Tag Archives: courage

A Big Problem Brewing “Down Under”

There’s a big problem brewing down under.

Free speech. Religious liberty. Political correctness. Employees’ rights. Employers’ rights. Contract law. If those are just a few of the spokes on the spinning wheel, picture a monkey wrench being shoved right into it. Yep. It’s a wreck.

According to a Wall Street Journal article by Rhiannon Hoyle (Monday, July 1, 2019), Rugby Australia has fired one of the most famous sports figures in Australia and shredded his multimillion-dollar contract.

Why? Because Israel Folau, a Christian, “posted on Instagram in April that gay people, adulterers and atheists were living in sin and would go to hell unless they repented.” And he has refused to take down the post.

Rugby Australia says that Folau knew that any player can be dismissed for breaching its code of conduct which includes “respectful use of social media.” They say he knew the rule going in and obviously violated it. Folau says he was “expressing religious beliefs” and that the law prohibits “dismissing an employee on the basis of religion.” Thus far, mediation has failed.

I’m guessing that the majority of Australian rugby fans wish the whole mess would go away and they could get on with watching their teams pass, kick, punt, or whatever you do with rugby balls or thingamajigs or whatever they play with.

Anyway, it’s an almost perfect storm down under. Questions abound.

It might be as simple as saying, “Like it or not, X is the majority opinion on these issues in Australia these days. Privately, Mr. Folau, you can believe whatever you wish regarding politics or social issues or religion, but you are in breach of the code of conduct if you make what you know are inflammatory statements on social media. You knew this, and you signed the contract.”

Some Christians say that this is just another example of discrimination against Christians; they are pretty confident that had Folau expressed opinions echoing the more politically popular stance loudly endorsing LGBT rights, no one at Rugby Australia would have raised an eyebrow and that he could have “bashed” Christians or Jews all day long and never felt the wrath of his bosses.

Some Christians (maybe the sort who are fond of putting up billboards and signing God’s name at the bottom) say you show God’s love by telling the truth and that Folau is courageous for being willing to endure persecution.

Some say that such smacks of taking God’s name in vain and that persecution you go out of your way to bring on yourself is perhaps not all that courageous or wise or holy and that the attitude behind the words you speak is as important as the words themselves.

Some say that this particular issue is much more about contract law than religious liberty.

Some say that it really is all about religion but not the one you might think. It’s about a modern idol of choice—sports. Just look at the lavish offerings and expensive temples all dedicated to that god.

What I wonder is what Jesus would say to Israel Folau, to his detractors, and to us. I really do. He sees into hearts.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


To Be Truly Meek Is to Be Truly Strong

To be truly meek is to be truly strong.

The Bible says regarding one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known that the man Moses was the meekest of all the men on the earth. But in the Hall of Fame of Meekness (call it the Hall of Fame of Humility, if you wish), I’ve been privileged to know several individuals who deserve to be included. Among the greatest of the humble, in my opinion, was my father.

If you’ve been blessed to have such a father or grandfather or mentor, you’ll know firsthand how wrong our society is to equate meekness with weakness or sheepishness, a kind of “Mary’s little lamb” sort of thing. We know that Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek.” But that’s every bit as hard for our world to believe as “blessed are the poor.”

Can you imagine a large corporation giving classes in “meekness” training? No, it’s “assertiveness” training. We have, sadly enough, magazines named SELF; you’ll never find one on an adjoining shelf named, NO, YOU FIRST.

Meekness is a quality you can’t afford, our society screams.

Meek people get run over.

Meek people are doormats.

Meek people never make it to the top—and, of course, our society never stops to ask if the price paid to get to “the top” is a price worth paying.

But, as is so often the case, our society is near-sighted and wisdom-parched.

Real meekness, genuine humility, is quiet but filled with wisdom when it speaks. It thrives in a soul shaped by character, integrity, prudence, and civility. It is at the same time gentle and incredibly strong. Wherever it is found, it is a rare and beautiful blessing.

My father was a gentle man, strong in all the ways that matter and last. The Apostle Paul closes his letter to the Ephesians, “Finally, brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (6:10). And “in the Lord” is where Dad’s strength lay.

Dad was strong in Christ. And so he could be gentle. He had nothing to prove.

Dad was strong in Christ. And so he could quietly trust in God. He had no reason to be loud.

Dad’s strength was in the Lord. And so he had no reason to quarrel with those who opposed him.

Anyone who thinks he fully understands Christ’s Sermon on the Mount could well use more meekness, more humility. We probably see now only dim glimmers of the beautiful reality Christ has in mind when he says that the meek will “inherit the earth.”

But surely at least this much is true. When the loud and arrogant, the bullies and the braggarts of this world are putrefying in well-deserved decay, their fifteen minutes of fame over, God is promising that the strength and wisdom of the genuinely meek will endure and continue to be a blessing.

I would very much like to live in a world where God has put people like Moses and my father in charge, where the meek rule by God’s power and blessing.

Yes, indeed, that’s a world in which I’d love to live. It’s a world in which I plan to live.

 

 

    You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


When Foundations Shift, Cracks Begin to Show

“Wow, I wonder how much farther that old sagging column supporting the corner of this old sagging house can lean out southward before the corner of the house just collapses and wordlessly pleads, ‘Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!’”

Nothing about that column is plumb, square, or level anymore, but I do notice some symmetry this morning. I’m writing my weekly Focus on Faith column weakly, sitting beside a weak porch column, and displaying at least some weak faith that this will not be the morning when that weak column collapses.

I don’t think the problem with that porch column started with the column. I’ve got my bag chair perched on the porch; if I look down, I see two things: 1) concrete, almost 90 years old, of an incredible quality no longer available; and, 2) in spite of the quality of the concrete, one big almost inch-wide crack bisecting the porch.

So the real problem is that the column is perched on the porch, the porch is concrete perched on a “stem-wall” foundation, and the foundation is shifting because the ground below it (drought-ravaged) started shifting first. Hence, that porch column leans, and even world-class concrete is defiled by a big crack.

When foundations become weak and begin shifting, much that we depend on to be sturdy begins to falter. We can no longer count on “plumb, square, and level.” Cracks that have been forming soon become too obvious to ignore. And, yes, eventually, columns tumble and what they have long supported crashes down.

We don’t have to look far in our society to see cracks becoming obvious. Look for their source and you’ll find foundations that are shifting and no longer able to support the weight they were designed to carry. Cracks. Crumbling. Collapse.

We’ve laughed at truth. I hear phrases like “your truth” and “my truth” which make about as much sense as “your gravity” and “my gravity.”

We’ve twisted real freedom, freedom to live a truly freeing, unselfish life of love that broadens our souls and blesses others, into the counterfeit “I’ve Gotta Be Me” no matter who I hurt.

We abandon foundational values as timeless and real as the multiplication tables (“your math” and “my math”?) and are surprised when what we build using false figures won’t stay standing. C. S. Lewis described the situation: “We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

If this old porch column is to go on bearing weight, my brothers and I are going to have to rebuild it on a firm footing.

And where can we find a foundation that will bear the weight of our lives so that our lives can be built not only to bless ourselves but to bless those around us?

May I suggest a walk down the street this Sunday morning? You’ll likely find a place where people meet to honor the Builder who set the foundation posts of this universe. As cracked and weak and crumbling as many of us who meet below them are, steeples still point in the right direction—to the One who is eternally faithful and strong.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Christ’s Question to a Blind Man Is a Question to Us All

 

John 9 blind man

“Do you want to be healed?”

Jesus’ question in John 9 to a “man born blind” seems strange at first. The answer was, “Yes!” And it would, of course, be the sincere answer of many, then and now, should the Lord ask and the opportunity truly be offered.

But answering it might require much more honest, difficult soul-searching than we might expect. You see, the uncomfortable truth is that, for some of us at some times in our lives, we simply can’t afford to be healed. It may actually be the last thing we want.

Once this blind man was healed, good news! He no longer had to sit by the side of the road and beg. But more news: he no longer could, even if, for some reason, he wanted to.

In asking the question, Jesus is also asking this man to grapple with who he really is. The Healer is willing to heal him, if that is what he really wants. But Jesus is amazingly unwilling to force himself and his healing on anyone. The deep honesty Jesus asks this blind man to embrace is no easy thing.

Am I willing to be that honest myself? What if my blindness or disease is not so much physical as a “disabling” attitude—critical, grouchy, grinchy, selfish, hard, cynical, bitter, etc. Yes, it shrivels my soul, but maybe I’ve learned how to use it to control and manipulate the people around me—and they tiptoe around to let me and rarely call my hand. What if Jesus offered healing? Would I really want it?

Healing can be hard! I can’t help but wonder if this former blind man was ever tempted during incredibly dark times (even for him) to renounce his healing and pick up his beggar’s bowl? Was he ever tempted to go back to the begging he’d known rather than embrace the health that required so much and was at times so frightening because it was unknown?

I don’t know about him, but I know about me. I’m picking up my own “beggar’s bowl” every time in attitude or action I act as if I have a right to be treated as some sort of victim. I do not.

I’m in awe of the truly courageous people I see each day dealing with great difficulty—physically, emotionally, and otherwise—who refuse to see themselves as victims. But I too often see in myself—with far less reason—a surprising unwillingness to accept genuine healing and the responsibility that comes with it. I don’t like what it says about me when I find myself expending great effort to be sure that nothing as demanding as something approaching wholeness and maturity is required of me.

For “healed” folks, the drama is over. Now the duties, tasks, activities required of healthy people are required of me. I can no longer center on my hard lot, playing for sympathy, controlling others by my supposed status as a perpetual “victim,” if that’s my temptation.

Not everyone truly physically or emotionally damaged has the opportunity for health the man in John 9 did. But do we see that in some ways Christ’s question comes to us all at a very deep level? “Do you want to be healed?”

The answer will shape our lives and the lives of those around us, some of whom are the innocents who pay a heavy price if we actually have a choice—and choose to remain perpetual “victims.”

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


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