Preparing For That Place

Confession time.

I’m a closet Disney fan.  Since my honeymoon almost 17 years ago, I’ve been to Disney World in Orlando, Florida too many times to even count.  We had Passholder tickets each year, and even though I live about a 7 hour drive away from the Disney resort, we always went several times a year.  There’s just something about walking into the Magic Kingdom or Epcot that puts a big smile on my face and makes me feel like a kid again.

My family and I are planning another trip to Disney over the Veteran’s Day weekend in November, which is now only about a month away, so we’re getting excited about planning our vacation.  Our tickets have already arrived in the mail, so the trip is now a reality.  We’ve been watching Disney vlogs on YouTube, researching different restaurants on the Disney website, and making reservations for our favorite rides, all in anticipation of our big trip.

Now, I’m not really an OCD planner.  I do actually leave time open on my vacations to relax and let things happen as they come, but I like to have my days somewhat organized, especially on a busy vacation like Disney World.  It never hurts to be prepared.  The significance of planning cannot be overlooked when talking about our Christianity as well.  There is a certain level of preparation involved when getting ready to meet our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and while some of that preparation is done on our own, much of it is done by Jesus himself.  While Jesus prepares a place for us (John 14:1-3), he is also preparing us for that place.

An appropriate analogy of this process is mentioned in the 15th chapter of the book of John.  There, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2).  Through the Holy Spirit (John 16:7), we are being pruned to be more like Jesus.  In this way, we are able to, “supplement (our) faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).

You can see through these passages that God is preparing us everyday to be more like his Son Jesus.  He is getting us ready for the day when we make our trip to Heaven to be with him forever.  The important thing to remember is the preparation we are making as Christians is far more important than getting ready for a family vacation or planning for retirement.  The growth that God makes in us should be far more valuable than riding the newest ride at an amusement park or making sure we are getting the most prestigious education.

Are you preparing for the day of his return (Matthew 24: 42, 44)?

-Joe Butler

Where Do We Draw the Line?

beautyThe news has circulated for several days now, so I’m sure most of you have heard that Disney has decided to include a decidedly gay scene in their upcoming live action version of Beauty and the Beast (Article).  Not only that, but the actor playing the part and the director of the movie have both been outspoken over their pride of the inclusion of a gay scene (Article).  Because of this move, Christians across the religious landscape and of different doctrinal beliefs are calling for a boycott of all things Disney including their other companies like ABC and ESPN.

I understand the uproar.  My first inclination was to cry foul over just another example of immorality in our society and Disney’s ambivalence over the fact that they are primarily viewed as a company who promotes movies, programming, and theme park entertainment for children and families.  But I wanted to spend more time studying God’s word on this matter and not just rely on my very fallible opinions on things.  I hope you’ll read along and see that how we interact with the world around us, especially the lost and sinful of the world, helps determine our influence for Christ and his glory.

WHERE DO YOU DRAW THE LINE?

This question was asked by a friend of mine and it is a great question that I’m not sure I have the answer to.  Are Christians not supposed to patronize businesses that promote immoral behavior?  I suppose if that were so, I would not be using the services of a huge number of businesses out there because so many are outspoken against Christian morals these days.  Am I right to not attend church at any congregation knowing that there are probably people there who are actively sinning in their life?  Should every Christian that works for Disney or its other companies now quit their jobs because of the promotion of homosexuality in a new movie?  I daresay that would be disastrous and leave no one of influence who could continue to let their light shine for Jesus while at their place of employment.  I even have an extended family member who is a practicing homosexual living with her partner (they are legally married in the state of Washington).  Am I supposed to ostracize myself from her and lose any chance of ever planting seeds of Jesus’ grace and redemption in her life?

I guess the line is drawn when the immorality of others leads to temptation that I’m unable to withstand.  If spending time with someone who speaks with filthy language causes me to begin to speak in such a way, I may need to consider stepping away from that situation lest I fall into sin.  All I know is that God requires that we still live in a world full of sin and not be influenced by that world (1 John 2:15), but maintain a holy and righteous life worthy of the calling we’ve received (Ephesians 4:1).

Now back to the subject of Disney and its new movie.  We are sorely mistaken if we expect Hollywood, who has long been putting out movies of questionable immorality, to put out biblically accurate movies.  Even other movies and programming that Disney and its others companies have released have some examples of inappropriate sexual innuendo or language and violence.  1 Corinthians 6:12 reads, “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial.”  A lot of what we do may be ok in the eyes of God, especially if our faith is strong, but it is not necessarily good for our hearts and souls.  Our rights do not supersede our responsibility to honor God with our choice of entertainment.  Finally, consider that we are encouraged to think on things that are pure, lovely, and admirable (Philippians 4:8), and that includes our choice of entertainment.

YOU CAN’T SEE A SPECK WITH A PLANK IN YOUR EYE

Have you ever stopped to wonder why Jesus spent so much time criticizing the religious elite of his day?  After further study of the religious and cultural environment of the day, we can see that the hypocritical attitude of the Pharisees is what aggravated Jesus the most.  They created such heavy burdens for the Jews to bear with their manmade traditions and rules that it was virtually impossible for anyone to maintain any semblance of holiness.  And it’s not like the religious leaders were helping people to grow.  They would sit back in their high position and criticize the behavior of others (Matthew 23:4).  What they failed to understand is, we can’t fulfill just the first part of the law of loving God and not fulfill the second part which is to love others (Matthew 23:23).  In order to truly show love to God, we must show love to his children as well, even if we disagree with the sin in their lives.  Today is the same.  Many in the church use their state of redemption to bash those in the world still living in sin.  They create such guilt and difficulty that I can completely understand why someone would never want to give Jesus and the gospel a try.  Like the Pharisees, we cannot just follow the law in regards to sin and forget the weightier matters of love and mercy.

Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).  This basically means that if we’re outspoken over the sins of unbelievers while minimizing our own sins, we are in the wrong and will be judged according to how we’re judging others.  It also means that we can’t be outspoken over certain sins that abhor us like homosexuality and then look past all of the very obvious sins of adultery, lying, and gossip that are all around us, even in the church.

And speaking of judging, we must be careful of that as well.  Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13, says, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?  God judges those outside.”  I liken this to a person working a job for a major company.  It’s not their responsibility to do the job of the CEO.  Instead, they are paid to do the tasks that they have been given.  Likewise, we Christians were given the job to be a light to the world around us, not to judge the worthiness of salvation for those who are living in disobedience to God.  What we don’t want to do is be like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14.  He sat there praying to God, all the while holding himself in high regard because he was such a good follower of the law.  He even openly bashed a tax collector nearby and was pleased with himself for not having that man’s dirty sins.  It was the tax collector who went home justified, “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

Finally, I want us to think about what Jesus would do when dealing with situations like these.  We tend to think that our time is much more sinful than past generations, but that isn’t so.  There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9) and sins like murder, idolatry, and homosexuality existed in Jesus’ time as well.  Also, we can’t hold ourselves in high regard just because we’ve been saved by God’s redeeming grace.  There are others out there who need that redemption too.

So what would Jesus do?  Just take a look at the Bible and you’ll see that Jesus spent a lot of time with blatant sinners and it was always the religious who had a problem with it (Matthew 9:9-12, Luke 7:36-39, John 4:1-18, John 8:1-11).  I wonder, if Jesus felt it appropriate to minister to the adulterous woman at the well, or would sit down to a meal with tax collectors and sinners, or allow another sinful woman to anoint him with perfume and wash his feet with her tears, how would he want us to respond to others today?  Would he want Christians to hide behind the closed doors of their homes and churches and criticize the world from the pulpit or our Facebook pages?  Or would he want us to go out there amongst the world, spreading the message of the gospel to those who need it most?  But we must be cautious.  We shouldn’t justify spending time with sinners to evangelize them if our intent is to still keep one foot in the world.

There’s no doubt that we should be careful of the situations we put ourselves in and be careful of the people who are around us.  “Bad company (does) corrupt good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33) and can negatively influence us and cause us to succumb to sin.  We are not supposed to have anything to do with evil but rather expose it (Ephesians 5:11-14).  And yet we are also commanded to get into the world and make disciples of all men, teaching them to obey and fear God (Matthew 28:19-20), and the only way to do that is to befriend sinners and engage them in honest, genuine conversation about our concern for their souls.  We’re not to sit there and give them a guilt trip over their obvious and maybe not so obvious sins.  Instead, we are to love them the way God first loved us.

-Joe