disintegrated person running

The Need to Be Integrated

Faith Recovery Podcast
Faith Recovery Podcast
The Need to Be Integrated

In this episode, we talk about salvation as the need to be integrated.

Salvation is from our corrupt society. That means Jesus sets us free from subjugation to the dynamics of interpersonal control. But corruption doesn’t reside in society except as it inhabits each member. Everyone’s personhood is degrading under the corrosive influence of sin. The need to be integrated has been observed by psychologists as well as theologians. To be saved is to be cured of personal deterioration.

Episode Notes for “The Need to be Integrated”

Salvation requires a reversal of the corruption spreading within each person.

In our vernacular, we almost exclusively use the word, “corruption,” to describe self-serving governments or government officials. When someone describes a politician as corrupt, we can imagine them taking bribes or kickbacks in exchange for special treatment. Political corruption is an abuse of power as well as a moral deficiency within the participants. We think of corruption as a type of white-collar crime, but that’s not the essential meaning of the word.

The English word, “corrupt,” came from a Latin word meaning “to rot or decay.”[i] That’s also the root meaning of the New Testament Greek word for “corrupt.” The ancients didn’t know about microbes; they only knew that something invisible broke down the dead bodies of humans and animals. Corruption started small and invisibly overtook formerly living tissue.

Even though we’ve lost this word picture when we speak of political corruption, the term retains its basic meaning. Political corruption happens in secret and undermines the integrity of governments. When corruption fully spreads through an entire government the society edges near collapse. Bribes are dishonest and immoral, but they’re also corrosive to the fiber of society.

When the Bible talks about corruption on an individual level it describes personal decay. It’s easy for unbelievers to dismiss “sin” as a religious construct, but the psychological fracturing that results from moral compromise can’t be denied. As far as I know, everyone values integrity, but real integrity requires complete consistency between the self we project and our private selves. Even the atheist, Sigmund Freud, observed the existence of competing drives toward selfishness and responsibility within every person.[ii] As long as the “Id” and the “Superego” pull the “Ego” in opposite directions every person undergoes some level of personal disintegration.

People who recognize the need to be integrated often seek out religion to bolster their virtuous side.

An alcoholic joining AA is a case in point. Step One in the AA Twelve Steps is, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” As anyone who’s been in recovery will tell you, that first step is first for a reason. Most people live in some degree of disintegration, but they’ve learned to rationalize it away. I once had a woman come to the church where I work asking for money as her body convulsed under delirium tremens. She was clearly lying when she said she wanted the money to pay her water bill. Hoping for a moment of honesty, I asked her, “What do you see when you look in the mirror?”

She responded, “I see a basically good person.”

Brennan Manning in his seminal book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, tells the story of a man named Max who had checked into rehab. When one of the members of his group therapy circle asked him to give an example of a time when he had been unkind to one of his kids Max responded:

“Well, I was as little thoughtless with my nine-year-old daughter last Christmas Eve.”

“What happened?”

“I don’t remember. I just get this heavy feeling whenever I think about it.”

To get the details, the therapist called Max’s wife and put her on speakerphone. Over the phone, she told the group that Max had taken his daughter out to buy some shoes for Christmas. On the way back home, he stopped by a bar and told his daughter to wait for him because he would be right out. She went on:

“My husband met some old Army buddies in the tavern. Swept up in the euphoria over the reunion, he lost track of time, purpose, and everything else. He came out of the Cork ‘n’ Bottle at midnight. He was drunk. The motor had stopped running and the car windows were frozen shut. Debbie was badly frostbitten on both ears and on her fingers. When we got her to the hospital, the doctors had to operate. They amputated the thumb and forefinger on her right hand. She will be deaf for the rest of her life.”

Max appeared to be having a coronary. He struggled to his feet making jerky, uncoordinated movements. His glasses flew to the right and his pipe to the left. He collapsed on all fours and sobbed hysterically.[iii]

We humans have a mighty ability to deny the distance between our self-image and the person we really are. Sadly, that distance continues to widen the longer we ignore it. Maybe that’s why so few committed romantic relationships endure. We love the people who believe the lies we tell ourselves. Once they spend a couple of years really getting to know us, though, they begin to reflect the image of our true selves. Rather than face the lie, we reject our partner and move on to someone else who doesn’t know us quite as well.

We love the people who believe the lies we tell ourselves.

stylized image of shadow silhouette drinking from glass bottle

We want to believe we’re at least close to as good as we should be, and we want others to believe it too. This personal dishonesty creates a code of silence that strongly discourages interpersonal honesty.

Even if we must confront someone with their shortcomings, we usually understate the problem. Take the wording of the AA Step One as an example: “We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol…” That’s never been true for anyone. Alcohol is an inanimate substance that has never had the least power over anyone. A truer statement would be, “We admitted that we were powerless to control ourselves…” As hard as it must be for an alcoholic to repeat the wording of Step One, it also excuses their actions. It makes the alcoholic a passive victim of something outside of themselves.

Could it be that some people benefit from the help of a higher power because one exists? Maybe only God can fix human brokenness.

And yet, even an approximate admission of inner corruption has value.

In the case of AA, that Step One admission leads to Step Two: “(We) Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  To the chagrin, I’m sure, of the skeptical community, a 2020 Stanford School of Medicine study concluded that AA is the “most effective path to alcohol abstinence.”[iv] Could it be that some people benefit from the help of a higher power because one exists? Maybe only God can fix human brokenness.

Someone might object that AA isn’t Christian. But, isn’t God free to help someone who calls on him without fully understanding his nature? Really, those are the only people who ever call on him. No, AA isn’t Christian, but that’s why it doesn’t work better than it does. AA approximates Christian conversion by calling on addicts to become poor in spirit and to call on God. AA fails in that it remains a system of rules which can never bring a person from “recovering” to “recovered.”

AA only has one rule, “don’t drink,” but that’s one rule too many. That one rule forever ties the AA member to her addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous celebrates what a person hasn’t done and for how long they haven’t done it. But what about all the good we aspire to do? Surely a person needs to move beyond the goal of sobriety to reach their God-given purpose and potential.

Addiction is just one manifestation of the corruption within the human person. Everyone has their issues. Maybe it’s a hated habit. Or it could be serial neglect. Whatever the specifics we suffer from shame, regret, and self-loathing that indicate the disintegration of our being. Just like with AA, Christian conversion has been known to offer serious relief to many people from the oppression of their own compulsions. Also like with AA, those converts often continue to hang in the balance between bondage and freedom because of rules.

Religious people often suffer more from the need to be integrated.

Suppose a man has been unfaithful to his wife. To secure her forgiveness he might promise to go to church. A sermon one Sunday resonates with him, and he comes to faith in Christ. He becomes zealous for God and wants to read the Bible. There he discovers a whole host of sins he’s been committing. Not only should he not cheat on his wife, but he also can’t even look lustfully at a woman.[v] While he may have become a better husband on the outside, the distance between his values and his behavior has become even wider. He might be more respectable but he’s less integrated than ever before. He’s more conscientious but just as spiritually dead.

elderly person reading marked up bible

For Paul, personal corruption arose from a spiritual principle that he called, “the law of death.” The Bible describes death as the separation of the spirit from the body.[vi] Paul, like Freud, saw humans as triune, but the apostle spoke of flesh, mind/self, and spirit instead of Id, Ego, and Superego. While Freud would have spoken of the Ego pulled between the urgings of the Id and Superego, Paul spoke of the mind/self at the center of a battle royale between the flesh and the spirit.  Rather than think of this division of the self as integral to the human animal, though, Paul recognized the polarization of flesh and spirit as a kind of living death. He recognized it in himself:

I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.

(Romans 7:9-10 ESV)

This state of spiritual death clutches its victims as tightly as does physical death:

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

(Romans 7:9-10; 21-24 ESV)

As far as we know, Paul hadn’t been an especially bad man.[vii] In the immediate context of this passage he evaluates himself as “wretched” based on the victimless sin of lust. His wretchedness didn’t arise so much from the damage his sin caused but from his helplessness against it. He was a respected religious man who was disintegrating according to spiritual law just as a corpse decays according to natural law.

…it stands to reason, this unnamed law is the law of death. It decrees, “When I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.”

Notice there are three spiritual laws mentioned in the passage above. They are the law of God, the law of sin, and an unnamed law interacting with the other two. This law opposed Paul’s moral imperative and enslaved him to the law of sin. Since he calls his tendency to obey sin while aspiring inwardly to obey God, “death,” it stands to reason, this unnamed law is the law of death. It decrees, “When I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.”

We live under the law of death because God’s warning to Adam was, “on the day you eat from it (the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) you will die.” According to Genesis 5, Adam didn’t die physically until 930 or so years later. Did God back off his promised punishment or did Adam die in some other way on that fateful day? It looks to me like his actions and his moral center went separate ways. He did surely die according to Paul’s concept of spiritual death.

Paul saw himself as one of the walking dead.

He could think and plan and move, but his flesh would always resist his inner yearning to do right. Since his physical self, his flesh, resisted God’s spiritual law, that was the part of him that was spiritually dead. Paul walked around in a dead and decaying body. So, he cries out to be saved from “this body of death,” also known as the “dead body.”

There’s a fungus in the rainforests of Brazil referred to as “the zombie-ant fungus.” Here’s how it got that name:

When the fungus infects a carpenter ant, it grows through the insect’s body, draining it of nutrients and hijacking its mind. Over the course of a week, it compels the ant to leave the safety of its nest and ascend a nearby plant stem. It stops the ant at a height of 25 centimeters—a zone with precisely the right temperature and humidity for the fungus to grow. It forces the ant to permanently lock its mandibles around a leaf. Eventually, it sends a long stalk through the ant’s head, growing into a bulbous capsule full of spores. And because the ant typically climbs a leaf that overhangs its colony’s foraging trails, the fungal spores rain down onto its sisters below, zombifying them in turn.[viii]

This phenomenon almost stretches credulity. It’s both fascinating and horrifying in equal measure but would surely tip the balance toward the latter if it took place in anything larger than an ant. And yet, it accurately illustrates the spiritual death endemic to every human since the first of us became self-aware. Paul was compelled by sin to act against his will in ways that were harmful to the human collective.

The zombie-ant fungus further illustrates our need to be saved. If that ant could talk as she was ascending the plant stem, what would she say? I think she would share Paul’s plea – “Someone, save me from this dead body!” Neither the ant nor Paul suffered from a lack of willpower. The problem in both cases was a loss of executive function. An alien presence animates the hapless carpenter ant while leaving its brain untouched. The law of sin animated Paul even as his mind longed for the law of God. Paul was no more able to overcome sin than the infected ant could refuse to climb.

If Paul needed saving, what about the rest of us?

See if you relate to Paul’s experience of waking death:

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.  So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

(Romans 7:15-20 ESV)

If you’ve ever done something you’ve regretted, doesn’t that suggest something foreign within you is influencing your actions? We even tend to undermine our own best interests. Forbidden fruit makes us salivate while we despise wholesome fare. I’ve personally never met anyone who subscribes to “Do evil,” as a mission statement, and yet people still do evil. Doesn’t everyone want to be basically good? So, how does society continue to corrupt? Because despite our best intentions we still climb that stem and rain down sinful spores on family members, friends, and acquaintances.

We need to be saved from corruption because we’re dead and dead people can’t save themselves. All they can do on their own is rot and stink. Self-help strategies might mask the smell, but they don’t stop the decay. On our best days, we might overcome one besetting sin only to find three others pop up in its place. Religion can’t save us because its very prohibitions intensify the effects of death on us.

We, like Paul, need a “who” to save us. We need a deliverer who’s greater than Moses because we need to be set free not only from political and social bondage but from existential bondage.

“The Need to Be Integrated” References:

[i] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/corrupt

[ii] Sigmund Freud on the three selves

[iii] The Ragamuffin Gospel p. 127-129

[iv] https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2020/03/alcoholics-anonymous-most-effective-path-to-alcohol-abstinence.html

[v] Matthew 5:27-30

[vi] Ecclesiastes 12:6-7p; James 2:26

[vii] By his accounts he had been exemplary according to Philippians 3, Galatians 1, and Acts 23:1.

[viii] https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/11/how-the-zombie-fungus-takes-over-ants-bodies-to-control-their-minds/545864/

Free Indeed – Galatians 1:10-17

The gospel couldn’t have arisen from humans because humans don’t set each other free.

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

Everyone wants to be free, but nobody likes freedom.

We don’t like to be compelled or constrained. Something in humans will resist external control when we perceive it.1 We’ll even do things we don’t really want to do just because someone else has prohibited it. Take for instance the prevalence of tobacco use among teens2 despite its unpleasant taste and dysphoric effects.

Even as we buck perceived authority3 we fall under the sway of cultural conformity.4 Have you ever seen a rebellious teen smoking alone? We social animals instinctively know that without these controls, our societies will go off the rails. We desperately want to be free, but we don’t want to be alone. We need to be part of a society, but society can only function by inhibiting individual freedoms.

History catalogues governments and cultures formed and punctuated by coups and revolutions. Discontent builds beneath the confines of custom. Corruption corrodes credibility. Restless new generations aspire to recast society without their ancestors’ failings. When these tensions erupt they blow apart centuries-old conventions in a matter of months. These dynamics can be assumed from an historical viewpoint, but what happens next has spiritual implications.

Every revolution enthrones new oppressors. Yesterday’s edgy fashion trend becomes today’s cookie cutter look. Today’s social justice warrior will be tomorrow’s defender of the status quo.

The Who’s Pete Townsend penned some nearly-inspired lyrics about this phenomenon back in 1971:

There's nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight5

More prosaically, the clear-eyed Saul Alinsky observed:

The Haves usually establish laws and judges devoted to maintaining the status quo; since any effective means of changing the status quo are usually illegal and/or unethical in the eyes of the establishment, Have-Nots, from the beginning of time, have been compelled to appeal to “a law higher than man-made law.” Then when the Have-Nots achieve success and become the Haves, they are in the position of trying to keep what they have and their morality shifts with their change of location in the power pattern.

Alinsky, Saul. Rules for Radicals (pp. 42-43)

To document this tendency, Alinsky cites two stirring examples. First, the anticlimax to Ghandi’s political and moral triumph over British colonial rule in India:

Eight months after securing independence, the Indian National Congress outlawed passive resistance and made it a crime. It was one thing for them to use the means of passive resistance against the previous Haves, but now in power they were going to ensure that this means would not be used against them!

Alinsky, Saul. Rules for Radicals (p. 43)

Then, Alinsky points his iconoclastic spotlight closer to home:

Again Sam Adams, the firebrand radical of the American Revolution, provides a clear example. Adams was foremost in proclaiming the right of revolution. However, following the success of the American Revolution it was the same Sam Adams who was foremost in demanding the execution of those Americans who participated in Shays’ Rebellion, charging that no one had a right to engage in revolution against us!

Alinsky, Saul. Rules for Radicals (p. 43)

All of this suggests that no matter how frequently or vigorously we shoot for freedom, our loaded dice turn up oppression. This perennial disparity seems to indicate something endemic within the human species. That we keep dismantling unjust regimes only to reinvent oppression suggests that we’re unaware of the real problem.

The church has historically oppressed the liberated.

Jesus himself came resounding through the ages with the timeless promise, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”6 His church, tasked with dispensing that freedom, shortly became western civilization’s arch oppressor.7 Earthly kings might control their subjects’ actions, but only religious leaders can presume to lay claim on their hearts and minds. Politicians might put people to death for murder or treason, but priests execute them for what they believe.

Christendom didn’t create this kind of control; it just baptized it. Early believers in Christ had to defy the Roman imperial cult to confess that Jesus is Lord.8 Through this surrender to “the obedience of faith,”9 those first Christians rose above the reach of earthly authority. Then, the annexation of the church known as The Edict of Milan, paved the way for the persecuted to become the new persecutors.

Every religion, even historic Christianity, exists firmly within the world system and operates under the basic principles of control.

But Paul insisted that the gospel demands freedom.

It must be either that Paul had engineered a bait and switch or that the church has concocted a different gospel – one that conforms to human need for control. In this post, I plan to demonstrate that Paul’s gospel precluded human power dynamics at their root. This feature of the gospel argues strongly for its divine source.

Every religion is just another context for human control.

Photo by Jan Kroon on Pexels.com

Paul had previously served God for human approval and became God’s enemy.

Religious activities are almost always mediated through and witnessed by other people. This feature of religion makes it hard to know our own motives. Paul begins to probe into his own history with hypocrisy in Galatians 1:10-13:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 

(English Standard Version)

Paul assessed his own goals in writing the Galatian letter. Were his words borne out of obedience to God or a desire to please people? Was he protecting the establishment or was he functioning as God’s emissary?

We may wonder why Paul bothers to address such a possibility. Surely someone claiming to serve God must be aiming to serve God. But that’s not always the case.

In church staff meetings, I’ve heard Christian leaders say, “Everyone has mixed motives. It’s best just to do the right things and let your motives catch up.” Our ministries especially to youth intentionally employed man-pleasing. The goal was to have a youth leader who possessed enough “cool” factor to attract the popular kids. Then, he or she would train the popular kids to influence the rest of the group. Our senior pastor called it, “positive peer pressure.” To the question, “Are we pleasing human beings or God?” we probably would have responded, “Both.”

Paul doesn’t allow for such equivocation. He had to pick one because the two are antithetical – “If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

If you’ve had only positive church experiences and can think back over a litany of mentors in your life, you might struggle to understand how this could be so. To appreciate Paul’s absolutist position, turn your attention to that little word, “still.” For Paul, this wasn’t an axiom like, “No one can serve two masters.”10 Galatians 1:10 is the beginning of his autobiography. Paul had to repent of his group loyalty before he could serve Christ.

We might expect this sort of assessment from a former gang member, but Paul hadn’t been a part of such an openly immoral group. Skip down to vs. 13a, “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism…” Paul had been a citizen in Israel among God’s chosen people. In another place he gives his impressive religious pedigree:

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 

Philippians 3:4b-6 (ESV)

How many people do you know who could call themselves, “blameless”? Before his conversion Paul had lived with complete integrity. His problem hadn’t been the law11 but the method of its enforcement. Even though he had zealously followed a religious code, he had ultimately been under the world system. The difference between Saul of Tarsus and Paul the Apostle wasn’t the God he claimed to serve, the values he espoused, or even his religious practice; it was in the influence other people had over his life.

Saul of Tarsus could not have become a follower of Christ because he, though highly religious, was the slave of human approval. His religious opinions and actions, as we will see, were shaped by his group rather than by a personal response to God. It has been said that when you mix politics and religion, you get politics. Paul would say that all religion is mixed. While the world’s power brokers artfully manipulate religious sensibilities, they recoil from the true gospel of God. Why? Because the kingdom which arises from its proclamation shimmers on a hill beyond their reach.

Here’s how Christ described his kingdom to a politician who was under political pressure from a bloc of power-mad priests:

Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’

John 18:36

God gave the Mosaic law, but he left its interpretation and enforcement to people. And people are fallen. True to form, these lawyers manipulated the law for their own gain.12 Power corrupts and corruption spreads. Manhandled religion breeds the kind of monumental hypocrisy that killed the Son of God. And so, Paul’s “previous way of life in Judaism” consisted of “intensely persecuting the church of God.”

Paul had followed the highest possible standard taught to him by the best possible mentors and became the worst possible sinner.13 His redemption could be nothing short of supernatural.

Paul, the Jew, needed to be saved just like the pagan Galatians.

Back in verse 4, Paul wrote that he and the Galatians had both been saved from the same thing – this present evil age. But how could they both be saved from the same social environment when Jews and Gentiles maintained separate communities? The Jewish perception of the difference between the two communities can be seen in Paul’s own words to Peter in the next chapter:

We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles…

Galatians 2:15

First century Jews used the words, “sinners,” and “Gentiles,” interchangeably.

As a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” Paul probably thought the gentile Galatians needed to be saved from their society by joining his. His encounter with the living Jesus had shown him that he needed to be saved from his society as much as the Galatians needed to be saved from theirs.

How could this be when the two cultures looked so very different?

There’s a saying that goes, “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it just may be a duck.” While the logic may be questionable, the so-called duck test, often cuts through labels to practical realities. In this autobiographical section of Galatians, Paul cuts through the superficial distinctions between Jew and Gentile to show that everyone serves the same awkward water fowl. As with the metaphorical duck, the present evil age can be recognized by its patterns of behavior.

Consider how these patterns of social control manifested in Paul’s pre-Christian life as described in Galatians 1:13-14:

  • “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism…”
    • Tribalism is the foundation of social control.
    • When people identify with a group, they implicitly agree to conform to the beliefs and norms which make that group distinct from others.
    • Tribalism rewards insider compliance with guaranteed support and with affirmations of superiority over those who are without.
    • Tribalism is almost unavoidable since even the most inclusive groups will always find “bigots” to distinguish themselves from.
  • “…how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it…”
    • Coercion maintains the authority of the powerful.
    • Every society anywhere must spell out the negative consequences of nonconformity. These prescriptions are known as “law.”
    • Coercion might be as mild as the threat of financial penalty or as severe as imprisonment, torture and death.
    • Even smaller societies such as marriages, families, and institutions use coercion to maintain control.
  • “…I was advancing in Judaism…”
    • Ambition can provide persistent motivation even without enforcement.
    • This may sound like an internal motivator, but it is awakened and shaped by society’s definition of success.
    • In a religious context, I’ve been awed (in both senses of the word) by the achievement system in the Mormon Church. All Mormons, but especially the youth, know just how well they’re doing at Mormonism through clearly defined and celebrated performance goals.
  • “…beyond many my own age…”
    • What fun is ambition, though, without Competition?
    • Sure, achieving a goal can be satisfying, but it’s so much more exhilarating when we do it faster than anyone of our peers.
    • Our common association of competition with sports might be tempt us to trivialize its negative potential. But competition makes us perceive sports as anything but trivial. Off the field, competition in the workplace or for romantic attention, can crumble personal integrity.
    • We Americans have become so driven by competition that we assume it’s a virtue. I once heard a radio ad for a church-based Christian school that boasted it taught “truth, righteousness, and competition.”
  • “…among my people…”
    • Just as competition enhances ambition, so Honor and Shame drive competition.
    • An Olympic Gold Medal is worth around $900. That’s not much for all of the sacrifice elite athletes have to make to win one. So why do it? The answer is obviously for the honor of standing on that top podium. Just as ambition becomes more exhilarating in competition, so winning becomes that much more appealing in front of a huge audience.
    • As the withdrawal of Simone Biles from the competition illustrates, the avoidance of shame can be just as powerful (not to mention more prevalent) motivator.
    • The full extent of honor and shame’s power can be seen in the ritual suicides and honor killings which have historically (and also recently) taken place in eastern cultures.
  • “…and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”
    • G.K. Chesterton, the brilliant author and social commentator, once said that Tradition is just democracy over time. Though he was a committed Christian, I don’t think he’d recognized that the collective opinion of fallen people is still antagonistic to God.
    • I’m all for learning from the failures and successes of previous generations, but tradition turns seniority into infallibility.
    • In my experience, tradition is more about predecessors grasping at godhood than descendants inheriting wisdom.
    • Good education says, “Here’s what we learned; now build on it.” Tradition says, “Here’s what we decided; now live by it.”

I’m sure this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s enough for us to assemble an accurate duck test to recognize that the present evil age operates in every relationship, family, friend group, organization, and nation. Every person in history was born under its domain because every social system operates on these dynamics. We may resent the oppression when we perceive it, but we’ll never be able to free ourselves because there’s no place to go.

Even if we could establish a free society, it would immediately begin to spoil. Why? Because in this world-wide prison, we’re not just the inmates; we’re also the wardens. Chances are, until this very moment, you’ve probably known these control tactics by their popular designation, “social skills.” They’re not just how we get used; they’re also how we get by. Like with trustees in a concentration camp we learn to survive by siding with our jailors. In time, our complicity wins us special favors which we come to treasure more than our own souls.

Only God can set us free.

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

God himself must dismantle our man-made prison.

Paul’s description of his previous way of life under Judaism looks pretty hopeless. He was an enemy of God and humankind while finding human approval and professing to serve God. The only hope there could be for such a deluded individual comes in his next three words to the Galatians, “But when God…” As with Israel in Egypt, only God could bring Paul and the Galatians out of slavery. This time, though, the Lord’s mighty hand would bring his people out from under the invisible lash of social control.

Let’s consider Galatians 1:15-17 phrase by phrase to see how God’s action through Christ liberates everyone who believes:

  • “…who set me apart from my mother’s womb…”
    • Election ends Tribalism.
    • Paul’s writings about predestination and election were more pastoral than theological. God elects individuals apart from any group affiliation.
    • According to Romans 4:17, God predestined people from many nations to become children of Abraham by including them in his covenant outside of time.
    • The doctrine of election does away with the insider/outsider distinction of tribalism because God’s kingdom includes every kind of person, even those who have yet to believe. Nobody in the kingdom knows who’s in and who’s out, so it’s incumbent on us to simply love as we have opportunity.
  • “…and called me by his grace…”
    • Grace makes Coercion obsolete.
    • I can think of no more touching illustration of grace than the story of the prodigal son from Luke 15. The first time I really contemplated this story it melted me to snot and tears. What got me wasn’t the fact that the father received the son back into his home. It was the complete absence of terms or conditions. That’s not how the world works. How could this father ensure that his son wouldn’t betray him again? Surely the son would need to suffer at least a good chewing out!
    • The paradox of grace is that it not only suppresses bad behavior, but cleanses the bad behind the behavior. Brennan Manning said it this way: “Several times in my ministry people have expressed the fear that self-acceptance will abort the ongoing conversion process and lead to a life of spiritual laziness and moral laxity. Nothing could be more untrue. The acceptance of self does not mean to be resigned to the status quo. On the contrary, the more fully we accept ourselves, the more successfully we begin to grow. Love is a far better stimulus than threat or pressure.”14
    • Now you might be all for receiving grace, but remember that grace is more than a divine disposition. It’s a new social operating system. Back in vs. 6 Paul reminded the Galatians that they had been called “to live in the grace of Christ.” We can order our relationships by a system of crime and punishment (law) or a system of grace, but not both. Much more on this later.
  • “…was pleased to reveal his Son in me…”
    • Discipleship redirects Ambition and Competition
    • The gospel gives a new goal to those who believe it.
    • Paul goes into more depth on his shift in Philippians 3:7-12: “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
    • When Christ promoted us to his righteousness, he left us with nothing to chase but him. That pursuit which ends in life follows an ever descending road through identification with his suffering.15
  • “…so that I might preach him among the Gentiles…”16
    • Stewardship nullifies Honor and Shame.
    • Every child of God has been given a trust. We’re all employed in the enterprise of dispensing the word of life to everyone for whom Christ died.
    • There is no task in this enterprise that is beneath us.17
    • Any good we do, goes to his credit.18
    • He bears any rejection we face.
    • This vignette from Acts 5:40-41 illustrates the gospel transposition of honor and shame: “They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (emphasis mine NAW)
  • “…my immediate response was not to consult with any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. “
    • Calling cancels Tradition.
    • The problem of humankind is people. The surest way to pervert a person’s view of God is to insert another person in between.19 The stab of instant regret prohibited Paul from repeating past mistakes. Having been yanked out of the stream of manhandled religion, he instinctively fled human involvement.
    • Conversely, the surest way to avoid tradition is to have a personal relationship with God. Notice that Paul didn’t even want one spiritual generation to intervene.
    • Here’s the kicker. Most evangelicals would defer to “apostolic authority” as given through the New Testament and expect others to do so. Paul didn’t, and as we will see, didn’t want the Galatians to do that either.20 Even if we could interpret the New Testament with 100% accuracy, we mustn’t make adherence to it an article of faith. To do so would be to place humans (admittedly exceptional ones) between us and God.
    • Upon being baptized, Paul, like Christ before him, was driven into the desert. There’s something critical about getting alone to find God as our one thing. The more involved a person has been in church, the more they probably need to pull away. And everyone needs at least a little time each day in his or her prayer closet.21

God sets us free to participate in community.

Paul fled to the desert after his conversion, but the desert wasn’t his destination. At the end of Galatians 1:17 he tells his readers, “Later I returned to Damascus.”

I don’t know how long Paul stayed in Arabia, but it probably wasn’t more than a few weeks. Luke, Paul’s biographer, reports Paul’s conversion and his ministry in Damascus contiguously in Acts 9:17-22.

The gospel doesn’t call us to abandon the world. Any old ascetic cult can do that. The gospel calls and empowers us to live free from human influence as an open community in the midst of this present evil world.

All of this may sound wonderful, but it’s also frightening. As members of the present evil age, we not only were compelled by these methods of control, we counted on them. To be freed from them, we’ve been stripped of them. Interacting with other people can feel like being sent unarmed into an active combat zone. In fact, that’s what it is –

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.”


You know what happens to sheep among wolves, don’t you? There’s nothing in Scripture or Christian history to suggest any exception to the usual outcome. Christ died to set us free. We too, must die to our illusions, affections, ambitions, allegiances, expectations, and even existence on this planet if we’re going to remain free. This is why humans while clamoring to be free, secretly hate radical freedom and would never think to release it upon the world.

And so we circle back to Paul’s contention that his gospel didn’t emerge from a human source:

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Galatians 1:11-12

Yes, Paul received his gospel through a supernatural event, but the message he received was the exact one he passed on. The revelation was “of Jesus Christ.” Paul wasn’t given a list of moral imperatives, a sacramental system, or an ecclesiastic order. He never claimed to be commissioned to write The Bible: Volume Two. The message he got from Christ was, “I’m alive.”

Even now when the gospel is preached only the called will hear directly from Christ. What they will hear will be the same revelation given to Paul. From that moment on, they will all be taught of God.


  1. We often don’t perceive we’re being controlled especially in the case of time-honored laws such as with seatbelts or in the case of social conformity.
  2. Teen tobacco use peaked in the late 1990’s but has been on the rise again in recent years. One CDC report found that “harsher parent-child communication on the rules about smoking and discipline for smoking had detrimental effects (i.e., it escalated smoking).”
  3. Dr. Stanley Milgram in his studies on obedience to authority concluded, “Submission to authority is a powerful and prepotent condition in man.” Obedience to Authority p. 123
  4. “Subjects deny conformity and embrace obedience as the explanation of their behavior.” IBID p. 115
  5. “We Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Pete Townsend
  6. John 8:32 (NIV)
  7. The Inquisitions of the church illustrate the oppressive potential of an institution which claims to invest divine authority into human vessels. This phenomenon isn’t limited to Roman Catholicism, either, since just mere decades after the Reformation commenced, both Martin Luther and John Calvin endorsed the killing of reformers more radical than they. Even though these instances occurred 1100 to 1500 years remote respectively from the time of Christ, they represent the full flower of second century debates over church primacy. In our own democratic society, the religious right, has worked to force non-Christians to conform to their perceived moral norms.
  8. Romans 10:9-13; 1 Timothy 6:11-16
  9. Romans 1:5
  10. Matthew 6:24
  11. In his writings, Paul repeatedly affirms the moral superiority of the Mosaic covenant such as in Romans 2:17-20.
  12. It seems that the Pharisees had concocted a system of minimum adherence which would excuse bad behavior such as in Matthew 5:33-35.
  13. As was his assessment of himself in 1 Timothy 1:12-16.
  14. The Ragamuffin Gospel p.52
  15. Christ’s trajectory in life was the polar opposite of worldly ambition according to Philippians 2:5-11.
  16. For an observant first century Jew, preaching to the Gentiles would have been a distasteful assignment. And yet, Paul boasted in it. See Acts 10:27-29 and Romans 15:15-17.
  17. Jesus upended honor and shame by becoming our royal servant. John 13:1-17
  18. Paul combats an incursion by Honor and Shame in the Corinthian church in 1 Cor. 1:26-31. He begins this section by reminding them that they’d been chosen precisely because they were for the most part the dregs of humanity. He ends it with a reminder from Scripture that the one who boasts must boast in the Lord.
  19. Yes, Jesus is a human, but he’s also God. We’ll talk more about that when (if?) we get to chapter 3.
  20. The early church seems to have seen this direct learning from God as a fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:33-34.
  21. A reference to the King James translation of Matthew 6:5-8.
  22. Matthew 10:16a

What Would Jesus Evade? DDWJWD Part 2

If anyone ever lived out the “What Would Jesus Do” ethic, Justin did. He moved into an abandoned train depot in the bar district of the next town over and took in homeless people. One night I think he baptized nineteen people in the fountain of the big Baptist church a couple of blocks over. His work with the down and out even made the local newspaper. We all wanted to be like Justin. It seemed that out of everyone anyone we knew, this guy was actually living like Christ.

Justin did what we all thought Jesus would do, but that didn’t mean he had been transformed into the image of Christ. He hadn’t. He could preach on the street one night and then get into a fistfight in a frat house the next night. One day I’d find him sitting serenely among his acolytes; the next I’d get a call from him demanding that I bail him out of jail.


For some reason, Justin was just bad at life. He couldn’t keep down a job. He didn’t know how to navigate his marriage. He had no clue about taking responsibility for his actions. For Justin, itinerancy, singleness, and “martyrdom” offered an easy alternative to tackling his massive growth areas. He could evade life without admitting that he’d failed.

One time, after his wife’s family forced him out of their home, he came to live in our basement. I still remember him staying out to all hours drinking and then complaining that our kids walked around too loudly above his head as he slept until 2PM.

When we went on a short-term mission trip, we left Justin to watch the house. We specifically asked him to make sure the sump pump came on should a heavy rain come through. When we returned, we found our basement flooded and Justin nowhere in sight. He’d been invited last minute to do some outreach to the Rainbow People and decided to just leave the water to sit and the drywall to mold. Eventually, we discovered that he’d raided our five-year-old daughter’s piggy bank for spending money on the trip. When we confronted him over these things, he was unapologetic. Instead, he rebuked us for being too concerned about earthly things!

For Justin, the reproduction of some external details of Christ’s life made him a true Christian regardless of what else he did or did not do. He could wallow in the filth of his own sinfulness while judging every other professing Christian as impostors and Pharisees. Justin called nominal Christians, “Turds with frosting.” Ironically, that epithet could have been applied to him as well. The frosting was just a different flavor.

Justin’s example teaches that external conformity to WWJD accomplishes no more than external conformity to any standard of behavior. Holding up the lifestyle of Jesus of Nazareth as depicted in the Gospels for emulation doesn’t make people like Jesus, it just produces hypocrites of a different type. Whether our confidence before God comes from regular tithing or from selling everything and giving it to the poor, we’re legalists. The only difference is in the law we adhere to.

Not only did attempting to DWJWD fail to develop Christlike character in Justin, I believe that it exacerbated deficiencies which already plagued him. When people struggle to navigate their lives, it can be tempting to escape to someone else’s. That seems to be what drives young people to adopt strange personas such as with the goth or emo phenomena. Finding our authentic selves can be so difficult and risky that we can be easily enticed to abdicate the process and hide behind prefabricated templates. Then, in the dark recesses of our psyche, our souls wither unchallenged and untended. Escape into the Christ persona becomes that much more dangerous since the one who does so will find much internal and external reinforcement of their behavior.

In my own history, I made several attempts at adopting prefabricated personas to compensate for insecurity. I remember in fifth grade, I went through a greaser phase. I figured that if I wanted to be cool, then I couldn’t find a better exemplar than Fonzie. It didn’t work out. As a teenager, I went punk for a brief time. Well, my hair did anyway. Not coincidentally, this phase immediately preceded my conversion to serious Christianity followed by hardcore legalism. When I read about Jesus in the New Testament, I envisioned being him. I wanted to wear a robe and sandals sitting under a tree and laying down wisdom on the masses.

I don’t mean to say that there was nothing sincere in my conversion. I’m just pointing out that insecurity gets often confused for humility and obsessiveness for zeal. I have had times of real healing and insight that I believe have come from the presence of God. At other times, I’ve become inauthentic, judgmental, and self-important while channeling the Nazarene.

When we hold up Jesus’ life depicted in the Gospels as a standard for others to follow, we leave them with a focus on externals that substitutes merit for mercy. Should a person at some point ever perfectly mimic Christ’s life in every detail, they won’t be one whit closer to the actual character of Christ.

As Paul wrote,

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2-3 ESV)

According to Paul, dramatic, self-sacrificial gestures count for precisely zero when borne out of wrong motives.

The attempt to jump into Christ’s sandals often arises from an attempt to escape the slew of the day to day. Love, on the other hand, slogs through the mundane mess over the long haul.

As Paul continues:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-6 ESV)

WWJD fosters evasion. Love requires engagement – engagement that carries a cross.
Jesus bore a cross every day of his life. It consisted of hardships specific to his own circumstances and calling. His cross isn’t transferable. That’s why he tells those who aspire to follow him, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Living by faith will result in an array of struggles, shame, loss, and pain, but each person will only experience their own configuration which is their cross. Ironically, asking WWJD evades my cross in favor of a wire and foam facsimile of his.


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

If we would become like Christ, we must find our cross and take it up.


Let me illustrate with some examples of personal crosses available in our contemporary world:

  • A man finds himself stuck halfway up the corporate ladder in a soul-crushing job serving an unreasonable boss. He could walk away from it to serve an overseas mission effort, but without divine orders, that would just be to shirk his cross. Each day at his job, the man experiences powerlessness, pointlessness, and degradation. Taking up his cross will require him to enter those experiences gladly, trusting in God who raises the dead.
  • A woman who has spent her life raising children must face an empty nest. She might busy herself in a women’s ministry, but that could simply be an attempt to continue mothering vicariously. It could be that her cross would be to use her newfound discretionary time on intercessory prayer. Through solitude, she can find authentic, Christ-like love for others free from codependence.
  • An academically gifted high school graduate might combat the fear of leaving his church’s youth group by seeking to become a youth minister. Taking up his cross might require him to enter the hostile environment of a secular university and train to use his gifts among hostile colleagues in a secular profession.
  • A young woman discovers that she’s made a big mistake at work. She might quit, taking the discovery as confirmation of her long-held suspicion that this job wasn’t God’s calling for her anyway. Taking up her cross might require her to come forward to tell the unvarnished truth about the mistake, entrusting her future, either at the job or in unemployment, to God.

The cross as a Christian ethic applies to every individual regardless of the situation, if we learn to apply it. We must imitate Christ as we find him at the cross and not as we find him in the Gospels. The attempt to do that latter often just turns into escapism which keeps misshapen souls from the therapeutic effects of walking under the weight of tailor-made beams.

“What Would Jesus Do” appeals to people who don’t want to face the hardships and drudgery already present in their lives. Christ’s requirement that we take up our cross sends us under that drudgery with a redemptive purpose. The unredeemed of the world, constantly work to minimize the pain and maximize the pleasure of their existence. They resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms to offset misery and monotony. When I take up my cross, I cheerfully accept the full weight of life’s burden relying in faith on the resurrection to restore all that’s been lost. Rather than seeking to evade the unpleasant elements in my day, I relish them for the sake of learning to be more like Jesus.

“WWJD” is evasion.

The cross is full-frontal engagement.

Christ took up his cross and invites us to take up ours to follow him, so we can learn how to master real life. Jesus never evaded. At his cross, he looked life’s one fearful certainty directly in the face and owned that dude.


Double Jeopardy

We’re often told that Christians shouldn’t beat themselves up for their sins and yet so many do it. Maybe that’s because the advice has been understated. Maybe we should go one step further to say that Christians mustn’t beat themselves up for their sins.

I’m reading Watchman Nee’s The Normal Christian Life for the umpteenth time. This quote reminded me today why this book is a classic:

What then of our attitude to Satan? This is important, for he accuses us not only before God but in our own conscience also. “You have sinned, and you keep on sinning. You are weak, and God can have nothing more to do with you.” This is his argument. And our temptation is to look within and in self-defense to try to find in ourselves, in our feelings or our behavior, some ground for believing that Satan is wrong. Alternatively we are tempted to admit our helplessness and, going to the other extreme, to yield to depression and despair. Thus, accusation becomes one of the greatest and most effective of Satan’s weapons. He points to our sins and seeks to charge us with them before God; and if we accept his accusations, we go down immediately.

Now the reason why we so readily accept his accusations is that we are still hoping to have some righteousness of our own. The ground of our expectation is wrong. Satan has succeeded in making us look in the wrong direction.

Our salvation lies in looking away to the Lord Jesus and in seeing that the blood of the Lamb has met the whole situation created by our sins and has answered it. That is the sure foundation on which we stand. Never should we try to answer Satan with our good conduct but always with the blood.

Double Jeopardy

We’re often told that Christians shouldn’t beat themselves up for their sins and yet so many do it. Maybe that’s because the advice has been understated. Maybe we should go one step further to say that Christians mustn’t beat themselves up for their sins.

I’m reading Watchman Nee’s The Normal Christian Life for the umpteenth time. This quote reminded me today why this book is a classic:

What then of our attitude to Satan? This is important, for he accuses us not only before God but in our own conscience also. “You have sinned, and you keep on sinning. You are weak, and God can have nothing more to do with you.” This is his argument. And our temptation is to look within and in self-defense to try to find in ourselves, in our feelings or our behavior, some ground for believing that Satan is wrong. Alternatively we are tempted to admit our helplessness and, going to the other extreme, to yield to depression and despair. Thus, accusation becomes one of the greatest and most effective of Satan’s weapons. He points to our sins and seeks to charge us with them before God; and if we accept his accusations, we go down immediately.

Now the reason why we so readily accept his accusations is that we are still hoping to have some righteousness of our own. The ground of our expectation is wrong. Satan has succeeded in making us look in the wrong direction.

Our salvation lies in looking away to the Lord Jesus and in seeing that the blood of the Lamb has met the whole situation created by our sins and has answered it. That is the sure foundation on which we stand. Never should we try to answer Satan with our good conduct but always with the blood.

A Little Peace

photo credit: http://leonsariah.com/is-tithing-biblical/

Why do Christian leaders tell people that they should tithe?  I don’t have the definitive answer but I do believe that I know something true about tithing.  Tithing is not for the generous but for the stingy.  Generous people need only hear of the need and they will meet it.  They do not need a minimum compulsory amount.  Church leaders feel the need to teach on tithing because they are leading a group of selfish people.  Take the selfishness one step further and tell the “givers” that God will return even more to them if they do tithe.

There was a time for tithing.  God assumed selfishness in the unredeemed people of Israel and made provision for it.  For those who have been implanted with the love of God, tithing has become obsolete.  The saddest aspect of tithing teaching is when we presume selfishness from the redeemed,  they begin to be selfish.

Here’s what Paul said about a general legalistic approach, which would include tithing.

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.   Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers  of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.   We know that the law is good  if one uses it properly.  We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels,   the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious… (1 Timothy 1:5-9a)

Fish Eyes

Mike the mallard bobbed on the surface of the pond, the early November wind whipping through his feathers.  Driven by an empty gizzard, Mike plunged toward the silted bottom.  Halfway down he encountered a rather large bass which caused him to backpedal a bit then come to a full upright position under water.  The bass, equally startled, came to a dead stop.  The two stared at each other for a few awkward seconds before Mike broke the silence with a little small talk.

“Boy, this water sure is cold today.”  He observed.

To which the bass replied, “What water?”

King of Pain

Remember the song, “Doctor My Eyes” by Jackson Browne? For you younger folks, here is a link to his performance of it:


I believe this song accurately describes life in a fallen kingdom.

I’ve been thinking today about our amazing capacity for denial. Somehow we’re able to hurt, be hurt, or see hurt and just go on with life. Maybe we do this because grieving takes too much time. Or perhaps we fear that should be begin to mourn we will never stop. So, we “pinch it off.” We justify harmful actions, minimize them, or just ignore them. We do this but not without cost. When we bury hurt or regret, a part us gets suffocated. The shell which protects our vulnerability also imprisons our sympathy. We find that when we want to cry or at least should cry, we can’t.

Sadly, the one negative emotion which continues to seep out is anger. Because we’ve buried the hurt itself, the anger which seeps out manifests itself in ways which are disassociated from the original event. Subtle digs on others, quiet disdain, and outright abuse all perpetuate pain as anger widens its influence through others who will then deny their hurt. Can we really believe that the prevalence and predictability of this dynamic is attributable solely to psychological factors? I would like to suggest an alternate theory.

I believe that a malevolent spiritual entity insinuated pain into the stream of human society and that through denial he continues to proliferate it. Why? Because he exerts control through extortion and blackmail. To borrow now from an eighties’ song, Satan is the “King of Pain.” Every repressed hurt becomes a handle by which the devil and his agents can lead people around. By participating in denial, people unwittingly submit to Satan’s control in their lives.

For support of this idea, consider Jesus’ words from John 14:30 regarding Satan’s influence, “I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me (literally, he has nothing in me).” Jesus never sinned therefore he had no secret shame or repressed guilt. When wronged, Jesus readily confronted and/or forgave therefore he carried no repressed offense. The life of Jesus was the “in-breaking” of the kingdom of God.

So how do we check out of the kingdom of pain and into the kingdom of the Son once we’ve yielded to our enemy? In the second sentence of his great sermon on the nature of his kingdom, Jesus spoke these words, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” With all of the pain in our fallen world, there is a danger that mourning could consume us. We don’t have to be afraid. Jesus promises comfort. We can talk with him and each other about the ways we’ve been hurt and caused hurt. In this way, will we overcome the King of Pain.