Sunday, February 21, 2016

On popes and politicians and the requirements for being a Christian

Apparently the Pope does not think Donald Trump is a Christian. 

I would have to agree with the Pope that Mr. Trump does not show much evidence of being a Christian – but not for the reason he states. While I disagree with Mr. Trump’s policy on immigration, and wonder what his policies are in regard to anything he supposedly supports, political opinions do not make a person a Christian, nor do they guarantee someone is not a Christian. 

As I have said before in this blog – your political opinions will not save you.

Be that as it may, I think the Pope misunderstands the requirements for being a Christian.

Sinner : The first requirement for being a Christian is to be a sinner. This is the easiest qualification to meet as we are all conceived in sin. Sinning comes naturally to us. 

Needy: Not needy as requiring more food, money, or attention. Christians must understand their need for a Savior. If we do not recognize our sin, we do not see a need for a Savior. We instead begin to think we can save ourselves by living a good life. It is not that God waits for us to recognize our need. It is that the lack of this need turns us away from God. 

Faith: Christians need faith. Not a faith of our own making, but faith found in the Word and Sacraments. We need a faith given and nurtured by the Spirit. An additional aspect to being needy is that we cannot even manufacture our own belief.

Redemption:  Because the only thing we don’t need is sin, we do need someone to live a perfect life and take our sin upon Himself. We need the Son of God to die and rise again on our behalf.

Here is the Trump statement that makes me doubt his Christianity:

Did you see what he did there? He sidesteps the question about asking for forgiveness by assuring his followers that he tries to do nothing bad. Hmm.
Given the sheer meanness of the campaign, this is probably the nicest thing that Trump has said to date. Perhaps the Pope approves of this statement, I don't know. 

However, this statement is not Christian because it is not needy. It is spoken by a man who thinks he can save himself in the same way he has remade his fortune after each bankruptcy.

Christianity is not about the art of the deal. It is about the perfect love. It is about supreme sacrifice. It is about life-giving faith. 

It is not about us.

But, it is for us.

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6: 22-23, ESV

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Mercy is a word often repeated in liturgy and frequently used in casual discussion. It is a small word, easy to say, but, challenging to mean. It is an essential word to the Christian Faith.

May faiths are all about advice and requirements, but do not include unearned gifts, blessings, or attention. Participants are told that their lives will be better if they follow rules, guidelines, or the wise sayings of learned leaders. These faiths assume that perfect practice is possible and will achieve all that is needed.

Christianity is just the opposite. 

Certainly we have rules for living; rules that if followed, make for a better life. We also have the habit of collecting writings of leaders. We pour over these writings in an attempt to better understand God’s Word.

But, there is a stark difference between Christianity and other faiths. We accept that there is no such thing as a perfect practice of the Christian faith. In fact, even our attempt to follow rules, our attempt to believe and trust, even these actions prove only to separate us from our goal.

We are undeserving, we are contemptible, we are failures as followers of Christ.

And yet there is mercy.

Mercy is not a simple blessing or gift. It is not a random act of kindness on the part of God. Mercy is unequivocally undeserved – but given anyway.

For an action to count as true mercy it must go to someone who not only does not deserve kindness, but in fact has earned punishment. Mercy is compassion and forbearance shown to an offender. Mercy is not only a one-time act, it is an ongoing act.

It is a compassionate treatment for those of us who live in a distress of our own making.

Mercy is how we feel, how we know, how we experience, God’s forgiveness and unconditional love.

The second chapter of Ephesians has much to offer in the way of understanding mercy.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2: 8-10, ESV

God created us, we turned from Him, and still He saves us. He shows mercy in the act of the death and resurrection of His Son. And He shows mercy in His preparation for our lives.

And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2: 17-18, ESV

The thought of mercy often reminds us of the death row inmate granted a last minute reprieve. The mercy God gives us is more than the gift of life or freedom. It is the gift of peace for the duration of our life. God does more than open the prison gates and send us on our way, free from much-deserved punishment. 

God walks with us in mercy and peace.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2: 19-22, ESV

The mercy granted by God is a perfect mercy and the perfect answer to our grief and suffering. We are His children. We are members of the household of God. And in an important and comforting sense, we are at the mercy of a loving and perfect God.

Live Lent.

Live always.

Live mercy.