Honor Makes a Way for Solutions to Disagreements

Last night, the Dallas Cowboys stood together. More accurately, they knelt together. They knelt together in a sign of protest against racism in the United States, and they did it before the National Anthem. As a reminder, that is what all the kneeling was about in the first place, although it has been largely forgotten in the politics and opinions.

In case you didn’t see it or hear about it they came out as a team, joined arms and knelt. Then they stood up. They knelt before the National Anthem ever began and they stood up during the national anthem.

All along, the objection to the protest has been that protestors should stand and respect the flag. Last night, they did. Yet, in an overnight poll in the Dallas Morning News, the initial opinions offered were that 54% of respondents felt “Cowboys should not have knelt at all.” This was a Dallas newspaper, mind you, so this is a biased sampling presumably in favor of what the Cowboys do. I don’t know what the sampling size was, but that result is disheartening.

This poll showed that for some, it was never about the flag in the first place. It was about being right. For some, they aren’t patriotic as much as they are just prejudiced. When you don’t want somebody that is different from you to say anything about their perception or experience based in those differences, you are protecting the status quo, not the traditions surrounding the flag.

We tend to like what we like and want what we want and will often find justifications to protect our preferences. Our preferences are rooted in our perspective and our perspective is limited to our experiences. Those experiences, in this nation, are vastly different. Experiences surrounding race and racism cannot be the same where the there are differences in race. It’s just not possible.

The opportunity going forward is honor. I’ve been a Dallas Cowboys fan for the past four decades, but my admiration of their collective voice last night isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about honor. They were able to show honor towards the flag while also projecting the voice of the perspective that was calling out. They were able to agree about disagreements that they had not all experienced. That’s what the flag stands for, in part; the freedom to be heard in an honorable way.

When 54% say there should be no disagreement at all, there is going to be disagreement. If and when the majority can agree that the experience of the minority is different from their own, then there can be solutions. Honor makes a way for solutions to disagreements.

Tearing Down the Important Statues

Perhaps more than the statues themselves, the opinions about statues need to be torn down. The concrete or steel or whatever they are made of when placed along a street or in a park are not nearly as offensive as the stuff that comes out of us regarding them. Keep them or preserve them, it’s all about the heart.

Things that are offensive, especially inanimate objects, don’t have to be. It’s a choice. The security that comes with knowing who you are and being grounded in that identity affords the peace of no opinion. Being grounded in who God calls you and focused on where He is calling you leaves no margin for the distraction of pigeon stands.

Rising up to defend those same objects isn’t anybody’s eternal destiny. The hearts and souls of those that are offended, separated or alienated is in the balance. Every issue is about people and how they are impacted on one side or the other of the divide. Hard stands either way prevents connection, which prevents relationship, which frustrates the point.

Again, this is for Christ followers. If you aren’t a follower of Jesus, none of what I am saying has any weight or bearing. If you are, however, then the invitation to follow Him is at the cost of your need to have opinions on everything but Him. He calls us to care about what He cares about and what He cares about is relationship. Relationship with Him, relationship with each other and relationship with a world needing His hope and grace.

It’s imperative that we maintain First things first while intentionally resisting distractions that pull us towards any seconds. Second things are an enemy of the One thing. Being right, persuasive, passionate or opinionated about second stuff at the cost of gracefully portraying First stuff forfeits relational opportunities that might have eternal implications.

We can care about second stuff, just not much. We can be right about the extras, but we can’t compete to win where there is no lasting victory. Eternal glory is available here and now as heaven and earth collide and the Kingdom of God is revealed. That revelation, however, is not in the competition surrounding issues that divide and don’t unite.

Reading the Writing of Law and Grace

If you look close enough at any of us, there is evidence against us. We’ve all done stuff that’s contrary to the intention of our design. If we were under the pressure of the burden of keeping the law, we could all be dragged out into the public square for persecution.

That’s what happened when Jesus was presented with a lady who had been caught in the act of adultery. There was compelling, albeit awkward, evidence of her guilt. The people who accused her brought her to Jesus to give Him a chance to defend her. It was a losing case, for Him, they figured as the law was clear and the evidence was sufficient.

When I was practicing law, I defended people who had broken a law all of the time. People, mostly Christian people, asked me (still do, sometimes) how I could morally support the decision to be an advocate for the immoral. It’s easy. Jesus is our advocate and we did “it” in some form or fashion. The case is airtight against us, but He doesn’t turn from us.

In this case where the woman was caught in adultery, His method of defending her was peculiar. He stooped down and wrote in the dirt. Then, He stooped down and wrote in the dirt a second time. In the middle of His stooping and writing, He allowed for anyone that was without sin to begin the punishment of stoning by throwing the first rock. Nobody could, and the old men slipped away first because they had sinned the most.

Jesus wrote in the dirt as a primary tactic in His defense of the woman. While it seems strange, it was actually necessary in the fulfillment of Jesus’ purpose. God had written in the earth with His finger previously and here He was doing it, again. The first time was when He wrote the Ten Commandments. He actually wrote them twice as Moses broke the first set. Now, here He is writing in the earth again. Twice, just like the first time.

The first time God wrote in the earth, He wrote the law. The second time, He wrote grace. Jesus came to satisfy the law for us since we can’t, just like the old men couldn’t. Our perspectives of God and people, starting with ourselves, are reflected what we are writing. We are either writing law or grace and we are only able to write what we receive, first. Realizing that we are not unlike the women allows us to receive grace and it allowed me to defend other people who did “it,” too, just like I have.

No Need to Mediate the Acceptance of a Promise

mediationA few months ago, I completed training to become a mediator. Mediation is the practice of conflict resolution. Mediators draw each party in a conflict or impasse to a common ground of agreement where possible. They don’t negate the conflict, they find a solution for it which both parties can agree on.

Galatians 3 says that we, as people, needed a mediator when we were under the law of Moses. When that law was given, it was through angels to Moses as a mediator between God and man. There was a conflict that needed resolution. The conflict was between a Holy God and a rebellious people. To re-connect and agree there needed to be go-between.

By contrast, through Jesus, we are heirs to the promise of Abraham. The blessing of Abraham available to us through Jesus is not mediated, but given directly. There is no mediator, because there is no conflict. The law of Moses had to be negotiated to reach agreement and those negotiations were ongoing and dependent on compliance. The promise of Abraham simply has to be received through Jesus.

Any time we start conditioning our receipt, we move from the promise to the conflict. When we think we can do better, we actually reject a free gift and enter into negotiations for a lesser possibility.

Jesus died for our sin and that requires no counter-offer. There is nothing we can do to put ourselves in a better position to be better. It’s only Him and His sacrifice that affords us the receipt of the benefits. Grace is dependent on receipt without conditions, otherwise it isn’t grace but conflict. When we add conditions to our performance and behavior, we reject grace.

Grace is available to us not only for restoration to God for salvation and eternity, but also for the purposes we have in living here and now. We are invited into His purposes in this life and the only way to accept that invitation is as a gift. If we begin to negotiate by attempting to show Him how capable we are in the carrying out of His business, we reject the gift and make it a job interview. That’s a negotiation that requires a mediator as conflict arises between His righteousness and our attempts and self-righteousness. If we are good enough, then it isn’t His business anymore.

We are accepted by a promise, not a law. God promised and He delivered on that promise through Jesus. The law was a place holder in between the promise and the Delivery. Don’t go back and negotiate things that are already resolved. Just enjoy the benefits of the relationship.

Donald Trump Is Not An Evangelical Leader

donald-trump-1547274_1920_0Donald Trump is not an evangelical leader. The reason this statement is necessary is because so-called “evangelicals” have portrayed him as one. He isn’t and neither is Hillary or W. or any other politician. The reason this is important is because the misperception is negatively impacting evangelism.

Evangelism is, by google’s definition, “the spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or by personal witness.” The “Christian gospel” is the good news of Jesus Christ. That good news is that He died to restore us to relationship with a Father that loves us and created us for the satisfaction that comes with fellowship with Him. That’s not what any politician is doing, nor is it what they should be doing.

Christians all over the United States have aligned with a political party and/or a particular candidate with various statements of how this is what God wants. If God would have intended for the good news of Jesus Christ to be spread by legislation produced from the political process, Jesus would have been a politician. The plan wasn’t, and isn’t, to restore others to relationship with a Father that loves them by way of a governmental system.

When we align with politicians so zealously, we subvert the purposes of the intended evangelists. The plan for evangelism is, and always has been, intended to be carried out by those that have been restored to the love of the Father by the grace of Jesus. If that’s you; you are the evangelist. You know the good news; tell somebody.

When we are using our relational collateral to tell others about the political parties, positions or candidates we think best represent our views, we sacrifice the actual views. The good news gets lost in the debate of things that are not eternal and issues that are not primary. The grace of Jesus and love of the Father gives way to arrogance of political competition.

If we’ll remember whose job representation of Jesus is, it will drive our public discussion towards Him, and not things we think He wants people to do. Our recognition of eternal purpose will re-align our passion from political victory to Kingdom expansion. It will reach out to hearts that are hurting and alienated and in desperate need of good news. If we’ll remember the people who Jesus died for, we’ll be more likely to quit alienating them for purposes we want to make our lives about.

The Power of Forgiveness

apologyLast week, I took a continuing education course on the practice of mediation. The group taking the course was diverse with numerous HR professionals, a minister and some federal employees that find themselves managing labor disputes and a number of lawyers. I’m a pastor and a lawyer so I hit a couple of the categories, I suppose.

One of the more interesting presentations was focused on the idea of apology as a tool towards reconciliation. Obviously, reconciliation will facilitate dispute resolution which is the whole point of mediation. The thought was easy enough; apology facilitates forgiveness which produces reconciliation and dispute resolution.

Apology depends on humility and courage for the apology giver to be willing to be vulnerable enough to admit a wrong. The admission of the wrong doesn’t assure forgiveness so the confession opens up the apologizer to the embarrassment and exposure that comes in the wake of their apology. Yet it is a powerful tool in breaking deadlocks of disagreement if one of the parties is willing to go there.

I’ve worked in dispute resolution in faith-based as well as secular settings for decades. While this training was predominately focused on secular mediation, the truth of faith was seeping over into the practice of the world. Faith, at least faith in Jesus, is based on grace and the receipt of forgiveness. To step into that forgiveness, repentance is the turn from one way of thinking to another. Repentance is a form of apology to God for wrong thinking and agreement with Him to realize His grace through Jesus.

Any of us that have experienced the joy of the freedom that comes in the wake of confession and forgiveness would likely endorse the power of apology. That’s with our rejection of and reconciliation with God, however. It may be harder to actually step towards forgiveness when hurts and offenses are fostered by others.

Here’s the thing; Jesus forgives us already. He died to forgive us. We don’t have to repent or apologize to be forgiven; we just have to repent or apologize to realize the benefit of His forgiveness. Eternal forgiveness is eternal; temporal realization of that forgiveness is available starting now and running into eternity. If we reject the availability of forgiveness now, we’ll miss the benefits of forgiveness eternally.

Apology is a powerful tool in dispute resolution derived from the eternal truth of reconciliation with God as Father. He is calling each of us to Him through Jesus and His grace. If we receive His grace, we are more willing to offer grace and where we know forgiveness, we are likely to give forgiveness. Where we know the power of reconciliation from the Source of reconciliation, we are likely to be agents of reconciliation.