Friday, August 30, 2013

You Don't Seem to Be Taking This Very Seriously...

It's no secret that people's opinions of me are all over the map.  Some people find me interesting, exciting, funny, and a joy to have around...whereas others consider me annoying, stupid, a weirdo, or something along those lines.  True, some of my former classmates didn't like me because of who I used to be; we were all immature during those days, and did plenty of things we now wish we never did.  Still, despite the number of people I would call "good friends," I also have right many former friends, some of whom I have no idea what I did to offend or upset them.

You've probably heard the expression, "It's a free country!" People, especially kids, use that as an excuse to do whatever they want, when they want.  Though the Constitution--and God--gives us free will, we are not free from the consequences of our actions.  Look at what happened several years ago what Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks publicly bashed President Bush.  At the time, "W" was very popular with the American people, and Ms. Maines' remarks led to an outcry against that all-girl singing group.  Though what she did was legal, it didn't stop her from paying the price.

My first favorite band of any kind was the mega-popular Christian group dc Talk, whose amazing songs still get spins by CCM fans to this day, despite their split over a decade ago.  Since I was a bit late to the party--as usual--I didn't get Jesus Freak, which is considered to be their opus, until after I had all their other albums.  When I listened to it, I heard a song called "What Have We Become?" that I didn't like at first, because it disturbed me.  Now that I'm a bit more mature, I understand the meaning of the song better than ever.  One verse bashes racism ("A preacher shuns his brother because his bride's a different color, and this is not acceptable; his papa taught him so!"); the other illustrates the effects of parental disunity ("An inconvenient child; she wasn't worth their while!") However, one of the choruses mentions the secular way of thinking that is so prevalent:
Speak your mind; look out for yourself!
The answer to it all is a life of wealth!
Grab all you can, 'cause you live just once!
You got the right to do whatever you want!
Don't worry about others, or where you came from!
It ain't what you were; it's what you have become!
It's funny how the song mentions the "YOLO" principle, nearly two decades before everyone started posting it on Facebook!  In the context of the song, such thinking is decried.

Despite what that song says and claims from numerous others, many people still think that they have the right to do whatever they want.  I was once in a thrift store where a local radio station was playing, and, when an ad came on for a political candidate, another person in the store said, "Yeah, he'll take away your right to drink beer!" It's not the first time I've heard such ludicrous claims; an eighth grade classmate used an essay on the topic "Is Freedom Really Free?" to lament about our school's dress code, like the people who would have read it would even care.  Such thinking, despite its prevalence, is problematic.

Of course, no one wants to be told that what they are doing is wrong...but that doesn't mean that they don't need to hear it.  I recently watched a movie called The Encounter where a few modern-day people meet Jesus face-to-face, and one of the first statements He makes is, "People rarely want what they need."  Speaking of Jesus, I have to agree with the title of a Christian devotional book I once came across: Your Jesus Is Too Safe.  Seriously, people want to water down Biblical teachings so as not to offend anybody, but Christ told people what they needed to hear, whether they liked it or not.  Even nowadays, being called an adulterer is a serious accusation, right? Well, Jesus said that, if you've lusted, then you are one! Jesus also called people "foxes" and "snakes," and said things that ruffled some people's feathers enough that they killed Him! Though He never sinned, His teachings were upsetting to some people, and that's the way it should be! Christian producer David McFadzean once said, "Only exposing ourselves to Christian books, music, and movies that coddle us can actually keep us in our own sin." The same is true of sermons or other messages: If all you're told is that what you're doing is perfectly okay when it's actually not, are you inclined to stop doing it? Of course not!

Now, here's where things are going to get even more intense.  Despite the actions of some others, I'm not about to subvert the Bible's messages just to please people.  In Galatians 1:10, Paul wrote, "Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant." (NLT) Colossians 4:6 (GW) also says, "Everything you say should be kind and well thought out so that you know how to answer everyone." Of course, you want to say things as politely as possible, but, at times, there's no way to get your point across without sounding like Simon Cowell.  Seriously, if you're not inspired to change your ways when reading the Bible, you obviously aren't doing it right.

Here is my main point: I have known many people who have said, "You scare me!", or that others were somehow frightened by my actions.  Of course, some people use that term a bit too easily, just like the word "love" could describe your feelings for your favorite movie as well as how you feel about your spouse.  Still, some people say it, and they mean it in a literal sense.  Very few of you have actually seen me get really upset, and, if you thought my devotion to Disney actresses was scary, a few minutes around me in a horrible mood will make you wish I was rambling about Demi Lovato instead! Seriously, though, people say that my awkward social habits or my "different" interests are frightening to others, if only because they don't understand any of it.  So, now, I will use some Bible verses to explain why that bothers me.

First off: "The LORD is my light and my salvation--so why should I be afraid? The LORD is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?" (Psalms 27:1, NLT) That right there says that Christians should have no reason to be afraid.  Other Scriptures would agree, and say that God is the only One that you need to fear.  So, based on that, why should you be scared just because some well-meaning guy asked you about Facebook, or because your new friend has actresses and female singers all over his bedroom wall? Isn't that a paltry thing to be scared of? If you're afraid of what your significant other might think...well, if your relationship is that stifling, I don't know why you got into it in the first place.  Though I agree that married folks should have limited interaction with other opposite-gender friends, pretty much casting out anyone who doesn't share your gender unless he/she is a family member isn't right.  (What would Jesus do?)

Now, some of you may be wondering: If I truly believe that, then...why have I not gotten my driver's license? Here's why: "You must not test the Lord your God." (Deuteronomy 6:16/Matthew 4:7, NLT)  Seriously, I feel that God has providentially hindered me from getting my own set of wheels, because He knows what is and isn't good for me.  That whole "You can do anything you put your mind to" mess is mere tripe; seriously, God has given different people different abilities (1 Corinthians 12:4), and our job is to use them as best as possible, not sit around trying to get ones we're not meant to have.  You wouldn't go into a dangerous neighborhood for no good reason and say, "God will protect me," would you? How about praying for God to let you live before leaping off of the roof of your house? Seriously, if I insisted on driving, testing God is what I would be doing.

Second off: "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24, NIV) One of the popular slang phrases when I was in school was, "Got beef?" It probably was inspired by the "Got Milk?" commercials, but it really meant, "Do you want to beat me up?" Webster's says that "complaint" is a synonym for "beef," and that's true; seriously, if someone has something against someone else, it is called a beef.  I'm reminded of an incident on a dc Talk forum I was on years ago where someone made an ugly remark about someone else, and the recipient replied, "If you've got beef, [private message] me and we can squash it now." Unfortunately, such altercations can really ruin things for people; a friend and fellow church member once was at a youth retreat when something happened--to this day, all I know is that it involved his and the other party's younger brothers--that ruined the whole trip for him.  He was in such a snit that he refused to participate in the games later that day, and, during the evening worship time, another kid came up to the youth leader and said, "Something's wrong with [that guy]."  If only they could have resolved things, maybe he would have had a better time.

Unfortunately, it would seem that some people choose essentially the same route.  In many cases, I have been unfriended without any explanation of what I did wrong.  Instead of people trying to resolve things with me, they simply jumped ship, which, according to that above verse, is not the Christian thing to do.  Not only that, but it's also very wimpy.  Most people would think of a wimp as someone who lacks physical strength, but I've never been all that strong, and I've shown the exact opposite of "wimpiness" at times.  There have been several incidents where I said what other people were thinking, but were afraid to actually utter.  I'm also not afraid to tell others that I'm sorry for what I have done, and that I have messed up.  Others who would likely consider themselves not to be wimps actually are; I argued several times with a lady who would always say, "I don't want to talk about this anymore!" within a few minutes of discussing whatever.  She probably thought of that as a victory, but, I consider it to be a forfeit.  Think about it: If you were playing checkers with someone, and your opponent got mad and overturned the board, who would be the obvious victor? The same is true for those who got offended by whatever I did: Instead of being big enough to say something privately about such matters, they simply walked out, leaving me with only one question: Why? (Again, what would Jesus do?)

Third off: "Anyone who is not against you is for you." (Luke 9:50, NLT) Some of you may remember hearing about Sparky, the dog I used to have whom I despised from day one.  When I would badmouth him, other people would say, "That dog never did anything to you!" Their point was that I shouldn't have adamantly hated a pet who not only wasn't mean to me, but actually liked me.  I realize that was a mistake, and that's why I try to treat the dog my parents now have better than I did Sparky, even though I don't like owning pets all that much.  Despite me realizing that I was wrong on that front, some people choose to essentially shun me, even though I "never did anything to" them.  I don't get that; seriously, if you can tell that someone wants to be your friend and means you no harm, why respond in such a way?

For a long time, I have prided myself in how diverse my friends are.  If you want to be my friend, I don't care about your age, your relationship status, your sexual orientation, your religious beliefs, your living situation, your political views, or whatever else; you can be my friend.  Unfortunately, it seems that the friends I have made who don't share my faith are more accepting than the ones who would profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  In some cases, the way some Christians I have tried to befriend apparently think of me borders on prejudice instead of the love and compassion that Jesus expects of us (Ephesians 4:32, Luke 10:27).  (Once again: What would Jesus do?)

Here is my final Scripture quotation and point: "I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do." (Matthew 21:31, NLT) A movie I am currently in the middle of called Lukewarm opens with a minister preaching on Revelation 3:15-16 ("I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!"), and said preacher makes the point that some people who are lukewarm have just enough religion in their lives that they think they are doing just fine.  That's also true in real life, if only because people have been coddled repeatedly; see the David McFadzean quotation above.  I've been doing a daily Bible reading for about two years now, and it has changed my life.  Not only did the Gospels and the Epistles teach me numerous things, but even the Old Testament prophets made me want to give up my obsessions, because they say again and again how much God despises idolatry.  I've also learned that I shouldn't shun people, which is something that I used to do, and even defended it to others.  However, there are right many Christians who are in the wrong, but don't realize it, and are too stubborn to accept the fact that they're wrong.

Some of you might "read between the lines" and see that there are implied references to people whom you consider friends within this post, whether they are "former friends" of mine or never liked me in the first place, and that might be upsetting to you.  You also might be quick to refer to Matthew 7:1: "Do not judge others, and you will not be judged."  What you're failing to realize is that said verse is not meant to give Christians the right to do what they want, when they want; the corrupt culture has turned that Scripture into something it was never intended to be.  If the Bible says it's wrong, it's wrong, no matter who is responsible or how anyone tries to defend the person or people responsible.  There were numerous acts I witnessed and/or experienced before I was very well-versed in God's Word that I thought were wrong, despite others' endless defenses of such actions, and reading the Good Book in its entirety has only made me even more sure of how incorrect all that was.  Unfortunately, the people who need to read this are likely never going to do so, because they don't want to; they just want to be coddled.  If you want to stagnate, that's your choice; I've done all I could do to convince you otherwise.  If I don't tell people what they need to hear...who will?

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