Donald Trump Is Offensive And So Am I

Donald Trump is offensive. Seriously. He bad-mouths women, he brags and boasts, he’s rude, he has not been faithful to the women he has married, he makes money off of strip clubs, please don’t get me started on his ‘policies’. He claims Christianity but he doesn’t seem to understand what that means.

He offends me. And I’m offended that other Christians aren’t offended by him!

Donald Trump is offensive.

And. So. Am. I.

Is he a bad man because he’s had affairs and owns strip clubs? Is he a bad man because he calls people names? Is someone a good man because he doesn’t do those things?

It is so easy for someone like me, someone who likes to play by the rules, and make sure everyone else does, someone who identifies with the older brother in the story of the prodigal son, to say yes, yes it does! We humans love boxes and labels, and to slap them on everyone else.

But that’s missing the whole point of grace.

It is not wrong to curse or drink or go to strip clubs or cheat on tests or call people names or yell at your kids, or overeat, or whine or any such things because a rule has been broken. Rather, engaging in or abstaining from those actions reveal a heart tuned into love, or to self.

Plain and simple.

True followers of Jesus don’t obey the ‘rules’ to gain love or acceptance, but rather to express it! Jesus came down hard on religious pharisees because he knew every generation would have them; people who set themselves up as the gatekeepers of faith. People who check everyone else’s report card! (Matthew 15)

I’m not saying we don’t need leaders, spiritual or otherwise, we do. And I’m not saying that God’s word isn’t bold, straightforward, and exacting in its expression of what true life in Christ looks like, it is.

The problem is we love to measure ourselves against each other and not the real measure of truth – Jesus. If we did that, measured ourselves against Jesus, we would recognize Donald Trump and our Sunday School teacher and ourselves are all in the same boat. None of us measure up. And while some of us have embraced Jesus’ offer of forgiveness, have submitted to what he says is best for our lives, and have chosen to be obedient, it doesn’t change that we all stand on level ground and without God’s grace we are all morally bankrupt. We can’t take credit for grace, we are all offensive. Many of us church people have just forgotten that truth. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

But believe me, no one likes a snotty kid who goes around looking at everyone else’s report card in class and shouting out the grade. (I know because I was that kid, I didn’t have many friends growing up.) What we all love is kindness.

Indulge me on a little side note. My son, Max, has heard a lot of bad language at middle school lately. I’ve been torn in how to talk to him about it. Do I say, “don’t say those bad words because it’s wrong.” Or do I disapprove of his actions and scold him if he does say vulgar, ugly words? While that might be an okay thing to do, I’m unsatisfied with an authoritarian approach’s ability to get to the heart of the matter.

I decided I would tell my son that words meant to cut people down, that are common and low, words that describe the worst of human nature shouldn’t be used by people who have been deeply loved, and want to express love to others. It’s that simple.

Jesus has not called us to follow rules, but has set us free to express love profoundly, and if that means “limiting” ourselves for the good of others then that’s a life of great power and purpose.

So here’s my real problem with Donald Trump. He does not appear to be a man who has learned to limit himself or exert self control for the good of others. He does not appear to be a man who sees value in all people, especially women and his opponents. Which is Jesus’ real test. Can you love even your enemy? Because if you can it means you see in them the traces of God’s glory. Glory you seek to honor.

And that is why I am offensive too, because I haven’t chosen to see God’s glory in Donald Trump. I have laughed and mocked and ridiculed his behavior. We may argue that if someone is going to behave like a fool in public they should expect to be laughed at as one. But that’s their issue, not mine. His behavior doesn’t mean I have to take the bait and laugh. Instead, people, like me, who know what it’s like to be forgiven of so much, to be loved even at our most unlovely,  should know  bad behavior is nothing to laugh at. Foolish behavior, especially by someone in a public position should be grieved and prayed over. 

I think God would just as soon we not follow the rules, if we are not going to do it for the right reason.

All my not drinking or cussing or cheating or stealing, and all my going to church and giving money to poor people and being nice to animals mean nothing if my heart isn’t motivated by love. Love for God and love for others. Clinging tightly to the rules just highlights my pathetic attempt to prove I’m good enough for God to love me, and that’s silly, because I’m not.

As much as it feels good to mock Donald Trump in the moment, I can’t justify it anymore. And that’s thanks in part to Brant Hansen’s book Unoffendable. (I already knew a lot of these truths I just needed a strong reminder.) I’m afraid my actions toward Donald Trump expose me as the fool, the pharisee I am. Not the lover Jesus is and wants me to be.

It astonishes me the ways Jesus can call us to love, and hold us accountable to let love guide our actions. Anyone who says following Jesus is easy is trying to use him to their own advantage. Nothing in life is harder than following Jesus, because it means dying to our own selfish impulses, but nothing is more beautiful, captivating or exciting either!

Over the last few weeks I’ve seen Donald Trump as a great gift for the laugh I could have at his expense, but now I see him as a great gift for the love he can produce in my heart, as I learn to be like Jesus.

If you’re anything like me praying for Donald Trump doesn’t come naturally. (If you’re not like me, but like my husband, then good for you!) A gentle attitude, a kind thought, a patient heart turned in his direction seems counter intuitive, which sounds like the gospel to me. So let me offer up a prayer for Mr. Trump, and for us:

Father in heaven, your graciousness is shocking! It shocks even the senses of us who have long been acquainted with you, and we’re glad because we need it. I don’t see eye to eye with Donald Trump, but I don’t have to to recognize you knit him together in his mother’s womb, with purpose and hope. Help me to see him as a person of worth and a bearer of your glory. And help him to understand that truth about himself as well. Only you know his heart, in kindness and love search it out and teach him your ways I pray. Help him to walk in the light, in humility, and in love for his fellow man, just as I ask you to help me to do also. And help me to be ready to celebrate the work you do in his life. Amen.

{This was a hard post to write. And I’ve hesitate posting it because it may seem attention grabbing, which is not what I want. But I decided to share it since I had been public in my poking fun of Mr. Trump. I also want to clarify that disagreeing with a leader and voicing that disagreement is not wrong. The issue is why and how it’s done.}

How will you respond to Christ? – An Advent Reading

AdventJohn 1:1-5, 10-14, In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him.  He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”

Over the last four weeks of Advent we’ve experienced the Christmas story through the perspective of Prophets, Angels, Shepherds, and Wise-men. Here we are tonight, at the threshold of Christmas. The moment of focusing on Jesus Christ himself! The Hero of the story. The Savior.

Perhaps this season doesn’t feel like much of a celebration to you. Maybe, right now, life is just hard. Maybe even hopeless. Then this message, that a Savior has come, is especially important for you.

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. Galatians 4:4-5

If there was no pain, no brokenness, no bondage, the need for Jesus to put on human skin and walk in truth and grace among us wouldn’t exist. If the world were safe, there would be no need for a Savior. Jesus was born into this dark world to join us in our pain, to be the Savior of all broken things.

We can respond to Jesus’ coming by minimizing the need, downplaying his saving power, turning him into an inspirational leader alongside a plethora of other spiritual gurus. Or we can be overprotective of Jesus, grabbing hold of spiritual dogma and shoving unworthy worshipers away, nailing the lid shut on the manger to keep him in, and a messy world out. Both of those responses stem from pride, a foolish belief that we know best.

The response God leans in close to see suits a soiled prostitute or a glittering music star, an orphan or a college professor, a prisoner or a king all just as well. Humility. How can we celebrate Jesus’ coming without first recognizing we needed him to come. And if we recognize our need how could we keep anyone from coming to the manger to meet mercy face to face.

Tonight, with celebration, with hope, with gratitude, we remember the Savior has come.

Is Christ your Savior?

The world is waiting to hear our story. Who do you know that needs the good news of God wrapped in skin, moving into the neighborhood to live with you and me? Where can you shine the light of the good news that the Savior has come?

Let’s pray:
Father, thank you for your sacrifice to send your Son to lead us home. Give us humble hearts that recognize our own need for salvation and never despise the need of another. Make us as extravagant in our love as you yourself are. Amen.

 

Kindness ~ A gift worth receiving

Kindness is key3So far this month we’ve talked about kindness as a gift from God, to ourselves, and to others. This week we’re going to talk about receiving kindness. That may seem a little odd. How hard is it to receive someone’s kindness? But stick with me.

Have you ever had someone offer to clean your house when you had had a surgery, or watch your kids, or bring a meal, or drive you to a doctor’s appointment, or any number of things and brushed them off because you were too uncomfortable to let them that close.

I have. My pride has kept me from letting people near enough to help.

We American’s like to lean hard on our own independence. We will {fill in the blank} if it kills us!

I’ve been guilty of keeping people at arms length when they just wanted to express love to me and my family. And I’ve been frustrated when people have done the same thing to me.

Here’s the tricky thing about kindness, it needs a recipient. It’s hard to do good if there isn’t a person on the receiving end. That’s true of God’s kindness to us as well. He has stretched out his offer of forgiveness and reconciliation to the whole world. The problem – many people refuse it. “No, no God, I wouldn’t want to inconvenience you. I got this. It’s no trouble, I can handle it on my own!” But that’s not how life works. Everyone is in need of God’s kindness, and very often we’re in need of each other’s kindness as well.

It’s funny how life works that way. Give and take, need and gift, loneliness and love, brokenness and healing, hurt and forgiveness. It’s the nature of our humanity. We rail against it, in our thoughts and our actions. But it doesn’t change a thing. We are needy people.

I get it. I dislike being in need. I have lived a total of three years and seven months in other family’s homes. That is a long time. I didn’t plan it. But our family has needed a place to stay at various times for various reasons. And every one of those needs has been met with kindness.

Here’s what I’ve learned from being in need: Receiving is as much a spiritual discipline as giving. You can be a great giver and a lousy receiver. But both matter. Here’s why.

We reflect the nature of Jesus in both aspects. Jesus not only came to give great gifts, he also put himself in a place of need. During his ministry he was poor and allowed women to travel with him to meet his needs. Give and take creates a sense of community.

When we refuse someone’s gift of kindness pride is often at the root of the refusal. On the other hand humility and gratitude are at the heart of a gracious receiver.

Also, when we rely on the body of Christ to meet our physical, emotional, spiritual, and social needs we are telling God we trust him. The body is God’s primary tool for meeting the needs of his people. When we recognize that we honor him.

Are you a gracious recipient of kindness? Or do you brush people off, embarrassed by the attention and determined to care for things on your own? You can reflect the heart of Jesus not only by being kind, but also by graciously receiving kindness from others.

Let’s pray:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the kindness you have showered on us, help us also to receive the gift of kindness from others. Give us hearts of humility and gratitude. We want to be healthy members of your body, learning to give and receive. Thank you. Amen.