Monthly Archives: July 2016

Just Breathe

10612990_10152641477454378_7214053489819699483_nWhen I was in the military, I had a lot of problems with the physical aspects of the lifestyle. I’ve always been more brains than muscle, and so it was a struggle for me from day one. Given that, you can probably imagine how I felt about the PT tests we had to do periodically as Cadets. One aspect that I absolutely loathed was the 20 Metre Shuttle Run (or 20 MSR for short). This involved lines spaced 20 metres apart on the gym floor, and you ran back and forth between these lines to the tune of the “beeps”. You had to make each trip before the beep, and you did so until you were either disqualified or you collapsed.

My approach to this part of the test was just to put one foot in front of the other and go as fast I could for as long as I could. I’d set aside everything else, including breathing as deeply as possible, and just focus on that. After all, the purpose of this test was to check your endurance, right? And so I did my best and struggled through it each time. One day, after yet another slug fest with this portion of the test, a friend of mine pointed out something I’ve never forgotten. The point of the test is not just about your endurance, it’s about how your body processes oxygen. Oxygen is the fuel our bodies need, meaning that about the time I stopped focusing on my breathing, my body began to run out of gas and my struggle began. Breathing, not the exertion itself, was the key.

I’ve been reminded of this over the last couple of weeks in particular. Work has been short-staffed a bit, I’ve been trying to get more hours now that we’re trying to build a house, and the general responsibilities of life linger in the background like they always do. It’s been easy to focus just on making it through each day, going to sleep, and then waking up to do it all over again. The short version of this is that I don’t think I’ve felt this tired in a long time.

In John 15, Jesus tells his disciples (and by extension you and me), “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Without doing an extensive dissection of this passage, just look at that for a minute. What does Jesus ask of us? To abide in Him, in the same way that a branch abides in, or connects to, the vine. And what does a branch do when it’s connected to the vine? Not much. It just is. All it has to do is be connected to the vine. When we lose that, it’s not that we can do less or that things get harder. No, as Jesus tells us, we can do “nothing”. 

Maybe, just maybe, all the work that we do, whether it’s church-type stuff or just getting through the days, isn’t the whole point. That’s not to say that it’s not important (if I don’t work, I don’t eat), but just that it shouldn’t consume us. In the end, the first thing Jesus asks of us is to be connected with Him, just like the first thing I had to focus on in order to succeed at the 20 MSR was breathe. Whatever else you do this weekend, whatever responsibilities you have to meet, take time to breathe.

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Putting the Pieces Together

Editor’s Note: Please, PLEASE take what follows in the spirit in which it is offered. I am simply trying to engage with both sides of this issue in a respectful and dignified manner. 

I’ve spent a great deal of time in the month since my last post on a number of LGBT Facebook pages. Mainly, I’ve been trying to reach out and understand, if only a little. So I’ve listened more than I’ve commented, and when I have commented it’s been largely to apologize for the behaviour of my fellow Christians. I believe in the authority of Scripture as much as any of us, yet why we continue to begin our conversations with members of the LGBT community by appealing to something which many of them do not understand and which none of them accept is a mystery to me. The intolerance of the Left in general, and of the LGBT community in particular, is well-known in conservative circles these days, but we can be just as narrow-minded and intolerant when we so choose.

It’s been an educational month for me in many ways. 1 Corinthians 6:9 calls homosexuality a sin (although it lists it with a number of others, meaning that it’s no different, either better or worse, than any other sin out there). Leviticus 20:13 and Romans 1 also support this, meaning I don’t think we can say that those who call homosexuality a sin are simply “cherry picking” Scripture. At the same time, I had a look back at the original Greek and Hebrew, and what I found is that although the English translation has only “homosexuality,” the sense of the original is broad enough that it can definitely include all of the other definitions and what not that make up the LGBT community. For many of us, that seems to be the end of the thought process. And yet… something is still missing (for me at least).

As I said earlier, I’ve seen first hand just how ineffective appealing to Scripture is in any conversation we try to have with someone who identifies as LGBT. That’s not to say it’s not true, but rather that we can believe it all day long but if we can’t show the love of Christ to these individuals than nothing else really matters. As Scripture tells us, when Jesus physically walked this earth He loved the outcasts, those who didn’t necessarily fit in with the society of the day. If we are to do likewise than we need to do more than to ensure that our doctrinal i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.

Take one conversation I followed on an LGBT page as an example. One individual, presumably a Christian, was trying to persuade another individual, presumably LGBT, that he could love and support him even if he didn’t approve of his lifestyle choices. The second individual’s response was that it’s not a lifestyle choice but part of who he is, and any love that refuses to accept that really isn’t love at all. It’s just more empty, judgemental bigotry. He closed by asserting that we have to love and accept members of the LGBT community as they are.

My first response to this conversation was to side with the Christian man. I mean, if I have to change my own beliefs in order for my actions to be acceptable to you, then you’re really just denying me my freedom of belief, and that’s just more intolerance from the LGBT community, right? I’ve been kicking this one around for a week or so now, and I’m honestly not so sure. We tell those who identify as LGBT that it’s a sin, and while I still believe it is, the underlying message we communicate can easily become one of “agree with us or we haven’t got anything else to say to you,” and that’s the same as what I was ready to accuse the LGBT individual above of doing to us as Christians.

Taking it a step further, then, can we as Christians accept LGBT individuals just as they are? I’m not asking if we can stop calling it sinful, or even approve of it, but rather if we can engage with these people in loving, dignified ways that don’t include some version of “Sorry, but that part of you which you hold most dear is actually sinful and unacceptable to God.” The truth is that, without the shed blood of Jesus on the cross, none of us are acceptable to Him. We’re all in the same boat. In Romans 5:8, the Apostle Paul writes that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Not when we had it all together, not when we were acceptable to Him, but when we weren’t. When we were still His enemies because of sin. He took us just as we are. He didn’t leave us there, but He took us that way. Why can’t we do that with those who identify as LGBT?

Like the title of this post implies, I am still sorting through many of these questions. I haven’t got it all figured out yet. What I do know, however, is that in the very brief glimpse I got into the LGBT community through these Facebook pages, I saw this community show incredible love and acceptance to their own. I was saddened to find that this same love and acceptance, which for reasons given above should have come from us as Christians, was glaringly lacking in most of our interactions with them.

In fact, maybe that lack is not such a bad place to start. Instead of trying to beat them over the head with our own preconceptions, we love them where they are at and let Jesus do the rest.