Everyone wants to be known. In those places of business we frequent, there is a particular pleasure when the staff or owners know us by name (accompanied by a smile, preferably)!
I have personally experienced this regularly; well, maybe not regularly. When your last name is “Grieme,” the mispronunciations are legion. The fact they remember my name, well this is a more universally appreciated emotion; the fact they can pronounce my name correctly, well, this elevates the experience to a symphony!
I believe this desire “to be known” is one of the reasons for the exponential explosion of social media. Every post, every like, every share and every platform undergirds our desires to be known!
This ecosystem of need manifests itself within an irony of action. The very ones who are seeking their value and worth through these digital environs, comport themselves in a manner which undermines their ability to receive this want in actual reality. We all observe an extremely large (and ever increasing) portion of our society which live their lives, while ambulatory, without the physical connection with another human due to their obsession with a faux, digital world.
Many a young person—and even those not-so-young—come to a devastating conclusion that they cannot maintain long-term employment while being attached to a digital IV dispensing their fix. Few employers will tolerate snippets of attention to projects they assign to said employee with such an all-consuming addiction controlling them.
Simple response: then they should stop. The problem is one of conditioning. These people have spent their whole lives addicted to their devices; they have no experience existing without such a digital presence in their lives. This is what gives them value and worth!
Back to my beginning, everyone desires to be known, and more, to have value! Yet for the believer in Jesus Christ, our value is found in the fact that we are known by God! Jesus Himself refers to us as “His sheep” who “hear His voice” (John 10:27 ESV). Yet this is important: We are not the sheep of God because we hear (a choice on our part) but we hear because we belong to God and are His sheep!
With every enunciation of the good news of the Gospel, there exists the echo of judgment. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells of how He will respond to those who claim to be His, to belong to Him, but in reality, are not His. In Matthew 7:23 after listening to the attestations of those who claim to be His, He says, “I never knew you; depart from Me.”
In these words of Jesus there exists the epitome of all human fears: to not be known. This exceeds the mere knowing of our name; this is an intimate knowledge which leaves nothing undiscovered.
Herein is our greatest fear. The fear of being unknown.
Is there Acceptable Collateral Damage?
The term “collateral damage” was unknown prior to about 1970. The terms specific meaning is tied directly to war and the idea of “elements not directly associated with an intended target being damaged or destroyed as a result of a specific action.” From the first Gulf War until the most recent action in Afghanistan, our military has taken great pains to develop “smart” bombs which are able to pinpoint their targets with a minimum of collateral damage.
A large amount of material, expense and effort is expended to identify what is an appropriate target and what is not. Of course the enemy, knowing America and her allies desire to not harm those deemed to be non-combatants, will often set-in-place their operations in the midst of schools, hospitals and mosques in order to insulate them from attack. Of course, far too often the press overlooks this callous disregard to life and put all the more pressure on those who desire to eradicate the threat.
Perhaps one of the sharpest aspects of the double-edged sword of war is militaries—unless of course they are being utilized by a dictatorship—often find themselves fighting against an antagonistic camera and press as often as an enemy action. Such is the nature of war in our modern milieu.
Christianity is also involved in warfare. Of course, the Bible makes it abundantly clear our warfare is not waged against “flesh and blood” combatants, but rather in the spiritual realm; one unseen and filled not merely with spirits, but with ideas and philosophies. What manifests itself in the physical realm—whether in the form of atrocity, sin, death and immorality—is but a result of what is and has already occurred in the spiritual realm.
One of the scourges of our society is “abortion-on-demand” which has been available since the 1973 Supreme Court ruling. I am unashamedly pro-life; the Bible teaches we are made in God’s image and life begins not merely with conception (which is our only means of observation as humans) but life is something ordained by God who is the Creator of all that lives. As a Christian and a pastor, God expects me to not merely believe this, but also to proclaim this through my life and teaching.
People are a complex mechanism. By God’s design no two of us are alike. We do have commonalities which are measurable across the masses of society (a reason for the existence of the disciplines of psychology, sociology and even history) and these provide us with incredible insight into human nature. If my desire is to communicate the message of Scripture—what Christians refer to as the ‘good news” (Gospel) of God’s love for us and His desires for us—I cannot then ignore the reality of human nature.
One of the most difficult things we are faced with as believers in Jesus Christ is our call to “hate the sin” (action, attitude, idea, and philosophy) but also “love the sinner.” I have heard those outside of Christianity scoff and ridicule this concept; they believe it is impossible to separate the individual from what the individual does (there is a whole economy built on the existence of this concept—this also ensures people will always be “defined” and “enslaved” by their sin and issues as well). Again, I defer to what Jesus taught: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Those who proclaim and claim the name of Jesus Christ are capable of getting “caught up in the emotion of the moment” just like anyone else. The difference between those who have a relationship with Christ and those who do not is this: those who have a relationship with God the Father through the work of Christ have both the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to constantly judge and check their own actions. One of the hardest to remember is that we are to “love the sinner.”
It is far too easy to simply allow hate to season our speech and actions. Standing outside of abortion clinics with signs proclaiming “Abortion is Murder” and the like makes as much sense as standing outside of funeral homes with signs stating “Sin Kills!” Abortion is murder—I agree completely! Yet is it actually loving to paint with such a broad brush that we alienate those who are captives of their own circumstances and decisions? Oh, and let’s not overlook the incredible sense of love fostered by those holding those signs.
Our churches need to communicate they are more of a place of refuge for the hurting and injured rather than a staging point for those with a desire to be “culture warriors.” We are no more in a war with culture than a fish is at war with water! We can battle ideas and philosophies, we can tend to the wounded and we should confront those who actively engage in what the Bible describes as sin. Yet as we do all of these things, we cannot fail to communicate the love by which we are motivated!
Jesus Christ came into this world as a baby. The Lord of Creation, the One who by His very hand created all there is and by His very existence holds all of reality together, came into a world as one of us. He struggled as He grew; He worked in order to provide for food and clothing for Himself and His family. He formed relationships with those around Him and the Bible tells us He grew in “wisdom and stature” with God and people.
His ministry was marked with compassion, healing, confrontation of sin and wrong and ultimately, He proved His love through His action: He died so those who believe in Him might live forever with Him. The reason His words were accepted is because His love was clearly demonstrated; even the crusty Centurion who stood at the foot of His cross when He died stated “surely He was the Son of God.”
If Christians desire people to take us seriously, we are going to have to seriously love them!