Public Shaming, Monica Lewinsky, and the Gospel

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Referencing the great presidential scandal of 1998, Monica Lewinsky said, “I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.”  It has taken her over a decade to speak publicly about what has happened and what she experienced. Before we really understood stories going viral on the Internet and before social media had really taken its root, public shaming ripped apart Monica Lewinsky given her a new identity.

Now, with the growth of social media, the Internet is possibly best known for the spread of these shaming stories. Almost weekly we hear news of another story that I cannot imagine does anything but rip apart the identity of the person. And one shaming gets replaced with the next one. One moment it’s the story of a pastor caught in the scandal, the next week a political figure, the next moment the latest hollywood divorce… shame, shame, shame. [Read more…]

Decorations Don’t Matter

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Over the past month or so my family has been in the midst of a transition. About a month ago we got keys to our house and for the past several weeks, we have been doing project after project trying to prepare the house for us to live in.  Now, for those of you who don’t know me – I have very limited skills in construction projects.

Nonetheless, we have done project after project, painting and tearing down walls and putting new ones up, removing carpet, and moving boxes.  And moving more boxes.  One of the things that’s interesting in the midst of these never-ending house projects is that none of the work is actually determining whether or not our house is going to stand throughout the night. None of our projects are actually determining whether or not our house is a safe place to live.

In the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus concludes his sermon he uses a construction metaphor to describe the Christian faith. And Jesus speaks of the foundation. He speaks of the part of the house that we rarely see, yet is so incredibly important.

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Our Worst and His Best.

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In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has a loaded, profound statement when he says, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

In the Scriptures, the Pharisees often get a bad rep. But that’s not what’s happening here. Jesus often condemns the Pharisees and teachers of the law, highlighting their hypocrisy. In this Scripture, Jesus is holding them up as an example of good Christian behavior. Because when it comes to good behavior, the Pharisees do it right. They are always on their best behavior; they are the pinnacle of holiness. The Apostle Paul at one point refers to his own life as a Pharisee and suggests, “Based on my righteousness according to the law, I was faultless.”

How good of a Christian do you have to be to be able to call yourself faultless?

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The Original Formula


In 1985 the Coca-Cola Company introduced a new formula for their flagship soda. Perhaps this may not seem like a big deal, but keep in mind I’m not talking about adding a new product like Cherry Coke, Diet Coke, or Vanilla Coke. Coca-Cola did the unthinkable and decided that the original Coca-Cola needed a new formula.

Obviously, we can guess how America would react to such a decision.

I’m not old enough to remember such a suggestion, but based on my reaction when my soda at McDonalds doesn’t have the right carbonation, I have a feeling that I wouldn’t have been too fond of the changed formula.

In 1985 the problem that Coca-Cola was experiencing was that they suffered from a severe case of corporate amnesia. Coca-Cola forget what makes Coke, Coke.  The same thing happens in the Church all the time.

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What’s In it For Me?

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There is one question that has the potential to bring more harm to our relationships than any other.

“What’s in it for me?”  Without even thinking, our natural bent is so often apt to ask this question. We are constantly looking out for our own benefit.  Perhaps you’ve experienced a conflict in your home or with a coworker or classmate; how would that conflict be different if nobody asked, “What’s in it for me?”

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The Worst Sinner of All Time

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Who was the worst sinner of all time?

If we create a list of historically significant sinners, I have a feeling our list would be filled with people like Stalin and Hitler. We’d fill our list with the figures behind mass murders, bombings, terrorism, or serial killing. And rightfully so, when it comes to the atrocities of the evil that these people committed, it is unparalleled.

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Work, Mondays, and the Theology of the Cross

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Monday often means stress, deadlines, burdens, and anxiety.  It becomes the day when we dread the overly cheerful coworker who makes our day worse by suggesting, “Sounds like somebody has a cased of the Mondays.” Another day at work means worrying whether or not your boss is going to micro-manage you or ignore you. Work means worry about what your coworkers might say or the weight of being in a job that is underpaid and under appreciated. From the daily grind of bosses and deadlines to the grueling reality of balancing a budget and trying to put food on the table, work is often a weight – sometimes an unbearable one.

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Nakedness, Shame, and When Christian Leaders Fail


Noah is one of those Bible characters that we love to tell our children about. We sing songs about the arky, we remake movies based on his life, and we lift him up as one of the early heroes of the faith. And in many ways, he is a hero. But there’s also a part of the story that we tend to leave out.

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.

When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”

He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.” – Genesis 9:20-27

Imagine what that must have been like.

Noah was the man that God chose to start over with and moments after the flood, we witness one of the first moral failures from a leader of God’s people. Noah, who was the only righteous person left, gets off the boat and ends up drunk and naked with the door to his tent flapping around in the wind.

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Abuse Doesn’t Get the Last Word


Renee Alston, in the book Stumbling Toward Faith, begins her story with these disturbing words:

“I grew up in an abusive household. Much of my abuse was spiritual—and when I say spiritual, I don’t mean new age, esoteric, random mumblings from half-Wiccan, hippie parents…I mean that my father raped me while reciting the Lord’s Prayer. I mean that my father molested me while singing Christian hymns.”

What do you say to someone who experienced this?

Abuse like this is far too common. One treatment provider suggested that offenders are all too good at keeping this hidden, especially in our churches, “If children can be silenced and the average person is easy to fool, many offenders report that religious people are even easier to fool than most people.”

Abuse, lying, and systems hiding abuse, make talking about grace with the abused incredibly difficult. Love gets tainted by manipulation and power; grace gets covered by oppression. And regularly occurring stories from victims of abuse, repeatedly remind us of the pain that exists in our world. We may not even realize it, but we all know someone who has been impacted by the trauma of abuse.

How in the world are we supposed to find words to speak, when somebody’s experience of Christianity comes from a manipulative, abusive father?

How are we supposed to talk about grace to somebody who thinks they need to be forgiven for their own abuse?

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An Alternative to Accountability Partners


One of the most frequent recommendations within Christian traditions when dealing with habitual sin is to have an accountability partner. If you’re unfamiliar with the jargon, an accountability partner is a friend, preferably of the same gender, who struggles with a similar sin who will routinely check in with you to see whether or not you are having success in your battle against sin.

Accountability is a good thing.Having relationships with people who are willing to not ignore your sin but ask about it and call you out on it is necessary.  But there’s one problem that tends to be present in these accountability relationships.  They are heavy on the law and light on grace.

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