The silent killer of pain that hides in your heart is there. More than likely, it’s there because someone else is transmitting theirs.

Now you have the choice.

The ball is in your court.

You now have the control.

Do you transmit the pain? Or speak the pain.

Speak, we must. Speak it to friends, family, perpetrators, spouses, children, parents, victims.

If we never speak the pain, we can never learn. If we never learn, we will never grow. If we never grow, we will continue to do what we have always done, not maturing into the people we are created to be.

Most importantly, we must speak our pain to God. The shortest verse in the Scriptures says, “Jesus wept.” Jesus didn’t weep because someone called Him a name or because He stepped on a piece of lego.

Jesus wept because He felt the pain of His friends.

And so He does with yours. God sees you. He hears you. You’re not alone in the fight. God is here, and so are others, but for us to bear the weight with you…

We must speak our pain.

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Jesus For Prime Minister part 2

They never had a thought about the environment. Education is handled within sub-communities. Health care was up to the individual and the individual alone. Military a presence in their everyday life, people to whom they hoped they would not have to interact. Men ruled and there were no social services service programs or anything, yet they had to pay their taxes.

In part 1 we discussed the political nature of Old Testament prophecy and Jesus’ birth and death. We discussed that though Jesus’ world was vastly different that there is overlap. Finally, we explored that Jesus came to establish a kingdom that is vastly different from our idea of a kingdom and clashes with the powers that be. It is Christ that is our hope, not a political party or politician.

To follow Jesus’ teachings that ultimately inform our politic, we must realize that Jesus speaks of a personal revolution within our hearts, a communal response to the action of God, and an eternal outlook when thinking about God’s kingdom. As followers of Christ we are called to life out a Christ centred Kingdom in the here and now, and one day, Jesus will return, bringing heaven to earth, restoring it to how it is meant to be. This means that when we hear Jesus’ teachings, we must hear that it isn’t just personal. Yes, there are personal aspects. However, if we stop there, we miss the hope. 

Bell and Golden write,

Jesus wants to save us from preaching a gospel that is only about individuals and not about the systems that enslave them. Jesus wants to save us from shrinking the gospel down to a transaction about the removal of sin and not about every single particle of creation being reconciled to its maker. 

It is so easy to personalize what Jesus came to do. After all, Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (Jn 10:10). It seems personal, which it is in one aspect. However, it is social. Community and relationship is an essential part of what Jesus says and does. Two aspects of Jesus’ teaching and ministry need to be known.

1) Jesus came to speak of an eternity with Him that goes beyond this life.

2) Jesus came to speak of a hope that begins in the here and now.

To understand Jesus’ teachings, we must realize that He speaks of salvation that starts in the here and now and carries us into eternity. Jesus isn’t just about eternity. Jesus isn’t just about now. Jesus is about an eternity that begins in the now. N.T. Wright says,

But he wasn’t teaching his followers how to rise above the mess of the world. He was training them to be kingdom bringers.

As we turn this to discuss politics, we can not remove the personal communal ethic Christ calls us to.

What a leader looks like

We begin looking at the type of leader whom Christ calls our leaders to be. The obvious point which we won’t discuss is one that they yield to Christ. God wants all people to yield to him. Hopefully, a leader who professes Christ as their king would live out that Godly lifestyle. However, just because you call yourself a Christian, it doesn’t you are a leader.

There is an aspect of biblical leadership, leadership that I believe we should demand from those in elected office.

Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.”

Lk 22:25–26

Jesus isn’t saying that we need to be young and servants by profession. Jesus calls leaders, and, all followers of him, to behave in such a way where they seek to raise others then have others raise them.

I believe that this is a vitally important aspect of how we should think about the leader we are electing. Is it a person who humbly serves those they lead or do they lord over them, forcing the agenda that best serves them?

Fiscal 

Jesus also talked about money a lot. Money was an issue then, and it is an issue today. There is the famous passage of spies sent from the teachers of the law to trap Jesus. But, Jesus ain’t no foo’.

“Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” He saw through their duplicity and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Lk 20:21–25

John Yoder explains this,

…the attribution’ to Caesar Caesar’s things and to God God’s things’ points rather to demands or prerogatives which somehow overlap or compete, needing to be disentangled. What is Caesar’s and what is God’s are not on different levels, so as never to clash; they are in the same arena.

It is not our money, nor is it the governments’. The money we have has been entrusted to us through the blessing and grace of God. Thus we must honour him with it. I spoke about money in a series inFebruary at my church, I encourage you to listen to that http://www.lifeboatchurch.ca/podcasts/media/2019-02-03-who-do-you-serve.

If these are our values, the party we vote for should reflect this.

There is an important aspect of the fiscal portfolio, and it is debt. We are in a debt crisis as a country. The baby boomers are the first generation that cannot retire until they receive their inheritance. That is not a way to live, and it is not how God wants us to live. For Jesus, he picks up on an Old Testament instruction from God regarding financial inequality. In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus says, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Yoder points out that,

“Jesus is not simply recommending vaguely that we might pardon those who have bothered us or made us trouble, but tells us purely and simply to erase the debts of those who owes us money; that is to say, practice the jubilee.”

Leviticus tells of the Jubilee,

Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan.

Le 25:10

There is much to this that we need to understand. Jesus isn’t calling us to communism.

While we can’t go into all it entails, the Jubilee meant they were to free their slaves, forgive each other’s debts, return family lands, and as the whole sabbath for a year, trusting God. This was to be a sabbatical year. This was meant in the words of Yoder, “to liberate people and not to enslave them.” Think of systemic poverty and how this would solve it. Yoder does clarify,

The honesty of the debtor should correspond to the generosity of the lender. the debtor should not hide behind the protection of the law of the sabbath to avoid keeping his commitments.

There are guidelines within the OT law that we need to make ourselves aware of before we use this as a blanket principle. If you’re looking for an OT principle on finance, this is it

Military 

When it comes to the military, it can be complicated whether you subscribe to complete pacifism vs. just war. No matter which end you find yourself on, Jesus is always freeing people from oppression, standing up for those who have no voice, ministering to those in need, and serving the least of these. Richard Rohr writes,

“Jesus told us to love our enemies because he saw his Father doing it all the time, and all spirituality is merely the ‘imitation of God’ (Ephesians 5:1)”

We are imitators of Christ. A Christ politic doesn’t take resources; it doesn’t exploit; it doesn’t oppress. Within this complicated matter, we must see that Jesus calls us to enemy love and to be givers of life.

Social Services 

As we mover to social services, I don’t think we need to spend too much time focused on this. I have included Scripture references in the notes. Of course, this connects to Jubilee, and what we see in the first church in Acts where they sold land to take care of each other and made sure no one was in need. Jesus stands up for the poor, for the social outcast, and determines people have value.

If people have value, it means that no matter who they are, what they have done, where they are, we are to care for them. As a nation where even the poorest has more than a lot of the world, we have the means to care for each other.

Equality 

Jesus also taught of a kingdom of equality. It didn’t matter the race, creed, social-economic place someone found themselves Jesus believed in equal opportunity. Greg Boyd writes,

Jesus inaugurated a kingdom that was to include all people and in which all nationalistic, economic, and gender distinctions as well as all the walls of division and all the power hierarchies that are based on those distinctions, would be torn down and rendered meaningless.”

Jesus’ idea of a kingdom had nothing to do with our borders, nationalism is pagan. It sets up racism, xenophobia, and stereotypes. The struggle is how this manifests within our structure we’ve have, and struggle we must. John 3:16 declares that “God so loved the world.” If God loves everyone, how do we reflect that? It means we must strive by all means necessary to see equality in both our nation and the world. Thus we must also seek policies that reflect. Further than policies, we must insist that our leaders act and live them out in their personal life.

What it Looks like – Beatitudes

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t look at the most political statement Jesus makes that sums everything up. 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, 
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are those who mourn, 
for they will be comforted. 
Blessed are the meek, 
for they will inherit the earth. 
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 
for they will be filled. 
Blessed are the merciful, 
for they will be shown mercy. 
Blessed are the pure in heart, 
for they will see God. 
Blessed are the peacemakers, 
for they will be called children of God. 
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, 
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

Mt 5:3–12

I will leave this to the words of someone much smarter than I.

“This is what it looks like, today, when Jesus is running the world. This is, after all, what he told us to expect. The poor in spirit will be making the kingdom of heaven happen. The meek will be taking over the earth, so gently that the powerful won’t notice until it’s too late. The peacemakers will be putting the arms manufacturers out of business. Those who are hungry and thirsty for God’s justice will be analyzing government policy and legal rulings and speaking up on behalf of those at the bottom of the pile. The merciful will be surprising everybody by showing that there is a different way to do human relations other than being judgemental, eager to put everyone else down.”

Jesus’ clear teaching is that the real kingdom is not one of power that lords over others. God’s kingdom is one of self-giving love. It is one that brings hope to the hopeless, life to the lifeless, and give worth to those who feel worthless. It is one that does not seek to take advantage of others. It is one of liberty. God’s kingdom, the one that Jesus taught us about, the one that our life should reflect is one of love. It’s a love that rises about social class, economic class, race, or nationalism. It is love that threatens the status quo. Love is the politic of Christ. 

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What if we’re all just trying too hard

We were all from different backgrounds. White, black, male, female, middle-aged, young, theologically trained, laypersons–all from different denominations. There was something that united us and brought us together–we wanted to grow closer to God.

While we build our discussions around a book, like any group that’s worth going to, we digress to the issues of the heart. 

Hatred, family, struggle. 

These things arose in conversation. 

Boundaries, community, grace.

These were discussed as a solution.

They were important topics that flowed out of one question, what do we do with the Old Testament. Everyone in this group needed a new paradigm to understand. Looking at it through the lens of Christ is a great idea, but sometimes it is so tough to see Christ. Books like, What is the BibleCrucifixion of the Warrior God, and Cross Vision came up. We even discussed understanding the Scriptures as Midrash

The Bible is hard. Some passages don’t make sense.

What do you do with that?

It can be super stressful. Have you been there?

Here, our life is supposed to be built on the person of Jesus who we see primarily in the Scriptures, yet there is so much that doesn’t make sense. There is so much more. However, that is beautiful, life-giving, and challenges us to live a bigger and better way–that calls us to a higher standard.

As we talked, discussed, struggled, someone said something simple, yet, profound. “What if we’re all just trying too hard.”

Boom!

He referenced a scholar who said that studying Scripture is just something he does. It was fun. 

Maybe the reason we can’t have productive conversations around the Scriptures in cross-denominational circles without someone being offended, angry, and calling another a Heretic is because we take ourselves way too seriously.

Of course, church history doesn’t bode well in this light, either. Saint Nicolas once punched Arius in the face during a theological debate.

I believe the Scriptures are to be wrestled with. The story of Jacob makes that clear. But when we take ourselves too seriously, we cannot approach the Bible with humility.

When we take ourselves too seriously, whatever opinion we derive from the text becomes what the text is saying, and when that is challenged, that challenge is against us as a person.

We need the Holy Spirit to speak to us and allow the Spirit to speak through the Scriptures. We must know that whatever ideas, doctrines, concepts we extract from the Scriptures are not exhaustive. Why? Because we’re not God. We have fallible lives. We are not omniscient. 

We need the Holy Spirit to speak to us and through us. We need the community to challenge us, offering different perspectives that push our interpretive paradigm a little further–stretching us in how we interact with the text.

Humble hearts are what’s required with this text. The ancient words–this God-breathed text–these profound but sometimes archaic words, can change our life in radically good ways. First, we must realize we’re not God. We need community and humility. More importantly, though, we need the Holy Spirit to minister to us.

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Grace ≥Forgiveness

One of the revolutions that Jesus taught us was the power of forgiveness. During a time of revenge and equal compensation, Jesus flips everything on its head and says, “Forgive.”

The problem is forgiveness is hard!

Yet it is freeing.

Sometimes freedom is hard. Sometimes freedom is a push. But when you taste freedom, you realize just how worth it, it is. As Cook and Baldwin point out in their fantastic book Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness, “Forgiveness is not compromise.” However, when is enough, enough?

One day Jesus has a little powwow with his disciples. They are talking about so many of life’s issues. Greatness, sin, hurt. It is here when Peter, whether it be that he takes exception or just requires a little clarity, asks an important question that we have probably all asked.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Matt 18:21-22

When confronted with how many times we are to forgive the repentant a person Jesus answer is, always. While Peter wants to quantify the number, Jesus states that true repentance’s response is continual true forgiveness. As Russell Brand points out,


“Forgiveness means letting go. It means being willing to accept that we are all mortals flawed and suffering, imperfectly made and trying our best.”

This doesn’t mean that there are no boundaries or consequence. It just means that both parties choose to live free of the infraction. Jesus articulates one of these critical boundaries as he explains what forgiveness is supposed to look like in our lives.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Mt 18:23–35

What becomes clear is that the reason we are to forgive is that we have been forgiven. No matter how many times we fall at the feet of Jesus confessing our wrongdoing, admitting that we can do nothing to make it right, Christ welcomes us. Again, Brand rightly points out,


“How can I expect forgiveness if I am unwilling to forgive?”

Though we live and fight the double standard that seems natural to us, Christ calls us to forgive just as we have been forgiven.

However, if we think forgiveness is all there is and you are waiting on the sidelines holding that grudge, waiting to forgive that person when they finally ask for it, you might have a rude awakening. While Jesus talks about the power of forgiveness, the reason that you can forgive is that we have done something first—we have extended grace.

So what is grace? To this, I look to people who are much smarter than me. Bell and Bell write,

“Grace doesn’t brush over our sins and failures and faults—it sees them clearly in all their Technicolor mess.”

Grace isn’t about ignoring what has happened. It sees it in its fullness. It considers the immense brokenness in what has happened. Brennan Manning points out,


“The gospel of grace announces, Forgiveness precedes repentance.”

Grace goes before. It is the first move. Grace says, whether you repent or not I’m going to be free and I’m going to free you. They may choose, and we often to do, to remain captive, but we refuse to and refuse to put them in the cell.

But why? Shouldn’t we want justice—for things that were wrong to be made right? Yes, we should. However, it is knowing that God is the perfect judge and choosing to say, in the words of Sting, “I could be you in another life, in another set of circumstances.” The apostle Paul explains grace to the church in Rome like this

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Rom 5:8

While we were still opposed to who God is—while we even walked our own direction—while we still admitted no wrongdoing, Christ gave his life for us. The day of the crucifixion, Jesus could have taken himself off the cross and said, “forget about helping all you ungrateful people.” Or while in the grave, as we waited for Saturday to end said, “well, they abandon me in a minute. They don’t really believe. Peace out.”

Though we didn’t deserve it, God showed us, love. He made the first move. This is the picture of a desperate Father running to his kid. Augustin writes,

“He did not delay, but ran crying out loud by his words, deeds, death, life, descent, and ascent—calling us to return to him.”

God knew we couldn’t do it on our own. That’s what the law was all about. God stoops his ideal to reach us. However, He knew we could never do it, that is why the law is proceeded with, “when you fail.” Though we had no power to pick ourselves up out of the muck of life, Christ can. If we back up from verse 8 to 6, we God’s love shining through. The Message puts verse 6 like this,


“Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway.”

Ro 5:6

If asking forgiveness is putting the power into someone else’s hands, then grace is God saying, I will put the power back in your hands. However, this isn’t power so you can lord over others. This is the power that allows you to step out of the prison cell Christ has opened for you.

This power Christ puts back in our hands is the power of humility. It’s the power to say, I can’t do it on my own, I need the eternal God. While forgiveness can create superiority, us waiting for someone else to look up and say I’m sorry. God gives grace. Grace lifts the other up and admits you are not superior, we are all the same. We all make bad choices, some more destructive than others, but we are always one decision away from finding ourselves in the same shoes. Grace is saying, but for God, I too would be lost to the eternal consequences of my misdeeds.

Grace is always greater than forgiveness

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