Unity and Tolerance

Unity is vital. Jesus holds it in high regard as does Paul and the New Testament. Unity is vital because that’s who God is. Three beings as one Godhead–what we Christians call the “Trinity.”

Tolerance on the other hand is not vital. The New Testament does not encourage us to be tolerant, but be unified. A tolerance that means everyone’s opinion is valid and should not be discounted is unbiblical.

We should not tolerate other Christians but be unified with them.

Tolerance is weak in comparison to unity. Unity needs disagreement for growth. Unity needs listening to hear. Tolerance asks us to believe in everything which means we believe in nothing, and the Church will lose its distinctive nature.

It’s good to coexist with other religions. It’s good to listen to other opinions. But tolerance is unfulfilling. It’s ignorance. If I tolerate my brother, I don’t know him. If I try to be united with him, there’s pain and angst but I get to know him. I might not completely accept everything he says or does, but I hold fast to working on that relationship.

In the same way, God does not tolerate you but desire to be united with you. He doesn’t tolerate your sin but addresses it (even if it causes him pain on the cross). Let’s work toward unity and not merely tolerate one another. Disagreements are necessary and so is discipline, but let’s continually work at becoming more unified in Christ.

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Leadership and Grace

“If you had to think about it, how many people in this world would you say are “gracious”? Really…think about it…”

I remember the look on her face when she said, “50%.”

“So, one out of every two people are gracious?”

“Yes, because people are gracious when you do well, but when you fail, they aren’t.”

Many of us, like my employee did a year or two ago, feel the same way. We believe people will be gracious to us if we don’t fail–as long as we continue to succeed, people will be gracious, but, if we don’t, they will leave us or come down on us (hard). But I can’t blame this employee because our lives are all-too-often bound to conditions. You give me A, and I will give you B. If you don’t give me A, I won’t give you B.

I’ve been blessed for years now with a great group of people to lead and challenge. I’ve enjoyed spending time one-on-one with them and empowering them to grow as leaders and invest in their context. Time and time again, I am faced with this sense in those who’ve been under my supervision that I (or the institution) will accept them only if they do well and reject them whenever they fail. We might have never given that impression, but deep down inside everyone believes that’s the way it works (and maybe even should work). If you don’t get this done on time, rejection. If you don’t get good responses to your project or event, rejection. If you do, pat on the back and a box of chocolates. If you do…acceptance. A life built on conditions.

But leaders need to be beyond this. As leaders, if our people leave our presence with a list of things they need to improve, but don’t know we have their backs no matter what, we’ve failed. More positively, leaders are in the business of spreading grace. Leaders must give people the space to grow, and that space means providing grace to those under their supervision and guidance. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t hold people responsible for their actions (we should), but it does mean we will back them up. It means, when you fail, I will be there. It means, if you don’t give me A, I will still give you B. Leadership shouldn’t be defined by conditions. They should be defined by grace. If someone leaves your office with a list of things to do, they should also be left with, “Even if you try and it doesn’t work out, I will be there, and we’ll try again.”

If leaders are even more honest, the reason why we define our relationship with our employees by conditions is that we are “control freaks.” If they don’t perform well, it reflects poorly on us. So we setup boundaries and force people into them. But we need to be able to give the space and be OK with the failure. We need to pick people up when they fail and pat them on the back when they succeed. Failure isn’t the enemy. It’s just another opportunity for the leader to define his or her leadership by grace.

If you consider yourself a leader, I would challenge you to think about this. What would it look like to move beyond leadership defined by conditions to leadership defined by grace? I would encourage you to go for it–be a leader defined by grace! You’ll be surprised by the results, buy-in, and growth of those under your supervision. “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

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The Bible Is One Story about One Person

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Don’t Stare at Jesus

Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so the Son of Man has been lifted up that we might also be for the world a light, a witness, of God’s love for the world. To be raised with Christ means the end of any attempt to passively stare at the crucifixion. You cannot stare at that in which you participate.

-Stanley Hauerwas Working with Word

Stanley Hauerwas

Stanley Hauerwas

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Let Me Be The First to Say It: My Response to the Duck Dynasty Controversy

Let me be the first to say it:


Look, I don’t watch Duck Dynasty. Nothing about it really shouts “Evan!” to me. But it is a very popular show. I’m not for stopping the show. Here’s what I am for stopping:

Stop the self-righteousness. I’ve read numerous responses to this controversy. And, when conservative Christians get upset, it’s easy to throw at them lines like, “They care more about Duck Dynasty than the millions of people who die from hunger every day!” (Implicitly saying, “Not like I do, of course.”). If you asked those conservative Christians (which you may consider me to be), do you care about world hunger more than this? Most would say, yes. Hunger is a continual problem to them. This is a trendy problem. It might be mixed up, but self-righteousness doesn’t help. It hurts.

Stop the “free speech” rhetoric. The “Chick-fil-a controversy” sparked this thought in me, but, if we are honest, this isn’t about free speech. It’s about the conservative Christian belief on homosexuality contrasted with the liberal (Christian or not) belief on the same subject. Let’s stop hiding behind defending free speech. We aren’t. Phil Robertson has the first amendment, but A&E does too. If Phil Robertson had a conversation with President Obama about the same thing, and Obama banned Phil from Washington, D.C.; then, yes, that would be a problem. A&E suspending an employee is not a problem. If I said some of the same things publicly (even at the conservative Christian university I work at), I would be suspended too. It lacked tact and sensitivity. It might be mixed up, but “free speech” rhetoric doesn’t help. It hurts.

Stop masking your feelings. It’s just a guess but…Conservatives (which some deem me to be) seem to respond the way they do because they feel their chances at winning a culture war slipping away. No one likes to lose. Plus, they can’t make arguments from the Bible or they are seen as uneducated. They can’t make arguments from the Constitution or they are seen as bigots. It’s a lose-lose. Liberals (which some deem me to be) seem to respond the way they do because Phil Robertson is part of (in their minds) the last citadel standing before the culture war will be won and we can move into an utopian age of secularism. Secularism still struggles with how to respond well to religion. Deep down inside, they wish it was gone, but, unfortunately (for them), it won’t go away and keeps popping up.

Which leads to say, both groups are responding out of feelings of anxiety. We are a chronically anxious society. What happens if the conservatives get their way? What happens if the liberals get their way? We don’t want that! So we respond out of anxiety because we fear what could be coming. If we are vulnerable about our fear, we might find good ground for conversation. Instead, as we respond out of anxiety, we attack, berate each other, and say insensitive things to each other and about others.

And this would be a good reminder to all of us, Jesus calls us to not be afraid for he is with us. But he doesn’t just call us to “not be afraid” of opposition or if the other party gets its way. He calls us to not be afraid of the anxiety that lives within us and be free from it. True freedom, true righteousness comes through surrendering our fear and anxiety to the One who invites us to cast all our cares upon him, and he will give us rest for our souls.

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Many of us what to be part of something. We want brotherhood. We want people to go to battle with us and for us. We want a place where we belong that our very presence brings joy to others and others to us. This type of place we often call “community.”

However, although we want community, we often perpetuate exclusionary practices that are detrimental to community. We kill, lie, gossip, steal, and cheat, and so our communities don’t become brotherhoods but brothels.

In order to have healthy community we must be committed to each other and to the structures of the community. We have trouble committing to each other because people are annoying. But we also have trouble committing to the structures of the community. We don’t want to be held to certain rules, but we can’t have community unless there are guidelines. Unless we have rules against stealing, we can’t have community. Unless we have rules against killing, we can’t have community.

Christian community is commitment to each other (“being of the same mind” as Paul says) and to the structures of the community (“those who love me obey my commandments” as Jesus says). We shouldn’t run away when people become difficult. We shouldn’t run away when the structures become too binding.

Jesus loves us so much that he commits himself to us (each other) but also is committed in obedience to the Father even to death (structures). We also must do likewise. And when we do so, we will have community.

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Why Do You Go to Church?

I hope you see the value of going to church. Too many of us go to church believing that it somehow makes us justified in God’s eyes. Too many of us go so we can work on the “relationship between God and me.” Too many of us go to church because it’s our biggest social club we are a part of. And too many people go because they believe it’s a good thing to do. But, when we do this, we simply attend church. We simply tolerate it. I was reminded this weekend by our lead pastor Rob Tarnoviski that church is not just something we attend, tolerate, go to…it’s something we belong to. As Stanley Hauerwas reminds us in the video below, it’s an on-going history we belong to. And, in that belonging, we gather together to remind ourselves that we aren’t crazy. We rush together for protection. We rush together to be re-focused on the reality of God’s kingdom.


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How Breaking Bad Shows Us Why Obama Is Bad for America

Like many in America, I was drawn to the Breaking Bad series and watched it as it ended in bittersweet fashion last night. But what most people don’t seem to understand is how Breaking Bad can determine our politics.

First, Breaking Bad could be a win for the GOP. The Onion does an excellent job pointing out this big win for the GOP. They show how Obama is killing America and Walter White had no choice to become an insane architect of a worldwide meth empire. (I apologize for the crudeness of the last line of the video, but the overall premise should not be missed).

Story Of Small Businessman Struggling Under Obama Administration Draws To Close
However, at another glance, this could be a win for the Obama administration. As you can see from the comic strip below, Obamacare/Obamasnare would have ended the show at the first episode.

But to be frank, if Obama had his way, we would have never been privy to one of the best television series of all time. The question is, Do you want to live in a world where Breaking Bad would’ve ended on the first episode? My answer is a clear: NO!

Sorry, Obama. You lose.

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The Value of Life

Acts 20:24 ESV

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

If you are like me, you value your own life. I want safety. I believe my existence matters to people. I believe the world is a better place because I am on the planet. However, Paul doesn’t value his life…at least, not the way I do. My value of life is primarily selfish, believing I offer something. But, for Paul, he doesn’t offer anything but has been offered a “course and the ministry…from the Lord Jesus.” He understands that his life’s value is marked by what he has been given by Christ, which is “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

Do you see your life a valuable because of something you intrinsically offer or because of something Christ has given you?

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Model the Saints

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9 ESV)

Paul reminds us that if we want to know what it is like to be a faithful Christian we must model the saints–those in our lives who are shining examples of what it means to be “in Christ.”

He also reminds us that in order to disciple others well we must first be models.

How are you doing with modeling and being modeled?

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