The binding of the UK edition of Star over Bet...This is a modified re-post from last year that seems appropriate again:

I propose that we Christians stop hyperventilating when people say something other than “Merry Christmas.” I’m always sadly amused (if that makes sense) when I see on Facebook, in all-capital letters, stuff like:  PUT CHRIST BACK IN CHRISTMAS!!!!! RESPECT OUR FAITH!!! JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON!!!!!

I understand that Christians feel threatened by the equal and opposite hyperventilating from those who seek to wipe out every public nativity scene or reference to Christ.

But can anyone really take Christ out of Christmas? Is Christian faith so fragile that all it takes to knock us on our butts is a greeting like “Happy Holidays”? Should we behave the way the “other side” does, all fearful and agitated and snippy? How Christians answer this in their heads says a lot about what’s in (or absent from) their hearts.

Who cares what other people say? If we’re rooted in Christ, a simple holiday wish shouldn’t be our undoing. If you can’t take a generic greeting graciously, how will you ever come to “bless those who curse you, do good to those who mistreat you”? A secure, assured, at-peace spirit is the mark of Christ in you. So if that isn’t there, Christ isn’t there.

Assuming that we take Jesus seriously and genuinely want his kind of class and character, I propose that we wish our non-Christian friends, neighbors, and strangers a heartfelt Merry Christmas, and smile sincerely when they wish us Happy Holidays. Then say, “Thank you.”

What a concept.

 
The binding of the UK edition of Star over Bet...

I’d like to propose that we Christians quit having hissy-fits when people say something other than “Merry Christmas.” I’m always sadly amused (if that makes sense) when I see on Facebook, in obnoxious all-capital letters, stuff like this:  PUT CHRIST BACK IN CHRISTMAS!!!!! RESPECT OUR FAITH!!! JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON!!!!!

Good grief, can anyone really take Christ out of Christmas? Is Christian faith so shallow that all it takes to knock us on our butts is a greeting like “Happy Holidays”?

What insecurity! What immaturity! Who cares what other people say? If you’re rooted in Christ, a simple holiday wish isn’t going to be your undoing. If you can’t even take a generic greeting graciously, how on earth will you “bless those who curse you, do good to those who mistreat you”? A secure, quiet, assured spirit is the mark of Christ in you; that’s what love, peace, and joy are. If that isn’t there, Christ isn’t there.

I propose that we wish our non-Christian friends, neighbors, and even perfect strangers Merry Christmas and smile sincerely when they wish us Happy Holidays. In fact, I say we should say, “Thank you.”

What a concept.

Alphabet Soup Love

Image by basheertome via Flickr

God has a vision for mankind. He’d like us to have maximum happiness, peace, love, patience, and competent skill—what scripture refers to as blessedness—to share life with Him. Our part is to catch the vision and follow His plan, which Jesus laid out in the Sermon on the Mount and gave his life to secure for us. There, he details how to get rid of anger, ill will, judgment and other habits that poison human nature.

To love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind isn’t a demand; it’s a basic instruction, the first building block for mankind. Like a rock foundation, it supports the weight of everything else so we don’t have to carry all of life on our own backs.

It’s not as if God were stomping His foot, “Me first! Me first!” That’s prima donna faith. And He’s not Dirty Harry. “Better love me first—punk.” The greatest commandment isn’t for God’s sake, it’s for ours. So are the other nine commandments, which Jesus lumped into one: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. God’s motives are good and generous rather than self-serving.

We tend to think of the word “command” in the sense of domination, pressure, or obligation. But it also means bidding, direction, or instruction. That’s how Jesus used it. Thus, it’s not the Ten Demands, it’s really Ten Directions for optimal well-being and life—according to Jesus, anyway.

“If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” (Mat. 19:17) Jesus and the New Testament apostles didn’t ban them, but rather, renewed and clarified them after Pharisees and experts had long perverted them. We have the same problem today, which turns following Jesus into a tedious chore to meet a divine demand.

Paradigm Shift

The discipleship life-style is easy to understand if we see Jesus’ two commands like flying lessons, musical scales, or the alphabet. A pilot can’t take off until he first learns to taxi. A musician can’t progress until he first learns the basics of scales. A child can’t read or write without learning and practicing his ABCs.

Jesus directs us to follow him the way a kindergarten teacher might say, “If anyone would come after me and learn to read, he must ‘deny’ himself and practice the alphabet every day. Anyone who doesn’t simply can’t learn from me, and isn’t ready yet for whole words.” This is what Jesus means by carrying our crosses and becoming child-like.

Like a child who didn’t learn the alphabet, and consequently crippled his reading/writing skill, so we remain crippled when we try to follow Jesus with misunderstood or contrived motives.

 

Sanada's Secret Passage

Image by jpellgen via Flickr

I don’t watch much TV, but I do occasionally watch Man vs. Wild and Survivorman. I’m simultaneously fascinated by their ingenuity, but haunted by my own inner question: Could I survive in the wild? I know I’d rather eat tree bark than a bug. But I can’t decide, if I had to choose only one, whether I’d rather have a knife, a pack of matches, a rope, or a container of water to survive.

When it comes to religion or Supreme Truth, it’s a jungle out there. In Christianity alone, there are so many theological debates that we’re often lost trying to navigate through many sets of God’s truths. We’re adrift on a sea of doctrines that seemingly don’t relate much to the life we’re living now on this earth.

So if I had to gel all of God’s truths and come away with only one, it would be the certainty that the power to change and improve our lives is available to us in partnership with God. You and I can become the optimized versions of ourselves that God designed.

The key word is partnership. Call it friendship, fellowship, union, or yoking with Jesus, the life of blessed well-being that God offers is accessible. That’s what entering the kingdom of heaven at hand, or “new life from above”, is about. Whether we live on Wall St. or Main St., on Easy St. or Skid Row, it’s about living a kingdom life that counts for something good in the here and now, and to carry that with us into the hereafter. Christian faith is the difference between full-on thriving and merely surviving. (more…)