The Well-Dressed Terrorist

There were terrorists on my campus this morning. I didn’t actually see them, but I’m pretty sure they were dangerous and sowing discord. ISIS? KKK? No, it was the Gideons!

Seriously, a couple of my students came in to our class this morning toting those little New Testaments (plus Psalms and Proverbs) that the nice suit-clad men were passing out to anyone who would accept them. One guy decided to use the book as a starting point for a series of jokes until I finally suggested that he was going to offend somebody and needed to knock it off.

To be clear, my students are not Social Justice Warriors and knee-jerk Leftists by and large. They’re reasonably open-minded people, but many of them have not been brought up to take the claims of Christianity seriously. People talk about how college helps young people lose their faith. Frankly, most of them seem to have a pretty weak grasp on the topic when they come in the door. This doesn’t reflect on them or even on their families as much as it does on us–or the church at large.

When I was growing up, you could ask most people, “Where do you go to church?” and get an answer. If they didn’t go to church, they found that a little embarrassing. “Well, we haven’t been going as much lately, but we used to go to . . .”

Today, lots of people have zero connection with the church and feel zero problem with that. And why? Do we blame their parents, their grandparents, lack of prayer in school, the ACLU, John Lennon?

I don’t blame any of those. I blame us–or at least our predecessors. The church had at least some hold on those parents or grandparents, but somewhere along the way we decided to take it all for granted. Or maybe we–or they–decided that the church was for us (or them) rather than for others.

The church in which my parents met, in a thickly populated part of Kansas City, dwindled until only about a dozen seniors were meeting in the basement. They eventually gave the building to a growing, living congregation. The church in which I grew up, half a mile from my house, faded until they were bought out, lock, stock, and barrel, by another, more active church.

What did those two now-dead churches have in common? They became more inward-looking than outward-looking. They took care of their own needs rather than the needs of the lost. The Apostle Paul could have done that. He could have just taken care of that church in Antioch and focused on organizing potlucks and prayer meetings. Instead, he went on the road, starting churches all along his route and making sure not to be assume that the next generation would come to Christ.

Those terrorists, those Gideons, came on our campus to disrupt things, to place the Word of God into the hands of people it has not changed. No wonder these guys face hostility from time to time. Happily that hasn’t happened at JCCC. We’re still open to some terrorists.



The Right Weight

Scale“Where the Bible is silent, we are silent” has long been a slogan among a certain slice of the Evangelical world. While my own tradition does not come from that slice, I admire the idea behind such silence. A church should not, I think, take adamant stands on matters on which the Bible does not speak. For example, what does the Bible say about the use of tobacco? Nothing! Since tobacco is a New World plant, it would have made very little sense for the Biblical writers to share something that would not come onto the scene for another 1,300 years. A church can get by perfectly well without expressing a position on tobacco.

On the other hand, an individual cannot live life with a silent position on many matters on which the Bible is silent. For example, if I am pulled toward smoking–which, happily, I’m not–then I have to either determine that it is acceptable or reject it. To do that without trying to discern God’s will would be foolish.

What does the Bible say about weight? How much body fat should I carry around with me according to Paul? Search all you want, but you’ll find no clear answer to that. The Bible neither praises nor condemns fat people or thin people. It does have a fair amount to say about gluttony, but that’s not precisely the same thing. I can be a glutton today and still keep a lean body if I watch my eating the rest of the week.

I say this as I have been watching the scale tick downward over the last several weeks. A year ago, I held my weight between 180 and 185 for about eight months. Then I bouncedĀ up to around 195 in the wake of some very stressful times. For the past eight months, I’ve been between 188 and 196. When I last weighed in, I tipped the scale at 190.6. Hopefully, a few more steady weeks will have me back in the 185 range.

But I ask myself, how much of my desire to see a certain number on the scale is vanity and how much is good stewardship. Since the Bible is silent on this matter of weight, where do I turn for guidance? I’d like to look at some possibilities in upcoming posts.

The Tool Selection (Hebrews 4:12)

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Yesterday, as Penny and I continued our work in converting a double garage into a family room, she gave me an assignment. Several bolts were sticking out of a cement wall where they had held various bins and shelves in place. Could I extract these items.

Since such bolts are intended to go in the wall and stay in the wall, resisting efforts by gravity and random bumps to remove them, I knew my mission would be a challenge. After staring at them for a moment and failing to employ my powers of telekinesis to remove them, I headed for the barn and the Sawzall.

It took me longer to walk to the barn and then change from a wood to a metal-cutting blade than it did to remove the exposed portions of six bolts from the wall. There’s a great feeling that comes with having the right tool to do a job.

For a lot of people today, counseling or psychological therapy is the right tool for getting at the nooks and crannies of the human heart. Go pay Dr. Humbug $100 an hour once a week for six or seven years and you might see some progress.

Or there’s the Word of God. God’s Word is not the perfect tool for every job just as a Sawzall is not the perfect tool to mix concrete. The Bible does not give us much help on how to win at basketball, for example. It doesn’t guide us in designing new gas-efficient cars. It does, however, help us to win at life. It allows us to live efficient lives.

While it is tempting to rely on our own wisdom, our own ingenuity, or the expertise of highly degreed professionals, the problems of the human soul are best handled by him who created that soul. And the tool of choice for removing the bolts of stupidity that we’ve inserted? The words of scripture.