Symbols

June 26, 2015

Years ago I had Plantars warts on the bottom of my right foot. They literally covered the entire surface. If you don’t know about these sorts of warts, they grow inward not outward and can be painful. I went to the doctor and he gave me a prescription for an acidic liquid that I would “paint” on my foot each day that killed the top layer of skin. Each night the dead skin had to be sanded off. Ellen literally used a power disk sander on the bottom of my foot every night for months! I would lay on the floor with my foot propped up on her lap as she sanded away without trying to go too deep and draw blood. The short of this story is… it didn’t work. I still had them after months and months of “painting and sanding.” I finally went to a different doctor. He said that he would burn the roots of the warts and they would go away. So, using some sort of “hot poker-like” instrument he burned 5 little holes into the bottom of my foot. Within weeks the warts were all gone and have never returned. The moral of the story? Dealing with symptoms doesn’t make the illness go away. One has to kill the root. Keep that in mind as you read on.

If you have been paying attention at all you are familiar with the controversy over the display of the Confederate Flag that is taking place across our land. The last time I looked several states had taken it down from their government offices and it’s no longer sold in some large retail stores. Allow me to jump into the fray for a moment.

First and foremost, we need to – MUST – combat racism in our country in every way we can. There is no way we can claim to be a civilized people as long as we separate ourselves based on our skin color or our heritage… Period! I know there are cultural issues and divides. I know there are things done by others that frighten and appall some of us. I know that values are not shared across the board. I know that there are too many young black men in prison. I know that there are way too many illegal immigrants. I know that economic divides exacerbate our issues. All of these things and many more cause untold problems, but they are not a reason to hate other people. Period! Especially, I might add, if you claim to be a Christian. Period!

Now, about the flag situation. Some have claimed that the origins of the Confederate Flag are not founded in racism. It was and is representative of the desire for an “independent Southern State.” That may be true. And it may continue to be true for some or even many. But here’s the crux of the problem. Symbols evolve. What they may have meant a hundred years ago may not be what they mean now. Can anyone with any sense really claim that there are not groups and individuals who rally around this flag for the cause of racism? Seriously? Whether folks like it or not, the symbol has evolved into something divisive and in some circles… evil.

Allow me to mention a couple of other examples. Maybe the most prominent one: The Nazi Swastika. Take some time to do a little research and you’ll find this symbol has its roots in ancient history. And even up until the early part of the 20th Century it was intended to represent “good luck” and “well being” for those who flew it. Would anyone like to see its return? Well, some would, but I think that most right thinking people understand that its meaning has evolved and it no longer is suitable to be flown. Do not misunderstand me. I am not commenting on whether people have a “right” to fly this flag – just whether they should, and what it actually means now.

Other examples from the Christian faith might be the use of Christmas trees or the word “Easter.” Both of these have their roots in pagan traditions, but they don’t mean that anymore. Obviously their meanings have evolved over the years. Those who say, “Well, Christians use pagan symbols” are just silly and naive. Who identifies these things with paganism any longer? Few, if any. It has been many centuries since these “symbols” have been associated with pagan religions. Again, the symbolism has evolved.

I hope you see the association with “plantars warts?” Surely we should no longer encourage racist symbols, but that’s not really the issue is it? Nor will eliminating racist symbols from our buildings and flag poles exterminate hatred for other human beings. The truth is this. We are broken human beings and our hearts are blackened. No government or social movement will alter that. Oh sure, we can make some changes. But they will not last! The wickedness in our humanity will always come to the surface. Dealing with symptoms without dealing with the root is a lesson in futility.

I have no expectation that non-Christians will adopt the Christian value of love. Not that they can’t. I just don’t expect it. But for Believers??? Racism is sinful and needs to be eradicated from our hearts and our souls. Period! We begin in the place we should always begin with these things… REPENTANCE. The “act” of saying, “God, I’m sorry for my sin. Please CHANGE my heart.” If we are not willing to do that in the Name of Jesus Christ then we choose to be in rebellion against God. Good luck with that.

Take some time to consider these verses today and how they apply to your life.

Matthew 22:36-40
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 5:43-48
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

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Doing the right thing

November 6, 2014

Doing the “right thing” can be hard; gut wrenchingly hard. Being a person of integrity can be painful and emotionally devastating. You may have heard this but “integrity” has been defined as, “The person you are when no one is around.” I shudder to think. It can be traumatizing to do the right thing, to go against the flow, to buck the system… is it any wonder that we too often choose to simply let things go? To say or do nothing when something clearly needs to be addressed? Folks in the work place who “blow the whistle” on illegal or immoral activities; how do they do it? After all, losing friends, loved ones and maybe our livelihood… is it really worth it?

There are a few occasions in my life where I think I did the right thing in the midst of intense pressure to remain silent. The sleepless nights, the emotional trauma, the depression, the chest pains… is it any wonder that I think twice or more before putting myself in those situations again? I know, I know, as Believers we should do what’s right regardless of the cost. We ought to honor God in our lives by being people of honesty and veracity. But it’s so… HARD! I’m ashamed of those times when I have allowed myself to turn away and not do the things that I know I should. I wonder if there are others who feel the same?

The Apostle Paul comments on this dilemma in two ways… First he says that we live in a perpetual state of emotional/theological turmoil. He refers to our pre Christian state as the “old self.”

Romans 6:6

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin….

Ephesians 4:22

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires….

 The “old self” is that part of us that continues to sin or not do what God desires. It is particularly exasperating that even though we have been delivered from our sinful lives we continue to sin anyway.

I once heard the story of a farmer whose dog wouldn’t stop killing his chickens. So he took a dead chicken and tied it around the neck of the dog and allowed the bird to rot and putrefy. It wasn’t long before the dog no longer wanted anything to do with chickens. Our old self is not unlike that. It hangs around even though it is dead and disgusting. Tragically, it isn’t revolting enough that we can abandon it fully, so we continue to live lives filled with sin and regret.

Paul, in a moment of personal vulnerability, documents his inability to do what is right. Take a moment to look at Romans 7.

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

This thought has often crossed my mind; “Wow, if Paul can’t do what he knows is right… what hope do I have?!” Thankfully our hope is found in v. 25. “Thanks be to God.” If it’s not too inappropriate to question Paul’s words… uh… well… I would say that is an understatement!

It would be easy for me to end this with a platitude. Something like “So live as those who have been freed from sin. From this day forth you no longer have to be in rebellion against God. Starting today ‘repentance’ will not be necessary because sin is in your past.” But of course I know what life is. And I, along with Paul, know what it is to want to do the right things, but not be able to.

So, don’t live your life in perpetual guilt. Live your life as one struggling to do the right things. And live your life with the full knowledge that your sin has been paid for on a cross. Thanks be to God!

Oh yeah, a healthy dose of repentance wouldn’t hurt either.

Blessings.