So, Heidi is going on a women’s retreat this weekend. She left today (Friday) at about noon and will get back into town late in the afternoon on Sunday. All weekend long it is just Maylee, Lauren and me. I’m babysitting the two of them all weekend long . . .
Wait for it . . .
Gotcha. I’m predicting a couple of things. One, at least one mom will post an angry comment on my FB page at the post link before reading the post. B, at least five moms screamed out loud (Go ahead and confess).
One of moms’ favorite lines to drop on an unsuspecting dad is this, “It’s not babysitting when it’s your own kids. It’s called parenting.” Sorry guys, I have to agree with them. You may think that all you mean is that I am going to be with my kids, but when you say babysitting you imply that this is some task or duty that you are obligated to perform rather than a normal part of your life.
Here is the question for you: When your wife is with your kids, is it babysitting? Here’s another: If she has to ask you if she can be gone and can you watch the kids, do you have to do the same? Or is it a situation where she is the default parent and you have freedom to do whatever you want?
Here is what we communicate to our wife: It is your job to watch our kids. I am doing you a favor when I watch our kids. However, that is a terrible perspective. If you are doing anyone a favor, it is you. You get the opportunity to do something that you probably don’t get enough time to do. You get to spend focused time with your kids. You get their undivided attention. You get a chance to spoil them, enjoy them, let them know that you love them and that they are a top priority for you.
You also get the opportunity to show your wife how much you love her. You get to show how much you value her time, how much you want her to be able to get away and take a mom break. You can show her that you are completely with her as parents and that you are a team. Whether mom works outside the home or not, she deserves regular time away and just some time for herself or with her friends. You have a great chance to show and tell her how valuable she is and give her that special time away.
Besides, it’s not babysitting, because you’re not getting paid. Well, not in money anyway.
I have said on various occasions that you could get a pretty funny 30 minute reality show out of what goes on at our house in a week. Heidi would hate it. Maylee would love it. Lauren and I would take it our leave it. We appreciate whatever audience we have to our insanity, be it just the family, her classroom, or the poor people at Fellowship who have to hear/see our routines frequently.
Anywho, I was struck the other day by the number of ridiculous references from pop culture that are now just a part of our collective vocabulary. This will be an ongoing list of such things as they happen and/or I remember them, not a fixed list like some of the ranking lists I have put out in the past.
Second Breakfast from The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. The full quote is
Pippin:What about breakfast?
Aragorn: You’ve already had it.
Pippin: We’ve had one, yes. What about second breakfast?
It is common for us on a day where somebody gets up early and someone else gets up later, for the early bird to eat once and then eat again when the family is up. A phenomenon now known as Second Breakfast. You must, of course, say the line, “We’ve had one, yes. What about second breakfast?” in your best British Hobbit accent.
“It’s your birthday. It’s your birthday. You’re the birthday boy or girl.” from the Simpsons
In my college days, I will confess that I watched the Simpsons. As most college students did/do, I found it hilarious. However, at some point it became too much for me, as I was maturing and the show kept going wherever it was going. Anywho, a handful of Simpsonisms still are a part of my vocabulary, with this being the biggest. This is from an episode where they are celebrating one of the kid’s birthdays at some place that was supposed to be like Chuck E. Cheese. The mechanical mouse is displayed and sings that line. The Loften family tradition is now, on birthdays, to multiple times throughout the day to sing that line to each other. Even though the girls have never seen one minute of one Simpsons episode, they do it as well. The best was early on when the girls were younger and they would say, “Dad, I am not a boy or girl. I am a girl.”
Two-face from Seinfeld.
This is from one of the most famous episodes of Seinfeld, the one with Festivus. Jerry is dating someone who looks really good in certain light and terrible in others. He refers to that as a two-face. A common phenomenon, we believe, in celebrities/actresses. So Heidi and I will be watching a movie or the Olympics or anything and one of us will say, “He/she is kind of a two-face.” Yes, we do that. We evaluate celebrities good looks together. Is that weird?
Other options? (said in Scottish accent) from Braveheart
So the scene is William Wallace has returned from York to discover that the English have invaded and sent a huge army. He is trying to rally the nobles where they have this interchange:
Craig: With such a force arrayed against us, it is time to discuss other
William: Other options? Don’t you wish at least to lead your men onto
the field and barter a better deal with Longshanks before you tuck
tail and run?
You are not allowed to utter the words other options without doing it in Scottish accent. If you do forget, someone must and will point it out. You then correct yourself. There are no exceptions. None.
John Coc…tos…ten from Fletch
From perhaps the most quotable movie of all time. Fletch is trying to pretend that he knows a woman and introduces him to her as her husband’s friend, John. “John, who?” “John Coc…tos..ten” He mumbles the name hoping it will sound like some name she recognizes. So now around the house if someone asks you for someone’s name and you don’t know, then you mumble ala Fletch, “Sam…er.ta Li.bah.soe.gooz?” A pastor and his wife, shouldn’t one of us be good at remembering names?
“These pretzels are making me thirsty” from Seinfeld
Kramer is hired to have a bit part in a movie and this is his only line. He practices saying it in front of the gang and everyone critiques it and says it their own way. Now at the Loften house, if someone says something of the same cadence, for example, “This shirt is making me hot,” someone will, not may, will respond back with “these pretzels are making me thirsty.” At that point, everyone has to repeat the phrase back with their own inflection. Last, almost always, is Mom. Sometimes she has to rebuked by one of her daughters, “(clearing throat loudly) Mom!” “Oh, sorry. These pretzels are making me thirsty.” Again, as with much of this, our girls have never seen this. They play along, no problem. They love it. I pity their therapist when they are older.
She Blinded Me with Science, by Thomas Dolby
There was a time when I got on Youtube with the girls and showed them the goofiest songs/videos that I could remember from the 80’s: Down Under, Run Runaway, Safety Dance, Girls Just Want to Have Fun and She Blinded Me with Science. Their two big takeaways were the guy swinging the giant log on Run Runaway and the song Blinded Me. Now anytime someone says the word science, someone else will sing the line “she blinded me with science.” Then someone else must make the beep, boop, beep sound. (Optional, a third person shouting in a serious voice, “SCIENCE!”) If you are confused, go listen to the song.
PIV-OT! PIV-OT! from Friends
Heidi and I were both pretty big Friends fans back in the day. I know that I am supposed to be embarassed by that, and I should refrain from mentioning that public. Someday, when I’m respectable, I will. Anywho, there is an episode where Ross has talked a couple of the others into moving a couch. The couch is way too big and they trying to take it up a winding staircase. The whole time he is shouting, “Pivot, pivot” in one of the most annoying voices ever. Of all of these on this list, this one is Heidi’s. First of all because that’s her sense of humor. Second, because she is always making me move furniture. So, of course, we are holding a couch, chair, table, etc. and she is shouting, “PIVOT!” Isn’t good that we found each other?
Do you ever wonder if the producer of a series is just phoning it in? We aren’t even trying anymore. We just want something out there to see if people will be a part. For example, at what point did the Police Academy people stop caring? Would it surprise anyone that there were 7 Police Academy movies and then a TV series? At what point did you lose track? (Side note: Do you think Sharon Stone considers P.A. 4 to be her “big break”?) At what point were the producers just saying, “Get that big football player, the tall lady from Laverne and Shirley, the crazy dude who likes guns, the little guy from SNL, and that dude that makes the funny noises and let’s go?” (For heavens sake, even Bobcat Goldthwait quit after the 4th)
We at cloften.com never stop caring. (cue the music)
Set-up: Someone needs some kind of assistance from you personally or from the church. They don’t seem to be “doing enough” to make their situation better. They are looking for advice or help.
Response: God helps those who help themselves.
Attention Everyone. Yes, all four of you who are reading this. That is not in the Bible. Repeat, that is not in the Bible. Even if you disagree with everything else that is said here, at least stop saying, “You know the Bible says, God helps those who help themselves.” You may still believe it to be true, but it is not, is not, is not in the Bible.
Anywho, some may think that this is a direct contradiction to the early SCNTSS #2, Let Go and Let God. Cloften, either we need to let go and let God do it or we have to realize that we’ve got to help ourselves and then God will help us. It’s either/or. However, if there is a theme to SCNTSS, it is we need to stop having an overly-simplistic approach to our faith and recognize that walking with God is more complex than any bumper sticker or series of bumper stickers that may be out there.
The Bible makes it pretty clear that the best help that God offers comes when we cannot help ourselves:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5
It doesn’t get much more helpless than “powerless” and “dead.” God loved us not because of the initiative that we took toward him. God loved us in spite of the fact that we were powerless and helpless. Then the charge that God gives us is to love people as we have been loved. We don’t love, serve and help people after they have done everything that they can do. We love and serve all people, regardless. The groups of people, widows and orphans and aliens, that seem to be most on God’s heart were the helpless in the society. Over and over again, God calls on us to love and help them, because they are helpless.
If I were going to wait for the discussion, someone would say, but what about. . .? Then they would construct a scenario about someone begging for money and wanting a free handout. They then take that money and buy drugs and then they come back saying that want more for milk for their baby. He could work, but he doesn’t. What about that?
Help that person. Love that person. Serve that person. Do not withhold your support until they meet your arbitrary standard of them “helping themselves.” Does that mean you give in to every request? No, but you are obligated to love, serve and help them. It’s the same way we typically parent. We don’t meet every request they have on their terms, but we work to meet every need they have. Sometimes we need to encourage them to work, take initiative, etc. But still that is you helping, before they are helping themselves.
We do not want to hold people to a higher standard than God holds us. There are many relevant passages that speak against that including, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” (Don’t you love how some verses can only be quoted KJV). However, by the time we get to #12, you won’t be allowed to misuse that phrase either,even though it is in the Bible. Well, especially because it is in the Bible.
So you have a franchise that is doing OK, you’ve cranked out a few in the series, it’s losing it’s luster a little, so you decide to retool. It’s been done before to varying degrees of success. You can change the actor playing the main character–James Bond, multiple times to varying degrees of success. You can just wait a long time, change very little and hope that bringing the characters back is enough–Superman Returns, not very successful. You can do it on the 2nd movie where you essentially remake the first one with minimal changes and leave everyone going “What?”–The Hulk.
But the way it has been done the best in recent years is with the Batman franchise. They made it a little darker, more serious, more action drama, less comic book campy. It was risky, but it worked well. They pushed it further with Dark Knight and it worked. Where does it go from here? We’ll see.
Here in this series, let’s keep pushing until someone cries uncle.
Set-up: You are in a political discussion/debate/argument and you are looking to close the deal on your inevitable victory. Someone challenges you.
Response: Jesus was/is a ________ (Insert your political position here)
Boom! Game over! You are the winner. You played the Jesus card and, of course, Jesus agrees with you (why wouldn’t he?) and you win. All of the complexities of political arguments and issues have been annihilated by claiming that Jesus would and does agree with you.
You will notice that I have not accused one political party or philosophy over another. That is because Christians of all political stripes do this. The question of why people do this is pretty evident. It bolsters their argument. The question of how they do it is actually a little troubling. We go to the Bible with our pre-determined political ideas and preconceived notions and find something that we like and declare victory.
We find a verse that says “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’” (2 Thess3:10) Or conversely, we find, “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” (Luke 6:30) Then through whichever one of those verses we like, we construct “Biblically centered” political policy. I’m sorry, but that is intellectually dishonest and lazy.
We reduce Jesus, who was the Son of God, into a caricature of our favorite political statesman. I’m sorry, but the totality of Jesus’s political statements may simply be “pay your taxes.” I know that you might feel like there are more and I may back down a little if you show them to me. However, Jesus lived in an oppressive dictatorship and didn’t speak out against the government of his day. His followers, with their conception of what the Messiah was, expected him to be a leader to overthrow the government and he still chose not to speak out.
He was such a political revolutionary that the Roman governor had no idea who he was. Jesus spoke to the religious establishment of his day and to individual people. He was a threat to the religious leaders of his day and individuals that would listen to his message. The same is true today. If we are followers of Christ, his words challenge us and need to shape our character. If we are not, we need to listen to what he says and find life with God through him.
As far as how this shapes our politics, let’s go this way. Let’s read the Bible, let’s pray. Let’s be consistently asking God what he values and what he cares about. Let’s ask him how and when and to what extent we should get involved. Let God shape us, instead of taking what we want and believe and then cramming God’s Word and Jesus himself into a premade box of 21st century political philosophies and political parties.
His values drive our values, not the other way around. Or do you somehow think that tops on God’s priority list is whether or not the freedom of speech granted in the Bill of Rights extends to corporations and their ability to influence political campaigns with money?
In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I have been rooting against Tiger Woods for about 13 years now. I actively watch golf, especially the major championships. I remember him winning his first Masters and many more tournaments since then. Why would I root against him? At some point I will blog about my philosophy about whom I root for and why. For now, here are two of the top principles on the list. I do not root for the person or team that wins all the time. I do not root for whom the media tells me I should be. Suffice to say, if you are over-hyped and win a lot, you can imagine that I will root against you and your team. I say all of that, because most of my friends know this and will think that this post comes from that. It does not.
I am struck by the calls from Tiger’s defenders and Tiger himself for his desire and right for privacy. Even listening to the radio this morning, Bob Steele on KARN was getting lambasted for even talking about it. “This is a private matter.” “This is between him and his wife.” “This isn’t even news.”
I understand some of that, I suppose. But I look at this from a completely different angle. I know what it is like to be a public figure. Nowhere near to the degree that Tiger Woods does, of course. But on a much smaller scale, I do know. All pastors know what I am talking about. People always recognize you. People recognize you and you don’t know who they are. Those same people are always watching everything. “What is he doing over there, sitting at McDonalds on his computer?”
Do I deserve privacy? Do I deserve to be able to walk around Wal-Mart anonymously? Do I deserve the right to have a life that is private? What right do people have to know what is going on in my life? With my wife, Heidi? With my daughters, Maylee and Lauren who are 12 and 9 and are prominently pictured on the front page of my website? Do people have the right to critique my parenting skills about which I blog on a regular basis and use to encourage other people? (Hopefully, you by now, see the ridiculous way this is going)
I gave up the right to anonymity when I made the choice to enter a profession that put me in the public view. I give it up even more when I talk about my life in a sermon. I give it up further when I publish parts of my life and then post links encouraging people to read what I have written. My livelihood depends on my reputation.
So what happens when a celebrity, sports figure, or pastor fails? Do we get to invoke the privacy card? The very same reputation that I need to have to do what I do is now gone. Is it unfair that people would judge me? Celebrities, sports figures, and yes pastors don’t seem to mind as long as they hear the cheers and cash the checks, but when it turns…?
Are we a celebrity-obsessed culture? Yes. Do we have too high of expectations of the sports figures we love? Yes. Do most pastors live in an unhealthy fishbowl also with unreasonable expectations? Yes. However, the time to complain about it is not when it starts working against us. If this is not what we want, get out. Better yet, don’t fail. Be in your private life who you say you are in your public life.
(That’s good advice, even if you are not a celebrity, sports figure or pastor)
****addendum, post Tiger’s prepared statement
There was a lot in that statement. As a public speaker, I analyze things very differently. He is not a great public speaker, so it would be unfair to read too much into his inflection, tone, body language, etc. I am tempted to say a lot here, but I want to keep it on the topic addressed in the post.
He did not make a desperate appeal for his own privacy, which is good. He did make a passionate appeal for the privacy of his family. Again, not reading too much into his tone, his appeal was angry. Humble would have been better. “I have failed, they don’t deserve this. Please, leave them alone. Harass me, but please give them some space. They need that.” He is right in saying that he has protected them from the public eye, mostly. They are a part of his image, and he did bring them out. He is their protector and defender. He brought them into the spotlight, and it his responsibility to protect them. Every paparazzi picture and salacious article is his fault, fair or not. Now, humbly ask for help and support from the media. Then we will turn against the media, and this can die slowly.
I give the whole thing a C+,kinda what I expected.
So you’ve got a franchise and it has a running joke. At what point does the running joke lose its luster? When is it just annoying? Is it only for the writer and producer? Do the die hard fans really care? Do the casual fans even notice? Would Star Wars be the same if no one said “I have a bad feeling about this”? How many people would notice? What about Indiana Jones’s hat? If there were no jokes about that, would there be something missing? What about unbelievable death defying escapes to start off Bond movies? Wouldn’t you be disappointed without them? Or are you just thinking, get on with it already?
Set-up: Someone has committed a sin that for one reason or another is personally offensive or bothersome to you. You are struggling with how you should respond and forgive.
Response: Love the sinner, hate the sin.
I did a sermon last fall out of I John that dedicated a lot of time to ranting about the excuses that we make to justify anger, animosity and sometimes hatred of people that have hurt or offended us. If you are interested in watching that, you may click here.
Let’s break this down into two parts. First, if someone has hurt us, we should love them. God has called us to love everyone, not just the people that love us back, but our enemies as well. We need to make sure that as Christians that we love sinners because otherwise we would love nobody (and consequently, no one would love us.)
What about hating sin? Is it OK to hate other people’s sin? I suppose it is hard to argue that a hatred for sin is bad. The problem comes when we put those two phrases together and apply them to a particular person in a particular situation, it feels mean spirited and, well, hateful. I theoretically love you, I just hate what you do. I am not sure what person can separate their emotions in such a way. God can, I know I can’t, and I’m pretty sure you can’t either.
Here has always been my bigger picture question. If I love you, why does your sin make me angry and feel hate? If I love you and you are in sin, my heart should break for you. You are hurting yourself, damaging your relationship with God and relationships with others. I hurt for you. I want you to have victory over an issue that is crippling you.
“Duh, cloften. That’s why I hate the sin.” No, listen. Sin is not an inanimate object that can be hated. It is an action caused by a person based on deliberate disobedience on the part of the person. Sin is a product of who they are in that moment. It is what they are doing, not what is being done to them. We can no more love the sinner, hate the sin, then we could love the restaurant, hate the food.
How about this? Love the sinner, grieve the sin. I love you and because of that my heart breaks when I see you sin. I want better for you. Or how about this? It’s even simpler: love the sinner.
I’ve got a bad feeling about anything else.
I have written about my girls playing basketball before. Truth be known, I would talk about it all the time, because I love it. I love watching my girls play and I love being their coach. I am very proud of them and how hard they work.
What I noticed on Saturday was a couple of things. First, both of my girls seem obsessed with setting hard picks, playing highly agressive defense and clawing for loose balls and rebounds. They are not particularly concerned with scoring baskets, even though they both are good at that as well. If they don’t score, they don’t care as long as they play good defense and set good picks that allow their teammates to score easy baskets.
Why is that? Why at an age when every other kid focuses so much on scoring baskets would my kids be focused on other things? The answer is simple. I have been their coach for 3 and 6 years and they know that is what I care about. More than that though, I have been their dad for 9 and 12 years, and what I say and what I value matters to them. They want to reflect what is important to me and they do.
The second thing that I noticed on Saturday was immediately after a tough loss. We had a big lead and some might say that the referees were um, nevermind. This is Upward Basketball and you can’t say stuff like that. So both of us, were swelling up with frustration like an overheated water heater with no pressure relief valve getting ready to blow up the whole house. 20 minutes later, walking into a restaurant, Maylee says, “I don’t think I’m going to be OK.” “Yes, you are sweetie.” We laughed.
Why is she like that? I’m guessing that if you are reading and not skimming, you know that is a rhetorical question. She reflects what she sees. My daughters being like me and reflecting my values doesn’t only apply to what I’m good at and my good quality(ies?). You know what I’m talking about. You say to your spouse that one of your kids is “just like you.” Sometimes that’s a compliment and sometimes, well, not so much a compliment.
What do you reflect? What are your values? Your real values, not just what you say, but how you live. What do they see? Trust me they see it all and you will see it right back in them.
What are the reasons that you would make a fifth installment to your franchise? There seem to be only a handful of reasons:
1) You are such a pop culture phenomenon that you could keep making movies until the end of time and your people will come see them–Star Wars (7), Harry Potter (6 and counting), and Star Trek (11).
2) You have an amazing character and can consistently rework the franchise–Batman (7 live action and multiple animated), Superman (5 live action), James Bond (20+)
3) You have no pride and will crank out cheap movies like crazy–Horror Movies (Jason, Freddy, Saw), Stupid teen movies (Not Another, Scary Movie, etc.), Mediocre kid movies (Beethoven, Barbie, etc.)
Anyone thinking I have pride and won’t crank out cheap product is sadly mistaken.
Set-up: Someone goes through some sort of financial difficulty that results in some sort of sin, like greed or theft.
Response: It’s like the Bible says, “money is the root of all evil.”
Let us all be clear. First of all, that is not what the Bible says. Repeat, that is not what the Bible says, unless you put in some well-placed ellipses. What the verse says is:
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
My question is do we intentionally misquote this verse? Why would we do that? Well, if money is the root and not the love of money then I get off the hook. It’s not my fault; it’s “money’s” fault. This makes money some entity that has some power and control, like the googly-eyed money from the Geico commercials.
It is not money that causes evil, but our love of money.
Furthermore, it is not the root of all evil. It is a root of all kinds of evil. We tend to exaggerate things that we don’t like or understand. The more ridiculous we can make something sound, the more that we can discount it. If we say money is the root of all evil, we know that’s not true, so then we can discount the truth that is there. Money, or even the love of money, is not why I am impatient with my kids or I am lazy. Even when the love of money is a root, it is not always the root. The financial arguments we have with our spouse are rooted both in the love of money and selfishness.
However, if we look at what that verse says, we rightly should be convicted. Our love of money, the fact that we give our pursuit of money top priority in our lives over significantly more important areas, causes a lot of problems. It divides husbands and wives. It leads to neglect of children and family. It leads to dishonesty, coveting, stealing. It pushes God out of the leadership of our lives. I typed “it” to describe the love of money. However, the love of money comes from within. Change “it” to “I” and then we have something (you will also have to change some verb tenses. Shut up, grammar nerd).
Dude! Why bring this up? Well, first I wanted to show you that pastors can talk about money and not bring up tithing (whoops. FAIL). Second, it breaks my heart to see the love of money tear families apart and pull people away from God. Enjoy what God has given you, use it to glorify him and strengthen your family, but don’t let your love and pursuit consume you.
Money is just an inanimate thing, meant to be controlled by you and surrendered to God’s authority. Don’t let the googly-eyed money wad control you.
Seriously, don’t go to a #4 in your franchise. It’s just not worth the risk. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull??? I have to pretend like that never happened. The Next Karate Kid??? Batman and Robin with George Clooney, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Vivica Fox, Elle MacPherson and Coolio? Pretty sure Coolio is the only who still has that on the old resume. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace?? Does anyone else remember that? Superman takes all the nukes and blows them up in the sun and Lex Luthor uses that and a lock of Superman’s hair to create a supervillain. Then the plot, no lie, gets WORSE from there. (Did Gene Hackman owe someone money?)
My hope is in Rocky IV which I saw in Jr. High with my friends and we cheered out loud, very loudly, and often. My apologies to anyone else who was in the theater.
Set-up: A kid is running around the worship center/sanctuary at your church having fun.
Response: “Don’t run in God’s house.” “There is no running in church.” Or my personal favorite: “Jesus doesn’t run in your house. Don’t run in his.”
By the time this post is over, it will have my favorite three things to blog about in the same post: parenting, stupid things Christians say, and obscure pop culture references. Jackpot (for me anyway).
Listen, I want you to parent your kid and keep him/her under control. If they are headed to the sound booth with their fruit punch, please stop them. If they are about to do a somersault off the couch onto concrete, by all means stop them. Provide the discipline that you find appropriate.
However, can we please stop communicating to our kids that church is a place where you can’t have fun and enjoy yourself? Chairs or pews lined up in rows are designed for running around and through and under. We are genetically wired to do that. You did it. Your kids do it and their kids will as well. It is time to end the tradition of overly anxious parents and stuffy, crotchety old men stifling kids for some dubious principle of “Church is where we act dignified.” I don’t recall Jesus saying “Let the children come to me if they come in a quiet, orderly fashion that doesn’t disturb me, with no chocolate on their face and not wearing their favorite Spiderman t-shirt.” However, I don’t read the Message, it may say that there.
How about instead we instill in our kids that Church is a place where they can be themselves, have fun, be expressive, and learn and experience the God that loves them? He loves them not in spite of them being wild and crazy kids, but because they are wild and crazy kids. He wants church to be a place that they remember as being fun, where they were loved and they got the answers to life’s most important questions. Church doesn’t need to be a place of seemingly pointless rules. Believe me, there is enough of that already.
Besides, my guess is that if Jesus were to come to your house, he would, in fact, run around your house with your kids.
So after an overwhelming successful first episode and a moderately successful second, what do you to keep the franchise going in episode 3? Most franchises will just wrap up the story. Done well–Lord of the Rings, Return of the Jedi. Done not so well–Back to the Future, Revenge of the Sith (My brother and I disagree on both of these). You can also just overwhelm your 3rd episode with every conceivable villain and destroy the franchise– Batman Forever (The verdict is still out on Spiderman 3. It did the same thing.) You can give up and let monkeys write the script–Superman III (Part of me wants to put Godfather III here but I kinda liked it). Finally, you can introduce Mr. T to the world and dominate–Rocky III.
What does this have to do with this post? Nothing. Let’s move on.
Set-up: You or another Christian have been exposed in some way as hypocritical and not living up to the ideals of Christian living. (Or you could simply be looking for a cutesy, quippy (it’s back!) bumper sticker or cross stitch pattern)
Response: Christians aren’t perfect. They are just forgiven.
It’s hard for me to really imagine that someone would actually say this out loud. I know that I have seen the bumper sticker, but surely no one has actually said this. What is the context? What argument were you trying to win? What point are you trying to make?
Let’s break this down. First of all, there is really nothing theologically wrong with either part of the statement. Christians are not perfect–agreed. Christians are forgiven–agreed. So it is a true statement, but the question is why do you say it? If you are saying this to yourself or a Christian friend, in order to protect yourself or your friend from the trappings of perfectionist legalism, then OK.
However, it would seem that it is used more as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card to innoculate Christians from criticism when we fail morally. “Well, we never claimed to be perfect.” That is all well and good unless we are conistently condemning the world around us for not living up to our standards, and then if we fail, we start waving the “forgiven card” around as if that makes our failings OK.
What we should say should if we are the ones who have been busted is something along the lines of “I’m sorry. I’m embarassed. Will you forgive me?” If it is some public figure, “I’m disappointed. I hate it when we don’t live up to the standards God has for us.” We are not perfect, but our forgiveness is not license or a pass. If you want to say something quippy say, “Be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.” At least there is some implied humility in that statement.
(Deep breath) Listen, I don’t want anyone to feel they have to be perfect, or worse, pretend to be perfect. However, God is calling us up to be better, to be more like His Son. The forgiveness he offers always gives us one more chance, but we should not, can not take that lightly. We certainly can not view it as a license or permission for sin. Instead, let the grace and love that he shows us motivate us to have a heart of gratitude and to be people that hear him say, “Well, done, good and faithful servant.” Matt 25:14-30