Saturday, May 28, 2011

Quote of the Week

"The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation." 

C.S. Lewis,  The Weight of Glory, p.27

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chris Paul, Uncommon Forgiveness and the Gospel

A couple of weeks ago, I was catching up on my sports reading when an ESPN article by Rick Reilly caught my attention. It was a story of forgiveness involving New Orleans Hornet's star point guard, Chris Paul.

In 2002, five young men robbed and brutally murdered Nathaniel Jones - Chris Paul's grandfather.  In the words of Reilly, they "jumped a 61 year old man, bound his wrists, duct taped his mouth and beat him with pipes until his heart stopped".  You'll have to read Reilly's article to grasp the profound impact of this had on Chris Paul.  He loved his grandfather and was deeply grieved by the loss.

Thankfully, justice was served. The authorities caught the perpetrators and they are serving time for their brutal crime. End of story, right? Not so.

What makes this interesting is that in the years after the incident, Chris Paul demonstrated an unusual mercy and kindness to the men who took his grandfather's life. He has forgiven them and may even advocate for their sentences to be reduced. In Paul's own words -

"Even though I miss my granddad, I understand he's not coming back. At the time it made me feel good to know that they went away for life. Now that I'm older, when I think of all the things I've seen in my life? No, I don't want it.."

I don't know if Chris Paul is a Christian or even religious but his example offers a picture of forgiveness. Real forgiveness is always remarkable - it gets our attention - it moves us. Perhaps it's because we know how difficult it is to forgive in a broken world. We sin and are sinned against. We need forgiveness for own failings and we need to forgive others. Yet, it seems beyond us - more than we can bear. Perhaps because it is.

You know what's more remarkable than Chris Paul's story of forgiveness? The gospel. The good news that actually starts with the bad news of a rebel race turning from the all-wise, all-loving and all-powerful Creator God. It's a remarkable story that speaks of a sacrifice by Jesus Christ, God's only Son to bear the sins of all who trust in him.  A sacrifice so profound that it changes lives for all eternity. It brings the spiritually dead to life.

"And you were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world... But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Chris Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus"

There's a reason why stories like Chris Paul's affect us. Perhaps it's because when we hear them, we get a glimpse of what divine mercy looks like. Deep down in our hearts, it reminds us of the mercy that we need every day.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Quote of the Week

"A Christian theory of leisure is rooted in the nature of the world that God created and in human nature as created by God to live in that order. At the heart of God's creation is something gratuitous - an exuberant going beyond what is strictly necessary to maintain life"

Monday, May 09, 2011

Should We Celebrate the Death of Osama Bin Laden?

A week ago, media channels were abuzz - broadcasting the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. The news was met in many quarters by celebration in the streets and in the social media world – Twitter and Facebook lighting up with updates.

Almost immediately, many Christians felt uncomfortable about rejoicing over anyone’s death, even someone as universally opposed as Bin Laden. Others experienced no such internal conflict of conscience.

Christian leaders and influencers were just as varied in their responses. Check out their varied responses here.

Bible verses like Proverbs 24:17 seem to call for restraint in our jubilation over Bin Laden’s demise - “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles"

Yet, Proverbs 11:10 tells us that “when it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices and when the wicked perish, there are shouts of gladness”

What do we make of this seeming contradiction? How should we respond when our enemies are crushed? How does this square with our Savior’s command to love our enemies?

From the collective wisdom of the best biblical scholars and pastors we can draw the following insights –

1. Celebrate justice, not death

We may have to kill for just cause but we do not delight in the death of another because it means taking the life of one made to be an image bearer of God. It is perhaps why God says in Ezekiel 18:23 – “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”

In his book Love in Hard Places, D.A. Carson makes reference to Osama Bin Laden and says this –

“He is an evil man, and he must be stopped, but he is a man and we should take no pleasure in destroying him. Vengeance is the Lord’s alone “

2. Celebrate justice humbly

Even as we celebrate justice, we do so as ones forgiven much. We resist the subtle temptation to favorably comparing ourselves with Bin Laden. We know better – we deserve judgment but have received grace and mercy. So we celebrate justice humbly as ones who have received mercy rather than justice.

Sentiments from the Resurgence blog“So we can be thankful that God is just and we can be very thankful that God is gracious"

3. How God feels about Osama’s death isn’t single threaded

John Piper offers a helpful, nuanced thought on how God might “feel” about the demise of Bin Laden. He starts by reminding us that God’s emotions are complex - like ours often are. Quoting Ezekiel 18:23, he makes the point that “in one sense, human death is not God’s pleasure” but citing Ezekiel 5, also reminds us that “the death and judgment of the unrepentant is God’s pleasure”

“Thus shall my anger spend itself, and I will vent my fury upon them and satisfy myself. And they shall know that “I am the LORD – that I have spoken in my jealousy when I spend my fury upon them”.

Both are true. God is vehemently opposed to wickedness while lovingly and patiently calling image bearers to repentance.