When I was in college, I took a public speaking class. One of the last assignments of the semester was to make a 10-minute persuasive speech on a self-selected topic. While most other students chose to do their speeches on abortion and capital punishment, I chose the topic of “oppositional culture” in the African American community. For those of you who don’t know what that is, oppositional culture refers to the way in which black people resist conformity to many aspects of the dominant (i.e., white) culture to avoid being seen as “acting white” by their peers. It is a very controversial theory that has too often been used to overgeneralize the experience of black Americans and blame them for low social and economic achievement.
I delivered this speech to a mixed group of peers at a major urban university. It was probably the dumbest and most frightening thing I’ve ever done. On my list of life regrets, it’s probably in the top five, despite two black classmates thanking me afterward. The problem was, I had the wrong frame of context for truly understanding such a complex topic. At the time, I didn’t know about racial profiling or wage discrimination or redlining or “white flight” or the Tuskegee experiment or urban lead poisoning or historic attacks on black churches. If I had, it would have been a very different speech.
But as scary and offensive as it was, that speech was a major first step in my attempt to understand racism and race relations in America. I now believe that I had to stand up in front of my peers and let my ignorant words dribble out of my ignorant mouth so that the truth could find room to register in my brain. I had to rile people who would get in my face and say, “You don’t get it” in order for me to ‘get it.’ And to be honest, I’m still in the process of “getting it.”
Joseph is thrown into the well.
My next post on the Biblical Counseling Movement will address problems in the movement’s theology. But before I delve into that, another context post is called for. In this post, I want to talk about forgiveness and reconciliation.
Much like repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation are often deeply misunderstood terms. Many people, including some biblical counselors, don’t draw a distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation. They believe that reconciliation is proof that true forgiveness has occurred, and if you aren’t reconciled to the one who hurt you, you haven’t forgiven.
Which, according to the Bible itself, is totally inaccurate. Continue reading
Because my series on biblical counseling has been so intense, I wanted to take a brief break to talk about repentance. Given some of the BCM material I will be covering in future posts, I think this topic fits in nicely.
The Church talks a lot about repentance, as well it should. It is one of Christianity’s cornerstones, recalling that Christ came “not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). However, whenever the word “repentance” is tossed around, I sometimes feel a bit like Indigo Montoya from Princess Bride:
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
So, today, I want to talk about what repentance means and what it looks like. Continue reading
I accepted Jesus Christ as savior at 5 years old. I remember the moment so well. I came running down the sidewalk toward my father as he picked me up from school that day, shouting, “Daddy, I’m saved! I asked Jesus into my heart today!” I was so full of joy at knowing that no matter how dark or lonely my life became, Jesus would always be near to comfort me.
But my joyful assurance wasn’t to last.
See, I would go to church and hear ministers ask me if I was really saved. Because there was a chance I might not have been completely sincere in my confession of faith the first time around. I might have prayed the sinner’s prayer without really knowing what I was doing. I might have done it simply to impress someone or to obtain my “get out of hell free” card. I might have unknowingly “back-slidden” since then or left some sin unconfessed during that first prayer. At any rate, I had to question, question, question. Were my motives for following Christ pure? Was my life completely without sin? Was I doing everything possible to be holy? Would God find me worthy of heaven at The Judgement? I had to be sure! My eternal soul depended on it. Continue reading
I didn’t go into a lot of detail in Part 1 about the time God spoke to me. But what He did was assure me that I could take my time on my journey to spiritual freedom. See, during my whole life in the church, I was constantly led to believe that my salvation was never secure. If I sinned after asking for God’s forgiveness, then my chance at eternal life was taken away. The rapture could happen at any moment, and only those whose sins were confessed and forgiven would go to heaven. The worst part was, almost ANYTHING could be a sin: a bad thought, a negative attitude, a swear word…even watching a suggestive movie or listening to secular music. I was a young adult attending a public university while struggling with lust. How could I ever live up to that??
And God knew I couldn’t. But He still considered me His daughter. He saw the love and desire in my heart for His presence, and He honored that. It contradicted everything I had been taught about salvation. So I began to look into the scriptures for answers–specifically, the teachings of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. And that’s when I truly discovered grace:
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
However, even though I now knew that my salvation was secure, I still needed to get free. I was angry, depressed, hurting, and a slave to manipulative relationships. I knew I couldn’t willingly continue in this lifestyle and still call myself a Christian. Continue reading