I’m not telling you anything new when I say that it’s not okay in our current culture to speak openly about your faith. Some folks are offended and threatened by one propagating their faith. Frankly, some of this makes sense because the object of one’s faith contextualizes faith. If the object of my faith is different than yours, we share but one thing: a need to believe in something. And everyone believes in something.
What I came to learn is that Christian apologetics is the part of Christian theology (the study of God) that gives a rational defense of the Christian faith. The word “apologetics” is a derivative of the Greek word apologia that, according to Wikipedia, means “giving an explanation or reply and to rebut the charge”. In other words, telling people the reason why you believe what you believe. What it definitely isn’t is saying sorry over and over when asked about my faith.
Fifty three times the term “the angel of the Lord” is used in the Bible(1); first used in Genesis 16:7 and the last and only New Testament use was in Matthew 1:24. This meaning of term differs from “an angel of the Lord” which appears 11 times and is widely considered to be any angel sent by God.
We are afraid. We struggle with fear. We feel threatened. Scripture tells us this is true if we have yet to be perfected by love.
Sometimes it’s obvious when we are afraid. Something bad has happened and we fear the worst. We hear of layoffs and we just know it’s our turn to be out there looking for a job. Our phone rings late at night and once again our minds run to the faces we know and love. We are awaiting the test results from the lab while bracing ourselves for the worst possible news.
Practical and specific questions regarding human sexuality are good, not bad. The way to get to the best answers is to ask the right questions. I don’t think I have ever been asked the question found at the top of this page; however, I believe it is the best question to begin the discussion about sexuality.
The first part of prevention is to seek understanding. I have found that many of our relational problems are rooted in the wounds of our past. The past deforms our abilities to relate and resolve conflict if we do not apply understanding to “why” we feel the way we do and “why” the other person feels the way they do. The aged old saying, “Walk a mile in my shoes” still makes a lot of sense when it comes to calming down and bringing some grace into a situation. As Stephen Covey has written, “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” This is very good advice.
When we are thoughtful enough to mourn the condition of fallen humanity, it develops a sense of reality within. When we “get real,” our sense of need and love for God grows. It then motivates a Christ-like compassion for people – even those who hurt us. This is a radical love provided to us by God. His love and forgiveness heals our wounds.
Remember, the power of rendering justice has been given to the resurrected Christ. Justice has been accomplished through Christ and will be carried out by Christ. When we refuse to forgive, we clog up our vessel with sin and stubbornness, thus impeding the power of Christ working in and through our lives. This disobedience frustrates the grace of God which is designed to flow through us.
Most followers of Jesus know they should be people of forgiveness. They understand the need to be forgiven and yet struggle to forgive others. The process begins once we embrace the idea and engage our will to be people of grace.
But the question of “how” remains. Many have said, “I know I need to forgive and I want to pardon those who have hurt me but I don’t know how. How do I forgive those who don’t deserve it?” It’s a legitimate question.
Relational people have a gift of navigating through the mountain roads of friendship. Somehow they have a realistic sense that friendships come and go as a normal part of life. Reasonable people realize when they have hurt others and need forgiveness. They recognize their own humanity and as a result give the same grace to others that they seek for themselves. In this life, we are over-looked, misunderstood, unappreciated, and even “used” from time-to-time. That’s par for the course. Even worse, some of us have been abused, betrayed, assaulted, or worse. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior is brother to a fallen and self-seeking society. But it doesn’t mean it is the only way to live. There is a better way.
It doesn't happen much but God woke me up. Laugh if you want but when it happens, even this soft American pastor knows it's time to get up and listen. I woke up tossing and turning while my mind was still hearing the frustration and questions of three friends. I guess I did not realize that simply listening was not enough this time. The Lord is asking me to respond.