Wounded by the Righteous

“There is no deeper pathos in the spiritual life of man than the cruelty of righteous people.”

Reinhold Niebuhr, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics. 1956.

Good, godly, well intentioned, “righteous” Christians (usually leaders) hurt and wound others in Christian community. Why am I writing this? 4 reasons:

  1. To remind myself that as an older Christian leader, it is so easy for me to wound others, beginning with my wife and children, not to mention members of my Christian community.
  2. To appeal to Christian leaders to take personal responsibility for hurting/wounding their flock, even if they “never intended to.”
  3. To empathize with the wounded, and pray that they may extend mercy to those who have wounded them in the name of Christ.
  4. To see Christ’s wounds in our own woundedness.

How and why are the righteous “cruel” when they should love others as Christian leaders? My very limited answer is based entirely on my observations as a Christian in UBF over the last 30 years.
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Parish Nursing

Last Sat, May 19, 2012, I attended a Seminar on Parish Nursing led by Helen Wordworth, RN from England. This is based on her power point.
What is health? In 1948, the World Health Organization states that health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. It does not address the spiritual aspect of man. What then is health from a Biblical view? Abigail Rian-Evans includes a spiritual dimension in “Redeeming Marketplace Medicine” (1999): Health is based on humankind as a unity; integrated wholeness, not separated physical and spiritual elements. It orients towards health as wholeness and sickness as brokenness. Its primary goal is the health of others, not only our own. It broadens healing to include any activity that moves us towards wholeness. Continue reading →

Silence and Solitude (Bonhoeffer)

Tim Keller writes in the forward of Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas that Life Together “is perhaps the finest single volume I have ever read on the character of Christian community.” I concur, for since I began reading it last week, I can’t shake myself from re-reading it, blogging on it, and discussing it with others over and over. Briefly,

  • Chap 1 on Community states that even a noble sincere Christian (perhaps myself?) can destroy authentic Christian fellowship by trying to impose his biblical idealistic “wish dream” on his Christian community.
  • Chap 4 on Christian Ministry stresses silence and listening before talking/teaching. (My wife loves to remind me that this is the most important chapter for me!)
  • Chap 5 on Confession encourages all Christians to confess their sins to one another without which we will become an elite Pharisees club, a collegium pietatis, an assembly of the pious and super apostles, where real sinners are not allowed to join.

My 4th and final blog on Chap 3 is silence and solitude. (Someday I may reflect on Chap 2–The Day with Others–about how Christians spend each day from morning to night.) Silence is crucial for Christians to hear the Word: “There are 3 purposes for which the Christian needs a definite time when he can be alone during the day: Scripture meditation, prayer, and intercession.” “Silence is nothing else but waiting for God’s Word. (Silence) is something that needs to be practiced and learned, in these days when talkativeness prevails.” “Let none expect from silence anything but a direct encounter with the Word of God.”
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Listening is Greater than Speaking

In Community (Chap 1 of Life Together), Bonhoeffer explains what destroys Christian community: “…the human element always insinuates itself and robs the fellowship of its spiritual power and effectiveness for the Church, drives it into sectarianism.” In Confession (Chap 5), he says that true Christian community cannot exists among sinners acting pious without true confession of sin, because “the pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner.” In Chap 4, Bonhoeffer addresses Christian Ministry under 7 very helpful, self-evident, seemingly obvious headings (though difficult to practice as a Christian):

  1. The Ministry of Holding One’s Tongue (Ps 50:19-21; Jas 1:26, 3:2, 4:11-12; Eph 4:29)
  2. The Ministry of Meekness (Rom 12:3,16)
  3. The Ministry of Listening (Jas 1:19)
  4. The Ministry of Helpfulness (Phil 2:4)
  5. The Ministry of Bearing (Gal 6:2; Col 3:13; Eph 4:12)
  6. The Ministry of Proclaiming (2 Tim 4:2)
  7. The Ministry of Authority (Mk 10:43)

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GLBT Evangelism

Last week, President Obama revealed a somewhat surprising statement: “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama said in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC News.
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Pious Fellowship Permits No Sinners

A Christian’s “wish dream” destroys Christian community. In Community (Chap 1 of Life Together), Bonhoeffer explains that it is a Christian’s “wish dream” that is the cause of breaking a spiritual Christian community or fellowship. Why? It is because a serious Christian “is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it.” But God shatters such a noble Christian’s wish dream and causes great disillusionment in the Christian community. This is very good when it happens because “every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” Frank Viola regards these observations as “one of the most profound and helpful things that Bonhoeffer ever wrote.”
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On Sun, May 6, Dr. John Armstrong gave a sermon on friendship at West Loop; here’s the video link: Learning to be Friends with Jesus (Jn 15:9-17). His personal story about a close, intimate friendship that he has had for the last 4 decades of his life brought me to tears. It is at the 12:50 time marker.

His friend was ruthlessly brutal with him, yet tenderly vulnerable toward him. We human beings need such a friend. The richness and quality of our lives (and church community) is dependent on and proportional to the richness and quality of the friendships that we have, or fail to have. I am such a happy man simply because I know that Jesus loves me and that my wife loves me. Nothing else in all creation can add or subtract from this. Yet, I still do need friendships, like the one Armstrong describes. It is akin to the friendship of Jonathan and David (2 Sam 1:26). We need a friend who can speak the truth to us in love (Eph 4:15), whose conversations are full of grace and yet seasoned with salt (Col 4:6). Continue reading →

Community (Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, Richard Foster’s review rings true: “Most books can be skimmed quickly; some deserve careful reading; a precious few should be devoured and digested. Life Together … belongs to the third category.” Chapter one is on Community. (This reading is in preparation for John Armstrong’s cohort group, which emphasizes 3 core principles: interior life, relational unity and missional theology. Join if you can.)

“Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years…” (21). “Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate” (30). “…the human element always insinuates itself and robs the fellowship of its spiritual power and effectiveness for the Church” (37).
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Shattered Dreams

I was touched by this 2 minute video showing God’s grace to one whose dreams were dashed to pieces: Shattered Dreams. It was choreographed by Tim Fitch to introduce his sermon last Sun at West Loop: Shattered Dreams, A Compassionate God (1 Kings 19:1-18). IMHO I thought that Tim’s sermon was the best sermon delivered at West Loop since our church plant on 1/4/2008. Thank God for the gospel of God’s relentless pursuit of us in spite of ourselves.