Sam Louie discusses Asian culture, the guilt/shame dichotomy and the gospel. As an Asian-American, I can definitely relate to that constant nagging feeling/concept of “acceptance by works”. On the one hand, when taken in moderation, this culture motivates us to become hard-working people striving towards honor. On the other hand, when taken to the extreme, this culture twists us into passive beings living only to avoid shame. An excerpt:
People often use the terms shame and guilt interchangeably, but there is a distinction between the two that needs to be recognized if we will understand the life-draining consequences of shame. Guilt can be healthy since it helps us acknowledge mistakes we need to correct and leads us to think of ways to rebuild ourselves and our relationships with others—including with God. Shame, by contrast, is a perverse and distorted belief that we are inherently unworthy of love. Consequently when you feel shame, instead of wanting to be corrected, you feel you deserve to be persecuted, punished, and tormented. A shame-based person doesn’t know how to feel healthy guilt.
But the gospel tells us that we do not have to live with secret hurts and hidden shame. Instead, the message of Christ’s redemptive work brings hope, forgiveness, and healing. The apostle Paul told us:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering (Romans 8: 1-3).
Because he is elevated above any nation, tribe, or ethnic identity that tries to hold us back spiritually, Christ offers forgiveness and mercy with the power to break the bonds of cultural shame. As Christians, then, we can live in authentic community that gives us the freedom to risk exposing our vulnerabilities to one another. Members of the body of Christ must be free to acknowledge our hurts and struggles so we can be known and healed.
Tim Challies’ response to Mark Altrogge’s thoughts on “Come Thou Fount”:
The comments are interesting and Ricky Alcantar nails it in his defense of the hymn as he looks to the context of that verse, showing that the hymnwriter is pointing to a genuine tendency to wander. Within our lives are these opposing desires to honor God and to honor self, to flee from sin and to flee to it. This is the simul justus et peccator of Martin Luther (and the “wretched man that I am” of Romans 7), the fact that we are simultaneously righteous and sinful, sinful in our actions and yet righteous in our standing before God. In good conscience I can continue to sing that I am prone to wander.
In this way, Altrogge is exactly right. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we do gain a new inclination away from disobedience and toward sin. Within us is this constant competition, this constant battle, between two “prones.” We are being renewed, we are being made holy, and over the course of a life, sin’s power is fading as the greater inclination toward holiness overwhelms and overcomes the dying inclination to sin.
Faith Newport on approaching modesty not in terms of “how much to cover up” but, rather, in terms of “how much is reserved for my husband?”:
So, if that’s true, if my body is more than simply beautiful, more than simply art, if it is truly a gift to the person I love most in life, then what? Perhaps it is reasonable to suppose that he, my spouse, should experience it in a way that is unique to his relationship with me. Perhaps the fullness of the gift is available to him alone.
If that is the case, the questions change. I am no longer confronted with the dilemma of how much skin is too much, but rather how much I prefer to save exclusively for the person given to me by God to appreciate it. This is not about another dress code. It is about empowering women to decide what about themselves and their bodies is precious enough to hold back from the world at large.
There’s that saying that the best revenge is to live well. Similarly, I think respect is given to those who earn it, not to those constantly groveling for and demanding it. On that note, Mark Galli talks about finding respect by not demanding it but by being comfortable with oneself and finding identity in the things that matter. Specifically, he discusses “the difference between the love of authority and the authority of love” and the shortcomings of using “delegated authority”, “expertise” or “emotional manipulation” cards to establish authority:
Can you imagine what it would be like to be in the presence of someone who so knew he was loved that he could live and breath and act in complete self-confidence that indeed nothing could separate him from love, nothing could shake the ground of his existence? We rightly believe that Jesus attracted people to himself and his teaching because he loved. Did it ever occur to us that maybe Jesus attracted others also because they could see he lived in the utter confidence that he was loved, and they were desperately thirsty to know what having that type of love was like?
Ultimately, that’s the ground of our authority, if we would just believe it. It’s a hard thing to believe many days, especially when we’re in the thick of things, duking it out with boards or members or clients or competitors. It’s hard when we feel our calling or effectiveness or the very purpose of our lives seems to be on the line. At such times, we’re tempted to play the cards of delegated authority, of expertise, of manipulation—anything to secure our place in our church, in the office, in our world, anything to justify our existence.
John Thomas reflects on a failed church plant experience and shares the major lessons he gleaned from it.
Rod Dreher on the irrelevance of science in the SSM debate along with a couple of refreshing points on the topic:
Anyway, my overall point here: social science is irrelevant to this debate. Consequentialist arguments, which say that the rightness or wrongness of a particular position depends on the outcomes, are powerless to move either side. I’m not changing my views on SSM because of it, and you aren’t either, not because we’re bad people, but because science is irrelevant to the core principles at stake here. Let’s not pretend otherwise.
Sharon Hodde Miller on why she and her husband have been attending marriage counseling from the get-go. I doubt this isn’t something every couple can afford (which Miller notes), but it seems to be a positive approach nonetheless:
That is not to say that marriage counseling is by any means a marital panacea. However, we have found it benefits us in two key ways. First, it enables us to address problems early on. I should point out here that we did not choose marriage counseling because of a major problem. We chose it because we did not want to have major problems. We both noticed that when an issue is allowed to fester in a marriage, the couple is less likely to tackle it together. That is to say, conflict breeds division and raises barriers. If too much time passes before an issue is addressed in counseling, the unity of the marriage has already been compromised and a couple is less able to work together. We therefore wanted to confront conflict long before our barriers were up.
Second, marriage counseling has equipped us with skills for enhancing our communication. Our counselor has provided us with numerous practical tips to navigate difficult conversations. And while the techniques themselves are helpful, it also speaks volumes to me when my husband merely attempts to use them. If we find ourselves in a disagreement and my husband actively draws on a method that we learned in counseling, one that is designed to help me feel safe and understood, I am immediately disarmed. I know he desires reconciliation and wholeness between us, and I am encouraged to reciprocate.
A humorous post from the Westminster Seminary blog that illustrates a larger, more important point. First, one of the 16 ways to find a wife according to the bible:
1) Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she’s yours. (Deut. 21:11-13)
That larger, more important point:
Obviously, this list was written with humor in mind, and some of these “ways,” are not prescriptive but descriptive of the sinful ways that God’s people have conducted themselves in the past–they are in no way exemplary. But this does demonstrate an important point–people often want the Bible to say certain things, such as how to find a spouse and marry, but they ignore portions of Scripture that don’t fit their paradigm. The Bible has more to say about arranged marriages, for example, than it does “courtship” or dating. So then, how do we proceed?
We have to realize that the Bible does not speak to every issue we will face in life. Just ask Solomon, who had to use wisdom when the two prostitutes came to him claiming to both be the mother of one child. We must follow those things that God has given us. In all of our relationships we have the obligation to exercise the fruit of the Spirit and not mistreat anyone, that is especially true for a prospective spouse. We also have the clear biblical command that a Christian is free to marry whomever he or she chooses, so long as the prospective mate is “in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7.39). But in the end, choosing a spouse calls for wisdom.
Of course we know that there are many challenges ahead. Eight children between us, for starters. Tom’s youngest is the same age as my oldest. No wonder Tom is wonderful with my kids.
Tom and I have started premarital counseling. We are well aware that second marriages are more likely to fail than first marriages. And we both realize that we bring with us a lot of, well, interesting emotional histories: Tom, like me, was devastated by a spouse leaving the family. But though neither Tom nor I chose for our first marriages to end, we both desire to be better spouses in our second — and final! — union.
Crucially important? We don’t see each other as fantasies, but as the real people we are. We know that in marriage, we are given sinners to love because those are the only kind of people there are. And we agree with theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who from his prison cell in Nazi Germany wrote to a young newlywed couple, “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.” (emphasis added)
Makes me imagine what a guide book on meeting me for the first time would say, haha:
The United States is the second greatest tourist draw in the world, with 60-million-plus visitors in 2010 alone (France, number one, attracted almost 80 million). Flipping through a few of the many English-language tourist guides provides a fascinating, if non-scientific and narrow, window into how people from the outside world perceive America, Americans, and the surprises and pitfalls of spending time here…