Can We Have Some Coffee? Some Thoughts From a Layman on True Christian Living
We all seem to agree our world is in a state of turmoil. Some might say, “So what. It is always in turmoil.” That statement is actually true. So, is anything really different today? Each generation seems to eventually conclude a concern for future generations as morals decay in the eyes of the experienced, “older” generation. I am 56, thus the quotation marks. How do we know if morals are really decaying or if times are changing and so must we?
All I can know is what I have experienced as a son and brother for 56 years, a friend for maybe 50 years, a husband for over 30 years, a father for over 27 years, and a Family Physician for 26 years. And yes, I am a white male, sure of my gender, faithful to my wife, and sure of my faith in Jesus Christ; and therefore, half of our entire nation will stop reading right there.
That division and judgment, that identity politics, that closed-mindedness, that “if you are not in my camp you are an enemy” thought process is currently and rapidly destroying our lives; all of our lives in whatever camp you reside.
The Product of Recognized and Valued Common Human Needs
The recently passed Rabbi Jonathan Sacks addressed these issues in his book, Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times. Paraphrasing one of his key thoughts: if we do not live life together with someone, spending time looking into each other’s eyes to see the joys and the pains of life experienced, crying together, laughing together, loving each other, then morality risks decline. What a great book that would serve us all well to read. I wonder if it is in our school libraries. Morality is the product of recognized and valued common human needs; not white human needs, black human needs, brown human needs, LGBTQ human needs, American human needs, African human needs, European human needs, Republican human needs, or Democrat human needs. You get the point. Morality is the product of recognized and valued common human needs.
Social Media and Identity Politics Divide Us
Further pointed out in the Rabbi’s book is the role of social media and identity politics leading to isolation from and judgment of others. When we live in isolation, we no longer function as we were meant to function, in communion with our fellow human beings, sharing in life’s joys and sorrows. We lack love, support, encouragement and accountability. We begin to doubt that people really care about us. That thought leads to more isolation and desperation for a connection, to anyone, to anything. Suffering alone leads to joining gangs, using drugs, sexual promiscuity, obsessive behaviors, depression and anxiety, anger and abuse, falling victim to those that manipulate our false beliefs about ourselves and others, and worst of all can lead to suicide. Our societal morality decays.
Giving the Right to Offend
Here is a daring book title by John Bevere, The Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense. Whoa! How much have you heard about people being offended lately? Every day!
Bevere says unconditional love is giving the one you love the right to offend you. Let that sink in a minute. In our society, if I offend you, you get to viciously lash out at me, call me a racist, form a hate group against me, cancel me, call your attorney, call the news and even threaten my life and liberties. Isn’t that nice? Can we first discuss this offense over some coffee? Please? Maybe there is a simple misunderstanding. Maybe we can have some civil discourse and work it out with resulting apologies, forgiveness, grace, mercy, a new friendship, and adding a little goodness to the world. Is that solution really too radical? Really? Our society decays if we cannot sit at a table, break bread, and resolve our differences in love with the goal of healing.
What Leads to Hate and Apathy?
For evil to exist, good must exist. Evil without good is what? Try to answer that question. God does not deny the existence of Satan and Satan certainly acknowledges the existence of God.
Human history, even religious history, confirms that humans are not inherently good. We can do the most vile, violent, reprehensible, destructive, and hurtful things to one another and have done so since homo sapiens started walking planet Earth. How many more million years of evolution needed to get the destructive and hateful nature out of our nature? One has to hate and have apathy to do reprehensible things to other human beings. What leads to such hate and apathy?
No Pointing Fingers
I was shocked to read a book handed to me about the role of the Christian church leaders in the persecution of Jews. My best friends growing up in Meyerland, a neighborhood in southwest Houston, were Jewish. They could not have been more caring and loving than what I experienced with them in their homes. How could Christian church leaders have at times lead the charge to persecute such a lovely group of humans. Wasn’t it just a crazed Hitler in Germany who forced his army to perform the anti-Semitic atrocities? There is no group of people innocent of evil behavior on some level. So why is anybody pointing fingers?
Dealing With Good and Evil
I have to believe in good. Anyone who does not believe in good will dysfunctionally struggle intellectually, emotionally, physically, in relationships and in society. Why does our society look like we no longer believe in good? Know any dysfunctional people or people groups? Have you watched any flavor of news or social media lately? I wish the only thing the world could binge watch for just one week would be the Hallmark Channel and the TV series The Chosen. Why? Reality deals with both good and evil. Both are recognized as equally real and need to be addressed. I am not a TV or movie enthusiast but in general a good story (and all classic stories do it) identifies the antagonist and the protagonist and tells the story of the battles between them. Whether Hollywood believes in Satan or not, I don’t know, but they sure make more money than you can count portraying battles against evil. What they don’t often portray is the overcoming of evil with love.
How do we know good from evil? Where does that knowledge and deep-seated understanding come from, our Kindergarten teacher? Have you ever been truly threatened and terrified? In that moment, did you sense evil or good? Have you ever been overwhelmed with someone’s genuine love and concern for you shown by consistent action and not just words in a text? Did you sense evil or good then?
A Choice to Love
It is not rocket science. We were created (or we have evolved if you prefer) to know good from evil and right from wrong as human beings. Knowing this is not enough to make a difference in our lives or others’ lives. As suggested above, it takes action. Our motivation to take action for good and against evil is love. A whimsical-when-it-suits-me love is not what I’m talking about here. I am talking about a choice to love for the sake of others even when it is not easy, maybe even when it requires sacrifice. Often it does require sacrifice to love in a way that makes the world a better place. You may ask, “What’s in it for me?” and I would simply say, “Try loving someone sacrificially and get back to me with your answer to your own question.”
So why do I often fail at loving even my wife and kids with the love I describe? It always occurs when I put my wants ahead of their needs. Always. So why does a Christ-follower fail? Ooh, good question. Jesus told his apostles:
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. Well no wonder the world is not interested in Christianity. They don’t see the love with which Jesus loved his apostles and the love he pours lavishly on us. The world sees us acting towards each other no differently than the rest of the world’s citizens. What’s up with that?!
Again, the answer is simple. I did a Del Tackett bible study one time called The Truth Project. He asked a very significant question, “Do we really believe that what we say we believe is really real?” Go ahead, reread it.
Jesus’ Prayer for Us
Here is what Jesus prayed to his Father for us!
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:20-26)
Whew! Let’s break that down. Do we believe others will come to know Jesus through our word? Do we believe we have a relationship with our Heavenly Father just like Jesus does? Does the world see that in us? Do we believe we have the same glory that God gave Jesus? Are we “perfectly one” with each other and with God and Jesus such that the world will believe by what they see in us? Do we believe that we will be with Jesus and see the glory of Jesus in Heaven? Do we believe we have the love of the Father in us just like Jesus did as he walked this Earth? Do we believe Jesus is in us?
Only Worship God
One must conclude, apparently not. But hold on. Don’t you know some Christian people and some non-Christian people who have really healthy relationships that are so obviously good, that you find yourself drawn to them and want to be around them? Are they perfect? Are they perfect at loving others? Do they just choose relationships they know will work? No, no, and no. Do not put even these people on a pedestal to worship. Do not worship your grandparents, your significant other, your pastor, your rabbi, your imam, your priest, your youth leader, your teacher, your coach, your best friend, your favorite YouTube influencer, or movie star. Do not worship anyone but God. Everyone else will let you down at some point in some way.
Motivated by Love
Even those that love well still offend others at times. When given the chance to make things right, however, they do so in love and with goal of healing. They are not interested in winning the argument or proving themselves right. They are interested in restoring the relationship and the oneness with the other. For a maturing Christian, their motivation is love cultivated by the Jesus in them, the Father’s love in them, their oneness with Jesus and their Heavenly Father. For the non-Christian, they too are motivated by love. Perhaps their beliefs and their faith also promote loving they neighbor as thyself. Most religions do.
I have read various versions of Mahatma Ghandi saying why he, though very admiring of Jesus and having studied the Bible intensely, chose not to become a Christian. Here is one account: “Many years later, the missionary Stanley Jones asked Ghandi why he had not become a Christian. Ghandi replied, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” Ghandi said this after being rejected at the door for his skin color when attempting to attend a church service in India.
Do We Really Believe What We Say as Followers of Jesus?
If we really believe what we say we believe is really real as followers of Jesus, what happened to Ghandi would never happen at any church anywhere. Our young adults would not have abandoned the Western Church due to its flagrant hypocrisies and powerless beliefs. We would not allow our societies to decay into isolationism, judgment, and fear. We would counter every act of anger with a greater act of love. We would fight all injustices not for peace but for God’s glory. We would steam roll Satan’s lies with the Gospel truths. We would love our enemies so that they would know and love God. We would actively promote living in communion with our neighbors, family, coworkers and fellow believers so that we could continually recognize and cultivate the common human need of love by living life together. It is called community.
To be Loved by God
Our common human need is to be loved by the God who created us and Jesus who reconciled us and live one with him and his Father, our Father. Once we receive this unconditional love from above, then we can see into our neighbor’s eyes and experience their joys and pains, just like Jesus did on Earth, and then we can love them, and they can love us.
I am not perfect. If I have failed you, can we discuss it over some coffee?
Dr. Chris King is Texas born, raised and educated. He lived in Houston and then Midland before graduating from Texas A&M University in 1988 with a Biology Degree and then from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in 1992 with a Medical Doctor degree. Dr. King married his bride, Dr. Lori Massey King, MD in Galveston and together they completed a Family Medicine Residency at Memorial Medical Center in Corpus Christi, TX in 1995. Together they own and operate Timarron Family Medicine in Southlake, TX.