20 April 2013

The Tsarnaev Legacy: We Get to Decide What it is

My friend Mitch Barnett posted today on Facebook:
"While everyone celebrates the fact that the two Boston Bomb suspects have been caught, I hope that everyone would remember the fact that another life has been lost to this incident (Tamerlan Tsarnaev) and now yet another life hangs in the balance. While these people were mistaken, and performed a terrible act of aggression on innocent people, they are human beings; they have families that loved and cared for them; they had friends. Keep your perspective in check before you begin to cast a message of hate at the two brothers. Violence and death solve nothing."
It's one thing to call for justice[1] but hatred is something else altogether. Hatred only leads to more hatred, misery and destruction-- if only in the hater. Seldom is it that limited.

Jesus spoke of justice but he also spoke of love. Everything he did was in the context of love. He went to the cross so that we need not face ultimate justice for our sins. The two greatest commandments do not mention justice:

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

Jesus replied: "`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Mt 22:35-40, NIV)

Justice goes hand in glove with the Law. So even justice must be defined by Love.

The best possible outcome at this point is healing for all involved. I pray for emotional healing in all who lost a loved one or whose loved ones were hurt in any way. I pray for emotional and physical healing of everyone hurt (though about two hundred were physically hurt, thousands-- perhaps millions-- were emotionally scarred). I pray for the monetary damage to be overcome, that nobody would ultimately lose from this. I pray for the peace and joy of Boston, for the runners and their families and friends, for the people whose jobs or businesses were impacted.

When I say "all" I mean "all". I pray for the Tsarnaev family-- including these two brothers-- and friends. I pray that Boston, and Massachusetts, and the USA, and the world, will realize the futility and foolishness of hate, and turn to love.

Love has the best chance of bringing out love in people (others and ourselves). Hate tends to bring only more hate. Which do you want coming your way? Then think about what you're living out.

I believe that love requires us to stop heinous acts. Often this comes at a high price. But we cannot let that price be hatred or we become part of the problem.

In the words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us every one"-- with love and mercy, peace and joy. We've already seen much too much hatred, death, fear and misery.

While we're at it, pray for those in West, Texas. More people died and were physically injured in this than in Boston. While far less people are involved overall, it's a much smaller community, so the devastation within the community is huge.


[1] I find restitution to be the best form of justice, but it is not always possible, especially in violent crimes. Obviously, the perpetrators here cannot bring people back to life, replace limbs, restore the lost days of peoples' lives or the many millions of dollars wasted, rewind the Boston Marathon to the explosion point and let it finish, or remove the fear, pain and anguish inflicted this week.

16 April 2013

A Shred of Testimony: Back to Basics

Throughout the new testament, we hear of the importance of testimony. In Revelation, we are told that the Saints overcame by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. Your testimony is your story, that which you can personally "bear witness", swear is true on the witness stand. That encompasses a lot more than "I was bad. I had a one time conversion experience. Then I was saved."

This short piece is a part of my testimony. It was inspired by a blog by El Chupacabra.

For years I sweated to be like Jesus. Needless to say, I became somewhat of a nervous wreck. always falling waaaay short.

Finally I started over from scratch and went back to reread the Gospels like the first time I read them when God drug me out of hippiedom into a mad love affair[1] with Jesus. And lo and behold, everything I had tried to know was wrong, and a great deal of what I'd left behind in my quest to be A Good Christian was right.

So I gave up on the idea of What Would Jesus Do, and went back to What Did Jesus Do? He looked to Daddy God. He loved people-- tangibly, with everything from time to touch to revelation to conversation to miracles to meals. Life got a whooole lot better, and a whooole lot easier. Especially when I realized it wasn't my job to save people. I mean, I'd said that for years, but it was freaking TRUE.

Grace, love, and rest trump works, fear, and more works. Every time.


[1] A marriage should be the ultimate love affair.

08 April 2013

Whatever You Do to the Most of These...

We all know what Jesus said about how we are to treat "the least of these". But what about the people on the other end of the spectrum, "the most of these"? (I'm open to a better phrase!) He didn't directly address that question, but he gave us many clues. I find the best way to see how Jesus wants us to interact with people is to look at how he interacted with people. So... what did he do with these folk?

Mainly, he loved them, the rich and powerful as well as the poor and downtrodden. He treated them all the same. While he reserved most of his harshest words (as recorded in Scripture) for hypocritical religious leaders, he nevertheless hung out with some of these leaders as well. Nicodemus is an obvious example, but there were tax collectors, army officers, and (gasp) Pharisees and Sadducees.

He didn't pursue them to be seen with them or out of any lack on his part. The King of the Universe hardly needed their influence, blessing, or support. He just loved them, ate with them, spoke truth into their lives, and forgave them. Just as he did with the least.

We tend to have one of several reactions to the well off, powerful, and famous.

  • We envy them.
  • We judge them.
  • We hate them.
  • We idolize them.
But we are called to do just what Jesus did-- love, befriend, and serve them. Not for what we can get out of it but because they-- as we, as the poor, as the homeless, the destitute, the prostitute, the addict-- are made in God's image. God created them and saw that they were awesome. Jesus took on human form, lived and died and lived for them. The Holy Spirit longs to live in them.

So when the big deal minister shows up, don't just go to get a blessing. When the rich person shows up, don't scheme how to get in on the money game. When the political, business, military, media, or rock star shows up, don't just look for the photo op or the celebrity proximity effect or the inside scoop. Jesus for them.

You may be the only Jesus they ever see.