Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thinking Carefully About Our Choices

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things
grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
Ephesians 4:15

On August 2, 1998, I was in a van filled with teenagers, driving from Colorado State University to the airport in Denver. Those of you who are Brethren realize that we were coming home from National Youth Conference. It was a Sunday morning. I remember this detail because of what we saw driving through Fort Collins. Along one of the streets, we passed a church with a reasonably full parking lot. About a block later, we passed a soccer field that was filled with kids playing and parents watching the game. The parking lot at the soccer field had more cars than the parking lot at the church.

At the time I remember thinking, "this is what the church will have to face. Sunday will become just another day of the week, and we disciples of Jesus will have to decide our allegiances." When it comes to Sunday, will we participate in the various things our schools or sports teams offer us, or will we reserve this time for worship?

I’m sure you can guess what I think the answer should be here, and you would probably be right. Church folk need to be in church on Sunday morning (or whenever your congregation meets for worship.) It’s a vital part of who we are, and without the spiritual formation that happens in the presence of the Holy Spirit and the family of faith, other options and attitudes will stake a claim on our allegiance.

Sorting out our allegiances can be a difficult exercise. Many of the options available to us on Sunday mornings (and every other time during the week) are worthwhile endeavors. I don’t choose to lay a guilt trip on anyone who has had to decide between coming to worship or playing in the finals of a travel softball tournament, or going out of town on a business trip.

But, as multiple worthy options seek a portion of your time, how carefully do you think about your decisions? Are you an impulse chooser, going along with whatever looks the best at the moment? Are you a buffet sampler, choosing a little bit of everything along the way? Are you a vacuum cleaner, sucking in so many activities that your schedule is filled to the max?

A healthier way of choosing among multiple good, competing options, has at least these three guiding principles:

  • First, before becoming involved in another new activity, sit down and examine your choices and time commitments carefully. Agree that you will make no decision before thinking about it for at least 24 hours. While you are thinking about it, ask yourself (or those involved) some questions: "Do I really want to do this?" "Do I really have time for this?" "Am I doing this to impress someone else?" Honest answers to these questions might bring clarity to your choices.

  • Second, consider the impact of this new decision on your previously agreed upon commitments. How will this new activity impact your marriage, or time with your kids? Will the new opportunity conflict with church meetings or activities that are already on the calendar? Will you have time to enjoy the other persons in your family if you accept this new commitment, or will you be left frustrated and tired by the amount of running around and late nights the new commitment will bring?

  • Third, how much time do you have to sit down and do nothing? And by nothing, I mean nothing! No TV, no internet, no chores, just nothing. We all need a certain amount of down time. If your schedule doesn’t allow for any, you are doing too much.

I am continually thankful that Jesus is interested in every aspect of my life. My faith helps me honor Him with my choices. In all things, including our time commitments, we can grow up into Christ.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Death of an Enemy

Do not rejoice when your enemies fall,
and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble,
or else the LORD will see it and be displeased,
and turn away his anger from them.
(Proverbs 24:17-18)

I awoke this morning to celebration. I found it on Facebook, in the news, and in conversation in general. Osama bin Laden was killed by US soldiers yesterday. There can be little doubt that bin Laden will go down in history as one of the world’s worst, a perpetrator of violence and evil in the name of God.

I’m glad he’s gone.

At the same time, the celebration feels out of place. My lack of excitement comes from the fact that bin Laden’s death will do very little to stem the flow of violence that saturates our world. The war in Afghanistan will continue; we will still struggle to bring troops home from Iraq, and who knows where the conflict in Libya will lead us. In some parts of the world, children will continue to grow up playing "interrogate the terrorist" instead of taking sports or music lessons (see photo at bottom).

What is more, violence still permeates the culture I live in. Television programs, movies and video games make loads of money by putting violent acts before our very eyes, inviting us to watch—or worse—participate. Civil discourse becomes more adversarial by the day, at a time when we most need to work together to present constructive solutions to some very real challenges. And as for my own personal enemies—those persons with whom I struggle to get along—I must confess that feelings of revenge are often closer to the surface than desires for reconciliation.

This blog leaves unanswered some very serious questions about the church’s response to evil. Those will come another day. For today, I simply say this: If you find yourself celebrating the killing of a killer who celebrated killing, beware. In a world where violence is everywhere, silence and humble reflection seem the better options.