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The truth about trust

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The 1994 Season One finale of X-Files featured the tag line “Trust No One“. It was a warning of the inevitable deceit and betrayal awaiting anyone gullible enough to buy into cover ups perpetuated by authorities about the real causes of unusual and paranormal activities investigated by the show’s characters each week.

As a meme it represents cynicism that eschews personal transparency and vulnerability. It often covers the frustration and pain suffered by those who have experienced betrayal, deceit and abuse first-hand.

A contrasting response promoted by some says that you can and should have faith in people, give them the benefit of the doubt and trust them. This is a well-intentioned attempt to avoid negativity and anti-social cynicism.

In my last post I outlined the simple starting point for an approach Christians follow when addressing one another when they sin. The approach is based on a brief quote by Jesus, mentioned in the book of Matthew, about one of the ways people of the Church represent God. The goal in that quote is forgiveness and restoration of relationships. A similar quote is found in the book of Luke, also stressing the importance of forgiveness.

Jesus said to his disciples: … “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

Like the Matthew quote, this is brief and doesn’t cover every possible aspect or scenario. It doesn’t mention what consequences might apply for different types of sins. The context, in Luke, is the magnitude of God’s forgiveness. We can never put God in our debt. A humble follower of God will never consider anyone else in their debt either, whether through wrong-doing or otherwise. The Genesis story of Lamech, a descendent of Cain, comes to mind. Lamech insisted that anyone who injured him would receive seventy-seven times the vengeance. Here Jesus says, “No.” It’s no wonder the apostles with Jesus responded with a plea to increase their faith.

It is one thing to forgive. It was freely received, so ought to be freely given. It is another altogether to trust the forgiven one. Forgiving someone who has done wrong against you does not require that you trust them or freely allow yourself to be harmed by them again.

For example, if I owe a bank $5000 and I can’t afford to repay it. They may choose to forgive the debt and write it off. I will no longer owe the amount. They will not prosecute me for not paying and won’t pursue the payment. However, if I was to come back the next day and try to borrow another $5000, or even just $1000, the bank will not trust me to repay them and won’t lend me the money.

In the same way, if someone has hurt, offended, harassed, bullied, intimidated or abused you. You may, if you choose, forgive them and not seek to prosecute them or have them charged for the offense. You are not required to entrust yourself to them only to risk them repeating the offense. The Apostle Paul wrote of how he evaded capture and attacks. Sometimes the healthiest thing you can to survive and keep going forward in your life is to run away from those trying to hurt you.

This doesn’t mean you’re not forgiving. It means you’re not trusting the person or people to hurt you again. Women and children should never to be told to stay in an abusive relationship or to trust an abuser. The abuser may have said sorry. The abuser may be genuine in their remorse and regret for their action. But while forgiveness is given freely, trust is not.

How do you know if or when the person is trustworthy? Maybe you never will. But you have no reason to feel as though you have failed in some way because someone else has not yet proven trustworthy. Go back to the bank example again. In some cases after failing to meet a loan payment, you will need to wait seven years or longer and then show evidence of positive changes to your saving and payment habits before the bank will talk to you about borrowing. Someone who has “borrowed” your trust in the past and not repaid it isn’t in your debt in the same way you are to a bank. If they can’t show evidence of positive change then you have no obligation to “loan” your trust to them.

You don’t need to be as cynical as Agents Mulder and Scully, but you don’t have to believe everyone either. They are not in your debt, and you are definitely not in theirs. The truth is out there.

 
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Posted by on 26/08/2015 in Bible, church, Jesus

 

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Tell it to the church

sheepandgoatsMatthew 18:15-20 has a summary of the traditional process referred to by Christians as a method for addressing and disciplining one another when they sin. The method outlined starts with an individual, one on one approach and then as/if/when escalation occurs it moves the discussion into a more public sphere.

Generally it follows the trajectory of:
1. You see a wrong doing and approach the person privately
2. If, after private consultation, the wrong doing continues, you have another consultation, this time with witnesses
3. If, the matter continues after this, a public action takes place

It is a relatively simple approach that combines privacy, sensitivity and common sense. Many commercial managers and community conflict mediators follow a similar method. For instance a company performance management model follows this almost exactly: An employee will receive a warning, then a meeting with HR, then they are dismissed.

The stated intention is not to shame or discriminate against an individual for lack of conformity. Sadly though many managers have used the “three-strikes” approach to justify removal of unwanted employees and even sadder, many Churches have used the approach to excommunicate unsavory parishioners.

However the aim is a restoration. When restoration fails, the result is that the person is released (or dismissed!) from any organization when they, through their actions, show they no longer want to belong or be identified with their company or, in the case of the Christian, their church.

The summary given in Matthew’s gospel isn’t a detailed process and it doesn’t cover every possible aspect or scenario. The context indicates the inevitability of people straying and stumbling (vv.6-14) and the necessity that forgiving each other plays in identifying each other as co-recipients of God’s forgiveness (vv.21-35). But it doesn’t specify the exact detail, timing and process to follow in every single case.

The emphasis (of vv.18-20 in particular and the broader context of vv.6-35) centres more upon the identification and association of people with the “Father in heaven.” The conduct and association of God’s people, the Church, should reflect and represent the “Father” as though he, himself, is endorsing their actions. If something or someone is not reflecting this ethic, they are dissociating themselves with both the people of the Church and the “Father in heaven.”

For this reason there is a heavy burden for the people of the Church in how they relate to each other as representatives of God. Being harsh and unforgiving presents a view that God is spiteful, hateful and intolerant. Being indiscriminately accommodating presents a God that is unjust and lacking integrity. e.g. Consider the racism promoted in some parts of the USA that were or are sponsored by Churches or the involvement of Church organizations in the Stolen Generations of Australia’s past. Or on the other extreme, the Church choosing not to intervene in domestic violence or prosecute child abusers on the grounds of being “forgiving.”

In any of those examples, a Matthew 18 approach is insufficient. There are plenty of other Bible passages (and indeed civil laws!) that make it clear that no tolerance ought to be given to abusers. The Church ought not let Matthew 18 justify inaction when a woman or child is being hurt. (Or many other instances of “sin” that are too often excused in the name of “forgiveness.”)

The Matthew 18 passage doesn’t go into any detail or make any recommendation of how, where or when (precisely) you “tell it to the church”. The overall context of the chapter is public association, identification and reflection of the ethic of God the Father, and indicates, for the sake of transparency and integrity, the Church is told in an open forum. There may, of course, be instances, where for the sake of sensitivity towards a victim, that an announcement be handled tactfully. However, the church ought not be reluctant exposing an offender for the sake of their own corporate embarrassment.

Especially in the case of violence, abuse, harassment, intimidation and bullying where an offender has previously been warned off. Tell it to the Church and … well … if they don’t listen or act … maybe identifying with God the Father is not their priority. The church is not a kids petting zoo, get out of Dodge.

 
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Posted by on 21/08/2015 in Bible, church, Hermenutics, leadership, ministry

 

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Trolls and Bullies

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Image courtesy of The Michael Leunig Appreciation Page

Bullies and trolls derive great hubris at others suffering. When you call them out for being what they are – idiots, jerks and soulless cowards – they demand the victim play coy or explain and defend themselves against the vilification. When a victim choses to retreat of the sake of safety and healing, the trolls and bullies hunt them down to taunt them further. The victim is the one who should apologise they say. They are rapacious with their prying, snooping and googling to saté their gluttonous appetite for the misery of their victim. When they find the victim may have moved on and may just be putting the past behind them they regurgitate their bile and spew further invective upon them. Each time the bully and troll open their mouth or touch their keypad they expose themselves as fools.

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes. The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but people are tested by their praise. Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding them like grain with a pestle, you will not remove their folly from them. ~ Prov 27:19-22 NIV

 
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Posted by on 31/07/2015 in Culture, Testimony

 

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Where Trolls Come From

We know where they’re going. To a hell of their own making. As C. S. Lewis noted in The Problem of pain,

“To enter Hell is to be banished from humanity. What is cast (or casts itself) into Hell is not a man: it is ‘remains’..”

Were Lewis around today, the Internet Troll, the gutless coward who hides behind a pretended veil of anonymity, would fit well with his view of one banished from humanity.

Canadian poet, author and performer Shane Koyczan has written a poem about internet trolls. Pity those who have cast themselves away from humanity into the pit of their own slovenly despair.

 

 
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Posted by on 20/07/2015 in Just for fun, Poems

 

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7 Ways Christians Lost The Gay Marriage Battle, And How We Should (Not) Fight The War

This is a summary of points made in a super long blog post by Nathan Campbell. Even Nathan says to just skim it and only read the parts you think are interesting.

To start you off, I’ve listed the heading of the points below. I’ve also added my own comments. This is important, as they’re Nathan’s points, but MY comments interacting with those points.

If/when you have time, you may like to read the full article … and the comments dialogue that follows.

Each point begins with “We“. Which includes any Christians who are not advocates of SSM. Yes, it’s a generalization. And, as is evident in the comments on Nathan’s article there will be those who insist they are not part of the “we”. I think being defensive and refusing to own responsibility for the tone of debates held thus far only serves to shut down the conversation.

1. We Didn’t Treat People The Way We’d Like To Be Treated
Overall I think the tone of discussion that has been most publicized (that I’ve had visibility of anyway) is summed up here. There have been very few exceptions.

2. We Lost When We Entered The Fight Expecting To Win, Rather Than Seeking To Love
I’ve observed a lot of, “This will show them!” rhetoric from Christians trying to demolish the arguments in favour of SSM legislation.

3. We Lost When We Decided To Fight For Marriage, Rather Than Speaking About Marriage As An Analogy For The Gospel
Let’s face it, the Christian view is incongruous with general culture. A lot of conversation has tried a little too cleverly to redefine rationale away from classical Christianity.

4. We Lost When We Made Marriage About Children, Rather Than About The Sex That Produces Them
I differ with some of what Nathan has written on this point. Sexual reproduction is by no means the only way children enter any family of any kind or make up. I do agree with his concern that much of the Christian discussion around this point has been prejudice against single parents and adopting families.

5. We Lost When We Lost The Fight On Gender, And Didn’t Think Hard Enough About How To Include The T Or I Parts Of LGBTQI In The Conversation
I think this is also the case among SSM advocates. It is also the case throughout most Christian discussion on gender and sexuality. It fits into the too-hard basket for many and because they can’t cope with something outside their own experience they ignore it.

6. We Lost When We Made The Argument About The Next Argument (The Slippery Slope), Rather Than Lovingly Understanding What The People In Front Of Us Desired And Were Asking For
Whether there is a slippery slope or inevitable trajectory does not deal with the immediate questions being asked. Yes, there have been reports of people wanting to do all sorts of weird things in countries where SSM has been legalised. But how does that compare, in reverse, with an Australian couple wanting to get a divorce to protest SSM? Personally, I would put them in the same class.

7. We Lost When We Didn’t Fight Harder For Love To Mean Something Other Than Sexual Intimacy Or Total Acceptance (Not Compassionate Tolerance)
What is love anyway? And, going back to the first and second points, have “we” loved anyone in the way we have approached the entire argument?

I’ll finish with the same quote Nathan did in his post.

1 John 4:7-14
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

 
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Posted by on 16/07/2015 in Apologetics, Culture, Gospel, marriage

 

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Pastor Fired by Church

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Re-posted from 2011: Charles Stone introduces his book, ‘Five Ministry Killers and How to Kill Them‘ with a story of how a Church fired their Pastor. As I started the first paragraph, I thought it was a fictional parable used to kick off the main topic of the book.

I read a little further and started to feel a little awkward. Some of the issues were a little too close to home for me. Then, the surprise (for me anyway!). The pastor is a real person and Stone is talking about real struggles that defeat many men and women who are in Christian Ministry.

The pastor in question, faced difficulties with power struggles, salary controversies and questions about his leadership style. His visitation policy was considered questionable and he was accused of “not loving the people.” Why? Because he made a decision to concentrate on his strengths and gifts in preaching and teaching instead of following a routine visiting program.

After some time, one particular man lead a bullying campaign that would eventually see the pastor fired from his job. The pastor made a decision to introduce changes in the Church policy about the expectations of the character of those that wanted to become Church members. He was called to question for this stance. He was threatened with losing his job. He stood his ground and they fired him.

Stone closes off this account of the pastor, “Jonathan”, as follows:

Ten years later, because Jonathan had so graciously responded to his critics and his dismissal, one of his main detractors admitted that pride, self-sufficiency, ambition, and vanity had caused the contention. The pastor’s handling of his ministry crisis left such and impression that eventually the church publicly repented of their actions, exactly 150 years after they sent him packing.

Who was Jonathan? Jonathan Edwards, arguably America’s greatest theologian.

Dear Pastor friend, if it happened to Edwards, chances are you will face similar challenges. Are you ready to meet them with a godly, gospel oriented approach?

Dear Church Member friend, if you have a Pastor that has different ideas about leadership style and ministry emphasis are you able to model gospel oriented flexibility and serve alongside him for God’s glory?

Related Articles:

Ed Stetzer – Church Leadership Book Interview: Charles Stone on 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them

Check out this recent post by Don – a supplement to the comment he made on the original post from 2011.
Firing Your Pastor

 
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Posted by on 27/06/2015 in church, leadership, ministry, Reading

 

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Our Fund Raising Update

After the sale of some furniture today, we have reached the goal amount.

 

saying goodbye to furniture and hello to a new opportunity

 


We have been able to make a deposit on removalists who, via a backload, are going to transport most of our personal belongings to Queensland. The remaining items, such as furniture we are not able to sell, will be stored in Sydney for a few months (the money raised covers storage for 3 months). We are hoping, once we’re settled and have some sort of regular income arranged, to use the same removals company to backload the stored materials later in the year. 

I am overwhelmingly grateful to those that gave to us and purchased things we sold.

In time, perhaps after July, I will be able to comment more freely about the circumstances that lead to some serious health concerns in our family and the move back to Townsville to stay with extended family. We have been able to speak with many friends personally and talk through the details with them privately.

I haven’t finalised any firm dates on movement yet. I will post an update once arranged.
I have removed the Paypal link from the earlier post as we have raised our goal amount. I have included a supporters link in the side margin of the website for anyone that may wish to continue supporting our family and ministry. As with any move, there will likely be unexpected things that will arise. However, we hope and expect that once arrived safely we will be able to arrange regular income through either work or other means.

Once again, thank you and God bless.

 
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Posted by on 01/06/2015 in General

 
 
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