Saturday, July 30, 2016

Even Gray Areas Need Light

  Before I became a Christian I wrestled with God. The question was not whether He existed, it was why He allowed pain and suffering. I argued and screamed and cursed God through each difficulty and abuse. 

  When God saved me in spite of my ugliness, I wrestled through lots of scripture when I hit something I didn't understand. God was gracious to give me an abundance of strong older women who loved me but did not coddle me. They questioned me and pushed me to dig deeper. The gratitude I have for them is more than I can ever express in words. God was preparing me for something much more challenging and it would require long-lasting endurance which I am not known for in any circle. 

  1Peter 3 has been my main wrestling partner for a while now. Having found myself in a marriage to someone who no longer professes Christ has been difficult and I am sure he would profess that being married to a Christian is the same. There are A LOT of resources, blogs, and studies on these passages by people who are much greater theologians than I. There is also some not well-thought advice. 

  I am not a fan of the term "spiritually single" which seems to loosely imply a vacancy. God uses the term "unequally yoked" and that implies being bound although in an ill-fitting way which will create more struggle as you go along. What women in marriages to unbelievers do not need is an excuse to think poorly of their husband, to loosen the bind of marriage, or be petted in wallowing. So what do they need?

  Women in marriages to unbelievers need encouragement, strengthening, and help in the Word. They need to be some of the best equipped members in the church. They are not going out from time to time to witness to people and then go home. They do not get to use some planned dialogue. They must live day in and day out presenting the gospel without words and without a break. They are not going to be worried about a stranger slamming the door in their face but a person with whom they are intimately connected.

 They are to take into account their submission to God which requires submission to their husband, all of Proverbs 31, and they are to do all of this without fearing. Their actions everyday are not to be provoking but to seek to make their husband respected and to pour grace out even when they are faced with hurt. Their emotions are not to be the resource from which they draw their responses. It is to be God who they know hates divorce and has said that if their husband desires to stay with them, they are to do so. She is not to provoke or nag or pick at her husband and try to bring him to some understanding of his sin. She is NOT his Holy Spirit and an unbeliever does not have that understanding until God grants it. 

 Sometimes that means enduring a husband who is operating for his own purpose because he is not seeking God. Sometimes that means enduring hard times because she cannot submit to something that her husband has put before her because it oversteps her submission to God. In denying her husband, she needs to have much peace. Sometimes it may mean that she must confide in the church Body and the church should be prepared to step in and help. 

 The gray areas that lack are churches actively equipping and supporting women and men in these areas. Everything I have seen tiptoes so gently in the area of marriage to unbeliever because women are so sensitive about women who are being abused and like to throw that question out there as soon as these verses are approached. I think first we need to equip women then we need to answer questions like, "Do women need to confront their husbands when they are doing something wrong?" and if so, when is that and what does it look like? When you confront them and they get angry, what do you do? 

  My mind is settling in the area of being so studied in the Word that she seeks every moment to refer to it to know how to respond. If a husband is going to do something that will cause him dishonor or put him in a situation to break the law, then a wife should act to try to keep him from doing so if possible, like Abigail did for her husband Nabal. It may mean that you leave temporarily. It may mean that you bring in a mediator. It may mean keeping quiet. It NEVER means acting of fear or from feelings. 

  Gray areas are just as in need of light as those completely void of light.  

Monday, July 11, 2016

Liberty and Justice for All or Jesus

 I am heartbroken. 

 Right down to my bone. Soul-shaking, painfully heartbroken. So much violence all around. 

 Yes, we have lived in a country where it was easier to be white. Growing up, I did not always feel the privilege but I saw a lot of injustice and inequality on those that were my friends and neighbors who were not white. 

 A few times I was brave enough to stand up against it. It grieved me even though I did not fully comprehend the weight of it. My naivete found me out on numerous occasions. Like the time I worked in a small town and wanted to go to this certain place for lunch with my friends because it was on the town square one block from where we worked. My black friend informed me that he couldn't go. I thought he meant that he was too busy. There I stood for 15 minutes arguing that he was coming along no matter what he had to do before he gently made it clear that he could not go because he was not allowed in that establishment. I was shocked that in 1995 such atrocities still existed. When i decided to pitch a fit and come up with a plan to do something about it, he once again calmly told me that it would be better for him and me if I just forgot the whole thing and kept quiet. 

 Somewhere down the line before America became a country, we lost sight of something much more valuable. 

 I agree that we need to dialogue about the past, we need to know history and we need to repent as a nation but let us not forget that the hurts that drive us today are mostly the ones that have recently wounded us. 

 I grew up seeing children who had no father in their life and a mother that was too busy and stressed to have time for mothering. Domestic abuse was common in the projects I lived in and it did not matter what color you were when you called the police there. They always came too late and had too little to offer. As kids we fought and beat each other up fiercely because it was what we knew. It did not matter that you hurt someone. And, deeply rooted in us was the idea that it did not matter if someone hurt you. 

 IF my hope is in my country with liberty and justice for all, then, yes, I suppose we should be let down. It is a shamble of a hot mess. It is true that in 1776 America was declaring independence while a lot of people in America were not free. But is my hope in America??? Is my hope in my skin??? Is my hope in who wins the election or how many people protest????

 Jesus is the only hope. He came to transcend barriers and boundaries and say that true freedom is possible even if we are in earthly captivity. He protested sin and death and won! He came to say that Grace and Mercy were far better to attain than anything we think we need to pursue. 

 And when you get right down to the nitty gritty, July 4th is not my personal independence day. It is the celebration of the country I live in but I was enslaved to sin until April 1997. This is of far greater impact because it opened the door for me to fully realize that life matters. All lives. Black, white, yellow, red. Big, small. In the womb or out. Criminal or law abiding. ALL LIVES. Jesus died for every life. Every life has value because the Creator innately puts it there. 

 A hurt and wounded world needs this understanding. We need patience and love. We need a time to cry and time to heal and a time to move forward in Truth.

 Jesus laid down His life in love to restore us and unite us in Him so that we have one Father. That's family in my book. 

 I can't change the color of my skin God gave me but I can choose not to pick up the stick that the world keeps laying down and telling me to use to draw a division. We do not need to draw any more divisions and thicken the boundary lines between our differences. Goodness knows that we can trip over flat ground without putting obstacles in the way too. 

 I cannot change the hearts of those around me but I can speak Truth and love others without limitation. I can recognize when someone is hurting and possibly erase a boundary line in the way. I can offer help and even more than that I can tell how to attain true freedom because the suffering of this world is not the end of hope. Every broken heart can be mended in light of this Truth and even broken countries. 

 Pro-Lives - any color, any size; worthy of the greatest sacrifice.