Calling Foul On the World Vision Debacle

New Orleans Saints v Green Bay PackersIn case you missed it, this week World Vision decided then un-decided to amend its hiring policy as it relates to same-sex couples. In my view this now-event highlights the growing polarity that exists within Christianity as well as the majority of the American culture. Frankly I am most often at odds with both extremes of this continuing expanse. Sadly, Christian voices seem to echo the intentional brashness modeled by news agencies such as FOX and MSNBC. Two examples worth reading are those drawn up by Rachel Held Evans (representing the left, if you will) and one drawn up by Trevin Wax of the Gospel Coalition. In my view both sides give in to sensationalism and, at times, plain untruths – whether intentional or unintentional.

So, I call, “Foul!” I wish that the reality was in keeping with the above NFL-tied picture. I wish that these were offsetting penalties. Unfortunately they are not. This kind of infighting only makes Christianity look arrogant and as equally confused as the rest of the culture seems to be.

Not ironically, I have many common friends with each of the above authors. I also wrote to both of them soliciting some clarifications. Neither responded in time to be included in this post.

Here are few scattered thoughts that I think “both sides” could afford to consider in their writing:

  1. arguments based in emotion are typically short-lived
  2. you could be wrong… allow for that in your language
  3. throwing rocks is sophomoric and unfruitful
  4. the gay/lesbian issue is not going away… we have to learn to handle it better
  5. what you say is always trumped by how you say it

Having said all of that, I understand how and why many in the evangelical world spoke out. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the gay issue is likely to become a benchmark issue for people of faith. I say unfortunately because I find the attention given to this issue to be incongruous with the scope of Scripture. While many have made it a touchstone issue, the Scriptures (by proportion to today’s attention), give it little. In fact, some of you are reading right now mainly to determine if I have come down on “the right side of the issue”.

I have MANY gay friends. And, yes, I am proud of that. Because I have worked hard to earn and keep those friendships. Most of my hard work has had to come because of the ignorance and cruelty of many so-called Christians. People that have spoken and acted in hatred toward people who are gay. 100% of my gay friends know my theological position regarding their sexuality. And if you ask any of them – and if we know the same people, feel free to ask – they will tell you that I have and will always show them the love of Jesus as true friends.

The bottom line in this story for me is that I don’t know why Richard Stearns and the board of World Vision thought their initial revised position was a necessary step. I’m not sure that I would have made the same initial decision if it was mine to make. However, I’m equally bothered that they could change course so quickly when pressured. Why would such a weighty decision that was presumably prayed about and considered deeply be abandoned because of the cacophony of the masses? Policymaking should be done slowly on the basis of principle… not constituents.

So the biggest foul for me continues to be the way in which Christians express their varying points of view. If we say we are trying to follow Jesus, the way we express ourselves matters as much or more than having the “right position”.

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Weeping With Westboro

Westboro Baptist Church Case to be Heard by Supreme CourtMost of the tears I have shed in the last many years with regard to the Westboro Baptist Church have been because of their actions. However, Romans 12:15 also reminds those of us who follow Jesus that we are to…

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

And so today we weep. As difficult as it may be, we weep at the passing of Fred Phelps. Mr. Phelps, I will not do him the honor of calling him by any other name, was clearly a tormented soul. But he was a soul. One for whom Jesus died… even if he did not have a clue what following Jesus was supposed to entail.

There will be a day when it is appropriate to talk about the legacy of Mr. Phelps. Today is not that day. May he rest in the peace that he so often attempted to refuse to others.

First Aid: Healing Your Heart

first aid

Some recent discussion on my Facebook wall discovered that there are several friends with whom I shared my childhood who have lasting injuries because of insensitive people (or worse).

Anyone who has ever been sick – really sick – will tell you that the most difficult part of the illness was the path to being whole again. Thankfully our bodies typically have a built-in surge that helps with this. Now imagine an injury that is invisible. While it is tough enough to treat something that you can see, treating the invisible seems, at times, impossible.

As I have been pondering and praying about all of the stories that have been retold these last many days I thought of this simple analogy that may help us begin to heal our hearts. It has everything to do with first aid.

FIRST
There is no (ultimate) healing apart from Jesus. Maybe the saddest part of some of our realities is that these hurts occurred within the walls of a place we trusted to act Christianly. Certainly at times, they did not. But the way of Jesus is the way of forgiveness. You’ve heard it said that bitterness (or for our purposes, unforgiveness) is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. The first part of finding true healing for your heart is forgiving the person or persons who sinned against you. Healing cannot occur until our our hearts are reconciled to (made right with) God. This has to be first.

AID
It is likely that you cannot do this alone. And it’s ok. You were not meant to live life alone. Find someone else to help you get your head and heart around what you’re feeling. I remember the humiliation and embarrassment I felt the first time I went to counseling as an adult. I felt that I should have been able to pull myself together on my own. How wrong I was. Having a trained counselor help me walk through my hurt was the best investment I could have made. Sit with a trained professional who is a person of faith and allow them to speak into your life.

Many of us have learned to forgive and have continued to have fruitful and fulfilling lives. Don’t let that make you feel guilty if you’re not there yet. Be encouraged that healing is available. Just as physical injury requires specific medical attention, so do our spiritual injuries. Be purposeful. Take your time. And remember the right order… first Jesus… then, aid from others.

The Lens of Time

the lens of timeIt has been said that time heals all wounds. Unfortunately that simply is not true. This Monday I made an unscheduled stop at the place where I grew up – in the shadow of the Sears Tower (yes, it will always be the Sears Tower to me). My simple post to Facebook – just three words – read, “So many memories.” What ensued was remarkable in some ways and sad in others. Bethel Baptist Church and Schaumburg Christian School were and are not perfect places. They were however, the places that I made lasting friendships. Friendships that have passed the test of time.

And there’s that word again… time. So if time does not heal all wounds, what is its potential value? I think it better to see time as a lens. As we look through the lens of time we are able to see things more clearly. Function and dysfunction. Good and evil. Joy and pain. Events may not be healed with time, but they can be understood. And, hopefully, made right.

In my professional life I have been blessed to help people. I have seen two common trends: one, people tend to view the pain of others as less than it really is; and two, people tend to see their own pain as greater than it really is. Whichever “side” of that you may fall on, it would greatly help the discussion move forward if you could lean into those two trends a bit.

How exactly does the lens of time work? We may come to different conclusions about things or events, but I think all of us have benefitted more or less in these kinds of ways:

  1. time gives perspective – I remember the first time I returned to my childhood street in Hoffman Estates. I had been gone several years and now had kids of my own. I could not believe how short the street had become and how the slope of the street had diminished. Of course, neither of those things were true. Only my perspective had changed.
  2. time brings maturity – I acknowledge that age and maturity are not synonymous. That said, most of us move through our youthful experiences and understand that things done/said in immaturity are just that. I guess that’s perspective, too.
  3. time allows for forgiveness – Even our judicial system gets this. Whether we always think it fair or not, certain crimes have statutes of limitations. Perhaps so should we.

In saying all of this I am NOT saying that things spoken or done do not matter… they do. I’m just trying to open the door for civil discussion by saying that time should help us see Bethel and SCS as they really were – flawed places that did some things wrong and some things well. May we all see more clearly as we look through the lens of time. PS: I don’t think it means that all of us must see everything the same way.

Learning How to Love

Pure MichiganI am on my way to Bair Lake Bible Camp in Jones, Michigan, where I will be speaking to a group of students this weekend. Many of these are the same students I got to know last year on this same winter retreat. They’re from Crosspointe Christian Church and Hope Community Baptist Church near Detroit. Please pray that I can be clear and that the Holy Spirit can bring understanding. Our focus for the weekend is love. We will seek to reflect upon these four questions:

  1. What does the world’s love look like?
  2. How much did Jesus love His disciples?
  3. How do we love each other when it’s hard?
  4. Will not-yet-believers be attracted to us because of our love?

Whenever I speak for events like this, I ask the leaders to tell me the thing(s) that they feel need some extra attention. Instead of speaking some random, pre-packaged sermons, we are able to talk about things that have already been identified as areas of need. Thanks for praying!

Life of Pi and Religious Pluralism

kinopoisk.ruOn occasion, and not very often, I am late to the dance. Though I have been very aware of this movie and its acclaim, I only recently saw The Life of Pi for the first time. Part of the backstory is what interested me most. There is a scene in which the main character Pi, a younger person at the time, discusses his beliefs. We have already seen that he is an amalgam of Catholicism, Hinduism, and Islam. There is a growing (yet not new) understanding of faith known as religious pluralism. Recently Pope Francis was rumored to have said that, “All religions are true.” A little digging proves this is a false allegation, yet this same sentiment is becoming more prevalent. From my vantage point there are two main streams in these thoughts…

Why We Want Religious Pluralism to Work
An all-paths-lead-to-God theology is desirable because it almost certainly puts all people on equal ground both here and hereafter. We want to believe one of two equally-merited thoughts… one, that all people are generally good and should be treated as such; and two, that if a Deity does exist, his love should outweigh his justice. Further, we want to see spirituality as a series of paths, and that all paths lead to heaven or wholeness or karma or whatever the good place (reality) you may subscribe to.

Why Religious Pluralism Cannot Work
Because I have learned not to, I will not begin with the Bible. Let’s start from an intellectual point of view. Ironically and sadly enough, the term we have borrowed from geography does not work in geography anymore than it does in spirituality. All roads do not lead to Rome. Well, they do… but only if you misspell it “roam”. We know that if we head north on I-75 in Atlanta it will take us through Knoxville, TN on our way through Cincinnati, OH on to Detroit, MI and all the way to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. I know. I took my college roommate there to renew his Canadian visa. It will not, however, take us to Rome, Italy. No intelligent person would say so. Yet far too many believe that this same line of thought is possible in spirituality.

And then there’s the Bible. Christian, if you honestly study the pages of this book you know that it is both lovingly inclusive to all who believe, yet exclusive for those who do not. You don’t have to like this. You don’t have to agree with it. You don’t have to understand it. You can even wish that it was not so. But none of that changes what the Scriptures say. As I have argued elsewhere (and will continue to), this does not give us the freedom to beat not-yet-believing people over the head with it (the Bible). It does force us to – at least – admit that there are some final conclusions about destiny and what happens to us ultimately that are spoken of distinctly in the pages of Scripture.

In closing (and hopefully opening), my prayer for anyone reading this is that you would begin in a place of intellectual honesty. All religions simply cannot be simultaneously true. Few, if any, would allow it. But even with those facts, and from my admittedly Christian viewpoint, loving one another is not optional. Speaking kindly to people (especially when you disagree with them) is not take it or leave it. Finally, the words of Jesus in John 3.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

The Gospel According to Phil

Phil RobertsonDuck Dynasty has become a hard-to-explain American phenomenon. Plus nothing. People who have never even shot a gun or hunted anything find themselves glued to the television to listen in on the raw antics of the Robertson family… 14 million of us. That’s right, I said us. Before we downgraded our cable package I was one of the faithful.

This post is in response to some recent “hot water” (I’m sure he doesn’t feel the heat) into which the patriarch of the family, Phil Robertson, has stepped squarely. My main audience is composed of people who believe in Jesus… not all… but most. Like no other, this post is mainly for those of us who already believe. Perhaps to your sadness, I don’t really think there is a whole lot to talk about here. Did any of us really expect a backwoods, old school, child of the 60’s who throws his grandkid’s cell phone into the lake to have left-leaning views on homosexuality? Instead I would like to challenge our reaction to such events. Let’s do this.

Stop Expecting People Who Do Not Believe to Act Like Believers
Seriously. Why are we surprised when people who do not believe act in ways that are appropriate to their own system of belief? Do you really think that a network who, by its own admission, has been a strong supporter of the gay community would not take offense to Phil’s statement? This very simple principle has been the highest value as I have learned to have genuine friendships with people who do not subscribe to my beliefs. Please for their sake, for the sake of the gospel stop expecting people who do not believe to act like believers.

Start Educating Yourself
We have become such a soundbyte culture that we sit around waiting for the next news story to drop so that we can react to it on Facebook or Twitter or better yet, on someone’s site that we do not even know. This kind of reacting is detrimental to the cause of Christ and does not exemplify the spirit of Jesus. How many who have commented even took the time to read the initial lengthy interview? I’ll make it easy for you. You can click HERE to find it. I have said it before, but I’ll say it again here because it fits. It is my strong opinion that you should not even comment on something about which you have not first educated yourself. Responding secondarily via someone else’s opinion has a lessening and demeaning legal title… hearsay.

Stop Pretending You Know Phil Robertson
Unless you do, but I’m going to guess that would be an underwhelmingly small minority of us. You can only read about his story and his life. That gets you in the door, but not on the stage. You don’t know his family or him or what God has asked of him and/or them.

Start Practicing the Great Commandment
You know… the one that Phil paraphrased. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said that the biggest way we can demonstrate our faith to those who do not share it is to love each other (those of us who do follow Jesus). We suck at this. Am I angry with some Christians right now? Yes, I am. More about that in a minute. But the answer is not for me to dig my heels in and win an argument. My command is to love. My desire is to mirror what I find in Philippians 2:5-8. I want to…

have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

You want to keep Christ in Christmas? It happens in moments like these.

Stop Being Mean-Spirited
There are moments when people that call themselves Christians embarrass me. And, for the record, it is not just people who may have a more conservative position than my own. It goes the other way too. In this particular conversation I have heard angry pro-gay Christians say horrible things about Phil and his family. There have been equally hideous words and sentiments coming from those to the right. Christianity is not an argument to be won. It is not a debate in which you are to be the victor. Christianity is a person and his name is Jesus. And his attitude is made clear as referenced in the text above and throughout the New Testament. Are there end-of-the-discussion realities that will in an ultimate sense separate us from those who do not yet believe? Absolutely. Does that fact give us the right to fly off the handle about ____________… whatever the issue? Absolutely not.

Friends: A Place to Start

itsastartAlmost all of the images that were coming up for starting were showing runners on their mark and at the ready for a sprint. I can tell you right now that this kind of friendship is much more like a marathon. Forming new friendships almost always demands much of us. Then add to the mix that the push here is to befriend people who don’t share your perspective on matters of faith, and many of us are simply unwilling to invest that kind of time. But if you are up for it, where do you begin? These are very personal insights that I gained almost exclusively by trial and mostly error.

First, and there is no substitute for this one, you simply have to want to form these kinds of friendships. If you do it out of duty or for any other reason, I can almost guarantee that you will ultimately fail. Because it’s hard. Because of the great differences. Because, let’s be honest, most of us are accustomed to taking the easy way out (especially relationally). But if you are driven by an honest desire to befriend someone outside your “usual circle”, this desire will come to your aid when, for whatever reason, the going gets tough.

I thought about ending this post with that one statement about wanting it. I also thought about giving the whole fire hydrant of what I’ve been learning. The more I considered it, I realized that it has taken me 5 years of learning to get to where I am today. So, for today, let’s talk a moment about what not to do. I think there are several approaches that will almost automatically sabotage our attempts to forge this kind of friendship. Let’s look at a few:

Seeing someone as a project instead of a person. The few Christians I know who are engaged with people who believe differently than they do (or don’t believe at all) seem to be primarily interested in proselytizing. This is usually made obvious when said “friend” rejects the message and the friendship ends or changes dramatically. This obviously raises questions of motive. Do we befriend others simply to attempt to convert them to our way of thinking? I hope not. To this very point, recently one such friend said, “Thanks for being our friend unconditionally.”

Making it more difficult than it is by trying too hard. You know what I mean. Remember that middle school-aged kid who was trying to get up his nerve to ask Miss Suzie Q to be his girlfriend? Of course he means well. Of course he genuinely cares about her (as much as a thirteen year old can), but he falls on his face because of nerves and the likely false notion that this may be the woman he spends the rest of his life with (I know there are rare exceptions). The point is… just be yourself. More about this one in the next post. This may be the most important aspect.

Believing the lie that if said friend remains an unbeliever you must relationally move on. Show me the precedence for that mindset in Scripture. This alienation and polarization is already rampant in the culture. Those of us who believe should be on the cutting edge of relational loyalty to demonstrate that true Christian love is without condition.

So, as with any topic, beginning includes a look at what not to do. How are you doing? Do you need to work on any of these sometimes lifelong and built-in tendencies? It’s a good place to start.

Friends

friendsToday is my birthday. I’ve always wondered why we call it that. Actually we all only have one birth day… ok… two if you believe in that born again stuff (which I do). So technically it’s the celebration of your birth day, which is not a bad thing to celebrate. But for me, every birthday becomes a celebration of much more than the day I was born. Every year (especially highlighted by the advent of Facebook) I receive “Happy Birthdays” from all over the world. Last night my first greetings were from friends near Budapest, Hungary as they were just starting their day. And since that moment, along with a few pre-birthday people, literally hundreds of my friends have wished me well. I really wanted to share one small thing I appreciate about each person, but quickly saw that if I did, I would not get my job done today. I work hard at being a good friend. There is a little verse in the Bible that I have paraphrased to our children often as it relates to this subject. It goes something like this… “the person who wants to have friends must show himself to be friendly.” In some ways friendship can be summed up by that sentence. If you are a true-hearted person that cares for others, you will have valuable lifelong friendships.

As I mentioned in the v-blog earlier today if you happened to see it… especially the last five years I have been learning the value of broadening my friendships to include more than just those who share my understanding of faith. Sadly in many ways, the majority years of my life were filled exclusively with friends who looked/thought/believed just like me. My reason for this change is that I actually started paying attention to the way Jesus related to others. Certainly there were the inner-circle friendships that he had with his disciples. And it’s true that many of the friends of Jesus on the periphery also believed he really was who he said he was. Yet we consistently see Jesus pursuing time with all kinds of people who did not necessarily even believe in him. In fact, the Pharisees took him to task for this. Judgmentally accusing him of being a “friend of sinners”. But what a glorious accusation!

In my new awakening and expanding of my friendships I have found that most of the friendships I have made in the past have endured – at least to some degree. What I have also learned is that in gaining many more “kinds” of friends I have become a richer and fuller person in the process. The fact is that several of the people that I now consider my closest friends profess themselves to be atheists. In a recent conversation with one friend that I have known the entire time we’ve lived in Georgia, he asked, “Am I corrupting you?”… or something to that effect. To which I immediately responded, “Actually, you make me a better follower of Jesus.” I went on to explain to him that by avoiding friendships with people who disagreed with my perspective, I had unwittingly moved away from part of the lifestyle of Jesus. So these days the highest compliment you can give me… he is a friend of sinners.

Coexist? Or Something Else?

coexistFor years now I have been seeing this awful bumper sticker going around. Have you? I’m certain you’ve seen at least one version of it somewhere. Let me just go on the record (from a Christian perspective) that this cannot possibly be more wrong… but it may not be why you’re thinking.

I’m a word aficionado (a.k.a. snob). And the reason I am opposed to the bumper sticker in question may be different than your reason. It’s really about definition. The New Oxford American Dictionary says this (among other things) of the word coexist: “(of nations or peoples) exist in mutual tolerance despite different ideologies or interests: the task of diplomacy was to help different states to coexist.” This notion is ungodly, unbiblical, and not at all in keeping with the spirit of Jesus! But, once again… this may shake out differently than you might be thinking.

Coexistence is not good enough. Nowhere does the Bible command us to “tolerate our neighbor” or does Jesus ask us to “tolerate someone else the way that I have tolerated you.” Yet buried – not very deeply – within the idea of coexistence is the thought that I am putting up with your insolent, incorrect, and frankly, ignorant opinion (in this case, about religion). That is simply not the spirit of Jesus.

So, first, what am I not saying? I am not saying that we have to subscribe to all religions as equal. Anyone who has given any study to world religions knows that this is a mathematical impossibility. Though there have been many times I have wished it did, the Bible doesn’t teach that either. Neither am I saying that there is not a certain exclusivity housed in Christianity. I am saying (again) that how we talk about that matters. Unfortunately exclusivity almost always carries a spirit of joy that “I’m in and you’re out.” This is not the spirit of Jesus. At what points the gospel does separate us from others, it ought to break our hearts for them. Not condescending. Not disingenuous.

What I am saying is that the biblical view of existing with others who may not share our religious opinion has always been about one simple word that carries a lifetime of complexity… love. So it is not enough to merely coexist. Tolerating someone else is not deep enough for what we who believe are called to do. Our mission is to love. Whether or not someone ever shares or even understands our viewpoint… our command is to love.

Finally, while an everyone-gets-in-at-the-end spirituality makes heaven sound blissfully appealing (and while I even wish it worked this way), the Bible very simply does not teach this. Therefore, it is the job of those of us who believe to put up with the wrong opinions and spiritual philosophies of lesser-minded individuals until Jesus comes to rescue us from their insolence. Wrong. The strongest position we can take is to love someone, not in spite of their spiritual persuasion (or because of it); but because they have already, before the foundation of the world, been loved by God. How can I do any less?

Unintended Results of Isolation

IsolationIn the movie Cast Away, Tom Hanks’ character is stranded by himself on an island for the majority of the film. What makes this movie most captivating is the exploration of how isolation eventually affects even the most well-disciplined mind and life. So what does that have to do with anything remotely (pun intended) spiritual? Socially and spiritually, and in almost every way possible, we were not meant to be alone.

A disclaimer of sorts (though unnecessary for those that know me well). I am not condemning those that may pursue holiness. That should be the pursuit of all who follow Jesus. I am simply attempting to address the lengths to which we isolate (or separate) ourselves from those around us that need our influence most.

Particularly in some iterations of Christianity there has been a specific bent often referred to as the “holiness movement”. Again, this likely means slightly different things to different people, but the main idea is that one of the main ways we show our identification with Jesus is by the outward ways in which we are perceived to be visibly different than the world in which we live. Taken most literally are issues like attire, entertainment choices, and the like. In my upbringing it was often quipped that good Christians… “don’t smoke or chew or go with those that do”. While this was used somewhat humorously, it was an apt demonstration of a specific understanding of what it meant to be Christian.

I’ve written and re-written this one more than once. I know that I am certain to offend some who grew up similarly, but know my heart. I am not saying that all of these issues can or should be summarily dismissed as issues of any importance. What I am saying is that the “holiness movement” as a whole has unintentionally done more harm than good to the cause of Christ in the world. The so-called separation which was meant to be, in the main, internal is forced into near-constant personal interpretation as to which and to what degree external things should isolate us from the culture to show our loyalty to Jesus. What follows are a handful of observations I have made as to the negative effects of isolating oneself from the culture in which we have been placed.

1. the point we mean to make doesn’t land… Obviously we want it to be known that the reason we do not participate in ______________ said cultural practice/activity is because we are intending to show that we are not participating because we are “holy”. But the only ones who understand this personal significance are those who share the same values… those who see things the way we may. Not to mention that more often than not, there are no biblical mandates related to the issue in question. Which leads to #2…

2. trying to make issues of things that the Scriptures don’t, weakens the power of the Scripture to those outside of faith… Clearly there are things to which the Scriptures, and at times, even Jesus himself speak to directly. However that list is probably not as long as any of us wish it to be and certainly does not contain many of the “religious talking points” of many conservative Christians today. And when we pretend that Scripture is loud and clear when it is, in fact, not, we weaken its power to those that have grown accustomed to associating it with _______________ said cultural practice/activity.

3. we don’t need Christian versions of ____________, we need Christians who are willing to participate meaningfully (Christianly) in the culture… I had to repent of my earliest tone for this post. Instead of participating in our culture and showing them the power of Jesus, we have created pockets of and even an entire strata of sub-cultural existence within our culture. I won’t link to any, but you can literally find “Christian” versions of everything from music to coffee to kitchen products to… you would be amazed. What this world needs to see is that Jesus calls his followers to be the largest contributors to those around them. There should be little doubt that when any follower of Jesus is involved in ______________ cultural practice/activity it is always made better because of their influence. That’s the way he played it himself.

I’m not saying there are never times when it is appropriate and even necessary for us to withdraw from _______________ cultural practice/activity. What I am advocating is that those times be few and far between and when we must, we do so with great remorse.

Perspective

perspective1One of the most difficult things to come by in this life is perspective. I have often used the example of one’s hand in front of their own face… it’s impossible to see anything else, really. So is your hand suddenly inflated in that moment? No, but it’s all you can see. Why? Perspective. In that moment (and many like it) we have a false sense of the enormity of that which lies before us. It’s not always our fault. It’s just that we’re so close to whatever it is (our hand), that we cannot see anything else.

On the human level there may be no greater challenge. Furthermore this may be my toughest job as a parent. My task is to walk through life with my kids being honest and real when the hard times come along… all the while trying to give them some sense of perspective… that the moment is not really as big as it seems. Probably the biggest lesson I am learning in this is not to be dismissive. Any part of one’s process is an important part. I’ve seen that the processes of perspective are almost identical to the ways we process grief. Perhaps as we are gaining proper perspective we are, in fact, going through the grieving process. Think about it. We think that we have a clear vision (perspective) about a given situation. However when we step back we see that we were mistaken and this original vision is lost. We grieve its loss.

Having just passed through the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus, Peter’s story comes to mind as the perfect illustration. There is no doubt that Peter loved Jesus. To question his loyalty to Christ would have seemed absurd. Think back to an exchange between Peter and Jesus…

Jesus: let me wash your feet
Peter: o, Lord, never
Jesus: if I don’t wash your feet than you don’t really belong to me
Peter: then, Lord, please wash my entire body

And even in the end, Peter could not separate his passion from his circumstances. His perspective continued to be skewed. When Jesus was initially arrested Peter’s immediate reaction was violence – he removes the ear of a nearby servant… even though Jesus had just told him this would happen. Lost perspective. And immediately following Jesus’ arrest, as some people were asking if he (Peter) was an associate of Jesus, he loses perspective again and denies even knowing Jesus… just as Jesus had said that he would.

So how do we maintain proper perspective? It’s actually very simple. Proper perspective comes when I focus on the correct object. Getting distracted and having skewed perspective is easier said and done. Because really you don’t have to do much. Just allow your focus to be on whatever comes into view at the time and it will seem like the most important thing. Many people live their lives this way. But as I focus on Jesus and his purposes, even when things I am not prepared for or that I don’t understand come into my view, I can maintain perspective because I know that they are only a minuscule part of a grander picture that he is painting.