Thursday, April 27, 2017


We may not believe that we need to be forgiven, but the sense that we need forgiveness seems to be unshakable. Eric Metaxas argues that even if we believe that morality is merely something we invent, “we are still very much in the thrall of guilt”:

·       And here’s what makes the persistence of guilt “strange”:  The dominant worldviews of our age, as Alasdair MacIntyre wrote in “After Virtue,” have turned beliefs about right and wrong, good and evil, into little more than expressions of feelings. They should have freed us from feelings of guilt. And yet we still feel guilty.

Why then the ubiquitous persistence of guilt and shame? Why must we continue to prove our worth and significance with conquests, achievements, money, power, beauty, popularity, and whatever other commodity we associate with bestowing upon us a sense of worthiness? Why do we find that we must obsessively defend our honor and our actions, if morality is just our own arbitrary creation?

We had thought that religion, with its demanding moral standards, had been the source of our shame. However, even after we had finished flushing every verse down the toilet, the shame remains as a persistent self-indictment of our worthiness.  

Metaxas observes:

·       Instead of the easy-going relativism that should logically follow from believing that right and wrong, guilt and innocence, are a matter of feelings, we live in what [David] Brooks calls “an age of great moral pressure.” We may “lack the words to articulate it,” and “religion may be in retreat, but guilt seems as powerfully present as ever.” Thus, as [Wilfred] McClay writes, “Whatever donation I make to a charitable organization, it can never be as much as I could have given. I can never diminish my carbon footprint enough, or give to the poor enough . . . Colonialism, slavery, structural poverty, water pollution, deforestation—there’s an endless list of items for which you and I can take the rap.”

And we do take the rap, but why? Why can we never pay off our sense of an indelible debt? Perhaps because it is impervious to any sacrifices, good deeds, or even self-mutilations!

Perhaps it is like wronging our wives. There is no expensive vacation or gift that can adequately address the wrong, as a sincere, regretful, and humble apology can. Only an apology can penetrate into the place of hurt to bring hope and reconciliation. (Not that an expensive gift might not serve to reinforce the sincerity our apology!)

But our deeply rooted guilt and shame – how can these be meaningfully addressed? In the same way! But to whom must we address our apology? To the One who gave us life and had written His moral imperatives upon our conscience! Whenever we sin, we also sin against the law-Giver, who cares deeply about our welfare.

Of course, this is an offensive idea. It limits our autonomy, if there exists a watchful Eye scrutinizing our every deed. It also means that our sense of guilt and shame reflects the fact that we are truly guilty. We have violated God’s laws and deserve punishment.

However, we have convinced ourselves that we need not go that route. Instead, we attempt earn our righteousness or punish ourselves, even while knowing that we haven’t achieved what our conscience demands.

However, as Metaxas has noted, there is no end, satisfaction, or permanent relief to be found, even if we give our life for a righteous cause (Romans 3:19-20; 1 Cor. 13:3). This means that there is never an adequate payment we can give for our sins (Psalm 49:7-9). We cannot find God’s mercy as we continue our flight from Him.

Our sins are deep; our denials of God’s righteous demands are offensive. He has made the payment for our sins on the Cross. We only need to appropriate this cure for ourselves. But how? Only a humble, contrite, and penitent confession can suffice, but it is all that is necessary.

I am now assured of His love and forgiveness. Consequently, I need no longer deprive, hurt, or prove myself. The payment for my sins has been made, and I am set free, as Jesus had taught:

·       “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Feelings of guilt and shame might sometimes afflict me, but I know that they are no more than imaginary spots that float around in my cornea, reminding me that I am now indeed free.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Moral relativists claim that there is no need for God-given values and beliefs, and that we are capable of forming own values and consensus, even if they are just evolving values:

·       “Human imagination and consensus do in fact yield norms that affect behaviour. For those norms to work, it is not necessary for actual, literal lines independent of our heads to exist as a feature of the landscape. If one insists that human imagination and consensus are not enough, one is rationally obligated to show why they are not.”

I responded:

“Admittedly, humanly created values can yield a temporary consensus. However, this consensus will only be maintained as long as our cost/benefit analyses coincide, as long as both parties feel that they are benefitting from the consensus.

In contrast, the Christian is committed to honoring, respecting, and seeking the welfare of the other, not simply because they are deriving some direct benefit or immediate emotional payoff but ALSO because they believe in the correctness of what they are doing.

We are now living in a perilous age in which the consensus is quickly dissolving. The various parties do not see any overriding advantage in civility, love, and a commitment to transcendent values. Instead, each interest group wants their own distinctive benefits and will destroy the other parties in order to get them.

How do we resist the fears and temporal desires that have taken us captive? Only by valuing the Transcendent above our immediate safety and comforts!”

Sunday, April 23, 2017


Some years ago, I asked a missionary, “What is the most important principle you’ve learned for talking to non-Christians?” He explained a simple truth that I haven’t forgotten:

·       I first come to them, and then I slowly draw them to me (Christ).

He learned that he had to first enter into their world, their thinking, before he could draw them to his thinking. I was impressed but also convicted. How unlike me! I confront; I go right for the jugular. I first attack the place of disagreement and conflict, and then I am surprised to find that I have sown only disagreement and conflict.

Yes, I knew Paul’s teachings on this subject:

·       For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. (1 Corinthians 9:19-22)

However, for some reason, these teachings didn’t take root in my approach to evangelism. To my shame, perhaps I’d been too addicted to a competitive spirit. However, for whatever reason(s), I now see that I was failing to love the non-believer as I should, putting his needs first.

Instead of listening, acknowledging, and taking time to ask questions in order to understand him better – and this is what love requires - I was on the offensive, like a coiled snake looking for the right opening to attack. Instead of taking time to listen, I was already thinking about what I’d say next. However, Scripture warns us:

·       Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

Our first duty is to hear and only secondly to speak. This is what love requires. Even though I knew enough to not get angry, the unbeliever was in my crosshairs, whether he knew it or not, and I was poised to bring down his argumentation.

I now intend to keep the unbeliever in my crosshairs, but not to beat him but to show him the love of Christ. This is my intention. I might fail dismally at this. It is so against my nature. However, honoring my Lord is the most important thing, more important than my natural inclinations.

This doesn’t mean that I am rejecting confrontational evangelism. There is definitely a place for this. However, where I can, I want to lead with the mercy and indulgence that my Savior has extended to me. Let us all pray accordingly.

Friday, April 21, 2017


I admire the principles of Stoicism. They are remarkably like our Christian values. However, it becomes quite apparent that something is obviously missing. For example, a leading Stoic philosopher wrote:

·       “I don’t see the point of dreading a state of non-existence, especially considering that there is absolutely nothing I can do to avoid it [death].”

I responded:

“True, but perhaps irrelevant, in view of our humanness! We might know that it is not helpful or even reasonable to dread losing our job or rejection. However, such fears and insecurities seem to be hot-wired into our nature.

Consequently, I think that we need something more than our own logic, something else that has been hot-wired into us – the knowledge that we are being cared for from Above.”


An atheist argued that a belief in God is unnecessary and irrelevant to living a moral life:

·       “If you think the positive outcome is a place of great love, then select actions that will increase love in the physical world, and you will find they tend to be what you would already define as morally good. I think we all share a similar understanding of positive/negative sensations and thus can come up with a set of generally acceptable… set of rules to operate under.”

Actually, I agree with you. We are wired in a way that equips all of us to know moral truths, and when we show compassion, we all (ideally) experience a satisfaction, a sense that validates the supremacy of love.

I even agree with you that we do not have to have a belief in God in order to experience the surpassing reality of love. As humans, we all share this (because we are created in the moral and cognitive likeness to God).

However, living a life of compassion is not easy. This is why we do not observe it as often as we would like. Why not? Because compassion can often prove inconvenient and even costly! It requires patience and sacrifice, if we are to live compassionately.

Besides, many of our neighbors represent a threat to us in one way or another. They might have competing views or they might even want to hurt us. How are we to love and forgive them? I think that this is only possible if we are convinced of the surpassing truth and requirement of showing compassion to others.

In this regard, our Savior instructs us to forgive others as we have been forgiven. This requires us to put his truths above our feelings and even our immediate well-being. Instead, if we live by our feelings and baser instincts, we tend to seek revenge or even a preemptive strike.

Then how do we live according to compassion? We have to know that when hurt and threatened and even when we face the prospect of death, we are supremely protected and loved. Therefore, loving others doesn’t require that they reciprocate by loving us back. Why not? Because we know that we are loved from Above.