Nils von Kalm

My take on faith, life and how it all might fit together

Category: Grace (page 1 of 5)

Disarmed at church

Two things hit me at church recently.

There’s something about the solemnity of remembering the gospel as we gather on a Sunday morning.

I was feeling distant from God yesterday morning, sort of self-sufficient and off with my ego. But as we sang, prayed and listened to Scripture, I remembered again how I am constantly touched by grace; I am given what I haven’t worked for. I am given it purely as a gift and nothing else. The Christian message continues to touch me in the deepest of places like nothing else does. I need constant reminding and I am constantly reminded. I am never cast adrift for forgetting once too often. God never gives up on me.

The other thing that got me again was one of the Lectionary readings. It was from the first letter of John. In the church I grew up in, the number one favourite verse, the one that everyone could recite any time, was John 3:16 – For God so loved the world…

But I was never taught to remember the same chapter and verse from John’s first letter like I was that from John’s gospel. Millions of evangelicals can quote John 3:16 by heart, but how many of us can quote 1 John 3:16 and the couple of verses after that? I wonder if we were never taught them because they are too confronting to our comfortable, middle-class, Western, consumer-oriented church ears, and they talk a bit too much about caring for the poor, which, after all, is an aside from the real gospel if you believe what I was taught and what many Christians are still taught.

Here’s what 1 John 3:16-18 says:

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Giving materially to our brothers and sisters in need is as much the gospel as anything else. And it’s right there in the Bible.

An unexpected humbling

THIS LIFE: AN UNEXPECTED HUMBLING

I recently attended the SURRENDER conference at Belgrave Heights Convention Centre. In its own words, SURRENDER “exists to raise up Christians to live the radical call of Jesus and follow him to the least, the last and the lost”. It is about learning how we can be better disciples who work with Jesus to transform his world.

Your history doesn’t have to be your destiny

SIGHT-SEEING: “YOUR HISTORY DOESN’T HAVE TO BE YOUR DESTINY”

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man”, the saying goes (of course it applies equally to women, but this is just a literal requoting). It refers to those who come through when they are needed most.

Love – no fear

“There is absolutely nothing about shame and honor and fear in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“The god that most people fear, the god who can’t wait to punish and torture you in an eternal hell is not the God of the Bible.”

I need to have this drummed into me over and over again. And I suspect many of you do too. This article will hopefully help.

Love – No Fear · Christianity Without the Religion/Plain Truth Ministries

1 Corinthians 13 is a chapter many have come to know as the “love chapter” of the Bible. 1 Corinthians 13 is arranged in three separate sections, two of which we will briefly examine: The first section, in verses 1-3, is about love as being indispensable.

The poison we drink to kill someone else

The insanity of resentment is that it is always about us, it is always us that is hurt by it (because often the person we are resenting doesn’t even know about it), yet we think that our resentment is going to show them how wrong they have been.

On top of that is the fact that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I think it was Einstein who said that we can’t solve a problem with the same mindset that gave us the problem in the first place.

When I resent someone, it is really all about me. The other person has generally done nothing wrong, and even if they have, my resentment is still all about me. It is about how hurt I feel about not feeling heard or understood.

There is something in me that rages against the injustice that nobody understands. And sometimes that’s true. Too many people have not been listened to and heard as children, and it comes out as destructive behaviour in adulthood.

Martin Luther King said that violence is the language of the unheard. He didn’t condone the violence, but he did understand it. There is a huge difference. We can’t do anything about times in our childhood when we should have been heard but weren’t, but we can do something now.

I found a meme the other day that said that change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. That’s when we will deal with resentment and be able to forgive.

When I let go of resentment, by changing my attitude to one of thankfulness, or by praying for the person I am resenting, I am instantly liberated from my slavery to self-obsession. That’s the power of forgiveness. My burden is lifted and I feel free again. And I realise anew that this is how I want to live. I look forward to being reminded about this a few more times tomorrow.

Book review – Drop The Stones

 

Sometimes you read a book and you get a sense that you want to be the sort of person the author is writing about. Drop The Stones is just such a book.

The author, Carlos Rodriguez, is a pastor, teacher and blogger who loves to write about his love of Jesus and of the grace he brings to broken people. This, his second book, is about the grace and forgiveness we see Jesus display in the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8:2-11. Interestingly, this is a story that almost didn’t make it into the gospel narratives, and some think it may have been added later. Whether it actually happened or not, it is entirely reflective of the love and grace of Jesus and gives us a wonderful look at just who Jesus is. And it is this that Rodriguez wants his readers to discover.

The book is divided into three sections. It looks at the story through the lens of the woman caught in adultery, the Pharisees who wanted her stoned, and Jesus who refused to condemn her. The emphasis of the book is on the fact that each of us can see ourselves in all three characters at different times in our lives. I know I certainly can and have, and the author is the same. That is actually one of the attractions of this book; Rodriguez is disarmingly honest and humble about his own weaknesses and where he has failed to be Christlike in his attitudes and actions at various times in his life. At the same time, he is glowing about others, especially his wife and others in his church community.

The other attraction of this book is that each chapter is only a few pages long and is generally told as a story of someone who has shown the love that Jesus showed to the woman. The shortness of the chapters makes the book easy to read and get into.

Continue reading

Blessing theology

A couple of weeks ago I spoke at church on the idea of blessing, what it is and what it isn’t. We have a major problem in the church with blessing theology, the idea that if you do something, God will bless you or even curse you.

You can read the notes from my talk here and see the PowerPoint presentation here.

Life is too short to be selfish

Responding to the reality of a Trump Presidency

donald_trump_25218642186

Much has been written amidst the turmoil of Donald Trump’s stunning victory in the US election.

Disbelief was probably the main reaction, from people who voted against him as well as those who voted for him. As the world comes to terms with how the Trump Presidency might impact the world, much has also been written about the best way to respond. I have to confess to probably going a bit over the top with my emotional responses. When someone as divisive as Trump comes along, emotions can be overwhelming.

Whatever our reactions and thoughts, now is a time of great opportunity, an opportunity to bear witness to the Gospel loud and clear. Not the dualistic gospel that says you can get to heaven when you die if you just believe the right things; nor the same gospel that says you’re going to hell if you don’t believe those things.

No, the Gospel I am talking about is the Gospel of Jesus as we see in the Scriptures. It is the good news that another world is possible and another world is already here. It is the good news of inclusiveness for all, that there are no walls in this new world that Jesus came to bring. All are equal, male and female, black and white, (dare I say it) Muslim and Christian, Mexican and Trump supporter.

This is the good news that all are welcome if only they will come. Because God is President, not Donald Trump, a world order is being created where enemies are loved and where the broken are embraced and not ridiculed or shamed.

In a world which has already become more hostile as a result of Trump’s victory, this is our opportunity to shine, to live an alternative world, to be a light on a hill, to be a beacon for those who are not welcome elsewhere. This is our time to be a community of hope, of love and of faith. The politics of fear and division and hatred will never overcome faith, hope and love. Nothing can separate you from this love. Love does indeed save the world. 

So, what does it look like to respond in grace and love to those we disagree with? Yes, what does it mean to respond like Jesus would, whether you despise or rejoice at the Trump Presidency? Here are my thoughts:

Listen

As time goes on and we come to accept the reality of what has happened, we need to listen to the viewpoints of those with whom we disagree.

To take Trump supporters as an example, they have been vilified and lumped into a “basket of deplorables”, to use a quote from the campaign. There are many, many people however who voted for Trump because they genuinely believe he was the best choice for their country and for the world. That’s why they were willing to stick with him despite his racism, sexism and invectives of fear. These people are not stupid. Many of them can definitely be classified as racist, sexist and/or filled with hatred, and that needs to be confronted with courage and strength, but those classifications do not apply to all Trump supporters.

Trump tapped into something very deep in the soul of America. Millions of people have been angry for a very long time because they have felt that their voices have not been heard. History shows that when a group of people are ignored over time, they will eventually rise up and revolt. It is rather ironic that Trump supporters have long felt the same as African Americans did (and still do) during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s. Back then, Martin Luther King, told by many white people to be patient, wrote about the fact that his people could no longer wait after suffering for so long. A movement rose up and it has happened again.

When we disagree, we don’t make it personal

We confront the issue, not the person. When we disagree with someone, we must show that we are not attacking them as a person. We can disagree strongly while maintaining the relationship with that person. Don’t ever shame anyone for their position. That will just turn them away even more and is not treating them as people of dignity made in the image of their Creator.

Unfortunately in the era of social media where anyone can voice their own opinion, personal abuse has become rife and healthy debate has been dumbed down. Responding in grace means listening while not attacking the person.

We remain true to our convictions

Responding with grace does not mean we roll over and have to compromise what we believe. Self-respect and respect from others is gained when we stand up for what we believe. As the old saying goes, “stand for something or fall for anything”.

Respect the other person’s viewpoint

There is a caveat to this though. Many people’s viewpoints are not thought out very thoroughly. What was revealed in the US election campaign was that much of the support for Trump was based on pure emotion and blind faith. When presented with the facts, the viewpoints of many were just further entrenched. You don’t need to respect a point of view that has not been thought out. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but if they want their opinion to be respected, it has to be credible. That also means that if you are going to put forward a claim or point of view, you need to be able to back it up with facts.

As well as that, be prepared to suffer. You can present your case in the most Christlike way with undisputable facts and many people will still attack you as being unreasonable and ungodly. We are human. We will disagree, often vehemently. Bear it and get support if you need to. You can’t do this alone. Responding in love is about being part of a movement; it is not an individual stand.

Many people we disagree with are people with genuinely held beliefs

It is important to acknowledge this. They actually have thought through their motivations and have come to a conclusion that we thought was unconscionable. Suck it up. I know I need to.

Be open to having your views challenged

This relates to the previous point. And as well as being open to having your own views challenged, realise that you might need to change your point of view when presented with other facts. 

No issue is black and white

There will always be shreds of truth in any argument. Every situation is unique. Remember this is ultimately about real people, and real people are not “issues”. They are human beings with feelings, hopes and dreams.

Embody an alternative world

Remember, another world is possible and another world is here. ?The new world that Jesus inaugurated is both now and not yet. Protest is not enough. The world needs to hear a better story. And a better story includes people from all sides of the debate. Violence has been committed by both sides in the wake of the election. A true Christian response is not to constantly highlight one side’s violence and ignore the other’s. It is to make a strong statement that violence of any kind is unacceptable, no matter who perpetrates it.

We need to be the change we want to see in the world. People do not change until they see that their present way of living, based on their present worldview, is no longer working. It is then that we need to know there is a better way. Embody that way. 

Embody the way of love, of forgiveness, of speaking truth to power. Let your light shine so that others will praise your Father in heaven. Live a life of attraction so that people won’t have anything to pin on you.

Embodying an alternative world is also being on the side of the marginalised. God actually does play favourites. The Bible clearly shows God’s definite bias for the poor and oppressed. This is not because God loves them any more than the rich and powerful. To the contrary, it is because God made them equal and they deserve to be treated as such.

Now is the time for people of faith, hope and love to come together and show that love does indeed cast out fear, that there is indeed a better way. Now is the time to get together with others who want to live this way. It was Margaret Mead who said, “Never forget that a small group of people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has”.

We have nothing to fear in the post-Trump world, whether you support him or not. Remember Matthew 28:20 – “I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.

Jesus and women

Last month’s revelations of Donald Trump’s boasting and allegations of sexual assault have thrown up stories of the pain suffered by literally millions of women around the world. For followers of Jesus, it highlights the contrast of the fact that Jesus treated women with their full God-given dignity. Here’s my article from Christian Today on Jesus and women…

Jesus and women

The recent revelations of Donald Trump’s boasting and allegations of sexual assault have thrown up stories of the pain suffered by literally millions of women around the world. Despite many of the gains made in the last 100 years for women’s rights, it is clear that much still remains to be done.

Older posts

© 2018 Nils von Kalm

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Scroll Up