The Final Report.

don't waste your life

What are you doing with your life?  Are you on the path to financial security?  Do you have your 401k set up, putting in the max every year so that you can retire comfortably?  Are you paying off your house and saving up your pennies so that one day, when you are too tired to want to do anything, you will be able to do whatever you want?  I am a 32 year old newly wed who lives in Denver, CO and this affords me a unique opportunity to watch a micro sect of our society closely:  the millennials trying to make sense of life.

I am from the midwest, and most of my high-school and college friends are married, ten years into their careers, with a few kids, a house and a dog.  But cities like Denver attract those who have most fully bought into the pervasive mindset of our generation that our education demands that we be rewarded with high paying jobs, and these jobs are those that have meaning and purpose.  Those whom we idolize the most are those who were able to innovate and/or create a solution to a world problem, and get rich doing so.  We have spent 16-20 years of our lives in school learning how to be critical thinkers who value our own opinions, and we want to be clever and get paid well for being clever.  Now, as we rapidly approach middle-age, our crises will be based more on the question, “Have I done anything meaningful?” rather than the sadness of having missed out on life.

We will have mid-life crises.  They will just look different from that baby-boomers’ crises.  Sure, some of us will divorce and marry a young person, some of us will buy expensive toys, but many of us will quit our jobs and start a new business, get involved in philanthropy and look for our position to change and impact the world.

“The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather for the devil.”

– C. S. Lewis

But while our trials and struggles might be fueled by different passions, this is still an extremely dangerous time.  As we begin to grapple with our mortality and the meaning of life, we will try to fill it up with self-affirming achievements.  But as Christians, we know that when we die we will meet our maker and we will give an account for everything that we have done:

So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

– Rom 14.12

“[God] will render to each one according to his deeds.”

– Rom 2.6

And if our goal, as Christians, is to hear God say,

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

– Matt 25.23

then we can evaluate every action that we do here on the Earth by this simple question,

Is this glorifying to God?

Scripture gives us a few broad outlines for our daily tasks.  For instance, Paul teaches us that the man who does not provide for his family is the worst kind of man out there:

“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

– 1 Tim 5.8

This does not mean that you have to be the most wealthy family on the block, but it does mean that men should not be lazy and should be diligent to provide for and take care of their responsibilities.  This is honoring to God.  We also know what God defines as sin, and we know how Christians are supposed to act.  It is rooted in love for God and for our neighbors (Matt 22.37-39), and it is expressed in controlling our tongues (James 1, 4) and controlling our actions (Eph 4-5).

And Jesus gave us a singular commandment as He was leaving the world to return to Heaven:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.18-20

Are you making disciples?  Wherever you are, even if you are squarely planted in the Bible belt, are you introducing people to Jesus and teaching them how to obey Him?  Jesus gave us an assignment, and He will be the judge when we reach eternity’s gate.  Will you pass?  Will you be affirmed, “Well done”?  Or will He say, “I gave you one thing to do and you never did it!”?

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

– C. S. Lewis

It is good for us to long to have meaning in our lives.  My generation has been groomed to desire purpose and satisfaction in meaningful work.  But let us be mindful to harness that energy and passion to focus on the glory of God and not our own personal legacy.  Because we will all die and we will all be forgotten.  But what we have done in obedience to God and unto His glory alone will last.  Aim not to leave a legacy for mankind to venerate you, but for God to be honored.

What report do you want to give when you meet Him, face to face?

The dangers of feminism.

feminist

I get uneasy with the topic of feminism.  Yes, I am a woman.  I’m probably what most people would consider an independent and relatively successful woman.  I have a master’s degree, I have moved more times than I care to recall, building community from scratch every time, and I pay all my own bills.  I do not particularly like being cat called when I walk or run down the street, I do not think it is fair that a man would get paid more to do the same job as me in most professional (and not professional) environments, and I do not like the color pink.  I’m not a stay at home mom.  

But it still turns me off.

In case you live in a box, this past weekend hosted the VMA awards as well as the Grammys.  If you haven’t seen any news anywhere, let me tell you that everyone is ogling over Beyonce’s performance at the VMAs.  In fifteen minutes, she sang a medley of songs on the topics of oral sex in the back of a limo, telling a guy to “tear that cherry out” and a tribute to her reign as queen, “Bow Down”, complete with derrieres adorned only in glitter as the background dancers, Beyonce herself climbing and posing upon a cushion chair, and sitting spread eagle to acquaint everyone intimately with her crotch for substantial portions of the performance.  And the word with which she defined herself before her toddler daughter, husband and the world was, “Feminist”.  

Not twenty four hours later, the Grammys aired, during which Sofia Vergara mocked our society by standing on a turntable which turned her 360 degrees while Bruce Rosenblum, chairman of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences said, “What truly matters is that we never forget that our success is based on always giving the viewer something compelling to watch.”  It was a joke.  Vergara, completely clothed, stood on a pedestal for people to look at in order to mock our societal and media trends.

Would you believe that people are up in arms?  Beyonce can strip for the world, dry hump chairs and poles but as long as she touts the title “feminist”, she is strong, independent, beautiful and in charge.  Vergara, on the other hand, who would simply mock society by giving the audience “something to look at” is now the victim of sexism.  As normal, everyone has an opinion.

Blah.  

This whole conversation makes my head and heart hurt.  Why?  Because anytime we waste our energy labeling ourselves anything else than Christian, we have lost our way.  

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 – Gal 3.28

The feminist extreme is out exerting “equality” by essentially demanding excess.  “Women can do the job better” and “stand up and take the lead” demands that we be first, not equal.  We want preference.  But the call of Jesus is to die to ourselves.  To suffer the offense.  To love one another irregardless of gender, color or social status.  Because in Jesus, there is no preference; male or female, race or social status.  

God is fundamentally concerned about justice.  He is the one who established the Law (the covenant with Moses, His perfect Law) and thus gave us the structure and outline for all systems of governance and accountability.  He Himself will judge every sin.  Every sin.  Nothing will go unpunished.  Sexism, racial injustice and social prejudice included.

However, if I waste all of my time getting upset because I live in a society where women are objectified, where I personally get cat called and honked at every time I go outside for a run, or even when I might make less money than a man just because I am a woman, all I will do is give myself an ulcer and live a miserable life.  Why?  Because you cannot change society unless God changes the heart first.  Sure, maybe if I push back hard enough, get enough people to sign my petition and make enough noise, a law might be passed to make cat calling deemed as harassment.  Maybe the police would even start to enforce it and people might start to stop whistling, making vulgar gestures and beeping their horns.  

So what?  

What eternal significance does it have if I make more money, walk down the street in peace, or get more societal respect?  None.  Absolutely none.  If I spend my whole life fighting for the equalization of women in the work place, I might help women to have more money, but they will still go to Hell if they do not know Jesus.  

How do you label yourself?  Are you a woman?  Are you consequently a feminist?  

Paul makes a radical statement:

Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk.  And so I direct in all the churches.  Was any man called when he was already circumcised?  He is not to become uncircumcised.  Has anyone been called in uncircumcision?  He is not to be circumcised.  Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.  Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.  Were you called while a slave?  Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that.  For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave.  You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.  Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.

 – 1 Cor 7.17-24

Paul essentially says here, your physical circumstances are not what are important.  It is your heart.  Slavery, persecution, success and happiness are not.  These things are all fleeting and they ultimately do not matter.  What matters is “keeping the commandments of God (v 19).  And Paul is not watering down the situation!  The early church was suffering persecution.  He himself was in and out of jail, was beaten, was stoned, put on trial and suffered more than you or I.  He was not speaking to a system of slavery that was fair, he was speaking to Christians who’s lives were in danger for the simple fact of being a Christian.

So if Paul can tell people who are living as slaves to be a slave to the glory of God, and not fight for themselves but to obey the commandments of God in their current slavery, why would I be justified in being angry because of the issues today?  I am not being beaten, I am making money, and live in more ease and comfort than most of the world.  And for those who are concerned that I just have not experienced it enough, I did live for four years in a society where I was the hated minority and wrestled with it daily.

 Am I preaching pacifism here?  No.  Paul does say, “but if you are able to become free, do that” (v 21).  And like I said, God is the judge and He has put powers in authority over us for a purpose (Rom 13.4).  If you have the calling and gifting to be a part of moral and ethical change in politics, then be about it!  God is concerned about justice, and we most certainly should stand up for those who do not have a voice.  But if we are called to show preference to one another, put others before ourselves and love our neighbors as ourselves, how can I justify being angry if someone else gets paid more, or if I am routinely wronged (Rom 12.10, Phil 2.3, Matt 22.39)?  

My point is this:  If you are a Christian, be a Christian.  A mini Christ.  And this is a matter of the heart.  How do you respond when you are hated?  How do you respond when you are persecuted or harassed?  Do you get angry and get up on your little soapbox and preach that you deserve better?  Or do you bless those who persecute you (Rom 12.14)?  Do you lash out when someone takes advantage of you?  Or do you go the extra mile (Matt 5.41)?  Do you love your enemy and pray for him (Matt 5.44)?  

Instead of looking at myself, and thinking about what I need or deserve, I should be concerned about the heart and eternity of the one who is hating me, who is persecuting or abusing me.  That does not mean I willingly stay in a situation that is to my detriment, but it does mean that my response is concern for other’s souls and eternities.  Because even if I succeed in changing their behavior, nothing of eternal value has been accomplished. 

Every society needs to see change and reform, including ours.  And at the risk of sounding cliche, I would remind us that it starts with me.  It starts with you.  I am not going to honor God and show others how to love by getting angry and crying about social inequality.  I will honor God by loving those who persecute me.  It has to be the love of God in my heart, the conviction to live my life as unto Him and not unto man, and to do all things to His glory.  I must respond well and in love, and when I find the opportunity to affect laws or societal governance, then I step up.  If you have a job or a position whereby you can make a difference, then impact the world – and that for the sake of Christ!  Make equal salaries between gender and race.  Enforce laws of harassment and do away with racial profiling.  But do it because Jesus declares us the same, without distinction.  And love those who persecute you in the process because what matters is keeping the commandments of God.