“You’re wrong but I still love you!” (Why respect matters more than being right.)

Recently Dan Haseltine, lead singer of Jars of Clay (one of my favorite bands, click here to find out why) made some thought provoking and controversial statements on Twitter in an effort to engage in a thoughtful dialog about a difficult topic. Within minutes, people were making accusatory and hurtful statements in response. Within hours, radio stations had pulled Jars of Clay from their regular rotation and online articles had been posted by many of the news outlets that pay attention to the relatively tiny subculture that is contemporary Christian music. But the vicious and mean comments from people hiding behind the anonymity of the computer are what shocked me most. (Read Dan’s explanation and apology here.)


I don’t understand why it seems that it is no longer acceptable to respectfully disagree with one another anymore. It seems that if I disagree with someone, I am supposed to hate them or discredit them as ignorant and close minded. What happened to the days when a healthy, vigorous debate could end with mutual respect and genuine care for one another? I have been a fan of Jars of Clay for twenty years, and I’m fairly certain I disagree with them on many things. However, I adore their music, marvel at their creativity and artistry, and respect and love them as fellow brothers in Christ. Many of my closest friends have opposite political views to mine, and we are bold (or crazy) enough to talk about such topics. I love debating with my friends! To my knowledge, no one has gotten the other to change their mind, but we’ve challenged each other to see a different perspective and to work harder to defend our own! When the debate is done, I still love them, care about them, and respect their intellect.

I have to admit that I am a recovering know-it-all and if I had access to Twitter or Facebook in high school or college, I probably would have posted quite a few things I’d later regret. One of the things I have had to learn is to tolerate views that differ than my own.  I used to base my identity on being right. This meant that I saw any opposing view as a direct threat to my worth and value as a person. But like lipstick on a pig, my vigorous and passionate defense of my opinions was really just dressed up insecurity. I had to learn that sometimes it is better to be righteous than to be right and to choose relationship over rhetoric.


Now, don’t misunderstand me, I am not advocating for the kind of tolerance that leads to no voice or opinion at all. I have very strong personal beliefs and I make no apology for them. Every student in every class I teach has heard me say, “I believe what I believe because I think it is right. If I didn’t think my beliefs were right, I wouldn’t believe them!” Tolerance does not mean that no one is allowed to have any beliefs or opinions at all. NO! It means that varying, even opposite opinions are allowed to exist and be expressed. And I remind my students that they are allowed to disagree with me, even if I am the professor. I’m also not suggesting that our words don’t carry consequences, because they most certainly do! (Ask Donald Sterling, soon to be former owner of the LA Clippers.)

Scripture has a lot to say about the words we speak. A simple search of the word “tongue” yields 133 results and over 80 speak to the impact our words have both positive and negative. The tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21) and the ability to speak the truth in a loving way is a sign of spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:15). And sometimes the wisest decision we can make is to say nothing at all (Proverbs 10:19, 11:12, and 17:28). But when we do choose to voice an opinion or take a stand for a belief, let’s do so with grace, humility, and without judgment (lest we be judged – Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37). Let’s be quick to listen and slow to speak. Let’s be quick to seek understanding and slow to make assumptions. Let’s be quick to forgive and slow to attack. Let’s all grow a little bit thicker skin. And let’s ensure that our identity stays rooted in being God’s beloved child, and not in being right.

What’s in a Name?

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Have you ever thought about your name? There is a lot of meaning and a lot communicated in a name. I have spent much of my life living in small towns – like really small. I had 75 students in my high school graduating class. My parents have lived next to the same neighbors for over 20 years. And in my small hometown of 2000 people, my last name communicates a lot. It connects me to others that have the same name. Whether you are proud or ashamed of your last name, whether your name carries positive or negative connotations, your name means something.

When you accept your identity as a child of God and become part of God’s family, you receive a new name. Now you bear God’s name and now you represent Him. What is that name? Many might say, “Christian” is your new name, except that Christian is rarely mentioned in Scripture. I believe God’s family name is actually “love”.


1 John 4:7-17 says,

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

Wow! Did you catch that? Through God’s ultimate expression of love – Jesus’ death on the cross, we can become children of God. If God is love, that means you are beloved! But we must love others in response to God’s great love for us. Bearing God’s name means representing God’s love in the world. Loving others is how God becomes real and “seen” in this world. You have experienced God’s love and grace, that is how you were adopted into His family as His child. Now it is your calling to share that same love with the world so that the world can see how real God’s love is.


This is not as easy as it may sound. Loving others is risky business. There is no guarantee that others will love you back. And God knows this truth better than anyone. Loving others requires giving sacrificially of ourselves. Jesus sacrificed everything for us and bearing God’s name means being an example of Jesus to the world through sacrifice. When we love others well, we bring glory and honor to God’s name.

Christ is counting on you to live out your faith in this world. To do so effectively, we must count on Christ for the strength we need. What keeps you from sharing God’s love with others? What are some ways you’ve shared God’s love with others?

It’s Friday AND Sunday’s Coming: Thoughts on Easter


“Before the sun had risen on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene made a trip to the tomb where His body was laid to rest. In the darkness, she discovered the covering had been rolled away. She darted out of the garden to find Simon Peter and the dearly loved disciple to deliver this startling news.

Mary Magdalene: They have taken the body of our Lord, and we cannot find Him!

Together, they all departed for the tomb to see for themselves. They began to run, and Peter could not keep up. The beloved disciple arrived first but did not go in. There was no corpse in the tomb, only the linens and cloths He was wrapped in. When Simon Peter finally arrived, he went into the tomb and observed the same: the cloth that covered His face appeared to have been folded carefully and placed, not with the linen cloths, but to the side. After Peter pointed this out, the other disciple (who had arrived long before Peter) also entered the tomb; and based on what he saw, faith began to well up inside him! Before this moment, none of them understood the Scriptures and why He must be raised from the dead. 10 Then they all went to their homes.

11 Mary, however, stood outside the tomb sobbing, crying, and kneeling at its entrance. 12 As she cried, two heavenly messengers appeared before her sitting where Jesus’ head and feet had been laid.

Heavenly Messengers: 13 Dear woman, why are you weeping?

Mary Magdalene: They have taken away my Lord, and I cannot find Him.

14 After uttering these words, she turned around to see Jesus standing before her, but she did not recognize Him.

Jesus: 15 Dear woman, why are you sobbing? Who is it you are looking for?

She still had no idea who it was before her. Thinking He was the gardener, she muttered:

Mary Magdalene: Sir, if you are the one who carried Him away, then tell me where He is and I will retrieve Him.

Jesus: 16 Mary!

Mary Magdalene (turning to Jesus and speaking in Hebrew): Rabboni, my Teacher!

Jesus: 17 Mary, you cannot hold Me. I must rise above this world to be with My Father, who is also your Father; My God, who is also your God. Go tell this to all My brothers.

18 Mary Magdalene obeyed and went directly to His disciples.” (John 20:1-18, The Voice)


Each gospel account of the resurrection is slightly different, emphasizing different aspects of the events as they unfold. John’s version is my favorite. John draws me into the confusion and mystery of that wonderful morning. The women coming to pay their respects. The disciples so scared that Jesus’ body has been stolen, or perhaps so excited by the possibility that Jesus is alive that they run to the tomb – I mean, in either case, you’d run too right!? I know I would, and like Peter, I’d likely be the last to arrive, out of breath and out-sprinted by everyone else! I love that John had begun to lose faith until seeing the empty tomb for himself. At that moment, his “faith began to well up inside him.” Even the beloved disciple and Jesus’ best friend had doubts (which must make it permissible for me to have doubts too). And then there is Mary, who stays behind after all others have gone home to continue to weep and grieve for Jesus. She hasn’t quite caught on to all that has happened, and just like He always does, Jesus meets her right where she is. He instantly turns her deep despair into incredible hope.

And isn’t that the Easter message…

I have struggled to write about Easter – at least the whole story. You see, I could write volumes about Resurrection Sunday. What’s more exciting than the account of Jesus rising from the dead, conquering and claiming victory over sin and death once and for all!? What could be more joyous or hopeful than the freedom and life that comes from the resurrection!? There’s a song by Tree 63 called, “Sunday” that says, “It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming. Sunday! Hallelujah, it’s not so far, it’s not so far away.” I have always loved this song. It’s happy and hopeful, but to be those things, there must be despair and hopelessness.

You see, we can’t have one without the other. Yes, Sunday is coming, but not without living through Friday and Saturday first. And I don’t like Friday and Saturday – yes, Good Friday is indeed good, but it is full of sorrow and pain. The thought of my sin nailing Jesus to the cross is too much to bear. The truth that Jesus willingly sacrificed His life to save mine is overwhelming. If Jesus came to my town tomorrow I wouldn’t feel comfortable letting Him buy my coffee, let alone die for me! I’m supposed to be the one buying His latte and dying for Him, right? Wrong. And yet, for many years, I ignored Lent and Good Friday and focused only on the joy of Easter Sunday, too uncomfortable with the shame and sorrow to know what else to do.

However, the celebration and victory of Sunday morning is so much sweeter when you’ve also tasted the devastation and agony of defeat on Friday evening.  Both are required. Jesus cannot defeat death without first dying. He cannot conquer sin (MY sin no less) without sacrificing His life. Good Friday is only good because Sunday is amazing and Sunday is meaningless without the very real events of Friday. So yes, Sunday is coming! Hallelujah! It’s not so far away! And when life is hard, we can live in the hope of Sunday. Jesus has risen, He has risen indeed!


But we cannot forget Friday either. Friday reminds us of the cost of sin, the price of forgiveness, and the depth of love. The cross cements our identity as God’s beloved children. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)” God values and loves us so much that He was willing to sacrifice His son to save us and have a relationship with us. When we begin to truly understand that truth, it becomes much easier to love others. When I understand how much I’m loved and how much I’m forgiven, then I can love and forgive others.

So don’t get stuck in the sorrow of Friday. And don’t skip straight to Sunday. Hold onto the tension of both. It’s Friday AND Sunday is coming!

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