When Christmas comes around, we remind ourselves of the need to observe it all year. For some reason, we never talk this way about Easter. We celebrate the Christmas spirit, but we seem to know nothing about the Spirit of Easter. We approach Christmas with excitement that builds for months. Its approach is announced with colored lights, a mountain of gifts, and endless parties. We are sad to see it go. Contrast this with Easter, who arrives sheepishly, bearing only a ham and a few jellied candies. The Bible's view is radically different. The cross has a unique place in the proclamation of the gospel and the believer's life.
These days it is common to treat human beings as if they were only high functioning animals. Humans are indeed creatures. But the Bible teaches that we are much more. This is third in a series on foundational doctrines of the Christian faith.
Ken Myers has observed, “The Christian tradition has long placed great value on care about speech.” He notes that the sacred importance of language is signaled by the fact that two of the Ten Commandments are concerned with speech. One of them has to do with the way we speak about God. The other, not surprisingly, deals with the way we speak about others. It seems that the tongue is the primary instrument we use to fulfill the two Great Commandments, to love God with heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36-38). Our most corrupt speech is often the most commonplace, expressing those sins that we have learned to tolerate in ourselves.
Looking for something new to study with your small group? Check out the free small group resources for John Koessler's new book Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good. A practical study, Dangerous Virtues looks at those attitudes and actions that the church has traditionally called the seven deadly sins to show how today's culture has disguised sin as virtue.
I have been bothered by my weight most of my life. As a child, I was heavy, a condition which my mother euphemistically described as being “big-boned.” I was so obsessed with the fear of being fat that even when I thinned out in my adolescence, I did not think of myself as thin. I … Continue reading Dangerous Virtues: Satisfaction-Coping With the Hunger that Cannot be Satisfied
I first learned about sex from my father. The lesson came in the form of a brief hallway conversation. I don’t think my age was even in double digits at the time. I don’t recall who initiated the conversation, though I suspect it was in response to a question I had asked. I didn’t understand much of what he said. The whole thing sounded pretty unappealing to me at the time. I was sure I would never want to have sex with anyone. I was wrong, of course. The sexual revolution changed not only the shape of sexual morals for a large part of the culture, but also our view of the place of sexual desire in human experience. What we call love, the ancients labeled lust. But our struggle with lust is much larger than the desire for sex.
Sin and virtue sounds too abstract and detached for ordinary people like us. It’s one thing for theologians and philosophers to debate about sin and virtue. Why should we concern ourselves with such matters? We have jobs to go to and bills to pay. We mow the lawn and drive the kids to school. What does any of this have to do with the real world in which we live? The answer is that sin and virtue lie at the heart of everything we do. Our ideas of sin and virtue shape the way we work at our job, live in our neighborhood, and treat the members of our family.
Ever since it happened, I have been trying to decide whether I should say anything about the tragic death of George Floyd. In part, this is because I don’t know what to say. Little of what I read on social media regarding the subject seems helpful to me. It is mostly a mixture of anger and guilt, with a few conspiracy theories mixed in. I have been reluctant to speak because so many others have said that silence is complicity. This rubric seems overly simplistic. It does little to help people process what has happened. Such a sentiment is merely an attempt to predispose people to a particular response. If the precipitating event weren’t so grievous and the subject less incendiary, we might even call it a thinly disguised attempt to bully others into a preferred opinion. Silence in times such as these can mean many things. Silence can be an expression of grief or dismay. It can signify disapproval. Silence may simply be the response of those who don’t know what to say. And, sometimes, silence is the disposition of the wise (Prov. 17:28).
I am a sinner. I don’t deny it. But most of the time I don’t think much about it either. I don’t seem to obsess about sin the way the ancients used to, at least not about my own sins. I don’t punish myself or go to extreme measures to fight sin off. Most of the time, my sin feels more like a low-grade fever more than it does a raging fire. Its presence is an ongoing irritation that may hinder me from being my best, but it doesn’t keep me from functioning. Sin doesn’t bother me that much either. If anything, the fact that I am a sinner serves as a kind of escape clause when things go badly. “What did you think would happen?” I want to say. “I am a fallen person living in a fallen world. Of course, I went off the rails.”
I sometimes worry that blogging is narcissistic. After all, what could be more self-absorbed than expecting people to read your thoughts as you think about yourself? Well, perhaps video blogging, which expects people to watch you as you talk out loud about yourself. There are some people who engage in this sort of listening and … Continue reading Self-Absorbed