We Must Learn to Be Content in Any and Every Situation, Even If Culture Goes Awry

No, you can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need – The Rolling Stones

The Stones had their finger on something. I wish the Church would grasp it sometimes.

Whether it’s homosexuality, abortion, religious liberty, etc., some Christians come out sounding like petulant toddlers when we don’t get what we want. Some churches become shacks of whining instead of bastions of strength.

Not all Christians are this way. Some Christians go with the flow, handle the punches given to Christians in America. They say, “OK, this is a blow, but let’s see what we can do positive instead.” Abortion is legal? OK, let’s host a ministry for single-mothers-to-be to encourage them to have the baby and either help raise the kid or give the kid up for adoption. Gay marriage is legal? OK, let’s talk about the value of marriage God’s way and the joy that comes from following Jesus, and let’s love people without asking them to change who they are first.

If things don’t go the way we want them to, we get all up-in-arms like we’re owed things to be exactly how we want them. And that’s not the case.

The basic foundation of Christianity is that we’re owed nothing, and God freely gives us something so great and beautiful called the Gospel. So why do we act like we need the world to behave and act just like we’re supposed to act? That’s right, not “act like we act” but “act like we’re supposed to act.”

This is perhaps my biggest frustration with evangelical culture. We don’t like something, so we go out of our way to complain. And I know that I’m doing the same thing right now. But sometimes it takes doing what you hate to point out that something you hate is going on. If we’re supposed to hate sin, why don’t we hate our own, our grumbling, our complaining?

Since the Church is full of sinners, there will always be sin. But I get the sense that we’re coming off as whiny toddlers, and that’s not what the first church members did.

You never hear Paul or Peter complaining about their circumstances or whining about the governmental policies enacted in their day. In fact, we hear the opposite:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)

So isn’t there a chance that we’ll be more reflective of Christ by accepting the situation we’re in as a Church and simply make the most of it? Finding out how to be content while, admittedly, the culture is going opposite of how we would like it to be?

This is a difficult balance to find. And I know plenty of people will disagree with me. But I’ve read the book of Acts. We don’t see the apostles going out of their way to speak into the culture. They’re not going to war with the culture. Jesus didn’t go to war with the culture either. I might be misinterpreting Scripture, so if I’m wrong please let me know. Paul argued spiritual matters, he reasoned in the synagogues. But he didn’t go grandstanding.

We often interpret not taking a strong stand as approval of a certain sin. And that’s just not true. You can disagree with certain decisions your sports team makes, but that doesn’t mean you go picket outside the team’s headquarters until something changes.

Yes, in the United States of America, we have the right to petition the politicians and make our voice heard. And I understand the desire to help people see the right way to live. But it starts with the Gospel! It’s always started with loving God and loving people. That’s the greatest commandment:

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

And you see some ministries doing that. XXX Church (my favorite example) is pursuing loving those in the pornography industry without actively campaigning for the end of the business. They’re loving God and loving people.

And that’s what’s most important.

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How Am I Any Different?

I was reading a post on OnFaith, a faith website that posts interesting articles sometimes. I don’t always agree with all of them, but I must say it is interesting to see how different people interpret Scripture. Again, I don’t always agree with them. How rare it is in our day – and it’s a new thing in my life – to be OK with posting and reading things that you don’t agree with.

Anyways, the post I was reading was titled “10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Jesus” by Father James Martin SJ, a Jesuit priest. I thought a lot of what he wrote was really cool, and things I wish people would understand and believer about my Savior: He had close friends, He reached out to those on the margins, He rose from the dead. But one really caught my eye and I instantly got judgmental and self-righteous.

“Jesus didn’t say anything about gays and lesbians.”

My honest first thoughts: oh, this is another one of those “Christians” that thinks homosexuality is OK just because Jesus didn’t talk about it. Martin also writes, “Admittedly, St. Paul speaks about that topic, but many contemporary scholars believe that Paul was probably speaking not about homosexuality per se (the word itself is of relatively recent vintage) but about the evils of male prostitution.” Oh, of course, the language translation thing.

I don’t know if Martin believes homosexuality is OK or a sin. One might imply from his statement that he might think it’s not a sin, but I don’t want to rush to a judgment on that because I simply don’t know.

The evangelical community likes to harp on self-proclaimed Christians who say homosexuality is not a sin and even practice it. We like to write blog posts and hold conferences and post Facebook statuses. We like to point out their sin and say they’re not Christians.

(I say “we” because I have done and continue to do, unfortunately and sadly, the same thing.)

But even though I’m a heterosexual who thinks homosexuality is a sin, does that really make me any different than those people we like to hate? Let’s be honest: does it? Are we really that much better that we can criticize “Christian homosexuals” and not point at ourselves and admit our own flaws first? Do we actually have the moral high ground in that situation?

Someone’s Christianity is not based on whether or not they think homosexuality is a sin.

The biggest problem I have in the homosexuality issue, honestly, is how the Church handles it. If I was dealing with those kind of feelings and tendencies, I wouldn’t want to go to most churches that lean evangelical.

Perhaps those people haven’t realized or fully accepted that their homosexual tendencies is a sin. That’s our biggest complaint, right?

Perhaps we haven’t fully accepted that our lying is a sin. Perhaps we haven’t fully accepted that our heterosexual lust is a sin. Perhaps we haven’t fully accepted that our worrying about how that person feels about us is a sin. Perhaps we haven’t fully accepted that our dislike of a certain political candidate that might turn into hatred or anger is a sin.

How are we, excuse me, how am I really any different? Shouldn’t I love them as I desire to be loved through my sin? Heck yes.

Do I want people to gloss over my sin? No. I don’t think I should gloss over their sin either. But I should love them and not treat them like they’re alien creatures.

If I were to meet myself, and myself would spill out all my darkest secrets to me, the sins in my head and my heart, I’d probably think I was a insert-word-of-choice-for-bad-person-here. And I’d be right. But would I treat me like I sometimes treat, even how I think about, the guy who says he’s gay? Don’t think so. I might make an exception.

Let it not be so.