How To Let Go Of The Past

I used to have this problem.

I would remember something selfish or stupid I did when I was younger and the memory would hurt. Literally. I don’t know if it was actual physical pain or just pain in my mind, but it would hurt.

I would be eating dinner or taking a shower and I would feel the memory approaching like a tidal wave. There was no way I could stop it. All I could do was brace myself and wait until the memory would go away.

How To Respond to #ShoutYourAbortion

angry-computer-guy-1024x683Wow. To quote the movie Anchorman, 'that escalated quickly'.

The hastag 'shoutyourabortion' started trending today, and already I'm seeing one side angrily shaming the 'feminazis' who are also angrily lashing out at the 'trolls' who are condemning them.

As a Christian who doesn't let any political party tell me what I should think and what position I should take, how do I handle something like this?

I like to think in terms of stories, and I've been trying to think of a good story in the scriptures that helps me frame this argument. Is it John 8 where an adulterous woman is dragged before Jesus to be stoned?

I don't think that's a perfect representation, because in this case, there's not a silent party who knows they have been caught doing wrong. Both sides are pointing at the other and shouting for the rest of us to stone them.

Is it like 1 Kings 3 where King Solomon is asked to determine the real mother of a certain baby and he cleverly suggests cutting the baby in half to determine the true mother when she, in compassion for her baby, offers to surrender her rights?

This doesn't seem to fit either, as neither side seems to have a great deal of compassion for the other side.

I settled on a story in Luke 12. It's also quite imperfect in some ways, but the principle may help us here.

Jesus has literally just finished speaking about how each person has great value to God when a man shouts out, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” (v.13)

Jesus responds to the man in the next verse. “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” He then starts to talk about how dangerous greed is.

Here are the principles in that story that I think are very meaningful to us as we process our modern day arguement:

1.Jesus isn't going to let us play the game of putting him in the middle of our arguments.

It's hilarious to me that Jesus asks, 'who made me a judge over you to decide such things'. I mean, come on, he's God in the flesh. There's no one more qualified, yet he refuses to play this game of 'take my side against him'.

When we argue for or against abortion on moral grounds (is it better to have an abortion than to let a child live in a home with unfit parents or poverty, etc), we're essentially trying to get Jesus on our side and against the other side. He is Lord and Savior, not a pawn in our own personal chess game.

2.Get rid of your desire to condemn people and choose to love them instead.

Jesus' warning to the man who asked about greed doesn't exactly apply here, but I believe our willingness to arrogantly condemn others would receive a similar reaction. Jesus was telling the man in question that he valued money more than a relationship with his brother.

Do we value 'being right' more than showing love and compassion and acceptance to a son or daughter of God?

In Ephesians 6:12, Paul makes it crystal clear that our enemy is never other people. Even if somebody else is completely wrong or immoral or evil, you are not excused from treating them with love.

If you do not believe abortion is healthy for anyone involved, then look for ways to resolve the underlying problems rather than using shame as a tool which can never actually improve anything:

  • Volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center
  • Teach literacy and job skills at a local school or youth center
  • Look into adoption

Give people hope and assistance instead of scorn. Follow the example of Jesus who did not condemn us, but rather called us to something better.

The old saying says that honey catches more flies than vinegar. Father Greg Boyle says that 'nothing stops a bullet better than a job.'

What are you doing to reduce abortions in a way that gives dignity to women rather than attempting to disgrace them?

Please do not go on social media and express pity for the women who have had an abortion. Pity is a form of arrogance. Instead offer compassion. Compassion cares about people whereas pity is thinly veiled scorn.

Ask people to share their story. Learn about why they made their choice, and see if there are ways you can bring healing in places of hurt.

Even if you don't agree with choices people make, you can care about them and what challenges they have had to face.

I doubt anybody goes to get an abortion because 'it seems like fun'. I bet most people take the decision very seriously. I think Jesus would listen to stories of hurt, like he did in Luke 8 with the woman who had a serious health issue before responding with compassion.

This is the Jesus who offered compassion to the people who murdered him. There is no one beyond his compassion, and if we are his ambassadors, we are tasked with sharing that message.

Here's one last story that we should remember: Luke 15 where God compares himself to a Father who RUNS to his child that is returning from a life far from himself.

At one time, we've all been the prodigal. Those of us who have used shame and scorn and condemnation need to be first to return to the home of our Father. Only then can we celebrate the return of others who are seeking an environment of love and rejoicing.

So here's the side I hope you choose in this arguement: Love. Loving the people who are made in the image of God. Let us seek together how to continue inviting the Kingdom of God into our midst

And may the church be the loudest voice of love in our society.

Guilt vs. Shame

downloadI’m reading a book called Daring Greatly by Dr. Brene Brown right now. It’s a good book so far, and she has some great stuff to say. Right now, I reading about the difference between guilt and shame. It’s been useful, because I didn’t understand the distinction between these two concepts very clearly.

Guilt looks at a situation where you come up short of the standards you hold in your life and say ‘I did wrong’ or ‘I came up short there’.

Shame looks at those situations and says ‘I’m a horrible person’ or ‘I’m such a loser’.

Guilt is useful only insofar as it makes us aware of our need for the mercy that God so willingly gives us when we fall short, and the grace which empowers us to live a life closer to the one Jesus calls us to live.

Shame is wholly destructive, and leads us to believe that we don’t deserve the mercy and grace that God wants to share with us.

Brown makes the case that using shame to correct behavior is completely counter-productive in parenting, managing, teaching, or any other leadership situation.

I couldn’t agree more. We are all children of God, and we inherently all have worth.

Instead of calling people to live up to the standard of following Jesus, to the calling that God extends to us as partners in the ever expanding nature of his Kingdom, shame attacks their very self worth.

It’s an effective trick.

That must be why Satan likes it so much.

In the Garden of Eden, Satan tells Eve that she has no worth if she doesn’t eat the apple. “…as soon as you eat it…you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

If you don’t eat that apple, you’re going to stay a loser. Shame on you if you don’t eat that apple.

When Jesus was at the end of his 40 day fast, Satan came to Jesus and gave him several challenges. The first two started the same way: “If you are the Son of God…” (See Matthew 4:1-11)

Unlike the response he gets in the garden, Jesus does not let shame manipulate him. He looks to the guidance and standards given by God in the scriptures and avoids the trap.

Shame is still a favorite tool of our enemy today. When you find yourself devaluing the inherent worth you have as a person, adjust this internal monologue with what God says about us.

That you are beautifully and wonderfully made by God. (Psalm 139:13-15)

That God greatly values you. (Luke 12:6-7)

That nothing can separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8:38-39)

It’s okay if you see areas in your life that do not yet measure up to the life God has called you to live, but don’t think that’s where your self worth comes from. Those feelings of guilt are simply there to point you back to the one that says he is working in us, and won’t quit until the work is done. (Philippians 1:6)