Freedom of religion*

*The Constitution of the United States guarantees that those residing within its boarders should have the freedom to exercise their beliefs as they wish save for Christianity which must be kept private and practiced either within the confines of one’s own home or house of worship due to it’s highly offensive nature.

You mean there isn’t an asterisk within the First Amendment of the Constitution?  Could have fooled me.

I first started ranting to friends and family about this shortly before this years inauguration.  In the days leading up to the events, the pastor that had been chosen for the Benediction, Lou Giglio, stepped down from the honor amid a brewing controversy.

That controversy?  He had spoken out, according to his own recollection, about fifteen to twenty years before, against homosexuality, stating that it is a sin, (but here’s the real kicker-) but that they should still be loved and welcomed into the church.

The audacity.

One need only go as far as the comments on any news story on their homepage to see the strong reaction that people have to the message of Christianity.  One person even mentions Jesus in a comment and then five jump in and bash them for their “antiquated” and “false” beliefs, telling them to “keep their religion to themselves.”

Think about it.

I am sure that you have all had times where you have gathered with friends, or even family in a casual setting and the conversation turned to religion.  If those gathered were of mixed faiths, everything is fine, regardless of the religion being discussed and it even remains a casual discussion until the name of Jesus is put on the table.  Then things get serious and people begin to take offense.

How is it that someone that taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 19:19) can be a source of such offense?

I believe it comes from two sources.

1- the “audacity” of his assertion that “…I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NLT)

2- the fact that we, who are charged to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19 NLT) are flawed humans.

In my limited studies, I have not become aware of another school of religion that claims to be ‘the only way.’ Many Eastern systems of belief teach that there are many paths to truth and that what really matters is reaching the destination, not necessarily the path you take to get there.  This thought that all religions are “essentially the same at their heart,” has taken a strong hold and is commonly espoused.

Unfortunately, if one is a follower of Jesus Christ, they know it could not be further from the truth and is instead, very harmful.  Let’s look at that verse again:

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6 (NLT)

No one.  Not a single person.  Doesn’t matter how “good” that person is.  Why?

As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous- not even one.”

Romans 3:10 (NLT)

We are all sinners.  Every single one of us, was born into it.  It is inescapable in this world.  No matter how much we try to “be a good person,” we still fall short of God’s view of what it is to be good and righteous.  I believe it was the film Fireproof that painted the picture so well.  God’s standards are so high that to think that “I hate ____” is the same as murder.  Lusting after another is adultery.  We all know that “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23 NLT)

This is a far cry from other systems of belief that claim that, so long as you try to be good you will be rewarded in the hereafter/next life/etc.

But Jesus stood up and offered an answer.  That through Him, we could find guaranteed salvation.  Guaranteed!  What other system of belief lets you find peace knowing exactly what will happen to you when your time comes?  Rather than being a gamble, it’s assured.

But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift.  For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many.  But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.  And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin.  For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.

Romans 5:15-16 (NLT)

Then you mix this with the fact that those trying to pass this message along, (usually in clumsy electronic formats via posts, e-mails, texts, or blogs *cough*) are all flawed humans.  We misspeak.  We forget key parts of our “argument” when in the heat of the moment of a religious debate.  We screw up completely and come off as “preachy” or “greater than thou” instead of making it clear that we are coming alongside the other person as a fellow seeker and sinner offering the hope of the gift of grace that we have found.

So in the end, yes, I can see some of why it seems as though in this day and time, there is an asterisk after freedom of religion whenever it is brought up either by news outlets or even in general discussion.  Christianity can be very offensive depending on how it is presented.  We’re told to go out and teach.  Some see that as being told to go out and point fingers saying, “nu-uh, you’re wrong!”  But that is completely missing the spirit of the message- the grace of it.  If we miss the grace and leave it out of our discussions of Jesus, it’s as though we’re just passing on the message of a man who lived a good life.  But the fact is, that he died a sacrificial death for each and every one of us, in hope that we would accept the gift of grace despite our unworthiness, and thereby be reunited with our Heavenly Father.

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From common to superpower

My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment.

    Hang on to them,

for they will refresh your soul.

    They are like jewels on a necklace.

They keep you safe on your way,

    and your feet will not stumble.

Proverbs 3: 21-23 (NLT)

The joke for some time, has been that “common sense” is anything but common.  There have even been images circulating the internet that equate common sense to a super power.  How could it be that something that seems so obvious to some, be completely lost on others? 

To me, at least at this point in time, it seems to be as obvious as breathing.  I know though, that it was not always so for me.  I can look back and see times where I made some very bad calls that, had I just had a modicum of common sense at the time, would have turned out very differently. 

Guess what.

Those were also times where I was not walking with God as I should have been. 

To me, the apparent lack of “common” sense in today’s world doesn’t just speak to the fact that we’ve become so coddled, (political correctness, over the top regulations and warnings, etc) but that it primarily speaks to the fact that we are losing our religion.  Specifically, we’re not working on our relationship with God. 

In the verses above, David notes that common sense refreshes your soul.  Not just your outlook, or your overall sense of well-being, but your SOUL.  Last I checked, the soul was not something that could be helped by the physical or material world, (but could most certainly be harmed by it.)  Rather, the soul is tended to and nourished by God. 

When you’re in closer communion with Him, your soul flourishes.  When you walk away and become a slave to sin, your soul begins to die.  

Believe me though, when I say that the seeming irony is not lost on me.

Today’s world cherishes science.  It focuses on the seeming in-congruence between science “fact” and religion and uses that as justification to trust what you can see and leave behind the matters of faith.  And yet, the seemingly simplest way to make sense of the world and how to cope and deal with it comes from those that do their best to Walk by Faith.

But then again, I guess that seems pretty obvious, common sense if you will, to those that believe.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;

    do not depend on your own understanding.

Seek his will in all you do,

    and he will show you which path to take.

                           Proverbs 3: 5-6 (NLT)

 

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Your mindset determines your reality

People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong. Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom.

-Thich Nhat Hanh

There’s something that’s been eating slowly away at me.  It’s humanity’s willingness to embrace the negativity in others without question, while seemingly struggling to accept the positive.

Falsehoods and slander spread like wildfire across social media.  Even when it’s the same old “news” that has been debunked for years or maybe even decades.  It seems to be summed up pretty well with the e-card  that continues to circulate showing an image of Abraham Lincoln with a quote attributed to him stating, “The thing about quotes from the ineternet is that it’s hard to verify their authenticity.

And yet, rather than questioning and thinking about items, it seems as though people will usually accept a negative item at face value, but question the positive.

Why?  Whatever happened to the thought that, while flawed and broken, people are, by nature, more apt to try and do positive than they are negative?

My thought is that this shows, more than just a commentary on people as individuals, that the nation has a whole has become very egocentric (as others have been saying for quite some time and I don’t intend to really try to address in this,) lost it’s religion.

By buying into the negativity spread about others, we’re able to point at it and essentially say, “Wow, look how bad they are.  Can you believe this?”  The unspoken comment though, is “I am better than this person because I would never do such a thing.”  Rather than seeing the brokenness and empathizing by acknowledging the brokenness in ourselves, we’re trying to elevate ourselves above that on our own.

It doesn’t work that way.

The latest packet of negativity I have seen circulating is a post about Jane Fonda that has been circulating the internet for years now.  While most of the information contained within that packet has been debunked, (by those that wrote it initially even,) people still willingly accept it as fact and forward it on it’s way to others.  Yes, she spoke out against what was, and still is, seen as a very controversial war.  Yes, she met with the opposing forces and asked our side to stop bombing the North.  Yes, she even said something very negative about returning veterans which I will not quote here.

She has admitted that she will regret that comment till the day she dies.

Have you never said anything that you have regretted once the words passed your lips?  I know I have.  I immediately cringed once the words were out, knowing that I couldn’t take them back.  Because I made a mistake, should it be held over my head for the rest of my life?  Or should my seeking forgiveness be enough to encourage others to let it go; not necessarily to forget, but at least to forgive and move forward?

By refusing to use negativity circulating social media and the internet as a means to making ourselves feel holier than though, we accept the situation for what it is; a chance to minister and hopefully, water the seeds planted in others.

If we point out that yes, this person made a mistake but I did as well, we can hopefully get people to think and reflect on their own lives.  Stones aren’t always physical clumps of minerals that one can hold in their hand and throw.  They can be pixilated as well.  So before throwing another stone, just because others before you have already begun, think.  Are you missing an opportunity to share your story of how you were once broken like the person being targeted and have now been restored?

I can’t believe what she said

I can’t believe what he did

Oh, don’t they know it’s wrong, yeah?

Don’t they know it’s wrong, yeah?

Maybe there’s something I missed

But how could they treat me like this?

It’s wearing out my heart

The way they disregard

This is love, this is hate…

We all have a choice to make

Tenth Avenue North- Losing

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