The Great Three – the intangibles

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three ….

— 1 Corinthians 13:13

When you get right down to it, that’s what the walk with Christ is about. These are the three abiding elements that Paul writes about, and two things set them apart from anything else.

One is that there are three of them. Think of a milking stool:

There’s a reason why a milking stool has three legs. The front two legs support you when you sit on it, and the third leg not only supports you, but prevents you from getting knocked over backwards. In the same way, those three elements support you and keep you upright. A fourth leg is superfluous (think of some of the trappings of some religions) and you’ll actually be less stable than if you stick with those three.

But the other thing is the common factor of faith, hope and love: the world has no idea what they’re really about. Faith stems from believing in something we can’t see or feel — the action that accompanies believing, in fact.

Hope is the acknowledgement that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Hope persists when things “look bad”, when times are tough and things seem to be going against one; the world can’t understand that at all.

And love — the kind of love Paul talks about — is something unconditional, that doesn’t require someone to love you first and continually puts the other person’s interests ahead of your own, even if they’ve been a total rat-fink towards you.

How can the world understand that?

The world has produced counterfeits of all three. In the place of faith, it offers trust. Trust in money, politicians, other people — even religious leaders.

Love gets double-teamed by the world, because Love is the essence of God. (Remember that the rest of that verse is, “but the greatest of these is Love”.) On the one hand, love is regarded as a refined form of lust — physical desire with an element of sincerity attached to it. On another, it’s been supplanted by tolerance, which implies that however you may feel about a person, you let them continue doing dangerous things because you “love” them.

And hope — hope doesn’t even have a counterfeit, because the world hasn’t come up with a way to imitate how someone can keep their chin up when they should be grovelling.

Those three intangibles reside in the heart. They grow within us, and that seed is planted through our relationship with Jesus Christ. As we continue to walk with Him, to read the Word of God and meditate on it, to pray and learn to listen to the Spirit, we gradually come to imitate Him. The question “What would Jesus do?” is not stamped on a medallion around our necks, but imprinted on our hearts and visible in our words and actions.

Shaken? Or dumped?

“Are you a salt shaker, or a dumptruck?”

The guest speaker at church posed that question, as she was talking about the properties of salt and its significance in Scripture.

Salt, we are told, purifies and preserves, and also brings out flavor. Have you ever eaten chili or lasagna or some other well-spiced food and realized that it “needed something”? That “something” is salt.

And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.

— Leviticus 2:13

When we’re given the assignment to be “salt and light” on the earth, we’re expected to bring that purity and holiness to our dealings with others, and at the same time shine a light that people will see what we do and glorify God (Matthew 5:16).

But it’s possible to go overboard.

In our zeal for the Lord, when we reach out to minister to someone or someone tells us their troubles, because we know the Word of God, we believe we know everything and have the answers; when that happens, we’re in danger of overwhelming the other person.

“You could win an argument, but lose a soul.”

— Bishop Noel Jones

Salt is good, but haven’t we all “poisoned” our fries with salt, when our hand has slipped? You have to shake it, carefully, not dump it in a huge load.

I speak from experience — and I pray to this day that it didn’t have the reverse effect from what I had hoped. In my early days of ministry, I led one service a week at Rainbow Mission. One of the regulars was a fellow named Mike: well into his 70s, and his life trajectory had taken him from worldly success to living in a rathole “hotel” on the Downtown East Side. He was remorseful for the mistakes he had made, and there had been infidelity — on his own part, his wife’s and his business partner’s — but his way of owning it was to say he had trusted the wrong people.

So, full of fire for the Lord, I encouraged him to keep the faith and move forward: forgive those who hurt him and look to the future with Jesus. He would nod, as though he understood, and then moments later, would fall back into his self-hatred. Then I would try to cut him off and he would get frustrated because I wouldn’t listen and I would get frustrated ….

And God said, “Shut the heck up, Drew.”

At least, I think that’s what He said.

Certainly, it was the start of a lesson in listening — and not waiting for a gap in the other person’s dialogue or skipping to a point in Scripture that would “speak into the situation”.

A year or so after that, I was sitting with some others at McDonald’s near the Downtown East Side. This was a loose collection of Believers, who would gather each night at a group of tables in the restaurant, centered around a fellow called Dave. He was in his 70s, so he would take advantage of the seniors’ coffee special — a small coffee and unlimited refills. The rest of us would come in and join him and not always would we buy anything ourselves. But Dave told me that the manager had told him that since the little gathering had started, his business had gone up. Go figure.

One of the regulars was also called Dave. He had a hip ailment, and dragged himself around on two canes. Having received Holy Spirit healing myself, I was zealous that others should experience it, too, so I asked Dave one night if I could pray over him.

“No thanks, I’m good,” he said.

I was astonished. “But don’t you want the best that God has for you?”

“This is the best that God has for me,” he said, smiling. “It’s the way He made me, and I’m good with that.”

“But is He glorified by …?”

“Listen. Today, I was going to a bus stop up Main Street. There was a woman sitting on the bench, but when she saw me, she got up to make room. I thanked her, and we started talking. Then I started witnessing Jesus to her. See, if I had two good legs, I would have stood at the bus stop, she wouldn’t have got up, I wouldn’t have started talking to her, and I wouldn’t have had the chance to witness Jesus. And she got to see a guy who has faith, even though he’s a cripple. So is God glorified? You do the math.”

Dave brought the light, and the salt was unmistakable.

A good part of the reason for why we might dump our salt on a situation is that we expect a certain outcome. I expected Mike to see the light immediately and break out of his vortex of self-pity. I expected Dave to receive healing through the Holy Spirit and throw away the canes. So I got frustrated with Mike and nearly laid a holy guilt trip on Dave..

When we’re truly walking with Christ, we only need to shake the salt. He’ll do the rest.

Nation against nation …

“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.

“All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

— Matthew 24:7-8

I’d always read that passage and assumed that Jesus was being emphatic when He talked about nations and kingdoms: indicating the universality of the strife that would precede His return.

But another way to read that leapt out at me the other day. See if it witnesses to you, too.

The origin of the word “nation” comes from the Latin “natio-“, meaning “to be born”. Same as “nativity”, for that matter, or “pre-natal”. We ordinarily use the word interchangeably with “country”, when we talk about Canada, France, the USA, or whatever, but these days, “nation” can also describe groups of people with something in common that they believe defines them.

Consider the current interest in “identity”. People have been closing in towards one another, based on language, heritage, sexuality, skin colour, ideology, politics: these are nations. Moreover, these nations occasionally clash with one another, and people from outside a nation who portray themselves as allies with that nation are sometimes treated with suspicion or even outright hostility.

“Nation shall rise against nation.”

Certainly, there is a dual meaning to the word “kingdom”. Jesus is referring to the battles both in the heavenlies and the kingdoms on the earth. Now, we’re seeing, I believe, an additional meaning to His foretelling of nations rising against nations.

So what? Well, it means that the “checklist” of events and signs that Jesus told us would come before His return just got a bit longer. We are seeing nations rising up against nations, and we’ll see more of that, if He takes much longer. For Jesus Followers, it means we’ll have to double our efforts to show people that there is a better Way — the only Way — to be living and interacting with one another. That Way involves not looking inwards, towards ourselves and our kind, but outwards, to anyone and everyone, regardless of who they are and what they claim their “identity” — their “nation” — to be.

After all, there is only “nation” that counts. As Paul told the people in Athens:

“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth ….”

— Acts 17:24-26a

And that “nation” is not defined by outward appearance or anything in the past, but by our relationship with God through His Son.

An insult to God

How’s that for a provocative headline? But I’ve been thinking about Friday’s post, which cautioned about professing Christians going into politics. It’s one thing if the idea is to pray over and be guided by the Holy Spirit in the decisions you make; but often, as in the case I was referring to, the candidate puts their name forward in order to take up arms against some policy or law that they feel offends God, then there is a danger of doing more harm to the Kingdom than good.

Simply put, people who should be led to Jesus would be pushed away because of judgmentalism.

So we need to hit “pause” and consider something.

Jesus won people into the Kingdom – made disciples and apostles – not by pointing out their sin, but by loving them, sitting down with them, eating with them and showing them that it is possible, as humans with the help of the Holy Spirit, to overcome the desires and urges that cause us to sin.

So why aren’t we leading people to Christ in the same way?

Ever stopped to wonder why, after 2,000 years, the entire world hasn’t come to Jesus?

Could it be, because the people tasked with introducing them to Jesus have been doing it their way and not Jesus’ way?

Indeed, we hear people say — and we like to say it, ourselves — “I led xxxx to the Lord,” but in reality, we’re not the ones doing it.

And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

— Acts 2:47b

Simply put: we’ve been acting as if Jesus’ way – God’s way – isn’t good enough.

Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck.
Write them on the tablet of your heart,
and so find favor and high esteem
in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding:
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes ….

— Proverbs 3:3-7a

What part of that was unclear?

The Word – straight-no-chaser

I went on at length yesterday about the Jesus I know — the One who leads us to the only Truth, along with real peace in our lives through a relationship with God.

Having a relationship with God is one of the great mysteries: how can One who created the universe, the earth and everything in it; who created you and me, find the time and space to have a relationship with us and, in fact, even care enough to seek us out and go to extreme lengths to have that relationship?

Well, if we put it in man’s terms, of course, that’s not possible. But we’re talking about God, who plays by a whole different set of rules, all of which are founded in unconditional love for us.

After all, He created us in His image: why would He not love us?

And there’s the rub: we have a tendency to create God in our image, which is a bad idea, coming and going. People dismiss the idea of God because they can’t fathom, in their terms, anyone that omniscient and omnipotent. Or, they get an idea of how wonderful God is, because they can’t imagine how someone who loves us could also devise hell as a repository for people who don’t repent.

How can we know Him?

A while back, I wrote about connection before content: the idea that you need to get to know someone personally before learning about their “story”. It’s kind of like that with God: you can have a head-knowledge of what He’s about, but you still need to have that relationship with Him.

In other words, you could study Scripture and apologetics and listen to teaching until you’re blue in the face, but you may still not know God.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

— Matthew 7:21-23

I tell you: I do NOT want to hear that when I cross to the other side!

So it’s necessary to know God and know Jesus, but paradoxically, that also comes from reading the Word. Unlike the way it is with humans, all it takes to get into a relationship with God, is to say, “Yes, Lord”. As Paul writes to the Hebrews,

… he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

— Hebrews 11:6

So making that connection is that simple. Then comes that contact, through His word — and nothing but the word: in other words, reading the Bible. Don’t bother with Religion — mankind’s attempt to put a “spin” on the Word, usually one that benefits the spinner at the expense of everyone else — but stick to the Word, straight-no-chaser.

Probably my greatest desire (I don’t think that’s an overstatement, even if it does sound farty) is for people to pick up the Bible and read it for themselves. Find out what God wants from us, what we can expect from Him, and be aware of those who claim they know what’s in it, and either don’t — or choose to preach something else.

(Funny story: when I first started in ministry on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, I wanted to get a Bible into the hands of every person I could find. I was living in Surrey at the time. One hot day, I parked the car and left the windows open. While I was in a store, someone nicked my Bible. Not exactly the start I’d been thinking of, but I digress …)

God has given us His word — the way to get to know Him — so that anyone can read it for themselves, meditate on it, and even ask God to reveal what He means.

That’s how you come to know God and Jesus Christ. And believe me, They are nothing like the way you think they are.

Why am I doing this?

Why do I write a blog about Jesus? I know the answer to that question, and I’d like to share it with you.

The thing is, it may come across as high-minded and at times self-righteous. Please bear with me.

The short answer is, to introduce as many people as I can to the Jesus Christ that I know. So many people that I know would not call themselves Christians. Why? Because the term, “Christian” these days , often conjures up an image of someone for whom the world isn’t righteous enough — they want to force sinners to change their ways and if the sinners won’t, then they speak hell and damnation on them.

I’d love to meet the person who was led to Christ — I mean, truly led to Christ — after that kind of ministry.

The Jesus Christ that I know is the last Person in the world who would condemn me, but also taps me on the shoulder if my actions or even my thoughts start to go astray, to remind me that His followers don’t do or think like that. That’s more powerful than any “sponsor” or guilty conscience.

The Jesus Christ I know showed me the Way out of the sinful maelstrom I had put myself in. Others had spoken hell and damnation over me, even invoking the Name of the Lord; but what got through to me was the words of the pastors who came alongside me and spoke to me in love, telling me how Jesus had bought my ticket out of that maelstrom.

The Jesus Christ I know is the culmination of hundreds — thousands — of years of prophecies in the Bible; and as that Book has been proven to be spot-on in every way, Jesus leads us to understand that the answers to the issues in our lives are found there. Dealing with all the issues in the world we live in boils down to Jesus’ simple instruction:

“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

— Matthew 6:33

The Jesus Christ I know does not discriminate. He knows we’ve all sinned, and since He was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15), He is the only One who can clean us up.

The Jesus Christ I know welcomes strangers — even those of other religions. Maybe they look scary, talk funny, or come from a culture that’s hostile to the one we’ve grown up with. The Jesus Christ I know died for them, too.

Indeed, when I refer to “other religions”, keep in mind that the Jesus Christ I know is not about “religion”. He is the real Son of the real God, and following Him is not a religious exercise. When all you need to do, to do God’s works, is to believe, that doesn’t leave room for religion.

The Jesus Christ I know is the embodiment of God’s love for us, in that God wants things to be very simple for His people. One Way. Jesus. One source for solutions. Jesus. Why complicate things?

The Jesus Christ I know brings peace that you can’t comprehend unless you receive it for yourself. You still face problems and troubles and scary situations, but you can get through those things because Jesus is now in control. That is real peace.

That’s the Jesus Christ I know, and I just want as many people as possible to get to know Him, too.

And that’s why I write this.

Cause and Effect

Part of the great fun of working at the World Junior hockey championships was watching the people in the crowd, who were caught on camera.

wjc-announcing-1

That’s me in the middle

Like many arenas these days, Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria has large video screens atop the scoreboard, and before the game and between periods, the TV cameras will pick out people or groups of people at random and show them on the screen. Sometimes, people will be blissfully unaware that they’re being watched (the ObliviousCam); but most of the time, they’ll see themselves, point, laugh and do funny things. They’ll get great joy out of doing something and seeing it up on a big TV screen.

It illustrates one of the things about human nature: we are fascinated by the fact that we can see the effect of our actions. My grandson has a plaything his dad calls “The Circle of Neglect”: it has bells and a mirror and several buttons that, when you push them, they play tunes. (Not surprising for my son-in-law: the tunes are Mozart and Verdi and I think there’s some Respighi in there, too.) It’s sort of a mini-playpen, and when Jimmy is put inside, he can spend a long time pushing the different buttons and digging the fact that he caused something to happen.

Hey: I can be enthralled by the sight of the turn signal on my car, flashing against a sign half a block away. The cause-and-effect thing is something we humans find fascinating.

It’s also dangerous.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

— Genesis 2:16-17

God knew what He was talking about, but Adam and Eve, when they ate the fruit and did not immediately clutch at their throats, go into convulsions and breathe their last, figured God was full of navel lint and (thanks to some prompting by the serpent) was actually trying to prevent them from having something that tasted good. 

As I’ve written before, God doesn’t want us not to know good from evil, but if we ingest the fruit of that tree, the satisfaction of its taste — the fleshly pleasure — makes us feel good about knowing it and ultimately, turns us into judges, rather than discerners. When that happens, we figure we know it all and don’t need God. 

But at the end of the day, God’s commandments to us are supposed to protect us. On the one hand, following them is the consequence of being in relationship with Him. (That’s not to be taken to mean that following His commandments gives us a relationship with God: I believe that when we draw closer to Him, following His commandments is a natural progression. Relationship before Religion; Contact before Content.)

But as we see with Adam and Eve, the consequences of disobedience are often not immediately apparent. For example, who would have imagined sexually-transmitted diseases; climate change; a constant losing streak in battles with other nations, famine that built up over generations of not giving the land rest, as God prescribes in Leviticus; or personal downfall when one seemed to be “on top”? We don’t see the flash from our turn signal or our silly face on the TV screen, so we conclude that God is lying to us. 

What’s more, every one of those scenarios above starts with something that seems pleasurable to us. So we also conclude that God is a giant killjoy.

Mind: I’m not talking about “punishment”. I’m saying God warns us against doing certain things — like worshiping other gods or walking in pride — because He can see the consequences and we can’t. Those consequences are so big, so harmful, that even if God sat us down and explained in graphic detail what they were, we wouldn’t believe Him. So, like any loving parent, He simply says, “Don’t.” Or, “Do.”

In the late 1980s, Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, wrote that mankind had not evolved past caveman days, when our reflexes were quick so we could duck an incoming spear or sense a charging rhinoceros. We needed to develop “slow reflexes”, he said, to anticipate the consequences of (in the case he was referring to) greenhouse gas emissions.

But we really don’t need them, do we? Not when we have God, in His love and wisdom, warning us of the things that will harm us. 

What was that “dream” again?

This is a post I initially wrote last year for Martin Luther King, jr. Day, and I think it bears repeating this year, too.

Today, my cousins and friends in the USA celebrate Martin Luther King, jr. Day, and it will be a time to discuss how far race relations have come — or haven’t come — in the years since Dr King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC.

Lately, there has been a lot of focus on diversity and identity, essentially breaking people up into discrete groups, based on outward characteristics. But was that the spirit behind Dr King’s dream?

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood … that … one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

He wasn’t talking about Black Power, or pride, or even affirmative action: he was talking about unity and brotherhood, as James Taylor reminds us.

King wasn’t the only one with that theme around that time:

I could tell you of heartbreak, hatred blind,

I could tell of crimes that shame mankind,oodgeroo

Of brutal wrong and deeds malign,

Of rape and murder, son of mine.

But I’ll tell instead of brave and fine,

When lives of black and white entwine,

And men in brotherhood combine — 

This would I tell you, son of mine.

— “Son of Mine” (1964) by Kath Walker (a/k/a Oodgeroo Noonuccal)

So … not “power” of any one race over another, and not separation based on race or history; not talk of revenge against former oppressors or even special consideration; but brotherhood and integration. The Apostle Paul would appear to agree:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek (Gentile), there is neither slave nor free; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

— Galatians 3:27-29

In Canada, there is a similar situation involving First Nations. The “reserve” system and specialized programs — not to mention other policies put into practice over the generations — have served to segregate First Nations people from non-Indigenous people. That runs counter to Paul’s principle of unity and brotherhood among anyone who has put on Christ.

So we can wring our hands now and look back on the past 50-plus years and wonder why Dr King’s dream seems even farther away now than it did then. But I believe one of the reasons for the setback has been that the progress that has happened was achieved through legislation — forcing change down people’s throats in an attempt to find a quick fix. The changes have been cosmetic and did not address root causes — including bitterness on the part of those who felt they were the losers in the world’s zero-sum thinking where if one person wins, someone else has to lose. True change starts in the heart, and moves forward through prayer, unconditional love and PATIENCE.

That was, after all, the way Jesus came into the world; He started as a baby, whose birth had been prayed-for by devout, patient people (like Simeon and Anna at the Temple), growing into a man, eventually arriving at His time to appear to the world.

One wonders: what if people had opted to pray for integration and softening of hearts between the races, and then waited patiently for God to do His work? Instead, people got impatient and wanted change NOW. Did they really get it?

What if people had determined to love and forgive others, no matter what they did to them? What if people had determined they would stand on God’s promise, because the “effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous [person] avails much”?

Is it too big a stretch to say that today, we could well be joining hands as brothers and sisters with “lives of black and white (and red, yellow and brown) entwining”? Is it too big a stretch to say that God would have come through faster and more decisively than we could ever have imagined?

Praise God, the Cross allows us to get back on track as soon as we make the decision to turn to Him. It’s a calling on each and every one of us, and it’s never too late to start.


Further to Friday’s entry, the concern about calling out sin in others and the world is based in a theme I’ve raised before: that God isn’t good enough for us. Jesus didn’t spend time calling out sin in people: His ministry was about showing the way to God, so that sin became a non-starter. Isn’t that good enough?

“Master: don’t You care …?”

An acquaintance of mine is running in the next Canadian federal election. Her platform focuses on fighting what she calls an “agenda” of people in the gender-identity community. Since she self-identifies as an evangelical Christian, it follows that Religion will be a big part of the discussion.

It also follows that, politics being politics, the discussion will turn into a series of personal bunker-shellings — indeed, it already has.

This leaves me with the question: at the end of the day, will the Kingdom be advanced? Or will the very people Jesus came to reach be driven further away, hunkering down in their silos?

See, I have no doubt there’s an “agenda” at work, although not in such a narrow sector. The Devil has all sorts of ways of keeping us at one another’s throats so that we don’t get closer to God. That’s his main agenda.

At least he has an agenda.

Jesus Followers have an agenda, too, but sometimes, it seems like we’ve forgotten our marching orders:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you ….”

— Matthew 28:19-20a

And how about …

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”

— Luke 6:27-31

Sure, there are things out there that are patently wrong. Do you think there weren’t “patently wrong” things in Jesus’ time on earth, too? Do you think He didn’t see that? But

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

— John 3:17

So I ask again: will hitting the hustings with a message that attacks a particular issue — especially one that involves people who have already been hurt and feel rejected by Jesus — bring any more souls into the Kingdom, or simply demonstrate the righteousness of the candidate?

The enemy does have an agenda underway — no question. So does God. This has created a spiritual maelstrom that makes the one the disciples ran into on the Sea of Galilee look like a gentle breeze. But like the disciples, when we fight against the wind — and against each other, since we “lean on our own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5) — we’re in danger of going down.

This is the time we need to cry out to Jesus, “Master! Don’t You care that we’re perishing?”

Because it’s then, that Jesus gets up off His pillow, and tells the storm, “Peace! Be still!” And then, as it did that morning on Galilee, we get deposited in exactly the place where we’re supposed to be, exactly when we’re supposed to get there.

One more thing: pseudo-righteous indignation is a smokescreen for our own failure to follow Jesus’ agenda in the first place. We’ve failed to promote the Kingdom, and when people rebel and reject it and run off to their own desires, we try to cover it up by going on the attack.

One of my favorite lines from the movies is from “Heaven is For Real”, where one of the elders tells the Pastor, “Don’t try to save the world. It’s already been done.”

We need to double-down on our own efforts to promote Jesus: to live, love and show not that others are wrong, but that His way is the only Way that’s right. Remember:

“… lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

— Matthew 28:20b

Diversity – God-style

In the early 1980s, there was a TV commercial for Pepsi that I still think about often.

Dissolve to flashback

TV DISSOLVE

The scene opens on a high school classroom: empty, except for a black teenager and an older man — perhaps his teacher, guidance counsellor, maybe even the principal. The older man has just opened and read the contents of an envelope — apparently, the response to a scholarship application — and now looks at the kid solemnly.

“They were looking for a little better outside shooter, son,” he tells the boy.

Close-up of boy, as his face falls. There’s a beat.

“But, Hamilton,” the teacher goes on, “looks like your grades changed their minds!” (The actor landed heavily on the word “grades”, to make sure we got the point.)

Next scene: Hamilton, a bottle of Pepsi in hand, carried on the shoulders of his cheering schoolmates.

Fade out on graphic: “The Choice of a New Generation”.

TV DISSOLVE

The approach of Martin Luther King, Jr. day, and a recent conversation with a young friend of mine, brought that commercial back to mind. My friend works for a public utility in a city that puts great emphasis on workplace diversity. She was about a former boss: how horrible he was and how afraid she was that some of her co-workers were considering leaving.

“And we can’t lose them,” she added. “They’re people of color!”

We’ll let that sink in, while I tell you about a fellow I used to work with. Unlike Hamilton, he’s real, so we’ll call him Winston, because that’s not his real name. Like Hamilton, he’s black. He moved to Victoria from Toronto to take a part-time job with the TV station where I was working — again, an operation that took great pride in diversity.

In many respects, Winston became one of the “faces” of the TV station. He drove a mobile broadcast truck and operated the camera and other equipment. He was featured on the print advertising, shown holding a camera — and sometimes with camera and microphone, as a videojournalist. One day, the station was preparing to take part in a parade, the boss came told Winston’s immediate superior, “I want Winston driving the truck — for the image.”

After a year or so, a full-time camera operator job came open. It seemed to others that he was a lock for the job: he’d paid his dues, had become a good shooter, knew the territory and the station’s style, and was a good co-worker.

And he was turned down.

I know he was gobsmacked by the decision, but I don’t know if he thought of it this way: it seemed to me that management regarded him as good enough “for the image” but not good enough for a promotion. That spells “cynical” in my book.

And then there’s my diversity-minded friend, who appeared concerned about losing some co-workers not because they were good workers or friends, but because that might damage her organization’s reputation for diversity.

Nearly 40 years ago, Pepsi was breaking a stereotype: showing a black kid advancing because he was a good student — not because he was a good athlete. But is that what we do today, when we “embrace diversity”? When companies, be they public or private, enact diversity policies, are they concerned about what a person brings to the table, overall quality of work, or making sure that the staff picture in the annual report shows a proper mix of different colors?

When we’re truly in Christ, “diversity” is a non-issue. So is the worldly concept of “merit”. Jesus Christ IS diversity. His apostles came from different walks of life. As God, He is no respecter of persons, be it gender or race.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

— John 6:37-40

ALL that the Father gives to Jesus, and He will cast NO ONE away.

Remember that Romans, Jews, Samaritans, lepers and a woman with an “issue of blood” were ALL healed when they turned to Him. Philip the Evangelist led a black Ethiopian eunuch to Christ. Peter gladly shared the Gospel with a Gentile, risking the disapproval of the other apostles until he testified how the Holy Spirit overcame Cornelius and his household. Paul didn’t care whom he was preaching to,

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

— Galatians 3:28

See, the thing to recognize about diversity in “God’s economy” is that regardless of the color of our skin or the way we “present”, each of us has a unique background and experience that we bring to the Kingdom — and to any endeavour we get involved with. The Kingdom is glorified by the variety of parts that make up the whole.

In the same way, I believe a worldly organization can be stronger and broader-minded if its approach to diversity puts God first — not some man-made policy. An organization that is diverse for the sake of “the image” is in danger of sacrificing quality of performance — a “mediocracy”, if you will — or, at the end of the day, being exposed for being cynical.

But think how much stronger an organization, a community, a country can be, when the focus is on unity in Christ, following His example of seeing past the outward. You’d be surprised how that organization will be diverse and unified at the same time.