Saturday, January 22, 2005


Speaking of Tension

Turns out I may have been a little premature yesterday -- there was a lot of discussion about Peggy Noonan's WSJ piece -- just most of it on the left. Notable on the right were Best of the Web, PunditGuy, Powerline and Between Two Worlds. There was also quite the thread at Lucianne.

There was a bit of a dust-up yesterday over some comments James Dobson made concerning Spongebob Squarepants. Hugh Hewitttakes them on directly and Evangelical Outpost has a great summary of the whole situation. I am going to leave the arguing to them and, as is my goal, look for a devotional point in the situation.

The whole thing centers on the character of Spongebob (one of my nephew's favs I might add) becoming a spokescharacter for "tolerance," specifically tolerance of sexual orientation. I MUST say that Spongebob's core audience really has no business talking about sexual orientation at all. I do not use scare quotes around the word tolerance above to get a BOTW mention -- rather I use them because I think the word has become so fuzzy as to have little meaning any more.

One of the great movements of our time in winning the rhetorical battle has been to soften or even modify the definition of words to achieve ones ends. In this case a rhetorical equation has been established in the public debate:

Love = Tolerance = Acceptance = Approval

These are different words with very different meanings. Jesus certainly did not accept what the religious official of the day were doing:

Matt 23:29-33 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, 'If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31 "Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 "Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?(NAS)

While Jesus was generally tolerant of their activities even that had its limits. After all, He did tear through the Temple courtyard, something that would have to be considered intolerant.

Yet, when those same officials hung Jesus on the cross, He uttered one of the most loving utterances of all time.

Luke 23:33-34 And when they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. 34 But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.(NAS)

Yesterday I mentioned the tension of being pulled in two directions between being radically committed to Jesus personally, and having limits on how radically we will approach sharing our devotion. I do not think there is a similar tension between loving the sinner and condemning the sin.

If we really love someone, we want what is best for them, and continuing in some unethical or unholy practice is not what is best. Thus it was definitionally a loving act for Jesus to condemn the Pharisees as vipers and to turn over the moneychangers tables.

Our age needs wisdom. We need wisdom to properly discern what is and what is not loving. We need wisdom to understand what words mean and to retain those meanings. We need wisdom to properly obey God.

The Old Testament book of wisdom, Proverbs, is one of the most currently overlooked books of the Bible. Maybe it needs to become a routine and regular part of your devotion reading. I know it is of mine.

Pray for wisdom, every day. Read some wisdom, every day.

Prov 8:1-14 Does not wisdom call, and understanding lift up her voice? 2 On top of the heights beside the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; 3 Beside the gates, at the opening to the city, at the entrance of the doors, she cries out: 4 "To you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men.5 "O naive ones, discern prudence; and, O fools, discern wisdom. 6 "Listen, for I shall speak noble things; and the opening of my lips {will produce} right things. 7 "For my mouth will utter truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.8 "All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing crooked or perverted in them.9 "They are all straightforward to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge. 10 "Take my instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold.1 1 "For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things can not compare with her. 12 "I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge {and} discretion. 13 "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I hate. 14 "Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine.(NAS)

Friday, January 21, 2005



There does not seem to be much consensus on the topic of the day amongst the stuff I read, so I am going to comment on Peggy Noonan's piece in the WSJ today (link in title). She is not a fan of The President's Inaugural Address yesterday. She seems to think it was "too much."

In matters of faith, one must ask if there is such a thing as too much. The obvious answer seems, at first glance, obvious -- YES. Certainly it can be argued that the various Islamist terrorists are too much, but is that a function of too much or a function of the particular brand of faith that they are having too much of?

Jesus seems to call us to some pretty radical stuff:

John 3:33 "Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."(NAS)

Matt 19:24 "And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."(NAS)

Mark 8:34 "And He summoned the multitude with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.(NAS)

That's pretty radical stuff. But Jesus does set limits on how radical:

Matt 10:14 "And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet.(NAS)

Seems to me that in matters of personal devotion there is no such thing as too much, but in matters of spreading that devotion, there may be. Isn't that an interesting tension to live in? We are supposed to be radically devoted to Jesus, but not radical in sharing that devotion. Some of that tension is relieved in the next verse

Matt 10:15 "Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.(NAS)

See, we may not be able to get too radical in sharing our radical devotion, but God is going to get real radical.

Ms. Noonan ends her piece with a reminder that the world is fallen and we cannot achieve perfection. I don't know if the President went too far -- that is for those more attuned to political realities than I am, but I do know that her reminder is a good one.

Do you have the faith to wait on God to be radical? My hope is that the more radically devotied I am to Him, the more my faith will supply me the strength to wait.

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