Posts Tagged ‘discipline’
bin Laden was. Seems like Harold Camping is. And you? Are you hated?
Truth is we spend most of our lives working on being nice, going with the flow, trying not to rub people the wrong way–anything we can do to avoid being hated. In some spheres, we even have a term for it… political correctness. In fact, we’re amazed at how much people go out of their way to accomodate others. And if you browse through a typical church website, you’ll no doubt find messages like, “Come as you are,” or, “Vistors welcome,” or, “Casual, friendly atmosphere.” From media to politics and international relations, from the workplace to soccer practice, we’ve become exceptionally skilled at behaving in ways that avoid inciting hatred. But… (you know me–here it comes) this is a serious problem.
Our three-year-old daughter Morgan has Mommy’s looks (thank heaven) and Daddy’s personality. She is firey. We’ve joked that we’re convinced she’ll have a latenight talk show by age five. Sometimes her tendency for extroversion can get her into trouble. The other day she decided to respond to our requests by stomping her foot on the ground and growling loudly through gritted teeth. After gently advising her not to do it anymore, she promptly replied with an even louder stomp/grunt. I squatted down to chat with her face to face. With a hint more tension in my voice I urged her not to do it again, and warned her that she would get a smack on the hand and timeout after the third time. A few blissful minutes passed and then Amy asked her to let the dogs back in the house. Clearly I failed to get through. STOMP/GRUNT! Her actions seemed to trigger her memory because she quickly whipped her head around and looked at me. (Do you ever pray that your kids will listen to you so you don’t have to make good on your punishment promises?) I walked over to her, voice now raised a notch, “No ma’am!” I escorted her to the sofa, sat her down and smacked her hand. Her consequence immediately inspired that old time fire engine cry–long crescendo culminating in the anitclimactic superfast sniffles. After three minutes I sat down next to her as she reassured me we would never see the stomp/grunt again. I told her how much I love her and she melted into my hugs.
These are the tough moments for us as parents. When love must be expressed through the negative. It takes a ton of emotional energy to execute discipline because we know how unpleasant the experience will be for our kids–because we risk being hated by them in that moment. But we do it BECAUSE WE LOVE THEM! Because we so deeply desire them to grow up to live Godly lives full of compassion, thoughtfulness and sensitivity. And we all know what happens to so many kids raised in homes without discipline.
But when it comes to our friends who don’t know Christ, who are living destructive lives apart from God, somehow that mechanism ends up out-of-order. We dare not share the Gospel with our friends… if we do and they’re confronted by their hurtful choices, we risk that which we fear more than almost anything–we risk losing their friendship and gaining their hatred. When I speak and teach, this is the number one reason people give me regarding why they choose not to engage in evangelistic conversations. Fear that they will lose friends in the process.
Jesus told His disciples at one point, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me for it hated you.” (John 15:18 ESV)
Most of us know this verse and respond to it with something like, “Yeah–that’s right. The world hates us because we follow Jesus. Our plight is far-reaching… etc, etc.” The reality is that for most of us, the world doesn’t hate us. We’ve done so much to ensure that. And we’re doing it with the best and purest of intentions. Have we ever stopped and noticed that something doesn’t add up? Maybe we take that word ‘world’ and apply His statement in the geo-political realm; meaning we acknowledge there are a lot of people out there who have it out for Christians and Christianity. This is true. But that isn’t to whom I believe Jesus is referring–at least not exclusively. No, this is an all-encompassing concept, inclusive of every person who lives separate from God. Your coworkers. Your kid’s soccer coach. Your next door neighbor. Members of your family. Every person. Jesus’ tone here indicates less an if and more a when. When the world hates you, know that it has hated me for it hated you. But for most of you, the people you encounter daily don’t hate you. Because of what you’ve done to earn their friendship? Maybe. Or maybe it’s because of what you can’t bear to do…
So why does the ‘world’ hate God? In part, BECAUSE HE LOVES THEM! Does that even make sense? Well, think about our precious, precocious little girl Morgan. In all her beauty and innocence, it’s in her very nature to rebel. And when we correct her, she becomes stubborn until discipline comes in the form of punishment. I dread smacking her hand because I know I risk her hating me for it. But I do it because I love her. It’s the same with God in regards to sin. We get that God disciplines us out of love, but the ‘world’ doesn’t understand that. They blame God for their circumstances. We see that every day, and we want nothing to do with it. So we keep our mouth shut. The risk is too high. But what kind of father would I be if I saw Morgan do something wrong and never said anything? Who in their right mind would say that I was a loving father if I did that?
So, the hard truth about evangelism is that it includes us in the process of God’s discipline in the lives of those He loves.
He knows this, and gives us a heads up about what we can expect. If we love the world, they will hate us. The reverse is also true. Catastrophically true. And possibly more accurately descriptive of us. If we hate the world, they will love us.
So. Back to my first question. Are you hated? Another way of phrasing the question would be, “Do you love, truly love the world? Like the Father loves the world?” This is the kind of love that compels us to share the Gospel. That’s how we know we love the world–by the burning pathos that drives us to invite the people in our world to meet Jesus. Living by this verse in John 15 means we have to accept the risk of our friends’ hatred. Without a doubt, some will fold their arms, squint their eyes, stomp on the floor and growl. But… some won’t. Some will allow God to break their will. To loosen their grip on the things that keep them from redemption and intimacy with Him. Some will surrender to a loving Dad. On the other side of that process, how do you think they’ll regard you? Knowing what you know of the joy of a life with God, do you think they’ll hate you? Nope. They will praise God every day for the rest of their life that you were willing to risk losing their friendship and share Christ.
Terrorists and cult leaders are hated for the wrong reasons. I’m choosing to be hated for the right ones. For the chance to participate in God’s love for His precious creation. What about you? Are you willing to take the risk?
Time Magazine has called it ‘The Decade From Hell.’ Bookended by market crashes and filled with more carnage than an Eli Roth movie, the 00′s have left humanity staggering and stunned to say the least. When you consider the infrequently disrupted utopia of the 90′s as the set-up, you might see the last ten years as some sort of sick practical joke, i.e. when your good friend in middle school knelt behind you as another smiled, then pushed you over.
But what really happened? How do we begin to make sense of the last ten years? I’ve had a few conversations over the last month with friends coming from all sorts of places–from pastors to atheists, business owners to teachers. Everyone seems to have a passionate interpretation. I’ve heard that we are seeing proof that God really doesn’t exist and that it’s up to us to clean up our own mess. I’ve heard that God is beginning to remove His hand from us, fatigued from our collective disobedience. I’ve heard that God has allowed history to unfold this way in order to draw us nearer to Him.
In times of uncertainty, it seems like we all gravitate towards a desperate search for the “why.” But I’m not sure that’s the best use of our energy.
In my short time on earth, I’ve determined that attempting to answer the unanswerable is a serious waste of time. None of us will really ever know the big secrets–that’s why it’s called faith. Instead, I think we should constantly seek to understand a timeless, Biblical perspective on things.
In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?
My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects.
God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain.
Hebrews 12:4-9 MSG
This passage reveals a powerful truth about the reality of difficult times. God isn’t punishing you. He doesn’t dole out His wrath on the obedient. He uses trial and tragedy to strengthen us. It is through His loving discipline that He shapes us into better people and more capable messengers for Him. That said, experiencing His discipline will never be easy.
I remember my first year in college like it was yesterday. I had the awesome privilege of playing lacrosse at Johns Hopkins, one of the most storied and prestigious programs in the country. The school hired a new coach over the summer after my senior year in high school, a move that had most of the players concerned. His reputation as one of the best players in the history of the sport and one of the toughest coaches in the game preceded him. During our January pre-season training, our new coach’s conditioning strategy was unspeakable. Relentless 3 hour two-a-days that always ended with the Hoosier drill; 60 seconds to sprint 17 times across the width of a basketball court. If we didn’t make it in 60 seconds the first time, he’d put us back on the line to go again. He placed a garbage can in the center of the court so we had a place to get sick, which most of us inevitably did. We did this 6 days a week for the entire month. We hated him. I remember sitting with teammates after practice cursing his name. Something changed all that, however. Fast-forward to May and the NCAA championships. At a time when the on-field temperature read 119 degrees and most teams were out of gas by the end of the third quarter, our team NEVER got tired. We were in such good shape when it mattered, we just rolled over teams like they were standing still. It was awesome. And then we realized how great our new coach was and how privileged we were to be a part of his team. We hailed him as the best thing that had ever happened to the program. Since he’s been there, by the way, he’s become one of the most respected people in the sport and the only person in history to win the NCAA championship both as a player and as a coach.
The discipline he subjected us to was brutal, but in the end it produced incredible results. It was so difficult for my teammates and I to see the future that we wanted nothing to do with the present. Fortunately, we had a coach who absolutely knew what would happen as a result of his choice to push us. This draws a direct parallel to life (funny how athletics do that…) Over the last decade, we’ve seen terror, unprecedented natural disaster, financial chaos, greed, scandal and the deaths of some of the world’s biggest heroes/gods, and each of us has been deeply affected in some way. But the reality for those who are obedient to God is that our present condition reveals His passionate and unceasing LOVE for us. His discipline can become unbearable at times, but He knows EXACTLY what He’s doing. He knows the future, and if He’s willing to place the burden of His discipline upon us now, then we can be sure that the future will be incredible.
Later, of course, [God's loving discipline] pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it!”
Hebrews 12:10-12 MSG
May God reveal Himself to you in new and profound ways over the next 10 years.