But First…Our Souls

But First Our Souls

At it’s core, the story of Gideon is a story of restoration.

We have such an individualistic conception of faith that we tend to see this story exclusively through the lens of Gideon’s transformation from farmer to warrior.  In his weakness, Gideon finds a strength from God that enables Him to do the impossible.  That’s completely right, true, and biblical.  But it’s not the only thing God is doing in the story.  It’s also a time of military, economic, and cultural restoration for Israel.  What God does through Gideon changes everything.  Families no longer go to sleep fearing for their safety and workers no longer toil fearing they’ll never see the fruit of their labor.  Through Gideon, God restores His people to a time of peace, economic stability, and freedom from oppression.

We need to see that larger story because so much of our culture and so much of our lives are in desperate need of restoration.  21st century America needs to rediscover truth, civility, and a sense of value and dignity for all as image bearers of God.  We need to fight back against the injustice of racism, abortion, human trafficking, and so many other forms of violence against humanity.  At times, our personal concerns seem small in comparison but we all know they are no less painful.  We want our marriages to flourish and our families to thrive.  We want to get some sleep, get in shape, and have energy again.  We want to love others unconditionally and stop getting so disappointed when they don’t meet our expectations.  We want to figure out how to make ends meet financially.

When we think about personal and cultural restoration, we need to do so through the lens of Gideon:

That night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.”

– Judges 6:25-26

Personal and cultural restoration starts with spiritual restoration and spiritual restoration always leads to personal and cultural restoration.  

It’s no accident that God calls Gideon to fight a spiritual battle before a military one.  Before he deals with the Midianites, Gideon needs to deal with the idols in his own house.  He needs to get back into right relationship with God and rediscover the joy of walking with Yahweh before he’s going to affect great change in the world.  The same is true for us.  We make a tremendous mistake when we attempt to divorce our spirituality from the rest of our lives.  The health of your soul has a direct impact on the health of your finances, your family, your body, and your relationships.  We so often want to avoid the pain and introspection of dealing with our souls and just figure out a practical solution to whatever is bothering us today.  But that shortcut rarely leads anywhere good or lasting.  Real restoration starts in our souls and radiates out to the rest of our lives.

But when real restoration has come to our souls, it will radiate out.  Your relationship with Jesus is designed to change every area of your life, the life of your church, and the life of your community.  Judges 6:25 starts with the phrase, “that night.”  The author is referring to the same night that Gideon met the angel of the Lord.  Gideon’s encounter with God immediately turned into spiritual restoration and a sense of mission.  There’s no gap.  Spiritual restoration, personal restoration, and cultural restoration are inexorably linked, not some multi-step, multi-year process.

The greatest gift we can ever offer others is a soul in vital union with Jesus.  When His life is flowing in and through us, the possibilities for restoration are endless.  So, start there.  When our souls are satisfied in Christ, it changes everything for us and for the people around us.

Vamos a Mexico

Mexican Flag

I’ve been excited about Restoration City’s upcoming mission trip to Western Mexico for a long time but that excitement has hit a new level now that I get to co-lead the team and see first hand all that God is doing through our friends in Western Mexico.  I can’t wait for those days in early October!

Every mission trip is significant for both the members of the team and the community that’s impacted through their efforts.  But this trip is particularly special for me and my expectations are really high for a couple of reasons:

  • It’s Personal.  We are going to serve alongside two members of our church who are serving in Mexico for two years to plant churches in remote and hard to reach areas of southern and western Mexico.  We aren’t coming alongside like-minded strangers, we’re going to serve with our friends!  Being able to send a short term trip to serve alongside missionaries who are members of our church is more than a dream come true…it’s an answer to prayer!
  • It’s Strategic.  We’re going to be spending a week in and around a large migrant worker camp in western Mexico.  Workers from much more remote areas of Mexico come to this camp to work the harvest and we’ll be heading to Mexico right at the start of their harvest season when this little temporary city will be coming to life and filled with people.  Our hope is to love and serve these people and share Christ with them with the prayer that some will place their faith in Christ and carry the gospel back to their home village and community.  It’s an incredible way to reach some un or under reached people groups in remote areas of Mexico.
  • It’s Filled With Potential.  I’m thinking mainly of the members of our team when I write that.  Literally every single person going on this trip could be leading the trip (that’s not an exaggeration!) and I’m so looking forward to getting time with each of them.  I honestly believe so many of the leaders of future trips are going to come from this team.

I honestly believe the Lord is going to use all of this in some pretty incredible ways and I would love to have you be a part of it with us.  I totally get that it’s unlikely you’re going to jump onto the team at this late date (but if you’re interested, let me know!!).  But maybe you would consider being involved from home by praying or giving.  I’ll be posting prayer requests over the next month and I would love to have you praying with us for all the Lord is going to do.  And I would be so grateful if you would consider making a one-time donation to our Mexico 2018 fund.  We’re trying to raise $13,000 to support this team and the work we’re doing in western Mexico.  We would love to have your help in reaching that goal.

It’s amazing to know that we’re just one small part of the church that Jesus is building all over the world.  In DC.  In Mexico.  And all over the globe.

We Need Your Help!!

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While God is doing so many incredible things in so many different areas of Restoration City right now, that work is probably most evident in RCC Kids.  Both our Parent’s Morning Out and Parent’s Night Out events are near capacity every time we offer them and our twice a month morning playgroup is thriving.  On top of that, our Kids team continues to partner with Community Group Leaders in making childcare available for CG’s that need it.  And then there’s Sunday morning!  We now have 5 classrooms per week that serve a minimum of 30 kids per Sunday, with that number increasing rapidly.  It’s honestly amazing to see what God has done through Alex Dibble and our children’s ministry team!

If you’re a member of that RCC Kids team, I want to publicly thank you for all you are doing to serve the parents and kids of our church.  You’re making a huge impact on families and the lives of these young kids and you’re sacrificing a lot to do it.  We all know you pour a lot of energy, love, and sweat into a Sunday morning!  And we all know you’re giving up the chance to be in the main gathering to do it.  Your willingness to serve says so much about your heart for Christ, His church, and the next generation.  On behalf of every family at Restoration City, I want you to know how grateful we are.  It’s no small thing to be raising our kids in a church where they’re excited to go to church and it’s your sacrifice that makes that possible.  So, thank you!  You’re incredible.

And we need more of you!

The only way to keep serving an increasing number of families and kids is by increasing the number of volunteers.  We need 12-15 volunteers per Sunday, plus the volunteers at  our additional events.  We only ask RCC Kids volunteers to commit to 1-2 Sundays per month so you still are able to be in the main gathering 2-3 times per month.  But that means we need a regular volunteer pool of 40-50 in RCC Kids.  Right now, that number is closer to 30 regular volunteers.  So, you can see the need for more help in response to how abundantly the Lord has and is growing this area of our church!

If you’re willing to commit to 1-2 Sundays per month, we want to get you trained and serving with us.  Our need is especially great in the summer since so many of our regular volunteers are traveling.  If you can help us love and serve these kids, please shoot Alex an email today.  She would love to talk with you!!

The Prison Of Passivity

Rearview Mirror

First of all, hi!  I know it’s been a while since I last posted and it would feel really weird to jump right back in without acknowledging that it’s been a couple of months.  I’ll post more about why I took the break and how God’s used it later but, for today, I just want to say I’ve missed this chance to connect with our church and am looking forward to posting more regularly.

If nothing else, this blog provides a convenient format for me to Monday morning quarterback my own sermons, which I feel the need to do today.  All last week, I had been so excited to preach yesterday’s message, “The Prison Of Passivity” but as I was driving home, I found myself concerned that I wasn’t as clear as I should have been.

I definitely wanted to shake all of us, myself included, out of the rut of passivity.  I just hope I did that in a way that built on the unshakeable foundation of God’s grace.  It’s grace that saves us, sustains us, provides for us, guides us, and transforms us.  If you take grace out of the equation, you no longer have Christianity.  Everything in our lives flows from the fountain of grace.

But that grace doesn’t exempt us from effort.  It empowers it.  And I think that’s where we tend to get confused, justify our apathy, and spiritualize our innate laziness or passivity.  As I said yesterday, what we see as grace in the rearview mirror of life always looks like effort through the windshield.  I fear that we’ve lost sight of that reality.

Yes, God parts the Red Sea.  But we still have to walk through it.  Yes, no one can come to the Son unless the Father draws them.  But God makes His appeal through our lives and our words.  Yes, it’s love for Christ that motivates us to spend time with him in the early morning hours of the day.  But it takes an alarm clock to make it happen.  Yes, any professional success we have is attributable to God’s grace.  But it’s also going to take a lot of hard work.

I was listening to a sermon from Pastor Levi Lusko on the treadmill this morning and heard him say, “If you see someone on the top of a mountain, you know he didn’t fall there.”  There was a long, hard climb to get there.  Jesus rarely offers a ski lift to the top.  He’s far more likely to empower us for the hike.

Praise God for grace.  We would be no where without it.  But that grace doesn’t exempt us from effort.  We want to be a people who see holiness and hustle as two sides of the same coin, not competing values.

So, whatever you’re up to today, “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Col. 3:23-24).  Don’t live today locked in the prison of passivity.  Grace has freed you from that!

Easter & Shadow Me

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I’m a terrible celebrator.  As soon as something is over, I move on to the next thing.  Maybe I look back every once in a while, scroll through some old photos, draw on lessons learned, or enjoy a memory.  But, in general, the whole celebrating thing is something I need to work on as a husband, a father, and a pastor.

So, before I tell you about the new series we’re starting this coming Sunday, let’s take a minute to thank God for everything He did this past Sunday.  It was both our largest gathering yet as a church and the first time we had over 300 with us on a Sunday morning.  That all by itself is worth celebrating – it felt great to see so many people streaming into church, to have so many kids running around afterwards, and to feel the energy in the theater.  Honestly, I want every Sunday to feel that way!  But what means even more to me is the roughly 35 people who served in some way to make Sunday morning happen (Kids, Production, Worship, and Connect teams).  You all did an amazing job, served people so well, and honored Jesus greatly.  And God used you in a powerful way – to welcome first time guests, to tell the story of Jesus to the next generation, and to enable others to hear the gospel.  We’re still hearing the stories of all God did on Sunday but can say for sure that at least four people came to faith in Jesus!  So, when you add it all up, Easter was a pretty special day for us at Restoration City.  We have a lot to celebrate.

And we have a lot to look forward to as we start a new series, Shadow Me, this coming Sunday.  This series of messages will be anchored in Scripture but is born out of the work God has been doing in my life over the last five plus years.  It will be, by far, the most personal series of messages I’ve ever shared – exploring my battle with guilt, shame, rejection and the freedom I’ve found in Christ to be the person God has created me to be, to do the work He has called me to do, and to enjoy the people He has placed in my life.  The truths I’ve discovered from God’s Word, loving friends, and wise mentors has changed my life.  Of, maybe more accurately, has freed me to live my life.

For years I lived a fake life.  I was desperate to figure out who I needed to become in order for people to like me, to accept me, to love me.  But it was all an act.  I was working on creating a shadow version of myself, not working on the core of who I am.  I was busy creating an image, hiding my struggles, and polishing the shadow version that I let everyone else see.  But I was crumbling on the inside.  It’s a terrible and dangerous way to live.  It will crush your soul, damage your relationships, and kill your passion for God.  And I’m convinced we all do it way more than we think.

I want to fight back over the next six weeks.  I want to fight to uncover the real you; the one created by God, loved by God and redeemed by God.  The one Jesus went to the cross for, the one the world longs to know.

I would love to ask you for three things as we head into this season:

  1.  Pray for me.  Talking about things you’d prefer to ignore is never easy.  Doing it in a room full of people takes it to a whole new level!
  2. Commit to all six weeks.  I’m really unpacking one theme over six weeks, so catching one or two talks won’t be anywhere near as beneficial as catching all six.  Yes, we’ll keep the podcast running but being there in person is so much better!
  3. Invite friends.  This is a fantastic series for you to invite non-Christian friends, so don’t be shy.  They’ll be grateful you took the risk!

I’m excited for these next few weeks.  I think they’re going to help a lot of us find freedom and I pray they have a ripple effect on our culture as a church.  We want to be the kind of place where it’s safe to be yourself!

Stitches, A Cross & Our Redemption

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On Sunday afternoon, Aidan and I broke away for a quick walk in the woods.  He loved everything about it – being alone with Dad, getting to talk without his older brother dominating the conversation, and kicking at fallen logs with his little cowboy boots.  I can promise you he wasn’t the only one who loved it; I couldn’t get enough either – watching him explore, hearing his little voice talk about making donkey ears at church, and recognizing that he’s way more little boy than he is baby.  It’s moments like this when I can find myself overwhelmed with just how much I love my kids.

Which was why Saturday afternoon was so hard.  Aidan and Jack were playing (fighting?!?) upstairs when Aidan’s chin collided with the hardwood floor with enough force to earn him the distinction of being the first in the family to get stitches.  Even though Laura is the one with the medical background, I’m the one who takes the boys to Urgent Care for broken bones and stitches.  I guess it’s a form of male bonding.

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So, I got to be there while Aidan made his entrance at the Urgent Care and announced, “I have a horrible boo-boo.”  Somehow the little charmer had scored several stickers before we even sat down in the waiting room.  While we sat there, we kept rehearsing what would happen – a little numbing and then sewing his chin back together.  He was intrigued with the sewing but not too happy with the numbing prospects.  Pretty logical reaction.

We didn’t wait long before going back to get the whole thing started.  Which meant it was time for me to do my part – keeping a fiercely strong little boy still, by whatever means necessary.  Reassurance and comforting are preferred but a headlock isn’t out of the question!  So, he sat in my lap for two numbing injections into his quivering little chin followed by two stitches.  Without being too graphic, stitching someone up is the medical version of intentionally driving a fish hook through someone’s skin and repeating as often as necessary.    He was a total champ.  No headlock required.  He just sat there, even when I could feel his little body go rigid during the shots.

IMG_5948All of which has made me think about our impending celebration of Good Friday and Easter.  I’m reminded that Jesus went unflinchingly to the cross.  He didn’t endure the pain of the cross so He could be healed.  He endured the pain of the cross so He could be broken and we could be healed.  We’re the mess and He’s the innocent Son of God.  We’re the ones who needed healing but He’s the One who endured the pain.  I was so proud of Aidan’s bravery on Saturday but I’m overwhelmed by Christ’s sacrifice on the wood of that cross two thousand years ago.  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The worst part of Aidan sitting on my lap for all of this is that I had a perfect view of everything that was going on.  I had to sit there and watch while my little guy suffered.  It’s a reminder that Jesus wasn’t the only One who suffered that day.  The Father turned His face from His Son and delivered Him over to death. I’m convinced that the only thing more horrific than dying on a cross would be watching your child do it.  God could have called it off.  He could have intervened.  He could have saved His boy.  Instead, He saved us.  If I could have taken the stitches for Aidan on Saturday, I would have.  My guess is that God the Father would have rather been on that cross than see His boy there.

So, let’s remember what this weekend is all about.  Unthinkable love poured out for the world in the death of the Son of God.  The Father didn’t take Jesus’ place on the cross but Jesus took ours.  If you’ve ever wondered what the One who created the skies thinks of you, there’s your answer.  He knows your sin, your brokenness and your failings.  And He loves you enough to rescue you from it all.  His love was displayed in all of its fierce glory on that cross – love for you, love for those who have the courage to admit they need a savior, love for the world He created.

Happy Easter!

 

Easter Is Almost Here

Easter 2018

It feels a little strange to be writing about Easter in the midst of the worst snow storm we’ve had all winter.  When I look outside, I want to write a Christmas sermon but when I look at the calendar, I realize I better get to work on Easter…it’s a little more than a week away!!

But I’m not the only one who needs to get to work on Easter; we all do.  I’m not just talking about planning the weekend, the outfit, the meals, and the relaxation but also planning how to use the incredible opportunity of Easter to deepen a relationship with someone who doesn’t attend a local church or know Jesus.  Easter Sunday is the single greatest opportunity we have all year to invite people to church.  I say that for two reasons.  One, there are a lot of people who don’t normally go to church who still see church as part of their Easter ritual.  And, two, people in D.C. don’t travel at Easter the way they do at Christmas.  This city is a ghost town on Christmas Eve but people love to stay here or come here for Easter (as long as the snow melts by then!!).  This means many of your co-workers, friends, and neighbors are likely to be around and thinking about going to a church.

The real question is how we’re going to respond to that opportunity, which really is a question of how much we’ve been changed by our 15 month study of the Book of Acts.  I’ve tried to bring a different aspect of the story of the early church to life every Sunday we’ve been in Acts but those aspects are all in service of the overall story: God intends to accomplish His mission through His people by His power.  God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.“(1 Timothy 2:4)  That desire is so strong that Jesus gave His life on a cross to make it possible.  God’s heart beats with compassion for the lost, the lonely, the hurting, and the broken of our city.  If the Spirit of that God lives in us, then our hearts should beat for the same things.  We should be bothered by people going to hell and by people living without the hope that comes from knowing Jesus.  And we should do whatever we can to join God in His mission of reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Can you imagine Paul’s reaction if he saw Christians approaching the opportunity of Easter with casual indifference?  It’s tempting to think of the fiery evangelist ripping into an audience of lazy, indifferent, self-centered Christians.  And maybe there would be a little of that – he didn’t hold back when he needed to confront Peter about his hypocrisy.  But I’m also sure his rebuke would be tempered by grace and the invitation to remember was God has done for us.  He writes something along those lines to the church in Ephesus, “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.“(Ephesians 2:11-12) Remember what it was like to have no hope, to be alienated from God, to be judged by people.  Remember what someone did for you so that you could come to a knowledge of the truth.

That’s my challenge and invitation to us as a church – be willing to do for someone else what someone did for you in light of everything Jesus has done for us.  Pray that God will give you opportunities between now and Easter to talk to people about Jesus, to invite them to church and to start a spiritual conversation with them.  I honestly believe this is going to be the best Easter yet at Restoration City and I want you to be a part of it.  Not simply by being there but by being there with someone who needs to find a church or needs to find Jesus.

Don’t waste your opportunity!

Leaky Tires & Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

tired

A couple of weeks ago, I was taking one of our kids to school when I noticed one of the tires on the van was a little flat.  So, I took it to the gas station, filled it up and went on with my day.  Well, by noon the same tire was close to flat again and I knew we had a leak.  So, I brought it to another gas station, they sprayed some kind of liquid on the tire, found the leak, patched it and inflated the tire.  Problem solved, back to life.

None of that is a big deal when it comes to a tire but when we approach our relationship with Jesus the same way, it’s a very big deal.  Over the course of the week, we become aware that our lives are leaking a bit – we see flashes of anger, hints of selfishness and bursts of lust.  We know something’s off but we aren’t quite sure what, so we go to church on Sunday and I spray a little liquid on the tire of your life during the sermon and help find the leak.  “Oh, I’m angry because I’m struggling to trust that God is using His sovereign power for my good.”  Then we patch the leak with a little forgiveness, some fresh inspiration and a whole lot of determination.  But over the course of the week, we see a leak so we go back to square one and start the process all over again.

It’s a totally reactive way of living the Christian life.  You’re always fighting to get back to neutral and never growing into a stronger disciple of Jesus.  It’s settling for sin management when Jesus has called you to Kingdom impact.  There’s no growth, just damage control.

And it will stay that way until we learn to address the deeper issues that are causing the tire to leak in the first place.  That’s why I’m so thrilled to be offering Pete Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Course this spring at Restoration City.  It’s an in depth discipleship course designed to help us explore what’s going on under the surface of our lives – where the leaks are coming from and why we struggle with some of the things we do.  The course combines a robust understanding of emotional health, a biblical understanding of spirituality, and the life changing power of the gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that will be tremendously beneficial to your soul and life.

All of this fits perfectly with our deep commitment to the centrality of the gospel in all things.  At the end of the day, the gospel is not only the patch on the tire but also the way to stop the leak at it’s source.  EHS isn’t presenting an alternative to the gospel – it’s helping us see where and how to apply the gospel in our souls and lives.

I believe this course is so foundational to where God is leading us as a church that I’m  teaching all 8 weeks.  We’ll be meeting from 12.30 – 2.30 at our WeWork offices on Sunday afternoons starting on April 22nd and going through June 17th with the exception of Memorial Day weekend.  If you’re willing to take the journey with me, get registered today at rcc.church/ehs.

Mid-Day Prayer

mid day prayerA few months ago, our staff team added a new rhythm to our daily schedules – stopping to pray at 11.30.  These prayer times are really simple, nothing complicated at all.  We spend a few minutes in silent, personal prayer and then come together to read God’s Word and pray.  When we first started moving in this direction, I knew it would be good for our team and for my soul.

What I didn’t know is how hard it would be to carve out this time.  And I don’t mean that in some sort of “poor, overworked pastor” kind of way.  In fact, my job should make it so much easier – I’m paid to pray and it’s still a challenge!  The problem isn’t my schedule – it’s my heart.  By that point in the day, I’ve gotten a decent amount of work done (hopefully) but there’s also been enough time for a decent amount of work to pile up – emails, questions from our team, texts, phone calls, you name it.  And whatever has piled up always feels so urgent right at 11.30.  How can I stop to pray when I haven’t gotten back to so and so yet?  How can I stop and pray when I have unanswered emails?  What about that meeting this afternoon? And on and on and on…

But that’s really the point.  There’s always going to be another email to answer, a text to return and a phone call to make. Always.  Whether I pray or not.  So, my only real options are (a) some undone work plus time with the Lord or (b) some undone work and no time with the Lord.  Trust me, I feel the pull towards option b but I know my soul needs option a.

In fact, I’ve learned that the harder it is to stop, the more I need it.  I need to be reminded that the future of this church doesn’t rest on my shoulders.  Jesus is the head of the Church, not me. (Col. 1:18)  Yes, I want to lead with diligence (Rm. 12:8) but that diligence absent the power of God won’t accomplish anything. (Jn. 15:5).  Yes, I want to do my work as unto the Lord (Col. 3:23) but productivity can never take the place of sitting at the feet of Jesus. (Lk. 10:42)

I’m sharing all of this because I want to invite you to join us in this rhythm.  If you can do that in person, great.  I’m serious – we would love to have you come join us in our Crystal City offices any time you can make it.  Just email Alex (alex@rcc.church) and she’ll get you everything you need.  But if you can’t be with us at 11.30, set an alarm on your phone.  When it goes off, pause and pray.  If you can only carve out 60 seconds, that’s better than nothing!  But my guess is you could carve out 5-10 minutes if you got creative.  And, just to state the obvious, there’s nothing special about 11.30 – if that doesn’t work for you, pick another time.  Just be consistent because it’s that consistency that ingrains it in your daily rhythms.

Adopting this rhythm might be one of the more significant changes you make in your relationship with Jesus this year.  It’s a beautiful reminder that our hope in in Christ, He provides the grace our lives run on and He’s with you in the midst of the trials and temptations of your day.  Don’t just spend time with Jesus in the morning to check a box.  Lingering at His feet for a few minutes in the midst of the chaos of our days reminds us that His grace really is sufficient for the challenges of our real, complicated, broken lives.

Matt, Savannah, You, Me & The Hope Of Grace

Today Show

I can’t remember exactly when but at some point during high school, I started watching The Today Show.  That was back before Katie Couric said goodbye to Bryant Gumble and started breaking in this young upstart named Matt Lauer.  And, when I say I watched The Today Show, I mean, I watched it every single day.  “But, first this is Today on NBC” anchored my morning routine as much as anything else for years.  Maybe that’s why I was so shocked to hear that Matt Lauer has joined the long list of cultural figures to fall in the two months since The New York Times’ first reports on Harvey Weinstein.

To be honest, I’m usually skeptical of Christian authors, bloggers and pastors who use the controversy or news of the day as fodder for a quick blog post.  I’m always concerned those who write such posts are silently grateful for a topic that could generate a lot of interest.  The last thing I want to do is be that guy but I do want to respond to a massive question Savannah Guthrie asked as she shared the new about her friend Matt Lauer, “How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?”  It’s such a significant question because most of our culture’s attempts to reconcile those two thoughts leave our souls deeply unsatisfied.

All too often, we resolve the tension by cutting the person who has behaved badly out of our lives.  Maybe it’s because we don’t know what to say and saying nothing seems easier and safer.  Maybe it’s because we feel so hurt and betrayed that a friend let us down.  Whatever our motivation, cutting someone out always reveals that we never really loved them, only what they could do for us.  Love doesn’t see friends as assets or liabilities but so much of what we call friendship does.

At other times, we careen off in the other direction and ignore, excuse, minimize or laugh off their behavior.  We don’t love our friends enough to tell them they were wrong, instead we help them rationalize their failings.  We pretend what they did doesn’t matter, we defend what is indefensible, and in so doing we tarnish our integrity and betray our own expectations for ourselves.

We’ve lost the ability to say, “I love you even though you’ve behaved very badly.”  It’s an ability we desperately need if we’re every going to have healthy, enduring relationships.  And it’s an ability we’ll only develop when we realize that’s exactly what God has already said to us through the person and work of Jesus Christ.  It’s an ability that calls on us to embrace three complementary truths:

Uncompromising Standards

Nobody wins when we lower our moral standards to the basest levels of human depravity.  Sexual harassment is wrong; it violates the dignity of a person who is made in the image and likeness of God.  And to sexual harassment we can add a long list of other things that our culture has become far too permissive of in an attempt to answer Savannah’s question.  But mornings like today reveal that we all really do know better; some things are just wrong.  Sex is a sacred gift from God, not a weapon to be used in exerting power over someone else.

Deep Humility

In our assessment of others, we would do well to consider the words of 19th century Scottish pastor Robert Murray M’Cheyne, “The seed of every sin known to man is in my heart.”  As much as I want to fight that conclusion for myself, I know it’s true.  Apart from God’s grace, I’m capable of doing whatever Lauer did and even worse.  It’s dangerously prideful to live without that kind of self awareness and it reflects a willful ignorance of our own failures.  What if your biggest regret, greatest sin and deepest source of shame was being thrown all over the internet today?  How would you be feeling if that moment was the topic of conversation all over the country today?  That thought alone should be enough to lead us into deep levels of humility.

Radical Grace

It’s only humble souls that can deal in the economy of grace.  Grace is the unique contribution of Christianity to the human experience – the ability to say that my love for you isn’t based on what you do but on who you are.  It’s the ability to stand with both the sinner and the sinned against.  It’s the ability to separate love from performance.

It’s what God has done for us in Jesus.  On the cross, we see the fury of God’s hatred for sin but we also see God’s deep love for sinners.  The fury of God’s wrath fell on His Son so that it could pass over us.  God made a way for sinners to become sons and for rebels to find peace.  God doesn’t love us because we deserve it.  He loves us because it’s who He is.

And that’s how he calls us to love one another.  Not sweeping sin or sinners under the carpet but showing a grace that melts the hardest of hearts and gives life in the most hopeless situations.

Oh, how I long to love people the way Jesus has loved me.  Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we could all take a step closer to that this Christmas?  A baby Boy was born to show us that grace and truth flow together and change everything they touch.