“Making Others Happy (Part 1)”

So what do you think? It’s good to do good things for other people and expect good in return, right? What’s more, Jesus sure seems to tell us to live like this.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31 (NRSV)

Oops! I thought Jesus said, “Do unto others and they will do unto you.” Sorry, dear readers!

“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return…” Luke 6:35a (NRSV)

That “expecting nothing in return” sort of settles it. So I guess maybe there really isn’t any “Circle Of Love.” That is, at least not in the sense of love being about “You do for me, I do more for you, you do even more for me, I do still even more for you.”

What if maybe, just maybe, this whole “Circle Of Love” idea is missing God and His Love? Then it’s not a “Circle Of Love” but an ever-widening, ever increasing, exploding “Wave Of Love” where everyone is receiving from God more and more of His Lovingkindness and pouring out His Lovingkindness until we lose sight of what we are “getting” and instead are caught up in the overwhelming joy of what we are “giving”…? Wow! What about that?!?

“Feeling Good About Ourselves”

I had really planned to “retire” Ashley Jennifer Smith as a letter writer, but this week I came across something on WordPress that I found very disturbing. It was a series of posts made by a church that proclaimed they didn’t allow atheists, homosexuals, whores, or people with autism into their church building.

After I got over my shock, I remembered one of Laura’s Lists several weeks ago titled “People We Don’t Like, Don’t Want In Our Church, And Don’t Want To Spend Eternity With.” I had no idea that there were actually churches with the word “Christian” in their name that believed like this so publicly. In that comic strip, I was thinking more along the lines of “That person is so irritating! How am I ever going to spend all eternity in heaven with them?!”

So this letter from Ashley today is based on seeing that on WordPress and to make sure that you realize these posts are never intended to make anyone feel alienated and bad about themselves. If I am to represent Christ properly in this world, I can’t shut anyone out, not even those who would seek to shut me out.

With that explained…

I do think that I may be giving Laura a hard time. To tell you the truth, I do see some of my own un-Christlike ways in this character. I’m just dragging that “stuff” out into the light of day to deal with it.

I did try switching it up where Rob had the list idea rather than Laura, but it still ends up with Laura potentially looking “not nice.” When she says she didn’t need to give up anything to become a Christian, we don’t know if (1) that’s because she believes God’s gifts are free or (2) because she thought that she was already practically perfect without God. How you look at it is important.

So potentially, Laura could be relying on her own righteousness but maybe not. Could this ambiguity causes self-reflection in readers…maybe, maybe not? I do hope so though. Know what you believe and why, even if we don’t agree.

As far as drawing comic strips that make you feel good about yourself…? All I can really say is that too often I’ve seen “feeling good about ourselves” caused by “group membership loyalty.” I don’t want to come across as being aligned with any one particular denomination or group. I want to avoid any resemblance to “our group is right, and your group is wrong” because Jesus prayed for our unity.

“It’s Not About Giving Up Teddy Bears”

The images used in this graphic page contrast two different worlds, yet whatever the Gospel is, it must have a message for both worlds.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus went about “preaching the gospel” and telling people to “believe the gospel.”

But what was that message? And what does it have to say to hurting children?

Not everyone has a carefree childhood. Some people have a harsh and brutal childhood. Inside every hurting adult is almost always a hurting child.

This is why I think that in order for the Gospel of Jesus to have something to say to that hurting adult, it must first have something to say to that hurting child hidden deep inside.

Addictions are things we hold on to in order to not feel the hurt so intensely.

Whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting child (or addicted adult), “Get over it. Everybody has hurts. It doesn’t matter that it’s the only thing that has ever helped ease your pain. You can’t call yourself a Christian until you give that up. You can’t inherit the Kingdom of God until you stop it.”

A hurting child can’t see beyond what they know will help the hurt, even if only a little. They may be offered the most wonderful things possible that would ease and heal that hurt, a whole pile of gifts under the Christmas tree even, but they will not give up their ragged and tear-stained teddy bear because that is what eases the hurt. It’s what they know. It’s what they trust.

The hurting child grows up to be a hurting adult, and the teddy bear gets replaced by alcohol or drugs or tobacco or sex or gambling or food (too much, too little) or rage…and on and on…

Whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting child, “Give that up! Jesus has so much more for you once you give that up! You have to give that up first!”

Eventually the hurt child may begin to think that God only cares about what other people see, and not about the hurt that is getting buried and hidden even deeper inside.

Jesus knows about healing us and about replacing the things that we hold on to that ease the pain. It takes trust, and trust takes relationship and time. Sadly, sometimes time runs out, but never the love and grace of Jesus.

“So What About The Bad Stuff Anyway?”

This is a continuation of yesterday’s comic strip, but it also gave me an opportunity to think about a more personal definition of sin beyond a list of “bad stuff that’s fun.” The biggest problem that I have with a list like that is how it makes me want to look for loopholes like “Yikes! That’s on the list, but not this! Yippee!” That may be just me though!

So what do you think? If we had to clean ourselves up to have a relationship with God but having a relationship with God was the only way to clean ourselves up, that would be impossible, wouldn’t it?!?

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Isaiah 55:1 (NRSV)

How can you buy something if you don’t have any money? Not only is God giving us “the movie ticket, popcorn, and an extra large drink,” He is also giving us the money to buy them with! Isn’t this just the best deal ever?!?

But what about the sin part? We really can’t overlook that. What if sin is not so much about breaking rules? What if it’s more about something that keeps you from spending time with Jesus? More specifically, maybe sin is anything about which you would say, “This is mine, Jesus. You can’t touch it.”

“Bad stuff that’s fun” loses its hold and its appeal for us, I believe, when we are in a relationship with God through His Son, Real Life Jesus. 

“Giving Up Bad Stuff That’s Fun”

I apologize for this definition of sin sounding so juvenile. It’s just the way that I hear it in my head, particularly when I’ve been dwelling on “God doesn’t want me to have any fun” when actually He just wants to protect me from the real life consequences of “bad stuff that’s fun.”

So what do you think about needing to give up “bad stuff that’s fun” in order to be a disciple of Jesus? It does make sense doesn’t it? God is holy, sinless, perfection. We are just imperfect messed up dust of the earth.

I think it’s natural to want to “clean up first” but God doesn’t look at it that way. One of my favorite Bible verses paints a “private invited conversation” image in my mind, like between a loving parent and child.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18 (KJV)

These are words that say, “It’s going to be okay. Just spend time with me. We will work this out together.”

If there is anything that we absolutely must give up, it would be the idea that we can clean ourselves up on our own. That, I believe, is something only done by Real Life Jesus.

————

A “Monthly Digest” is now available for everything shared in January 2017 in a classic “Old Newspaper” style and a full-color “Modern E-News” style.

This allows you to view everything for the month in one PDF file and in sequential order. Use the link below to open the download page!

img_8747

Wow! My own comic book! Who’d a “thunk” it?!? Definitely not me!

Monthly “Comic Digest” – January 2017