By / Sep 20

God is love. Christ demonstrated God’s love by laying down his life for us while we were still his enemies. Theology helps faith become understanding as we explore the details of this life-giving love in the doctrine of the atonement, which, as we study it, helps us be increasingly transformed into a loving people. Let’s consider what a theologically fueled love actually looks like. The combination of the biblical testimony and Christian wisdom seems to point toward a three-directional love—love of God, love of others, and a healthy love of self.

Love of God 

First John 4:19 tells us that the direction of our love for God and God’s love for us has a clear pattern: “We love because he first loved us.” In fact, the Scriptures teach us that God loved us even before the foundation of the world (Rom. 9:11; Eph. 1:4–6). God’s love for us enables our love for God.

What’s more, in the contemplation of how God displayed his love for us, we might find the fuel needed to love God in return. It is the preeminent joy and responsibility of Christians to love God. As the greatest of all the commandments, we set our affections Godward, and our pilgrimage takes us from one degree of love to another for this God who has ransomed our wayward souls. 

Love of others 

In his book The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis depicts the danger of loving another and the vulnerability that comes with it. 

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

Lewis is of course correct. To love our neighbor is a dangerous endeavor. Loving our neighbor often involves a necessary inconvenience, as we lay ourselves down for the good of our neighbor. It is often easier to love the idea of “mankind” without bothering to love our actual fellow man. Yet the chorus of “one another” commands in the New Testament—to love one another, look after one another, mourn with one another, bear one another’s burdens, etc.— demands that we actually step into the messy particularities of our neighbors’ lives.

While entering into the joys and burdens of our neighbors might be exhausting work, it is worthy work. Theology can help us. As we set our minds on how the Lord loves us wayward sinners, we find more than enough impetus to get out and love our neighbors. When our mind’s eye catches a gaze at just how great God’s love is for us, love will move us. Love will move Christians to adopt the fatherless, to feed the hungry, to nurse the sick, to pursue the lost, to insist on kindness, and to count our neighbor as more important than ourselves.

Love of self

I have a gravitational pull toward self-criticism and self-hatred. I’ve spent hours in prayer and in counseling rooms to work against the intense inward pull toward critical self-analysis, but it still resides within me. I know I’m not alone in this fight against the flesh. As a pastor, I’ve heard of countless Christians who struggle with self-worth and a healthy sense of self-love.

Of course, in our world it’s easy to take a nuanced and careful understanding of love for oneself and let it devolve into selfishness or self-centeredness. That error of pride is not what we are after here. Instead, there is a place in Christian wisdom for a healthy measure of love for yourself, and theology might be one tool we can use to pursue this form of Christian maturity. 

God created all things and called them “good,” but when God created man and woman, he called them “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Humans are made in the image of God, and by virtue of our Creator, there is something innately good about us. While sin has tarnished all we see and experience, and while our transgressions have taken much from us, our sin cannot take away our status as those who bear the image of our Creator. Moreover, the command to “love our neighbor as ourselves” implies that we have a healthy measure of self-love. Christians can grab hold of theology to gain a right-sized view of who they are—which is one riddled with sin and corruption but also one treasured and redeemed by God. In the tension of life as a sinner and a saint, there is a place for theologically informed love of self. 

Love, the leading virtue 

It was by no mistake that love leads the list of virtues that make up the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Love is central to both the great commandment and the Great Commission. In that one word—love—we see the fulfillment of the law. So then, while theology can lead to all the fruit of the Spirit, we are right to prioritize love. 

In Colossians 3, Paul exhorts us to “put on” compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. However, just one sentence later he writes, “Above all, put on love” (v. 14). Theology expands our minds; may it also enflame our hearts toward love. As Christians who love truth, may the life of the mind make its way into the life of our soul, helping us “put on love” in all we do.

Excerpted with permission from Fruitful Theology by Ronni Kurtz. Copyright 2022, B&H Publishing.

By / Aug 18

The Bible is clear that (1) Christians should care about injustice (Micah 6:8, 2 Chronicles 19:7, Prov 20:23) and (2) Christians should respect civil government and laws (Rom 13:1-2, 1 Tim. 2:1-2). Yet over the centuries, Christians have toiled over the dichotomy between a godly passion for justice and the biblical call to submission. 

Believers have often found themselves at odds with the rulers and laws of the land they live in. In America today, laws stand that threaten the lives of the unborn, diverge from the biblical understanding of gender and sexuality, and forsake the widow and orphan. Currently, the U.S. House of Representatives is considering 12 appropriation bills for FY2022 that propose the removal of pro-life riders from the budget such as the Hyde and Weldon Amendments. Thankfully, Christians living in the 21st century are not the first group of believers to find ourselves in disagreement with the laws and norms of their culture. Jesus prepared us to expect as much, when he prayed for the protection of his people in the garden of Gethsemane, “they are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (John 17:16). 

The book of 1 Peter was written as the church faced persecution and focused on instructing Christians about how to live faithfully in a time of extraordinary evil. Peter instructs believers to use good conduct and submission to those in authority as a testament to the gospel (1 Pet. 2:13). We have been made free by the blood of Christ, we must now use our freedom not to bring chaos but instead to show the world the gentleness and servant nature of our Savior (1 Pet. 2:16). This includes submission to human authority (1 Pet. 2:15). Peter gives us a beautiful framework for what living as a servant of God looks like, calling Christians to “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor (1 Pet. 2:17). 

Honor everyone. 

The first two principles at work in Peter’s framework inform how the Christian is to go about showing honor to those outside the church (the first principle) and those within the church (the second). The first portion reminds believers that we are to honor (or rightly respect) all people, which includes recognizing and standing up for their dignity as image-bearers. The way we treat people should reflect the inherent worth each individual possesses as one created by God. 

Regarding those who are particularly vulnerable, Proverbs 31:8-9 calls believers to: Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” The Bible is filled with accounts of brave men and women of faith who defied their rulers to hold fast to their faith and protect the innocent: the Hebrew midwives who resisted Pharoah’s command to kill the Israelite babies (Ex. 1), Rahab’s defiance of Jericho’s rulers and protection of the Israelite spies (Josh. 2), and Obadiah’s hiding of the prophets of God from the murderous queen Jezebel (1 Kings 18). This is rooted in the reality that the Lord is a God of justice, who hates abuses of the poor, vulnerable, and powerless.

Love the brotherhood.

The second principle — love of the brotherhood — calls Christians to love one another. This includes within our own local churches and Christian communities, but it also extends to the body of Christ across the world. This should also inform how Christians respond to cries for justice from within the church. It was the Black church and its advocacy, activism, and exercise of peaceful civil disobedience that called the United States to respect the full equality and dignity of Black Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. 

Christians should strive to see an expansion of God’s kingdom here on earth. We should seek justice in a way that displays the character of God and his compassion for the hurting, and especially those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ (Gal. 6:10). We should work to cultivate justice that points to the kingdom of perfect righteousness that is coming.

Practicing this principle can take many different forms. As we look to the Scriptures, we see that Paul spent a great deal of time collecting funds from other Christians for the relief of the church in Jerusalem (1 Cor 16:1–4; 2 Cor 8:1–9:15; Rom 15:14–32). We also see Paul instructing Philemon to treat Onesimus not as a slave but as a brother (Philemon 1:16). Today, showing love for the brotherhood could mean financially assisting a believer facing a medical crisis, volunteering for a Christian justice or poverty relief ministry, helping to repair a church building damaged by a natural disaster, or providing resources and support for a community of Christian refugees from another country. 

Fear God.

The final two principles are important because the first one controls the second. The fear of God is to take priority over our honor of the emperor, and it’s also our motivation for respecting the rulers he has set in place (Rom. 13:7). The same Peter who writes the epistle is the one who told the Jewish leaders in the early days of the church, “We must obey God rather than human men” (Acts 5:29). When the early church was forbidden from speaking or teaching in the name of Jesus, Peter and John refused and said, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:18-20). 

Similarly, during the reign of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, the young Israelites Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego courageously refused to worship the King’s statue and were thrown into a burning furnace (Dan. 3). Later, Daniel would be cast into a den of lions for his refusal to follow the king’s unjust command forbidding prayer (Dan. 6). 

Again, the Civil Rights Movement illustrates how Christians should be willing to accept punishment and consequences for refusing to obey unjust laws. Those who protested against the prejudiced treatment of African Americans under Jim Crow segregation were willing to face jailing (and often unlawful physical punishment) to demonstrate that the government’s policies were not only unconstitutional but unjust. It was in one such prison that Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his Letter from Birmingham Jail as a plea to forsake silence and delayed justice.

Early Baptists in England and North America also faced persecution from the government on account of their religious faith. Men like Thomas Helwys and Isaac Backus refused to attend state-sanctioned churches and suffered retribution from the state. Like the apostles in Acts, because of our fear of God, Christians should be unwilling to submit to unjust laws that deny justice and equality to our fellow human beings. 

Honor the emperor.

First Peter 2:11-17 identifies Christians as sojourners and exiles in this world and urges believers to “keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable” and to “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” Therefore, Christians should instead give thanks and pray for those given authority over us “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

Like Peter, Paul wrote Romans, his letter to the church in Rome, during a period of persecution from the Roman Emperor Nero, making his commands concerning government all the more powerful. Romans 13 clarifies that every person should be subject to their governing authorities because their authority has been instituted by God. Though we are often tempted to forget, government in general is a good gift from God intended to keep order and lead to the flourishing of society. And Paul warns that we risk incurring the wrath of God and violating our consciences when we disobey the civil authorities he has established (v. 5). As Christians, we should honor our rulers, pay taxes, and respect those in authority with our words and actions. And as we do so, we remember that we are actually submitting to and honoring our King.

So what now?

In his commentary of Acts 5, John Stott says, “We are to submit right up to the point where obedience to the state would entail disobedience to God. But if the state commands what God forbids or forbids what God commands, then our plain Christian duty is to resist, not to submit, to disobey the state in order to obey God.” 

As Christians, we should default to respect civil authorities and submit to the laws we are subject to. When a civil mandate contradicts our heavenly mandate, our allegiance to God’s kingdom should win. Christians should resist laws that command sin and constantly work within the existing rules to change evil laws and promote righteousness. Above all, we should do so as we remember that our effort and obedience is ultimately aimed at pleasing God.

By / Nov 12

It’s nearly Advent, but my mind is preoccupied with a different holiday. Four years ago, on Father’s Day weekend, my wife Chelsea penned an open letter to her father. I can only describe it as the most tender description of adoption I have ever read. Reflecting on her own adoption, Chelsea shared what her father’s love taught her about belonging and family: “Blood is the least of what makes a family. Godly love is the real lifeblood of a family.”

Love—and lots of paperwork.

The hard task of waiting

As I write these reflections in 2020, Chelsea and I are on our own adoptive journey. We hope to bring two little ones from India into our home in the near future, and are awash in paperwork. For any couple that has trod this road or is traveling it now, the rote act of filling out forms is a simple reality of adoption, and completing them is an infinitesimal price to pay for the inexpressible joy of building a family.

But in a way, the paperwork is deceitful. Or at least, it deceives me. When I complete a form or upload another document, I feel productive and preoccupied. And rightly so, for there is no way for us to bring children into our home apart from completing it. But the hustle of paperwork is really a façade that covers the deeper reality of adoption: waiting. 

Waiting for restoration. Waiting for healing. Waiting for them.

Chelsea and I can control the pace of paperwork, but we can’t control bureaucrats on the other side of the world. We can manage the tempo of appointments and fulfill obligations on our timetable, but we cannot bind God’s timing. We can position ourselves for success, but no amount of preparation will erase the brokenness and pain our future children will feel—for adoption always, always originates in loss. All we can do now is wait for our children’s safety, pray for their hearts, and hope that, by God’s grace, our meeting is soon.

The waiting of adoption is turning my gaze away from things and people beyond my control, and revealing my own desperate need to be restored and healed.

The lengthy nature of adoption is teaching me to sit in stillness and make peace with these truths, but, in honesty, I’d rather not. Deep in my heart, there is an innate discomfort with waiting, one I would rather avoid. As an American accustomed to the immediate, this disposition isn’t terribly surprising. But this fear goes beyond our cultural milieu to a deep place in my heart, beyond the reach or scope of paperwork or human power.

Facing fears

I want to believe the illusion that, just as it’s possible to perfectly complete an application without mistakes, it’s also possible to build a perfect family without brokenness. When I think of the “origin story” of our future children, it scares me to think that, before Chelsea or I enter the picture, others are already there as “mommy” and “daddy”—and that our kids will never fully understand themselves apart from the parents who were there first.

To put a finer point on it: I see so much that could come between my future children and me. And the only way to know what that chapter will actually entail is to, quite simply, wait for it.

These fears loom large, but I am finding comfort in my wife’s own story. To be sure, no two adoptions are alike. The more I listen to friends and acquaintances who have adopted or are adopted, the more I see this plain truth. But Chelsea’s dear letter to her father reveals, I think, a timeless truth that pervades every single adoption: God’s heart for the orphaned and abandoned. 

He created man and woman knowing our sin would separate us from him (Isa. 59:2). 

He knew we would reject him (Isa. 53:5) and deny ever knowing him (Luke 22:54-62), and that we would even claim the devil himself as our father (John 8:44).

God knew it all. And still he chose not only to save us by dying in our place (Rom. 5:8), but to adopt us and be our “Abba” Father (Rom. 8:15).

When we rebelled against God’s perfect plan, he became our perfect Savior. He didn’t condemn us to utter darkness; he came to rescue us (John 3:17).

As I mediate on these gospel truths, my heart is slowly turning away from the unknowns about my future children and facing what I want for my own heart. Yes, I want my children to look like Jesus (even if they’ll look nothing like me). And I desperately want to look like Jesus too. Of course I want our kids to bond with Chelsea and me and see us as their parents by love, if not by blood—but even more than that, I want to bond with the Father and see myself for who I am: his adopted son.

The waiting of adoption is turning my gaze away from things and people beyond my control, and revealing my own desperate need to be restored and healed. As Chelsea and I wait for our children, my heavenly Father waits for me day by day, moment by moment, to heal me. Amidst the hustle of paperwork and the bustle of anxieties, he promises rest to his children. 

Oh Lord, regardless of what future Father’s Days, Mother’s Days, birthdays, or any other days may bring, give me grace to enter your rest today as we wait.

By / Dec 3

A brief look at the the things that are popular in our culture—movies, songs, TV shows, fashion—reveals that we are obsessed with sex. But our culture’s understanding of sex is upside down from what the Bible teaches. At the ERLC’s National Conference, Phillip Bethancourt addresses God’s design for sex, love, and marriage.

By / Oct 7

I spend a lot of my time thinking through mental health and faith, as well as helping church communities do the same, and I’m encouraged. I’m encouraged by society’s attempts to reduce the stigma surrounding depression and anxiety. I’m encouraged by the Church’s efforts to do the same. My experience has been that Christians are willing to talk about mental health. Yet we can often struggle to know what to do or say. We want to help, but we don’t know how. Yet, this is a great start. 

A simple way to help 

I believe there’s one powerful way the Church can take mental health more seriously, and it’s so simple you may have overlooked it. 

One of the things I’ve realized during my journey of living with depression is the blessing that could be found in all the resources God gives us. He gives us doctors and psychologists to help treat us, and that’s a great mercy. This is not the Church’s role. We aren’t meant to diagnose. But there is something we can do to take mental health more seriously. Love. 

The Church can love.

One of the greatest heartaches of living with a mental illness is how unloveable you feel. Often the most difficult person in your world is yourself, and you can tell yourself all kinds of lies and words of condemnation. “I’m not good enough,” “What’s the point?,” “Why would anyone want to spend time with me? With this?”

We need to take mental health seriously because, like any other kind of frailty, our gospel genuinely makes a difference.

This is why the gospel is a soothing balm to the lies of mental illness, because we’re reminded at our core that we are so deeply loved, and that God’s love is not dependent on our lovability. The more the Church can represent that truth with its love toward one another, the greater the outcome can be. 

I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship … Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality (Rom. 12:1, 9-13).

Three practical suggestions

We need to take mental health seriously because, like any other kind of frailty, our gospel genuinely makes a difference. And so, what does love look like in a context of mental illness? Here are three practical suggestions that may help you get started:

1. Be consistent. If your friendship is built on a common interest in watching or playing sports, keep offering to watch or play sports. If it’s spending time at a cafe, catch up at your favorite spot. Depending on how he or she is feeling at the time, your loved one may not always take you up on the invitation. But consistency shows that the relationship is safe, no matter what the season.

2. Listen well. Love is not a doormat, and if you think there is advice that would help your loved one in his or her time of need, you should feel free to speak it. But do it slowly. If you notice a change that you’re concerned about, make sure you ask plenty of questions first. Rather than leading with a statement like, “I think you’re depressed,” a question like, “You seem a bit flat at the moment, is everything OK?” allows your loved one to speak for themselves and creates a tone that is much more open to conversation.

3. Recommend a local doctor. If, after chatting further, you still have concerns, suggesting your loved see his or her doctor is one of the best things you can do. Doctors are the gateway to a range of many other health services, and so bringing them into the conversation can make a huge difference. You may even like to offer to go with your friend to the initial appointment, assuming this is something he or she is open to. 

Through it all, make sure you remember that loving your neighbor is not the same as saving, or fixing, your neighbor. It can be heartbreaking to see loved ones spiral into poor health, but we can’t control the outcome of anyone’s life. We’re simply asked to see what opportunities we have to love that are in front of us, and steward them for God’s glory and the welfare of one another. 

When I see that happening, I’m encouraged. But more importantly, God is glorified. 

By / Aug 26

Not pretty enough. Not smart enough. Not accomplished enough.

In a culture dominated by social media, these are the messages that we’re constantly being fed. This destructive comparison has especially affected the younger generation and young women, contributing to increasingly higher rates of depression and suicide. For victims of abuse and domestic violence, the shame and insecurity caused by others can be crippling.

Self-love fights back against shame and low self-esteem with the message that we need to start loving and accepting ourselves just the way that we are, flaws and all. We can’t love others if we don’t first love ourselves, proponents say. True confidence and security, then, comes from self-love.

But is this really the case?

What is self-love?

At its root, self-love is the pursuit of one’s own well-being and happiness and the avoidance of shame and insecurity. It rests on this idea described by the Buddha,

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserves your love and affection.”

According to this way of thinking, we are all inherently lovable and worthy of affection. Some liken it to being your own best friend or partner, your own personal cheerleader. It may take the form of self-care practices like relaxation or indulgence in your favorite foods, “being kind to yourself” by reciting positive affirmations and mantras, or meditating on your own strengths and accomplishments.

It’s important for Christians to note the difference between this way of thinking and where the Bible says our worth comes from. The idea that humans have inherent worth is one that is affirmed throughout Scripture. God bestowed dignity upon us when he created us in his image (Gen. 1:26-27). It is his image in us that gives us value—value that exists apart from our appearance, life experience, or contribution to society. This is why the Bible so clearly calls us to protect, defend, and care for all of life—because all people are made in the image of God.

What does the Bible say about self-love?

Many point to Jesus’ command in Mark 12:31 as evidence for the Bible’s support of self-love. We should love our neighbors as we love ourselves, so it must follow that we cannot love others if we do not love ourselves first. This reasoning, however, misinterprets the text, which rests on the assumption that all of us already love ourselves. We may still struggle with insecurity, but, as described in this context, we all still naturally pursue our own happiness and well-being.

2 Timothy 3:2-4 warns us of the last days, when people will be “lovers of self” rather than “lovers of God.” It reminds us of our tendency to love ourselves above God. Our love of self can become destructive. While the self-love movement suggests that we are all inherently good and loveable, the gospel reminds us that apart from Christ, “none is righteous” (Rom. 3:10) and “no one does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:12). It is true and good that we are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and that this reflection of his image gives us inherent worth, but it can become dangerous if we forget the reality of our sinful nature apart from Christ.

Where can we find true love, acceptance, and confidence?

The heart of the self-love movement—pursuit of happiness and well-being—is not unfamiliar to God’s design. But it does miss the target. Instead, the Bible teaches that “in [God’s] presence there is fullness of joy; at [his] right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psa. 16:11).

The Bible does not diminish the struggle of insecurity or depression. Rather, it offers a greater hope and confidence, one that far surpasses the promises of the self-love movement. It tells us that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Through Jesus, “we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17). This is our greatest confidence: that the King of kings has adopted us as his sons and daughters, not through any work of our own, but through his great mercy and grace in Christ. He has fulfilled the law so that we may be fully accepted. This truth should instill deep confidence and obliterate all pride.

The gospel not only frees us from our comparison culture and the pressure to meet the world’s standards, it allows and encourages us to look at ourselves for all that we are—broken sinners in need of a Savior—not with denial or a kind of shallow optimism, but with the power of him who has overcome sin and death. What’s more, the gospel empowers us not only to acknowledge our weakness, but also to boast in it, for God’s “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). In Christ, there is no place for self-glorification nor self-loathing, because our new identity as God’s children has been freely bestowed upon us.

The Christian’s call to die to self

For Christians, the Bible distinguishes between the old self and the new self (Eph. 4:22-24). In a culture that prioritizes the self at all costs, the Bible teaches us to die to our old selves and to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Because of Christ’s sacrifice for us, we are no longer bound to self-interest but can follow the call to “deny [ourselves] and take up [our crosses] daily and follow [Christ]” (Luke 9:23). As Jesus said, “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:24).

One danger of the self-love movement is that it may lead us to merely accept our old selves as they are, suppressing any desire for change. But God desires much more for us than this; he desires our sanctification, our conforming to the likeness of Christ (Rom. 8:29). It is only when we have died to our old selves and put on our new self that we are truly freed to love others. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19), not because we love ourselves first.

Living with an outward focus

I’ve found that in my own struggles with body image, insecurity, and feelings of inadequacy, the key hasn’t been to think of myself higher or to love myself more. Instead, freedom has come as I’ve filled my mind with thoughts of God and his promises. It is only when we start to see God for who he really is that we will be able to see ourselves for who we actually are. We will delight in his creation, not because we are the ones worthy of our affection, but because we know that he is a good and perfect creator.

There’s nothing wrong with combating insecurity. We should fight it, however, with the truth of Scripture—truth like that from Psalm 139:14 that says we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” If our sole aim in meditating on this verse is to increase our own self-esteem, though, we’ve missed the point. Our delight in his wondrous creation of our bodies should align our hearts with David’s, whose song was a prayer of praise to God (Psalm 139:14). Worship is the ultimate aim, not self-worth.

So I encourage you—when you experience the crippling effects of insecurity, don’t look inward, look outward. Remind yourself of your God-given identity and of his sacrifice to make the unworthy worthy. Fix your eyes on the cross, and let the weight of your sin and inadequacy turn your heart to worship of the only One truly worthy of all our love and affection.

By / Nov 3

Phillip Bethancourt delivers a keynote address on sexuality at the 2018 ERLC National Conference. 

By / Sep 15

Glenn Stanton is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family and spends a lot of time with those he disagrees with about issues of sexuality, but they are also those he calls “friend.” At the ERLC National Conference, his talk “Loving my LGBT Neighbor,” encouraged us as Christians to befriend, love, and speak truth to all of our neighbors because of the way Jesus did the same for us when we were opposed to him. We hope this message encourages you to reach out to the neighbors God has put around you.

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By / Jul 11

Easy comes the belief that, "all is well," as long as there are no disadvantages or harms levied against my family, my party, my tribe, my faith, my community. So long as those we love are not in harm's way, we tend to downplay and ignore the challenge and plight of others. But when we see unfair treatment and inconsistently applied rules and expectations against someone in our own family, party, tribe, faith, and community, we are aggrieved and provoked.

We tend to live in self-cloistered, narrowly defined communities and social circles. We filter our news, social media, friends, and information resources to provide only those that reinforce or justify our perspective. Increasingly, those sources have stoked division, and civility has given way to the loudest, angriest, (often the most obnoxious) voice in the room, on the screen, and on the platform. But as long as our position isn't challenged, as long as our boat isn't rocked, we row merrily along, demanding others to move on and get over it. Which leads to further division, greater frustration, and headlines like those we have read this bloody week.

A large part of our problem is that we don't know one another and don't bother to try to know each other. And as long as we personally don't know someone from another tribe, we can ignore them. Worse, we can dismiss them and their community's unique histories, challenges, and experiences.

While I don't have the answers, I am convinced that we can take a step in the right direction if we will invest time in getting to know each other. At the very least, we expand our understanding as we acknowledge each other's experiences and stories.  More than likely, friendships will begin that foster mutual respect. When we know someone, hard-line divisions become increasingly difficult to maintain.

My oldest son was named after a dear friend whose politics are diametrically opposed to my own. I belong to a church predominantly not of my own race, and I've observed and grown sensitive to how many in my church face genuine struggles and challenges with which I am not forced to deal. A couple who I genuinely love are on the opposite side of the issue of traditional marriage, yet I would put myself in harm's way to protect them. One of my very favorite friends does not share my view on guns, but that is secondary to our friendship.

We've all decided that whatever our differences may be, we are going to love each other. Sincerely held convictions and deeply held beliefs can be maintained, but angry discourse and violent actions are relegated to the margins once we get to know each other and start communicating. Once we seek to understand instead of score debate points, once we determine that we actually like or even love someone from another community or tribe, we discover the ability to disagree yet love anyway. But it started with simply getting to know one another.

Until we take the time to step out of our own comfort zones and make an effort to genuinely know each other, we allow power-seeking political operatives, self-serving spokespersons, ratings seeking media outlets, and the loudest, angriest voices in the room to manipulate and keep us divided.