Remember the Time

I am a huge Michael Jackson fan. I grew up on MJ. His videos are still the standard against all other music videos are measured. He is the greatest performer of all time. Hands. Down. I remember watching the first time he moonwalked on TV (Motown’s 25th Anniversary Special) during which he performed “Billie Jean”. The performance was broadcast on NBC on March 25th, 1983.

Can you believe it was that long ago?

His videos still bring a smile to my face because they represent seminal memories for me and they represent excellence.

Thriller!
Bad!
Beat It!

His videos were prime time premieres on national television, y’all! Yes, CBS, NBC, ABC. This does not happen anymore. This is why he is in a class all his own.

I even remember where I was when I learned of his death. So sad! I still grieve his death because he was so good at what he did.

I could talk about MJ all day. But I digress.

The last thing I will say is that one of my favorite music videos by Michael Jackson is for “Remember the Time”. The video itself is over 9 minutes long. Worth every minute. The choreography is insane. The theatrics and special effects were unprecedented at the time. Even Magic Johnson was in the video.

Remember. The. Time.

The title of the song speaks of a love relationship. But, in my mind, the title speaks of recalling unprecedented, even special times in the past. And so, to that end, the song actually makes me think of a Bible verse found in Genesis. I know. It is a stretch and kinda weird. But here it is:

Genesis 11:1
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.

There was a time when the earth had one language. What?

There was a time when all the people of the world used the same words. What?

A long time ago…in a galaxy far, far away…right? Cue Star Wars music…

Imagine with me, for one moment, if that verse could be a statement of accurately describing our world in 2015:

One language. The same words.

Think of the potential of that state of affairs. Unlimited potential for mutual understanding and peace. Yet, as the rest of chapter 11 details, there was also unlimited potential for evil.

But think of what the world would be like if we communicated with one language. And used the same words to convey our messages to one another.

Think of what your country would look like if you all spoke one language and used the same words.

Think of your region, your state, your city, your neighborhood, your church, your job…

Your house. Wow. How would things be different in those places were this the case?

“Donnie, we do talk the same language in my home, church, job, etc.!”

Yeah, we might speak a common language (English, Spanish, etc.) depending on what your national/ethnic heritage is, but let’s dig deeper.

Truth be told, we don’t speak the same language.

The poor and the rich don’t speak the same language.
Blacks and whites don’t use the same words.
Republicans and Democrats don’t speak the same language.
The young and the old don’t use the same words.
Wesleyans and Baptists don’t speak the same language.

See, communication is fundamental to human beings. Yet, we do not speak the same language, for the most part. We do not use the same words, generally speaking. And this leads to strained relationships and an ever-increasing divide between people and communities.

Whether our communication is verbal or non-verbal, our signals get crossed up frequently. And so we see the debilitating effects surrounding us every day on the news and in the media.

MLK had it right: “Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they cannot communicate; they cannot communicate because they are separated.”

If we dig deeper, here are two possible underlying causes:

1. We don’t listen very well.
2. We come from different cultures.

We Don’t Listen Very Well
The emphasis in communication should be on listening. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason, right? Yet most of us talk entirely too much and listen far too little.

“Can you hear me now?”

Many of us equate hearing with listening. They could not be further apart.

Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. If you are not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences. Listening leads to learning. Hearing does not.

Did you know that 50% of typical workday spent communicating? Of that 50%, 45% is designed to be spent listening. But some of us are only participating by hearing. Some researchers estimate that up to 45% of business person’s salary is earned through listening.

I don’t listen well. I can own that. In fact, I promise you that the vast majority of the arguments I have had with my wife during the last 14 years were due to the fact that I heard one thing, but she said something entirely different. I heard her, but I wasn’t listening.

Did you know that good listeners are perceived as more intelligent? That they save time, energy, and other resources? That they have an increased probability of advancement and success in their professional environment?

Some of us are on the other side of this formula. Rather than not listening to others, we are the ones not being listened to. We are not being heard. The human voice is a valuable and precious gift. Everyone’s voice deserves attention. The poor. The young. The disenfranchised. The under-represented. Their voices are silenced each and every day. And they are angry. Wouldn’t you be angry if every time you went to speak, you were told to shut up?

If we ever want to overcome the chasm between people and communities, somebody has got to start listening. If you ever want to heal that broken relationship, marriage, or friendship, someone has got to start listening. If you want any kind of joy, contentment, or success in your future relationships, friendships, or marriages, you need to start listening. Selah.

We Come from Different Cultures
I used to teach Intercultural Communication to university students. The first thing I would teach my students is that intercultural communication is as complex as the sum total of human differences. I would teach them that culture is learned, it is a shared system, and it is an integrated whole. I would teach them about the three categories of culture: technological, sociological, ideological.

It’s deep, y’all.

Think about this: there are over 3500 ethnic groups in the world and yet no two of them have identical cultural configurations. It is nuts, y’all.

Keep in mind, there are no a-cultural people. You might think you don’t have a culture, but you are sadly mistaken. All of us were born into a cultures and several subcultures. Over time, we became enculturated into the ways of that particular culture. Period.

We’ve got our work cut out for us. But I will end this post by saying this:

I advocate for every Christian to learn to embrace and pursue difference. Not to fear it. Not to run from it, but seek it out. Love difference. But more than that, love people. But more than that. Love their culture. Love their system, their values, even their worldview. You may not understand it. You might not even agree with it. But this ain’t about you. It is about learning to love people who are not like you, just like Jesus did for you – for while you were yet a sinner – completely and utterly unlike him – he came and died for you. That, my friends, is a love of distinction.

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Reconciliation Requires a Love of Difference

A few years ago, a friend of mine bought me a small office decoration with this quote:

“I would agree with you, but then we’d both be wrong.”

The ornament reminds me of my proclivity to be right – and to have others agree with me.

Like many of you, I struggle with difference. For me, it is the difference of opinion. When I have a particular point of view, I am always prepared to defend it. I can argue and debate with the best. I can also be unteachable and can be very stubborn. The root of the issue, truth be told, is that I wrestle with this form of difference, though I know deep down inside that it is completely healthy to engage differences of perspective. Your struggle with difference looks different than mine because difference comes in many shapes and sizes.

We all struggle with cultural difference as well. Whether it be based in race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, politics, religion or doctrine, etc., the struggle is there. Yet we are surrounded by difference. Many don’t enjoy it, though we know that in order to grow as persons, we need to pursue and engage difference with intentionality.

The world is a system of pluralism. Here is a principle we all need to etch into our minds forever:

Where there is pluralism, there must be reconciliation in order for us to get along and develop genuine community. But there is no avoiding pluralism (or diversity). Which should make reconciliation inevitable. Should.

I have many brothers and sisters in Christ who desire to see reconciliation in the midst of diversity.

Between races.
Between ethnic groups.
Between social classes.
Between the left and the right.
Between people. Period.

Yet, many of those same brothers and sisters are immersed in cultural homogeneity every day. The devastating result of monochromatic surroundings is a brainwashed pathology that propels us into believing, subconsciously or otherwise, that differences do not exist – or that they do not matter.

Let’s bring it closer to home. 🙂

Some of you go to a church that is culturally homogeneous, and to be more specific, racially homogeneous. The Sunday morning time slot continues to be the most segregated time slot in this country. Most churches in the United States do not possess a racial makeup where more than 20% of the people are not from the predominate racial group that attends the same church. To be more accurate, no other racial category makes up more than 20% of the church other than the white racial category. So, the fact is that each and every Sunday, most white Christians surround themselves with people who are racially like them (and also financially like them – which creates a whole other monster, given the financial and racial parallels in our country).

The first step to addressing our addiction to cultural homogeneity is to embrace a love of difference. But before we can even start down that yellow brick road, we need to recognize the importance of cultural difference and the existence of cultural difference.

This is a challenge for the body of Christ in the US because we have collectively embraced a “colorblind ideology”. Colorblindness is the ideology that posits the best way to end discrimination is by treating individuals as equally as possible, without regard to race, culture, or ethnicity. At its face value, colorblindness seems like a good thing — really taking MLK seriously on his call to judge people on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.

It focuses on commonalities between people, such as their shared humanity. It sounds good, but it represents one of the lowest levels of intercultural competence on the continuum of development. Colorblindness is not sufficient to heal (racial) wounds on a national or personal level. It is only a half-measure that in the end operates as a form of racism.

Reconciliation will never be accompanied by colorblindness at the altar of peace.

Here is why:

Reconciliation has perfect vision. It is 20-20. Colorblindness promotes…blindness. Duh! Right? Blind means not being able to see things. All of us want to see things clearly, don’t we? No one would ever choose blindness, right? Yet, many of us have drank the Kool-Aid of colorblindness.

True reconciliation will take place only when we fully embrace the fact that we can’t afford to be blind to anything.

I just bought my 9-year old his first pair of glasses. He is near-sighted and can’t see a thing far away. The struggle has begun. He prefers blurred vision because of how uncomfortable it is to have the glasses on his head. They are new. They feel weird. But he can see, despite the discomfort. I think I am going to glue them to his head because he keeps taking them off!

When did blindness and blurriness become a good thing? We must look fully at another person’s culture or racial identity. We cannot ignore race or any other socially-constructed categories of difference and pretend their personal, social, and historical effects don’t exist. To do so causes us to ignore the incredibly salient experience for many of being stigmatized by society and represents an empathetic failure on those who are commanded to weep with those who weep and to mourn with those who mourn.

Colorblindness individualizes conflicts and shortcomings, rather than examining the larger picture with cultural differences, stereotypes, and values placed into context. This form of colorblindness comes from a lack of awareness of privilege, which is oftentimes conferred on the majority in a specific cultural category.

Colorblindness gives way to ignorance. Ignorance always gives birth to fear. Always. Our fear, in the Church, is the fear of difference. Collectively, we certainly do not love difference. We do not pursue difference. We run from it. Most people who are running from something are being energized by the fuel called fear. Rather than being led by fear, let’s be drawn by difference because we are driven by love. In order to move closer to reconciliation, we must begin to possess a love of difference. A love of distinction.

Reconciliation will never happen until we are overcome with love. A love of people. A love of different people. A love of difference. A love of distinction.

Dis…place…what? Dis…place…who?

I know about displacement. I live it everyday. I live in Marion, IN. I hate it here, to be honest. Small town. Farms. Corn. Soy beans. Cow poop. Displacement. Very few people of color. Displacement. Slow moving people. Everything is in slow motion. Can’t stand it. I just don’t like it. I want to move. I want to move back to Los Angeles where I was for almost 10 years. Lots of people. Fast paced. Warm. Diversity. Warm. LOL.

But I am here. And God has been working on my attitude since I moved here. He has challenged me to see the opportunities that present themselves when I am surrounded by difference. See, I love big cities. I love people of color. I love fast moving communities. I love warm weather. There is nothing about this place that truly consistent with who I am as an individual. Yet, here I am. Culturally displaced in several ways.

Displacement. [Dis-pleys-muh nt]. Displacement. A change in normal place or position. It works better when engaged with intentionality and purpose. Displacement.

Cultural displacement. [kuhl-cher-uh l dis-pleys-muh nt]. A change in normal place or position relative to culture. When an individual is taken out or migrates away from his/her normalized cultural environment. Physical dislocation from one’s native culture. It works better when engaged with intentionality and purpose. Cultural displacement.

Culture. [kuhl-cher]. It concerns the intergenerational attitudes, values, beliefs, rituals, customs, and behavioral patterns into which people are born but that is also maintained by ongoing actions. Affective, cognitive, and behavioral orientations to the world commonly reflected in such categories as nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, gender, etc.

In the context of “missional multiethnicity”, displacement means that you purposely come out of your native racial or ethnic culture and put yourself in another racial or ethnic reality.

Displacement works best, however, when a person of privilege in a certain cultural category displaces himself/herself and arrives in a cultural reality that is less privileged. For instance, a white person (isolating the racial identity from other cultural identities for the sake of argument) displaces themselves by fully engaging a racial community that is not white for a consistent and persistent period of time. The key is intentionality. The key is vulnerability. Another example is a Christian white person attending a church that is predominately “non-White”.

For those who come from economically privileged backgrounds or who are currently enjoying the benefits of financial freedom, displacement would result in the engagement of the poor. Coming out from their safe haven of material wealth to taste another reality. For a person of financial wealth, this might serve to be a mind-altering proposition given the prevalence of the “culture of poverty ideology” that pervades much of this country. This ideology teaches us that poor people collectively embody traits that keep them down. This perspective on social class blames the poor for their plight and ignores the fact that many wealthy people have inherited their wealth and resources or that they were better positioned to attain what they have. This ideology does not acknowledge that economic, cultural, and social capital can tilt the playing field in favor of those who have accumulated wealth, knowledge, and/or connections.

This ideology, by the way, is severely dangerous when espoused by Black people in particular because they seem to have forgotten that the net worth of the average white American is 11 times that of the average Black American. So no matter how well that Black person may feel that they are doing financially speaking, the majority of their Black brothers and sisters have not crossed over yet. I can unpack this in another post. I digress for now.

I am attempting to address the importance of cultural displacement as it pertains to missional Christianity. If you belong to any category of privilege, and maybe even several – and you truly want to be an authentic missional believer – you have to be willing to displace yourself on a regular basis culturally. You need to possess a love of difference. You need to be drawn by difference because you are driven by love. Love of who? Love of what?

Different people. People who have a different worldview. People who have a different life experience. People of a different faith. Of a different skin color. Of a different economic class. People who are different, yet still deserve and desire your love and care. People who, although that are different, need to hear how much Jesus loves them.

So, if you tell me you are missional in your faith, the first question I will ask you is: when was the last time you were intentionally engaged in an environment that was culturally uncomfortable for you? Do you live a life of displacement for the sake of the gospel?

Or do you dwell among people who are just like you in the most important cultural categories for you. Maybe its racially or ethnically. Maybe its social class. Maybe its religion or faith. You just like to stay in your cultural bubble. Well, if you do, you will never fully understand the meaning of the Great Commission. The Great Commission demands that you be missional. Which demands that you make intercultural experiences a normal and regular part of your life.

Missional. [mishuh n-uh l]. To live in such a way as to reach out to others.

Missional Christianity. [Mishuh n-uh l Kris-chee-an-i-tee]. To live out your faith in such a way as to reach out to THE OTHER. The. Other. Someone unlike you. Someone outside your comfort zone. Someone that presses your need to love difference.

Choose displacement friends. If you don’t want to experience cultural displacement, then that is a matter you will need to take to the Lord in prayer. But if you want to, you will grow. You will experience true compassion for people. You will truly begin to understand empathy. Mourning with those who mourn. Weeping with those who weep. And guess what? You don’t even have to be culturally like those with whom you are mourning and weeping. Your missional heart will simply link with theirs and they will know that you are their friend and their ally. They will sense your love. Your love of distinction.

“As Cool As The Other Side of the Pillow”

siberianpillowI awoke on Sunday morning to the news that Stuart Scott had passed away after a 7-year battle with cancer. The sadness was overwhelming. I was rooting for him. I felt like I knew him, like he was a friend. For so many nights, Scott has been a constant, not just in my home, but in millions of homes across the country. See, Scott had become my favorite ESPN broadcaster from the moment he started hosting Sportcenter! I connected with him years ago because of my love for sports but also because we shared our Black racial identity. That, and his flare for embedding an urban and hip-hop flavor into his work drew me to him. It was refreshing and entertaining at the same time.

The sports world honored Stuart Scott at the 2014 ESPYs for his courage and strength as he has fought with cancer. His story and his acceptance speech can be seen here. It is moving. Powerful. In his speech, he said that the only thing that matters in life is how you lived, why you lived, and the manner in which you lived. I am still dealing with the conviction of those words.

I have been pondering why I felt so drawn to this sportscaster. I have concluded that the reason Stuart Scott and his story have touched me in such a deep way is because I have a passion for excellence. I love to see people do what they do with excellence. And that was Stuart Scott. He was the standard in the genre of sportscasting that he participated in at ESPN. Period.

One of my top five Strengths is Competition. This is so, not so much because I love to compete (although I do), but because other people’s demonstration of excellence motivates me to achieve my own expression of excellence. I use their excellence as fuel to achieve my own goals and dreams. I don’t mind if another person is better than me at something, per se. The truth is that I have never really been better at something than anyone else. I never win at anything. Truthfully, I lose more than I win at almost everything in my life. Does that make me a loser? I don’t think of it that way. But I am self-aware enough to know that I need to compete against myself and not others in order to possess a sense of accomplishment. But this habit of losing, nevertheless, haunts me – from the mundane elements of my life like basketball and golf to the more important components of my life as well, like fatherhood and being a husband. I am just not the best at anything.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be the best at something. For example, I would love to better at golf than all of my golfing friends around the country. However, as much as I have practiced and worked on this stupid game, I just cannot get better. Can I get a witness? LOL. I have just learned to accept it. I will probably never rise above my current level of golf preeminence. The psychosis of this addiction, ironically, is seen fully after I watch Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy play on TV. And this is where my Strength of Competition comes into action. I know that I will never be as good as them at golf, but, I will be back at the golf grind soon because others’ excellence (Woods and McIlroy, in this case) make me want to get back out there and try again. And become better. I am inspired by their excellence.

I am not good at loving unconditionally and selflessly. I am selfish. I have conditions. I fail at parenting. I fail at being patient with my kids. I have failed miserably at being a godly husband. And I have been asking God for help in all these areas for a long time.

So, Stuart Scott represents excellence to me. And his life and death have inspired me to be excellent at everything I put my hands to from this day forward.

Scott also represents the blessing to be able to live out your gifts everyday. Everyone of us wants to live out our gifts. We want to feel useful and we want to find fulfillment in fulfilling our purpose on the earth. One of the deep and truly painful realizations I have come to over the last few weeks is that I have fallen short of excellence in so many areas of my life. I have fallen short of my purpose. I have left my gifts to rot and sit and be of no effect. All the gifts. I have many. So many. Useless at this point. Completely useless.

I know why too. One of the reasons is that I have put my trust in people for too long. Too long. I have looked to people to fulfill me. To bring me something that only Jesus can provide. I have made idols out of people and friends.

The moment we give ourselves over to the idea that we need anyone other than Jesus, or that we can trust them or that more than him – we have crossed over into dangerous territory, full of hurt, pain, and disappointment.

All I know is that I have spent my last day giving anyone or anything that power over me anymore. Instead, I will give myself fully to Jesus, because He will not hurt me. He will not disappoint. He loves me. He is all I need. When will I ever get this?

I have finally arrived at a place in my life where I am ready to let go of people and things. With people in particular though – this is important for me to gain victory over. I need to stop placing them on some ungodly pedestal. As though I need them.

It always results in pain, hurt, and disappointment. People will let you down. Sad, but true. People lie. They don’t stick close when times get tough. They lie. They cheat. They deceive. Heck. I have done all these things too. So I ain’t judgin’ anybody. But still: people. Can’t live with ’em. Can’t live without them. Or can we?

Listen, I am not suggesting that you cut all ties from the loved ones in your life. That is silly. I am simply suggesting that you adjust where you have placed them relative to your own sense of self-love and self-care. And most importantly, adjust where you place them relative to Jesus and to your walk with God. Can you live without Jesus? No. You cannot inhale unless He exhales. Can you live without that person? Yes, you can.

And, yes, of course I know that there are exceptions to what I was saying about the brokenness of people, in terms of lying, cheating, etc. The truth remains, however, that every now and again, in this life, you find an honest, loyal, truthful confidant. Ride or die. But they are rare.

The truth is that no one can do you like Jesus. There is no one like the Lord. And there is nothing like the other side of the pillow. Jesus is like the other side of the pillow. The side we’ve been sleeping on is crusty. Old. Tired. But turn your life over to Him. You will find, like the other side of the pillow, that He is cool. Refreshing. New. Invigorating. And like the other side of the pillow, He brings a renewed sense of rest and peace.

Jesus is as cool as the other side of the pillow. There is no one like Him. Listen.

There is Something Missing in the “Missional” Conversation

missional-church-21Image found at thisweconfess.wordpress.com

There is a missing ingredient in the conversations taking place throughout the body of Christ concerning “missional Christianity”. The missing ingredient pertains to one of the deep and meaningful implications of what true missional Christianity looks like. To be clear, I will define missional Christianity as a life of faith in Christ based upon the belief that believers should adopt the posture, thinking, behaviors, and practices of a missionary in order to engage others with the gospel message. Missional Christianity demands that we all take ownership of the Great Commission and express it in whatever social context we find ourselves. The missional living concept is rooted in the Missio dei (Latin, “the sending of God”). We are all called to go – whether that be down the street or to another country.

I would like to suggest that if we say that we are Christians, we have automatically taken the oath to engage the Great Commission. It is not something you can opt out of. That said, there are deeper implications to missional living vis-a-vi the Great Commission than simply promising to make disciples and telling the people in your sphere of influence about your relationship with Christ. One of the deeper implications of missional Christianity is this:

We must completely and fully embrace the multi-ethnic mandate of the Gospel. In other words, we cannot be satisfied with cultural homogeneity (racial, gender, social class, religious, for example) and simultaneously embrace a missional ethos and worldview.

Missional multiethnicity. Add this phrase to your lexicon. Missional multiethnicity demands that we intentionally burst our bubble of cultural sameness because we realize that if people are to be reached with the Gospel, they must be reached WITHIN their own culture and/or cultural context. This does not mean that they must be reached BY their own culture, necessarily. It DOES mean that we must learn to cross over into other cultures – and we must deeply value those cultures, their values and their people. The theological basis upon which we can build this understanding is this: God came to us as a human (Jesus), and incarnated the gospel.

For example, let’s consider the poor for a second. If you are not living in poverty and have not been subjugated to the ramifications of real, deep poverty, then that is a culture with which you are not too familiar in all likelihood, unless you were raised in it. There is, therefore, a real cultural divide between yourself and those who are in poverty. Missional Christians must learn to cross that divide. Jesus is over there, by the way. He loves the poor.

My point is this: you must not only cross that divide, but you must also value those who belong to that culture (in this case, the poor). You must value their values and understand why those values exist. What you cannot do is judge them or their values. You cannot act like you are the messiah coming to save them either. Got me?

Therefore, if we say we are missional, we will learn to exegete the cultures that surround us, uncovering the language, values, and ideas of these cultures. Using this information, we must take steps to reach the people therein with the gospel message in the context of their culture.

It takes learning to live in a constant state of cultural adaptation. This is what it takes only if you want to have credibility in multiple environments as Christians.

Here is my advice in a nutshell:

1. Learn to love and embrace cultural difference.

This does not come natural. I did not grow up around people who embraced cultural difference, especially in the Black community that surrounded me. In fact, I grew up representing the difference that people around me wanted to fix or adjust to their idea of what they considered “normal”. There are still people trying to box me in. For some, I am not Black enough. For others, I am too Black. For some, I am not “evangelical” enough. Still, for others, I am too “evangelical”. Some consider me too “Pentecostal” in my theology. Yet, there are many who feel I am not committed enough to my “Pentecostal” roots. The problem is that too many of us have not come to love and embrace difference. Once we do this, those who surround us who that culturally different from ourselves will finally be able to feel at home in our presence.

2. Learn what it means to be drawn by and to difference.

Are you afraid of cultural difference? If so, why are you afraid of cultural difference? What is it about difference that intimidates you? Do you look for difference? I mean, on purpose. Do you intentionally seek relationships with people who are culturally different than you? If not, why not? Notice that I did not ask, “do you seek relationships with people who are a different skin color than you”. It goes beyond race, but it does not exclude race either.

Simply allow yourself to be drawn by and to difference. Period. Be drawn to and by difference in whatever shape or form it comes. I remember sitting with a young man in college who was considered “different”. He didn’t have many friends. I had several. He was not very popular. I was. So, I shared lunch with him one day. He felt loved for that time. We connected and remained friends the remainder of our time in college together. His difference didn’t intimidate me. It drew me to him.

3. Allow 1 & 2 to be driven by love.

The motivation for all that we do in Jesus’ kingdom is love. Romans 5:6-8 explains to us that God demonstrated His love to us in that while we were still sinners, He died for us. In other words, while we were most unlike Him, He demonstrated His love by pursuing a relationship with us. On purpose. He sought us out. Our sinfulness was not a hindrance for Him. This “cultural difference” was actually the spark that energized His pursuit.

When you are driven by love, no person is too different to become engaged with. In fact, the more different that they are from you, the better it is, when you are driven by love. I have learned to let His love move me towards people. I have done this in every job I have had and in every relationship and friendship I have been blessed by. Maybe it’s because I can recall what it feels like to be rejected because of my difference.

People need to see and feel the love of Jesus. We are the conduit of His love. Let’s not share His love with people who are just like us. Share with people who are unlike you. And you will find that the love will be so transformative, it will change people deep inside. Why? Because it will be a distinctive love. A love of distinction.

How to Handle Broken People

handle with care - licensedThe most accurate measure of one’s maturity is how well they react to another person’s brokenness. I don’t know whose quote this is, but the second I read it a few months ago, I knew I was going to write about it.

The point of the quote is that there are good and bad ways to react to another person’s brokenness. A friend of mine once put it this way when it comes to dealing with broken people: You don’t have to leave. You don’t have to judge. You don’t have to have lived it. You don’t have to understand. You don’t have to ‘get it.’ You don’t have to anything at all…but love.

This is a distinctive love. This is a love that very few people operate in. Rare, indeed. But when we find it, it changes us.

This past year, I had a huge collision with my brokenness. I fully encountered and discovered the extent of my brokenness in 2014. I am actually immersed in the revelation of my brokenness (and its ramifications) at this very moment. I am coping with it. But the truth is that for most of my life, I ignored it. I didn’t pay any attention to it. Brokenness.

You know what happened? The brokenness came out with a vengeance. With a fury. Fiercely. Without mercy. It came gushing out. Brokenness.

You see, for most of my life, I hid my brokenness. From everyone, including myself. I lived in a cave. In. The. Darkness. I thought it was safe to be in the cave. Safe from judgement. Safe from criticism. Safe from accountability.  So I stayed in the darkness. I was alone there. Therefore I thought I was safe. But don’t be fooled. Just because we are alone in our cave does not mean we are safe. In fact, we are in more danger than we can imagine.

Ironically, being alone is oftentimes the most healthy environment for some of us to embrace. Context is everything. Being alone is not healthy if we are trying to hide our brokenness or hide from our brokenness. Rather, but to be alone in order to deal with stuff is effective. Being alone in this way forces us to face our brokenness. As they say, you gotta face the music. Being alone in this way forces us to focus on health, healing, and wholeness. Being alone in this way forces us to not engage in co-dependent behavior. See, co-dependence is a toxin and will destroy any relationship we attempt to enter into.

Mark my words. This is truth. All of us have to engage in a period of time where we are alone so that we can come face to face with who we are. Period. This is a non-negotiable. Because facing our music can only happen when we are alone.

I know this from experience, y’all. And this is why I am currently discovering that I need to be alone. The brokenness combined with the alone-ness has caused enough damage. Being alone in the right way will help me see the bullets coming at me. I will see them in slow motion, like Neo in the Matrix. Not only would I like to see the bullets coming, I would like to stop them as well. In other words, being alone for a period of time will save my life.

To be clear, I am not suggesting you leave all of your friends and stop living life. I am not saying that you need to quit your job, go home, and never come out for weeks.

I am saying that brokenness must be arrested. It cannot go unchecked or it will continue to wreak havoc. I am saying that in order to arrest it, we all must engage solitude and alone-ness in some way, shape, or fashion. The alone-ness must directly represent the antithesis of the type of brokenness you are dealing with.

You and I. We need this. Let’s face it together. The brokenness. Let’s become whole people. Let’s be better. We can’t possibly be good for anybody the way we are currently, can we? Can we be good for anyone all broke up and cracked up and less than who we were made to be?

I am seeking solitude in order to stop the madness. I’ve had enough honestly. I am not seeking solitude so that I can continue to hide. I’m tired of hiding.

My brokenness thrived in my hiding. There is a difference between being alone for the sake of health vs. being alone in order to hide. Like I mentioned earlier, some of us aren’t hiding from others, necessarily. Rather, we are playing hide and seek with ourselves. Crazy, huh? Brokenness.

I need to be alone so that I can face me. As scary and as ugly as that might turn out to be. If I don’t take this step, I will forever remain broken. Which means I will hurt more people. And ultimately miss my potential in this life.

I have decided to not hide anymore. I must freely and unabashedly confess that am broken. A broken man. A broken person. A broken Christian. A broken human being. And because I was not strong enough to allow the environment of loneliness to expose my brokenness to me earlier in life, I let it fester. I let it grow. Until it overcame me. But now that I have come out of hiding, recovery is much more likely. The madness will stop.

The consequences of my brokenness and associated actions have cost me more than I will ever know. But as someone who has come face to face with his brokenness, I can tell you this much: I don’t want to talk to self-righteous people about it. I don’t want to talk to people who offer oversimplified answers. I don’t want the Bible quoted to me every five seconds. And I love my Bible. But listen…

I want to talk to people who have also come to see and own their own brokenness. I want to talk to people who will be merciful about mine. I want to talk to people who understand brokenness from personal experience, not from some study about it. I want to talk to people who know what it means to be the person you don’t want to be.

You want to know how to handle broken people?

Don’t leave. Don’t judge. Don’t feel like you have to have lived it. Don’t feel like you have to understand. You don’t even have to ‘get it’. You don’t have to anything at all…but love. Love. Love. Love.

Brokenness.

This is a fact: The most accurate measure of your maturity is how well you react to another person’s brokenness. My advice: Handle with care.

Copy Cat Lover

copycatWhatever other command there may be, they are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time. – Romans 13

Do you realize the time we are living in? Are you aware of what is going on all around us? If you were aware, you would understand how important it is that those who surround us experience the love of God. Love is powerful, isn’t it?

When we love somebody, there is nothing we won’t do for them. Right? Even if that love is misplaced, we will still go there for them. In some cases, we will even compromise our values and convictions for that person. You may argue that isn’t real love, but you are missing my point.

When you have the energy of love in your heart for someone, you will overcome hell and high water to be with them – to serve them – to express it to them. Love conquers all.

But get this: there is a love that is uncommon. It is a rare type of love. Most of us do not possess it. It is a love that loves difference. It is a love of distinction. Jesus had this kind of love. Yes, He did. He possessed a love that was shared freely with all He encountered, without discrimination based on culture. His free display of love was not impacted by the lifestyle of the person with whom He was sharing it. This is still true today. Yet it remains a love that is distinct because it is so rare today.

It seems that many in the Body of Christ are repelled by cultural difference. Much of the reason we have been trained to repel cultural distinction is because the idea of culture itself has been widely misunderstood by the Church. Yet it is ironic that culture has always played a key role in the disclosure of God’s will throughout history.

Soong-Chan Rah writes: “Divine revelation does not come in a vacuum. It can only come with reference to culture.”

We must cease being those who ignore or fear cultural difference. Instead, we must be those who learn to leverage cultural differences so that we can introduce people to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“And the word was made flesh…and dwelt among us.” – John 1:14

He dwelt among us – in a particular cultural context. We serve Him in a particular context. These contexts should not ever be ignored. The inherent differences that emerge as we recognize cultural dynamics are critical if you presume to be a missional Christian. It is important that ideas surrounding why we should be deeply interested and concerned with how the Church manages these dynamics of difference be grounded in the Word of God and theological truth.

Let’s begin here: Though He came as a man, He is still God, and He is still holy. He is still other. So the truth is that we are culturally different than God. That almost sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Duh! But here’s the thing: He found commonality with us so that He could share His love. And profoundly, He pursued us passionately even though we were nothing like Him in his holiness and purity. The Bible puts it this way in the book of Romans: while we were yet sinners, He died for us.

He did not wait for us to become more like Him in order to justify His pursuit of us. We were the object of His passion while we still were alien to Him, unlike Him, and when we wanted nothing to do with Him or what He represented.

The most compelling reason to embrace cultural difference is because our Savior did so, and because He did, you and I are redeemed. The ultimate reason to fully embrace cultural diversity is because Jesus set the example for us already. You say you want to be like Him? Well, the opportunities surround you to embody His example. Be a copy cat! Be a possessor of a love of distinction!