Author Archives: Byron Hannon

About Byron Hannon

I am a discipler, teacher, coach (and ordained elder) passionate about helping people move beyond the “elementary teachings about Christ” (Hebrews 6:1) to maturity and the fullness of the abundant life promised by Jesus (John 10:10) in our postmodern, post-Christian, and post-truth world

The Value of Sameness

“Let us thus think often that our only business in this life is to please GOD, that perhaps all besides is but folly and vanity.” (Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God)

Having stepped away from full-time ministry, I find many of my days to be much the same, intermingled with spurts of activity and busyness which are the result of the part-time ministry role I took on nearly a year ago.  Reflecting on this sameness, it occurred to me that it offers me benefits I hadn’t considered previously.

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First, sameness offers me an opportunity to experience a fairly consistent rhythm of life well-suited to my spiritual wiring.  It invites me into the quiet of stillness.  Although I can’t place the source, I do recall seeing this, “It is only when we become quiet that we begin to hear.”  I’m hearing things more deeply now, and in some cases, for the first time.  Sometimes, it’s just the awareness of my own thoughts.  Other times I’m better able to appreciate the sounds of nature around me.  And when I am around people, I think I’m hearing better what they say, their spoken words and their unspoken words, the sounds of their heart.  Best of all, I think the voice of GOD is coming to me with fresh clarity.  Years ago, a spiritual director once asked me about how I tend to hear from GOD.  I replied that it was through His Word.  More and more, single words and phrases in Scripture have a power and presence of their own.

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Second, this rhythm of sameness offers daily opportunity to commune with GOD, to meditate on Him and His grace and mercy, love and tenderness, wisdom and teachings, salvation and holiness.  I have time to search my own heart, and to see myself in the mirror of His perfection.  My thirst for Him grows, and I am drawn to Him.  I want to be in His presence; I want to please Him.  Psalm 42:1 uses the metaphor of a deer panting after water to express the psalmist’s hunger for GOD.  I understand.

Finally, when I do have spurts of busyness, I have more of myself to give to others, including, I pray, understanding, something resembling wisdom, grace and patience.  To the extent this is, it is because of how much He gives to me in the midst of daily sameness.

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I know everyone’s spiritual wiring is different and the atmosphere that encourages contemplation is not everyone’s cup of tea, but each of us has those days of sameness, whether they are quiet or busy.  Perhaps by adopting the attitude of Brother Lawrence, whose assigned role was to serve in the kitchen day-in and day-out, the sameness of stillness and quiet need not be boring and the sameness of daily busyness need not be overwhelming…GOD can be found in both if will seek Him.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2019.  All rights reserved to text content.                 

When Will It Ever Stop?

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall.”  
(Psalm 46:4-5a)

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A friend posted a comment and question on Facebook the other day, seemingly out of frustration with the recent violence and terrorism in our nation that has resulted in bloodshed and loss of lives.  Her question was, “When will it ever stop?”  It’s a question I’ve pondered off and on for so many years; and quite frankly, don’t see it happening any time soon.

My question is: What if it doesn’t stop?  What if it never gets really better in a way I think she means e.g. peoples’ lives, property and aspirations are uniformly valued, there is an absence in the broader society of an us vs. them mentality, and concerns and differences are addressed civilly and in an environment of mutual respect.  To what extent has this ever been the case anywhere in the world on a sustained basis?  Aside from Antarctica, I don’t think there’s a continent on the Earth that can make that claim.  I believe even a cursory study of history bears this out.

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We live (and have lived) in a world in which people and nations operate according to a paradigm of scarcity.  In this paradigm, there are not enough resources for everyone, and there isn’t enough freedom for everyone.  A few have to be on top; they have rights that are enforced, and they get the bulk of the privileges.  This means that some have to be on the bottom; they have few rights (that are routinely and systematically enforced), and have even fewer privileges.  Then there are the remainders who are somewhere in the middle, often aspiring to get closer to the top, and so grateful they aren’t on the bottom (as far as they can tell).  There’s a reason someone came up with the phrase, “It sucks to be you!which is how a lot of people in the middle feel and treat those on the bottom.  Those on the top may not give those in the middle or on the bottom much attention at all unless they do things that become irritating, like complaining about justice, economic inequity, and equal protection under the law, to name a few.

Sometimes those who perceive the presence of inequity are really voicing fear of a loss of privilege and favor e.g. “there isn’t enough to go around for all of us; and you’re not getting mine (or ours).”  Belief in this kind of scarcity produces tension that, from time-to-time in history, has erupted into physical violence.  There can also be the psychological violence that is added on by those who are dismissive and who refuse to consider root causes, particularly if it is not in their interest to do so.  This is not new stuff.   It’s been a reality in virtually every human society.

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I don’t consider myself a cynic or a fatalist.  I don’t think everyone’s sole motive in life is self-interest.  I just think most people are nice people whose social engagement has a limited range.  Beyond the social issues that hit their personal radars as being important or where they believe they have influence which they should exercise, they are generally disengaged.  For instance, how many adults in an entire local community might have concerns about their local public school system?  Measure that against the number of people from that same community who regularly attend school board meetings.  I’m neither seeking to discourage others nor to profit or otherwise gain advantage from the circumstances I describe.  That would be cynical!  And I do have hope for the future…but as a follower of Christ rather than as an optimist in a humanistic sense.

It would be nice if we could, finally, meaningfully address these issues…but what if we don’t get there?  What if the answer to Rodney King’s question, “Can’t we all get along?” is too enigmatic for us to be able to respond affirmatively with certainty.  What then?  The history of humanity isn’t all that encouraging, despite those modernists who continue to insist that education, and particularly science and technology, is the key to a brighter future for all.  For all of the strengths with this path (and there are many), there are still too many exceptions in the way that smart has been used that prevent this from being a reliable rule on which to place the weight of one’s faith.

Thinking about these issues brought me back to Psalm 46, something I’ve read and meditated on often.  Aside from its immediate context concerning the ultimate security of Jerusalem, it more broadly reminds us that those who are in GOD’s hands have no reason to fear, regardless of how the externals appear.  The psalmist uses powerful, dramatic imagery to make the point:

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging…

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. (vv. 1-3; 7)

 When will it ever stop?  I believe it will one day…possibly in this world, but most certainly in the next.  And when it does, it will bring with it a new paradigm, one of abundance for all who abide.  Then no one will denied because of fear or greed or for any other reason.

 

© Byron L. Hannon, 2019.  All rights reserved to original text content.

On Fear, Faith and Hope

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer.  Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.”  (A chant of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood in Dune by Frank Herbert)

I’ve been working on a piece concerning spiritual poverty, something much longer than what I usually post here.  Working on that has led me to thinking and praying this morning (a few days before this post) about fear and what it does to the spirit.  It was with a sense of providence that I later opened my email to read a daily devotional to which I subscribe, and the topic was fear.

Here’s an abbreviated excerpt from the passage quoted: “Immediately He spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid…’” (Mark 6:50). This was followed by a quote from theologian Mildred Bangs Wynkoop: “Fear closes the mind and the heart and dries up the source of love.”1  The insight of the late Dr. Wynkoop is interestingly similar to that of the fictional Bene Gesserits (Dune author, Frank Herbert had an interest in comparative religions which is the likely reason his books contain a strong current of religious and quasi-religious themes).

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I confess that I haven’t paid enough attention to all of the times the encouraging commands such as “do not fear” or “do not be afraid” appear in the Bible, particularly when said by Jesus.  In every instance, He was either speaking to someone in His inner circle or to someone who He was about to heal or otherwise bless.

But why shouldn’t we be afraid?  This world can be a very threatening place, even with its joys and opportunities for wish fulfillment.  Job loss, health concerns, wayward children, neglected and abused children, being rejected by those we care about, the loss of deeply loved ones, abuse and neglect of the elderly, telephone scam artists, hackers of bank records and credit accounts, inadequate retirement savings, seemingly ever increasing social divisions, etc., etc., etc.  Jesus wasn’t joking when He said, In this world you will have trouble.” He followed this with, “But take heart, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).  What are we supposed to do with that?

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A writer from an earlier generation with whom I am just getting acquainted said, “Man was a feeling creature long before he was a thinking creature.”Fear happens instinctively; we don’t stop to think, “Oh, maybe I should be afraid of that bear running toward me.”  Fear is a natural feeling in response to being or feeling under threat.  Each of the things mentioned above, along with the myriad things not mentioned, could easily fit into the category of “threatening.”  I believe the reason why is because we are still very much tied to this world, and those things are a part of what we are tied to.  This world is what we know.  We’ve spent our entire lives in it; and from infancy to adulthood our being has been assimilated into it and conditioned by it.  We naturally and unconsciously construct the aspects of our lives around this earthy life.  And so when what we’ve built or those we care about are threatened, we fear much the same way as the disciples did when they thought their boat was going to capsize in the stormy sea.

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I’ve heard some suggest that a mature faith doesn’t fear i.e. “Do not be anxious for anything, but by prayer …” (Philippians 4:6).  But I believe a clearer rendering of this verse is, “Don’t be afraid and then do nothing about it; you should pray and ask GOD to help you!”  Another so-called proof text against fear is “…perfect love casts out all fear…” (1 John 4:18), but this passage refers to the fear of GOD’s judgment, not the fear of standing under a safe that’s falling from an upstairs window or watching your kid do things you know will harm them or when you’re faced with a serious illness.  I think the challenge is more often admitting when we are afraid…admitting it to ourselves and admitting it to GOD.  The honesty and humility of this confession is key, I think, to Him coming and saying, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid,” and finding peace in His presence and assurance.

When Jesus told His disciples that He had overcome the world despite the trouble they would face, He prefaced it by saying, “I have told you these things so, in Me, you would have peace” (John 6:33).  Fear is a natural response to threats, and unabated it can cause us to, figuratively, lose our minds.  It can be a mind-killer.  But we don’t have to say chants like the Bene Gesserits, we have prayer, and a GOD who hears and comes; and, in Christ, we have faith and hope that, in Him, we too will overcome the world.  May all of us who struggle, who hurt, who are afraid find ourselves going deeper, ever deeper into Christ.          

  1. Soul Care. A digital publication of the Church of the Nazarene, July 31, 2019.
  2. Meditations of the Heart by Howard Thurman. Beacon Press Books, 1981.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2019.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.

 

Have This Mind In You

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves…” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

A few days ago, my wife shared something with me that she came across during her devotional reading.  This happens every now and then, but most times I’ll take note of it, and may or may not comment.  This time was a little different.  This is what she showed me: “Beware, above everything else in your praying, of limiting God, not only by unbelief but also by fancying that you know what He can do.”*

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You don’t hear people use the word “fancying” or its root, “fancy as a verb much these days.  It seems antiquated, like bonnets and parasols; and perhaps that’s what first captured her attention.  But it was the rest of the statement that held her attention…and mine.  The thought resonated, because this idea of “fancying that we know what GOD can do” is something that’s been on a very low simmer on my mental back-burner for years, but has largely gone unattended to and unexpressed.  The reason it’s been there is because I’m uncomfortable with the idea that I or anyone else can “know” what GOD can do, other than to acknowledge His omnipotence and live in expectancy.

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I’ve watched world-class athletes perform most of my teen and adult life, with an awareness and appreciation of their amazing skill level.  Even then, I have been surprised time and time again, seeing something I’d never seen before and saying or thinking, “How’d he do that?!”  Not a perfect analogy, but hopefully you get the picture.  I still read Psalm 139, after having read it countless times before, and am amazed at things GOD has done (and still does) that I would have never considered had not the psalmist documented it.  Has my discomfort with the idea that we can know what GOD can do been more a function of my personality and preferences than something grounded in biblical teaching?

It seems to me this little devotional statement is claiming that wrong belief consists of both unbelief and a certainty that assumes things about GOD, but without humility.  Unbelief is so much easier to critique; Scripture is clear on it.  What about the other?  So much of the faith walk and the teachings of Jesus, the Apostles, and the wise and devoted women and men who have followed Him and them across the centuries are built on the foundation of GOD’s unlimited ability to do anything He willed, “for with GOD nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:37).  Surely, the devotional authors are not countering this point.  And I doubt, given their background, that they would be among those who promote an “open theism” which approaches the issue of GOD’s Sovereignty differently and without some of the absolutes that are found in traditional evangelical thought.

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That leaves me with the thought that they may be talking about faith that is expressed with a tinge of arrogance (perhaps unintended) rather than faith enshrouded in humility, as if all of the mystery of GOD has been disclosed.  Arrogance, even arrogance in faith, is diametrically opposed to the humility which Jesus revealed in His life among us.  I believe any arrogance in believers is a spiritual oxymoron and an offense to GOD.

I can’t say categorically that I have seen what I’m calling spiritual arrogance demonstrated in my presence, but there are times when I’ve wondered.  Recognizing that I need to be very careful not to judge the walk of others, I am also cognizant that I and all who are called by His name need to have the same mind as the One who humbled Himself, took on the form of a servant (Philippians 2: 5, 7-8), and called meekness a great strength (Matthew 5:5; 11:29).  These come only from continuous acts of submission of self and ego and will to the One who is “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3: 20).  I’m confident GOD can do all things.  My understanding of what constitutes the universe of “all” is still a mystery.

 

 *   Ruth and Warren Myers, 31 Days of Prayer, Multnomah Publishers, © 1997.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2019.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.

Thus Saith the LORD

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

I got up this morning with something stuck in my craw (an actual word that is a synonym for ‘throat’).  I don’t mean this literally; it’s a southern/country way of saying that something has upset you to the point that you can’t seem to shake it.  It’s something that is more than mildly annoying.  The degree of irritation is greater than that.  Injustice is always more than mildly annoying, at least to me.  Compounding the matter is that it has to do with things well beyond my ability to influence, no less control.  I have a point of view, but quite frankly, I felt invisible relative to the matter.  This sense of invisibility was, perhaps, as much a source of my mental state as the initial cause.

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I try to get in a couple of hard physical workouts each week because I recognized, long before the current TV commercial using the same language, that the body is meant to move, and the effects of not making it move can be debilitating, especially at my age.  I sometimes find myself praying during my workout, discussing what I’m thinking and feeling with GOD, acknowledging ways in which I may be tempted, and/or confessing when I realize that I have stepped spiritually out-of-bounds, and asking for His help in conforming to His way of being.  That pretty much described a good portion of my workout this morning.  To close things out, I got on the elliptical machine for 30 minutes.

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As I continued my casual conversation with GOD while making my legs work, I began to receive back a barrage of response in the form of biblical reminders.  It was a quiet and gentle voice inside my mind speaking to me.  I’ve had this happen before, and I knew it was the Holy Spirit doing exactly what Jesus said He would do: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).  I was being reminded:

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land” (Psalm 37: 8-9).

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me’” (2 Cor. 12:9)                    

“…For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).

Not once did I feel like I was being chastised or talked down to; it was more like someone coming alongside and putting an arm around me and reminding me of a perspective I already knew to be true.  At some point in that exchange, I realized that the feeling of being invisible had gone.  GOD saw me; He sees all things.  The origins of my frustrations haven’t changed, but I have.  I trust Him more than I trust myself apart from Him.  And at a time when I needed it, GOD reminded me that I am one of the sheep in His sheepfold…I recognized His voice.

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And to quote Ralph Ellison, “Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I [also] speak for you?”*

* From Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (Random House, 1952).

All Scripture texts are from the New International Version.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2019.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.

When Identity Clashes With Evidence

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”      (Hebrews 11:1)

Some time ago, I published a piece which made a case for leaving room in the Church for those who valued their tribal, language and/or national identity.  This call for space was, in part, an acknowledgement that these markers reflect our respective cultural comfort levels, and are valid from a Christian perspective to the extent they do not presume superiority of one to another.  Despite differences in tongue, historical culture, or church emphasis, there remains “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5).  These identity markers must be subservient to Christ if identity is to be Christian.

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Last night (I am drafting this on a Monday afternoon) I was working my way through a book review I regularly read, and came across a statement in a review of a book which analyzes contemporary identity politics (I’ve paraphrased the comment to make it a little more readable): Identity attachment accepts arguments only from an authority closely tied to that particular identity, because evidence is always subordinate to identity.1

The author means, by “identity attachment” the way some folks assign a psychologically pleasing definition or set of characteristics to themselves and others in whatever particular group they are jointly members of.  The “evidence” the author references are the facts which may contradict the preferred definitions of a group.  An easy example might be a view that says: men don’t have a need to express their emotions.  Men who like  being perceived as stoically unemotional can easily buy-in to this view, despite ample evidence that the emotions of men run just as deeply as those of women, but are often expressed differently.  Different expression is not the same as no expression.  Sadly, gender self-bias may just scratch the surface of the ways “identity attachment” is manifest in the circles in which most of us travel.

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 Buy-in to unsupportable views of self is encouraged by persistent fellowship with those who think similarly.  The result is group-think identity that ignores the facts because the facts inconveniently undermine the preferred way we want to think of ourselves, particularly when someone we regard as an authority figure encourages us to do just that.  Another way to state the author’s point is that some people choose to ignore truth because they prefer the distortions promoted by another person, persons and/or institution.  This, according to the book’s author, is the basis for the kind of reactions in attitudes and behaviors that advance divisions among people.  There certainly appears to be sufficient support for this in the world’s socio-political environment, both in empirical evidence (i.e. sensed and observed) and by data-driven evidence.

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An important issue for me is the implication(s) for the effective functioning of the body of Christ if the identity attachments of its members are not rooted in and submissive to Christ.  Even now, I hear the voice of Paul in my head warning against divisions and factions in the Church (Romans 16:17; 1 Cor. 1:10; 3:3; 11:18-19), calling it carnal and therefore not worthy of Jesus Christ.  This is not to denounce identity attachment as being fundamentally non-Christian; we need not deny our humanity nor how that humanity is expressed outwardly.  I clearly have my culturally-based preferences, and gravitate to and enjoy them often.  It is, however, a denunciation of identity attachments when they, knowingly, contradict and attempt to subvert the will of GOD.  That is called sin.

There is a little-discussed branch of theology called “Theopolitical” which views theological beliefs through the lens of social and political structures and considers political beliefs that may be implied in Christian teachings.2  A commonly used example of this is the use of Paul’s teaching on submitting to leaders in government because they are placed in authority by GOD (Romans 13:1).  This argument is used by many Christians as an endorsement of their preferred political leader(s) as having GOD’s favor.

What is often missed (or ignored) is that while Paul’s teaching stresses the inherent goodness in a believer’s submission, he offers no explicit statement about inherent goodness (or lack thereof) in the authority to whom submission is to be given.  The focus of Paul’s teaching is on the believer who is to demonstrate faith in Christ by submission; the focus is not on the person in authority.  This is why Jesus was able to say, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:17).  Perhaps it is also why men and women like Nebuchadnezzar, Jezebel, the Herods, Herodias and her daughter, Pontius Pilate, Nero, Caligula, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and the various despots and petty dictators currently in positions of political authority today were/are allowed by GOD to be in power.  The Christian response to these may be just one component of faith being tried over the long course of history (see Job 23:10).

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A danger of “theopolitical” thinking that encourages identity politics is that it can facilitate little difference between the attitudes (and sometimes behaviors) of those inside the Church from those outside the Church.  When this happens, those who are called to be the salty, peculiar people of GOD, actually better resemble those around them who are in need of saltiness and the peculiar influence of GOD’s holy presence.  This happens much easier when the goal of faith, and the way it is practiced daily, is about belonging to a group(s) whose socio-political worldview is under-girded by the local church, or in the least, not challenged by the local church.  The goal of Christian faith has always been union with GOD (see Jesus’ prayer in John 17), nothing else.

Settling for belonging to a community of faith with whom we identify without also wholly identifying with the holy Christ and being led by the Spirit of holiness is an immature and shallow faith that is easily dented and is less than the worthiness of His calling.  My first pastor called this “living beneath our privilege.”  Beyond that, it can lead to expressions of heresy.

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It is here that our other-than-in-Christ identity can, if we’re not careful, assume equal status with our proclaimed faith in GOD.  This is a violation of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd commandments…to start with.  The parable of the Good Samaritan is an excellent illustration (Luke 10:30-37).  Both the priest and the Levite saw the seriously injured man, but took no pity on him.  Jesus seems to stress their position and status in the Jewish community, that is, their identity, to make His point.  They were VIPs, and we can assume that they were very well aware of it.  They either ascribed to themselves a superior view compared to this man or so negative a view of him that made his need insufficient to warrant their valuable time and attention.  We can also suppose that this man was a Jew because he was traveling from Jerusalem.  If he was a Jew, his outer clothing may have identified him as such, making the decision by the priest and Levite doubly damning.  The evidence of the teachings of GOD were subordinate to their identity as important people.  It fell to the despised Samaritan to demonstrate the royal law of love.  We can consider this as Jesus’ take on identity politics.

 In ascribing to our other-than-in-Christ identity positive traits aimed at supporting our superiority, we also seek to define those outside of our identity.  Our sense of superiority allows us to assume we can define others, and we do.  We find ways to minimize them in our eyes, and we may even attempt to project those views outwardly.  We assign to them traits that, when revealed, can range from subtle discounting all the way to pernicious hatred.  We seek to legitimize our views and attitudes with arguments that, though sometimes well-crafted and seemingly astute, ultimately reflect human wisdom that is at odds with the logos of GOD.  And we all have done it, and we have all experienced it.  We all have been group stereotyped, sometimes in multiple ways.  I’m thinking of at least four ways in which I’ve been subjected.

I believe this is the spirit of anti-Christ at work in people who we would otherwise say are good people.  It is that spirit because it subordinates the explicit expression of GOD’s will with views that ignore the commands of Christ in favor of those which support our preferred way of seeing ourselves and others.  This amounts to ignoring the evidence for faith in Christ Jesus, His teachings, His commands, and the redeeming, sanctifying work He accomplished at Calvary.  Anything that does this cannot be considered Christian.

I understand why this other-than-in-Christ approach to identity has so much appeal.  It feels empowering to those who feel disaffected and disenfranchised (somewhat like the Zealots of Jesus’ day).  With that, we must ask the question, ‘What is the origin and source of this powerful feeling?’  If it is not of GOD (and hopefully I’ve made the case that it is not of GOD), then it is to be disregarded and discarded, for Christ’s sake.

Identity politics which pits, whether with great subtlety or brazenly, tongue against tongue, tribe against tribe, nation against nation has no place in the Church of Jesus Christ.  Where it exists, may GOD root it out!  Where we may have been complicit, may the Holy Spirit convict us of it, lead us to godly repentance, and give us a hunger to be united in Christ.                                         

1. In a review of A Thousand Small Sanities by Adam Gopnik. Reviewed by David Frum in the NY Times Book Review, July 7, 2019.

2. Global Wesleyan Dictionary of Theology. “Theopolitical Theology” by Nathan Kerr, p.536.  Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2013.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2019.  All rights reserved for text content unless otherwise noted.

Having Faith for Others

“Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal.6:2)

On more than one occasion, I have said to a friend going “through it” that even if their circumstances were making it difficult for them to exercise the faith they would need to overcome, I would have faith for them.  I never felt saying this as being biblically inappropriate.  We are, after all, instructed to carry each other’s burdens.

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Contrary to the prevailing philosophy in the West wherein we each have our problems and carry them individually, the Church is and has always been the counterpoint to the ways of the world.  The believer and the body of Christ are interdependent.  Theologian Simon Chan alludes to this when he says, “The communion of the saints is far more than just their being physically present with each other…When we come together, we take our places as responsible and responsive members of the community.”* This responsibility includes our response to the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ in a relationship of giving and receiving.  Solitude was never intended to be our constant state (see Genesis 2:18).

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Community is essential to Christian life, and fellowship is a component in that life. Biblical fellowship (Greek: koinōnia) involves mutual sharing as the outgrowth of being physically present with one another.  This willingness to share our lives with each other is an expression of love (Greek: agapē), i.e  we are “fulfilling the law of Christ.”

So how does this tie-in to “I will have faith for you”?  I think the obvious answer is intercessory prayer.  If petition for ourselves is an expression of faith in GOD, then the intercessions for others must be a similar expression of faith.  True faith works; it is not idle.  Both the Apostle Paul and Pastor James, the half-brother of Jesus stress this point.  And of course we have the example of Jesus whose redemptive life was nothing less than complete faith in GOD that was expressed through the most difficult and demanding work the world has ever witnessed.

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An offer to someone to have faith for them has to be more than a sentiment expressed to make someone feel better in the moment.  It has to be followed by the work of prayer on behalf of the one in need.  And it is real work for we must seek GOD for them with the same fervor as when we seek for ourselves (this is loving our neighbor as ourselves – Matt. 22:39).  And the intercession needs to continue for as long as that friend remains in need.  That is a fellowship of sharing.

May GOD of love increase our love for each other.

* Spiritual Theology, A Systematic Study of the Christian Life, Simon Chan, p. 119-120 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998.)

© Byron L. Hannon, 2019.  All rights reserved for original text content.