If you follow me on Twitter (considering the extreme dustiness of this blog, I expect that’s rather likely), you probably saw when I tweeted this:
I had a few more thoughts on it as I’ve been mulling it over.
I had a few more thoughts on it as I’ve been mulling it over.
Modesty is, and always has been, important to me. Perhaps it’s because of my cautious nature and reserved personality. Perhaps we could find a more spiritual cause. In any case, as young as two and three years old, I was averse to showing my belly button. When I became a teenager, and a whole new world of clothing options opened to me, I was petrified of ending up in something indecent. As an adult, I now minister in contexts that regularly put me on a stage, in front of a class, or even in front of cameras — all of which require a conservative dress code.
I say this to affirm: I like dressing modestly. It’s my default. I find no “freedom” in the idea of wearing skimpier, flashier things.
Yet even so, as I think back over the messages I was taught about modesty in my teens, and the sort of messages that get blogged and reblogged today, I’m troubled. Any teaching about modesty must, of course, first define what it is. When you strip away all the lists of rules, the hemlines, the necklines, and the spaghetti straps, what exactly is modesty, and why do we care about it?
The answer to that question, almost universally, has been this: Modesty means adequately covering up your body so that you don’t cause your brothers to stumble.
I would suggest — in fact, I would insist — that this definition is a problem. A big one. There’s a lot that could be said about this, but for the sake of time, I want to focus on four reasons we need to change our reference point:
I saw an article on the BBC News website last week that described the church service of Klaas Hendrikse, an agnostic reverend in the Netherlands.
Go back and re-read that if you like. Agnostic. Reverend. Yes. Seriously. As in an agnostic who is a preacher. As in, a man who runs a church but does not believe that we can know that God is real. He also doesn’t believe in any kind of afterlife.
According to this article, 1 in 6 Dutch ministers in the Protestant Church of the Netherlands self-identify as either agnostic or atheist.
One of these ministers, a lady named Kirsten Slettenaar, does not believe in the divinity of Jesus. Yet she defends this stance by claiming that, while she may be going against what the church has historically said, this position is not not changing the “real meaning of Christianity” [source].
I was flummoxed. I mean, surely it doesn’t take a doctorate-level theologian to realize that changing our understanding of Christ changes the real meaning of Christianity. But here it was, by two separate people in one article — the claim that Christianity is only tangentially related to Jesus Himself. There is even a third person interviewed whose two cents are that “The Church has to be alert to what is going on in society[…] it has to change to stay Christian.”
I couldn’t help but gawp at the article. People are seriously trying to practice Christianity while denying Christ — and not in the subtle sense of confessing one thing while secretly believing another, but in the outright, explicit denial that He was the Son of God, or that He ever existed at all, while claiming to adhere to His religion anyway.
Have we really become so dull that we don’t see the non-sequiturs we’re spouting in order to try to stay relevant?
About this time, morbid curiosity kicked in and I navigated over to Google, wondering what the general tone of the interwebs was about this subject. I typed in “Christianity is all about”, and let autocomplete suggest the rest of the sentence for me, just to see. The first three suggestions were: “love // relationship // forgiveness”.
So according to Professor Google, Christianity is all about love. Christianity is all about relationship. Christianity is all about forgiveness.
Except it isn’t, because it’s not called Lovianity, Relationshipianity, or Forgivnianity.
I’m glad Professor Google does not teach at seminaries. But at the same time, I feel worried that his intellectual buddies might be.
Christianity doesn’t mean anything without Christ as its beginning and end. Yes, He loves us and empowers us to love Him and one another. Yes, He wants to be in real relationship with us. Yes, He forgives us of our sins. But those things are all conditional on Him being who He is. If He’s not God, He has no authority to forgive us for our iniquities committed against God. If He never rose from the dead, or if He never really existed, it doesn’t matter if we think He loved us or not. If He failed to live up to the shocking and exclusive things He said about Himself, then He is not a teacher to be followed.
Without Christ, Christianity becomes meaningless. There’s literally nothing left. You can’t redefine or dismiss Jesus without cutting yourself off from the Head from whom the whole body of Christ grows (Eph 4:15-16).
In an age where “common ground” is sought at all costs, where absolute truth is frowned upon, and where popular moral relativity trumps religious conviction, we have got to be sure of not just what we believe, but whom we believe. Christianity is not about living a good life and being nice to people. It’s about Jesus the Messiah — the Anointed One — the Christ — fully God and fully Man, who really was born, really lived, was crucified, buried and resurrected. And there can be no compromise about that.
So I was going about my own business the other day, clicking a link to YouTube, when — as often happens on YouTube these days — a commercial began playing. Before I had any indication of what I was in for, I first noticed that this commercial was several minutes long. I thought that surely nothing on earth could be so awesome that some advertising company should presume that people would actually be willing to sit through almost two and a half minutes of YouTube commercial for it. Ha ha. Silly advertising company.
So, naturally, I proceeded to watch the whole thing.
Score one for the marketing team.
At first, I wasn’t clear on what the commercial was for. There was a very pleasant, homey feel about the opening scenes. There was an interview of a pleasant, laid-back farmer, a man who seemed to emanate the down-to-earth simple wisdom of someone who’s spent a lot of time behind a plow making an honest living. “I’m John,” he says. “I have lived here my whole life.”
Aww, that’s nice. At this point, I’m anticipating an ad for either butter, sausage, biscuits, organic foods, or a documentary about organic food.
John proceeds to tell us that he and the neighbors weren’t exactly too sure what to think of Lady Gaga when she first came to town.
Hang on, what?
Now I haven’t the slightest clue what to do with what I’m seeing and hearing. Maybe Lady Gaga is releasing a new album. Like, a country album. Maybe she’s trying to prove she’s not just for the young, crazy teens. Maybe she’s doing a concert tour of rural America. Maybe farm folk are trying to prove that they really can run with the hip young kids. Maybe Lady Gaga did some kind of community outreach thing in a small town where she helped pick soy beans and milk cows and pose with a tractor or something to support local growers.
Oh, how wrong I was. How very, very wrong. Nothing could have prepared me for the fact that what I was watching was an ad for…
I’m going to hazard a guess that most readers of this blog are familiar with the recent uproar caused by Rob Bell’s promotion of his newest book, titled, Love Wins. If you’re not, let me give you the brief version:
Rob Bell is a popular teacher, most famous for his NOOMA videos where he gives short, poignant teachings, usually framed with lots of probing questions. Young adults especially are attracted to his tendency towards unconventional methods of teaching and his very vocal belief that we should be living like Jesus lived, being kind and compassionate to all sorts of people. However, he has also been viewed with concern by many church leaders for quite some time, who have felt that he has been worryingly silent on some major theological issues (such as the need for conversion) and carelessly dismissive of others (such as the virgin birth) [source]. Judging from the promotional material for his recently-announced book, it appears to many people that this book is going to clarify Bell’s position as a universalist. Universalism claims that there is no such thing as eternal punishment, and that all people eventually are saved and spend eternity in heaven. This is a serious enough break with the Bible to qualify as heresy.
While the book has not yet been released, and it is thus too early to say for sure if that’s Bell’s position, current indicators are not looking good. The promo video has him asking incredulously if we can know for sure that Gandhi (a Buddhist) is in Hell. He asks how a God who sends people to Hell could possibly be good. From that line of thought, he directly transitions into stating that people are often repelled by Christianity because “they see it as an endless list of absurdities and inconsistencies”. He wraps up with saying that “…whatever we have been told and been taught, the good news is actually better than that, better than we could ever imagine. The good news is that love wins” [YouTube source]. While a shadow of reasonable doubt concerning his theological stance can be upheld, it’s awfully hard not to worry.
Though I will firmly reject Bell’s theology if he turns out to deny eternal punishment — and will be profoundly unimpressed with his misleading marketing if he doesn’t — he is certainly right about one thing: Love does win. Of course love wins.
We just need to know what that looks like.
That’s all, really. But I’m geeked about it.
Just a quick thought for today:
If those who wait on the Lord are never put to shame…
If God avenges those who wait…
If He acts on behalf of those who wait…
…then there is power in the waiting. Waiting on the Lord, as weak and as foolish as it may feel, is the most effective, powerful thing we could do. I mean, seriously, looking at the list above, I can’t think of anything that would wreak more havoc against the kingdom of darkness than a bunch of believers waiting on God.
Waiting is not merely inaction. You can only “wait” if you expect something to happen. “Waiting” in line means I expect to get to the cash register at some point. “Waiting” on my friend at a coffee shop indicates that I’m planning on them actually showing up. Waiting implies hope for something yet to come. Sitting around, doing and thinking nothing, isn’t waiting. If I’m not aware of or interested in something happening, then I can’t be said to be waiting for it.
Waiting is not passive. Waiting is not stoic. It is an active summoning of our faith into who the Lord is and what He says He’s going to do. It encourages our hearts to keep asking, seeking, and knocking. It keeps hope alive in our hearts that there’s more to our life than what our eyes see. And God actually says that He responds with full zeal to those who will wait for Him. Waiting — the way we carry our hearts in the delay — is one of the most powerful things we can do.