Yesterday, our country celebrated the important work of Martin Luther King Jr. My social media feeds were filled with inspirational quotes with trendy fonts and backgrounds. In many ways it was an appropriate response to a man who dedicated and lost his life pursuing equality and justice for all. Yet, as a few friends bravely
Category Archives: History
How do we make sense out of pain and hardship?
I recently read about a boy who was born without the ability to use one of the joints in his thumbs. On the surface, this might seem to be a relatively small disability. But taking into account how often we use our thumbs, and the complex movements we sometimes require them to make, we might begin to see what a difficult trial this would have been for a young boy. And this is particularly true of one who, in his words, “longed to make things, ships, houses, engines. Many sheets of cardboard and pairs of scissors I spoiled, only to turn from my hopeless failures in tears.”
I’ll admit that I find stories like this one hard to hear. Perhaps it’s because I have three kids of my own, and I reflexively imagine what it would be like for one of them to face the same difficulty. It would not be easy for me to see one of them crying with frustration and sorrow after failing again and again to do what most of us can accomplish with relative ease.
Of course I would hate it. Of course I would question God. Of course I would wonder why it had to be that way.
“You’re on the wrong side of history.”
These days, Christians hear that sentiment, if not those exact words, on a regular basis. But this isn’t exactly new. For the last two thousand years, in places all around the world, Christians have regularly found themselves called to live lives that are out of step with the prevailing cultural winds swirling around them.
In our own time, biblical teaching increasingly cuts against the broadly held belief that each of us is the master of our own life, the final judge of what is true and, maybe even more importantly, what leads to happiness. And so, for example, a biblically faithful view on the topics of sex, gender, and family is increasingly seen as not simply old-fashioned, but rather repressive and even bigoted…and therefore on the wrong side of history.
How do we respond in light of this? A couple of thoughts:
“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Ever see that sentence on a bumper sticker (or sign, or t-shirt, or tweet, etc.)? I can hardly think of a phrase that better sums up our current culture.
Sure, outrage is nothing new in American life. The sixties proved to be decade full of protest and unrest. And let’s not forget that a little thing we call the American Revolution was sparked with a lot of indignation over taxation and self-governance, or lack thereof. We could multiply examples.
But now in contemporary America, I wonder if we’ve become particularly good at outrage, directing it at everything from commencement speakers to clothing choices.
Back in Dec. of 2014, I decided to invade social media with a devotional project I’ve been working on for the last four or five years. This project originated as our older kids began to filter out of our home; my wife and I wanted to maintain regular contact and demonstrate consistent love…but at the
21 Egyptian men were killed by ISIS because they identified themselves as Christians. They join a long list of people in the history of the church who have given their life to follow Jesus. The Bible tells us to expect such treatment and yet it still comes as a surprise.
Christian martyrs aren’t new. The first martyr of the newly established church was Stephen whose death is recounted in Acts 7. James, who along with his brother John and Peter made up Jesus’ inner circle, was killed by King Herod in about 44 A. D.
“You don’t want to be on the wrong side of history do you?”
That’s a question regularly posed to people who may not be excited about a direction our culture seems to be trending in at any given moment. And it goes almost without saying that, as Christians (and even more specifically those who view the Bible as authoritative), we sometimes find ourselves in that group.
So how to respond?