This morning, when I took him out of his crib and put him on the floor, he immediately looked at the open door and said, “Uh-oh.” As he started to walk toward it, my first impulse was to shut it and keep him out, but I paused, wanting to see what might happen. He waddled up to it, grabbed the handle, and then very deliberately walked backwards until the door was closed. Then he looked at me and smiled. After praising him, I pondered what an amazing thing had just happened.
Without any need for an explanation, Ethan had simply internalized the notion that daddy wants that door closed. And, even though he certainly understands that it is closed to keep him out, he still eagerly wanted to help enforce my will. Now, what was it you wanted me to do again, Lord?
Many people wrongly deny one or more of these categories, and this leads them to be mistaken about how a rule applies. Denying personal rules leads people to turn them into universals, such as, “No one should celebrate Halloween.” Likewise, denying universal rules leads others to wrongly reduce them to merely personal, such as, “I would never have an abortion.”
Since the universal rule to love others requires us to assist them in living well, we must also be careful to correctly know whether and how the other rules apply to them as well.
Of course there is Orion and Cassiopeia , but the one which I most easily see is the big dipper. And following the front edge of the big dipper, I immediately find the North Star. Permanently at due north because of the orientation of the earth and never moving in spite of its rotation, I’m forced to congratulate God on such a useful forethought. And I’m also forced to wonder at those who think, myself formerly among them, that this was just a lucky happenstance.
It’s truly amazing what we can talk ourselves into believing when once we have chosen to deny the divinity of the truly amazing.
The reason most singles have trouble resisting premarital physical affection is that they don’t properly view it as infidelity. At best, it’s cheating on a potential, future person. Most of them would find it much easier to avoid such activity if it seemed like cheating on a whole group of real, current people. Ironically, dating many people gives both the boundaries we need and also the honorable excuse we might be glad to have. “I wouldn’t do that to them, just as I wouldn’t do it to you,” is both easier to say and sounds much more virtuous than, “I won’t do that with you.”
When we date many, we have sex with none. When we date one, we have sex with many. Contrary to what most people practice, the best way to preserve marriage may actually be to avoid imitating it before the fact.
What intrigued me about her attire, however, was the fact that she was also wearing some sort of eye-catching waist jewelry, a cute top, and high heels which were mostly hidden underneath the hem of her extremely form-fitting jeans. Because of the rest of the outfit, the scarf had almost taken on its own air of allure rather than modesty, which I presume was its original purpose. I have no idea what her peers or parents think, but I thought her dress was as effective a demonstration that you cannot enforce principles through the application of specific rules as any I had seen.
The child’s body may be sitting on the chair, but if he’s still standing up on the inside, one may well wonder what good the rule has really accomplished.
Thus, teaching morality is really teaching people to imitate love; to behave as if they were loving, even if they really aren’t. And as much as such instruction helps define the language of love, the only real way to learn it is by drawing close to God, who is the only pure speaker of it, and acquiring His heart. Just as children do not learn to speak in grammar class, but learn to refine their speaking there, we must never think that we can imitate love merely by memorizing the rules that describe it.
The critic knows the rules, but the artist creates the masterpiece.
The parental deficiency here wasn’t our inability to control them. It was the mistake of putting them in such a frustratingly impossible situation to begin with. Now that we have a house, of course, things are wonderful for them and for us. It’s such a relief. Liberated from an oppressive situation, they’re actually able to obey the rules they should.
Maybe it was something like this that Paul had in mind when he wrote that “it was for freedom that Christ set us free.” (Galatians 5:1)
See, relationships matter, and one of the ways we acknowledge their importance is by not trying to replace them with government substitutes. That’s why it bothers me that so many Americans seem to think it’s the business of government to make sure every child has the benefits that come from having great parents.
Parenting matters tremendously, and though I desperately want all children to have great ones, I don’t believe it is the business of government to step in and meet the needs which God designed parents to satisfy. I dread the dangers of a million bad parents, but I dread the danger of one giant nanny state even more.
He couldn’t stand to stick with any one activity very long because his eye would catch sight of some other activity he was missing. With so many options, the opportunity cost of doing one became unbearably high because it meant not doing three others. He was a whirling Dervish of activity as he literally tried doing them all simultaneously.
So I decided to stand back and let him calm down to the point where I could do just one thing with him properly. Naturally, I felt somewhat to blame for his overwhelmed condition. After all, I’m the one who gave a three-year-old more options than he could handle.
First, who is most directly responsible for causing this problem, and can this person solve it himself? If so, then I’m done. Second, who most directly suffers from this problem, and is there anything this person can do about it? If so, then, again, I’m done. Third, if the source won’t or can’t change and the victim won’t or can’t make him, now and only now do I ask whether the rest of us can do anything about it.
I remind myself that knowing when to do nothing at all is the most vital part of being wise about solving problems, because it’s always possible we may not find any solution that doesn’t cause even greater harm than it relieves. After all, if God allows a world of evil, it’s at least possible that I may not be able to improve upon His choice.
But then I noticed that Paul’s real concern was the division and strife such talk can cause, and that’s why I haven’t resigned yet…because, far from producing those results, I believe we discuss these matters in such a way that we relieve the already-existing tensions over doctrine and morality. See, Paul was worried about immature people hating each other over such stuff, whereas my goal is that people mature so they can love one another in spite of and even because of their disagreements.
My hope is that by doing the opposite of what Paul says, I am actually accomplishing the objective he had in mind. I can’t be sure, of course, but I would certainly like to believe that Paul would have been a fan of the Andrew Tallman Show.
When we are happy, it can bring us closer to Him as we express our gratitude to Him for the blessings. But happiness can also lead us to falsely think that we don’t need God at the moment because things are going so well. Similarly, sadness can bring us great intimacy with God as we depend upon Him to comfort and guide us through grief or disappointment. But sadness can also cause us to become bitter at God for allowing such pain to beset us.
Thus we have the power to turn blessings into curses or curses into blessings…depending on whether we creatures here below use them rightly to spur us toward the One from whom all blessings flow.
An important principle of philosophy is that you cannot simultaneously affirm and deny the same idea, so long as you mean them in the same way. Yet precisely such variation is the issue here. Christ indeed finished the sacrificial system and atoned for all sins forever on the cross. But the evidence of the transformation that this completed work accomplishes in our lives is a gradual and continuous manifestation of Christlikeness.
The danger of being highly invested in a doctrinal dispute is that you too easily view all statements as taking a side in that conflict. Just because a statement can be taken the wrong way doesn’t mean that it cannot be taken a right way.
One, we can try to handle it by ourselves and get crushed in the process. Not a great idea. Two, we can take it to God and develop a deeper faith with Him. This sounds right, but I think it’s still missing something fundamental. Three, we can let others share our burdens with us, spreading out the load and strengthening our fellowship with them. See, people are one of God’s primary mechanisms for meeting our needs, and one He prefers because it allows all involved to benefit greatly.
So, does God give us more than we can bear? Sure. But He never gives us more than we can bear with the help of Him and His earthly instruments.
I had to chuckle to myself because this was such a strange mixture of parenting success and failure. On the one hand, he was clearly disobeying me. But on the other hand, he had learned that the principle was more important than the rule made for it. In finding a way to satisfy the purpose of my command while still doing something he wanted to do, he showed me that I’ve created a rational problem-solver.
After all, though I want him to obey me, I also want him to think …especially for those times when I may be wrong.
First, we can develop them as much as possible and use them God’s way for His glory. Certainly this is best, and one example might be Tony Dungy, coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Second, we can develop them fully but use them our way for our glory. An example of this might be Aerosmith, an outstanding group of musicians serving only to themselves. Third, we can neglect the abilities we’ve been given. For obvious reasons, no famous illustrations spring to mind.
Though I think we could have a robust debate over whether the misuse of God’s gifts or the nonuse of them is a more grievous error, my only real task is to take option number one. In doing so, I show gratitude for His generosity. But perhaps just as importantly, I show people that God was not a fool for entrusting them to me.
Is this man happy? Yes. Is it because Phoenix cooled off, became more colorful, or developed seasons? No. It’s because he found blessings of far more importance than these flaws. He didn’t forget about them. They were outshined. And that’s how it works with God. At first, we might come to Him hoping He will fix our “real” problems, and maybe He even does so. But eventually, simply having Him becomes so potent a blessing that alleviating the former problems becomes insignificant.
And the only real tragedy is that some people never get to see enough of God for that to become their reality.
Thus, even a cursory reading says that the Biblical answer to this particular question is an emphatic, “Well, it depends….” This may not be satisfying to us who want simple, rigid, absolute answers, but it is an indication of two important facts.
First, God is complex when He should be complex, which means He remains complex even when we wish He would be simple. Second, the Bible was not concocted by men. Man’s concoctions don’t so brazenly contradict his own desires.
It’s nice to have rules. They make it possible to play games, earn grades, and make a living. when it comes to politics, I worry that we’ve fear we’ve learned to not care about those rules, the Constitution. Compare two different issues. Concerning gun ownership, there is an explicit protection in the rules, but some people have argued that the wording only protects the arming of militias. Concerning abortion, there is no explicit protection in the rules at all, yet many of these same people have concluded that this must be an unlimited right.
Paradoxically, they claim that a few sentences point to nothing beyond the narrowest understanding of the words used, whereas no sentences at all point to the most expansive interpretation of the silence. Ironically, this view implies that an actual amendment concerning abortion might have allowed fewer of them whereas the absence of a Second Amendment would have required the government to subsidize handguns.
Yes, having rules is good, but when people care so little for trying to follow them, what solace is there that they even exist?
Yet, when a criminal doesn’t know his behavior was illegal, the courts tell him that ignorance of the law is no excuse. When parents say they are doing the best they know how, we properly tell them that they should have known more. And, in a more tangible way, contrary to the popular aphorism, what you don’t know can make you poor, make you sick, and even kill you. This isn’t a judgment per se, but it’s certainly a form of accountability. So whether it’s from the punishment of people or circumstances, ignorance often will not protect you.
Thus, we say that a person should work hard to be sure he knows the most he can. And if so, how much more true for us blessed with personal, direct access to God’s Word for ourselves?