And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
Hebrews 12:5-6 ESV
This week, His Own Heart Ministries begins a three-post discussion on cultural chaos: what safeguards can protect us from it; the factors that define it; and ways to take control of it before it controls us.
But before the series begins, we need to make sure you know one fact: we love you.
We need you to know that we love you because chances are that before the series ends, you’ll probably wish we didn’t love you.
But we do. And it’s our prayer that – like the little girl you’ll meet momentarily – you’ll come to understand that our love for you is the one reason we’re about to go to the places we’re about to go.
As it happens, the timing of the series seems divinely-set; we don’t know about your corner of the world, but His Own Heart has witnessed some serious chaos over the past week. And it’s not just the national tragedies – as horrific as they are – that have us asking how and when and sometimes why. The chaos has trickled down to our very core.
- Our state governor’s latest fumble was the signing of a bill that prohibits state insurance agencies from providing psychological counseling to minors struggling to identify with their biological gender;
- Our community heard a convicted caregiver admit – after years of denial and taxpayer dollars – that she indeed abused a child beyond the point of torture and death before disposing of the broken little body (with the help of her husband);
- Our website just saw the grim reality of what we heard but refused to believe earlier this week concerning the dark powers of the World Wide Web. His Own Heart is literally a labor of love. In other words, there’s no budget; we rely solely on search engine placement and social media outlets as a means of outreach. Last week’s news reported that these avenues are now using algorithms and other complex methods of data collection to make Christian-oriented websites harder for internet users to get to. His Own Heart was recently humbled to begin reaching an average of 1,000 readers per week. With the new collection methods implemented be the powers-that-be of the web, however, the blog has reached less than 10% of its average readers for the past two weeks.
The points you just read are in no way intended to serve as a whine-fest or ploy for pity. They are meant, instead, to illustrate that these days are filled with chaos – spiritual, emotional, physical or otherwise – and that said chaos has gotten way out-of-hand.
It’s gotten beyond out-of-hand, in fact, and the kicker is that no one system or denomination or group or whatever shoulders the blame for it alone. We’re all in this mess together.
But the Holy Spirit equips followers of Jesus Christ with the necessary tools for dealing with even the worst of chaotic messes. You and I just need the knowledge – and a God-given dose of gumption – to use them effectively.
It may come as no surprise that the first tool we’re going to examine is love. But what likely will come as a surprise is the way in which we’re called to use this tool. I’ve prayerfully chosen to use an illustration written by myself and published in this month’s printed issue of Journey Christian Magazine:
It’s one of my favorite statements from C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain; his point that “love is a much more stern and splendid thing than mere kindness.”
Since it always takes me back to my first day of Kindergarten – or the night before – I smiled when my friend, Cathy, posted it on social media a few weeks back. On the night in question years ago, my bobbing little head of sponge-curlers got its first grim taste of adhering to a set bedtime. When I voiced my displeasure with the situation to Mom, she simply said, “I wouldn’t want you to rest if I didn’t love you.”
And for the first and only time in my life – to this day I cringe when I think of it – I told her I wished she didn’t love me. She simply replied, “But I do.” Then she kissed me good-night and left the room.
On an elementary level, Mom illustrated Lewis’ balanced definition of love that night. In other words, she put my welfare above her desire for my approval.
On a much more complex, dangerous level, Western culture has turned Lewis’ balanced definition inside-out and upside-down. In other words, we value others’ approval more than we value their own spiritual or moral welfare.
And make no mistake: doing so never ends well for the follower of Christ. Nor for the other person.
Too often, Western culture touts a postmodern, relativistic stance on love; defining it solely as kind tolerance. Basically anything is acceptable as long as it’s consensual and does no “harm” to anyone. In reality, though, this definition is far from the holy love of God described 1 Corinthians 13: the love that promotes goodness, seeks justice, protects the innocent, is gracious, slow to anger, and disciplines His children so that they may grow to become more like Jesus (also see Hebrews 12:5b-6).
Lewis, as well as modern-day teachers like Brian Holdsworth and Patrick Coffin, knew that kindness, unless balanced with scriptural truth for the sake of spiritual welfare, is in fact not Christian love.
No one addressed people’s sin more bluntly than Christ (e.g., Luke 19:45-48; John 5:14-15; 8:1-11). It cost Him His reputation, His family, His life; yet this is the same Jesus who taught that “greater love has no one … than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
Following the example of God the Father and Christ the Son, wise, responsible parents and mentors are called to realize and act on the truth that there is a distinction between hurt feelings and true harm when a soul’s destination is in question. Being kind is important, unless it means negating truth or enabling sin. The end goal of life, after all, isn’t about the here and now. It’s about the there and then of eternity.
Please don’t miss the global fact that God is love. Said love, though, is defined Scripturally by Him, not by us.
Just as on a smaller scale that night, Mom defined and enforced love in our home; not I.
Next week, His Own Heart will examine the second tool available to Christ-followers in a world of chaos: discernment. We hope you’ll join us!
– Copyright 2019, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All rights reserved.