World War 2 was a fight for freedom from tyranny, and Winston Churchill led that charge. As we face the frustrations and inequities in America, I think it would be good to remember some of the philosophical underpinnings that helped the world overcome oppression 75 years ago.
“Wisdom is justified by all her children” (Luke 7:35, ESV).
COVID is spreading like a sinister wildfire smoldering its way around the world. It’s a time when we’re all very concerned about being “clean” and washing properly, so I think the account of Jesus failing to wash up before dinner is particularly noteworthy today. Jesus had been invited to a Pharisee’s home for dinner but was looked at critically for not washing up according to code before the meal.
Was Jesus simply too busy, or did he intentionally choose not to wash up in order to make a point? Either way, his statement (as was so often the case) seems like a skew line from the issue: “”Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also? But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you” (Luke 11:40-41). The apparent issue was personal cleanliness, but like God, his Father, Jesus didn’t look on the outward appearance. Jesus looked on the heart. In a room full of well dressed and carefully manicured guests, who actually qualified as being “clean”?
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet” (Frederick Buechner). This thought kept coming back to me as I pondered giving alms and the question of what is truly clean. The answer? Not those who have washed up, but those who have given out. Not those who have mastered social graces, but those who are actively following God’s call to meet the world’s deep hunger by giving “alms” out of their personal storehouse of deep gladness.
Do you know what “alms” are? I always thought the term was synonymous with “money,” but I was wrong! The term alms is only used 14 times in the Bible (New Testament), and the Old Testament sequel, “tzedakah,” literally means “righteousness.” It refers to doing what is right more than giving charitable monetary gifts. In fact, the Jewish wise man, Maimonides, rated “enabling the recipient to become self-reliant” as the highest form of tzedakah possible.
Jesus was the perfect example of this. There is no record of his giving money to help the poor, although he healed many people, enabling them to become self-sufficient and whole . . . a much greater benefit! This was also true of Jesus’s disciples: “Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6).
In the light of this, it’s not surprising that Jesus told the Pharisees to give alms “of such things as ye have.” What do you suppose they had? If they had wisdom to share or the power to heal, what gifts those would be! If they were truly just and righteous in their dealings with others (rather than being self-serving and oppressive, which is what angered Jesus about the Pharisees in Matthew 21) . . . well, that would have been wonderful too! If the deep gladness of their hearts had been a recognition of Jesus as the Messiah who had come to save the world from sin and set us free . . . what a blessing they could bestow on others!
Sadly, the Pharisees had none of these gifts to share. All they had was money, and they were careful to tithe, but not to use their money to care for others. Jesus had this scathing rebuke to offer them: “Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness” (Luke 11:39), and a few verses later he adds, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them” (Luke 11:44).
Just a question, but is there any chance you’re reading this and sense hypocrisy deep within your heart? Do you look pure, clean, and polished on the outside but know that on the inside you’re as dead as an unmarked grave? God does have a remedy, which is rebirth through faith in Christ. (Click on the “Coming to Christ” tab at the top of this page if you’re not sure what that means.) Jesus cleans us from the inside out. He can give us a gladness deep in our heart that becomes like a well of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:14). Out of that heart of joy will flow a desire to love others, pursue justice, and “give alms of such things as ye have.”
What are the “such things” that you and I have? Well, they are doubtless different, but God wants us to give to others out of the abundance of our hearts. “He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse” (Proverbs 28:27). It might be money to meet a need, it might be volunteering time to help teach, it might be writing a song, singing, sewing masks for COVID patients, knitting hats for cancer patients . . . there is no end to human need and no end to human creativity to help meet those needs. God wants us all to be “busy about our Father’s business” reaching out to others. I love the promise at the end of this command: “give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.“
Yes, COVID is spreading like a sinister wildfire smoldering its way around the world, and we’re all very concerned about being “clean” and washing properly! Yes, it’s a time when “reaching out” physically is much more limited, but we can still reach out spiritually, and if we want to bring joy to our Father—and still be as safe as we can be—if we want to be truly “clean”—then let’s share from the deep place of gladness in our hearts with those who are experiencing deep hunger! It’s important to keep washing the “outside of the cup.” (I sanitize and socially distance for sure, and Jesus said that tithing is good.) But, let’s remember that TRUE CLEAN is on the inside, in our hearts, and that’s what matters the most!
Text for this meditation: Luke 11:37-44, “And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat.38 And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.39 And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.40 Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?41 But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.43 Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.44 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.”
I know many of you are ready to pull out your hair with your kids confined to home 24/7, and I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it would be to have an emergency start in the middle of the year with kids in various grades, without any teaching manuals, and likely many parents trying to work remotely from home to boot. I totally and sincerely empathize! However, I also want to mention that home schooling, when planned for (and I spent my entire summers preparing for the school years), can be an amazing experience both for the parents and the kids.
Why am I on a soap box today shouting out praises for home schooling? Because some people are suggesting that home schools should be banned, probably based on personal frustrations over homeschooling, which is especially testing the patience and stability of homes during this COVID crisis.
If you’re among those who think homeschooling should be banned, please read this helpful article by a Harvard alum (PhD) who home schools her four children:
Kerry McDonald isn’t unique in being a brilliant woman who values her children’s education above her own career ambitions. My closest friend during our early homeschooling years had a PhD in statistics from Princton and gave up a glowing career to home school. Today I have friends who are both physicians, although the wife gave up her career to home school their beautiful family and told me not long ago that their oldest was just accepted into her alma mater for university training, so she felt relieved to know she hadn’t “failed” her kids.
I started homeschooling not because I thought it was a brilliant idea, but as a result of economic duress (which meant we couldn’t afford tuition for the Christian school where we were sending our two oldest). I was lamenting about our financial situation to my best friend, and she responded, “Kathi, the Lord is just backing you into a blessing! Try home schooling.” I didn’t think it would be possible. My oldest was eight and almost uncontrollable, not to mention the other three were two, four, and six.
We started timidly, thinking we’d just home school for one year, but by the end of the year no one was interested in returning to a regular class room setting. Why? Well, here were some of the unexpected pluses:
More freedom and time to grow and explore creatively. I think the biggest plus for my kids was the fact that as soon as they were done with their school work, they were free to pursue their own interests. They didn’t have to sit and wait for everybody else in the class to finish, which really cut down on boredom. The eager beavers also put positive pressure on their sibs to get done so they could play.
More input by parents as to what the children are learning. I don’t know if this meant much to our children, but it meant a lot to me. I loved being able to tailor our curriculum so that I was teaching the children spiritual and moral values as well as academic lessons.
Better able to tailor curriculum to fit your child’s individual needs. Not all kids are born academically equal, so to speak. I am deeply grateful for public education being available for all children in America, but of necessity it has to be geared for the average child, so children on either end of the spectrum do not have their needs met as ably. The closer to the ends of the bell-shaped curve, the less public schools are geared to meet the true needs of the child. So, home schooling is especially helpful both for children who have learning challenges and for those are particularly gifted.
Requires (and therefore develops) more independence on the part of the students. A dedicated teacher who only has to teach one grade or subject can focus all their attention on that subject or class during the day, and schools have a complete support staff to oversee all the other aspects of the children’s care. A mother in a home has to provide for every aspect of the school. She’s not only the teacher, she may be replacing several teachers (one per grade level or subject). She is also the principal, the maintenance man, the recess supervisor, the cafeteria personnel, and the child care worker (for any preschoolers). I remember being consoled by learning that butterflies need to fight for themselves to emerge from their cocoons in order for their wings to become strong enough to fly. My kids would get so frustrated waiting for me to finish helping someone else that they’d often figure out the problem before I could get back to them. It forced them to THINK!
Less “seat” time and more “hands on” time for learning. Learning didn’t end when classes ended. In many ways, I felt like the kids learned more in their free time than during their academic studies. They probably learned more “facts” studying math, science, history, English, spelling etc., but they learned more about how to live by living and doing.
More flexibility as a family. This was a huge advantage! Whenever Alan was available for a vacation week, the rest of us could go anywhere with him. We didn’t have to juggle nine schedules! My personal theory was that I didn’t want any kid to miss any really cool opportunity, and that was pretty consistently true over the years. If a special occasion came up, we could make time for it. (Just one small for instance, but Jon loved trains as a child, and one day he [and I] got to take a train ride with a real, live engineer (who was a patient of Alan’s). We could always take time to enjoy special community or church events, etc. Life was rich with unexpected prospects for adventures and learning experiences.
Bonds the family together. There is nothing quite so bonding as working side by side on positive projects, and spending your life working and playing together makes for some pretty tight, lifelong friendships. All of my kids are still very interactive with each other. Not all with all, but all with some. We were always active in a church community wherever we lived, and the kids also played with neighbor children (when there were any) and cousins, but to this day the kids still text and share and think and dream and joke together.
More variety and opportunity to teach and learn life skills. Before we started home schooling, we asked the kids if they’d rather go to the local elementary school or try home schooling, with the understanding that if we home schooled, they’d have to help me with family chores. They all signed on to the experiment of homeschooling, and they all learned how to do pretty much everything I knew how to do. We had rotating assignments for almost all aspects of home and yard care. We cooked, cleaned, babysat, shopped, gardened, and canned together. In the evenings after Alan came home from work, we played sports together—hockey, softball, tag football, volleyball . . . swimming, hiking, biking . . . whatever was going wherever we lived. They all had to learn how to play the piano, read music, and sing; they all learned how to sew on buttons and iron shirts. They learned how to handle money. They got comfortable with people of all ages. We got involved in a family music ministry and sang in rescue missions, camps, churches, nursing homes and college campuses. They learned to care about other people. They were eager to talk to adults and children . . . people of all ages. Shaking your hand and looking you straight in the eye came naturally.
Better use of family financial resources. When we realized we wouldn’t be able to afford tuition for our kids, the school offered me a job teaching high school English. However, I had two preschoolers whom I was unwilling to put into child care (which had nothing to do with the excellent school but everything to do with my passionate desire to care for my own little ones). Over the years, Alan would notice articles detailing the additional expenses incurred by a second family member working outside the home, and by most accounts, unless the second job is really high paying, it’s a “wash” as far as expenses and additional income. According to the 2015 documentary on The Happiest People on Earth, once a family has about $50 thousand (not sure exactly what the amount would be today), there is no perceptible increase in “happiness” no matter how much more the family earns (according to self-reporting research). In fact, the happiest people on the earth are not the richest monetarily, they are the richest in the love of family and community. Not only did we save thousands of dollars by home schooling, I believe it greatly enriched our family life . . . a trade I’d make any day!!
More control over influences in your children’s lives. We all love positive influences in our lives, but the more we can control negative influences, the better. Homeschooling doesn’t eliminate negative influences by any means, but hopefully it will lessen them. I also believe that the older a child is before being exposed to evil, the better able that youngster will be to recognize and handle problems. That being said, I failed to understand that evil lurks in the hearts of children (as well as adults, although I already knew that). If you home school, don’t assume your little cherubs are perfect and would be beyond lying, cheating, or any other problem that all people find tempting. We’re all just humans and need watchful supervision at all times! (One small case in point: One of my kids years later admitted to cheating on math during fifth grade. He kept wondering when I would catch him but finally realized I never would! [It didn’t cross my mind to suspect him.] Thankfully, when he realized that, he became honest because he knew that’s what he needed to do.)
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV).
If you have time, I’d love to hear your comments. If you home school or home schooled, any advice or tips? If you’re struggling with home schooling right now, any questions? If you’re considering home schooling next fall, anything else you’d like to hear about? Blessings~
Perhaps you’ve already seen this wise, practical approach to dealing with a plague. It was written half a millennium ago by Martin Luther to his friend, Reverend Dr. John Hess, while Europe was still trying to recover from the Black Plague that swept Eurasia during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, killing an estimated 75-200 million people. Luther’s letter is entitled “Whether one my flee from a Deadly Plague.” I think the advice is still as useful for COVID-19 as it was 500 years ago:
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
“For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth . . . that my name may be declared throughout all the earth” (Exodus 9:14,16).
The old “Spring Forward, Fall Back” way of remembering which way to turn our clocks for Daylight Savings Time is even more intuitive for most of us if we think about just how much harder it is to spring out of bed an hour earlier in the spring than it is to fall back into bed for an extra hour of sleep in the fall!
Some cheerful souls try to encourage us with comments like, “Just look at it as getting to have breakfast an hour earlier!”
I’m more in the zone with those who lament, “Why can’t the time change come at 8:00 pm. on Friday night?”
Or, “Why do they consider less sleep and less light in the morning a good thing???”
There are a lot of things in life that aren’t easy, but we do them anyway, just to be good sports or good citizens, or to conform to societal norms.
So, this Saturday night before I go to bed, I’ll change all my clocks so they’re one hour later, which means I’ll have to get up one hour earlier on Sunday to make it to church on time.
Although only 62 of 230+ countries use Daylight Savings Time (DST), it’s a small matter, really, don’t you think? I’m thankful for my cozy bed here in America, so I’d best keep my chin up and support the laws of the land! I’ve read that DST was first initiated to conserve energy during World War I but has continued to help maximize daylight hours for children going to and from school safely, and that’s certainly an admirable goal! (More than half our 50 states have legislation on the table to consider either dropping Daylight Savings Time or making it permanent year round.)
In any family, church, organization, or country, there are all sorts of rules and regulations that aren’t immoral but are inconvenient. As one who benefits from the good aspects of governing authorities, I will attempt to appreciate the spirit of the law and not groan when I have to get up “early” this Sunday!
“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well” (1 Peter 2:12-14).
Speaking of loving your neighbor as yourself, the 2019 A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is so much more than simply a true life recounting of the friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod!
It’s a story about learning to love and forgive.
Of love lost and love found.
Of reconciliation after injury.
It’s a wonderful example of how a modern-day saint (Fred Rogers) loved a cynical stranger (magazine journalist) and turned him into a lifelong friend.
This beautiful day in the movie world is G-rated and perfectly appropriate for young kids.
But, like the true classic it is, It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood has a deeply personal message for adults on emotional wholeness and healing.
I was also blown away by Fred’s genuine love for people (all people—great and small) and his gentle wisdom in living out what it looks like to be a good neighbor.
At one point “Larry Vogel” asked Fred’s wife what he did to keep being such a genuinely good person. Among other healthy habits, she mentioned that he read the scriptures every day and prayed for people by name. In an interview that I read after watching the movie, I found this quote by Tom Junod: “He clearly wanted me to pray. He clearly believed in prayer as a way of life. He prayed every day of his life. He woke up in the morning and prayed, and wrote, and prayed for people. And so I wrote that. The answer to: What did Fred want? He wanted us to pray. I have actually tried, since that moment, I’ve tried to pray.”
What a legacy to leave: A life of living like Jesus, loving your neighbors, meditating on the scriptures daily, praying constantly, and encouraging others to pray!
Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood ran for thirty-three years, beginning in 1968—the year I graduated from high school. His lifetime commitment to helping children earned him more than 40 honorary degrees and international fame, but he remained steady, kind, and humble throughout . . . using his life to serve others in love. What a beautiful legacy! I am sorry that I was “just the wrong age” to profit from his gentle teaching, but I am very thankful to Lion’s Gate for producing this inspiring story for all of us to enjoy!
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13, ESV).
(For more information on Fred Roger’s life and legacy, I reviewed the 2018 documentary about him, with some additional quotes, which can be found here:
Also, I’ve noticed that you can get dozens (hundreds?) of half-hour episodes from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood for free on Amazon Prime and can probably see most of his programs for free on Netflix or YouTube. My guess is that these gentle shows about life, our world, and learning how to deal with our emotions would still be helpful for small children today.
Did you know the “Golden Rule” wasn’t just taught by Christ but is a maxim of almost every religion and ethical tradition around the world? Most of us have known the principle behind the Golden Rule for so long that we can’t remember ever learning the concept—it was just always deep within us: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In fact, Romans 2:13-15 states that the laws of God are written within the hearts of all men, so that whether or not we receive specific teaching, we have been created with a conscience and the ability to discern good from evil: “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.“
Here are quotes from sources around the world, confirming global assent to the rightness of the Golden Rule:
“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD” (From ancient Judaism, the Bible, Leviticus 19:18, 1490 BC).
“That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another” (664–323 BC Egyptian papyrus).
“Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself“ (Confucius, 551-479 BC).
Ancient Greek texts:
“Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing” (Thales, c. 624 BC – c. 546 BC).
“What you do not want to happen to you, do not do it yourself either” (Sextus the Pythagorean, referenced by Origen in the third century AD).
“Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you” (Isocrates, 436–338 BC).
“By self-control and by making dharma [right conduct] your main focus, treat others as you treat yourself” (Ancient Indian epic, — Mahābhārata Shānti-Parva, c. 3rd century B.C.).
“That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself” (Pahlavi Texts of Zoroastrianism, Dadisten-I-dinik, 300 BC-1000AD).
“Do not do to others what you know has hurt yourself” (the Tirukkural, 1st century BC, Tamil [Indian] tradition)
“Treat your inferior as you would wish your superior to treat you” (Ancient Roman statesman, Seneca the Younger, c. 4 BC–65 AD).
“What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn” (Jewish tradition, by Hillel the Elder, in the Babylonian Talmud).
“None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself” (Islamic: An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith 13).
“Those acts that you consider good when done to you, do those to others, none else” (Hinduism: Taittiriya Upanidhad).
“And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself” (Bahá’í Faith,: Bahá’u’lláh).
“One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter” (Buddhism: Dhammapada).
“In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self” (Jainism: Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara).
“Precious like jewels are the minds of all. To hurt them is not at all good. If thou desirest thy Beloved, then hurt thou not anyone’s heart” (Sikhism: Guru Arjan Dev Ji 259, Guru Granth Sahib).
“Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss” (Taoism: T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien).
Furthermore, many/most non-religious ethical traditions agree, including most humanists, existentialists, and atheists. Some non-religious people explain this innate understanding as simply pragmatic . . . a type of reciprocal altruism inbuilt because it’s necessary for the survival of the species (and therefore a selfish, necessary good). You can believe that if you want to, but I do not have enough faith to be an atheist!
Looking within myself, I recognize a very deep egocentrism that makes keeping the Golden Rule a constant challenge rather than a natural practice. Being empathetic and kind does not come naturally to me at all. I am selfish at heart, and it is truly only by the grace and power of God that I have changed from utterly self-centered and self-absorbed into a “new creation” who does have some genuine love for others and concern for their well being.
Yes, I attempt to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” but I do it as a conscious act of my will, engendered and empowered by the Holy Spirit, out of a desire to share the love and goodness of God with others—because I have experienced the love and kindness of God in my life. I love God because He first loved me, and I love others—not because it’s just in my nature, but because God loves others and has asked me to love them as an expression of my love for Him. How about you? Do you love others “just because,” or do you have a reason beyond the theories of neuroscience?
Text for this meditation: Matthew 7:12, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.“
Photo above is of Yongsung Kim’s painting of Jesus as Eternal Life, used by permission of http://Havenlight.com
Yes, former CIA member, Tim Ballard, has founded Operation Underground Railroad to combat the fastest growing “enterprise” (criminal business) in the world: human trafficking. There are about 30 million people being trafficked worldwide in 2020, 8 million of whom are children, largely used for the sex industry or for harvesting organs. Tim’s voice message to the world? “There’s slavery, and it’s alive. It’s terrifying to talk about this. It takes guts to listen to this interview [link below] and guts to engage. You think you would have been an abolitionist. Now is your chance! There are more people enslaved today than ever before.”
Once I started listening to the interview on the Candace Owens Show, I couldn’t stop! I’m going to share a few of his most cogent points, but if you think slavery is wrong and should be eradicated, please take time to listen to the discussion. A few “must knows;”
*The U.S. is the greatest problem, because our nation is the world’s largest consumer of trafficking services. This is shocking and horrifying. No wonder we are accused by some as being “the Great Satan.” We need to repent as a nation and pray for an end to this grotesque immorality.
*There’s been a 5000% increase in child rape videos in the past few years [we’re talking 5-7 year-olds, not teens].
*Should we legalize prostitution? According to Ballard, no, but we should not be prosecuting prostitutes. Rather, we should be prosecuting pimps. If we legalize prostitution, children will be even more terribly abused. We must protect children. (Listen to his explanation; it makes sense.)
*Should there be a “wall” of protection between Mexico and the U.S. “YES!” Ballard cited the case of one young woman they rescued who was kidnapped and taken through the dessert of Mexico into the U.S. She estimated that she had been raped 60,000 times before being freed and said if there had been any opportunity at a border, she would have cried out for help. (Editorial note from me: Victims are frightened for their lives in most cases if they’re not too drugged.)
*What can we do? In Michigan, there is MAP (“Michigan Abolition Project”). If you want to learn more or help support those who are on the front lines, I can now recommend two international organizations:
Operation Underground Railroad is working in 25 states within America and in 22 countries around the world. Their website is:
“But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:22-23).
Some topics are a joy; others are painfully difficult. This is one of the latter, but the subject of same-sex attraction has become one of the most prominent issues in our culture today, and it’s beginning to touch the lives of so many both in and out of the church that I feel led to address it. I’ve actually read a lot of books on the topic over the past couple of years, and rather than individually reviewing them, I would like to recommend a few of the ones I’ve found most helpful for trying to understand what’s going on.
Frankly, facing questions about same-sex attraction have almost become routine for our young people today, although it was virtually non-existent (as an issue) just one generation ago. (Both Alan and I first learned about homosexuality in college at the end of the 1960’s but we never even heard the term “same-sex attraction” until post 2000.) Today it’s an in-your-face everywhere issue that all young people have to negotiate. If you have children growing up in the public schools, you can be sure they will be exposed to the opportunity to consider whether or not they prefer the possibility of sexual interaction with their own sex over that of the opposite sex. Even children with robust heterosexual inclinations will be asked the question and have to consider it. So, “same-sex-attraction” is going to be on their radar, and many children and young people will find it confusing.
As parents, I think it’s important to be able to listen, guide, counsel, and give our children space to make wise decisions without responding with revulsion. I don’t think same-sex-attraction is any different from any other temptation, and as human beings, we all have to face and deal with the temptations in our lives. Our sexuality is ingrained in every cell in our body (literally), and controlling our physical appetites for food and sex are among the most difficult lifetime challenges all of us face. There’s no shame in this; it’s just acknowledging the reality of our human natures. However, how we respond to those challenges makes a huge difference in our lives and can deeply effect our wholeness and holiness.
If you are a parent with a child (or adult offspring) who is struggling with same-sex-attraction, I would like to recommend Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story, by Dr. Christopher Yuan. This 2018 book is up to date with the latest research while maintaining a balanced, sensitive approach, written by a professor at Moody who himself struggles with same-sex attraction but is living a vibrant, holy life of faith. Two other excellent resources for parents (or mature young adults, as they are heavy reading—can you tell by the covers? 🙂 ) are:
Kevin DeYoung. What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015.
Robert Gagnon. The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. Nashville: Abingdon, 2002.
If you have a young person who has taken a firm stand that he/she has committed to a gay lifestyle, then I highly recommend two more books for your own mental and emotional health:
Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope. This 2011 book was co-written by Christopher Yuan and his mother, Angela and gives insight into the problems and pains of both the parent and “child” (offspring), with a lot of opportunities to think through what was and was not helpful to them, and what might be most beneficial as you pray for and continue learning to love your own son or daughter.
Another excellent resource is When Homosexuality Hits Home, published by Joe Dallas in 2015 through Harvest House Publishers. This book definitely tackles the arguments from both sides (with talking points), but it also gives some really practical advice on topics like how to negotiate family boundaries, whether or not to attend same-sex weddings, and what does love look like in the face of grief?
This Thursday, I’ll be discussing the arguments found in Karen R. Keen’s book, Scripture, Ethics, and the Possibility of Same-Sex Relationships, recommended to me by a young friend who was studying for the ministry before recently deciding that it’s okay to be gay. The author of this 2018 book describes herself as someone who was a celibate gay for sixteen years but is now reconsidering her position. I’ll let you know if her deliberations change my opinion on what the scripture teaches, but meanwhile, I would also like to hear your thoughts! Thanks! I’d also appreciate your prayers, as this is one of those hot topics that’s sure to discourage some of my followers, more than a handful of whom self-identify as homosexuals. Blessings on you all as you seek to walk in the Light!
“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
If you’re more apt to listen than buy a book just now, here’s a link to a very helpful and insightful discussion with Dr. Christopher Yuan on his latest book, Holy Sexuality. (Dr. Jonathan Armstrong, the interviewer, also teaches at Moody and is my son, so this conversation was especially interesting to me! 🙂 )
Have you ever had the experience of looking into someone’s eyes and feeling light and peace, like you can see straight into their soul? I have. I have also had the experience of looking into someone’s eyes and sensing impenetrable darkness, like a black, iron curtain has been drawn to keep me from understanding their thoughts. One makes me feel loved; the other gives me the creeps! Do you know what I mean?
In today’s text for meditation, Jesus warns us not to judge others, but to “first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). I want to consider and contrast the “beam” and the “mote.”
“Beam” has many meanings. All biblical translators and commentators seem unanimous in their opinion that Jesus is using hyperbole and referring to a large timber used for construction, but I’m such a concrete thinker that this word picture never really makes sense to me. You can’t have a literal beam of timber in your eye, because no eye could contain something that large. I’ve heard preachers try to explain it by saying it’s probably just a splinter that looks like a beam of wood to the person who has it in his eye. However, a splinter would totally block a person’s vision and be terribly painful. Anyone with a splinter in his eye naturally goes into a state of emergency and can hardly think of anything else until it’s removed.
No, this “beam” has gone unnoticed by the person. It is of huge significance, but it has blinded him and made proper judgment impossible, even though he is oblivious to this truth. So, that’s made me think about other possibilities for what Jesus could have really meant, and it occurs to me that a beam can also be a shaft of light.
A mote—on the other hand—is a speck . . . just a tiny particle . . . a bit of dust floating through the air and drifting across a shaft of light. If you put those two thoughts together, it makes a beautiful picture of what Jesus might have intended for us to understand on the spiritual level regardless of how we interpret his metaphor! Could it be that Jesus is warning us that when we judge and condemn others, we are most often doing it from a state of our own darkness. Our understanding has become skewed. We are not thinking God’s thoughts; we are judging based on our own selfish, self-serving opinions. Our heart has become blind, and what’s coming out of our eyes are beams of darkness that cause ourselves and others to stumble. Jesus points out, “Can the blind lead the blind?” (Luke 6:39).
Look at the orchids above. Only the ones that have been illuminated with light are clearly visible. There’s no way we could we know if there’s a tiny mite or a speck of fungus threatening the health of the flowers in the background which are out of focus and in the dark. Similarly, I think Jesus is telling us to cast the beams of darkness out of our own eyes so that the Light of life can illuminate us from within. Then, and only then, can we see well enough to know what the real needs of our friends are . . . and not simply what they are doing that irritates us!
Also, I love the vision of a mote as a tiny fleck floating along through a beam of light. Although specks of dust can be seen in strong shafts of light, most of them are insignificant and will drift into obscurity before long. I wonder if God, with his infinite patience, watches us with longsuffering, knowing that the bits of dirt in our lives will soon enough pass into oblivion, cleansed away by gentle puffs of the Holy Spirit.
Are we casting beams of light or darkness to those around us? Do you suppose others sense that we love them—or are they feeling creeped out? Does the light in our eyes illuminate or darken others? How much better to concentrate on becoming filled with Light! Then we will see more clearly to give others true help . . . and I suspect many of the motes that are so disturbing to us now will float away . . . or at least turn into mole hills. 🙂
Want more light in your soul? Look up at Jesus. Fill your heart with his Word, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). “They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed” (Psalm 34:5). Jesus said, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18). “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Shine On Us (—Phillips, Craig and Dean)
Lord, let Your light Light of Your face Shine on us Lord, let Your light Light of Your face Shine on us
That we may be saved That we may have life To find our way in the darkest night Let Your light shine on us
Lord, let Your grace Grace from Your hand Fall on us Lord, let Your grace Grace from Your hand Fall on us
That we may be saved That we may have life To find our way in the darkest night Let Your grace fall on us
Lord, let Your love Love with no end Come over us Lord, let Your love Love with no end Come over us
That we may be saved That we may have life To find our way in the darkest night Let love come over us Let your light shine on us
Passages for today’s text: Luke 6:39-42, “And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-6, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.“