Teach Me to Love

Racism.
A nasty word that gets the dander up around the world.
As it should.
I’ve been watching America become more restless and more divided as accusations of police brutality are reported on while African- American men are being buried.
I watch churches and ‘well-meaning’ Christians be part of the divisions, as angry words are thrown like daggers at their brothers and sisters.
Ferguson and New York, two towns that have created waves across America.
Two men died, Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But, they aren’t the only ones.
The spotlight is being shined hard on those with a badge.

Does racism play a part in these deaths? I don’t know.
Does it play a part in the trials of those held responsible for the deaths? I don’t know.
Does it play a part in the everyday life of thousands of people? This, I do know.
Does the church need to step up and really face this issue head on? YES

I’ve been quiet about this issue, not because I’m afraid of working on it, but because so many people are adding their voice. Sometimes, it’s hard to know what you really think when you get everyone else’s opinion. But, silence can be even more damning that misspoken words.
There is so much anger right now.
Righteous anger is good, anger bound in hate is not..
No matter what type of video or reports come out, I do not know exactly what happened because I wasn’t there. I can’t say if an officer defended himself or acted out of hate. I can’t say if the men who died acted in violence or if they were innocent.
There has been accusations on both accounts.

I refuse to add to those accusations.
Adding to them will not help anyone. It just causes more anger.

So, the question I ask myself is this: “What does God want me to do?”

He wants me to love. Love people on both sides of the argument. God does. He commands his followers to do the same. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)

There are no distinctions on who to love and who not to love. There is no command to not love someone. It is a blanket command to love EVERY single person that you come in contact with. “One another” does not mean to love the person who looks like you, talks like you, prays like you. God makes no distinctions. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.…(John 3:16-17)”

So why do we decide that God doesn’t mean “THEM”? Why do we, believers, decide that we live in a “Us vs. Them” world? It isn’t God who is causing this hatred, this distrust in our hearts. It’s not just our interactions of white vs. black. It’s all interaction with all races. I’ve heard some people honestly say that racism is only against the ‘black’ population… No.

No matter what color of skin you might have, what culture you might come from, what ethnic identity you might declare– you will have people hating what you ‘stand for’ in their eyes. We are surrounded in a world that ‘-isms’ us to death. And you and I will always be hated by somebody for something.

We do not live in a world that is ran by God’s command to Love one anotherBut, that doesn’t mean that can’t be one who does. I cannot influence one other person to love those that their history says to fear, if I do not live in love. 

The news with all of it’s fear, makes me honestly look at myself. What do I believe? How do I react? Am I fearful of the unknown? Do I believe in stereotypes? Do I let other people’s fear influence my relationships?

The only way the world will change in reaction to racism, sexism, class-ism, etc… is if individually we change. The only way that is going to happen is if we ask God to create that change in us, in all of it’s uncomfortable, painful, awkward, grace.

If you allow me the grace to change, will you be my friend? The only way I will learn, is if you help me understand. Teach me. Perhaps, you and I can change the world, if we look through each other’s eyes.

God loves you. He loves me. I pray we can both love each other. All lives matter. Because God has created us equal. No man has the power to say we are not royalty, for we are God’s children.

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Sticks and Stones

Words. They have power. They can heal or they can wound. They can make us bleed or make us laugh. They can totally shatter a life or build us into unstoppable forces.
Words.
Do we acknowledge the power behind the spoken word? The written word?
NO.
We still cling to the idea of that old adage: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
We tell ourselves just to brush off the verbal abuse, the little digs, the large brush of a slandering tongue.
“They’re just words. Words have no power over me. I can forget them…”
But, in the secret parts of our hearts and our minds, we mull over them. We hoard them deep in those secret parts, where they fester.
We build scar tissue around them, where it tightens, strangling our actions, our personality, making us insecure and bitter.
Personally, I rather have someone hit me. Someone throwing stones at me to drive me away, to beat me with sticks, rather than call me names. Because bruises and breaks hurt for a short amount time, while words can create a monster that hides in me.
It doesn’t help that well meaning adults tell little kids to buck up and move on, “Did he hurt you? No. Words don’t hurt. Move on.”
How many of those adults never went after their dreams because a ‘well meaning’ adult said that they would never succeed?
How many struggling children failed out of school because one teacher never said, “You can do it.”
Think about your words the next time your frustration is slipping it’s leash.
Think about your words the next time you are angry at a loved one.
Think about the affects those little words will cause, how they might crumble a wall or build one inside their heart. How those words may affect their actions in the future.
We all have the power to tear someone down or build them up.
Which will you choose?
Remember, God says some pretty harsh things regarding the power of the tongue. Perhaps we need to become aware of that power and try to leash it.
What do you believe? Are the sticks and stones more hurtful? Or is it the words that crush our spirits?

xkcd

From a popular comic: http://xkcd.com/

Proverbs 15:1-4
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.

annerexic-slogan

the repercussions of words

You will know them by their love

 Brant Hansen (Air1 Christian Alternative’s DJ) really got me thinking the other day when he was commenting on a church that was picketing a Skillet concert. 
I’ve looked for the quote because I don’t want to misquote him, but sadly I was unable to find it. (So if anyone else heard it, please let me know!)
So from my memory: he was talking about how the leader of the group was yelling at those who were lined up to get into this Skillet concert. Skillet is a well known Christian rock band that has a rather large fan base. The leader was being downright cruel from my understanding. He was supposedly saying something about if you believe in a merciful God you don’t believe in the real God. That he is above the need for grace. 
I’m not even going to comment on how bad his theology is there, because that isn’t what caught my attention, or obviously Mr. Hansen’s since he is the one who was talking about it. 
This leader was raging against the people who were going into the concert and the people who were preforming. Numerous concert goers tried to stop the group by telling them how badly they were representing Christ to those who walked by, which just made the leader get even more belligerent. The lead singer John Cooper came outside and walked up to the group, and started passing out water. As Mr. Hansen reported, the leader asked what are you doing? 
Supposedly, Mr. Cooper said, “Well, I’m supposed to love my enemies and since you want to make yourself my enemy…” 
Mr. Hansen (as well as many of his listeners who called in) was struck by the grace that Mr. Cooper showed at the moment of tension. 
Mr. Hansen then put forth a question that has really struck me and I’ve been forced to mulled over it for the last week. “Why do we assume this ‘church’ is Christian? I saw no representation of Christ shown during their protest. So how do we know they were Christian?”
It was an interesting idea. We too often assume that when we hear ‘church’ that the people consider themselves affiliated with the Christian religion. Yes, they might truly have called themselves Christian, but the issue here is were they acting as representatives of Christ? No. 
There is a hymn written in 1968 called “They’ll Know We Are Christians” where they echo an oft repeated thought through out the Scriptures. They will know we are Christians- followers of a loving sacrificial God- by our love. By our own actions we will be known. 
With the recent death of Westboro Baptist Church’s former leader, Christians seem to be rejoicing over his passing. Another Air1 DJ commented on this by saying, “Here’s the dichotomy; By celebrating his death like, “Woohoo! He’s gone!” we’ve just reduced him to a symbol versus of what God created in His image! And by celebrating it, we’re actually participating in the very same thing that made him infamous!”– Ashton (from Air1’s Facebook page) 
We become no better than those we mock when we rejoice over a sinner’s death. We become no better than those very people who rejoiced over a solider’s death and picketed over it to make a political/religious stand, and who seemed to enjoy the family’s tears and anger. 
I saw it play out on Facebook during the Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein’s captures and deaths. We rejoiced over the death of a sinner, who as far as we know, never became right with God. How can we participate in that misplaced joy?
I need to keep my mind on what Christ said- Luke 6:27-36 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
Or like Mr. Cooper did, love them enough to give them water when their throats are dry from ridiculing you and your own actions.
How are my actions today representing Christ in his loving sacrificial glory to a world that does not know him? Maybe not as well as they should be. 
Do I act like a Christ follower when I react to people I don’t agree with? 

The Pain of Anger

Aside

I hate conflict. I try to stay away from it as much as possible. But, sometimes it gets into your face and makes you deal with it. I really hate conflict.                                                                     
I am extremely loyal to those that I care for, so when there is conflict, I feel as if I am betraying them. In the depths of my heart I am a people-pleaser. I don’t like making waves, I try not to have arguments for argument’s sake. Also, when I’m angry, I try to not to speak because lets admit it- I’m one of those people who thinks of what I should have said thirty minutes after I leave the person who made me mad. I don’t think well on my feet.  But, there is also the quote by Ambrose Bierce to think about–‎”Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”                                                                           
This is so true! How many times have you actually said something in the heat of anger that you can’t believe came out of your mouth when you pause to think about it? I’ve done it more than once. I am now trying to keep from doing that. You know that old saying, “If you’ve got nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all”? The problem is, is that too many people speak rashly and hurtfully during the pain of the moment. They don’t attack the issue that made them mad, but rather the person that rubbed them wrong. They call each other names, tear each other down, attacking the essence of the person. When you tear each other down, it makes it even harder to fix the issue.                              
Getting more people involved in the issue doesn’t help either. Having a trusted friend to talk to is ok, but the more you add to the issue, the harder it is to contain the anger and the hurt. Another thing to remember- the more people who know, the more who will attack the other person. After the pain has leaked out onto other people, they are stacked up against person A, accusing them and finding fault. It will become a matter of stopping a flood after the dam has always burst. There is no way to stop all the damage the ripples can cause. Friendships will be lost and the original relationship will be in tatters and trust will be destroyed.                                                          
As it is been said, “Left unresolved, anger creates an intense desire to destroy something.” So, as someone who has dealt with this yet again, remember, even in the midst of the hurt –you can’t take back the words that you throw at each other. Take care of each other even during the pain of anger, because we are called to love one another as Christ loved us. The truth of the matter is, that most of the anger? It stems from hurt. Fix it before it turns into anger, then you can skip the whole struggle of trying to repair the relationship in the first place.

Proverbs 15:18– A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.                                                                                                                     Ecclesiastes 7:9– Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.                                                                                                                                 James 1:19,20– Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.