Whose Side Are You On?

by - 3:12 AM

Raina showing off her home made seafood curry.

Ez and a coconut in Phuket.

Tree house picnic with Dad.

Greetings from Thailand!  
And the Sun will rise!   

Maybe election season in America has you caught in the middle of divided loyalties?  More and more, I feel politically homeless (to borrow a phrase from David French).  

Thinking through this election, and reading the many posts and comments of my friends and family from all across the political spectrum, I believe there is an important intersection between our faith and our politics that we often fail to grasp.  

Everything we do is an outflow of what we are and what we believe. 
We must not neglect our primary calling (to love all people) in order to engage in a secondary pursuit (everything else after loving all people) 

Quick book plug: 

I have recommended it before, but it is more important now than ever.  If you have not read the book The Righteous Mind, Why Good People Are Divided by Religion and Politics please go get a copy and read it. 

No matter what your political or religious affiliation, this book can help you think more carefully, and more deeply about some of life's most important questions.  

Both the countries I call home are in the midst of unprecedented political turmoil and questions.  More and more people are discovering that politics is part of life and we want to engage in a way that is faithful to our beliefs and values, whether that is part of a religious group like Christianity or simply the outflow of wanting to be a decent human being.  

Living in another country has challenged and changed both my faith and my politics.  

There are probably many reasons for those changes, but chief among them is that I have come to care about a lot more people (and different kinds of people) than I did before.  

It is natural and right we should love the people nearest to us and most like us.  We spend the most time with them.  We develop relationships with them.  We enjoy the same kinds of things, we laugh at the same kinds of jokes.  We share that all-powerful bond: culture.  

This is not a bad thing.  However, what happens next, often is.  
Once we grow to care specially for a certain group of people, our minds form two new categories: 
US (those in our group) and THEM (those outside the group, for whatever reason).  

Quick Song Plug:

Us for Them

Again, it is natural we should feel more affinity with those closest to us.  But if we are not careful, 
we will begin to project our natural human preferences onto God.  

If I love this person more than that person, maybe God does too.
If I love my group more than other groups, maybe God does too.  

But it should work in exactly the opposite direction. 
We should be growing more like God, not imagining God as more like us.   
Our love should be ever expanding outward growing more like God's, not restricting downward to those who are most similar to ourselves.  

Seafood on the grill.

Our new intern Maria!  


Let me give you an example from a group I belong to: Christians.  When we are healthy, the closeness and security we feel from the others in our group helps enable us to love more people who are less like us.  The intimacy and security of love powers the expansion of love.  

But when we grow unhealthy, the intimacy and security of belonging to the group instead produces a fearful exclusion and selfishness.  

What does healthy growth look like for any individual or group?
When we move from an internal concern for ourselves, to an external concern for others.  

In other words, when we become mission centered (how can we make life better for others) instead of self-centered (how can we make things better for us?).

The pinnacle of human greatness is to love every human being and gladly give yourself for their welfare.  

Where did I get that?  

Well, from Jesus.  To be human is to be made in God's image.  Human greatness is derived from Divine greatness, and what makes God great is His glad, Self-giving love for every one of His creatures (just think about that for a few minutes----that could change your life and maybe your religion).  

Glad, self-giving love and service for others is the goal for any group which wants to follow Jesus' example.  

I sometimes tell people that God is for them, but He is not on their side. 
(Not even if you are a Christian).

Our students on the way to Phuket! 1st Plane trip, check!

We have awesome college students!

Sienna hanging with Joy and baby Judah.

Because the only side God is on, is for every one of His creatures.  He never sides with some against others. You might as well ask a father which of his children he sides with.

This is a very old mistake.  The Jewish religious leaders thought being the chosen people of God meant that God liked their people better than other people (say Egyptians for example).  

But they had completely misunderstood God and His purpose in choosing them. 
Being the chosen people of God was not a sign of Divine favoritism (something God expressly forbid human parents from doing and insists He, Himself, never does).  

Being the people of God is not a sign of favoritism, but of vocation.  Your chosen-ness was not a sign that you were more special or more loved than any of God's other children whom He made, but that you did have a unique responsibility and privilege---to help those other children see the God you see, to experience the good life you have from living life with Him. 

The Jewish religious leaders missed this. And many of us especially religious people, still miss this---especially when our faith intersects our politics.  
If we are thinking chiefly about ourselves and our welfare, then our politics are all about protecting our group and the way of life we prefer.  We are the chosen people.  We are God's children.  God is going to destroy our enemies (the people not like us).  

You don't need a lot of imagination to understand how the Jews felt when the person who was supposed to show once and for all that  they were God's special favorites actually comes, and announces that they have it all wrong. There aren't any special favorites.  Everyone is welcome.  Everyone is loved.  Everyone belongs.  

Baby Tan Kun, friends of FHF.

Baby Gear.

These ladies work so hard to keep Faithful Heart running smoothly.  

But there is a big IF:

The only way to be on God's "side" is to be for everyone else, laying down your rights and privileges and preferences for the good of your neighbors, even your enemies.   
(Negatively, The one sure way you are never on God's side when you find yourself wishing anything ill on anyone else).    

This is true in our wars.  This is true in our religions.  It is true in our politics.  

So what are God's politics?

Well, He would only support policies that worked for the welfare of everyone, and to the detriment of no one, starting with those who most need help.

Maybe it is time we formed a new party, along new values?  

Perhaps God has chosen you for this vocation?  
You have my support!

I love my friends and family in America. 
I want them to flourish and thrive, and have good lives.  
But I also love many friends in Thailand. 
I want them to flourish and thrive and have good lives.  

And if I am not careful, I may soon come to care about all people everywhere.
My good friend Chris Nielsen, shared something profound with me last week:

“I can see why Jesus would have been so humble. If you can see to the core of the hurt in people on both sides of any difference, you can see the true core of the defensiveness or aggressiveness, then it just makes you weep for people on both sides. Having vision into the evils at work at the core of people and brokenness it causes. Evils that seem so inescapable at our level, and probably are inescapable for us. Things like pride or fear or other root things. I bet Jesus just walked around weeping internally all the time looking at us. That would drive anyone to humility. Instead of getting angry at the "other side", we'd just weep for that person.”

We call it Snooker here...

Good friends!

Mud slide.

It is dangerous to begin to care about people, especially people who are not like you. 
And the more people (and kinds of people) we begin to care about, the more complex life becomes.  

Imagine if you were rooting for your favorite sports team (Go Browns!).
Now imagine next Sunday you wake up, and realize your best friend is now playing for the opposing team.  It changes how you enjoy the game.  Before, any advantage for your team or mistake the other team made, made you glad.  But now, it isn't so simple.  You wouldn't be happy to see your friend fumble, or get injured, because you car about him too.  

I call this the tension of love--when you care about people on both sides.  

If we only love those like us, life is simple: root for my team---people like me, people close to me, the people I care about.  

But if we grow to love more like God, life becomes more complicated. 
Root for the people close to me, but also for the people far from me. 
Work for the benefit of the people like me, but also for the benefit of the people who are not like me. 
Be for everyone, and against no one.  

Don't let fear or anger tempt you to try to escape the tension that comes when we genuinely seek the welfare of everyone.  Live in that tension.  

Unplanned adventures are the best.

Chiang Mai is a beautiful place.

But what about when we believe that our side, our team, our policies are what is best for everyone?

This is a very difficult question, one I imagine is in many of our minds and hearts.  
Here is my best effort at an answer, and it applies to politics and every other sphere of life.

God has not called you to fix your neighbor, but to love him.  

Your neighbor's most desperate need is God (not your correction, no more, or different laws). 
Your job is to incarnate Him to your neighbor (show him what God is really like). 
Thankfully we have a perfect example of how to do this.  You can read about Him in the books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible.  

Jesus didn't do much legislating or condemning of the sins of the people he encountered, but he did a lot of gentle instructing, forgiving, and loving (incidentally, the only people he was really harsh with were the religious experts who were so sure they were right).  Most of all, he showed them by his own example, His own life.  

I would gently suggest if you are anything like me, just working on all the problems in your own life is enough to keep you busy for the next couple hundred years. 

Jesus had a teaching to correct people who thought they knew how to fix all the problems of other people---all of us are too blinded by our own faults to do much good fixing others.   

But God is remarkably good at fixing people. Help people find Him, then leave His work to Him.  

And all those people who you just know are wrong? 
Well, don't expect them to change without the help of the One who changed you. 
Your job is to make the path to Him as easy and attractive as possible.  

Career planning with our soon to be grads!

Sienna's costume birthday party, she's two!

Hanging out with baby Judah.

When your life is so full of love, so eager to serve, so glad to sacrifice for your neighbor's good...you will be surprised how little arguing you need to do.  

It always takes faith to trust God's methods as well as in God's ends.   

We always are tempted to take the shortcut to power.  But power is not what changes our world for good.  No, not even power in good hands. 

Sacrificial love and service change the world for good.  

Jesus could have lobbied Pilot or Caesar to speed up the spread of his kingdom.  If ever political power could be justified because "the ends justify the means" here was the opportunity.  

But God chose sacrificial love to persuade others, not political power.  

Can we?  

We love you!  And we are for you!---no matter who you are or where you are.  

Matt, Audrey, Ezra, and Sienna 

Sienna keeps us on our toes, and brings us a ton of joy!

Love these sweet girls.


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