Month: October 2013

Dear Calvinist – You’re NOT as Bad as You Think You Are

Dear Calvinist,

Happy Reformation Day.

Now, a brief word – You are not as bad as you think you are.  I say that, with love, as a fellow Calvinist.  And I want you to have an even happier Reformation Day.

I grew up Lutheran, transitioned to the Christian Reformed Church, then over to the Reformed Church in America, back to the Christian Reformed Church in high school – college, before landing in the Presbyterian Church in America for my ordination.  I’ve had the Germans, the Dutch, and the Scots tell me how totally depraved I am.  I was raised on a diet of worms.  (Get it?)  I’m a minister in the Reformed Church in America, and I am a confessional Calvinist.  Just so you know…

Yes, I’m a Calvinist, because I’m a mess and I know it, AND because Calvin affirmed the image-bearing dignity of human beings.  More on that in a minute.  This shift in my thinking began in college only after I read Calvin’s magisterial Institutes.  Before then, my understanding of Reformed theology was mediated through the Five Points articulated well after Calvin at Dordrecht.  I was raised on the first canon, in particular – Total Depravity.  In fact, I don’t think there was a Bible study I attended back then that studied anything but Romans.  And the center of Romans was Romans 3:10 – “There is no one righteous, not one.”  Calvinism, I thought, was about how bad I was, how undeserving I was, and how incredible God was for including me in the .00001% called “predestined” before the foundation of the world.  In other words, the Calvinist credo began with sin.

Thankfully, I was asked to read Calvin, himself, in college.  I was dumbstruck.  Now, to be sure, Calvin clearly and vividly painted the grim picture of sinful human beings because…IT IS GRIM.  But as I read I recognized a continual counter-theme in Calvin – image-bearing dignity.  In fact, Calvin sees something as more fundamental to our identity than sin.  As he writes, “Certain philosophers, accordingly, long ago not ineptly called humanity a microcosm, because it is a rare example of God’s power, goodness, and wisdom. And humans contain within themselves enough miracles to occupy our minds, if only we are not irked at paying attention to them.”  J.M. Vorster, a Calvin scholar, writes, “God created man in his image. The gift of God’s image is present in every person. Due to this creational principle he (Calvin) stressed the worthiness of the human being.”

The dignity afforded human beings as image-bearers extends, in fact, to a social ethic.  Calvin wrote, “It is not the will of God, however that we should forget the primeval dignity which he bestowed on our first parents – a dignity which may well stimulate us to the pursuit of goodness and justice.”  Indeed, Calvin did not walk down the street defining everyone he met as “sinner,” but was far more nuanced, even paradoxical, in his thinking.  Do you want an ethic of compassion?  Consider what Calvin thought as he counseled men and women who’d run into the unlovable:  “Say that he does not deserve even your least effort for his sake; but the image of God, which recommends him to you, is worthy of your giving yourself and all your possessions.” 

Yes, here we have Calvin in all of his paradoxical and mystical glory!  He can say BOTH that we are worthless and worthy, depraved and dignified.  We Calvinists are often allergic to anything that hints at some inherent goodness within a human being, but Calvin isn’t quite as allergic.

I find among Calvinists (at times) a kind of vitriol, a reveling in the doctrine of sin.  A well-known neo-Calvinist megachurch pastor shouted at his congregation not long ago: “God hates, right now, personally, objectively hates some of you.”  I wonder if this pastor, among others, would shutter to hear Calvin say this:

In this way only we can attain to what is not to say difficult, but all together against nature, to love those that hate us, render good for evil, and blessing for cursing, remembering that we are not to reflect on the wickedness of men, but look to the image of God in them, an image which, covering and obliterating their faults, should by its beauty and dignity allure us to love and embrace them.

Is Calvin light on sin?  No, Calvin is just holding the tension of dignity and depravity, as we all ought to.

If Calvin is right, then sin is not our core identity.  I wonder sometimes if we too flippantly define ourselves as “sinners” in my tradition.  Sin, in fact, is an invading vandal, a “disease of the vital region” as Spurgeon says, a virus.  Sin is not native to us:

17But in fact it is no longer I (the true, image-bearing self) that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh (or false, sinful self). I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. (from Rom. 7)

I can, as a Reformed Christian, affirm the doctrine of total depravity if it doesn’t become the WHOLE story.  For Calvin, depravity is, in fact, only understood in light of our original goodness, “meaning by the term the depravation of a nature formerly good and pure.”  Yes, those are Calvin’s words.  He maintained a doctrine of original goodness.

I do sometimes wonder if we’re so afraid of ennobling humanity that we choose a perverted form of Calvinism – a neo-Puritan wormology which defines us first and foremost as depraved rather than dignified.  We start at Genesis 3 rather than Genesis 1.

I do sometimes wonder if our theological tipping-of-the-scales to depravity is more a product of our psychology.  This is purely anecdotal, but having counseled many, many Reformed pastors and leaders in the last 15 years or so, I find us to be, by far, the most guilt-and-shame-based ‘demographic’ I see.

I saw a pastor some time ago who was buried in guilt and shame.  His mantra – I am far worse than I think I am, but God is far greater.  He constantly reminded me of how much he needed the Gospel.  I never understood what he meant by ‘Gospel’ (good news) until I said at one point, “Can you see that God smiles at you, embraces you, calls you his son?”

“No, no, no,” he retorted, somewhat reactively.  “God cannot look upon me.  He can only look upon Christ, who covers me.  That is the Gospel.”

“If that is the Gospel, that is not good news,” I said, channelling Calvin.  “You are God’s image-bearer, God’s beloved.  He sent Christ to welcome you home. God puts the ring on your finger, the robe on your back, and throws a party for your homecoming.”

He never returned to my office for counseling again.  I suspect that he considered me outside of his orthodoxy.

If your view is his, then Reformation Day is not a happy one, I’d say.  Rembrandt_Harmensz_van_Rijn_-_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Google_Art_Project-x0-y1

If Calvin can hold the tension of dignity and depravity, can you?  Can you believe that God is smiling at you?  Can you believe that, without minimizing the mess that you are, Christ says, “You’re mine”?

Dear Calvinist, you are not as bad as you think you are.  You are a dignity-bearing royal ambassador who has been chosen and sent to call others into their deepest vocation.  Along the way, you’ve taken a hundred detours, like a lost sheep.  But God keeps coming for you, sending Jesus to redirect your way, sending the Spirit to illuminate your path.  Stop defining yourself by your stumbling, and start defining yourself by your deepest identity.  God paid an awfully big price to make his welcome crystal clear for you…now receive it.  There is a feast waiting.

Now, go have a happier Reformation Day.

 

 

John Stott on the the self we affirm and the self we deny

What we are (our self or personal identity) is partly the result of the Creation (the image of God), and partly the result of the fall (the image defaced).  The self we are to deny, disown, and crucify is our fallen self, everything within us that is incompatible with Jesus Christ (hence Christ’s command, ‘let him deny himself and follow me’).  The self we are to affirm and value is our created self, everything within us that is compatible with Jesus Christ (hence his statement that if we lose ourselves by self-denial we shall find ourselves).  True self-denial (the denial of our false, fallen self) is not the road to self-destruction, but the road to self-discovery.   So, then, whatever we are by creation, we must affirm: our rationality, our sense of moral obligation, our masculinity and femininity, our aesthetic appreciation and artistic creativity, our stewardship of the fruitful earth, our hunger for love and community, our sense of the transcendent mystery of God, and our inbuilt urge to fall down and worship him.  All this is part of our created humanness.  True, it has all been tainted and twisted by sin.  Yet Christ came to redeem and not destroy it.  So we must affirm it.   But whatever we are by the fall, we must deny or repudiate: our irrationality; our moral perversity; our loss of sexual distinctives; our fascination with the ugly; our lazy refusal to develop God’s gifts; our pollution and spoliation of the environment; our selfishness, malice, individualism, and revenge, which are destructive of human community; our proud autonomy; and our idolatrous refusal to worship God.  All this is part of our fallen humanness.  Christ came not to redeem this but to destroy it.  So we must deny it. John Stott

Pastoral Care Q’s 1: How do I bring the Bible into pastoral counseling?

This is the first in a series of answers to questions generated by you.  And this is a frequently asked question.  How do I bring the Bible into pastoral counseling?  Here are some (rather diverse!) things I hear from pastors:

I learned in seminary that I shouldn’t use the Bible – that it can be dangerous, misquoted, improperly proof-texted, or hidden behind when we feel like we have nothing else to offer.   

– I learned to refer.  I was told that counseling wasn’t my specialization or training, and that I should see people for no more than 1-3 times and then refer out. 

– I learned to be suspicious of psychology, and bring Scripture to counseling as it is profitable for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

– I learned to be suspicious of therapists, who disregard Scripture and affirm humanistic solutions for spiritual issues.

And so, what I hear from pastors ranges from one spectrum to the other.  The common denominator, however, is that I find relatively few pastors who know how to answer this question or worse, how to practice pastoral care in a way that is deeply biblical.

First, I don’t like the question.  How do I use Scripture?  It’s the wrong question.  We can ask, “How do I use an empty chair technique?” or “How might I use my own story to build trust?”  No, we don’t use Scripture.  We live in it, we breathe it, we are immersed in it (see Eugene Peterson’s Eat this Book).  I suspect a fish wouldn’t ask, “How do I use the water in my tank?” 

Or, perhaps a better way is to say that we faithfully improvise the Story in our present day (see NT Wright, Kevin VanHoozer, or Samuel Wells on this).  Or, as missiologist David Bosch once said, “(Jesus) inspired his disciples to prolong the logic of his own action in creative ways amidst new and different historical circumstances in which the community would have to proclaim the Gospel.”  Our pastoral care and counseling is immersed in the Story.  We live out that Story in the present not by mere repetition, but through holy imagination.  Walsh and Keesmaat say it well: “If we are to faithfully live out the biblical drama, then we will need to develop the imaginative skills necessary to improvise on this cosmic stage of creational redemption. It would be the height of infidelity and interpretive cowardice to simply repeat verbatim… the earlier passages of the play.”  Thus, lifting verses out of their narratives as a source of comfort, however well-intentioned, runs a high risk of violating this important pastoral hermeneutic. 

Second, as a Calvinist and Kuyperian, I’m convinced that God’s speech “pours forth” (Ps. 19:2) both in his Word and his World.  Wisdom in pastoral care means swimming in the waters of both.  It sometimes means discerning the foul waters of both, too.  An obvious and silly ‘foul water’ example is one in which a pastor counsels a woman traumatized by abuse to “be anxious for nothing.”  This is a common example of lifting a text from its narrative context to make a point.  Equally as irresponsible is the response, “Just take a pill.”  No, our work is far more nuanced.  Immersed in the ‘texts’ of both Scripture and creational psychological wisdom, we’re able to faithfully improvise in the very unique situation we find ourselves in. 

Third, since I swim in the waters of God’s poured forth speech, I’m not required to simply react to my traumatized client with a verse, but seek to understand her unique story and be with her in it as a faithful presence.  In entering her story, I can begin to see how The Story intersects with it, deconstructs it, re-narrates it, holds it…I could go on with a hundred phrases.  And I could list a hundred different ways of being a conduit of God’s poured forth speech in words or silence, in an artful psychological technique or through a story (see 2 Sam. 12 and how Nathan used a story to awaken David).  In engaging and entering into a person’s story, I’ll see and feel and experience certain patterns and themes and rhythms which are unique to this person (highlight those last four words!) and I’ll be able to be the very presence of Christ for her in this time and in this place.

Fourth, as a pastor, I’ll commit to being that presence how I can, and it’s my job to invite her into the many means of grace, which include our sessions, worship, spiritual disciplines, psychiatric care, spiritual direction, and more…all thoughtfully considered together in light of her story.  The frequent counsel to pastors to refer after 3 sessions may be wise in once sense, but pastors need to continue to be a faithful presence in an ongoing way.  In today’s radically psychologized world, I find that many pastors are simply anxious.  They feel as if they’ll say something wrong or make a mistake, in large part, because their seminary psych professor told them they would.  Sure you will!  I do all the time!  But as you fumble, you get to own up to it and repent.  The smart thing is to not go it alone.  Seek regular pastoral supervision from a more experienced pastor, perhaps with some counseling expertise.  Read broadly.  Be familiar with important works on counseling ethics.  But, remain their pastor.  Too many clients I’ve seen either felt abandoned by their pastor who referred them, or in other cases afraid of the pastor who wouldn’t refer because of the ‘evils’ of counseling.  Pastors, take the approach of partnering with a therapist, and building trust with him/her.  You need each other.         

Finally, I’ve found that opening an actual Bible (yes, you heard it right), in certain situations, has been helpful.  It’s always a gut call, and I do it attempting to use Scripture in a way that intersects with their story, re-narrates or makes sense of their story, and reflects faithful improvisation in my unique present context. More often than not, I’ll go to a familiar story or passage.  On the wall of my office is Rembrandt’s great Return of the Prodigal Son painting, and this provides a nice intersection to engage within a story of Scripture that I believe has the capacity to re-narrate our stories.  I’ve read portions of Ezekiel 16 with women who’ve experienced abuse and need to experience God’s tender care for them.  I’ve highlighted important texts/doctrines when it seems appropriate.  For example, it became transformative for one client who experienced God as distant to really get that she is God’s dwelling place, his temple presence.  She became an avid reader of St. Teresa’s Interior Castle as a means of embracing this.  I’ve re-told Bible stories slant, or read from The Message, to re-tell a story in a new way.  I’ve read a lament, and asked a client to write her lament.  And more.  When we know our people (our parishioners, our clients), we can make this call.  There is no formula, no recipe.  There is YOU, a soul steeped in God’s poured forth speech in Word and world, providentially intersecting with a unique image-bearer, listening to the Spirit’s guidance in this time and place as you faithfully improvise in your pastoral care.

Well, that’s a start.  I hope it’s helpful to you.  Please be in touch via Twitter, Facebook, or comments below with more questions…

mystic in mission: st teresa of avila

Today – October 14 – is the Feast Day of St. Teresa of Avila, a Spanish saint and Reformer.  But why should I care?  I’m a Protestant.  Even more, I’m Reformed.  Even more, I’m an evangelical.  I ought to be writing about the evils of Feast Days!

Teresa has become something of a hero to me, though.  She’s one of two “lost Reformers” along with St. John of the Cross.  Her name ought to be up in lights among Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and the others.  

Teresa was a mystic in mission.  

But her real ‘reform’ efforts didn’t start until she was 43 years old.  Indeed, she is a living picture of someone who transitioned well into her “second half of life,” having spent much of the first half performing and comparing, concerned more about image than depth, guilt-ridden by all she’d not done rather than freed to live and love.  16-year old Teresa was beautiful and impulsive and earthy, engaging in typical adolescent sexual carousing.  It was not the first time her socializing with men would be seen as seductive, something that followed her well into her 60’s in and through her relationship with St. John of the Cross.  In her early years, she struggled to pray like the rest of us, and wondered if her life would amount to anything – “My imagination is so dull that I had no talent for imagining or coming up with great theological thoughts.”  With the other nuns of her day, she lived life in a convent that looked more like a freshman girls dorm, where boys would sneak in and out, and where Teresa’s friends would waste much of their time spending money on expensive jewelry to spruce up their nun-wear (imagine that…fashionable 16th century nun-wear!)  At the same time, she’d feel wholly inadequate among the “good girls” in the convent who seemed to do their daily prayers and experience God in a way she hadn’t.

I’m particularly drawn in by this at the age of 43, myself, as she challenges me to reflect on my own “first half of life” successes and (even more!) stumblings.

As a nun, she witnessed and participated in the 16th century vanities and excesses of the Roman Catholic Church, and after a bout with malaria gained new perspective on her life.  Indeed, pain became a pathway to intimacy with God, a new and vibrant intimacy which often led her into moments of timeless contemplative union with God.  She was a “daughter” – and she could rest in that identity, an identity that transcended whatever version of sin-management or God-pleasing she’d tried.  Tasting union, she couldn’t help but see that the Church in her day was a mix of pious and moralistic religiosity, on the one hand, and blatant excess and abuse on the other.  She determined to be the difference.

As a member of the Carmelite Order, she sought reform rather than outright rebellion.  She championed a return to prayer, to humility, and perhaps most apt for a Reformer – to GRACE – as the pathway to intimacy with God.  And she (along with her greatest student and fellow Reformer – St. John of the Cross) would pay dearly for their efforts.  She traveled the Spanish countryside, politicking brilliantly, as God brought her extraordinary emotional and social intelligence (and penchant for seductiveness) into the redemptive work of Reform.  Wherever she went, she was challenged and maligned.  Being a woman made her all-the-more a target, and yet Teresa could engage the abuse with her own endearing self-deprecation, needing only to give God the credit.  She’d write, “But what do I know? I’m just a wretched woman.” – and these words did seem to satisfy some who’d pursue on account of her gender. Teresa didn’t have a chip on her shoulder.  She didn’t need to demand respect.  Her presence invited it. As she said, “Anyone who truly loves God travels securely.”

And her teaching came with power and theological wisdom.  Imagine how bold it would be for Teresa to call her sisters (and brothers within the order) back to their baptismal identity:

May you be content knowing that you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into our bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. 

Indeed, her themes parallel the Reformers.  She begins where Calvin began in his Institutes – with interiority – a call to know ourselves in a such a way that we can discover both the depth of our depravity, but marvel at the beauty of God’s image-bearing dignity renewed in us.  Read the Interior Castle, particularly Mirabai Starr’s translation.  In it, she sees our spiritual journey in seven stages – a journey from fragmentation to wholeness, from displaced desire to unified desire in God, from an identity in things and people and possessions to an identity in God.  Fr. John Welch does an excellent job unfolding this in his YouTube talk here.

The mystic-in-mission started 14 new convents where she’d herald grace and faithfulness and mission.  She wrote four books.  All the while, she battled illness which took her to the brink of death, and abuse which tarnished her reputation but failed to touch her spirit.

Today, I find myself longing to live into this extraordinary paradox of contemplation and action.  Maybe you do, as well?  There is something so appealing about a human being who models such profound interiority and intimacy, while at the same time accomplishing so much for the sake of the Gospel.  Indeed, I’ve often said that while I cherish my tradition, its confessions, and its founders, I find a deeply lived GRACE and UNION with God in the lives of the Spanish Reformers Teresa and John.

I’ll be tweeting all day today – October 15 – at @chuckdegroat with the hashtag #teresa.  I invite you to contribute to the collection of wise sayings from Teresa at that hashtag, and offer your own thoughts on this remarkable mystic in mission.  In the meantime, enjoy these works for further reflection:

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– My favorite biography is by Cathleen Medwick – Teresa of Avila: The Prayers of a Soul

– Teresa’s autobiography is The Life of Teresa of Jesus, and I enjoy E. Alison Peers edition/translation.

– Check out Mirabai Starr’s translation of The Interior Castle.  The first paragraph of her introduction is worth the price of the book.

– Fr. John Welch – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZAuzHICX4A

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talking government shutdowns and military incursions…with the kids

“Dad, why can we pay to do military stuff when the government can’t pay for regular people to go to work?”

They had seen news of the two raids in Africa.

“Dad, why did they allow there to be army football games when poor people aren’t getting benefits they need?”

My 12 and 10 year old daughters are confused.  I don’t have many answers, because I’m not quite sure either.  “It doesn’t seem fair,” they say.

Watching CNN interviews with Congressman last week, my oldest daughter (a middle schooler) saw analogies to the kind of adolescent drama that goes on in her hallways.  usa-government-shutdown-britain.si

While a generation before me didn’t question so-called “American exceptionalism,” my generation has its doubts.  But my girls are downright cynical.  “This is ridiculous,” Emma says.

Here are a few thoughts I shared with them…

1. Nothing new under the sun – I told them that this isn’t the first time or the last that they’ll scratch their heads in puzzlement over what they’re seeing.  I grew up with nuclear war drills, Wargames, and The Day After, during a time when threats of total annihilation were tossed back and forth by world leaders like a hot potato.  Adolescent, playground bullying and political cock-fighting isn’t new.  The level to which this cock-fighting has come to define our internal debate isn’t even that new.

2.  Don’t be afraid of power, but be wary of mis-handled power  – Fresh off some great reading from @commentmag, I was reminded of what I’ve long believed – that God created this world very good, giving human beings the responsibility of stewardship within many spheres of influence.  Sensing a budding anti-institutional sentiment, I reminded the girls that government isn’t “bad,” no more than church, or their school, or the grocery store.  Yes, it looks quite bad in the hands of middle school bullies, but we (and many others) depend on strong, wise leadership from our elected officials, and we ought to pray to that end, and grieve in its absence.

3.  Kingdom Come on Earth – I reminded them of what we pray each Sunday after the Lord’s Supper – that God’s Kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.  Outright cynicism about government is usually accompanied by an eschatology which sees this world going to hell in a hand-basket.  But if we believe that God created a good world, and that our job is to participate in its restoration amidst its groaning, then we (again) pray – May your Kingdom come, on earth, even in the most broken places.  God, I reminded them, likes to fix broken things.

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I was a philosophy major and political theory minor in college, and had read enough of Locke, Hobbes, Smith, and the rest to be dangerous.  But as I fight my own cynicism and disappointment, there are these moments – Dad moments – which require a humble, artful, somewhat pastoral engagement of the fears and frustration of my girls.  They are observing a very reactive world, and I want them to be wise – reflective, not reactive.  

And so, walking out from Emma’s bedroom, I pray again, “Lord give me the grace to be present to my girls, to their conflicted emotions, their feelings of powerlessness.  Give me the grace to reflect with them, with all humility.  And even now, give me the capacity to grieve about things which puzzle my adult mind and heart, trusting that you are Lord and King.”

loving the enemy within you

We often identify the enemy out there.

The bully of a boss.  The boyfriend who cheated.  The terrorist who attacks.

But what if the key to loving your enemy out there is loving the enemy within?

To understand this, you’ve got to understand what a wonderfully made and gloriously complex person you are.  St. Macarius of Egypt (4th c.) understood:

“Within the heart are unfathomable depths. The heart is Christ’s palace: there Christ the King comes to take his rest with the angels and spirits of the saints, and he dwells there, walking within it and placing his Kingdom there…The heart is but a small vessel: and yet dragons and lions are there, and there poisonous creatures and all the treasures of wickedness; rough uneven places are there, and gaping chasms. All things are there.”  

You – yes YOU – are this glorious contradiction!

Now, this enemy is more than your “sin nature.”  Sin exists in an insidious cocktail of woundedness and shame and hiddenness and fear (Gen. 3).  Our stories tell the tale of selves made in the image of God, but shattered.  In our earliest days and throughout our lives, we learn to edit our stories – to compartmentalize and hide, to stuff parts of ourselves away – parts we suspect others would rather not see, and parts we suspect God might not love.

There are parts of you that you despise.  Parts you’re ashamed of.  Parts you’ve forgotten about, strangers to you.  Parts which feel out of control.

But none of these parts are strangers to God.  God, in Jesus, comes to meet the stranger, the despised, the wounded, the alienated.

Martin Smith asks this question:

“What chance is there of loving and respecting others if I refuse to meet and listen to the many sides of myself? How can I be a reconciler if I shut my ears to the unreconciled conflicts within myself?” 

Loving our enemies requires us to love ourselves, or rather – experience the loving kindness of One who would pursue the darkest corners of our being.

Like Jean – who discovered in our work together that was living a perfectionistic existence, with everything neatly put in place.  She was an extraordinary beauty on the outside.  She was a model of self-control and moral purity.  But while she was praised by many, she discovered that her perfection came at a cost.  She beat herself up – through exercise, bad eating, and self-criticism for any minor slip-up.  In time, she recognized that very early in life she responded to a dominant message – You must always look good, be thin, and be nice.  Any part of her that didn’t fit this narrative or contribute to its success was stuffed away, albeit without her conscious knowing.

Jean had no clue that she hated her body.  That she hated any imperfection inside of her.  That she despised desires which craved food, or sexual intimacy, or even a bit of rebellion.

What floored Jean, however, was the discovery that she had become a moralistic judge of others.  Despite her apparent godliness, Jean would evaluate everyone she met.  The discovery of her Pharisaism crushed her.  Again Martin Smith writes:

“Now I begin to see that the spiritual life is based on a basic honesty which enables me to recognize that everything I find difficult to accept, bless, forgive, and appreciate in others is actually present within myself.”

Loving the enemy begins with a basic honesty with ourselves, an honesty which we’re capable of knowing that Jesus is a friend to the stranger, to the exile, to the alien – even strange, exiled, and alienated places within us.

Jesus lives to love:  For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. (Rom. 5:10)

From the moment of our first alienation, God came pursuing.  God’s first words after we sinned:  Where are you?

The same God comes looking, in and through Jesus.  He searches out our hearts, every part of our hearts.  (Psalm 139)

Do you want to love your enemies?  It’s time to let God begin searching your heart.  ___________________________________________________

Pre-order Chuck’s new book The Toughest People to LoveImage