Jesus on healing broken relationships

We should always take the first step to fix our damaged relationships, no matter which side of the breakdown we’re on

Healing RelationshipsThere’s an old cliché in Christian circles – often said half-jokingly, but through quietly gritted teeth: “I love everything about Christian ministry apart from people.” It’s a cliché laced with bitter irony because, of course, so much of the Christian life and ministry is about people and relationships. Yet it acknowledges the painful reality that relationships are always difficult, because people are always flawed and sinful. We all make mistakes. We hurt others, and we get hurt.

The Bible is the most realistic of books, dealing directly and honestly with the reality of our sin. And that means it contains forthright, practical wisdom on handling broken relationships. Continue reading

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When Prime Ministers Attack: Faith under (friendly) fire

What can we learn from the Australian Prime Minister throwing his own faith under the bus to win political points?

Screen Shot 2013-09-06 at 2.51.11 PMIn case you haven’t already heard, the Australian election campaign took an interesting turn this week when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appeared on Q & A (a current affairs interview program in Australia) and was asked a question about ‘same-sex marriage’. Rudd went into full flight, launching a passionate defence of the change of heart that has seen him become a vocal proponent of what he calls ‘marriage equality’.

Continue reading

God and Caesar: On the limitations of government

JFKWe Christians are a strange, motley bunch. Part of the glory of the gospel – and part of the joy and the challenge of life together in this world – is that God draws us together as his people from such diverse backgrounds. When we come together as his people, united as brothers and sisters in Christ, we bring with us an enormous range of quirks and weaknesses, experiences and strengths.

This wonderful diversity in the Christian community also means that we bring with us all kinds of passions and commitments. Sometimes, sadly, trivial matters can become our consuming desire, and yet we might remain coolly indifferent to things that really should put fire in our bellies. Sometimes, however, it’s just a matter of personal preference; the things that excite one person leave the next person unmoved, and that’s okay.

Where does politics fit into that mix?

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Don’t Waste Your Vote – Part 2

Badge - 2008 election

Four tips on how to vote

In this series, I’ve been aiming to help you put together the biblical pieces on how God thinks about government, and how Christians should therefore think about and interact with our governments. Last time, we looked at seven ways not to vote. In this post, we’re looking at four ways to vote. Continue reading

Don’t Waste Your Vote – Part 1

Seven tips on how not to vote

Green TickAs I’ve listened to my Australian friends talk about the upcoming Federal Election, one thing has become clear: no election in living memory seems to have inspired so much apathy and disappointment towards the major parties. Without commenting on whether or not this sense of frustration is warranted (which it absolutely is), it’s obvious that many people are feeling disillusioned enough to even question the value of their vote. But is that a healthy way for anyone (let alone Christians) to approach the privilege of casting a ballot? How should Christians approach the God-given opportunity to vote? Continue reading

The Gospel And Who To Vote For – Part 2

Martin Luther KingIn the first of these posts on Christians and government, I began to outline how the Bible describes and understands earthly governments. We saw that governments are God-given authorities, instituted for the good ordering of society and worthy of our respect. So in our second post, it’s time to think more about how Christians should (or can) interact with their governing authorities.

Being good citizens
For starters, Christians should be good citizens. That statement is too general to mean much on its own, so it needs a little unpacking. As we saw in the previous post looking at Romans 13, being a good citizen will mean paying your taxes willingly and honestly. We’ll abide by the law, not just because we don’t want to get punished, but because our conscience tells us that if God has placed an authority over us, we do well to obey that authority. Continue reading

The Gospel And Who To Vote For – Part 1

Part One of a five-part series on how to think biblically about our governments, and about our vote 

DenariusThey do say you’re not supposed to discuss politics or religion in polite company. In this series of posts, I’m going to boldly (or maybe foolishly) attempt to do both at once! And I can guarantee you I feel unqualified to talk about this – at least about the political side of things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m interested in politics and I think it’s vitally important – even if much of what I’ve learnt about it comes from The West Wing. But it’s not my specialty. And who could ever do justice to two areas of thought that are so profound and so varied? Continue reading

“Same-sex Marriage”: What I would have said

As I watched last night’s parliamentary debate, I started pondering what I would say if I were an MP with a chance to address the nation on this historic night. Sam Seaborn or Toby Zeigler I am not, but here’s what I came up with

RingsMr Speaker, as we meet tonight in this chamber, hundreds of thousands of people around the nation are watching and anticipating not just our decision, but our discussion. And so I’d like to address my comments to some of those who are watching tonight. Specifically, I’d like to directly address the members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities for whom tonight is so important. Indirectly, I’m also addressing the countless New Zealanders who share your hope that this bill will pass.

I must begin by saying that I oppose this bill, even though the horse has bolted and, clearly, this bill will pass. Why? Why oppose a bill that many have claimed is all about human rights, freedom and equality? Am I scared? Am I a homophobe, or a bigot? Am I just a bluff old traditionalist? Let me explain where I stand. Continue reading

Not even a hint

I’m a bit slow with things like this, but the first time I realised there was a problem was when I looked at the Facebook status of a good friend of mine. A Christian woman. A godly woman. A smart, switched-on woman with a lot going for her. But her status said, “I like it on the…” (I’ll keep it general, to protect the guilty).

I thought someone had hacked her Facebook account.

But then I scrolled down. One woman after another, telling me where they “like it.”

It’s about then that I started to figure out there was some viral marketing campaign at work. It was a little while longer before I bothered to find out what the campaign was about. But it wasn’t until the next day that it really struck me: this was a highly sexualised, and therefore completely inappropriate, attempt to draw attention to a very real issue for women.

In case you missed the whole thing, someone dreamed up the idea of letting people know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month by encouraging women to update their Facebook status to say, “I like it…”. You were meant to finish the sentence with the place you like to keep your handbag – ‘but keep it a secret from the men’ (insert girlish giggle). The reason it would successfully raise awareness is that it would all sound sexually suggestive, and would therefore grab people’s attention. I suppose the idea was that people would then ask, “Hey, what’s with all the ‘I like it…’ status updates?” To which you’d reply, “Well, it’s breast cancer awareness month, you see…”

And well done you – you’ve just done your bit to raise awareness of breast cancer.

But here’s the problem it took me a while to see: You’ve also done your bit to contribute to the sexualisation of breast cancer, and to the overall sexualisation of women that is rampant in our society (especially young women, the dominant users of Facebook).

There are two reasons I’m bothering to object to this. The first is by far the least important. Whoever was behind this ‘clever’ marketing ploy is really not clever at all. They’ve just pandered to the lowest common denominator of sex. A trained monkey could’ve done that. It’s lazy, and in the process it makes them part of a big problem.

The great thing about social media like Facebook is that it’s now so easy to genuinely raise awareness of something like Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Why not get women to post somerthing like (as one friend of mine did), “Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women between the ages of 15 and 54, and the second leading cause of cancer death in women 55 to 74. Ninety-six percent of women who find and treat breast cancer early will be cancer-free after five years”?

If every woman on Facebook wrote that, you have actually done a great job of RAISING awareness of breast cancer – not just using sex to make people ask, “What the…?” Cut out the middle-man of unnecessary sexualisation, and achieve an even better result!

But beyond that, for me as a Christian (and as a Christian pastor), there was a much more worrying aspect to this: How many solidly Christian people seemed to go along with this campaign without a second thought. In short, it showed how many Christians are swallowing the world’s way of thinking about sex.

Maybe there’s someone out there who was blissfully naive enough to not see the blatant sexualisation involved. Maybe. But I doubt it. I suspect that for most people, they saw it as a harmless, innocent campaign that would achieve something good – and all the prudes out there can just get over it.

But therein lies the whole problem. It made me realise how deeply we as a society – and therefore we as Christians today – have succumbed to the sexualisation of anything and everything.

In Ephesians, the apostle Paul tells Christians in no uncertain terms that they must steer clear of this type of stuff. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” (Ephesians 4:29)

He goes on: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” (Ephesians 5:3)

I know all this might make me sound like a sexually-repressed prude. That’s alright with me. This campaign has made me realise something: I would rather give 50 people reason to believe I’m a sexually-repressed prude, than give one person reason to believe I support the sexualisation of women that goes on everywhere and leaves people deeply damaged.

Once my five-year-old daughter becomes aware enough to pick this stuff up, that’s most definitely what I want her to know (not to mention my two young sons…). They’ll figure out soon enough that I know sex is a great thing – a gift from God to be received with thanksgiving and enjoyed within marriage. But for now, I’ll risk being written off as old-fashioned and prudish if it means I can be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

I know on the surface this campaign was kinda harmless. But we can’t deal with problems like sexual immorality on the surface. We need to go deeper. We need to see that people are deeply hurt by giving in to our world’s view of sex, and Christians need to swim against the stream with all their strength at this point.

We need to understand that the world is watching, our friends and neighbours are watching – and they’ll pay attention to Christians and to the gospel NOT when they think we’re really just the same as them after all, but when they see that we’re different! You don’t get to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world and a city on a hill by giving in, one little bit at a time.

Christians have something far, far better to show the world: a view of sex that brings real freedom and lasting joy, revealed to us by the God who offers forgiveness and healing to all who seek it, through the cross of Jesus.

Not even a hint…!