@robertkwendt || lead pastor
As we began a new series on relationships between men and women, news was released on the very same day out of the Houston Chronicle. This specific, three-part piece highlighted the allegations and convictions of pastors, church leaders, and volunteers within the Southern Baptist Convention churches. It showed how, in just 20 years, these leaders caused over 700 people to be victims of sexual abuse.
When I read this, my heart sunk to the ground. One quote from the article put it this way:
"One victim of sexual abuse said he can't forgive leaders who offered prayers but took no action. 'That is the greatest tragedy of all,' he said. 'So many people's faith is murdered. I mean, their faith is slaughtered by these predators.'"
While we can theologically debate his statement, the reality is that many people turn away from Jesus or don't even give him a chance because of how the church is so often represented by its leaders.
A people who is called to be salt and light to the earth instead seems to destroy and bring darkness into the lives of others.
So, how are we to respond as followers of Jesus? How are we to show light? How can we prevent ourselves from being the next ones in the news for bad rather than good?
I would like to suggest a few ideas:
1. acknowledge the battle.
No one is exempt from having a battle within themselves. In fact, we all face struggles each and every day. Often times, we find ourselves even doing the very things we thought we never would.
We may catch ourselves in a little white lie or even a situation we would have never imagined happening. Whether we are in a big or small struggle, the reality is that we all face battles daily. We do both small and large things that we know in our hearts are wrong.
Paul, a famous early follower of Jesus, wasn't even exempt from this. In fact, in writing to the Christians in Rome, he recognized this very struggle within himself.
"I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate." (Romans 7:15 NLT)
This battle is one we can all relate to. Caught up doing the very thing we wished we didn't. Our battle may not make the news headlines or even be one that turns heads, but it's still a struggle. It's one that, if it festers too long or grows too big, will lead to even greater consequences.
Paul later explains where this battle comes from. He says a couple of verses later:
"And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can't. I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway." (Romans 7:18-19 NLT)
Here lies one of the important truths to being a follower of Jesus: we must first recognize that we have an inherently sinful nature. While this is hard to want to accept, it shows our need for a savior, someone to make us right.
Jesus is the one who makes us right.
Paul even says this in the very same chapter:
"Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 7:24-25 NLT)
2. address your thoughts.
In 2 Samuel 13:1-22, we find a very dark story in the Bible. We are told of a man named Amnon who sexually assaults his sister Tamar. What began as a desperate way to show his love for her quickly turned into a hatred toward her.
In fact, he even told his friend, "I am in love with Tamar" (2 Samuel 13:4). After the horrific rape, the following verse says, "Then suddenly Amnon's love turned to hate, and he hated her even more than he loved her" (2 Samuel 13:15)
What changed? What caused Amnon to—out of "love"—rape his sister and then throw her out? What he thought would have one conclusion ends with him being killed by Tamar's brother just two years later.
Every action has a consequence. And every action first starts with a thought.
Amnon was lovestruck so much by Tamar that he was like a high school teenager who had his first crush. He couldn't even get out of bed because of how much Tamar was on his mind.
It was his thoughts that dominated him. They led him to get advice from a friend which then led to his infamous plan.
While from our perspective his plan was a horrible act, he did not see it that way at the time.
Often, our thoughts can become so cloudy that we come up with some pretty dark plans. Those plans lead to horrible actions which have terrible consequences.
Throughout the story, we see how this formula really impacts our lives and ultimately feeds the consequences we face.
THOUGHTS → ACTIONS → CONSEQUENCES
3. apply some boundaries.
Jesus recognized this problem that we all face. During his famous "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 5, he addresses the sin of adultery. What I find most interesting is that he calls out the thought, not even the actual physical and visible action.
"But I say to you, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:28 NLT
It is our thoughts that can be the real battle.
We can easily justify our thoughts, as well as what we put into them.
"Watching this video will only enhance my marriage."
"This show or movie is just that—a show or movie. It won't impact what I do."
"This video game is no big deal."
"It was just a thought. I don't have to worry about it."
We often find ourselves justifying our thoughts. We make them okay. Yet, Jesus makes it clear that they aren't. What we think about influences what we do.
That is why boundaries are so important.
In fact, Jesus says, "If your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away."
While he is using a strong illustration, the point is so critical for us. If something we are watching is causing us to think sinful thoughts, cut it out.
If the environment we are in is making us battle with temptations that we know would be harmful to give into, cut the environment out.
What we think about really influences our behaviors.
If we want to truly help shine the light of Jesus into this world—if we want to be the salt that Jesus calls us to be to the earth—then we must fill ourselves with things that reflect Christ while cutting out the things that darken our thinking and cloud our minds.
What is one thing that is holding you back or clouding your thoughts? Cut it out of your life today. Right now.