What to do When They Hate You

I was a freshman in college at West Chester University, seated in my Humans and the Environment class in September, 2001. The professor made her way into the room holding a sheet of paper she had printed from “the Internet.”

She told us that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers, paused, then started class.  After it was over, I waited for the bus from North Campus to pick us up and return us to our dorms.  When it arrived, students exited and many were visibly upset.  I had no idea what happened.

Until I flipped on the television.

In the span of a morning, almost fifteen years ago now, everything had changed. We woke up on September 12th with a new view of the world.

We realized that someone out there saw America as an enemy. They hated us.

flight-sky-clouds-fly

Flash back years before to middle school.  We had just purchased our year books.  The tradition was to pass around our books so others could sign them.  I remember looking in the back of someone’s book and seeing a paragraph mentioning my name with a derogatory comment.  This person had signed every book in the same fashion.

He didn’t like me.

Now we are living in one of the most exclusionary times in recent memory. There is a race to victimization, to rebel, to grasp for power against imperfect systems.  There are people calling themselves believers holding tight to fear, prejudice, and discrimination.

Jesus told us we would be persecuted by those in the World as we followed his teachings, but to not worry as he had overcome the world.

There is a calendar hanging at work, one with the Bible verse “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” on the month of September.  I had one man tell me he would forgive me for hanging it up and that he was offended.

So how do we respond?

Two things to think about:

1-Does your faith drive or pull you? God doesn’t owe us anything. Yes, Jesus taught us how to pray and told us that God will answer prayers, but is that the point? God is not the ATM in the sky.  God is the force that calls us to make a difference.  Faith is not a transaction or condition.

As humans we believe, then shake our fists at our suffering.

Faith is an engine.  It is the power driving us forward to rejoice in all circumstances, to pray without ceasing, to love those who hate us, to live without the pull of guilt. To follow Jesus in a new and radical way of existence. Faith and grace are hand in hand, erasing the transactions and evening the balances.

2-Can you let go?

Stephen, in the Bible, was the first person killed for his faith.  We read that, as he was stoned, he prayed for the forgiveness of the men killing him. We also read that, as he was dying,  the heavens opened and Stephen saw Jesus standing at the throne of God. This is the only point in the Bible where Jesus is noted as standing by the throne.

In Kentucky, there is a clerk defying the Supreme Court and refusing to offer marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on her “faith.” There is a scene where Jesus is asked about paying taxes to Rome.  He replies with a question about the image on a Roman coin.  The crowd tells him that Caesar’s image is on the coin. He then says:

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.

He tells the crowd to pay their taxes.  Be good citizens and still own their faith.

She needs to do her job because she claims to follow Jesus, the issuer of the commandment to Love our Neighbors, not close the door in their faces.

I remember the middle school yearbook because it hurt me.  We remember all our scars and moments of pain. Our faith allows us to keep moving, be shaped into a new creation, and watch the scars turn into beauty.  When our focus shifts to others, we find peace.

I don’t know about you but, right now, peace is exactly what I need.

~Matt

Live Dangerous

I love James Bond. Even growing up and catching the Bond movie marathons on Saturday afternoons. From Connery to Daniel Craig, the character is a classic hero.  He gets the beautiful woman, cool toys, and victory in the end, driving around in the newest Aston Martin. He faces danger on a daily basis.

Then I look in the mirror and realize how far away I am from the tuxedo and Casino Royale.

CRAFT

Are you taking risks?

I’m not talking facing down a bad guy.

What dreams haunt you in the night as your spouse sleeps at your side and the house settles? What conversations are waiting to happen?

What is a dangerous life?

It is being a parent and going the extra mile when you don’t have an ounce of energy left.  It is standing up for a coworker when they face times of trouble.  It is stepping out in faith and radical love that demolishes the walls of race, creed, and orientation.

It is going against the grain, against expectations, and seeing your ideal life play out before you.

There is peace in danger, in movement. There is energy in the flow that draws us forward.

So join the game, sit down at the table, throw on your tuxedo and order your martini shaken, not stirred.

Make a goal of taking a risk this week and see where it takes you.

~Matt

 

What We Get Wrong

tranquility

Mistakes are only mistakes if you don’t learn from them. 

A crisis always brings opportunity. Change only happens when you wake up and realize you’ve had enough.

I had heard these three phrases in my last book interview with Commissioner Christian Leinbach. It took reading all the headlines about the fiascos in Indiana and Arkansas for me to realize just how much they apply.

This week we celebrate Easter, the remembrance of the ultimate act of love and sacrifice. People normally not in church will join their families out of obligation. We get dressed up and go through the motions. We try to follow the example of Jesus and there’s only one problem.

Our love is skewed by:

Politics, money, agenda, race, poverty, preconceptions, difference…

We are told to have open arms, not ask for admission tickets at the door. Jesus broke down walls. He went into the shadows. His table was available for anyone and everyone. He called those on the outskirts into the center.

In doing this, he angered enough people to end up on the cross.

There is hope.

We must learn from our mistakes and seize our opportunity.  We must, as parents, writers, business owners, and believers decide that we’ve had enough.

The agenda is simple. It is time for a shift back to Jesus, to the one radical enough to change the world.

So, on Sunday, celebrate the one who loved us enough to give up himself and set us free.  Then go and do the same for others

~Matt