Wednesday, November 26, 2014


  I'm not really, but I am trying to think of how and why I could be thankful for the events in Ferguson, MO this Thanksgiving of 2014.

    I'm thankful that no matter the injustice that exists in temporal times, God's Word says eternity is real and lasts forever, and there is no injustice there or then, forever.

    I'm thankful that in a world that can be terrifying with the prospect that even if you did everything right (and especially when you don't) someone may take away your rights, your freedom, or your life; there is the assurance of heaven, and eternal life.  Some things the world can take away, and some things it never can.

    I'm thankful that in a context where facts are disputed and there is much confusion some things are very clear.  A young man was killed, and he was unarmed, and that in and of itself is a tragedy and should not be.  The clarity of that should be gripping, and I am glad some people get that rather than seeking justification for it.

    I'm thankful that in the face of so many loudly declaring that racism is no longer existent or that we have outgrown our problems reality smacks us in the face once again, and is forcing many to think and discuss how far we have not yet come.

    I am thankful that many young people, and many church people, especially in the St. Louis area have taken these events deeply to heart and are grieving, and angry at injustice, yet praying, and talking, and leading in the efforts of healing, peace, and dialogue.

    I am thankful for the measure of restraint I see in the police around the country during these protests.  I am thankful as one who remembers Kent State, who lived in Newark, NJ and remembers the riots of the 60's and is appreciative of how American authorities are not as heavy handed as they used to be.

    I am thankful to the people in the community who sought to protect the property of others from being destroyed, and who realize how senseless it is for people to burn their own neighborhoods down.  I am glad for those that oppose that kind of violence as I remember how many decades it has taken for some cities to rise from the ashes of previous riots.

   I am thankful that those who say they "are so tired of making this into a racial issue" are made to stay awake and kept from falling to sleep by their own willful ambien ignorance and being forced to realize that the nation is not yet healed, and that their instransigence to listening and taking action is part of the problem.

    I am thankful for the churches that over these last decades have intentionally sought to be cross-cultural and multi-racial and are not now embarrassed by having somehow missed the fight of justice or love.

    I am thankful that a national spotlight can be focused on the culture of police tactics, training, and internal investigation and that possibly some departments can be exposed for terrible leadership, mismanagement, the excusing of racist or brutal officers, or the cover up of abuse of power.

   I am thankful for courageous policeman who do treat people, even really bad people, with respect and dignity while seeking to protect the community and truly serve the people even at the risk of their lives.

    I am thankful that the response around the nation to what has been perceived as a callous indifference to a far too wide and long antagonism between police and black citizens, especially young black males, has not been orchestrated by any organization or leaders but has been a grass roots and spontaneous outcry.

    I am thankful that repentance is possible, for abusers, for oppressive authorities, for looters, for seekers after violence, for cowards who hide behind the status quo.  I am thankful that there is forgiveness from God for our sins, both personally and corporately.  I am thankful that God gives us grace to forgive others who have hurt us, and even to those who won't admit what they have done.

   I am thankful that learning is possible, that the unity of love is stronger than the bitterness and disintegrating nature of hate.  I am thankful that one doesn't have to know everything (all the facts, or where to place the blame, or all the solutions) before one can be caring, and empathetic, or ready to make peace.

    I am thankful that there is God in heaven who sits up high but looks down low, who is and always has been the origin and character of justice and mercy.  I am thankful that the Sovereign God of the universe is the One who bends the moral arc of the universe toward himself, for in his glory is all the goodness for which we long and hope.  I am glad that there is no such thing as "getting away with murder" with Him.   No one walks away free from Him who repays except those who knew they needed to be paid for, and here I think of myself, and how thankful I am that Jesus has paid for my sins.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


The other day I was privileged to do a wedding.   I chose for my comments two texts, one from Mark 10 and one from Hebrews 13.   Though I have often quoted from Mark 10:9 at the end of the wedding ceremony, "What God has joined together let no man put asunder!"  I have not really thought about the impact of that statement in regard to what really makes a man or woman married.  I always simply took it as a warning that we should not seek to commit adultery, nor seek to divorce, which is certainly in the context of the passage.

    In the Hebrews passage I noticed that 13:4 tells us that "marriage should be held in honor among all..."   And so from thinking about these two commands in Scripture I come to some conclusions, and maybe they raise other questions.

   The marriage of (any and all) heterosexual partners is something God establishes.  The passage in Mark certainly makes a positive statement that marriage is between a man and a woman, as there were no other options in the garden, and this was obviously by God's design.  The fact that the marriage ceremony has varied over the millenia, being something between families, within a village or community, being celebrated with feast, gifts, and ceremony, given "official" status by the church, and then by the state doesn't take away from a theological understanding of every marriage.  It is God ordained, and that ordination is active in the institution generally and in each marital relationship severally. God does the joining, and it is consummated in the two becoming one through the sexual act of intercourse, and they are no longer two but one.  This act of becoming one cannot happen between homosexuals and therefore there is no marriage there, certainly not one ordained or joined by God, no matter what any earthly authority might say.

    Marriage is not simply the sex act, it is a covenant primarily between the two individuals involved, consummated and celebrated in the physical union, and is to be steadfastly protected and honored by everyone.  Marriage is not something simply to be honored by immediate family, or local community, but by anyone and everyone in the whole world when they meet and interact with a married couple.  The Egyptian Pharaoh doesn't have a right to take Abraham's wife, even if he thinks she is Abraham's sister, and even if Sarah is not from Egypt and was not married according to Egyptian rules, whatever they may have been.

    It is not wrong for the church and the state to license, celebrate,and regulate marriage, as long as it doesn't make it more or less than God has declared.  Children, property, inheritance, and health all are involved in the proper recognition and regulation of marriage relationships. It is proper for the community to celebrate weddings, not simply to provide historic photographs, but for those of us who attend the event to witness this covenant making and to begin to honor this new marriage relationship and support it.  We support each marriage not simply as a love for an individual couple, but as an act of support for all couples.

   Each marriage has its own struggles, trials, and temptations.  We make mention of that reality in the vows we use in the ceremony.  Some of this struggle comes from the common weakness of the individuals involved, some struggles will arise from the circumstances couples will variously face as they go through life, and some struggles will come from the interference of others.  If we are to honor marriage we must protect it, for all of us, and for each of us. 

   So the question arises, what about those marriages that should not have happened?  Suppose a Christian marries a non-Christian; once married is that marriage joined by God?   We know that when Jesus comes into a person's life, and that person is already married to someone who doesn't want Jesus, the person not loving Jesus is free to leave the Christian.  The Christian however is not free to leave the non-christian.  If the believer purposefully marries a non-christian we don't think they then have an option to leave when they realize what they have done and want out.

     I am not asking here about those who feel they made a mistake due to a growing awareness of incompatibility.   That could be the "get out of jail card" for a lot of couples at various moments of their married life.  Marriage is considered by most Christians to be so radical a commitment that even those marriages that "should not have been" have to be protected, and are considered under the command of Jesus not to be interfered with.  I am not speaking here of incestuous or child bondage brides or any that are against the law, in and under the proper regulation of the state.

    My comments here are not addressed to the boundaries of what might be called a 'Biblical divorce."  That is another discussion.