Putting a Face on It

By the end of high school, I was a lot of things. Anti-abortion, pro-death penalty (ironic?), anti-gay, pro-gun, creationist, pretty much fitting right in with the Republican state in which I spent my teen years. Now, however, I am none of these things, much to the chagrin of certain family members and friends.

So what the hell happened?

Well, I went to college.

I don’t mean that in a liberal, “holier than thou, educate yourself” kind of way. To be honest, my professors had very little to do with my change of heart. I actually changed so much because I met different people and grew to genuinely care for them, on top of being free to think for myself.

I met gay people who were kinder and more compassionate than most Bible-thumpers I knew.

I met and grew to love nonreligious people and people of non-Christian faith backgrounds.

There were faithful scientists who believed in evolution and God.

There were women who had abortions or who had been raped and didn’t seem evil for wanting to not start a family with their rapist’s baby.

I realized I didn’t really agree with what I had always thought I was supposed to believe. The idea of my classmates carrying guns into class made me feel less safe and more likely to be shot if someone decided to go on a rampage. I realized that I would never want to force a woman to have a baby she didn’t want. I found that my faith didn’t have to be challenged by science, and even if it was, it’s okay to think things through. I found the idea of killing someone to show killing is wrong made no sense to me. Finally, I could never believe that God would be so petty as to cast good people into hell because of who they loved or what they believed when they were some of the best people I had ever met.

All of this change happened not because college is a “hotbed for liberal indoctrination,” but because I met and loved people who challenged my perceptions.

I think our world would benefit greatly from “putting a face” to what we believe. We should meet and get to know the people who are affected by our decisions and ideas, and we should grow closer to those who think differently from us. Only in such a context can our beliefs truly be tested and reduced to what is kind, honorable, and just.

Do I think you have to agree with my points to be kind, honorable, and just?


What I mean is that kindness, honor, and justice are only possible when we are driven by concern for others. Therefore, we can’t go on supporting ideas just because they keep us comfortable.

Even as my newer, more liberal self, I live my life surrounded by conservatives. I don’t see these people as hateful, backward racists and you shouldn’t either. The reason I can say that is because I’ve spent time talking with them and listening to their concerns, fears, and values. I see the faces of people I love when I consider these ideals that run counter to mine. Honestly, we all have a lot more in common than you might think.

So whatever you think or believe, test it. Challenge it. Look into the eyes of that death row inmate. Put yourself in the shoes of a gay couple trying to live life together. Try telling a woman to her face that you would force her to have an unwanted child. Listen to the stories of those who bust their asses every day for an “American dream” they’ll never afford.

But also…

Have coffee with that supposedly backward uncle that still supports only “traditional” marriage. Listen to the fears and insecurities of someone who looked up and saw a world they couldn’t recognize. Get to know the family who lost a loved one in a brutal capital murder by an unrepentant killer, or the proud gun owner who never did a thing wrong in his life.

Difference is not the enemy. Indifference is. Being challenged is not evil. Complacency is. Having strong beliefs is not a problem, but a problem arises when we fail to think or care about the ones who are affected by those strong beliefs.

We have to stop drawing battle lines and start crossing them. Only then can we see ourselves in our “enemies” and love them as we wish to be loved. It’s only when that happens that we can expect to see a desperately needed shift in how our world currently works.

Peace be with you!

But Did You Change, Though?

For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! — Galatians 6:15, NRSV

I grew up mostly “in church.” I was baptized, confirmed, took Communion once a month, and attended all the Bible studies and youth events I could. When I became an adult in ministry, I read the Bible daily, studied the faith at seminary, prayed multiple times throughout the day, and participated in service and worship projects all. The. Time.

With all of that said, it’s only been in the last year or so that I feel I have actually experienced the grace of God for myself. When I was a kid and when I was a minister, I made lots of selfish and harmful decisions. I had scars that I had never healed and unacceptable ways of coping with them. While I had affirmed all of the doctrines, aligned with all of the beliefs, and performed all of the pious acts, I had not yet been transformed by a real encounter with the grace of God.

A lot of us are like that. We use the symbols, say the right words, agree to the right doctrines, and do all the right “stuff,” yet our scars remain unhealed, our habits remain unholy, and our lives have yet to be transformed. We talk about the grace of God we see in Jesus, but we don’t feel or know that grace on a real, personal level.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians, the Christians in that area were being led astray by those who valued the outward expressions of faith more than the internal transformation brought about by it. Adult Gentiles were getting circumcised to please a particular religious faction, but that sign ultimately proved empty because it amounted to “checking a box” rather than transforming one’s life to follow Jesus. This leads Paul to say what he says in chapter 6, part of which is quoted above.

The truth is that what we believe is irrelevant if it only amounts to being a part of “the club.” If we claim to believe all the right stuff, say and do all the right things, but our lives remain unchanged, it’s time to re-evaluate the depth and meaning of our relationship with God.

The love of God, when experienced and truly understood, is a powerful, deeply moving reality that soaks into one’s very being and provokes change. It inspires us to live differently because we simply can’t afford not to do so when we finally become aware of God’s loving presence throughout this entire created universe. We can’t help but treat ourselves, each other, and this good earth with the respect and dignity of beloved creations of God!

When I was faced with this grace, this unmerited love, I had to change. I had to see a counselor and heal the wounds that had long influenced my behavior. I had to make apologies and find a different path forward. I had to take a step away from what was causing me to stumble so that I might be free to minister effectively in my everyday life. I just had to do all this because it meant I could more fully participate in the love I was experiencing!

If you feel like you are just going through the motions, checking the boxes, and joining “the club” because it’s all you know, there is good news for you. If you have left faith behind because you didn’t see any depth or meaning to it, there is good news for you. If you feel that God can’t possibly love you because of the life you’ve led, there is good news for you.

The good news is that it’s never too late to change. The good news is that God is not a doctrine, a building, an altar, or a ritual. The good news is that God is already present with you and reaching out to you!

I pray that you will ponder this good news and seek to put it into action by changing your approach to life. Live as though the love of God is for you and for all others. Live as though the image of God rests upon you and all whom you encounter. Live like this world is not a resource, but a beloved creation designed to be cared for and protected. After all, it’s true.

Peace be with you!

It’s Nothing Impersonal

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” — Luke 8:48, NRSV

The idea of a “personal God” always baffled me. It’s just something that took time to sink in, probably because of my own lack of perceived “experiences” that lent credibility to the idea. It’s also hard to imaging that the Source of all being in this universe would take interest in one such as myself.

This, however, is exactly what the Gospel teaches us to be true.

The Scripture for this post comes from Luke, my current devotional Gospel reading. In chapter 8, Jesus has been asked to go heal the daughter of Jairus, a leader of the synagogue (8:41), and while on the way, Jesus is touched by an impoverished and desperate woman suffering from “hemorrhages for twelve years” (8:43). Expensive treatments that left her destitute were of no avail, but, as expected, she was instantly healed by the touch of Jesus’ clothes (8:44).

Talk about a strong, moral fabric.

I am so sorry.

Anyway, that could have been the end of the story. Jesus could have went on His holy little way and never had anything to do with this woman on a personal level. The Son of God has places to be after all. At least, that’s how the human world works.

But is that what happens?

The miracle of this passage is not that Jesus clothes healed someone. It’s not. I hate when people focus on the “magic” that is not so strange for a divine being rather than the implication of said act.

By far, the most miraculous aspect of this encounter with Jesus is the fact that He is aware that He has healed, that He seeks out the person who received His power, and that He establishes a relationship with her so that the healing is complete and she can “go in peace.”

Even when the disciples tell Him it was just the crowd, even when He has other things He could be doing, Jesus takes the time to draw out this woman and call her “Daughter.” Jesus teaches us that there is no accidental or incidental healing when it comes to the Kingdom of God. It’s not just the physical aspects of healing that we are to receive, but it is also the emotional and spiritual healing that comes with knowing God and being known by Him.

Further, we are not called “you,” “pal,” or “bud” like we do when we have just run into an acquaintance and forgotten their name. Jesus calls us not as acquaintances, but as children and as family. Talk about personal!

So what does this teach us?

For me, I am reminded that actually healing anything in this world requires personal investment. Throwing money in one direction or another isn’t necessarily bad, but it pales in comparison to when our heart, body, and soul go into whatever action we decide to take. I like to stay behind the scenes, but that doesn’t mean I can’t pick up food for the local pantry, co-write an inspirational book with a colleague, or participate in communal conversations/activities for the sake of improving things.

Further, the idea that God is directly invested in me also reminds me that the same is true for everyone else. That personal, consuming love is held for me, for Jairus, for the bold woman of this passage, for you, for those I love, for those I don’t like, everyone. This should, then, inform how I interact with the world, treating all others not as I feel they should be treated, but how God would like His child treated.

This is what I get from this passage, but if you get something different, feel free to comment! I hope you are reminded of the love God has for you, the value you inherently hold, and the value of others. May we all go about this day as children of God, seeking to do His work.

Peace be with you!