James on Justice (An Appeal for Classless Christianity) James 1:12-2:7

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Here are some sound-bytes from my audio podcast on these verses quoted here to entice you to listen the brief teaching in the series I’m doing on Classless Christianity.

The “classless” kind of Christianity is the kind where rich and poor can look each other in the eye as brothers. It’s the kind where the haves and have nots coexist in mutuality, where each has something to share with the other…

Classless Christianity is not a one way street where the wealthy paternalistically give to the poor and the poor have nothing to offer the rich.

We’re told that “as iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another”…  it’s not like one “class” of people do all the sharpening of all the other classes, who exist just to be sharpened… 

The pollutants that we inhale everyday from the world’s atmosphere include the toxins of pride, power, greed, graft, and self-indulgence…

A lot of Christians are pretty much only about sin-management. They work hard at not being worldly. They might not “smoke or chew or kiss girls who do” but make very little difference in the world and have very little chance of leaving it a better place than the way they found it…

“Real religion” is not only watching your mouth but also watching out for people who need special help, i.e. the least, the last, and the lost… Continue reading

Contemplation

 

Morning Contemplation

I’ve always been weak on waiting, not just waiting on God, but waiting on––or for––just about anyone or anything. If there’s such a thing as a “gift of waiting” I either didn’t get that one or I did but I buried it somewhere along the line so as not to have to use it.

My friend, Stuart must’ve sensed this when he gave me a copy of Thomas Merton’s book, The Seeds of Contemplation. I’m now a Merton fan. He was a pretty smart guy, but more, a guy who spent a lot of time waiting on God. That’s sort of the job description of a Trappist monk I think. They’re professional waiters (so to speak).

Anyway, on a prayer retreat last month I read the book while listening to 1970s Jesus albums (yes, the vinyl kind) that my host left in the garage of his house. The two seemed to go together somehow. Continue reading

James on Justice (An Appeal for Classless Christianity) James 1:9-11

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I’m doing a commentary through James’ Epistle with an emphasis on justice and the kind of Christianity that sees everyone the same––a classless Christianity. I put the highlights here in the blog and then unpack it in my podcast.

James 1:9-11 is the key passage for this episode/post:

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. (NIV)

“Any of God’s people who are poor should be glad that he thinks so highly of them. But any of the rich should be glad when he makes them humble.” (CEV)

James learned Classless Christianity from his ½ Brother, Jesus, the King of the upside down kingdom, and Master of the counterintuitive…

God is partial to the poor in the same way that firefighters are “partial” to houses on fire…

In the world, some are disdained and others acclaimed for their socioeconomic station, but for us those distinctions are irrelevant. Christ annihilates classism… Continue reading

What Would Bonhoeffer Do?

 

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Most Christians consider pastor, theologian, activist, and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, to have been a great man. He spent two years in prison for joining the plot to assassinate the Führer and was executed by the Nazi regime at the Flossenbürg concentration camp on April 9, 1945, just two weeks before the United States liberated the camp.

His resolute conviction was that…

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

In 1934 a group of German church leaders saw the disaster brewing and developed the “Theological Declaration of Barmen” to warn Christians to withstand the challenges of the Nazi party and the theological accommodations that the German Church accepted from the regime. In the declaration they rebuked the so-called “German Christians,” a popular movement that saw no conflict between Christianity and the ideals of Hitler’s National Socialism. Continue reading

James on Justice (An Appeal for Classless Christianity) Introduction Part 2

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I invite you to the series of podcasts through the Book of James I’m developing. To whet your appetite here in the blog I’m providing sound bytes of the audio episodes. The current 15-minute episode is Part 2 of 2 introductory remarks on the epistle. Part 1 is here. Enjoy!

Of all the New Testament letters, I find great value in understanding the life situation of the author, James, the half-brother of Jesus. As such, you might imagine how much he picked up from his big Brother’s teaching and lifestyle, if only at the dinner table each night, especially on the topic of money, power, and classism…

He learned from Jesus that Christianity and Classism clash! Continue reading

One-Scary-To-Pray-Prayer

 

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Some friends and I go to Golden Gate Park every week, sit on what is historically known as “Hippie Hill” just above the “Janis Joplin Tree” to worship and pray for our friends in the park and beyond. Yes, this is the very place you saw on the news where thousands converge on 4/20 to smoke as much weed as their lungs and brain cells can stand! The antics of that convocation notwithstanding, we always are blessed to have a rich time of prophetic intercession for some of the lostest of the lost, people that we deeply care about.

Recently one of the young sisters in the group called “The Outer Circle” whipped out the Catholic prayer called “The Litany of Humility.” (I say “young,” but everyone in this group of firebrand Jesus followers is young compared to me.)

I had never heard it before let alone ever prayed it. It’s one of those scary-to-pray-prayers, that when I pray it I only partly mean what I’m praying. It’s scary because if God ever answered it I’m not sure what would be left of me––the me that I’ve sort of settled for. It’s scary to think of how far I have to go in the quest to be like Jesus, who “had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.” (Philippians 2)

Anyway, pray at your own risk! Continue reading

James on Justice (An Appeal for Classless Christianity) Intro Part 1

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Check out the series of audio podcasts through the Book of James that I’m in the process of producing. Introduction Part 1 is only 16 minutes long and fills in some of my skeleton thoughts here. Thus all the “…”

In a nutshell, James is about how Classism and Christianity clash…

“Classism,” according to the dictionary, is discrimination on the basis of social class or economic status.” It’s a system set up to benefit the upper class at the expense of the lower class. James saw it in the Church and by the Church, and he wasn’t having it…

“Classless Christianity” is the kind that treats everybody basically the same, where we preach and practice an egalitarian treatment of all humans (all divine image bearers), rich and poor, black and white, powerful and weak…

Most of us Bible fans would say the key to James is faith that works––“Don’t just say it, do it!” It’s true that he pulled no punches to make his point that a do nothing Christianity is no Christianity at all. But James had on his mind, a particular kind of good works that give evidence of saving faith. He hated theoretical faith but replaced it with something much more than theoretical works. He had some specific things in mind that demonstrate authentic Christianity, the kind that eschews classism…

Christians, just as prejudiced and bigoted along economic lines? “No way!” says James…

True religion looks after orphans and widows… You don’t get to show favoritism to the rich person over the poor at the church front door… If a brother or sister doesn’t have enough clothes or food and you do nothing about it, “What good is it?”… Some of you live in luxury and self-indulgence while some can’t even get a decent wage for their day’s labor…

James is bold to speak to the powerful rich and the vulnerable poor, to the corporate kings of Wall Street and those who live on the street. He tells us that the only brand of Christianity that God accepts clashes with cultural classism…

Check out the podcast…


BTW, I’m writing a book on evangelism. If you have any input for me, I’m all ears! And if you haven’t read my memoir, the profits of which benefit Freedom House, what are you waitin’ for?