Why Explore Christianity First?

So you’re a non-religious skeptic and you’ve just received a flyer in the mail from a local church about coming to one of their Easter services.  You’re tempted to just throw it in the garbage.

Your mind says that you should explore this religion first before just rejecting it out of hand.  To reject it without having properly investigated its claims or at least going to a few church services, would be intolerant.  

But if you’re going to explore this whole religion thing, why start with Christianity?  Why not start with Islam?  Why not start with something like Confucionism?

Before looking at the other religions, it makes perfect sense to check out Christianity first. In fact there are five reasons why you should consider checking Christianity out first.

It Makes Good Sense to Start with Christianity 

The first reason you should start exploring Christianity before any other religion is it is falsifiable. In 1 Corinthians 15:14, we have a verse that is abnormal in comparison to other religious texts.

and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is without foundation, and so is your faith. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

-The Apostle Paul

This is the toughest way to start a false religion. If I were going to start my own religion, I would set it up to where the divine knowledge is found in you. After all that would be subjective and there’s no real way to falsify that way of thinking. Many of the world religions have followed a similar line of thinking. Hinduism, Buddhism and especially Mormonism rely on experience. Islam is slightly different because its truth claims actually rely on objective fact, however, Muhammad never gave his followers a way to verify his own claims. The closest thing we have to evidence in the Qur’an is that Muhammad said the Qur’an is so beautiful when read aloud that its beauty is self-authenticating. But even that claim relies on a subjective way of thinking and therefore doesn’t work.

A second reason a sincere seeker after truth should start with Christianity before any other religious tradition is grace. Why not check to see if Christianity is true if the easiest way to heaven is just by grace through faith? In the other religious traditions, you have to work and work and you may not even get into heaven after that. You could spend a lifetime working your way to God and never succeed. While on the Christian view, you receive forgiveness for the sins you have committed against God by turning from those sins and placing your trust in Jesus.

In his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Philip Yancey relates a story about C.S. Lewis that I think is relevant. He writes:

During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods’ appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death. The debate went on for some time until C.S. Lewis wandered into the room. ‘What’s the rumpus about?’ he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded, ‘Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.'[1]

-Philip Yancey

A third reason you should consider the truth claims of Christianity first is that Jesus is the very focus of it. So many of the world’s religious groups have an opinion on Jesus Christ and Jesus even appears in the sacred writings of many faiths. When you look at the early traditions of some of the great world religions, they almost always have an opinion on Jesus (this is true of their modern adherents too). We’ll put aside the theological cults of Christianity that have Jesus in there in some form or another. Ancient Jewish believers described Jesus in the following way: He was the son of Mary;[2] had many disciples;[3] was a miracle worker;[4] claimed to be the Messiah;[5] was crucified on the cross;[6] and his followers reported he rose from the dead.[7] Jesus is even mentioned in the Qur’an more times than Muhammad and Muhammad is supposed to be more important than Jesus according to Muslims. According to the Qur’an, Jesus: was born of a virgin;[8] was to be revered;[9] was a prophet;[10] was a wise teacher;[11] was a miracle worker;[12] ascended to Heaven;[13] and in addition to that, Muslims generally believe Jesus will return in judgment.

But what about the varying views of Jesus within Hinduism? The variations within Hinduism are a product of the complex and divergent set of views within Hinduism itself and so for this reason, there is no one set of beliefs that all Hindus adhere to when it comes to the person of Jesus Christ. Hindus may see Jesus in one or more ways: a holy man, a wise teacher and/or a “god”.

Like Hinduism, Buddhism provides no singular unified view of Jesus although a number of Buddhists will describe Jesus in one or more ways: an enlightened man, a wise teacher, and/or a holy man. There are even some Buddhists who will talk about Jesus as if he and Buddha would have been close spiritual brothers had they lived in the same time period. While others will openly claim that the Buddha reincarnated as Jesus. These portraits given by the different world religions are merely shadows of the very center of the Christian faith. Why not just start with Jesus in the search for truth?

 A fourth reason to consider exploring Christianity first is because it has the best worldview fit. Let’s take evil and suffering in the world as an example. While Christianity readily admits that there is evil and suffering in the world, most if not all eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism deny evil exists. Evil is just seen as an illusion in these worldviews. Western New Age adherents have a similar view on evil. Their worldview, provided by their religious beliefs, does not fit with what is actually true in the real world.

A fifth reason to consider Christianity before any other religion flows from the fourth reason. In the Christian worldview, you live a non-compartmentalized life. You’re not a Christian on Sunday and an atheist the rest of the week. It’s because the Christian worldview actually corresponds to reality that you can be a Christian every day and you don’t have to change your worldview when interacting with the real world. Buddhists and Hindus have this problem. While denying evil, Hindus and Buddhists have to live a compartmentalized life; denying evil religiously while interacting and even acknowledging it in everyday life.

Methodologically speaking, this is not a way to determine that Christianity is true but merely a few reasons why a reasonable and sincere truth seeker should consider looking into Christianity first.

End Notes

  1. Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), 45.
  2. The Toledot Yeshu
  3. The Talmud, b. Sanhedrin 43a
  4. The Talmud, b. Sanhedrin 43a; t. Shabbat 11.15; b. Shabbat 104b; The Toledot Yeshu
  5. The Toledot Yeshu
  6. The Talmud, b. Sanhedrin 43a; The Toledot Yeshu
  7. The Toledot Yeshu
  8. Qur’an 19:18-22
  9. Qur’an 4:171
  10. Qur’an 6:85; 3:49-51; 5:75
  11. Qur’an 57:27; 61:14
  12. Qur’an 2:87; 3:49; 3:46
  13. Qur’an 3:55; 4:159

The Fruit of Following God – Part 12: Walks by Faith

Hebrews 11 is the chapter that summarizes so many demonstrations of faith in the Bible. In some ways, it is amazing that the author of Hebrews wrote such a short compilation since evidence of faith is seen throughout Scripture. Of course, the author did write:

“And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets…” (verse 32).

One might even ask, “What about Job?!” Nevertheless, God’s people indeed “walk by faith, not by sight,” (2 Corinthians 5:7). And we cannot walk by feelings either, although the presence of feelings and emotions about the Lord are not to be dismissed as inappropriate in the Christian life.  As we trusted Christ for our salvation from sin and hell, so we must continue to trust the Lord through our entire lives.

“This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4).

The disciple of Christ learns to trust God though the good and the bad, during the blessings and the trials. In his prayer life, the disciple is able to express desires and hopes and to cast his every care and worry upon Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Jesus exhorts the burdened in His day and assures them of His help when He says,

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

As growing disciples, we gradually learn that God has a plan for us and that He also has the power to provide for us. And He answers prayer. We can give Him our worries (Luke 12:22-26) and our future (Matthew 6:34) as He knows every need of our lives (Matthew 6:25-34). The disciple lives a life of faith even when the feelings and the sense of the presence of God is missing. Habakkuk learned this lesson as Babylon hovered over Israel and the threat of losing everything loomed large. The Lord told him, “The righteous shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). Habakkuk finally reached a point of resolution, recognizing that even if he were to lose everything, He would still have God and he could rejoice in that assurance:

16 I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. 17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:16-19)

This is the walk of faith: trusting God when all that you have is God.

I still recall working on a construction site in west Fort Lauderdale, Florida as a new Christian back in the summer of 1973. There was a Hispanic worker named Louie serving on the same site with a crew separate from ours. But he found out that a lot of our crew were Christians, as we were serving together during the summer with a Navigator ministry summer beach project. He was excited to know this, since he had just recently become a Christian. The joy in his salvation was evident and although his English was somewhat limited, he and I could both talk together about our newfound faith. But one day Louie came to work and it was obvious that he was “in the dumps” emotionally. His joy and happiness were missing – he was a young man who wore his heart on his sleeve. When I asked him what was wrong, in his simple English he replied, “God seems gone. I don’t feel Him with me.” I had been there before, so I explained to Louie that sometimes God intentionally removes His presence (or a sense of His presence) to test us and to strengthen our faith. He wants to see if we love Him or His blessings more. Louis seemed to understand and in time he was back to his “old/new” self. The Westminster Confession of Faith states that sometimes

“God withdraws the light of His countenance”; yet believers are “never truly destitute of that seed of God” in their lives (18:4).

This is what it means to walk by faith, clinging to Him and trusting Him even when the darkness appears to be prevailing!

Silent Night, Lonely Night

For many, Christmas is not merry; it’s not a time of good cheer and joy.  It’s a poignant time where sorrow and loneliness are palpable, even overwhelming.  Many will sit down at a table filled with delectables as they do every year, but will do so without someone they love.  In many homes financial frustrations will abound and family discord will often resurface.

This is what you might call common grief.  A grief that a great swath of us know and experience year in and year out.  It’s the grief of illness, or loss; the grief of painful memories from the past or disappointment.  These griefs are intensified during the holidays.  Sahaj Kohli, a blogger with the Huffington Post comments in a recent article introducing their new forum “Common Grief” for folks who are suffering:

“For people dealing with grief and loss, the holidays can magnify loneliness, sorrow and social isolation — all potential factors leading to depression.” 1

But there is a deeper grief that some experience that you and I know little about.  Folks who will not be able to access internet forums, counselors, or conference rooms.  These people lay down in cold alleyways to sleep with no presents and nothing to eat during Christmas.  They will have no family to smile at them, to give love to or receive love from.  They will listen to the sounds of distant Christmas parties, laughter and carolers from a distance.  From their shopping carts, park benches, or trash heaps, they will shed tears that nobody is there to wipe away, forgotten by the whole world.

They are the homeless.

No amount of tinsel or lights could ever fix such sorrow.

Operation Silent Night

But these are the very folks that the team over at Silent Night ministries will seek out this Christmas Eve.  From their website:

The holiday rush is over, the shops are closed. It’s Christmas Eve and the city streets are seemingly empty. But wait…not just this night but every night there are over 700,000 homeless in the United States. Over 250,000 of these are unsheltered, sleeping on our streets.  Operation Silent Night takes place every Christmas Eve when we gather a few friends and go to the streets to be with those forgotten homeless.

Preparations have already begun for this year’s push and soon these volunteers will storm the streets of Washington DC to share the love of Jesus Christ with these precious forgotten souls who also bear the image of God.  Sue Thomas, the founder of Silent Night ministries writes on her blog:

“Yes, tonight begins the journey to Washington, DC where over 8,000 people are homeless and over 600 sleep on the streets on any given night. What began ten years ago with two single women serving 25 hot sandwiches continues to grow each year!

The lunch truck will be packed tonight along with the shuttle bus holding the backpacks, pillows, comforters, coats and hoodies. Tomorrow the gas tanks will be filled and propane filled to have the ovens and large coffee maker ready for hot chocolate.” 2

Christmas Commercialization

The commercialization of Christmas has only made the problem worse, frankly.  While tangible items can help some, Santa Claus cannot bring a present big enough to take these deep sorrows away.

Only one can do that: Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus is “the reason for the season,” and it’s absolutely critical that we never lose sight of that, because Jesus, unlike our modern day genie-in-a-bottle Santa, was a man of sorrows who was acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3).  From the moment Jesus left his heavenly home to come into the world all the way up to the day he died, his life was surrounded by tremendous pain and suffering.  This is the Jesus that the folks at Silent Night ministries hope to bring to the homeless each Christmas.

At birth Jesus was welcomed into this world by a King who was seeking to kill him because he felt threatened by prophecies and signs that suggested Jesus was to be a great King.  He was born into a family surrounded by the scandal of a mother who was pregnant before marriage in a highly religious culture with a story that few believed.  As Jesus matured and stepped out into a life of ministry, he was rejected by his family who thought he was a lunatic.  Jesus had few friends and often had no place to stay.  The power brokers of his day hated him and were constantly seeking to expose him and trip him up.  His friends and followers were made up primarily of a bunch of rag-tag nobodies, with little money or influence; men and women who were constantly questioning him, doubting him and failing him.  Virtually the whole Israelite nation at the time failed to grasp the teachings of Jesus and misunderstood his entire ministry.  Finally, after a life living in complete love and self-forgetfulness, Jesus is abandoned, betrayed, and wrongfully killed.  All but one of his original disciples not long after Jesus death were eventually killed too.

Whatever your grief is this Christmas, if there ever was one who could understand the pain you feel at Christmas, it is Jesus of Nazareth.

Come to him with all your sorrow. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench” (Isaiah 42:3).  He will love you.  He will weep with you and help you to carry your pain.  And, if you trust him, he will one day bring you to himself in Heaven, where he has prepared a place for you.  A home.  An eternal dwelling where you will never want or lack.

  1. See her post titled “Introducing Common Grief: You are Not Alone”, found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/common-grief_56731341e4b0648fe302a328?utm_hp_ref=common-grief.  Accessed on 12/22/15.
  2. See the full post at http://suethomasministries.org/2015/12/21/21-december-2015-1653/. Accessed on 12/22/15.

Saddest Christmas Song Ever

Advent brings out an interesting mixture of emotions for me. On one hand, I remember the Decembers of my childhood and the anticipation of Christmas, presents, and an obscene number of cookies. As I’ve grown older, though, I’ve been initiated into “grown-up Christmas.” Finances can pinch. Weather can threaten. But more than anything, Advent is a time when we remember what we’ve lost. We think about loved ones who won’t be attending the family Christmas party. Divorce, addiction, and death break the shiny image of our culture’s “perfect Christmas.” Loneliness is never more acute than when it seems everyone else isn’t suffering from it. The colder temperatures make it physically harder to bridge those emotional gaps. For large numbers of our neighbors—including our neighbors in the church—it really isn’t the most wonderful time of the year.

Thank God for the gift of music, which gives us a way to express the truth in a way that engages our hearts as well as our minds. I hope you don’t think it’s strange, then, that I’m so thankful for sad songs at Christmas. I need songs that help me express the sadness and longing that, to my surprise, sprout out of my heart during this season. Without them, I wouldn’t just feel cut off from the people around me—I’d feel cut off from God.

Perhaps the saddest song for this season is the medieval “Coventry Carol.” Set in a minor key to a haunting melody, the carol tells the saddest part of the Christmas story: Herod’s panicked order to kill every male child under the age of two in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:13-15). The song, presented from the perspective of the women of Bethlehem, laments the impending doom of “the holy innocents,” as church history has remembered them. Here are the lyrics, which have been updated very little over the centuries:

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing
By, by, lully, lullay?

Herod the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor child for thee!
And ever morn and day
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
By, by, lully, lullay.

(You can listen to a beautiful choral arrangement on YouTube here. For those with more eccentric tastes, Sufjan Stevens’ version is just as beautiful. You can find it here.)

Why do I love this song so much? First, it’s a beautifully bittersweet song of loss and mourning. But secondly, I’m comforted at the deepest level of my heart to know that I am not the first person to feel sad around the holidays. Far from it! In fact, the very first years following Christ’s birth were marked by pain in the holy family itself: the pain of out-of-wedlock teenage pregnancy; the pain of staying committed to your betrothed despite the shaming whispers; the pain of fleeing from violent authorities and sojourning in a foreign country. In other words, the song encourages me to remember that Jesus knows what it’s like to suffer at the holidays.

As a Christian, I am part of a big, timeless family that has always shed tears, not in spite of following Jesus, but precisely because of him. Jesus’ own mother would have her soul pierced to see the humiliation and death of her beloved firstborn (Luke 2:35). Our brothers and sisters around the world who are persecuted for Jesus’ sake in prisons and in slums simultaneously remember the unspeakable joy and the unspeakable sorrow that is theirs only because of Jesus. Those of us who feel abandoned by our friends and families, who have made decisions with devastating consequences, who have to bear the scars of sin within and without—Advent and Christmas are for us. They always have been. And, because our suffering Savior is now our triumphant King, they point to a time when no more children will die, and the sufferings of this present time won’t compare to the glory we enjoy—provided we suffer with him (Romans 8:17-18).

Image credit: “Sorrow” by Alexander Boden via Flickr, license CC BY-SA 2.0. Original was cropped to fit slider.

Why Should Christians Help the Poor?

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
     learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow’s cause (Isaiah 1:16-17).

“Extreme poverty” is  a moniker oft-used to describe a level of living for human beings that far exceeds the poverty experienced in most Western nations.  In a slum, we see tin, corrugated roofs attached to mud and stick homes, occupied by the lame, diseased, addicted, abused, trafficked, and enslaved.  There is violence, abandonment, young widows and little orphans without number.  The elderly squat in a miserable existence, waiting for their inevitable doom.  Was kann Mann tun? (German for, What can a man do?)  We say this with our hands in the air, looking to the heavens.  I’ve experienced this melancholy sadness, having been in a slum area in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia a number of times.

The overwhelming experience of being in a slum causes us to wonder: Are we fighting a losing battle when we “fight poverty”?  Why are some nations poor, while others are wealthy?  Who are the poor?  How should poverty even be defined?  Or, is it like pornography: it’s difficult to define, but you know it when you see it?  These are all crucial questions.  This post is simple enough, as it will address the reason(s) why Christians are to help the poor.

The Christian view of helping the poor is more than just giving people medicine, or training them in engineering, or fostering relationships with government officials e.g. “spreading democracy.”  The gospel renews people and gives them hope in a God who is sovereign, loving, and good, and has power over disease and evil. 1

But how does all of this eliminate poverty?  Surely, someone would argue, a set of religious beliefs, while giving people hope for the “next life” are abstract ideas that have no real bearing on the here and now.  But the Christian hope is not for the “hereafter” where we “fly away to heaven.”  No, the Christian hope is rooted in Christ’s prayer he taught his disciples to pray: “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” (Matthew 6:9-10).  The Christian view is that, given the goodness and blessings of the gospel, we can have hope for this life, as well as the next.  To wit, the gospel teaches government officials to treat people with fairness and justice.  The gospel teaches husbands to love their wives and be faithful to them, and to treat their children with tenderness.  The gospel teaches us to say “No” to ungodly and destructive additions.  The gospel changes lives to let people know they must give an account of their lives to the Lord, and it changes them by the healing presence of the Father, who fills the heart with love.

Christian hope for the next life gives us hope now.  For Jesus died and rose and we too, after we die, will rise to be with him forever when he returns to us (Romans 6:7-9).  We will be with him in a “new heavens and a new earth,” (Isaiah 65:17Isaiah 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13Revelation 21:1).  The reason why Christians help the poor then, from a theological standpoint, is because we are to proclaim the kingdom of God (or, the reign of God), which is the good news that Jesus is Lord (Romans 1:1-4Ephesians 3:7-13), and that Jesus has come to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).  Jesus is “Lord” as opposed to any other ruler, president, king, or dictator.  Such news gives freedom to the oppressed, because the oppressed know that the oppressor will not always oppress.

We therefore do the aforementioned good works of compassion because we have the confidence that God is in the business of healing the nations.  We are commanded to visit the widow and the orphan in their distress, and to remain unspotted from the world (James 1:27).   We must also heed the warning of Jesus in Matthew 25 about not neglecting the poor.  “I never knew you,” he says to those who neglected the poor.  It is remarkable, then, how the atonement of Christ compels us to help the poor; for God entered our world and suffered, and so too, we are called to enter the world of the poor, suffer with them, and show them the compassion of Jesus.  2

image credit: “Hard Working Child” by karlhans is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. The original was cropped to fit the slider.

  1. For a scholarly text listing numerous miraculous events from all over the world, see Craig Keener’s (Ph.D, Duke) two-volume set, “Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts
  2.  For an excellent documentary on global poverty, see the film, Poverty Inc.

What a Friend for Sinners

Imagine this bleak scenario: you find yourself convicted of a terrible crime and sentenced to life in prison. The conditions are terrible: filthy cells, meager food, and no relationships with people you can trust. The longer your sentence goes on, the worse the suffering becomes. The only way you’re leaving will be in a casket, but you don’t know which scares you more: the thought of living the rest of your life in torment, or the thought of your life ending without a final change in your circumstances. With the only options being suffering and death, you are, in a crushingly real sense, hopeless.

Now imagine that, miraculously, you are given the choice of a single friend. The first option is of a guard in the prison. His power means that he can provide you with better accommodations and food, but it also prevents him from ever engaging you in conversation and sharing in your pain. Or you could choose a fellow prisoner as your friend: someone who can’t do a single thing to change your conditions but who can make life better by sharing your pain as a fellow sufferer. Neither can fully redeem your misery, but both can help in their own way. Which would you choose?

I’m tempted to write something along the lines of “I hope nothing like that ever happens to you!” Yet everyone who reads this finds him- or herself in a not-too-dissimiliar situation. Many of us suffer physically or mentally, unable to alleviate the pain that’s just there every day. Even those of us blessed with good health, happy backgrounds, and material comforts fight inner demons, experiencing the anguish of frustration and loss on a deserted island in the middle of an ocean of prosperity. Even the kings and queens of our world know that, even if their lives consist of nearly perfect joy and happiness, their lives will end in either a bang or a whimper. To paraphrase the great theologian Johnny Cash, God (through death) will cut us all down.

The writer of Hebrews (an even greater theologian!) is writing to provide hope to the hopeless and encouragement to the suffering. He tells us that the answer to hopelessness is not changing our conditions but knowing and trusting a person, Jesus Christ. Not only does he, as the King of all creation, have the power to turn our mourning into dancing; as a fellow human being, he has the experiences to fully understand our real and painful suffering. Look at what he says:

In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.”

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death— that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
— Hebrews 2:10-18

On top of the reasons we’ve already seen in the letter so far, why should we trust that Jesus really matters in our suffering? First, he is the author (or, as the original word could also be translated, the “pioneer” or “esteemed founder”) of our salvation. He himself experienced the suffering of human life in a broken world, and he himself experienced ultimate vindication through his glorious and awesome resurrection. We can trust him because, like no one else we’ll ever meet, he can look at us as an equal and say, “I know how much it hurts.” When Jesus fulfilled the words of the Old Testament that are quoted in verses 11 through 13, the emphasis is on the words “family,” “brothers,” and “children.” Jesus knows what it’s like to stand in a group of worshipers and sing and pray alongside people who suffer Monday through Saturday. Jesus knows what it’s like to have to take God at his word, even when his circumstances made that difficult. Jesus doesn’t look at us in our brokenness and weakness and feel awkward about being related to us. He’s not ashamed of us — he’s one of us.

How is that possible for someone who, as our Savior, had to be all-powerful and unopposable? According to verses 10 and 17, the better question would be, “How could he not suffer with us?” By God’s logic, the Savior had to be a sufferer. It wouldn’t have been fitting for him to forgive us without absorbing the penalty of our sins himself. The devil, who “holds the power of death” (verse 14), had to be defeated in battle, not appeased through a treaty. God’s justice meant that sinners had to suffer; God’s love meant that sinners had to be saved; God’s plan meant that he would send his own Son to be a suffering sinner. And because of that, “he is able to help those who are being tempted” (verse 18).

Which would you rather have: a powerful but unsympathetic advocate, or a compassionate but impotent buddy? Jesus Christ is both greater than us and equal to us, and he is able and willing to bring you to glory.

Why We Will Wear Orange On Sunday, May 17th

On May 17th, 2015 many of us at Red Door Church will wear orange.

Egyptian Christians taken hostage in Libya were decapitated on video by members of the Islamic group ISIS.  The martyrs were wearing orange.  We’ve seen multiple rounds of Christian executions now, though executions in general take place regularly it appears.

“Following ‘takfiri’ doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. The lack of objective reporting from its territory makes the true extent of the slaughter unknowable, but social-media posts from the region suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks. Muslim ‘apostates’ are the most common victims. Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government.” 1

We wear orange to remember the Christian martyrs in particular–and their families–and those who are being forced into subjugation under the Islamic State.  More broadly, we wear orange to remember so many that are suffering across the world in one way or another.

  1. Taken from Graeme Wood’s recent article Published online in The Atlantic, “What ISIS Really Wants.”  The article can be found here: http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/. (Accessed on 5/15/15)