Tag Archive: Christians


oh we Christians can be a hated bunch. and rightly so in way too many times and spaces [although almost always when we say or do things that aren’t particularly Christ-following in nature]

this week i was called a ‘reprobate’, told i have no spiritual teeth [i am not quite sure what that means but i think i was meant to be offended] , a ‘coward pastor’ and i think there was an insinuation that i am evil [when i said i was going to watch a movie with friends, the response that followed was ‘Even the evil love their friends and family.’ [and all this from someone who calls herself a ‘fellow believer’] all because i mentioned on facebook that i didn’t feel i had the authority to share effectively on the situation in Gaza because i am not up to speed on everything that is happening there.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [John 13.34-35 New International Version]

this did not feel like that.

last nite, tbV and i attended a wedding of some friends of ours in Americaland… this is four days before we leave the country where we have been living and working in non-profits and return to South Africa… also about two months ago they weren’t even engaged… there was an engagement and then a sense of ‘You’re leaving when?’ and then a scurrying to make a wedding happen so that we could be there before we left for SA. i was invited to MC at the reception after the wedding and we just got to spend a fun and fondu-filled evening with church friends and especially be there for a significant life event for some friends we have gotten to know and love over here.

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” [John 13.34-35 English Standard Version]

this felt a lot like that.

on the way home from the wedding, my beautiful wife Val told me a story of the way that some friends of ours really went above and beyond in terms of showing love to another friend of ours who was in a really bad place and feeling completely low. a welcome at the airport with some of her significant and favourite things and a week of just showering her with love and friendship and special attention. in a completely tired and shattered state, driving us home after the wedding and just so ready for bed, this story lifted my spirits immensely and gave me huge hope and was really not the hugest surprise knowing the people in question.

34 A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. [John 13.34-35 American Standard Version]

arrive home from the party and discover an envelope that a friend and someone who had worked alongside me in the youth ministry had slipped into my hand at Friday’s farewell party that other friends of ours [that we hadn’t even spent crazy time with] had offered to throw for us – open it and read amazing and encouraging words in a card but also an immensely generous gift from someone who had spent so much of last year out of a job… catch a glimpse of the photo/message book that another friend of ours [again, someone who we hadn’t spent a lot of time with] put together for us to map out significant parts of our journey in Oakland and remind us of the people we loved and who loved us along the way… close my hand around the wad of cash my bossman gave me towards buying a new computer when we get home [before this one completely catches fire and burns up from overheating] and smile again at the pics of our visit to a place called ‘Bacon Bacon’ which could only be the best place to take me to celebrate the end of working for him…

34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” [The Message]

all of those things felt a lot like this.

don’t get me wrong. there are definitely times to call people out and to challenge people when they are not living up to the message they are proclaiming. Jesus had a field day with the Pharisees and the people in the temple and on many occasions even His own disciples. there is a time for harsh words and sometimes even harsh actions.

But the first 3 verses of 1 Corinthians 13, remind us of this important principle:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Which is followed by this reminder of the kind of choice Love that often takes a little bit more effort, and personal cost, and perseverance, to achieve:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

If the person or the thing or the event, does not have love, then it is not of God.

The Love of God is the tattoo of the Christian. It is the mark by which we will be known and recognised.

It will hopefully do the job of helping attract other people towards God.

Who is the Source of all that is Love and Good and Right.

Thank you to all of those who have loved us well in the whole of life, but especially in these last few weeks and days… it has been muchly appreciated!

i preached a sermon in church last night about how to “correctly handle the word of truth” in terms of reading and knowing and trying to understand the Bible well and not just simply grabbing a verse here and there and using it to back up something we are trying to say.

that is not usthe example i used as an extreme form of example was the Westboro Baptist church who i imagine most of us have heard or seen something of in the media – the ones who pitch up at gay pride marches with “God hates fags” on their signs [often with young children holding these signs and spewing the same kind of hatred their parents do] and who protest veterans funerals and all sorts of crazy things like that.

what i didn’t know when i asked Uncle Google to direct me to their website is that the church website is actually called Godhatesfags and can be found at Godhatesfags.com – that is their church website – it is unbelievable and makes me embarrassed to think that a lot of people might view them and me as pretty much the same because we both fall under some christian banner… [which is why personally i prefer to go under the Jesus-following banner if i need any kind of label ever because as christians it seems to have been pretty easy through the ages to get up to all kinds of crazy stuff, but as people who are truly seeking to follow Jesus it is impossible to end up as part of a group that uses “God hates fags” as a slogan, or a website address].

i mean Westboro makes it easy. there is not a lot of debate, or any, needed when looking at them and their actions and coming to the conclusion that this is not of God. Certainly not the God i am following. Or would want to follow.

…and i’m pretty sure the Bible commands us to call out that kind of garbage… and bring it to the light for what it is.

i imagine that ‘church’ and a lot of their actions make Jesus sad.

WHAT IS WORSE THAN SOMEONE LIVING ACTIVELY NOT-CHRIST?

as i sat outside our apartment earlier thinking about life and the kingdom of God and things that make Jesus sad while drinking coffee out of my Marvin the Martian mug [could that be one of them? i hope not. i wonder who made the mug. uh-oh.] i pondered to myself [while inviting the Holy Spirit to ponder back] what could be worse than someone living actively not-Christ? [although not in those words – them are just fancy blog words]

could the answer be someone not actively living Christ?

people whose christianity consists of believing the right thing, and going to the right place [church every sunday and maybe home group or cell on a wednesday night] and trying to not be too bad, but otherwise living for themselves.

i’m just not sure that’s enough.

at the same time, i’m not completely sure what the solution is because we can’t all stop human-trafficking or reach out to all of the homeless or visit everyone in hospital and prison and we can’t all be taking on racism at an institutional level or fighting sexism in the workplace or reaching out to victims of sexual abuse and rape and trying to find ways of addressing those two things that don’t make the victors feel like the guilty parties… we can’t do it all. absolutely sure about that one.

but i do strongly feel that we can all do something, or maybe somethings.

with our money. whether tithing it into a church where we know the money is going to greater things than simply buildings and salaries or putting it in programs like Common Change that help us to meet needs of people we know or committing to an organisation or a specific project like my photographer friends Bex and Bruce who came up with a plan to fund some wells in Africa with some of the money they bring in or assisting the woman who cleans your house or the man who takes care of your garden to find ways to get their children through school and into university. and  hundred thousand other great ideas.

volunteerwith our time. whether baking some goodies or making a meal for a new family that moves into your street or complex or for the couple that have just had a new baby, or writing a postcard to someone in prison and building a relationship with them or visiting someone in hospital. volunteering at the local homeless shelter or seniors home. offering to babysit for a couple you know who have been finding it tough being parents of young children and just giving them a night [or a weekend] off. grabbing some friends and some gardening equipment and arriving at someone’s house who is too sick, tired, or old to get to the work that needs to be done and volunteer to do it for them.

with our creativity, education, knowledge, transport, cameras… the list goes on – there is someone who doesn’t have what we have and is not able to do what we can do and so drawing alongside them

[oh and yes books like ‘Toxic Charity’ and ‘When Helping Hurts’ and others have made the idea of helping other people very scary in many ways because what if we harm the very people we are trying to help because we are doing it the wrong way? You know what i think? Start with building some kind of significant relationship with the person you are trying to help and it will probably be a lot harder to get it horribly wrong. don’t let the fear of doing it wrong paralyse you from doing anything. just be better prepared maybe.]

so while the Godhatesfags ‘church’ makes God very sad, i imagine the people who profess Jesus with their mouths but don’t follow it up with their actions make Him sad too. [there is a lot of stuff about plants producing fruit and salt losing its saltiness in Matthew 7 and other places around the Bible, i’m not making this up]

WHAT WAS ALL THAT STUFF JESUS SAID ABOUT PLANKS AND THROWING THE FIRST STONE THEN?

which brings me to the third category and maybe the most significant one for me to be pondering on. because i doubt i can do a whole lot about the Westboro Baptist church and pretty much the majority of the people in the second category are not going to be the people who are going to be reading this and nodding and heading off to change anything [a quick ‘we’re not supposed to judge’ note in the comments section below perhaps] and so i will still continue to speak into and preach into that group of people when given the opportunities…

but it’s me. i mean that’s the answer right? the only person i can really change is myself, brett fish anderson [where fish seems to be proved more and more to be something i’m desperately aiming at as opposed to anything i hit regularly enough] and so that is really where i have to look.

and i do and i have and i am and a lot of it just leaves me with questions that i am struggling to answer.

and that is really the purpose of this post [and posts, cos i imagine there will be more, this is already getting a bit long] – not to point the finger or judge other people who are not getting it right. but to stand before the mirror [as i will stand before God one day] and really genuinely ask, what is the shape of your faith at the moment? of your life? where are you living out the message? where else do you need to be?

with the hope that there is someone else out there who maybe needed a little prod like this to sit alongside me and ask themselves the same question.

what i do know is that the end point of this exercise if not condemnation. i believe there is a very thin line between condemnation and conviction and for me the difference is in where you end up. condemnation leaves you in a weeping mess on the floor. whereas conviction inspires you and lifts you and propels you to action. the problem is that they can both feel the same. but only one is helpful. and i believe that only one is from God [if you’re not sure, it’s the second one!]

it is important though that we take and make times to look in the mirror, prepared to deal honestly and effectively with whatever we see when we look there. that is the place where i am trying to be right now. there is space on the floor next to me if anyone wants to join me.

mirror

 

[For more thoughts of a more me-focused nature in the post ‘What makes Jesus sadder too, click here]

so this week i found out on twitter that our south african olympic swimming gold medalist, cameron van der bergh, had admitted to cheating to get his gold medal by doing a succession of dolphin kicks underwater in the pool [apparently only one is allowed] and it bummed me out.

so, as one does, i made a facebook status about it… and was doubly surprised and bummed at how many [mostly christians] wrote comments on my status defending his actions and largely from the perspective that “everyone else does it” which was cameron’s defense as well.

waitasecond, so cheating is okay if everyone is doing it? of course cos how else could he win and because the rule is silly anyways and they policed it at this other competition and so he didn’t have to cheat but this one they didn’t so he really had to and WHAT??!?!?!?

flashbacks to a baptist summer camp where i think i was camp pastor – at the time i was involved in a 6 month course on youth ministry at the baptist seminary [the only seminary coursework i have done thus far] and a bunch of the students who were training to be pastors were at this camp for youth aged 13 to 18 and the guy leading the course on youth work was heading up sports.

somehow i managed to be standing near him when a dispute was brought to him about one of the camp soccer/football games that had just been played where the rule for the game was no players over 18 [or maybe 21?] were allowed to play. one of the students [from my class at seminary, training to be a pastor] was being accused of playing in the one game despite being a few years over the allowed age.SHOCK ONE – his defense: the other team was doing it. so i am standing there not believing my ears and waiting for the lecturer to open a can of something on some part of his anatomy when SHOCK TWO – the lecturer at this christian college completely backs his student and rules in favour of him.

so clearly, cheating is condoned as long as everyone else is doing it. but that doesn’t make it right.

and reading the arguments on the ‘book they all sound pretty convincing [well not all, some of them are downright ridiculous, let’s be honest] but no-one is arguing how okay Jesus is with it. because you can’t. because He is not. i mean, i can certainly not see Jesus standing in condemnation over cameron as if he has done the worst thing ever in life and demanding that he be kicked out of the games [Go, and swim no more!] but at the same time, i imagine there might be a secret sigh, like He probly did ever so often when His disciples just completely missed the plot again, and maybe a fireside chat about how the medals that we chase in life in terms of character and integrity being so much more profoundly important than any the world might hang around our neck.

in fact Jesus had quite a lot to say about how the ‘everybody is doing it’ argument is a more likely sign that you are on the wrong path [see the whole of Matthew 7] – He said things like “the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved”[matthew 24.12-13] and we also read, ‘For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.’ [2 Timothy 4.3-4]

so i don’t believe with any part of me that Jesus would have been okay with what either cameron or the training-to-be-pastor youth leader did and although the event/incident itself may seem more or less trivial to you depending on who you are, there is a greater principle at work, because if i can watch my pastor being okay with cheating in a meaningless football/soccer game then maybe it sends me the message that it is okay to cheat in a business deal, and if i as a young south african being inspired by one of my countrymen can hear that he cheated to get there then maybe that tells me it is okay to cheat in an exam or even on my girlfriend [as long as i can cite examples of other people doing it]

it is a slippery road. to be christian and defend or even applaud unChristlike behaviour.

and a lot of people might be wondering why i am making such a big deal of such a ‘small thing’ and it is because the small things become the big things – the enemy is looking to destroy us and any area where we allow him a foot in the door he will take full advantage of it until he gets such a gap that he can force himself well and truly into our lives…

the bottom line for me, i think, is that you can’t be a Christ follower and then live by the wisdom or ideals or compromise of the world. The term ‘Christ follower’ suggests the following of Christ.

hey anonymous friend

thankx for the email and the sharing and the questions – some hectic and hardcore and challenging questions indeed and i don’t want to patronise you in the slightest by assuming i have the answers to all of them, if any of them, but i do have some thorts and i hope you will find them helpful and instructive.

One of my main issues that I have with dating in the church is that instead of discussing at why people shouldn’t date non-christians, maybe we should look at why they do? What is it about dating in the church that is driving people to look elsewhere for partners?

i hear this. and while it my be true in terms of helping us understand why they do so, i DON’T THINK IT’S GOOD ENUFF AS A REASON for doing so. if the thing is wrong, then it’s wrong because it’s wrong, not because the alternative is not working or looking so lekker. However, one message that seems to be echoing quite loudly and clearly amongst Christ-following women is that CHRIST-FOLLOWING BOYS/MEN NEED TO UP THEIR GAME. i strongly suspect this to be true and usually challenge the guys on it when asked to do relationship talks at schools and camps.

Here’s my take on it. I think that people in the church, especially boys, want to date the perfect girl.

Hm, I’m just not sure of this anon. i think you are right when talking about a bunch of guys, but i think maybe the answer to that statement is that you are HANGING OUT WITH THE WRONG GUYS. if that is the mindset of the guys you hang out with then you really don’t want to end up with one of them. a guy who dates for looks for example – fine at the beginning perhaps but at some stage the looks are going to run out/wear away/sag and if there is nothing else there, the relationship is going to follow the same path (as often happens inside and outside the church i imagine) – so you really are wanting to find some guys who are more INTERESTED IN GIRLS BECAUSE OF WHO THEY ARE and not simply what they look like. and if moving church is too extreme a solution for you, then it may come down to something like PUTTING YOURSELF IN OTHER SPACES where you know there will be DIFFERENT CHRISTIAN GUYS from the ones you are used to – like maybe a small group from another church or hanging out with groups of friends of people you know from other churches.

But if Jesus is my number one and that is the main and most important thing, clearly there must be some other factor to me being excluded.

i think the “other factor” is STUPID BOYS, especially knowing who you are. and the reason this topic is so close to my heart is i have a few friends my age (which is apparently a bit older if you are a woman for various reasons) who are incredible women and yet they are still single and not desiring to be. so i ‘get’ it, and it sucks. and as a guy who was 35 and not looking like ever finding someone, i definitely speak from a lot of experience (altho i did have a few girlfriends along the way).

i do think one thing needs to be said though and it may be a bit of a tough one, but it’s like you stated that JESUS IS YOUR NUMBER ONE. In the world and maybe even more so in the church we have elevated marriage to this place of being THE END POINT – so your whole life is kind of aimed at that time when you have found the right person and MADE IT and ARRIVED. And MARRIAGE IS THE FINISH LINE. But that is NOT TRUE AT ALL. In fact in many places the Bible lifts up and honours singleness and says it is the better way in many regards. So as the church WE NEED TO LEARN TO HONOUR BOTH MARRIAGE AND SINGLENESS and as Paul teaches, for us to BE CONTENT WHEREVER WE FIND OURSELVES.

However, the fact that you are desiring relationship changes it i think and that is NOT A WRONG THING AT ALL. i am not saying you must settle for being single if you don’t desire it. But – and i really think i learnt this just before i met Val so it’s not a formula but it does help – LEARNING TO BE CONTENT IN YOUR SINGLENSS WHILE YOU ARE THERE (while still letting God know as often as you want or need to that you would really like someone in your life) is a key to a joy-filled life. And often being content in your singleness is the very thing that attracts you to other people [as being desperate to not be single sometimes detracts if people pick it up].

Oh and my point being THE END POINT IS RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS. That must always be our number one focus and if we manage to get that right then He will take care of you with regards to the other stuff and give us the strength to keep going (when we don’t have it) and do it right (when we do). Identity must always be found in God and not in any relationship. [very easy to type and again, mucho difficult in real life, but still true.] That doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will end up in a happy relationship, but that even if we don’t we will still be able to find peace and contentment. If marriage is the end goal, then if you don’t get it you will be devastated, but if God is the end goal then if you don’t get marriage you will still be able to LIVE TO THE FULL.

[to be continued by clicking here…]

it is fascinating to see what gets christians all passionate and excited (in a pitchfork and flaming torches mob kind of way) – i remember the whole furore around the Christmas to X-mas campaign with stickers and articles and sermons declaring ‘put the Christ back into X-mas’ [it is only mildly funny that those people would campaign so strongly about that and yet for the most part be completely sucked into the capitalistic greed-focus of the event enjoying lavish feasts and piles of un-needed gifts while people just down the road from them lived in a box and had maybe a crust of bread to ‘enjoy’ on the day]

i get it, i really do, and clearly a world that is not Jesus-following will do everything it can to suck the meaningful spiritual significance out of an event that holds no meaningful spiritual significance for them, but i would suggest it is not the Christ in Christmas that needs saving [cue angry mob] but rather the cross [angry mob mutter to themselves and slowly disperse]

because without easter, Christmas actually doesn’t mean a whole lot – a baby is born, God comes to live with us – cool and everything… but it only becomes meaningful when you watch how the story plays out in its completeness and you see the end (and the beginning) take place on the cross when Jesus is crucified – in my place for my sin taking on the punishment of death that should rightfully, legally, be mine [and of course, yours]

for God so loved the world…

and so it’s really important that we view Christmas through the lens of Easter – God could have made some other plan of redemption but He chose to come Himself – that is mindblowing and worth celebrating and sharing with the world

in a time of wide scale greed and what will be (if you include new years) drunkenness and debauchery and it’s-all-about-me’ness, it is important to realise that Jesus came with a message of love – not the hollywood feel good, have-own-needs-satisfied love – but a love that requires choice, as well as sacrifice and surrender, that uplifts others above yourself, that seeks to always hope and protect and persevere, that wipes the slate clean of previous wrongs, that looks to bring hope to the hopeless and need to the needy (oh wait, no, they already have that) um, i mean to meet the needs of the needy.

when you keep the cross in Christmas, then it truly becomes true and observable that love never fails. it makes mistakes, it gets it wrong (and horribly wrong sometimes), and it even hurts people unintentionally when doing so, but it never ever fails.

let your Christmas be about love.

so my beautiful wife Val has posted this post on poverty and our gut reaction vs a more thort out one and it’s a bit of a catch 22 of which one is right or not but the key thing it teaches is to think which is something we need more of in all aspects of life, and is often one of the most frustrating things about many christians who ‘have the right answer’ without taking time to consider that there might be another option

http://valanderson.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/on-poverties/

i love that lady!

let’s face it – Christians are not among the most loved and respected people when it comes to those outside of the church and i have often wondered why this is and so i started thinking about some of the core basics of this religion and suddenly it makes a lot of sense. when you look at what Christians intrinsically fundamentally believe (i’m not talking how some of them act or those who claim to be Christians but are living contrary to what being a Christian is meant to be but those who are actively living out what the bible teaches) then it becomes pretty obvious why we are despised and hated and regarded with suspicion

so let me take a couple of notes – purely by looking at the basics of what Christianity is about or meant to be about – to show why it is valid to hate Christianity…

part II – we forgive

‘For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.’ [Matthew 6.13-14]

wow – how heinous are we? people who forgive people who hurt or disappoint them. and if you read this you can see that God’s forgiveness is conditional on us forgiving other people. not as an option. not as a ‘if i feel like it.’ not even ‘if you’re a good Christian you’ll do this’

it’s a command. it is a fundamental entrance exam requirement. if you follow Jesus Christ and His teachings and want to be called a Christian then you will forgive everyone

Jesus demonstrated this perfectly as He was hanging on the cross, dying one of the cruellest deaths known to mankind:

‘When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified Him, along with the criminals – one on His right, the other on His left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” [Luke 23.33-34]

in fact when peter, one of Jesus’ followers and closest friends, comes to Jesus and asks Him how many times he should forgive someone, Jesus replies, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” [Matthew 18.22]

this doesn’t mean we keep count and when we get to time 78 we can withhold forgiveness. it means that we keep doing it without record. the kingdom of God calls for crazy revolutionary love demonstrated in forgiveness demonstrated by Jesus on the cross

so yes, people who are commanded to forgive people around them, regardless of whether they deserve it or not – no wonder people hate us!

for another ‘reason to hate Christianity’ click here…

%d bloggers like this: