Condemning George Zimmerman: Be Careful What You Wish For

I can’t believe I’m doing it. I promised myself I wouldn’t. I should just close my laptop and walk away. Resist the urge. Despite all my best judgment and a true desire to stay above the fray, I just can’t ignore the flood of terrible theology coming from supposed “Christians” in the wake of the George Zimmerman’s acquittal.

There is a LOT of anger out there over a life that ended too early. There is anger about injustice. I will not state my opinion here. What concerns me are the statements like the one Juror B29 made about the case this week:

In fact, there has been a very loud “God’s gonna getcha,” mob on social media and in the court of public opinion. Here are a few more:

God’s. Gonna. Getcha. Now if any Christian is angry about the verdict of this trial, this is the last thing he or she should be saying. It completely misses the point of the gospel. Think about what it is saying. “God is going to punish his sin with eternal Hell (what this argument is truly ordering for Zimmerman).” The problems are too numerous to count, but allow me to try.

First of all, it assumes Zimmerman’s guilt after he was found not guilty.

Second, it wishes eternal punishment on someone, which is exactly  the opposite of the kind of heart that Jesus calls us to have. Wishing someone literally go to Hell is the most hateful thing you could feel. Conversely, John writes, “If anyone says, ‘I love God.’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)

Third, despite the Catholic Church’s teaching on the “mortal” or “deadly” sins, there is no biblical evidence that any single sin can separate you from the grace of God. I know the concept of this special class of sins, of which homicide is included, is deeply ingrained in the moral foundation of many people’s hearts. It is part of the Ten Commandments. This poor theology, without biblical backing, stinks of mere moralism that suggests, “as long as I’m a pretty good person and avoid certain sins, I’ll be ok.” Jesus said, “You have heard it said, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother is subject to judgment.” In Jesus’ book, holding angry grudges against others is just as detestable as having the gall to carry out that grudge to its full logical conclusion.

Fourth, and most importantly, such moralistic views spit in the face of Jesus’ saving work on the cross and it stomps all over the gospel he asked us to spread. It ignores the fact that ALL sin is punishable by death. You don’t have to commit murder to live a life far from God. But let’s not forget that the sentence some are calling upon Zimmerman is the one that we all deserve.

Now let’s imagine

Let’s imagine that George Zimmerman really was guilty of racial profiling and coldblooded murder. Let’s imagine that you have no moral issue with wishing someone an eternity in Hell. Let’s assume that the doctrine of Murder as a deadly sin is accurate (even though not found in Scripture) and that there is a theological and moral basis to this “God’s Gonna Getcha” argument.

EVEN THEN, the gospel response is to “love your enemies.” EVEN IF you were convinced of all those things and you saw George Zimmerman as your enemy, the Christian thing to do is to serve him. To seek him out, to minister to him, to show him the grace that Christ has shown you.

We’ve got to challenge this “God’s Gonna Getcha” theology. It’s just not biblical — but more importantly — I am unspeakably thankful he didn’t “get me” when I lived a life opposed to him.

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Hey, Mr. Theologian, Listen Up!

That’s right, I’m talking to you!

Yes, you!

I understand the confusion. Perhaps you didn’t know that you were a theologian. Perhaps you just thought of yourself as a “normal” Christian who doesn’t pay attention to theology and stuff. Maybe you’re not even a Christian, and so you think you are exempt. 

But let me be very clear: You ARE a theologian!

We all are – every one of us!

“Theology” simply means “God Knowledge,” and the field of theology is really just the study of what we know or believe about God. 

Sure there are all sorts of theories out there and complex arguments. There have been volumes and volumes written about the nature of the atonement, about predestination and free-will, and about eschatology (the study of the end times). 

But I’m not talking about any of that right now. 

We are all theologians on a MUCH more foundational level. Whether you’ve given much thought to it at all or not, you have a basic set of beliefs about God. You believe him to be a certain way, or to want certain things from you. And here’s the thing:

We shout our theological stances from the mountaintops by the way we live our lives. 

It’s one thing to go to church and verbally affirm the things that we hear. Living them out is another challenge altogether. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

It’s one thing to say you believe God is a God of forgiveness and grace, that the gospel is all about mercy. But if we are unmerciful and unforgiving of others or ourselves, we reveal that we don’t believe that. What we really believe is that the cross of Christ was insufficient and so we must further punish ourselves or others for their shortcomings.

It’s easy to say that you believe the Bible is the Word of God, but if we never pick it up, never read it, never learn it, then the theological statement we are really making is that we believe it is a suggestion book that we will get around to “if we have time.”

It’s easy to say that Jesus is the only way to salvation. But if we withhold that message from our neighbors who are bound for eternal separation from God, we act most unlovingly. In that moment, we reveal that we hate our neighbor, or at least love our emotional and social comfort too much to jeopardize it. 

It’s one thing to affirm that you trust God, but when we hoard our things and kill ourselves working 90-hour work weeks, all for the sake of “providing for our family” or “good stewardship,” we reveal that we don’t believe God is capable of providing for us.

You can agree that God has a heart for the poor, but your reaction toward everyone from the down-and-out man on the street corner to the down-and-out orphans in the slums of developing nations reveals your real beliefs. 

Our lives reveal our theology. 

We are all inconsistent. We all have areas that we struggle to surrender to God. We are all in the process of being sanctified. 

But what the New Testament makes abundantly clear is that true faith leads to action. True belief leads to changed behavior. 

You know the type of plant by the fruit it produces.

We are all theologians. We tip our hand and reveal our beliefs with every word we speak and every action we do (or don’t) take. 

So the question is, what do you believe about God, REALLY?

Demolition is the best part!

My wife and I love home remodel shows. Good thing, too, because our new house was a renovation zone for about two weeks before we moved in!

In all home remodel shows, there is the “concept stage” where the designers set out to show the homeowner what their space could look like, and there is the working stage, but nestled right in between is the part everyone loves — the demolition stage!

There is very little more rewarding than finally getting the keys to your new place (at least if you bought a place that needed a little work) and starting to tear things up. It marks progress. It marks what could be. It is the start of a finished product that you are really going to love!

Here’s the problem:

Demo is only fun for about 5 minutes. As long as you are tearing up BIG strips of carpet and pad, prying up nasty floors, knocking down walls or tearing out cabinets, demolition is a smash (yep, it fits. Pun intended). But tons of tedious work follows. Pulling up staples from carpet pad and tack strips. Sanding, patching and prepping walls before you can paint them. Every little problem you run into adds time, a run out to the hardware store, and possibly frustration.

However frustrating these hold-ups might be, they are critical to the success of the final product. It is the difference of doing it right and doing it fast. For us, the big project was laying new floors, so these steps were the difference between a quiet floor and a squeaky one. A tack nail or staple missed in the prep stages could mean a floor that won’t sit flush, or could mean buckling floor boards later on.

Tedious as the work is, it is critical to get rid of all the old issues before installing the new.

What happens when you don’t

Before my wife and I got married, her family flipped a house and I got to be a part of the process. In one of the rooms, there were probably 4-5 layers of flooring — laid one over the other — to cover up the rot and mess caused by the previous tenets’ pets.

As we pulled up layer after layer we wondered, “why, why, why would anyone do it this way?” This covering definitely didn’t eradicate the smell from the house, and it didn’t remove any of the rot and decay caused by <snarling at the thought> cats.

By laying new floor on top of the old, it didn’t remove any of the problems, it was just a new façade to cover up what was really underneath.

New building cannot happen without removing the old

My fear is that too often, people become Christians and expect a new, shiny veneer over a life that has years of hurt, bad habits, scars and baggage at its core. Those that have been Christians for a while are guilty, too. We cling to the parts of the Bible that make us feel better about who we already are, and explain away or — worse — completely ignore the parts that cause us any discomfort.

Paul says in Ephesians that we are God’s “workmanship” (Eph 2:10), 2 Corinthians 4 portrays us as vessels crafted by God. He is shaping us and molding us.

Unfortunately, many of us come to him after years of not following him, and we have some old, nasty, cat-pee carpet hidden in our hearts. To expect him to just put a new layer on top is completely inconsistent with the very perfect and thorough builder that he is.

God wants to GUT our hearts when we come to him. He wants to start FRESH with a CLEAN slate. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW creation. The old is GONE, and THE NEW HAS COME.”

But he cannot do that without our consent. He cannot strip us of the old if we will not let him.

And that is our call. To allow him in and take out even the parts that we might be fond of. For a while it might seem tedious, painful and repetitive. Things might look a whole lot worse before they look any better.

But our job is to trust that his vision for what we could be will be an infinitely greater version of us that we brought to his feet.

Trust the process.

Allow the tedious demolition work.

Allow God to build something new and do it the right way.

Don’t be a Post-lud-er

Road trips are great because they give you lots of time for fantastic conversation. One byproduct of such conversation is one of my favorite past times: inventing new words. 

This most recent trip, Mallorie saw a Shoney’s along the side of the road (which we haven’t had in Kentucky for years) and asked the obvious question, “Who eats at Shoney’s anymore?!?”

The obvious question’s obvious answer: “Postluders.”

Postluder – (pōst-lood-er) – n. – one who leaves church during the postlude or last hymn to beat the crowd to the Shoney’s for lunch.

Postluders

Now this is a versatile word, understand. It could be used as a noun as above, or “postlude” could be used as a verb. You could name a Sunday School class the “postluders,” although if they sat together in the service, their postluding would povide great distraction from the end of the service.

Postluders come in various shapes and sizes. There are secret postluders — those who try to feign a bathroom emergency that just had to wait until the sermon was over — as well as those who make it look like they just got an important phone call (but how is this really an improved alibi?). Some simply slip out shamelessly.

We had a lot of fun creating a fully functional range of uses for our new word.

But not two hours later we stopped in a small town outside Waynesville, NC and walked past a church. The music was still playing and, as this destination was a bit nostalgic for my wife and I, I expressed an interest in peeking in for a minute. After a short discussion on decorum and dress (we were not dressed the part as we’d been traveling all day, nor did we want to be the creepers who just “poked their head in” for a minute) we decided not to go in.

But then I got the lucky break my argument was waiting for:

The postluders started exiting! The music was clearly still playing and the congregation still warbling away, but sporadic stragglers started seeping from the back doors of the church.

We have all been these people from time to time. A birthday lunch or a matinee show at the theater can cause us to make as discrete an exit as possible. Perhaps for some there are work conflicts that force a shortened worship time. There will always be exceptions, but this post is about those who seem to repeatedly reinforce the rule.

This post calls into question the very nature of this, especially when it becomes habit. Better yet, although most are not guilty of this on any kind of regular basis, there is a mindset present that is worth unpacking.

Are we too anxious to get out of church?

Do we check our phones for the time when things start to feel like they are dragging?

Is our definition of a “good service” one that ends on time, where the preacher doesn’t “go over”?

Do you plan your post-service escape route to avoid that person you just know is going to chat you up longer than you are willing to stay?

We all have things to do. We all have plans. Sometimes those plans will interfere with our church schedule and that is ok. Life happens.

But at what point does that urge to “get along with our day” interfere with our worship? In that moment, are you serving an amazingly infinite God, or are you worrying about serving your own schedule? Are you bowing to him or expecting the church to bow to you?

Life is busy. We are all guilty of getting impatient in worship, just like we do in every other area of our lives. When we sign up to be a disciple, we sign up for that to take precedence over everything else in our life. Is what we do on Sundays truly worship or simply a cultural check mark?

Just some food for thought.

Photo Credit: Lincolnian (Brian) via Compfight cc

WHEW!

Whew! What a month it has been!

In the 45 (or so) days since resigning my position as the pastor of a church, it has been go-go-go! We went on vacation, came back and closed on a house, and then it was two weeks of dawn-to-dusk renovations at the new place! Add to that the move-in process taking another two weeks (all of which with no internet — mistake number one) and it has been CRAZY!

The good news is the new abode is starting to feel like a home.

The good news is the internet is back up.

The good news is that in the crazy times we’ve had, Evernote has been my best friend. I’ve been storing away all kinds of posts coming your way in the coming weeks!

It’s good to be back in the saddle and back at the keyboard.