The Bible and the Border Wall

Do you know what the Bible has to say about a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico?

Absolutely nothing.

Some will tell you that because a man named Nehemiah once built a wall around Jerusalem, God obviously wants a wall on our southern border.

This forgets that in the Bible God instructed a group of people to march around a wall until it fell down.

Some say heaven has a wall and gates so our nation should too. They forget that it says those gates will never close. And what a metaphor is.

Jesus is said to tear down “the wall of hostility that divides us.” Is that a literal wall? Or spiritual? Or both?

Is God pro-walls or anti-walls?

How does the Bible prove or disprove our opinions?

Maybe a better question for us – What if trying to get the Bible to validate our opinions is the problem we need to address?

This isn’t really about The Wall. You can have your opinions about whether or not it is necessary or wise or good. I think we can disagree on this without violating God’s instructions.

The bigger issue is our mutilation of the Scriptures.

Yes, I think we should look to the Bible to help us learn who God is and how God wants people to live. I believe this includes how we do politics.

But when we force the Bible to say what we want, we do damage to its power and its place in our lives. When we search for the perfect Scripture that will simply confirm our positions, we have reduced what we consider inspired, sacred text to little more than an ancient meme.

We become butchers, carving out we like and discarding what seems troublesome.

This is how slave holders defend the practice of owning humans: “Look at this Bible verse here that says slaves obey your masters.”

This is how people justify child abuse: “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

This is how people sanctify misogyny and segregation and war and anti-Semitism and the slaughter of indigenous people and any such things. They take something out of context because it fits their already held belief. They bend the Scriptures to their will instead of allowing themselves to be changed.

The Bible is messy. It involves all sorts of people with all sorts of hang ups and failures. At times it is downright scary. Sometimes it speaks in ways that are hard to understand in our modern world. Sometimes we find people acting in blatantly evil ways with little or no protest.

If we start with our opinions or our party platforms, we can make a case for a lot of things that are actually counter to God’s desire for the world. When we start with our previously held positions we are putting ourselves or our politics in the position of authority.

This is an insult to God. It is an act of idolatry, setting up self or partisanship as its own god.

We must deal with Scripture faithfully. We must read it in its context and understand it in its original location in history. And we must deal with all of it. What does the breadth of this holy text say?

There may one story about a wall being built and one story about a wall falling down but the arc of Scripture has passage upon passage about how to care for neighbors and immigrants and people in need, whether or not a wall is ever built. That should motivate us far more than a once off story that proves us right and others wrong and really has absolutely nothing to do with our current situation.

The Bible doesn’t point us to a conclusion about a specific security infrastructure along the US border. The Bible points us to Jesus, who is the Word of God. And Jesus is concerned about our heart and how we align our lives.

We start with Jesus. And we allow Jesus to shape and form our worldview and our politics. First.

And we allow it even when it grates against our conservatism or our progressivism. We humble ourselves and turn away from what we think and allow God to challenge us. Even when what we believe feels right. Or even when the Bible doesn’t lay out something explicitly.

The Scripture doesn’t divide out when we should have individual liberty and when we should have communal support. It doesn’t solemnize big government or limited government. It certainly doesn’t speak of the United States or its borders at all.

But it speaks of Jesus and it calls the people of God to follow after him. This is our starting point. This is the lens through which we view all things.

From there we build our worldview and our politic. From there we can see what is essential and what is a matter of opinion. From there we can find ways to be faithful regardless of whether we would have chosen it on our own or not. Regardless of laws or parties or upbringing.

May we stop using the Scriptures as a weapon to defend things that we have decided on long before searching the text. May we allow ourselves to be shaped by God and not force God into our own image. And may we be faithful to the God who inspires the text and the way this God calls us to follow.

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The Gospel of the Magi

three kings

Three Kings by Mary Tere Perez

Plenty of people have been packing up their Christmas decorations since December 25, but the celebration of Christmas continues for twelve days. It only ends at the Feast of Epiphany on January 6th.

And then at Epiphany we remember the visit of the magi, or the wise men, to young Jesus.

Sometimes we rush past this remembrance as we put away our trees and head to the gym armed with New Year’s resolutions. But we need Epiphany. The magi are essential to the Christmas story and essential to our faith.

They are not essential because they were there on the night of Jesus’ birth (they likely weren’t) or because they were earthly kings who bowed to the one true King (they likely weren’t kings either). They aren’t essential because they round out our  nativity scenes and Christmas pageants and greeting cards.

They are essential because they carry the Gospel. They themselves are an announcement, a proclamation, a living, breathing sermon about who our God is.

See the magi were not Jewish. They weren’t part of the chosen people. They were Gentiles, outsiders. Strangers.

Worse, they were likely priests in another religion. Pagans. Idolaters. False prophets.

They studied and/or worshiped the stars looking for signs and wonders. They were astrologers, they were magicians and sorcerers, not the kind of people who get much applause in Scripture or Christianity.

They were from foreign lands and spoke foreign tongues. Potentially from people groups who were enemies of the Jews. Definitely from other cultures and values.

These folks did not belong.

And yet here they come.

Present before Jesus. Included in our celebrations. Sign posts of the good news.

This is the Gospel of the magi: God has come.

God has come not just to a select few but to every person on the face of the earth. God has come for those who are close to the truth and those who are far from it. God has come for pagans and sinners and saints. God has come for us and them and those people over there.

God, in Jesus, has come for us all.

Jesus is the revelation of God’s character – he is what God looks like, the Bible says.

And Jesus is revealed not just to his people, the Jews, but to Gentiles and pagan priests and shepherds and wise men and midwives and governors and janitors and kings and presidents and teachers and bus drivers and pastors. He is revealed to insiders and outsiders, clean and unclean, right and wrong, poor and rich and everybody in between.

The magi are an announcement about the wideness of God’s mercy.

The love and grace and mercy and heart of God don’t stop at national borders. It is not reserved only for those in the right religion. It doesn’t have a specific language. There are no prerequisites or hoops to jump through.

The grace of God shows up first.

This is good news.

In the magi we can see ourselves. We have been wrong. We have been outsiders. We have been far from God. And yet the grace of God has come for us anyway. Calling, wooing, changing us.

And in the magi we can see every person. Every skin tone and every language. Every religion and political party. In every stranger on the street. And in the person who we’d least expect (or hope). The love and grace of God has shown up for them as well.

Yes, Epiphany is essential. Epiphany reminds us of our story. It comforts us and challenges us to be faithful to goodness of our God.

We need reminded that ours is a God who comes for each person, no matter how far away they have started. We need Epiphany to keep us accountable so that our own love doesn’t sputter out at borders and church signs and party platforms. We need it to keep us from thinking we’ve somehow earned something because of our position or denomination or family of birth.

The magi are preaching the Gospel to us today: God is for us all. For you. And for me. And for them.

May we know and follow and trust this God, the God who draws the whole entire world in. May we find ourselves aware of the presence of God’s grace right here and now. And may we embody the good news of God’s love to all those for whom God has come.

Love, Actually.

God is love. And loves shows up.

When the night is dark and cold and we feel all alone.

Love shows up.

When we’ve messed up yet again. When we’ve broken promises to ourselves and others. When we’ve reached rock bottom.

Love shows up.

When we’ve abandoned hope. And we’ve sold out our values. When our shortcuts have gotten us lost.

When money and power and relationships and politics and whatever else has failed. When we’ve got nowhere else to turn.

Love shows up.

And unlike some sappy Hallmark movie type love, this love is profound. It is higher and deeper and wider and longer than we can wrap our heads around.

This love is patient and kind and never jealous or rude.

This love is not boastful or arrogant. It isn’t selfish or self-seeking. It isn’t easily irritated.

This love does not keep a list of all the wrongs that have been done.

This love fights injustice and parties with the truth.

This love trusts and hopes and endures the unendurable and outlasts all that makes the rest of us quit.

This is love, actually.

It is better than the movies say. It is bigger than romantic feelings and more costly than all the gifts that can be bought. It is far more wonderful than the hands-off permissiveness society sometimes calls love.

And its not something that one can simply fall out of. It is gritty and sticky and hard to wash off.

This love never fails.

At Christmas this unfailing, unending, all encompassing love shows up in the person of Jesus. At Christmas this love, the very love of God, is embodied, enfleshed, in a baby wrapped in cloths and laying in a manger.

He is love, actually. Touchable. Hugable. Knowable. Followable.

He is an announcement. A proclamation. A living message shouting throughout the universe,

“You are loved. Really, truly, deeply, fully loved.”

Despite your flaws and your mistakes. Despite all your self-made messes. Despite what you’ve been told. Despite what you think of yourself. Despite what you think you deserve. Despite your bad theology and your politics and your track record.

You are known and you are loved.

Christmas reveals that God is not angry with you or fed up with you. God does not simply tolerate you. God is not waiting around the corner to catch you in the act.

God is for us. God is with us.

God has come for us. Not to judge us, Scripture says, but to love us. To show us the way. To bring us home. To mend our wounds. To heal our hearts. To set us free. To clean up our mess.

He has come for us and come for them. He has come for those we call enemies. He has come for those we like and those we fear. He has come for those we would rather exclude and he has come for those we wish he hadn’t.

This is love. And it is the message of Christmas. It is an invitation to a better way, what Saint Paul calls “the most excellent way.”

At Christmas we are invited to trust this love and this God and we are invited to respond in love to the world around us.

To be patient and kind and full of grace. To be humble and look to the needs of others. To seek justice and speak truth. To be faithful.

To reach out across boundaries and divides. To forgive. To make space. To include.

Christmas is the story of a God who loves and sends and comes and loves again.

May we know this love and may we be changed by it. May we believe that love has come. May we be so convinced of this love that we live like its true. And may we be so defined by this actual love that our neighbors know it too.

Hush the Noise, Cease the Strife

img_6060It’s a busy time of year. We run. We shop. We bake. We visit. We wrap. We wait in line. And in traffic. We decorate. We host. We travel. We carol. We volunteer. And that’s just Tuesday.

Our stress goes up as our calendars grow full and our receipts pile high, as we juggle in-laws and office parties. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, we say, but I can’t help wondering if we rush and fret right past the most wonderful parts of it.

There is a version of an old Christmas carol that sings, “O hush the noise and cease the strife and hear the angels sing.” I can’t get that line out of my head.

It has me thinking about about the noise and strife in my life. There is a lot of it. It all has an impact on me. Some of it exhausts me. Some distracts me. All of it influences me in some way or another.

Maybe silencing it for a short time would be beneficial to me. Maybe I’d hear more angels singing. Or children laughing. Or friends sharing their lives with me.

Maybe hushing and ceasing would allow me to be more present with those that matter most. Perhaps I’d be healthier for it. Maybe I’d eat and sleep better. And be less angry. Or at least shake my head in disgust a few less times a day. Maybe I’d eventually discover that “peace on earth and goodwill to men” thing.

I’m certain there are times to make noise. And there are good reasons to wade into strife, especially as peacemakers and justice seekers. But there are times when we need rest and reset. When we need to withdraw for our well-being and the good of those we are tasked with loving. The journey is long and if we aren’t careful it can eat us alive, making us cynical or apathetic and leaving us empty inside.

As this is the most wonderfully busy time of the year, perhaps its a good time to practice hushing the noise and ceasing the strife. As we run from event to event and drown ourselves in around the clock media coverage, perhaps it is a good time to hit pause and take a deep breath or two.

The Christian calendar starts with a season called Advent. In Advent we wait in anticipation and prepare for the coming of Jesus (both his birth, which we celebrate anew each year, and his eventual return to make all things new). Each year we remember our need for saving and the hope that is found in a God who shows up in our world. This year Advent runs from December 2 to 24.

I’m planning on adopting some practices during these weeks to help me make the most of my time. For me it is important that my heart is ready for Jesus’ arrival. I don’t want to miss it while I’m busying crafting clever tweets about how wrong someone is. I don’t want to miss it by filling my world with obligations and shopping and non-stop running.

I don’t want to be so busy celebrating what we call Christmas that I miss Christ.

I don’t want to be surrounded by such incessant noise that I miss the call to come and celebrate the birth of Christ the King.

So I’ve come up with a list of practices I believe would make a difference in my life. Not so I can end up on the Nice List or get some heavenly reward. But to ensure I’m ready. To ensure I’m present. To ensure I’m listening to what and who matters most.

To hush the noise and cease the strife.

I share them here just in case you’d want to practice one or two of them with me from now until Christmas Day.

Whether you try these or something else or nothing else, may we be ready to meet the child who is coming. May we hear his voice and call. May we find his hope. May we rise above the noise and strife that distracts or disrupts. May we find peace and rest. And may we find this season as wonderful as all our songs proclaim.


A sampling of practices for a more peaceable Advent

Turn off cable news. I’m convinced we are not meant to listen to people telling us what we should be angry about night after night. Turn it off for an extended time. Watch the local news if you need some connection to the outside world. I promise if anything earth shattering happens you’ll hear about it. Cable news isn’t inherently bad, but if its adding to our distrust of neighbors or elevated doses of anxiety to our lives, maybe we could do with a break.

Abstain from social media. Shut it down for a while. Block out the noise. You probably don’t need to know everyone’s opinions. And you (read: I) certainly don’t need to enter into anymore unproductive Facebook debates. Or, if that isn’t an option…

Uninstall your Facebook and Twitter apps. You’ll be less likely to mindlessly check in on what your former neighbor’s daughter ate for lunch and what conspiracy that one person is peddling on your news feed again. You can still check in from your browser, it will simply be more intentional. Of if that is too much to ask…

Commit to one month of no potentially divisive social media posts. Stop sharing everything you think slam dunks on the people you disagree with. Even if you know just how right it it is. Instead share pictures of your grandkids or puppies or stories that enlarge even the smallest of hearts three sizes. Don’t contribute to the strife in others’ lives. You can do it and we need you to.

Have dinner with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Preferably out at a restaurant so no one has to do dishes. And tip well. Friendship is a gift to the soul. We need reminded we are not alone and there are people who love us.

Say no. Find a way to resist filling every moment of every day. Make sure you have an evening at home at least once or twice a week. Ensure you have time to get the laundry done so that the mounds of clothes don’t taunt you every time you drag yourself in from the latest obligation. Create space for yourself.

Play board games. Gather friends or family and spend time laughing over Scrabble or Ticket to Ride. Be together and have fun.

Go to bed earlier than you normally would. Rest is important. I’m terrible at this. There is always something to do. Or those few moments of quiet in the house are too enjoyable to waste on sleep. But we need it. It makes a difference in physical and emotional health. An extra hour of sleep over four weeks sounds pretty beautiful and is likely needed if you are anything like me.

Shut out distractions. Maybe its a phone game or a person who is no good for you. Maybe its not something bad, just something unproductive. Can you set it aside until Christmas? Would your life be better for it?

Spend less. Credit card debt is not healthy. Not knowing how we will pay the rent next month is not helpful. Don’t buy into the idea that we have to spend a lot to show we love a lot.

Hand make a gift or two. Hello Pinterest. Or maybe you aren’t crafty. Hand write a letter. Take time to think of a person or persons who matter to you and instead of throwing money at them, give them a gift with meaning.

Be generous. A pastor friend of mine said recently, “Being generous is the most fun you you can have.” I believe it. Share with others. Open your home. Give cookies. Give grace. Generosity changes us. Its why Scrooge and the Grinch are the villains this time of year. Don’t believe the lie of scarcity. Share what you have and watch your joy grow.

Less television. Especially Hallmark movies (just kidding). Perhaps just sit by the fire or Christmas lights. And talk. Or read a book. Or just rest in the quiet. Embrace silence. Especially if the idea of silence bothers you.

Go slow. Don’t speed. Don’t honk when the light turns green. Don’t eat fast food. Make yourself slow down. Slowing down means we have to plan better. It keeps us from the chaotic stress of constantly running. Maybe we will notice something we would have missed otherwise.

Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for all you aren’t doing or the ways this year didn’t turn out how you’d hoped. Don’t compare yourself to that person who looks like they have it all together (they don’t). Give yourself permission to mess up. We all have room to grow, but we won’t get there by dragging ourselves down.

Be kind to others. Cashiers are extra busy. Wait staff have kids at home with babysitters. Teachers are herding over-tired and sugared up children. Some folks are hurting. Some are missing loved ones. Some are struggling in heavy ways. Take the time to be kind. Make it a discipline. Speak life. Hold your tongue. Give compliments. Be a blessing.

Study your way to Christmas. Join an Advent reading plan. Read the Scriptures in a posture of listening. Hear the good news again and again. Some options here, here, and here.

Perhaps you can think of other things we could start or stop in the coming weeks. Let’s be intentional about how we get to Christmas this year. Together lets hush the noise and cease the strife.

 

 

Surviving Thanksgiving with *Those* People

12I have a friend who lives a long distance from family and is considering not making the trek home for Thanksgiving. They are anxious about the conversations that will surround the table and fill the hours around the meal.

They don’t vote the way their extended family votes and they dread the offhand comments, the arguments, and the judgement that will come their way this week. The mental energy needed to absorb it all without overturning the table or damaging relationships is more than they feel they can handle right now.

This is who we are in 2018: it is wholly exhausting to share a meal or weekend with people we disagree with politically.

This reveals a deep problem within our culture, where we love our political agendas more than the people who share our blood. Where we assume everyone must think like us, or at least all the smart, loving, faithful people. Where we assign moral value to things that are morally ambivalent and justify things that are immoral as long as it’s our side doing it. Where we are more loyal to pundits and politicians than to those sharing our last name.

It’s ugly. Its unfortunate. It’s real. And many of us will spend time this week navigating these circumstances.

So how do we survive?

We can avoid any and all political talk, but that doesn’t seem likely, or helpful. We should be able to discuss these things. Politics matter and in a world where we infrequently leave our echo chambers, its important to have respectful conversations with those who think differently. Even those who are wrong.

So while we can’t control other people’s behavior and language, we can control ours. And perhaps we can set the tone and keep ourselves from becoming *those* people to folks who disagree with us.

For starters, let’s avoid blanket statements or assumptions. Don’t speak for or label entire groups of people.

“Republicans hate poor people” is not helpful, no matter how strongly you believe it. Same with “Democrats hate baby Jesus.” These things shut down conversation and put up defenses. Don’t do it. Use specific examples, not broad brushes.

Let’s ask good questions. Not, “How could you?” or “Didn’t I raise you better?” But questions that come from a place of humility and assume a posture of learning.

  • Can you tell me how you came to that conclusion?
  • Can you show me a source for that information?
  • What do you think about this?

Curiosity demonstrates that these people matter to us. We may learn something. Or perhaps they will. Good questions dig deeper and require thoughtfulness. Good questions lead to understanding.

Let’s also listen well. Hear what people are saying. Don’t formulate your argument while they are talking. Care enough about them to value their concerns.

Listening is a lost art in the age of social media and late night news. Let’s take the time to take in what is being said. At a minimum we will understand each other better. Perhaps we will hear things that aren’t all that different than what we want as well.

And for those who like me claim to follow Jesus, everything we do should be marked by love. If we can’t share a meal with our family without making hateful or bigoted or dismissive comments about *those* people, I’m not sure we are living the way we have been tasked. Disagreeing is okay. Standing up for what is right is necessary. But how we do it, how we respond, is essential to Christians.

In a handwritten sermon outline Dr. Martin Luther King Jr answered the question of why we should love our enemies. He wrote: “Because the process of hate for hate brings disaster to all involved. Because hate distorts the whole personality. Because love has within in a redemptive power.”

I’m not convinced that everyone who disagrees with me on taxes or healthcare or immigration is my enemy, but sometimes we act like they are. And for the Christian we have a clear mandate on how to respond to *those* people: love them.

Hate brings disaster but love is redemptive.

If we can’t be right and loving at the same time, we are wrong.

If we can’t hold both our political values and the people we gather with around the table, lets let go of the politics.

If we can’t speak truth in love, than our truth doesn’t matter.

If we can’t see past bad positions to care for the person in front of us, we have our priorities out of sync.

If we call people to a better way, but that way isn’t marked by love, we are lost.

This Thanksgiving, lets do better. Let’s make room. Lets be kind and loving and patient. Lets laugh and share memories and tell what we are thankful for. And lets disagree well.

Oh, and we should eat lots of pie too. That helps.

Happy Thanksgiving people. And good luck.

(It should be noted that there are indeed times to avoid people who are toxic to us. Use discretion and be aware of what is healthy for you. If some place or person is not safe for you, the advice here won’t make it any better.)

Vote Early, Vote Often

Praise report: Election season is almost over. I’m sure the next one will pick up steam quickly, but I’m ready for this one to go away.

In the meantime, I have some advice for us:

Vote early, vote often.

Of course, I don’t mean we should commit voter fraud. I’m not for cheating or fudging numbers or anything like that. What I’m advocating is that we live out our votes today, Tuesday, next month, and next year.

When we vote we are communicating what kind of world we want, what kind of world we believe in. Our votes declare what is important to us, but our votes are not restricted to the ballot box.

We vote every time we spend money. We vote when we post something online. We vote with the way we use our time. We vote in our daily conversations.

Our words, our wallets, our free time all tell far more about our worldview than our preferred political platforms.

So please, vote early, vote often.

Whatever issues motivate you to support a candidate or show up at the polls should be important to you beyond a Tuesday in November.

For example, do you vote for pro-life candidates? Live pro-life.

Are we doing anything to support pregnancy centers? Are we working to decrease the number of abortions sought? What are we doing to support single parents, poor parents, foster parents, orphans?

These are things that demonstrate a pro-life ethic and work to see it implemented. More than checking a box we should be volunteering, donating, mentoring, fostering, adopting, educating, and more. There are plenty of attitudes and actions we can participate in beyond November if we are truly pro-life people.

Do you think our country should be more welcoming to refugees?

Get involved with refugees already here. Walk alongside them, help them secure jobs and insurance, partner with resettlement organizations.

Think we should first support our homeless veterans? Get involved with people doing just that. Make it happen.

Do you vote for those who prefer diplomacy over war? Work for peace in your family and neighborhood and on Facebook today.

Do you think the uptick in racially or religiously motivated hate is a problem? You can vote for candidates who agree with you on paper and still not do much to help the problem.

Make friends across religious lines. Read and share stories of people not like you. Resist the urge to polarize and dehumanize. Have dinner with a political opposite.

For me it is easy to sit behind my computer or phone and list my opinions on the internet. This may be helpful in some (very rare) instances, but this isn’t the solution.

It is also fairly easy for most of us to show up at the local voting booth and check a box. This may be helpful in some cases, but, again, it’s not the solution to the problems we face.

Outlawing abortion tomorrow will not solve the issues surrounding unwanted pregnancies.

Welcoming every refugee in the world will not solve the problem of war, poverty, and complications that come with relocating to a new country.

Raising or lowering taxes, shifting spending, negotiating trade are all things worth having an opinion on but how are we spending our days?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t vote toward these ends. I’m saying we should do a lot more than vote on Tuesday. Voting is great but only scratches the surface of what is necessary.

What matters to you? Not what do you say matters – how do you actually live? How do you talk? Spend? Give? What do I do that shows where my values lie?

The life we live will be far more indicative of what matters most than all the ballots we ever cast. And I believe will have far greater impact.

The world changes more when we live and give and share and laugh than when we fill in a bubble for congresspeople and presidents.

So please, vote well. Vote early. Vote often.

Vote in word and deed, online and in person. Vote with your attitudes and by being a good neighbor. Put your money and heart where your vote is. And whether your candidates win or lose, we’ll change the world for better.

On Bad Eggs and Good Fruit.

Julie Dawn Cole as Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, 1971

In Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory he has fancy geese that lay golden eggs. He also has an “educated eggdicator” that can differentiate between good and bad eggs. Good eggs get shipped out. Bad eggs go down the chute.

Spoiled little Veruca Salt is found to be a bad egg and ends up down the chute as well. I’m afraid there are a whole lot of us like Veruca who would fail the eggdicator’s inspection.

We are a mess. We struggle with simple things like truth and kindness. We continually lower the bar on what is acceptable behavior and language for a civilized society. We are less and less reasonable while more and more bombastic and hostile.

We see it on the news, in the White House, on the streets, around our tables.

We not only disagree, we degrade and bite and devour each other. We’ve lost mutual respect and we’ve stopped searching for common ground or decency.

Bad eggs.

While this troubles me a great deal, what is most alarming is that the church has jumped headfirst into this mess.

We claim that every person is made in the image of God and in the next breath curse them for disagreeing with us.

We gather on Sunday hoping our neighbors will come to Jesus, then spend the week calling them names on the internet.

We teach our children that words matter and then unflinchingly applaud people who have no control over their tongue.

We are quick to excuse and condone ugly behavior as long as the person doing it agrees with our politics or worldview. “We aren’t electing a pastor,” we say. “No one is perfect.”

“They just say like it is,” we repeat, appreciating their bluntness. We laugh when they insult or cut someone down. We pretend this is leadership. We think this is just.

But the eggdicator doesn’t lie. Bad eggs. This is not who we are intended to be.

We are the ones who are the light of the world, the salt of the earth. We are those who claim to follow Jesus and his “love God and love people” message. We are people who proclaim grace and mercy and forgiveness.

Yet it feels like we are disregarding all this at a time when the world desperately needs us to embody these very things. I’m convinced the world is starving for something better. Something more than a continuous supply of bad eggs.

And the solution to bad eggs is, of course, good fruit.

Kindness and gentleness are dismissed by many as political correctness. Silly things that slow us down and show our weakness. But kindness and gentleness are neither silly nor weak, they are Fruit of the Spirit.

They are the result of the Spirit of God at work in us. They show up when we’ve allowed God to show up and have authority in our lives.

The same with self-control. And patience. And goodness. And faithfulness And love. And peace. And joy.

When God leads us, these things sprout up. We move from bad eggs to good fruit.

And they aren’t optional. We don’t get to turn them on or off depending on who we are talking to or about.

Sure, we won’t do this perfectly and every one of us has room for improvement, but lately I’ve been wondering if we even desire these traits anymore. Do we hunger for God to do this work in us? Or do other things have our attention?

Do I want peace or power?

Power corrupts while peace leads to life. Jesus says blessed are the peacemakers, not blessed are the power holders.

Is gentleness needed when we can just say it like it is?

Friends, if “saying it like it is” means being rude and callous in how we talk about other people than Christians are not permitted to say it like it is.

Is goodness going to help us win when the world is so bad and broken?

Church, goodness is the solution to the brokenness. It is the only way to truly win.

Patience? Do we have to?

I’d rather skip it myself but here I am, a recipient of God’s patience. I’ve been given chance after chance and time after time. In my best moments I’m eager to give others the same opportunities.

There is no joy in shaming others. No love either. There is no faithfulness without these other things. This is what we signed up for.

I do believe there are times for causing a scene and getting loud. Particularly in cases where we are being a voice for the voiceless and confronting injustice. But even then our motives must be pure. Are we motivated by the work of God in our lives or are we hungry for things like position and control and acclaim?

Do we have the stench of a bad egg or the sweet aroma of fresh fruit?

“You will know them by their fruit,” Jesus says. The things we bear in our life, from our words to our actions, will demonstrate who we will really are. That should cause us to pause. Who are we known as? When someone disagrees with our positions who do we act most like? When you bump up against us who spills out? Who is leading us? Who is at work in our hearts?

May it be the God who is love. May it be the God who is slow to anger and full of mercy. May it be the God who turns grief into joy and who is faithful from generation to generation. May we be people under the influence of the Prince of Peace. May we desire the gentleness of the Lamb who was slain. And may we be so full of this God’s goodness that it can’t help but show up in all we say and do.

May we bear good fruit in a world full of bad eggs. And may we show that there is something purer and higher and worth pursuing when we are tempted to follow others down the chute and up the ladder. May we have the courage and faithfulness to choose a better way.

Amen.