Don’t do that!

As I peruse the internet, the terrifying, useful tool that it is, I keep running into a particular idea. The idea is that Christians are known more for what we don’t do or believe than what we do or believe. In other words, Christianity is known in purely negative terms instead of positive ones, in both senses of the terms.

There was a time when Christians were known more for positive doings that negative not doings. The early church was known for meeting in homes regularly, sharing their possessions with those people who needed it. They were known for accepting anyone into their communities regardless of gender, class, race, or background. They were known for their work respecting and treating the poor and needy with care and compassion. They were known for caring for abandoned children.And for all of these things the early Christians were suspected of bad motives and intentions.

The one negative the early Christians had in their corner was a refusal to worship the emperor or the state. By stating “Christ is Lord” they were simultaneously saying, “And Caesar is not.” Christians understood that there could be only one Lord in their life, and by choosing Christ, they were denying Caesar and, in some ways, their own rights and privileges.

Today, what I see is that Christians are known for what we are against: abortion, homosexuality, drugs, alcohol, divorce, sexual activity, etc. Many of these issues are important, and the Bible does speak to them. However, Christians need to askĀ how does the Bible speak to it? Is there violence dictated for our response? Is anger and spite supposed to be in our response?

I wonder how many kids learn about being a Christian by receiving a list of “don’ts” instead of a list of “dos.” It would make sense how many young people seem to fall away from their faith as they grow. It’s hard to base a foundation of trust on negative statements. Instead, why not use Jesus’ teaching, which often used “dos”. “Go and do likewise,” “Love God,” “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Christians should be positive people. And by that I mean that Christians should be known for what we do, rather than what we don’t. Instead of just arguing a point, be the solution. When one of these big issues comes up, consider what you and your family could do to be part of the solution rather than another voice in the argument.

Christians, even marginalized, persecuted ones, have been slowly changing the world into something greater. God’s mission is to shape our world where it is. So let us join with Christians all over the world in the slow, intentional kingdom work to change hearts and minds by the things that we do, rather than by putting up signs about what we don’t.

A Different Kind of Happiness

Last week, I wrote a fairly long post about how happiness should not be our goal in life; how the pursuit of happiness usually ends up giving us less than we hoped for, while often giving us exactly what we asked for. Today, I was reading in Matthew again, still enjoying the Sermon on the Mount series of teachings, and lo and behold, Jesus seems like he wants us to be happy.

“Hold on,” you’re thinking right now. “You’re about to go off on that weird prosperity gospel stuff aren’t you?” Rest assured, I don’t see Jesus saying those things, and I certainly won’t either.

Why do we like Jesus? NT Wright pointed one reason out, and I guess I knew it, but had never really registered it: Jesus was a genuinely happy person. Sure, we see some of his darkest times, too, but those are more the exception than the rule.

Jesus talks about not worrying. He talks about flowers and birds and how God provides for them. He talks about a God who created beauty, food, and wonder simply for his creations to enjoy them. Jesus sees that creation is still good because it was made by a loving Creator. Jesus lived in the present. Yes, Jesus planned and laid foundations for days to come, but we do not see him stressing out or worrying about them constantly.

And there is the secret to happiness: not worrying. Or stated positively, trusting God with everything. Consider how much of our frustration and unhappiness is caused by worrying about something, whether we can do anything about it or not.

Jesus does want you to be happy: by trusting God with everything in your life and not fretting over the small or big stuff. It’s not a happiness that comes from achievement or gain, but one that grows out of contentment, trust, and reassurance.

When you have time today, read Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34. What are you worrying about? What can you let go of and let God handle? How can you model this faith (read “trust”) to your family?

The Day After Easter

A while ago, I was struck nearly dumb with a thought by one of my current favorite theologians, N.T. Wright. He pointed out that just like God’s work in creation was done on Friday and he rested on Saturday in the Genesis account, God’s work in reconciling humanity to Himself was done on Friday and he rested on Saturday. God’s words, “It is very good,” signified a completion of work. Jesus words, “It is finished,” also signified the finishing of a work.

It’s the day after Easter, and I’m sitting here wiped out and incredibly exhausted from the weekend. With family, friends, events, and the amount of energy needed for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, my brain is running on fumes at this point.

I can’t help but feel like there’s a subtle joy in the air. See, God’s plan of new creation began with Jesus. That new creation then became part of the life of all Christians. We are new, changed, something different that the world has trouble understanding. Our priorities are different, our way of loving goes beyond reason sometimes.

I wonder how the Apostles felt the day after Easter. Exhausted, emotionally numb from the grief and then sudden elation? Were they ready to nap, or were the so filled with adrenaline that they had trouble sleeping? Did they truly understand what was beginning?

I’m feeling a few of those things right now. I feel an excitement here at the church I serve, a growing sense of purpose and passion. I can sense that people are ready to go and are just waiting for the whistle to blow, like a group of elementary kids who can see the Easter eggs in the grass and are itching to snatch them up. I pray that God will use this pent up energy.

How about your church family? What about your home family? Is there an energy within that waiting to be released? Are you excited about what God is doing in you and through you? Stay prayerful and keep your eyes open, because God often uses the unexpected to make the amazing happen.