Archive for February, 2022

I’ve been reading those dystopian novels for a reason. I see a soft Brave New World kind of totalitarianism on the horizon. It may be closer than it appears.

In addition to not putting our trust in kings and princes (or presidents and governors), we should recognize that government, while ordained by God, is used by Satan as represented by the Beasts in Revelation. He exerts his earthly authority through government to persecute God’s people (see Revelation 12-14). This is exactly why we don’t look to human rules but to Jesus the King of kings and Lord of lords.

As I think about various Covid protocols, I process it through this grid. The government wants to be god over us. You may think differently, but like rebellious man trying to take the place of God, governments are ruled by rebellious people who want to control others because they think they know better than you how you should live.

One of our church members gave me a copy of Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents by Rod Dreher. Dreher grew up Methodist, converted to Catholicism and is now Eastern Orthodox. He is writing from the point of view of his faith, and his political conservatism.

The book gets its title from Solzhenitsyn’s final message to the Russian people before his exile. Solzhenitsyn was telling people who lived under hard totalitarianism (armed revolution that then produces active persecution including prison camps and torture). Dreher sees soft totalitarianism drawing ever closer here in the west and wants to prepare God’s people to live as dissenters.

This book is filled with stories of dissidents from behind the Iron Curtain. These accounts make up the bulk of the book. The didactic portions are not large. Skimpy is more like it.

I am sympathetic to Dreher’s message. It was certainly interesting to hear many of these survivor stories. I’m not sure he was clear on how to apply this, though I’ll conclude with ways we are already prepared to form these communities.

Understanding Soft Totalitarianism

The first part of the book seeks to communicate what he means by soft totalitarianism. He begins with the story of Father Kolakovic who worked to prepare Slovak Catholics for Soviet persecution after World War II. He established “cells of faithful young Catholics who came together for prayer, study and fellowship.” He established the pattern for Christian dissent in Czechoslovakia for forty years. These dissidents organized the Candle Demonstration that began the Velvet Revolution which resulted in the end of communist rule. This is the general pattern Rohr follows.

The new totalitarianism, he argues, isn’t seeking armed revolution. The state will monopolize political control in the pursuit of a utopian vision. It sees itself as “helping and healing”, a therapeutic vision, but will still seek to end dissent. Truth becomes “whatever the rulers decide it is.” We’ve seen this in the Covid controversies (masks, vaccines, shut downs and more) where dissent was called misinformation even when provided by highly recognized scientists or investigative reporters who dived into the studies for data to back up their statements. What is lacking in the “official dogma” is actual data. There is just pontificating. And shaming or demonization of the dissenters.

The current process of spiritual demagoguery and rhetorical overkill has transformed the concern for victims into a totalitarian command and a permanent inquisition.Rene Girard

Dreher sees the social justice movement as one of the movements that propels us toward this soft totalitarianism. It also takes advantage of the advanced surveillance technology we see in China and the UK. The government used these to protect the public health in the pandemic. We’ve become too accustomed to Big Data in our apps, credit cards, smart phones, speakers and TVs. We’ve invited Big Data and its data mining into our lives.

He also notes the decline of freedom from choosing virtue to freedom of choice (read expressive individualism). The mob will come against those who dissent, and many Christians are prepared to suffer. The idea of standing up for truth is foreign to much of Christianity in the West.

Dreher introduces ketman, the “Persian work for the practice of maintaining an outward appearance of Islamic orthodoxy while inwardly dissenting.” This sounds much like the “Insider Movement”. He calls it a form of mental self-defense. You are not an open dissenter, but more a secret one. He argues it is worse than hypocrisy since it “corrupts your character and ultimately everything in society.” You eventually become the person you portray before the all-seeing eye of Big Tech.

To live by lies is to accept the falsehoods and propaganda of the state (and Big Tech). You may not be able to overturn the lies, but you do refuse to live under their authority. One will confront the lies in these small cells through prayer, song and the study of Scripture. People will begin to “identify the challenge, discern together its meaning, then act on your conclusions.”

There is an element of subjectivity that is disconcerting. It is “our conclusions” after all. The pandemic has shown us that some people act on relatively small matters. Just as the government isn’t to be trusted, neither are we at times.

He does see us as living in a pre-totalitarian culture. He points to various survivors of totalitarianism who see many of the same patterns in our culture. Historically he notes how the famine of 1891 shook Russian and revealed the problems in the Tsarist system. In a similar way, Covid exposes the weaknesses in our government and economy. It was the children of the privileged class that lead the revolution, and we see something similar today as the “educated” lead the charge to end capitalism with its economic oppression, white people with racial oppression, diminish men due to gender oppression and the church due to sexual oppression.

Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.Benito Mussolini

Dreher notes that Hannah Arendt speaks of totalitarian movements as “mass organizations of atomized, isolated individuals.” They have led a marginalized existence. We see a growing isolation due to social media, Covid restrictions including working from home and virtual education. Civic trust, which holds society together, is eroded. People no longer trust the media, experts who have been “lying”and people become increasingly anxious and vulnerable to the claims of the totalitarian movement.

There was also an appetite for destruction. After World War I there was a focus on the will to power, and intellectuals turned from Darwin to the Marquis de Sade. To see change take place they were willing to destroy the world and culture that was. There was also a focus on social & sexual deviance and perversion. Propaganda became the norm.

Generations of college students have been soaking up post-modernism, affirming more and more sexual deviance and a willingness to riot when they perceive injustice. Or a campus speaker they don’t like.

Dreher does criticize Trump for being part of the problem for putting loyalty over expertise. While he’s conservative, he’s not an Ever-Trumper. We also seen the rise of the cancel culture. People must be disowned if they express an opinion that deviated from the political correct dogma.

He sees progressivism as a religion. They want to build a humanistic utopia. They got more than they bargained for. They didn’t anticipate the gulags, re-education camps and elimination of free speech and protest. The power-hungry used the intellectuals. The Myth of Progress turned out to be a lie, but the Myth persists and eats away at our society now.

Those who oppose the Myth (or aspects of the crises like the pandemic, climate change etc.) are canceled. The accusation doesn’t have to be true. “Homophobe!” “Racist!” CNN tried to discredit comedian and podcaster Joe Rogan with repeated claims he used horse dewormer rather than admit that Ivermectin is a drug with a long and illustrious history of helping human beings, and that it was prescribed by a doctor along with other medications. If you are part of the wrong group you are presumed guilty. I am reminded of Kafka’s existentialist novel The Trial. Guilt or innocence doesn’t actually matter. You won’t understand or be given an answer. You’ll just be crushed beneath the wheel of a crazed culture.

Social Justice and identity politics are also viewed as cults. Truth isn’t what matters, it is who speaks the words. Here he summarizes and critiques CRT.

The next chapter addresses how capitalism went woke. Government-run media controlled information in the Soviet bloc nations. Now it is Big Tech that takes the role of censor. Put interest in a product in an email or text and suddenly Facebook has an ad on your wall. People disclose all kinds of personal information (that often finds itself in passwords) on those fun little quizzes. We forfeit our privacy in a number of ways.

Big Business embraces social agendas of the left. All-star games are moved from a state over voting laws to a state with similar or more strict laws. Others are moved over bathroom laws. Experts in their fields are de-platformed because they offer dissenting opinions.

Recent events in Canada show us how easily a population can be misinformed about a protest. First the state-sponsored media told lies about why they were protesting, then how they were protesting (they were violent, white supremacists and insurrectionists). Then they froze bank accounts and sent in the police to arrest them. It can happen here!

How to Live in Truth

Dreher shifts to how we can resist and dissent. We are to value the truth, and tell the truth. He shares the story of a grocer who just wanted to be left alone and put the Communist slogan on a sign in his shop. If he ever steps out of his role he will lose everything. In some of the riots over police brutality, shop owners had BLM signs on the stores, but to no avail. It is demoralizing, and that is the point.

Dreher wants us to live apart from the crowd and reject doublespeak. We should be among those advocating for free speech. We aren’t to be foolish however. He wants people to use wisdom. People in communist countries quickly learned who they could and couldn’t trust with the truth. Sometimes silence is a form of resistance. In the face of lies, he thinks, they can telling the truth. I’m not as convinced.

He wants us to “cultivate cultural memory”. I’m surprised that people don’t seem to remember the past. Forgetting the gas lines of the 70’s they bought big gas guzzlers again. They forgot the media hype over the coming ice age, killer bees, the hole in the ozone, acid rain, any number of pandemics that fizzled and more. Of course, one can claim that the action solved the problem but it seems unlikely in light the circumstances. But it does foster the “we can fix it mentality.”

In reality we just create other problems. In the 1990’s we got rid of paper bags, which degrade, and used plastic bags, which don’t, because we were “cutting down too many trees.” Plastic requires petroleum and eventually the environmentalists switched their aim. Those bags are being phased out in CA, NY and NJ among other states. Back are the paper bags, for a fee.

Gas and coal are being replaced by solar panels and electric cars. The reality of mining for elements used in batteries and solar panels are ignored. The fact that we can’t recycle windmill blades is ignored. Ideology ignores practical realities. Cultural memories help us to answer the present ignorance.

These small groups Dreher advocates are the method for cultivating cultural memory, and objective truth. We pass these down to future generations. He see the family as a primary resistance cells. One aspect of this sounds Luddite-like. He wants us to disconnect from the internet, or at least the kids’. He’s not anti-culture, but advocates for the culture that affirms the reality of good and evil (like Tolkein).

He advocates for something close to Schaeffer’s co-belligerents. Religious anti-communists worked with secular anti-communists. He also encourages us to practice hospitality. He does view religion as foundational to resistance.

Christians today must dig deep into the Bible and church tradition and teach themselves how and why today’s post-Christian world, with its self-centeredness, its quest for happiness and rejection of sacred order and transcendent values, is a rival religion to authentic Christianity.

In communist countries it was not the large churches that survived. They were infiltrated by the secret police and snitches. It was in small communities of faith that people felt safe. In Czechoslovakia the Christians mingled with the secular liberals. Today, in America it seems many liberals think that the church deserves what it gets due to past oppression (a function of identity politics).

Suffering is a testimony to the truth. Our willingness to endure suffering for Christ eventually breaks the tyranny. The stories here are hard to read. But this is part of what separates the wheat from the chaff. Yet, he does advocate mercy to the broken for the pain will break even the most faithful. He does remind us that marginalization isn’t the same as prison and torture.

As I noted, there was a fair amount I agreed with. The stories of survivors are intriguing. I did want something more than small groups to teach and pray, be willing to suffer and seek solidarity with like-minded people. The constant refrain of “see, judge, act” seems simplistic to me.

For those who are curious and want to dig deeper, there is a study guide and a workbook available. They could be used to form small groups. Of course you may have to get them on data mining experts and de-platformers Amazon.

Churches should be developing small group ministries if they don’t have them already. Churches should be explicit about the need without fear mongering. We should do this even if the society doesn’t descend into the soft totalitarianism that it seems to be embracing. If it does happen, the faith will continue in these small, simple communities.

This is a book that will be welcomed by those who think we are moving in this direction. I’m not sure the skeptical will be convinced. It can feel like an echo chamber book. I think he’s right, overall, but maybe I’m just in an echo chamber. I hope I’m wrong.

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Knowing the hills to die on is an important part of life. Whether you are a parent, a pastor, an employee or employer, husband or wife. We tend to die on the wrong hills, and when we do we create so much damage. If we don’t die on the hills that matter, we also do damage.

Finding the Right Hills to Die on: The Case for Theological Triage (Gospel Coalition) - Ortlund, Gavin; Carson, D A (foreword by) - 9781433567421

Gavin Ortlund addresses this for the church in Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case of Theological Triage. I’m still reading the book but his chapter on The Problem of Doctrinal Sectarianism is highly important, and pertinent to much of what I see today. It painfully addresses situations in denominations and congregations.

What theological differences are worth leaving a local congregation?

What theological differences are worth leaving a denomination?

I’ve seen people leave churches over baptism. I’ve seen people leave churches and denominations over what they think might happen regarding a controversy. People can believe that nearly every theological disagreement is reason for disconnecting. This is an issue that interests me as my denomination experiences some disagreement and rumors fly fast and furious. I think we are more aligned than others let on. The issue is more how to apply that theology meaningfully. But I see many thinking it is time to leave. Or at least wondering if it is time.

“We must at times boldly contend and at other times gently probe.”

I see many online taking the result of overture votes as cause to “boldly contend” rather than “gently probe” the reasons for the vote. People are assumed to be “unfaithful” for not voting the “right” way.

Each of us will have a default. We serve God with our “courage” or our “gentleness”. We don’t recognize the need for courageous gentleness or gentle courage. We are to speak the truth in love, and lovingly recognize where we actually differ rather than assume we differ more significantly than we do.

Battle of Bunker Hill

Ortlund quotes Martin Luther that “Softness and hardness … are two main faults from which all the mistakes of pastors come.” People prone to hardness are unable to “distinguish between different kinds of doctrines.” Not all doctrines bear the same weight. Ortlund argues that Paul recognizes this, particularly as he speak of things of “first importance” in 1 Corinthians 15:3. There are doctrines that are important to the health of the church, but not essential to the existence of the church.

Unnecessary Division Harms the Unity of the Church

Ortlund, writing about and within the Reformed tradition, points to how many prominent theologians have made this distinction. Francis Turretin writes of “fundamental articles” which are more important than other articles. They are “primary and immediate; such as the articles concerning the Trinity, Christ the Mediator, justification, etc.” Others, Turretin says are “secondary and mediate.” Doctrines serve various purposes. There is both milk and solid food (Heb. 5:12-14).

Turrentin believed that the Orthodox or Eastern Church was wrong on the issue of the procession of the Holy Spirit. They were not fatally or heretically wrong since they affirm the divinity of the Spirit. Yet this issue was key in the split between the Eastern and Western church. It was made messy by the changes made in the Western symbols apart from discussing them with the East. Offense over practical matters as well as the difference of opinion magnified that difference.

When we elevate true but secondary doctrines to the necessary doctrines we begin to foster unnecessary division. You cannot stay united long when every disagreement is “heretical”. Calvin spoke against “capricious separation”. True churches can disagree on the way a church practices the marks of Word and sacrament. Calvin also distinguished between primary and secondary doctrines.

For not all the articles of true doctrine are of the same sort. Some are so necessary to know that they should be certain and unquestioned by all men as the proper principles of religion. Such are: God is one, Christ is God and the Son of God; our salvation rests in God’s mercy; and the like. Among the churches there are other articles of doctrine disputed which still do not break the unity of faith.Calvin, Institutes 4.1.12

Disputed doctrines should not be a source of division unless there is “unbridled contention and opinionated stubbornness.” In other words, the division is a product of the flesh, which works dissensions and factions (Gal. 5).

A difference of opinion over these nonessential matters should in no wise (way) be the basis of schism among Christians. … Either we must leave no church remaining, or we must condone delusion in those matters which can go unknown without hard to the sum of religion and without loss of salvation.” Calvin, Institutes, 4.1.12

Our confessional standards recognize that the church will always be mixed or imperfect (WCF 25. 5). We necessarily need to live with imperfect churches and denominations since they are all imperfect and filled with sinners. Schism should only take place when the essential doctrines are compromised. Sadly this happens as denominations reject the authority of Scripture which then leads them to deny essential doctrines like the exclusivity of salvation in Christ.

The Unity of the Church Is Essential to the Mission of the Church

We are to contend for the faith of delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Schism is necessary at times. Both the refusal to contend and the propensity to split over secondary matters diminish our impact in the world. We need to prize the unity of the church AND the purity of the church. We find Jesus praying for the unity of the church (John 17). Paul speaks of the one body of Christ and maintaining the bond of peace through the Spirit (Eph. 4). In our creeds, essential doctrines (!), we find “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.” The communion of saints and unity of the church, despite differences of opinion, are essential to Christianity. Yet we so quickly sacrifice this essential doctrine over secondary or tertiary matters. Ortlund brings in Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ comments on Ephesians 4: “the unity of the Church is a manifestation of the perfection of the Godhead.” Unnecessary schism tells lies about God.

In addition of the Doctor, Ortlund spends time with Bavinck on this matter. He stressed differentiating fundamental and nonfundamental doctrines. He warned about the inability (unwillingness?) to recognize others outside your circle as Christians as dangerous to one’s own spiritual vitality. We see this danger in cults. I was briefly (and unknowingly) involved in a cult (the Boston Church of Christ) that refused to acknowledge that there were other Christians and Churches (discovering this I left). After a big scandal about 15 years ago they were open to the possibility of there being other Christians and churches, but hadn’t actually met any. This can also take the form of thinking one can’t be a true Christian if they are a member of a particular church or denomination. Spiritual elitism is a big problem among people who should know better (Calvinists).

Each sect that considers its own circle as the only church of Christ and makes exclusive claims to truth will wither and die like a branch severed from its vine.” Bavinck, “Catholicity of Christianity and the Church”

It is easy for us to see the faults of other churches, and not those of our own. I see this in my own denomination. We are highly critical of other denominations, and other groups in our denomination, but can’t seem to acknowledge the sin in our own camp. We refuse to get the log out of our eyes and our vitriol increases while self-righteousness grows since we are like “them”. We refuse to acknowledge that we might have something to learn from other ecclesiastical bodies.

Ortlund reminds us he’s not being anti-theological. Rather “it does mean that our love of theology should never exceed our love of real people, and therefore we must learn to love people amid our theological disagreements.”

He also cites Spurgeon and his disagreements over polity and worship with George Herbert. Spurgeon still recognized Herbert as a Christian and recognized the need to love him. We are not to pick and choose among his people. We may not worship with them (before heaven), but we must recognize them as Christians and love them. “If we love Jesus, we must love those who belong to him.”

Our unity can be expressed in a variety of ways. We can love others with different views in our own congregation. We can love others with different preferences or understanding of how to do ministry. We can be in different congregations and still treat each other as Christians, and co-operate with them on matters of mutual concern. Even within a denomination, you may not fit in every church but you work together and may worship together periodically. We can be in different denominations and still treat each other as Christians, and co-operate with them on matters of mutual concern. Differences should not completely separate us if we are united in Christ.

Quarreling about Unimportant Doctrines Harms the Godliness of the Church

The holiness of the church is at stake too. Needless controversy sucks the love out of the room. If love is the fulfillment of the law, to not love is to be ungodly and unholy. Ortlund lists a series of passages warning us about quarrels and their contribution to ungodliness.

Timothy was to silence those who loved to argue, or felt that every disagreement was worth arguing about.

We should steer clear of theological wrangling that is speculative (goes beyond Scripture), vain (more about being right than being helpful), endless (no real answer is possible or desired), and needless (mere semantics).Kevin DeYoung

Ortund then brings us to Richard Baxter and The Cure for Church Divisions. The basic premise is that Satan can use them for men’s damnation. Each of the ways of extinguishing love is a road to hell. He stirs us up to not contend for necessary things, or to contend for the wrong things and/or the wrong way. He rejoices in the overly gentle and the overly strict. He despises the truth spoken in love. Our anger with one another gives Satan a foothold or opportunity (Eph. 4:25).

Even when the error we oppose is a deadly heresy, our aim must be to heal, not to disgrace.

Finding Our Identity in the Gospel

John Newton warned us: “Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as works.” Ortlund also reminds us that Calvin warned that pride causes arguments, and therefore schism. This pride leads us to treat others with contempt. When we “turn against” someone we begin to look for faults in them. We don’t treat their statements with charity, but see them in the worst possible light.

My denomination has been through a time of conflict. It has polarized us. Our FB pages have been sources of heat but not much light. Our presbyteries and general assemblies have seen lots of heat and little light. In some cases, even our sessions have experienced deep conflict over these issues.

We easily lose sight of the 95% we have in common for the 5% of disagreement. This leads us to paint those who disagree with us in the worst possible light. We want to either remove them from our body or remove ourselves from the body. The temptation to schism arises.

We must mortify the flesh, putting to death the dissension, factions, enmity, strife, anger, divisions and rivalries which are just as serious as the sins we’ve been debating. The answer isn’t to remove ourselves (often in disgust) but to repent of how our sinful nature rises up to encourage us to disobey Christ, corrupt ourselves and damage the Church of Christ by disregarding our vows.

Let’s distinguish between the doctrine of the filial clause and the disagreement about how it was added. Their theology wasn’t very different, but offense was rooted in how the West unilaterally acted.

As the PCA thinks about “expressive individualism” and sinful identities, I think we are actually on the same page. At least most of us are. There are always outliers in both directions. Where we actually disagree is on the semantics of the overtures. As I listened to people I didn’t hear anyone say they wanted “Side B Christianity” in the PCA, that they wanted men who rejoiced in their sinful temptations as part of their identity. I heard men who didn’t like that many terms were vague and prone to various interpretations. I heard men who didn’t want to pass it and let the SJC figure out what it meant and how it should be applied. I heard men who didn’t want to pass it and then try to “fix it” with subsequent overtures. I heard men who didn’t want to settle, but wanted to get it right before we passed it.

I struggle with the way we operate, or rather how the Overtures Committee operates in our denomination. It should recommend, up or down. Period. Instead it seems to put them through a meat grinder so something else appears. In some cases that has been positive, but in many it has not. Sometimes these recommendations are unrecognizable.

We often lack patience in the process. We want things done right away, and our way. We are part of a microwave culture.

Think about the response to same sex marriage in the PCA. Many wanted a statement declaring it sinful. They wanted the world to clearly know what we think. Such statements usually don’t include the grace of God in Jesus Christ, but that’s another issue. It didn’t pass. And I didn’t vote for it. That doesn’t mean I support same sex marriage. I don’t. It meant that I thought our Standards were clear.

Later we chose to bring our Book of Church Order into explicit conformity to our Standards. I voted for this, and it overwhelmingly passed (I think there were 12 no votes, or about 99% approval). We clearly ruled out same sex marriage and polygamy. The method chosen was better than a statement. It was about our polity, not a statement. The changes were simple. It would have been profoundly wrong to think we previously disagreed on the validity of same sex marriage (though some did).

Let us not think what some thought after the overture for a statement on same-sex marriage failed. Let us not think that people support the notion of “gay Christians”. Following this line of erroneous thinking will lead many to leave without merit. The schism will be rooted in uncharitable assessments of others. It will be an unnecessary schism.

Let’s think that this was not the best way to implement what we affirmed in our Study Committee Report into our constitution. Let’s learn from the criticism and write a better amendment to the BCO. Let’s apply what is already there and address issues of character including but definitely not limited to same sex attraction. Let’s ask about the other sins that disqualify people from the kingdom. Maybe we should ask what hills a man will die on.

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I’ve meant to do this monthly, but, alas, reality is the rock upon which so many dreams are crushed. We can lament the past, but here in the present let’s look at this month’s verse which is a great one upon which I’ve stood for many years. It is part of the text from my first Resurrection Day sermon.

25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7

“Consequently” connects this verse with what the author of Hebrews just said. This section of Hebrews defends the priesthood of Jesus in the line of Melchizedek. Jesus is a superior priest to the Aaronic priests. His sacrifice was once for fall time (this is the implication since it is contrasted with the repeated sacrifices of Aaronic priests.

One the basis of this greater priesthood and sacrifice Jesus is able to save people to the uttermost. Utterly and completely. We need know that no sin is capable of separating us from God if Jesus is our Great High Priest. Think of the worst you have done. The worst you’ve hurt someone. The worst you may have degraded yourself.

The work of this priest can and does save us from that horrible sin.

This promise and hope is held out for “those who draw near to God through him.” It is not an indiscriminate promise. One must come to God the Father through Jesus (John 14). This High Priest, who is the way, the truth and the life, is the only way to return to God. This Great High Priest is the only one who can save us.

The reason He can save us to the uttermost is that Jesus continues to live forever to intercede for us. The Aaronic priests all died. Their ministry was limited by death. Jesus’ death was not final. He has the power of unending life as the Resurrected Savior.

Raised to life again, Jesus who has made purification for our sins is now seated at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven (Heb. 1:1-4). It is from that seat that Jesus intercedes for us. This is how He saves us from to the uttermost. He pleads the value of His sacrifice. This shed blood is the basis for our salvation and preservation.

It is His work, not ours that matters. It isn’t about trying harder, promises to do better or beating yourself up. It is about Jesus. Draw near to the Father through Him to experience the fullness of salvation.

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I’ve begun to read A Small Book About Why We Hide by Edward Welch. The subtitle indicates How Jesus Rescues Us from Insecurity, Regret, Failure, and Shame. Early on he quotes Paul McCartney, sorry, Sir McCartney. “Do you know anyone who doesn’t have insecurities?” This is a book for all of us since we all have insecurities, regrets, failures and shame. Even Tom Brady has lost Super Bowls.

The vast majority of us never sniff a Super Bowl.

This is not a review of the book. Day 4 struck me. Shook me. Helped me. The Lord wounds that He may heal.

He addresses the sentence “I am disappointed in you.” Some people prefer to use this than “I’m mad at you” or “angry with you.” They think it softens the blow, cuts less deeply.

Shopping In Paris – The Reluctant Parisian – Medium
Statue in Paris

They are wrong. “When we disappoint others, we feel so small. We would like to fade away.” We want to hide.

Hiding from anger is often a short-term scenario. Anger generally passes like a thunderstorm. Forgiveness addresses anger. We can also express our sorrow and regret for having done wrong. We can ask for forgiveness, and receive it.

But what is the solution for disappointment? We’ve let them down, not simply sinned against them.

Here’s the thing, sometimes our sin also lets them down. We are “forgiven” but the anger may linger, the distrust. There seems to be no way back into their good graces. Have you been there? If you are a pastor, I know you have. Expectations that can’t be met destroy relationships, whether one of you is a pastor or not.

That statement, “I am disappointed in you” is often like a depth charge in our soul. We move from an incident to a condition. “Am I a disappointment?”

Children aren’t the only ones that wrestle with that question. Kids do because they are learning so many things and learning involves failure. I try to reassure my kids that failure is the road to success, if they learn from failures. But adults are supposed to “know better”.

We all fail in many ways. We all fail to apply what we know in every situation. Theory evades us in reality. We disappoint people. Welch notes that we begin to feel less than them.

“My point is simply that the experience of being a disappointment to someone close to you is a tough one to shake off.”

As the pastor of a small church, you feel close to most people. You will disappoint them. You will struggle to shake it off. They begin to add up, and the weight grows. You begin to struggle with the idea that everything is your fault.

But it isn’t just about other people. “If you feel like a failure before other people, you feel like a failure before God.” His mercy removes our sin, but we can feel very much like disappointing children who should have figured this out by now. A reluctance to be in His presence can set in if you don’t feel His delight in you.

Welch reminds us that the people of Israel were very disappointing (we aren’t any different). They forgot the God who delivered them from slavery in Egypt. They grew weary of His faithful provision. They worshiped other gods in debauchery.

They should expect God to turn away. To frown. Shake He head in disappointment.

Back in the Garden, He covered Adam and Eve’s embarrassing (due to sin) nakedness. To Israel He had the priest bless the people:

24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Number 6

He smiled upon them, toward them. His grace also covers His disappointment with our failures. We can move toward Him. And we can move toward the others we disappoint. We can hear their concerns (though we may need to wait out the anger).

Christ removes our guilt. Jesus also never disappointed the Father. That perfect record is ours in Christ. We think of it in terms of justification: righteousness! It also matters in that Jesus has covered our disappointments and failures. The Father delights in us because He delights in Jesus and we are united to Christ the Delightful One. He doesn’t treat us as our sins and failures deserve. It takes years for this to sink in as deeply as disappointment from others. We won’t measure up, and don’t have to in order to enjoy the Father’s delight as He sings over His people.

17 The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3

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