Monthly Archives: February 2017

Loving The People Who Hate Us


Jesus’s exhortation to “love your enemies” may well be the most difficult of all his commands. Certainly it is one of the easiest to explain away. If we’re honest, many of us are hesitant, if not downright unwilling, to even give it a try.

In the following video, theologian Miroslav Volf suggests one explanation for why many of us balk at the idea of loving our enemies: power.

Volf seems to be on to something as he notes that possessing power makes it difficult to take up Jesus’s invitation. He recognizes with clarity the ways power gets a grip on our hearts and incapacitates our imaginations. On the other hand, he perceptively notices how a feeling of powerlessness and an experience of marginality can combine to create the conditions that lead people to try to love their enemies.

This interview with Amal Nassar, a Palestinian Christian, offers a glimpse into the life of a person who, in response to her own powerlessness and marginality, has dared to try to love her enemies.

Nassar’s testimony is an inspiration to powerless and powerful alike. But what a difference it would make in our world if those of us with power would dare to relinquish our power in order to love our enemies with the same kind of creative love as Nassar.

Questions for Reflection

1. In what ways do you struggle with operating according to an “eye for an eye” approach to life?

2. In what ways do you explain away Jesus’s call to love your enemies?

3. Do you know someone who has loved their enemies? What has that looked like? Take some time in the next week or so to try to ask them about how and why they did that.

4. Who comes to mind first when you hear the phrase “your enemies”? What is one specific way you can show love to that person or those people in the next few days?


The Good Life Playlist

If music speaks to your soul, make this playlist–comprised of songs that explore the various themes in the Sermon on the Mount–a part of the soundtrack of your life as we explore together The Good Life Jesus invites us to live.

Telling The Truth About Yourself


One of the constant temptations facing humanity is the temptation to control our image, to manage our reputation. From a very early age experiences of rejection begin to shape how we act and who we are, leading us to hide certain parts of ourselves or highlight other characteristics so that we can avoid encountering rejection again. As we grow older, we become more comfortable in our own skin, content with who we are, so that we don’t have to worry about what people think about us. Or at least, that’s the idea.

Unfortunately many of us get stuck in unhealthy patterns of continuing to control our image. We find all sorts of ways to rationalize the many moves we make to exert this control. The uncomfortable reality, though, is that no matter how much energy we expend rationalizing our image-management techniques, there’s no getting around the fact that it all boils down to an inability, or perhaps even a refusal, to tell the truth about ourselves. The problem here is that without truth as a given, as a foundation we can count on, it is almost impossible to cultivate the very relationships we are so desperately trying to preserve by our efforts to control our image.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a better depiction of how a desire to manage our image leads us to an inability to tell the truth about ourselves than this clip from Seinfeld.

Very few of us would go so far as to try to beat a polygraph. But, if we’re honest, there are all sorts of ways in which we try to avoid telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in order to manage the way others see us and think about us. The invitation of Jesus is to believe, really believe, that the truth will set us free, and to begin to tell the truth about ourselves–with our words and with our lives.

Questions for Reflection

1. How have you witnessed others seeking to manage their image?

2. In what ways do you try to control your reputation by being less than fully truthful?

3. How might you take one step toward telling the truth about yourself this week?

4. What could you do to help others feel safe to tell the truth about themselves?


The Good Life Playlist

If music speaks to your soul, make this playlist–comprised of songs that explore the various themes in the Sermon on the Mount–a part of the soundtrack of your life as we explore together The Good Life Jesus invites us to live.

Honoring The Covenant Of Marriage


As Jesus expounds upon what it means to be salt and light and to let God’s law lead us to becoming mature children of God, he turns his attention to the covenant of marriage. Jesus’s words in this portion of the Sermon on the Mount are focused on what not to do. Often over the years, the church has taken this same negative or restrictive tack in its conversations about the covenant of marriage. While this perspective continues to be as vitally important as it was in Jesus’s day, it is important to remember that there is another aspect of Jesus’s words that is all too easy to overlook.

In between the lines of Jesus’s commentary on the covenant of marriage is an implicit prescription of what his hearers should do: embody fidelity to the covenants they have made. In the video below, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove explores this theme of fidelity.

Fidelity means trading bare minimum effort for all-in commitment. Fidelity means no longer seeking ways to qualify a covenant but instead striving for unconditional faithfulness. Fidelity means that in a world of innumerable distractions we cultivate a singular focus. Fidelity means we do everything in our power to let nothing stand in the way of fulfilling the covenants we make. Finally, fidelity means that when we fail, we receive God’s grace as an opportunity to get right back to the serious business of honoring the covenant promises we have made.

This song by Andy Gullahorn captures what it’s like to come to the realization that we’ve not actively been pursuing fidelity, and yet recognize there’s still hope for cultivating that kind of commitment to the covenants we’ve made.

Questions for Reflection

1. Have you ever been on the wrong end of someone failing to honor a covenant they made? What was the experience like?

2. What “cheap thrills” have the strongest power to allure you? How do they inhibit your ability to honor the covenants you have made?

3. What are some practical steps you can take not merely to avoid breaking a covenant, but to move beyond the surface of things so that you can actively pursue fidelity to the covenants you have made?


The Good Life Playlist

If music speaks to your soul, make this playlist–comprised of songs that explore the various themes in the Sermon on the Mount–a part of the soundtrack of your life as we explore together The Good Life Jesus invites us to live.

Threatening Someone’s Life


Jarrod succinctly summarizes the heart of Jesus’s words about murder and anger this way: “God wants us to reach a place where we value our relationships over our rights.” It is incredibly difficult, though, to reach this place. One of the reasons this is so difficult is because while relationships take a lot of hard work merely to maintain, much less to nurture consistently to greater depth and meaning, it’s relatively easy to sustain a passion for protecting our rights. If we’re honest, anger in response to a violation of our rights is extremely energizing. I’m convinced this is part of why so many of us hold grudges and keep records of wrongs: the anger gets us out of bed in the mornings and keeps us going during the day.

I suspect more of us struggle with this than we’d like to admit. To be sure, some of us do a pretty good job of hiding our anger, making it easier for us to believe the lie that we don’t really struggle with it. We find ways to carefully conceal our anger so that others can’t see just what a big role it is playing in our lives. Others of us, however, aren’t so skilled at pretending. The anger is constantly finding its way to expression in our words and in our actions, and while we might be successful at temporarily restraining it, its hold on our hearts and minds has become so strong it could come lashing out at the slightest provocation.

Do you remember George Costanza, Jerry’s friend on the show Seinfeld? George is the epitome of someone who is driven by anger. Anger has such a strong hold on his heart and mind that you never quite know when he’s going to lash out. There are many great scenes that capture these outbursts of anger, but this is one of the best. Still angry over a perceived slight from an acquaintance years earlier, George approaches his acquaintance’s AA sponsor to try to find a way to attain an apology from his acquaintance.

Now most of us would consider ourselves to be a bit more in control of ourselves than George, but the reality is many of us are more like George than we can even begin to acknowledge. We value our rights over our relationships and so our lives are characterized by anger that hurts others and hurts ourselves. What if we were to choose the way of grace instead of anger, the way of reconciliation instead of retribution, the way of Jesus instead of the way of the world?

This song by Sara Groves captures well what it would be like to choose the way of Jesus.

Questions for Reflection

1. How did you feel the last time you lashed out in anger? How did you feel an hour or day or week later?

2. What or who makes you angry? How does that anger play out in your life?

3. How might you take one step toward releasing the anger that controls you?

4. What would be a good way to begin moving toward reconciliation?


The Good Life Playlist

If music speaks to your soul, make this playlist–comprised of songs that explore the various themes in the Sermon on the Mount–a part of the soundtrack of your life as we explore together The Good Life Jesus invites us to live.