Once upon a time, when European immigrants came to the United States they would stare in awe upon approaching our shores as the Statue of Liberty came into sight. Whether real or mythical, the ideals and symbolism of the Land of Opportunity brought many to tears while providing inspiration to emulate all that came before them in building a better life for themselves and families.
In our current culture, a sign should be hung around Lady Liberty’s neck that says “Help Wanted: Leaders”. Perhaps the single biggest issue facing our youth is the lack of leaders, in particular male role models, to emulate in finding their mission and God-given purpose in life. From the highest levels of government to the streets in many communities, our youth have been failed by not having proper role models.
The vacancy of the father in the home leads too many of youth to seek a false image of manhood through celebrities, athletes and less than desirable friends. When one looks at the dysfunction of our leaderless, dysfunctional government, they see a total lack of personal accountability. Instead of taking responsibility for what goes on around them (a trait ingrained in the DNA of all great leaders), we get the whining, name calling, finger-pointing and blaming that our kindergarten teachers didn’t accept from us on the playground.
Instead of working for a solution, those that run our country make excuses for their failures. This has a tremendous and negative impact on our overall culture as our nation’s leadership sets the tone and direction for the rest of the culture. So where do we go from here?
At the grass roots level, men everywhere need to step up and lead by taking responsibility – in our marriages, our homes, our churches and our communities. We must empower our wives, equip our children while providing mentorship to those kids in our community in desperate need. We must break the chain of self-victimization (aka playing the victim) that’s become so prevalent in our society and is holding entire generations back from fulfilling their true potential and discovering their spiritual gifts so they themselves can lead someday.
As for our nation’s leadership, we need to hold our leader’s accountable to lead. We need people to stand up, take personal responsibility for the chaos around them and lead our country by the very ideals that its been built upon. By the way, here is a good way to interject that just because we often fall short of our ideals and standards, doesn’t mean we need to abandon or lower the bar of those ideals and standards. I long for a day when we have more adults in the room among our elected officials and fewer bickering kids staking out their turf around the swing set.
October 14th Posted in: Christian Living, Current Issues with No Comments
While there was unfortunately little to no shock value to the recent five-part series by Sports Illustrated on the corruption of Oklahoma State football — as most of us assume this goes on to varying degrees at every major university with revenue producing sports — a telling quote gave an indication of how our youth are ensnared while growing up with the rebranding of marijuana as a soft or harmless drug.
“Everybody thinks marijuana isn’t a bad drug, but it really has destroyed my life,” former running back Dexter Pratt said in part three of the series titled “The Drugs.” “When I was (at Oklahoma State) I wouldn’t have said it was an addiction, but it was.”
Seldom have we seen the pendulum swing back and forth to wild extremes of cultural perceptions as we’ve seen with how society has viewed marijuana. Due partly to the fictional, propaganda film “Reefer Madness” released in 1936, the public perception of the drug was one of horror that could lead to murder, rape, suicide or insanity.
Unfortunately scare tactics not based on substance don’t last for long. Since the 1960s, the backlash to “Reefer Madness” from the counter cultural movement has moved further and further mainstream. The result is a growing perception amongst the culture that marijuana is a harmless and safe drug.
As a result of the shift in societal attitudes, we must now, more than ever, properly educate our youth on the dangers of using marijuana — not by fictional scare tactics, but by reality. While we hear that the drug is not addictive, Dexter Pratt tells us a different story.
A mind-altering substance, marijuana may not be physically addictive like alcohol or heroin, but the grips of a psychologically, addictive, mind-altering substance is no less a detriment to those addicted.
Addiction is addiction, be it physical or psychological.
Once a person becomes addicted, getting high is often the only thing they think about, and in the case of marijuana, this leads to lower levels of personal drive, ambition, motivation as well as increased levels of paranoia.
How can I verify this last sentence? Well, outside of countless medical studies, I’ve seen it firsthand. I used it as a youth and it was truly the end of the innocence of childhood for me and hundreds, if not thousands of others that I’ve seen over the years.
‘A’ students become ‘C’ students. ‘C’ students become ‘F’ students, often dropping out. Great athletes become average athletes or quit competing all together.
Are there exceptions to the rule like our current president? Yes, but by and large our youth that begin using the drug inhibit themselves from fully reaching their talent and potential. Many graduate to more potent and deadly drugs as yes, marijuana is a gateway or stepping stone drug.
The legalization push would just further legitimize use among our youth by sending the signal that it’s harmless and OK to use.
So some straight talk is necessary. Not by scaring our kids away from the drug but by showing them through our own lives that the best life lived is a peaceful, joyful existence with a strong, clear and sober mind under the influence of nothing more than the Holy Spirit, through having a relationship with Jesus Christ.
September 26th Posted in: Christian Living, Current Issues with No Comments
My early life revolved around sports. Until I hit my teenage years, everything I thought about revolved around the athletes I followed, the sports I watched and the games I played every day until the sun set. I wanted to be a professional football or baseball player. Baseball was my game and my ticket, or so I thought, until the reality of my limitations caught up with me in early adolescence when I, for the first but certainly not the last time, was forced to change direction from my chosen career path. So I can’t imagine walking away voluntarily when being right on the door step of that dream. But that’s exactly what Chris Norman choose to do.
Norman didn’t have the limitations that most of us have athletically which prevent us from going past the high school level. Although never meeting him, I have to think he wanted to be a professional ball player as well. After being heavily recruited in 2008 as one of the top linebackers in the nation, Norman became a three-year starter and team captain at Michigan State University. But, after being projected as a mid to low round pick, with a legitimate shot at a professional career, Norman promptly shocked friends and family in announcing he was forgoing the NFL draft to follow God’s call to attend seminary.
Norman’s story is chronicled in his own words, a highlight reel and video testimony at Desiringgod.org/drafted. According to Norman, his priorities were realigned after he tore an elbow ligament against Alabama in a 2011 bowl game. “A lot of people see this type of lifestyle and they think ‘this is what it means to live’…(but after the injury) I got lost and I realized there must be something more to life than a football
Soon thereafter, he gave his heart to the Lord and although he would fully recover for his final two seasons, a burning desire began to set in for full-time ministry. He is joining the staff at Highland Park Baptist in Southfield, Michigan with the church paying for his seminary education. In a world where our children our bombarded with the wrong cultural messages of what success is and where gratification comes from, Norman’s decision to forego an opportunity of temporal fame and worldly fortune should be a lesson for all of us on when it comes leaving a true legacy.
September 9th Posted in: Christian Living, Fellowship of Christian Athletes with No Comments
This is the best time of the year to a lot of us who have the pleasure of living in the South. We’ve made it through the worst of the summer heat and the beauty of the crisp Georgia Fall will soon be upon us. But even more so for us football fans, the dog days of the sports calendar are behind us.
Nothing says Fall more than Friday night lights, Saturday tailgates and Sunday afternoons glued to the television. But as Christians we need to be careful and guard our hearts in pursuing what’s truly important. While there’s nothing wrong with rooting for our team, I’m saddened that too many of us have created false idols when it comes to our favorite teams. While we no longer worship Old Testament idols, we’ve created modern gods in the shape of high school, college and professional teams as well as players. We’ve exchanged the passion and pursuit of the living God for the fanaticism of obsessively following our little gods.
I’ve been passionately following sports for 35 years and myself have struggled with over obsessing over things that really don’t matter. But I’ve come to realize with age and maturity that the agony of defeat or the glory of victory is temporary and meaningless in the big picture. As someone active in sports ministry, I’ve learned the true, lasting values of sports are linked with spiritual values of learning from defeat, winning with dignity while developing integrity, teamwork, character, perseverance and, most of all, honoring the Lord by recognizing Him in maximizing the talent he’s given you.
Sure, many of us sports fanatics still sit in the pews every Sunday morning. It’s not like we take football season off. But I’m saddened with how anemic Christianity in this culture. What kind of impact could Christians have in this nation if we were as impassioned about being Jesus to people as we are inflamed in our sporting lusts? In the Book of Exodus, the Israelites threw their gold into the fire and out came a calf. Today, we throw our money into the fire and out pops the logo of our favorite teams which we tattoo to our hearts.
We all need to step back and appraise what we truly value. Do we get more excited for Friday nights, Saturday evenings, Sunday afternoons or Sunday mornings? Are we more intimate and talk more about our team than Jesus? Do we spend more time obsessing over social media and talk radio than we do with Jesus? Does the pain from your team’s loss matter more than the lost?
September 5th Posted in: Christian Living with No Comments
With the Emerging Church Movement (see Chapter 2) leading the way, many of the long-held scriptural truths by Biblical-based Christians have been called into question. One example is the recent push to take another look at the very first chapter of Genesis in questioning the age of the earth. Biblically speaking, most Christians have always taken the literal view that Creation took place over six days and that the earth is 6,000 years old. We know that science, mostly through the technique of carbon-dating, puts the age of the earth as 4.5 billion years old. Quite a drastic difference, needless to say, and hard to reconcile. Either those calculations are way off, to say the least, or Christians are ignorant fundamentalists and the Bible is indeed a fairy tale as most secularists, agnostics and atheists believe.
But in the spirit of the first seed of doubt ever planted by the serpent, “Did God really say” that the creation of the universe, earth and humankind took place in only six days? You’d have to be a fool to believe such nonsense, right? When I first took up the question a couple of years ago, my first reaction was “who cares”? It doesn’t have anything to do with the core of the Gospel message as laid out plainly in John 3 and the Romans Road (Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9-10, 13). And besides, do we really now that a day in Genesis was a literal day as we know it to be now? And doesn’t Peter say in 2 Peter 3:8 that “…With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”
Well, I’ve come around to the view that it has everything to do with the Gospel and calling into question Genesis calls into question the very core of the Gospel of Jesus as Christ. If we can justify, rationalize or ignore Biblical creation than we can do the same with a literal Adam. And if there’s no literal Adam, then there’s no Original Sin that entered into mankind. And it follows that if there’s no Original sin, there’s no need for a Savior to free us from the spiritual death caused by sin.
So what about that the day in Genesis being a literal day. Without getting too techincal, we know that each time “day” is used in Genesis, it’s classified as “first day”, “second day”, etc. and each day in every Biblical text of Genesis is bounded by “evening and morning”. I believe therefore that each day in Genesis is a 24-hour period and that, according to Genesis, there’s no wiggle room that Creation took six days and is in direct conflict with the scientific claim that the universe has evolved over billions of years. As for 2 Peter 3:8, I’ve come to realize in my studies that that verse has nothing to do with the meaning of the word “day” in Genesis but rather is a descriptive way of saying that God is patient and is not constrained by time as human beings are constrained by time.
So it’s an either or, I believe. You either believe in an “old earth” or a “new earth”. Again, if you believe in an “old earth” than you’re already going wobbly when it comes to your faith in Genesis 1 and if you’re already wobbly in your faith in Genesis, how will that carry over to the rest of scripture? I believe it will make you ineffective in your faith. Because if you really, truly don’t believe Genesis, how can you believe everything that comes after, including the Gospels?
OK, great, you might say. But how can you reconcile the science that says the universe and earth is billions of years old? How can science be that far off! Well, it is that far off and here’s just a couple of thoughts as to why:
Nowhere is it written in the Bible that God created anything – the universe, earth, man – from infancy. In fact we know that Adam and Eve as well as the Garden of Eden were NOT created from infancy. So if you carbon-dated the biggest oak tree or rock in the Garden on the day of creation, how old would science say that that tree or rock is? Further, who is to say that God didn’t put fossils deep into the ground upon creation?
We know that from the flood of Noah’s time, that only did the heavens open up and pour down, but that the fountains of the deep (from underground) sprang up as well. So what does this mean? It means that the same radioactive materials that contaminated the earth’s surface, likely shortening mankind’s life span, also sped up while contaminating the scientific process of carbon-dating.
All in all, it’s just not plausible that the universe is 10+ billion years old, the earth is 4.5 billion years old, that humans are 200,000 years old but we only have roughly 4,000 years of written history. There are just too many gaps there. The more plausible explanation is that the creation took place 6,000+/- years ago, that God is who He said He is and His Word is infallible, true and above reproach.:)
August 1st Posted in: Christian Living with No Comments
I remember being shocked when former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley gave a riveting speech in August 2010 towards the end of a bloody summer, specifically for young black men in Chicago. In one of the hardest hit neighborhoods of Englewood, Daley said to the residents in no uncertain terms (paraphrasing) that the police are not your enemy, the primary problems lie within the breakdown of the black community, that the father is no longer in the home and the church is no longer the center of the community. It was refreshing, blunt and surprising candid coming from a politician, but even more so given that it was coming from a Democratic politician and member of the liberal political establishment. It also came as no surprise when he announced a month later that, out of gas, he would not seek a seventh term. Clearly, when he gave his speech in Englewood, he knew he would be soon heading off into retirement and was free from the shackles of preaching the liberal orthodoxy of victimization, blame as well as finger pointing. Instead, we got raw candor and emotion in calling for personal responsibility and accountability from a mayor that had been at the helm of one of the most violent American cities for over two decades.
We need more of that candor to solve the problems plaguing our black brothers and sisters trapped in these dysfunctional communities. While Conservatives, in particular white conservatives, need to do our part by recognizing that institutional racism still exists. While we need to sympathize, if not emphasize, with those young black men who feel stigmatized over deep rooted issues like racial profiling. While we need to reach out to help empower these communities with our time and treasure, its time the black leadership and here I’m speaking to the hierarchy of the liberal establishment – from the Democratic politicians, the President to the Congressional Black Caucus to the Civil Rights Organizations, the NAACP to Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH coalition to the ministers like Al Sharpton to their surrogates in the mainstream media that push their narrative – to STEP UP with the full force of their tremendous resources and public platform to empower the black community to do or itself what it cannot expect others to do for them.
In 1911 Booker T. Washington said “There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs. There is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don’t want the patient to get well.” Sadly, this grievance industry still exists and the patient in the inner-city is not getting well.
So we need more diverse voices at the leadership table. We need prominent players to stand up to an entertainment and music industry, rap and hip hop culture that glorifies the worst aspects of sexuality, violence and base instincts within the community while perpetuating vile stigmas which become self-fulfilling prophecies within the disillusioned inner-city. I can come up with an All-Star line-up of a multitude of black male and female leaders in prominent places in the media, public and political realm. But they are shunned by the establishment leaders and the mainstream media. Instead of the usual line-up of the Jacksons, Sharptons, Tavis Smileys and Van Jones, we need to see the Jason Rileys, the Ben Carsons, the Thomas Sowells and the Allen Wests be given a prominent “mainstream” voice. Even moderate liberals like Juan Williams, the author of Enough, is shunned for not preaching the usual liberal orthodox
We know the statistics – black men make up only 6% of the population yet commit 50% of the murders in this nation, 92% of which are against other black men. Between the drugs, the gangs and the violence, there’s genocide going on within the black community and its only going to stop when the liberal establishment steps in to demand accountability by screaming from the highest mountain tops from Washington D.C. to Hollywood, CA. I hear the establishment talking about disproportionate rates of unemployment and incarceration yet make no mention of 50% high school dropout rates (compared with under 10% in the suburbs). What else would we expect with so many young men on the streets and ill prepared to enter the job market?
It’s become a redundant, conservative cliché, but it really does start with the family and providing a stable home where education is encouraged not frowned upon – 73% out of wedlock birthdates (80-90% in the inner-cities) is a continued recipe for ruin. We need young black women to be more accountable in taking responsibility while honoring their bodies as the temples God created them to be (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). Likewise, we need black men to be more accountable for honoring the women by treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve (Ephesians 5:25-28), while most importantly taking responsibility for the children they bring into the world (Ephesians 6:4). The culture is not lost. But the problems plaguing the black community are deep and generational. We need to start now with the youth if we’re going to have an impact in our children’s lifetime!
July 24th Posted in: Christian Living, Current Issues with No Comments
The number one reason most people give for rejecting Christianity is the behavior of Christians. To paraphrase Ghandi – “It’s not your Christ I have a problem with, it’s your Christians”. What we have in our culture is a divide as wide as the Grand Canyon between Jesus’ love and Jesus’ truth. And that’s unfortunate, because Jesus was the perfect balance of love and truth (John 1:14).
On one hand, you have overly judgmental and condemning Christians so focused on God’s truth that they not only are blinded by their own sin but they’re too quick to point out the sin in others as well as the culture. They’ll be dealt with as depicted in Jeremiah 7 – “…Will you steal, murder…follow other gods and then come to stand before me in this house (of worship)? I have been watching” or in Matthew 7:5 – “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Unfortunately though, using the bad behavior of Christians doesn’t excuse anybody from rejecting God. This is also addressed in Jeremiah where the nation of Israel, much like modern America, had rejected God after years of corruption, exploitation by priests, prophets, kings and common people (sounds familiar for anybody that has an understanding of the last 50 years). Those growing up then, like now, no doubt wanted nothing to do with the God of their forefathers because of the hypocritical example that had been set by those forefathers. Rather than letting those of the hook who had rejected Him because of the example of wayward men, God called for a complete and total return to Him through love and truth (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
Opposite the truth or overly-judgmental crowd, some Christians – and most non-Christians – want to believe in the love of God but they excuse, rationalize, pick and choose what’s convenient to them (cafeteria-style) or flat out reject the truth of God. And when I refer to the truth of God, I’m talking about consistent threads that run throughout scripture, not just obscure verses that get taken out of context. So, for instance, you can’t compare the dietary restrictions that we no longer adhere to in two Old Testament chapters (Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14) to God’s plan for sexual morality / relations which are consistently and clearly laid out throughout scripture. Truth is truth and you’re either all in or all out when it comes to God’s truth.
God is love as clearly defined, among other places, by Jesus in the Gospels. But He’s also the God of the truth as laid out from beginning to end in Genesis to Revelation. He’s given us clear boundaries, the same way a playing field has boundaries, so we can experience the fullness of His love. If you remove the boundaries of a playing field what you’ll end up with is chaos which is what we have in our current culture.
As Christians, we shouldn’t rant, rave, and condemn others to step back into the proper boundaries of the playing field of truth. Rather we should gently encourage them with love and by leading by example. So they’ll see the fullness, richness and love of Christ’s Truth. To quote U2s Bono from a recent interview he gave to Focus on the Family – “Jesus isn’t lettin’ you off the hook. The Scriptures don’t let you off the hook so easily. … When people say, you know, “Good teacher”, “Prophet”, “Really nice guy” … this is not how Jesus thought of Himself. So you’re left with a challenge in that, which is either Jesus was who he said he was or a complete and utter nut case. … You have to make a choice on that. And I believe that Jesus was, you know, the Son of God. And I understand that … we need to be really, really respectful to people who find that ridiculous and … preposterous.”
So be really, really careful in how you act towards those with a different set of beliefs than you. But in the end, if you love them then you’ll share the truth with them:)
June 27th Posted in: Christian Living with No Comments
If you’re a fan of NBC’s The Office, you no doubt felt a lump in your throat in the closing moments of the series finale last Thursday. There were many great quotes: Pam telling us “there’s beauty in ordinary things”. Daryl’s wondering “Every day I came into work and the only thing I wanted to do was leave. So why do I find it so hard to leave now?”
But it was Andy Bernard’s tearful lament “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good ole days, before you’ve actually left them” that really got me to thinking about how much time we spend reminiscing about the past instead of living in the present. Not there’s anything wrong on reflecting back, but we should never lose sight of what’s in front of us or around us because there is beauty all around us and before we know it, it will all be over. For me, I’m a father to a seven-year-old and soon to be twin five-year olds and they’re growing up lightning fast. When Amy and I started watching The Office eight years ago, we lived in another state, I was in an entirely different career field. I had no clue what social media was and our only child was a greyhound named Roofus. Times change quickly, so it’s important to soak in our present life stage, despite our circumstances.
The stages for our kids change so quickly that I often forget about a certain stage long since passed until something happens to remind me. At the end of the day, I often get out of my wheelchair to stretch out and relax on the couch. The twins love climbing all over me while laughingly ordering me to “tickle me”, “tickle me”. I enjoy granting their request but often times just want to sit still and snuggle them. But the other day, I saw my seven-year-old on the other couch, perfectly content playing his DS. I asked him if he wanted to be tickled and he said “no thank you”. And then it dawned on me and saddened me that he grew out of that stage two years ago. So I’m going to enjoy every moment tickling the twins.
The last several years have been tough for a lot of people. But really, when was life ever easy? Here’s a news flash, the good old days weren’t all that good. But we know we got through them and that’s what makes them good – that we survived and nothing really horrible happened. By contrast, we don’t know what an hour from now, let alone tomorrow, brings so we allow that uncertainty to give way to unrest which gives way to anxiety. But if truly want a good life, we must, especially those of us who are Christians, meditate on God’s Word to “…not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7. And when the struggles inevitably come, take “glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3. Live in the moment, live for today – the good ole days!
May 21st Posted in: Christian Living with No Comments
“Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.” – Deuteronomy 28:14
One of my biggest struggles has always been reconciling the political aspect of who I am with the spiritual aspect of who I am. While I believe God gave me the interests, gifts, talents and abilities as well as the weaknesses, imperfections and shortcomings I possess, it’s always been difficult to mold all the above together in a way that glorifies Him which is His true purpose for creating me as I am. For those that know me, I’m also a huge Chicago sports fan and have fused the lessons learned from both sports and faith into my autobiography – A Chosen Bullet. While in the past I made my sporting interests, teams and heroes into little gods that I’ve served by being overly-consumed at the expense of growing closer to God, I’ve learned through age, and spiritual maturity to balance my sports brain with my spiritual being by allowing the Lord full access to my entire make up, thereby bringing everything under His authority.
Such is a process that I’m still trying to work on when it comes to my political interests. For those of us who God has given a political bend to who we are, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with leaning left or leaning right. The problem is turning away from the path He intended us to walk on and turning our political interests into little gods and serving them. I truly believe that as a nation, we have become so polarized and
distracted, that we’ve turned so far on one side to the left and on the other side to the right, that we’ve forgotten His commands, instead serving all kinds of small gods in our nation.
For me, I’m a proud evangelical Christian, a conservative – both fiscally and especially socially. I make no apologies for where I stand, nor for being an issues junkie. But I constantly have to keep in balance by being reminded that our ultimate hope can never be in a political figure, party, or movement because what ails us as nation requires a spiritual solution not a political one. When we – speaking broadly now – begin to make little gods and idols out of political issues, we lose our ability to be effectively used by God to achieve His purposes. It’s tough, because I do fight through anger and resentment often times when I see a movement afoot to marginalize people who believe as I believe, and to do so through what I see as lies, distortions and finger pointing. What I’ve learned to do is to try and filter everything through Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” So I don’t listen to right wing radio nor read right wing websites – most of which is nothing but anger, as well as not being hosted by Christians and would humbly suggest to my left-leaning friends to avoid the left wing fringe media as well.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t stand for what we see as truth, but we should always do so with gentleness and respect, the filter of 1 Peter 3:15 – “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” I’m still a work in progress and most of what I write about is me trying to battle through internal wrestling matches I have within myself about reconciling who I am in trying, multiple failures aside, to bring glory to God. So if you’ve gotten this far into my blog, thank you for allowing me to vent and work through my issues.:)
May 7th Posted in: Christian Living with No Comments
“…We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
I was pretty athletic growing up. But if there was one sport that I had zero skill for, it was gymnastics. Although I loved gym class growing, I hated the two weeks we spent every school year doing gymnastics because I simply lacked the gracefulness to perform the highly technical routines. Nor so was this more evident than on the balance beam. To this day, my favorite Olympic sport is gymnastics and favorite routine is the balance beam simply because I marvel at the ability to bounce, leap and flip on this piece of wood LESS than 4-inches wide.
Unfortunately, our modern culture can learn a lot from studying the balance beam. Within the American church, we typically lean towards either the “truth” side, where we want to ram the Word of God down people’s throats in calling out sin. Or we lean to the “grace” side where we proclaim “God is love” and we excuse, ignore or rationalize sin. Neither side is capable of finishing the beam routine without falling off face first. I myself struggle continuously as I lean more to the truth side. But the reality is that Jesus was the PERFECT balance between grace and truth. The same Jesus of the four Gospels is the same Jesus of the Book of Revelation. And the same Jesus of the Gospels handpicked Paul to be His mouthpiece in spreading His message – the same Paul who spoke the famous love chapter in Corinthians was the same Paul that didn’t mince words when it came to warning about God’s wrath for the consequences of our sin.
So what are we to make of all this? For me, it comes down to 1 Peter 3:15 – “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Translation – stand for the Biblical truths set forward by Christ, but do so by remaining calm and respectful. This has been a tough balance for me over the years and especially when I’m not afforded the same respectfulness by non-believers, who can also lack balance.
Unfortunately in today’s culture, black and white lines have been drawn, such as in the instance of either accepting homosexuality or being branded as ignorant as well as bigoted. But we must remain steadfast to Christ’s teachings – doing so with gentleness and respect. In the wake of NBA player Jason Collins coming out as gay, I’ll close with the views of ESPN’s Chris Broussard – a Christian – because nowhere have I heard it said so eloquently:
“I’m a Christian. I don’t agree with homosexuality. I think it’s a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is,” he said. “L.Z. [Granderson, a gay sportswriter and ESPN contributor] knows that. He and I have played on basketball teams together for several years. We’ve gone out, had lunch together, we’ve had good conversations, good laughs together. He knows where I stand and I know where he stands. I don’t criticize him, he doesn’t criticize me, and call me a bigot, call me ignorant, call me intolerant.
“In talking to some people around the league, there’s a lot Christians in the NBA and just because they disagree with that lifestyle, they don’t want to be called bigoted and intolerant and things like that. That’s what L.Z. was getting at. Just like I may tolerate someone whose lifestyle I disagree with, he can tolerate my beliefs. He disagrees with my beliefs and my lifestyle, but true tolerance and acceptance is being able to handle that as mature adults and not criticize each other and call each other names.”
Now that’s grace and truth worthy of a perfect 10 on the beam, in my humble opinion:)