Aug 11 2011
Can You Really "Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin"?

They say you can't "love the sinner, and hate the sin."  It's not possible.  If you love someone, you cannot hate how they are to themselves or others.  If you love someone, you must accept the entirety of who he is.  All of it.

As a scholar, equipped with (that's right) a Bachelor's Degree from a Fully-Accredited Institution, I humbly, respectfully, and collegially submit:


Proof?  Exhibit A:  Me.

I hate some of the ways I am, and some of the things I do.  I hate, hate, hate it.  I do not approve.  I cast aspersion.  I think I'm a moral mess.  I should wear the scarlet alphabet, plus some scarlet numbers and maybe some scarlet wingdings.

...but I don't hate me.  No, I'm pretty taken with me, actually.

I loves me some me.

In spite of my moral failures, in spite of my sin, I still manage to want what's best for me.  I'm rooting for me, big time.  I'm in my corner.  I'm on the me bandwagon.  I carry around a picture of me in my wallet.  I hate some stuff I do, some ways I am, but I'm here to tell you, I still manage to pray for blessings to be poured onto my head.

If there's one person whom I know is a real selfish jerk, it's Me.  I can't know your motives, but I know Me, and I can manage to come off unselfish for selfish purposes.  I know it, you know it, the American people know it.  And you know who I'd like to see win the lottery?  Me, of all people!

Figure this:  There's only one guy whose moral failings are amply displayed in front of me every waking moment.  And I actually put that guy's pants on for him every day.  I shop for him.  I pay for his entertainment.  I try to make him look nice.  I floss his teeth.  I take him to the bathroom.  It's way gross, but I want this guy to succeed.  I'm apparently pretty taken with him. 

And so is everybody, with themselves. Even those who deny God will violate their own convictions at times, and yet -- they care for themselves.

Yep, love the sinner, hate the sin. 

Sounds not only tenable, not only do-able -- it's almost like breathing.



Aug 04 2011
On Giving Up: A Response to a 16 Year-Old Girl

Hi Brant, I'm Jane.

Just another 16-year-old girl.

And I don't know if you have time for this, probably not, but I need someone to talk to right now, and some advice. And my friends have their own problems, so I don't want to bother them with mine, mostly because they can't really help me, but I felt like I needed to reach out to someone, and you seem like a good guy, so, anyway...
I seem to be growing further and further away from Jesus. Not that I'm doing anything bad or committing any serious sins, but I just can't seem to get close to him. A while back, I was doing pretty well with it. But it's always the same old thing. I'll surrender everything to him and decide that from then on I'll try my hardest to live how he wants me to live, and be in 'constant prayer' or at least talk to him. But that never lasts very long. Pretty soon I'll never really pray and just kind of neglect him. And then that'll make me feel guilty and I have to start all over again. And that's happened so many times that I've stopped believing in myself and know I won't be able to keep that sort of promise to him, because I never have before. And now I'm at the point where I just don't care. I don't want to be like that, but I am...
I don't trust him. I don't know what to do.
I know you're busy, but if you could give me some advice, it would be appreciated more than you realize.
Thanks. I love your show, by the way.
Hey Jane!
I love your question.  And I really like you.  Not to make light of your situation;  I just love it because it's so honest, and -- more honesty, here -- few will voice it, though MANY feel it.
I hear you about the cycle of re-commitment, failure, guilt, silence, re-commitment, failure, guilt...  MAN, have I been there.  And I have an idea for you.
Give up.
Seriously, I recommend this.  It's scandalous in many Christian circles to say this, but I mean it.  You will never, ever, ever, be able to get yourself together enough, morally, to think you're finally acceptable to God, or that things are finally "okay", somehow.  Ever.  Or, if you did somehow think that, you'd be deluding yourself. 
You're being perfectionistic, in the sense that your language reveals that you're holding out hope to finally be in "constant prayer" and finally keep all your promises.  But you won't ever do that.  So it's a prescription for not only misery and anxiety, but ultimately, becoming a person who can't love other people, a busy-body, and no fun to be around whatsoever.

Paul writes that when you've "put on Christ" the Lord no longer sees your sinfulness, He sees Jesus.  And He is very, very pleased with Jesus. This is the scandal of the Gospel itself, and you've likely heard it before, but hearing it isn't the same as really getting it. 
You tried the moral thing, you tried making promises, you tried all that, but you keep blowing it, and you always will. 
So give up.
P.S. -- And, oh, by the way, once you've done that, and realized that God hasn't left you, isn't angry with you, isn't wanting to punch you in the mouth, you might actually start to fall in love with Him.  Seriously.
So you go a few weeks without really praying.  You don't think DANG IT I'VE BLOWN IT AGAIN! -- I WON"T EVEN TALK TO HIM NOW!  You'll think, "I miss Him.  God, I miss you.  Here's what's going on..."
And, when you love Him, He promises He'll give you the desires of your heart.  Bear in mind, those "desires" will change, for the very reason that you now love Him.  You'll find your desires changing.  You'll be more loving, more joyful, more at peace, more patient...  Ironically, after giving up the morality/religion game, you'll become more of a lover of God, and, quite possibly, a better "moral" person.  You'll want different things. 
And a person who wants different things is a different person, entirely.  Maybe a better moral person.
But make no mistake:  The better morality is not the end goal.  Knowing God is.  Christianity is not a philosophical ethic, a construct, or a system of ideas.  Other religions are about the discovery of those systems.  Jesus doesn't point at a system, He points at Himself.  He's it.  This is a relationship.
Yes, I grew up in church.  But I like God now.  He brings actual rest.

...and, from that rest, you'll be a blessing to people. Check THIS out, from the Bible's book of Ephesians. NOTHING you can do will save you. And yet - more good news! - God's got some wonderful work for us to do. Stuff you're made to do, even. And it becomes joy, knowing where we stand, finally.
Yeah, when He's got your heart, your behavior will change, most likely, but it's borne of the fact that you LOVE Him now, and FREELY respond to Him, rather than mire yourself in a life-long, busy-body guilt cycle.  You begin to actually trust Him, begin to suspect you're safe with Him, and then everything else becomes easier to take, including stuff that seemed like the end of the world. 
Shoot -- seriously -- the end of the world gets a little easier to take.  Everything becomes kinda funny, even.  Heaven will have lots of laughter.
Anyway, I, for one, gave up.  And boy, do I feel better. 

Jul 26 2011
A Few Tipping Points

It's not a secret, and it's not a small deal.  We talked about it on the show, yesterday:  Church folk are rotten tippers.

It's not "church-bashing", it's reality, and it's confirmed by listeners to the show who are churchgoers, themselves, and waiters, and who wind up apologizing to their coworkers for their fellow Christians.  "Oh come the Jesus people..." -- they actually hear this.

It's mind-boggling, and here's why:

1) We're being served, people. 

Jesus, whom we presumably worship and seek to emulate, is s Servant to servants.  And make no mistake, when you go take yourself out to a restaurant, you are hiring servants for yourself.  Previously, in human history, this was something only royalty could dream of, actually HIRING people to find and prepare your food, and bring it to you, responding to your wishes.

If you suspect you are owed this, that this is a right and normal order of things, having other humans wait on you, you haven't quite "gotten" this Kingdom thing yet. 

2) We're supposed to be the generous ones.

And, in fact, church-folk, particularly conservative, Bible-belt people, ARE more generous than others, and not to just to church-related causes.  (See the book Who Really Cares, by Arthur Brooks)  But that generosity, for whatever reason, hasn't extended to the very people in front of them, working for a living.

We're the ones who believe, presumably, our security doesn't come from money, and that we're given money to bless others with it.  So here's a golden opportunity.

3) People somehow still think it's "better" to give wait staff a tract, because "giving them Jesus is so much more valuable than giving money."

Fine, give them a tract, if you feel compelled... next to a hundred-dollar bill.  I'm serious.  A "Jesus" that doesn't demand sacrifice, isn't radically and joyfully loving, and rewards service with propaganda isn't a Jesus many will be attracted to.  Sorry.  Plus, he doesn't actually exist.

4)  It's great practice.

Being radically generous in everyday situations merely breeds more generosity.  I love what Dallas Willard says:  "What you believe isn't what you SAY you believe, it's what you actually do."

5)  A generous heart isn't all about "tithing"

I actually heard this, more than once:  "Why would I give a waitress 15% when I give God 10%?"  Seriously.

Nevermind that you give yourself, apparently, 90%, by this calculation, and that you just took yourself out to dinner, to be served hand-and-foot by, perhaps, a single mom trying to put food on her own table. 

(Funny/sad:  A mom and waitress calls in yesterday, saying she gets the occasional tract-instead-of-a-tip.  "I'm a Christian -- I'm actually hoping for some money for my labor.")

Tithing, in the OT, takes various forms, and adds up to more than 30% of agricultural crops.  In the New Testament, church-folks should know, it's quite clear:  God owns 100% of your money.  Enjoy being radically, freely, cheerfully generous with it. 

See if God lets you go bankrupt.

6)  Wouldn't it be kinda awesome if Jesus-lovers were the crazy-generous tippers, the ones who most rewarded hard work, the ones who were the servants of servants...?

I say we do it.  Perhaps, someday, the servants near the kitchen actually say " come the Jesus people..."