I should point out as I begin here that this is really a kind of “family discussion” among Christians. I don’t often post these and you’re more than welcome to read it if you’re NOT a believer but I just thought I’d let you know from the start. Ok? Ok, enough for the disclaimers.
Brothers and sisters there IS a war on Christmas whether you choose to believe or not, whether you listen to/watch Fox News or not, whether you know the history of the X in Xmas or not, there IS a war on Christmas. But it began long before you ever knew about it.
Let me offer three truths as definitive proof:
1. It was Predicted
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Genesis 3:15
This passage from Genesis foreshadows the war on Christmas as it tells of the hostility that will exist between Jesus and the enemy. The word “war” can be defined as “a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism” so the war was predicted before Christmas was predicted.
2. It was Prompt
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Matthew 2:16
I know it was blown out of proportion but the next time someone gets perplexed by a red cup remind them that their particular battle in the war on Christmas didn’t involve the death of a child. Can you imagine a Bethlehem parent hearing any of today’s nonsense and wondering how on earth that compares to the war on Christmas they suffered through? And they probably didn’t even really know why.
3. It is Present
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
The spiritual battle that was predicted in Genesis is constantly being waged. It occasionally spills over into the physical world as it did at the time of Jesus birth. The war on Christmas continues on a cosmological scale why wouldn’t we expect to see the effects of that on earth in our lifetime?
So what now? How do we respond?
1. Be Gentle
People that don’t want to celebrate the birth of Christ are not the enemy. Atheists who put up billboards denigrating Christmas are not the enemy. Politicians who outlaw Christmas songs, displays, even the word “Christmas” are not the enemy. The ENEMY is the enemy. These others are just good folks who have been fooled. (I warned you this was a family discussion didn’t I ?)
The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26
Don’t yell at the captives. Don’t forget who is the real enemy.
2. Be Joyous
I love Christmas. I love our family traditions. I love the celebration. I love the feeling of the season. That’s a whole lotta love. The spilling out of that love brings joy.
Spill on people. Spill the love and the joy. Not in a snarky way…which BELIEVE me is easy for ME to fall prey to…but in a genuine “Peace on Earth”, “Goodwill to Men”, “God Bless us Every One” kind of way. Let God fill you with it to overflowing so that it is obvious that:
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16
We don’t cajole and condemn, we enhance and enlighten. But we can’t unless God’s love and joy are spilling out of us. When should that happen more than at Christmas? Who could possibly be strong enough in their political machinations to steal what God has put in us? Spill, spill, spill!!
Don’t let the enemy steal your joy.
3. Be Still
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10
The war on Christmas is both ongoing and over. We win in the end. If our joy is dependent on the societal acceptance of our cherished traditions then perhaps we need to go deeper this Christmas but I don’t think we do, I think we’re better than that.
Be still, and spill.
“God bless us, every one”
At the risk of proof texting, and I pray that I am not, may I respectfully remind my brothers and sisters of a few simple truths?
1. Our enemy is not the obvious one:
11 Put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the devil’s strategies. 12For our struggle is not against human opponents,l but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in the darkness around us, and evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm.
We are not battling democrats, or republicans, or liberals, or conservatives, or Muslims, or terrorists. Our enemy is far darker and far more deceptive and would see us divided against each other.
2. Whether we agree or disagree we are all one:
1 Corinthians 12
25-26 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
If you have a disagreement with your spouse do you post it on a billboard alongside the highway? If you want your children to act differently do you express disappointment in a 30 second television ad campaign? And yet we’re willing to call our brothers and sisters to task in social media in a broadcast approach that is just as wide spread.
3. We’re commanded to do better
34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
Yes, this may sometimes include the infamous “speaking the truth in love” but I’m not sure Jesus took the opportunity to rebuke the disciples in the midst of the sermon on the mount. If he needed to he did it in a much more intimate way and we’re commanded to love one another as he loved.
4. We’re being watched
Jesus said it would be the hallmark of those who are His that the world would recognize them by their love for ONE ANOTHER. We’re allowed to disagree and have varying political points of view and we’re allowed to challenge each other but always in a way that strives for unity.
2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.
Believe me, I love a spirited debate. The ebb and flow of logic and theology and political expediency is like food to me. But the world is watching to see how we respond as a body and when we respond with shaming, and condemning, and accusing each other we, all of us, suddenly appear vastly irrelevant in the discussion.
I’m not convinced that the ONLY Christian response is to allow refugees into our country. Even the Good Samaritan, the example of “love your neighbor as yourself” didn’t bring the wounded man into his home. He paid someone else to take care of the man and said he’d check back later.
I AM convinced that we need to be compassionate in ways that effect us personally. (Neither did the Good Samaritan walk past the wounded man, go to the inn, and send someone back down the road to look into things out of fear that the robbers might return.) And to be transparent many of my Christian friends who are calling for the refugees to be allowed in are willing and ready to take people into their homes.
The issue of the refugees is a politically and economically complex one.
The point is NOT how we respond to the crisis or the need.
The point is how we respond to one another.
In the Peace of the Spirit
Striving for Unity
As most of you are no doubt aware Darren Aronofsky’s film version of the Noah story came out this week. I actually thought it came out weeks ago given all the flap over it but there you go…that’s just me not keeping up. With all the furor over the film I find myself sometimes amused and other times annoyed by what I read.
A couple non-spoilers here:
- I’ve not yet seen it.
- Aronofsky himself claimed it would be the least biblical film ever made, or some such thing.
- Christians viewers of the film seem divided on whether the faithful should attend or no.
My intent here is not to come down on either side of the see-it-or-not argument. There is merit in not wanting to put your money or support towards something you believe may go against what you hold to be true, strong merit.
On the other hand there is merit in wanting to be culturally relevant. Even if there are those who too often use this as an excuse.
If you read anything about Darren’s other movie, The Black Swan, then you had to guess this film would come replete with shock value. So why are we all so up in arms when the guy claimed it would not be biblical and we knew ahead of time it would be shocking in some shape or form? Come on man! We’re better than that!
So as you, my Christian friends, try to determine if you’ll go and watch this film I want to offer you a couple reminders:
1. We believe this is a true story.
It may be portrayed incorrectly, even if I like the idea of a Russell Crowe-like Noah, but we believe in a version of the same story and we believe it is true. AND, isn’t part of what we’re called to as Christians is to speak the truth in love?
Ephesians 4:14-15As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others. 15 Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ,
So whether you see it or not be prepared to speak the truth, intelligently, and in love.
2. We believe we win in the end.
Sometimes it seems like the bad guys always win. I have a number of Christian friends who get violently upset when they feel that the Gospel message has been attacked. There is nothing wrong with a little righteous indignation. But at what cost when it gets too heated?
One of my favorite moves as an athlete, when I was winning a game and the opponent started talking trash, was to smile at point at the scoreboard. Even sweeter than that was enduring trash talk when we were behind and then being able to smile and pat them on the head when we won.
Not to trivialize in any way anybody’s eternity. But let’s remember that we believe we win in the end and we want to do our best to be sure that even the producers of non-biblical versions of bible stories, and perhaps more importantly, those whom they influence, win too.
So whether you see it or not remember to speak boldly, kindly, and with confidence.
Funny how the secular world isn’t up in arms, divided in the mindset, over it all. Just those of us who are supposed to be unified. Come on guys, we’re better than that. I, for one, hope some good conversation comes out of this film so I’ll probably see it at some point. Whether you do or not just remember, we win, and while it appears that we’re momentarily losing we get to speak the truth in love.
Will you go see Noah?
Last year, when Tim Tebow was leading the Broncos to their first playoff win in a long while the media could not get enough opportunity to bash him for what they saw as an over the top display of faith that some said had no place on the football field.
I’ve found it interesting then this year, as the Ravens have made their unprecedented run to the Super Bowl, that very little is being said about Ray Lewis’ outspoken display’s of faith.
Oh sure there are the undercurrent of social media debates both amongst and between those on the far right and far left of the socio-politico-religious scale. I’ve seen Lewis actions lauded as those of a man who has “found Jesus” and decried as fake by those who remember Lewis as a murder suspect back in 2000. In either case though the press seems largely unimpressed.
Which makes me wonder…why?
In my musings over the mystery of the media’s maligning of my man Tebow and their seeming silence on the self same stuff with senior statesman Lewis I’ve considered a cadre of conspicuous contributors:
(All of which is to say I think I’ve figured out what happened.)
1. TimeTewbow was a rookie, a highly touted rookie but a rookie nonetheless. He hadn’t had any time in the league to establish himself with anything other than pre-draft hype. Although Tebow had been highly regarded throughout his college career he hadn’t had the same kind of media attention that players get in the NFL. In short the media hadn’t really had an opportunity to build a relationships with him.
Ray has been in the league for seventeen years. Granted that time has been turbulent at points but over the course of time the media has been able to craft an understanding of how they relate to Ray and how he relates to them.
I think it is very true in this case that time equates to relationship.
2. PerformanceThis one is almost a double edged sword because while Ray had proven himself over time, Tim WAS proving himself in his short opportunity to do so. I actually believe now, in hindsight, that part of the shots that were being taken at Tim were specifically because he was winning when by all intents and purposes he should not have been able to pull out those wins.
The media really didn’t want to admit that this kid, who looked like he really was NOT an NFL passer, was somehow winning games that he should be losing because of his relationship with God. Tim put them in a place where they had to consider that as a possibility. Tim wasn’t winning WITH God, Tim was winning BECAUSE of God and that didn’t sit well. We’ll never know, on this side of the box, whether God was orchestrating wins for Tim but the media certainly didn’t want to entertain that possibility.
By contrast Ray Lewis has proven himself a proficient, first ballot hall of fame, linebacker. Ray wins. If Ray wants to give credit to God the media can give each other a wink and a nudge and say, “Ok, but you won before you got religion too.”
This combination of time and performance creates a certain credibility in relationship. Faith has a place in the public arean of football no doubt. But the arena IS football. The Tebow/Lewis Conundrum seems to support the notion that the people who manage the popular opinions ensconced in that arena are willing to accept faith second if football is proved first. You can be good at football solely because of faith, they don’t like that.
Which leads me to wonder:
- What are the arenas in life where our faith is welcomed AFTER we’ve proven ourselves in the arena?
- Where are the places that we can invest time and performance that produces credibility?
- How patient are we in building that street cred before bringing faith to bare?