Tag Archives: Insurgent Love

Salt Trumps Bitter

“You are the salt of the earth…” Matt. 5:13

Ask any hardcore coffee addict how to reduce the afternoon bitterness of this morning’s reheated coffee and they’ll tell you to add a pinch of salt.  Go ahead, ask them.  Now I’m not talking about those precious persons who just crave the Koolaid coffee whipped up at Fourbucks.  You’ve gotta ask one of us who think that stale, two day old “cup o’ joe” that has an oil slick on top is better than no coffee at all.  Ask the guy three cubicles down who doesn’t trust java that isn’t chewy.  (Hey, my name’s Joe and I wrote “cup o’ joe”!  That’s gotta be some literary something or other.)

Coffee neophytes try to cut the bitterness with sugar.  They add a teaspoon, they take a sip, they pucker up, they snap their head like a wet Jack Russell Terrier, then vainly add another teaspoon of sugar.  It’s hopeless.  Sugar doesn’t remove bitterness.  The best it can do is cover it up but more often than not it you just end up with bitter tasting, muddy water with “sandy” sugar crystals at the bottom of the cup.

Most people are surprised to learn that desert recipes call for some sugar and salt.  It sounds counterintuitive to add salty to a sweet, but it’s true.

Still not convinced.  Here’s an experiment that I found in the New York Times that you can try yourself:

Get a bottle of tonic water. Take a taste. The bitterness is quinine, a compound derived from bark of the cinchona tree. There’s also a bit of sweetness from sugar or corn syrup added to offset the bitterness.

Add a bit of salt to the bottle. Take another taste. “It’s almost like sugar water,” Ms. Corriher said. “You taste a little quinine, but it’s just the change is amazing, how the salt suppresses bitterness.”

Surprisingly, salt suppresses bitterness better than sugar.  That is why some people sprinkle salt on grapefruit, cantaloupe and other fruit. 

Often we try, with no effect, to take away the bitterness of life with sweetness.   By “sweetness” I mean covering up the bitterness or going out of our way to avoid the bitterness.  Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth…”  Have you ever tried to comfort someone by piling platitudes and trite cliche’s on life’s tragedies just to be rebuffed or at best ignored?  We’re not the “sugar of the earth,” we’re “salt”.

Only a few sentences earlier in the Beatitudes Jesus says, “Blessed are they that mourn for they will be comforted.”  Echoing this point, Paul speaks of mourning in Romans 12:15 “…mourn with those that mourn.”  Who will be comforted?  Those that mourn, not those that try to cover it up or ignore it.  How should we respond to those that mourn, those that hurt?  Mourn with them.  Not in the way that the world mourns, but with a hope.

But salt shouldn’t be “salty.”  It takes just a pinch of salt, just a little bit.  We often fail in comforting, taking the bitter away, because we use either too much salt or sweetness.  Being the “salt of the earth” doesn’t mean being an abrasive, cantankerous “ol’ salt.”  Just as Jesus doesn’t say, “you are the sugar of the earth;” He also doesn’t say, “be salty.”  Being “salty” just breeds legalism and, conversely,  coating life with sugary syrup doesn’t allow the real issues of hurt to be addressed.

As those who are set apart for the glory of God, those who practice insurgent love behind enemy lines, we must set our strategy for each day; a strategy that asks, “who will I not leave with a bitter taste in their mouth?  Who will I be salt for today?  Who’s life will I  make less bitter by being the ‘salt of the earth?'”


Love 41 – Where Receiving is Giving

“Blessed is he who considers the poor; The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive, and he will be blessed on the earth; You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies. The LORD will strengthen him on his bed of illness; You will sustain him on his sickbed.” Psalm 41:1-3

It’s been quite a while since I posted something in the Insurgent Love series.  Learning about Love 41 has brought me back home, so to speak.  Oh, and Mother’s Day is coming up (you’ll understand why I mention Mothers’ Day in a few minutes).

Love 41 is a for profit apparel and jewelry company…  “Wait!  What? C’mon, Joe!  You’ve wandered from the straight and narrow, you capitalist pig.”

Hang on, hang on.  Let me finish…Love 41 is a for profit apparel and jewelry company whose “profits from [their] business will support programs working to get children off the streets [of Rowanda] and out of the dumps and putting them in school. Our vision is to get vulnerable women out of prostitution and into a sewing program or beauty school so they can earn a living and feed their children without needing to sell their bodies.  We desperately want to get older boys into vocational programs so they too, can have a future.”

Suzette Munson, founder of Love 41 and wife of Dave Munson (saddlebackleather.com) talks of her experience on a trip to Rowanda…

“We saw men that lost their entire family and bore the scars of unconscionable acts of torture.  Our [adopted] son Athanase was one of these people. His parents were killed when he was 3 years old and he bears a scar on his forehead of his near death experience. At age 3, he began his life on the streets, alone and with no one to care for him. At the age of 4 he began sniffing glue and at the age of 8 he was already in and out of jails. His home was often the city dump.”

Boom! Insurgent love.  Getting behind the lines of both capitalism and rampant poverty and genocide and tragedy and starvation and…

Something else that caught my eye is that Love 41 isn’t reinventing the wheel.  Suzette looked for where God is already at work and got on board.

“Love 41 is currently working through Africa New Life Ministries www.anlm.org since they’re already loving people in significant ways. ANLM has their financial books wide open and is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability www.ecfa.org where they audit their books.”

Check out the whole story at http://www.love41.com/love-41-story. And buy something for Mom, too.  Mom will love it both for what she receives and for what Love 41 gives.

Stop Shooting the Prisoners – cont. (repost)

We need to recalibrate our eyes. For too long we’ve been looking at them through our old eyes. If we truly believe that we are new creations in Christ then that means that we have new eyes…Jesus’ eyes. We need to see people through our new Jesus eyes. When He was attacked He didn’t see attackers; He saw them as being attacked. Hurting people hurt people. When people hurt do you see them the way Jesus sees them, as hurting? Don’t use your physical eyes to look at people, use your spiritual eyes.

People aren’t our enemy, they’re people…just like us. And, more importantly, just like we once were! We would do well to remember our chains. They’re people who struggle with life…with issues…with drama and sometimes they cry. But, they also have fun, they enjoy fun stuff, they laugh. The only difference between us and them is that they don’t know Jesus. They have met Him, but they don’t know Him.

Also, while we look at them with Jesus’ eyes we need to see ourselves through their eyes. We need to look at ourselves from their perspective. A little more understanding is in order. OK, a lot more. Maybe it would be more anatomically accurate to say we need to hear ourselves through their ears.

I recently heard Michael Ramsden of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries tell a story of a missionary who went overseas without bothering to learn the local language. In one of his first encounters with a local shopkeeper (a butcher) the missionary tried to say that he was a Christian from America. But, in his linguistic ineptitude he had just told a member of the Greek Orthodox Church that “Jesus was an American.” The butcher pulled out his cleaver and chased the missionary down the street running for his life. The inept missionary then reveled in the fact that he was being persecuted for the sake of the Gospel. Please! He wasn’t persecuted for the sake of the Gospel.  He was persecuted for being offensive.

We do the same thing right here in America with our church jargon. We have no clue what cultural relevance our words have and don’t bother trying to find out. Then when we are persecuted for triumphantly proclaiming that “Jesus is one of us” we think ourselves holy. Jesus isn’t one of us, we’re supposed to be one of Him. He isn’t just a big us, we’re created to be “little Hims.”

Too often it’s not just a translation or perception problem. Sometimes we really do think that our new life in Christ makes us better than everybody else. Okay, church people, I’m going to let the cat out of the bag, “we’re idiots.” We get it wrong…a lot. Actually, that’s not the secret. People that don’t go to church already know it. We prove it all the time. The real secret is that “non-church” people already know that we get it wrong sometimes. Our problem is that we’re defensive about it. And to defend ourselves we go on the offensive. And we can really be offensive. We say stupid things. Then when we’re called out on it we pride ourselves in being persecuted. That’s not being persecuted for the sake of Jesus’ name.  It’s being persecuted for being stupid.

Yes, there is a part of the Gospel that can be difficult to hear.  There is a part that pierces the heart and even hurts. But, that isn’t our job in the process. Our part is to love people through their hurt. To have earned the right to be in the lives of the people around us before the hurt comes. Not to invite them to the big church production when it’s convenient for us; but to be ready and available when people need us; when they need Jesus with skin on.

Stop Shooting the Prisoners (repost)

…continued from yesterday.

One reason that we’ve lost the culture war is that we’ve been fighting the wrong enemy.

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Ephesians 6:11 & 12

First, Paul identifies the battle, then he points out the enemy, then he lists the equipment (more on the equipment later).

We’ve been trying to defeat the casualties and the captives.  Too often we have made the very people that most need our love and understanding the very target of our wrath.  Imagine the hope of prisoners in Hitler’s concentration camps gazing expectantly through barbed wire as Allied Soldiers approached; they’re hearts trying desperately to comprehend the incomprehensible possibility of liberation.

Then imagine their horror if the “liberators”, those in whom they had placed their trust, had turn their rifles on the prisoners and mowed them down in a hail of bullets.  Try to grasp the terror they would have felt as the same weapons that were intended to vanquish tyrants and despots were used as weapons of truly mass death.  The only word I have is “repulsive.”

Have we as the church in America behaved any differently?  Have we used the “Armor of God” any differently?

The question for us Christians is, “to whom or what do we bring glory?” Just because something, or someone, is created for a purpose doesn’t always mean that the purpose is fulfilled.  Are we worship that brings glory to God or to something else; ourselves, our prejudices or our dogma?  Are we worship that attracts those around us to God or distracts them to something else?  Or worse, are we attractive worship or repulsive worship?

When we are cut off in traffic, what type of worship are we?  When the cashier at McDonald’s gets our order wrong, what type of worship are we? When we see a homeless person who could use a sandwich and coffee, what kind of worship are we?  When a young girl is struggling with the choice of abortion, what kind of worship are we?  When the teenage boy down the street, who we allow to annoy us with his sub-woofers, continues to make poor life decisions, what type of worship are we?  When the elderly lady across the street, who we think complains too much, could use help with her lawn, what type of worship are we?

In short, are we worship that attracts people to the Savior or repulses them?

For that rude driver, forgive because you were forgiven.  For that cashier, offer an encouraging word for the difficult day they may be having.  For that homeless person, make an extra sandwich when you’re making your own lunch for the day.  For that young girl, offer to help raise that precious, unborn child in the way that she should go so that when she is grown she will not depart from it.  For that teenage boy, remember what it was like for you at that age make yourself available to walk the difficult road of adolescence with him.  For that lady, what’s one more yard on your to-do list, anyway? – from my post “Jumping the Worship Shark – Part Deux

Does our worship of God through Jesus liberate (Acts 16:25-26) or destroy suffering people?

“God continually introduces us to people for whom we have no affinity, and unless we are worshipping God, the most natural thing to do is to treat them heartlessly, to give them a text like the jab of a spear, or leave them with a rapped-out counsel of God and go.” – Oswald Chambers

Essentially, we’ve bought into the lie that sinners, unsaved, pre-saved, un-churched [insert some other pithy church jargon here] persons are enemies of Christians and Christianity…that they’re our enemies.  THEY’RE NOT! They’re people.  People that God loves and so should we.

How many times have we misused scripture and begged God to destroy our enemies?  Then we become indignant that when He doesn’t and we lash out at them even more.  In fact, some of them prosper in spite of our pleas. Others have the audacity to actually be likable.  They might even behave more Christ like than many Christians we know.  “Blast it all! Life just isn’t fair,” he says sarcastically.

Or, maybe…just, maybe God doesn’t smite our “enemies” because they aren’t our enemies! Let me repeat, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…” Our enemy is inhuman. Here’s the litmus test for identifying your enemy: do they look even remotely like a person? Yes? That’s not your enemy. Jesus says owe no person anything except love.  Insurgent love.

continued tomorrow

They’d Give Up Their Kingdom for a King (repost)

“As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.  If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them.  They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them.A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Matthew 21:1

Old Testament wars were wars of conquest and destruction.  When God told Israel to go to war with someone they were supposed to annihilate them. They were to take no plunder, take no prisoners, wipe out everything…scorched earth.

But, the New Testament is a war of insurgency.  It’s war to win hearts and minds.  It’s a rescue mission behind enemy lines.

When Jesus came to Israel they had been looking for a warrior -king in the model of David.  And, who can blame them?  Israel had been in some form of captivity, exile or oppression for most of their history.  The last thing they were looking for was somebody who would free them internally.  The very foundation of Hebrew culture was anchored in laws that were based on external circumstances.  Jesus came so that people could be free in spite of those circumstances…or, even, in those circumstances.

The Jews tried to turn Jesus into that warrior-king.  They wanted to be freed as a nation, not as individuals.  They wanted someone astride a great white horse who would wipe out their enemies, trample their oppressors, exact some revenge and make them a mighty nation.  To this end they gave Him a parade.  They tried to dress Him up as a king thus disillusioning themselves into believing that He was on a horse.  In a warped reversal of “The King with No Clothes” the people tried to pretend that the King was arrayed in splendor, but Jesus knew what the child in the fable knew, that He was naked.

Jesus came as one man healing one person at a time, comforting one person at a time, saving one life to eternity at a time.  He was an insurgent behind enemy lines.  The nation of Israel wanted to be delivered en masse from all of their enemies in one fell swoop.  Jesus came to save them from themselves.  They wanted to be a glorious people in spite of their sin; Jesus came to deliver them from their sin.  Are we Christians, God’s modern daychosen people any different?

We have spent the last few decades pleading with God to vindicate us, to prove that we are right; to lay low our enemies and bring them in droves to fill church pews so that we can revel in the victory of winning some cultural war.  In contrast, we have too often retreated to a “circle the wagons” mentality.  We lock ourselves inside our church walls in the vein hope that we can whip congregations into a frenzy that will unleash our “inner warrior” hoping to bring vindication for ourselves.  On his album, The Soul Cages, the second hand prophet Sting makes a severe, yet completely accurate, observation of why our strategies have been so ineffective.  “Men go crazy in congregations, but they only get better one by one.”

And so, we have lost the culture war.  Why?

…to be continued.