Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Holy Rings of Fire, Batman!

And GiBee's getting ready to step right into the middle of this burning, fiery, skin-scorching ring of flames and discuss the article A Model of Faith! You might as well stop now, and go grab your second cup of coffee ... it's gonna be a long ride.

Well, as many of you may already know ... sometimes I just can't leave well enough alone. And this is no exception... But after having started this post three other times, and deleting it half way through each time, I'm hoping the fourth time is a charm.

I just can't believe I'm doing this, because I am a totally NON-confrontational, people-pleasing person. That's probably why I'm on my fourth draft right now. But sometimes, we just need to put our thinking caps on and dig deeply, think through thoroughly, and truly analyze stuff before we fully accept it as truth. I have learned this valuable lesson from my friend Carol and you can read all about those lego breakers -- here and here. Then, there's always my dear husband and his ever faithful baby sister -- who, instead of calling my sister-in-law, I will refer to as Sunshine from here on out. Because she is. Sunshine. All the stinking time. Happy, funny, actually -- hilarious. I love her to pieces, and I just know you would too ... if she'd ever come out of "lurkerville." Anyway, they are both so much alike... they THINK serious things through before they speak (or type). Which, I, as you may know, rarely do. They always see the positive. Which I am not as quick to do. They are not impulsive ... which I am. They are always non-judgmental and look at both sides. Which, I rarely do ... because it's not as much fun. They both display grace in motion. All the time. Which helped me step back, hold onto my britches, and truly look at the article in question. Then, there's my friend Kim who in a private email about this very subject, reminded me to ask myself some basic questions ... What is my motivation? Am I going to discourage young believers? (ow!) And that, friends, is why I have re-written this post so many times.

Okay -- here we go. My first impression after I read the article was, "huh... that wasn't too bad." But, I was left with this "sensation" ... like something just wasn't right. So I re-read it. Again, and again. And this was my next impression: "uhuh... umhmm... that's true ... what? ... how is that possible? huh? oh... hmmm... uhhh... oh dear... what does that mean?" Then came the proverbial "high horse" attitude (mine) ... then, came the slap down back to reality and the voices of reason (husband and Sunshine) ... then, of course I was up all night thinking, re-thinking, and re-re-thinking my general impressions...

First, it's important that you know how "trusting" I am. I pretty much believe everything I'm told. Too trusting for my own good. So, when I first read this article, I believed that it WAS Rick Warren (only) speaking, and not someone interpreting the comments Rick Warren may have said ... and ultimately, I took a lot of the article negatively.

On the other hand, Sunshine said to me in an email... "I didn't take this article as negatively as you did. I realize when reading it that this is a one person's snapshot into the faith of Rick Warren. Most likely a non-Christian snapshot, therefore, it didn't read like something you'd see in Christianity Today. If nothing else, the writer sees something different and welcoming about the faith that Rick Warren has." She's right. The article was very one-sided. And I had failed to realize that... yeah, I'm a bit slow on the uptake. Indeed, it was a very slanted article.

The article originally left me with the impression that Warren didn't think there was any consequences to sin, or a need to share such consequences with sinners -- I guess because it was a safer and more popular stance; that it was okay for Christians to be "un-equally yoked" in business with unbelievers (in this case, his PEACE venture); that it was okay to "be for the whole bird" -- which I understood to mean that Warren thinks it's okay to be "passive" on our beliefs as Christians and be accepting of things we see as wrong (abortion, same sex marriages, etc.) -- you know -- ride the fence; that it's okay to not only be in the world but to be off the world too; that non-believers will get to heaven too, somehow, someway; and that it's not as important to assist the poor, care for the sick, plant churches and equip servant leaders in our community as it is to do so in Africa.

And, without giving it a second thought (no surprise there), I ripped off my opinions to Sunshine and waited (nervously) for her reply. And when I received it, I argued back ... although half heartedly ... because I argue everything out. But, in the end... she was right. And she said it so eloquently, that I don't need to re-write it in my own words. I'll just share what she said (emphasis below - bold & italics - is mine).

"I saw a lot of Jesus being modeled in what the writer was saying about Rick Warren. Nothing in the article says Rick Warren condones sin. So he chooses to not be "in your face" with his beliefs... Would a homosexual be inclined to listen to Rick Warren if he condemned them and said your going to hell? Even Jesus loved and healed first and forgave and said to sin no more secondly. Jesus came to save the world not condemn it. How successful do you think you'd be at becoming friends and sharing the gospel with someone if you chose to tell them publicly they are going to hell. The article didn't say Rick Warren believes non believers will some way make it to heaven. I understand what your saying about helping the poor right here at home. Because the article mentions global help doesn't mean he has no ministry here in the US. That's an assumption. I also realize that some of what America considers as poor is still very rich compared to those in other countries. Also the field is spiritually ripe in Africa. There are churches on every corner here. That's a wealth that people in Africa don't have. It's not just about physical help, I believe it's about spiritual help as well. I guess it comes down to I feel Christians get a bad wrap. On TV, we're shown as radicals and freaks that can't relate to others in the secular community. I just felt like this article was shedding light on the fact that we are not freaks. I read it and came a way with a "glass half full" feeling."

And just for the record, on Rick Warren's church's website (Saddleback) I discovered that indeed they are helping greatly in their own community. They have a discount food program designed to help those on a limited/lower income; they have an inner city ministry that provides an after school kids club with tutors, sports, devotionals, etc.; they provide special worship services and fellowship to the elderly and disabled who would otherwise not be able to hear the Good News; they "adopt" families that have been affected or infected by HIV-AIDS; they distribute clothing and resources to the homeless, as well as feed the homeless at various locations; they provide worship services to incarcerated adults; they work with local military couples and their children so that they can learn about Christ and grow in their relationship with him; they provide outreach to men and women living in semi-temporary housing; they man a 24/7 "hopeline" that provides counseling and community resources to women who are in a crisis pregnancy and who are at risk for abortion...

So, as you can see... I was very wrong about a lot of things. I may not necessarilyily agree with everything I read or interpreted in this article because after all, it is one sided. But I do see the good that Rick Warren is doing, and it is nice to see a Christian portrayed in a positive light. I tried to find any comments Warren may have made about this article, but was unable to scout anything out. I'd be interested in hearing if he thinks he was either appropriately represented, or maybe miss-represented.

But when it all comes down to the bottom line, we need to be very careful to share the un-watered down truth with grace and love, and to represent Jesus in a true light while separating ourselves from the world. As Heather said, there is only one way to heaven, and if we fail to spread that part of the Gospel message, we are showing nothing more than a life of good works. I also agree with many of you who pointed out that hearts can be changed by loving confused people -- "love your neighbor as yourself."

This probably wasn't the kind of post you expected me to write, but it was a learning experience for me! And, the fourth time is NOT a charm, as it took me four hours to write this, and I must have changed it 5 or 6 times in the process. (And, Blogger (AGAIN) is doing weird things with spell check, adding weird words, etc.)

So for now ... Peace out.


kpjara said...

You did yourself proud, my friend! I'm proud of your ability to step outside yourself and still be true to what you read! It also helped me to see what I was missing as well...and I just gave more fuel to the 'christian-mocker fire that already attempts to consume the ultimate victor....JESUS!

In the words of one wise friend: "We may lose some battles, but we won the WAR!"

Blessings and thank you for keeping us moving forward in growth, towards God! You ROCK!

Heather Smith said...

Hey GiBee. I posted something kinda similar to this today. I got to rethinking the article again and again yesterday too. I'm like you. I snap judge, then I think later. I don't know Warren's motivations, and it's not my job to judge him in any way. Obviously he even has the attention of unbelievers, which probably means he's doing something right. Jesus did love first like "Sunshine" said. But as she also said, He told them to go and sin no more. That's where we get mixed up I think. We want to show others love. We want people to like us and to support everything we do. But Christianity isn't a popularity contest. It's a walk with Christ. The perfect Christ who calls us to a life of holiness. Some are going to hate us for us stand. It's inevitable. The thing is that we aren't to hate them. We may hate the sin (God hates sin), but we are to love the sinner. We are to show them Christ in our lives. They will see something. The question is when they come to us asking why we are different, are we gonna back down because we're scared of losing a friend?

Everyday Mommy said...

I would like to post a rebuttal to your sister-in-law's comments, i.e.

"I saw a lot of Jesus being modeled in what the writer was saying about Rick Warren."

But, it will have to be later this evening. Suffice it to say, I could not disagree more.


Jan said...

One distinction you made I really agree with. This article was not by Warren,but about him. So we really don't know how he might feel about being described/represented in this way. going to his website was a great idea. And thanks to you for getting a discussion started.

Morning Glory said...

GiBee, good for you for the stretch! It was way over my ability to think it all through quickly and without discussion, and then organize my thoughts on it. Rick Warren has had an incredible impact on many, many lives, namely, being the instrument that brought my youngest brother and his entire family back to the Lord 2 years ago. They attend his church. Mega-church is not my style, but mega-bunches of people are reached that way.

Thanks for provoking our thoughts. You're wonderful!

Lauren said...

Okay, I'll start with stating my bias - Rick Warren, bleh!

Now that you know this, I'll say that the article sounded as if Christians might be getting on the right track. With Warren as our leader we may just make great strides. One problem, Jesus is our leader not Warren. And from what I've see of him in interviews and articles he himself has written, Warren waters down the truth to make it as palatable as possible to as many people as possible.

The author of this article likes what Warren is about, that’s obvious. But in making this decision, does the author truly know what Jesus is about? To me, that’s what matters.

sarahgrace said...

I am totally the same way you are "totally NON-confrontational, people-pleasing person." I actually just wrote a post about being that way (and if you read it, know that I was not referring to the discussion about Rick Warren here : )

I can really resonate with a lot of what you wrote in this post. Good discussion- I'm right in the same boat with you on a lot of these issues.

Faith said...

Okay, now that I can leave a comment ,I totally forgot what i typed for 15 minutes earlier in the day!
Do I sound bitter?
Wee, anyway, I haven't read the article yet - see how random I am today. Why comment if I've not read it? Because I wanted you to know that I'm going to read it now!!! :D

I'll get back with you on it!

shannon @ rocks in my dryer said...

Woo-hoo, Lauren...you go get 'em!

Carol said...

Well, look at that! My soapbox just appeared under my feet without me even trying...

I tend to agree with Lauren. We can do good works all day long, but in the end, the question is, "Where's Jesus?"

There are also a lot of athiests out raising money to feed the starving people in Africa. I understand Rick (and Bono) not wanting to alienate anyone, regardless of faith/no faith, who might help with this endeavor.

But when it comes time to separate goats and sheep, that's God's job. Christians should be feeding the poor, it's true. But BEING a Christian has to be about Christ. There is no watered down gospel - it's the gospel in it's entirety - we are sinners who need to repent and accept the Savior as Lord of our lives - or it's not the gospel, but some mamby pamby mumbo-jumbo about love and peace.

I love how you've taken a hard look at this and thought (and edited) it through carefully.

aggiejenn said...

ok, laying all personal bias about Rick Warren aside, since that's been taken care of already...I wonder if we would feel the same way if this story was just about some random Christian wanting to plant churches and equip servant leaders and meet people's needs in Africa. Kay Warren wrote an article for CNN.com, people commented on it, and she replied to those comments. She said, "To those who read into my words a hidden agenda, there is nothing hidden about my belief that we were all made by God and for God and find our purpose for living in relationship to God. But when I sit beside a woman like Joana in Mozambique, or Ben in Orange County, California, or hold an HIV-positive baby doomed to an early, painful death, my first reaction is not to quote scripture to them, but to hold them, comfort them, and ease their suffering in any way that I can. No one cares what I believe theologically until they know that I care for them as a person. Whether anyone agrees with my belief system or not doesn't affect the level of my compassion. The point is to love." I guess this is how I approach these types of situations. When I was a high school teacher, I had several pregnant students. One, in particular, confided in me because I showed that I cared about her and her situation. I didn't condemn her for her behavior and tell her how much she needed to repent. I met her needs. I went to the hospital when she had the baby and brought her diapers and held that precious little girl. I felt very much that I was being Jesus to her even though I didn't tell her to "go and leave her life of sin." We did talk about Jesus. Her faith was VERY weak, and being only 15 years old with life experiences I wouldn't wish on anyone, I don't know how much of what we talked about sunk in. Whether or not she ever truly accepted Jesus or repented of her sin didn't affect my actions. It made me pray harder for her. I don't think showing love to her was "watering down the Gospel," I think it was living it.