Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Promised to David, Fulfilled in Christ, Given to Us

From 2 Samuel 7:11–14:
Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son...
The events immediately preceding this covenant are interesting, and frankly, expose God as the gracious God that He is. David had recently been crowned King of all Israel, but he was ruling from the city of Hebron, a southern city in the region of Judah. David decided that Jerusalem would be a better place to rule because it was centrally located and geographically tough to take down. The only problem was that Jerusalem was inhabited by the Jebusites, and they taunted David, saying that even the blind and lame could keep him out of Jerusalem. David decided to have his men sneak through a water shaft at the city's wall and attack it from the inside. Obviously, it worked, and David sets up shop in Jerusalem as the new capitol. The only thing missing was the Ark of the Covenant. 

So David sends a convey to bring the Ark to Jerusalem, which they do (after a 3-month pit stop at someone else's house). Once the Ark is back in Jerusalem, David pitches a tent where the Ark is to be kept and stored. But as he goes to bed one night, David is dissatisfied with this solution. "See now," he says to Nathan, "I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent." He wanted to build a house for God—a dwelling place.  

God answered through Nathan, "would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day..." God then goes on to say that He would instead build David an everlasting house. 

This is called the "Davidic Covenant," where God established an everlasting covenant with David. The fulfillment of this covenant, however, rests with Jesus. David is merely the type, a shadow of what would be the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant. 

Let's take a look at the particulars and how they point to God's fulfillment of the covenant in Christ. "I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his Kingdom." King Solomon came from David's body, and the Lord established his kingdom as one of the most prosperous times in Israel's history. Similarly, Jesus came from David's line, and God established his everlasting kingdom at his incarnation. 

"He shall build a house for my name . . . ." Solomon built a temple for God to dwell in, "a house for my name," when he completed the Temple at Jerusalem. In a much greater way, Christ built (and is building) a permanent house for God's name, that is, his people. The Bible says that in Christ we "are also being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22).

"I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son." This is talking about Christ, the coming Messiah, and the kingdom that he established when he came to earth in the form of a man (Heb. 1:3–5). And when Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father, he ascended so that he would reign until God made all his enemies his footstool (Heb. 1:13). He is reigning. And He will reign forever. This is how the Davidic covenant is fulfilled—through the Lordship of Christ and the building up of the Church as the dwelling place of God.

As interesting as the story of the Davidic covenant is, it reveals much more about God's character and his love for his children. Look at David: he thought that God not having a permanent dwelling place meant that God lacked something. So he endeavored to provide for God by building him a house. Or, giving David the benefit of the doubt, he believed that it would be dishonorable for David to have a house but not God.

It was not an ignoble desire, but God had different plans. When David wanted to build a dwelling place for God, God desired to build David a house, which would ultimately become the dwelling place of God. What grace! David says "God, let me bless you," and God replies, "No, I will bless you and establish your house forever!" Why? Because God delights in making and keeping covenants with his people.

So what does this have to do with us now? It has everything to do with what we cannot do and yet God does. We walk around on this earth thinking that we are going to provide for God by the little houses we build for him and the deeds that we do for him, but God turns that on its head and instead gives such gifts to us. He makes us into his dwelling place, and he prepares for us good works that we should do to glorify him. We do not bless God out of the strength of our own hands. We are blessed by God in spite of our weakness and insufficiency. Therefore salvation is God's gift—and God's gift alone. He gives it to us from his good pleasure and out of an overflow of his grace, much like he did with David.

When David heard the words of the covenant, he wondered, "Who am I, O Lord, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?" Yes. Who are we, and what is our house, that you have brought us this far? We are no one, but it is God who establishes his house and his kingdom. There is no one like our God who could accomplish such things. And because of this, we can say together, "for you, O Lord, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever." Amen.


Monday, October 20, 2014

The Revision That Didn't Revise

Last week, news broke that Mayor Parker's legal team subpoenaed five area pastors' sermon notes (among other things) on topics related to HERO, gender identity, homosexuality, and Mayor Parker. A swift outcry soon erupted from the Christian sphere, decrying the subpoenas as an abuse of governmental authority and serious threat to religious liberty. I covered that topic here.

In response, the Mayor distanced herself from her original position that "if the pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game." But it wasn't much distance. City Attorney David Feldman said that, while the original requests were overly broad in their scope, if the pastors engaged in political speech from the pulpit, it would not be protected. Someone needs a First Amendment refresher course. 

On Friday, however, the City filed a response that revised the scope of the original subpoenas. But the "revision" doesn't seem to have revised much. Here's what the response says: 
Request No. 12 originally read: 
All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuals, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession. 
Defendants [the City of Houston] hereby revise Request No. 12 as follows: 
All speeches or presentations related to HERO or the Petition prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.
No definitive word on whether a sermon counts as a speech or presentation. What the response also omits is that Request No. 12 represents one request out of seventeen total document requests. Left untouched are requests like these: 
1. All documents or communications to, from, CCing, BCCing, or forwarded to you, or otherwise in your possession, relating to or referring to any of the following in connection in any way with HERO, the Petition:...the topics of equal rights, civil rights, homosexuality, or gender identity; 
and 
4. All communications with members of your congregation regarding HERO or the Petition.
In other words, the City hasn't backed off from its original demands. David Feldman issued a revision that didn't really revise anything. In my opinion, instead of backing off, the City is trying to double-down on its position with political savvy to appease the public. Many Christian leaders are not taking the bait.

From a legal standpoint, it will be interesting to see how the judge rules on the pastors' Motion to Quash. I suspect he will quash at least some of the more onerous requests, if not most of them entirely. The requests are still so overly broad, burdensome, and harassing (not to mention unrelated to the underlying issues of the litigation), that I don't think they will survive a challenge under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. The judge likely will not entertain a First Amendment argument on the issue. But if the Court did address the First Amendment, I think the pastors win. The requests would have a chilling effect on religious participation, and there are numerous other ways to get the requested information—they are not drafted narrowly enough to warrant the intrusion, especially for a non-party.

Culturally, this "scandal" says much about our beliefs and assumptions as a society. If we boil the case down to its essence, we have a group of people who sought to petition their government for a redress of grievances. In response, that same government set out to harass and bully them into submission through the litigation process (a burdensome and expensive undertaking). The right of the people to "petition the Government for a redress of grievances" is fundamental to a self-governing society. The plaintiffs didn't even make it past the petition part; it was thrown out by the same government that was established to protect their right to petition it.

We are facing competing worldviews on the nature and purpose of government. One loves liberty, distrusts centralized political power, and understands the depravity of man. The other entrusts our greatest needs to the government as our source of goodness. 

I believe that the City's actions bely a deep misconception about how society ought to function. Whereas, at America's founding, we established a society in which the government was accountable to the people, the City of Houston has repeatedly shown that it believes the people are accountable to their government. This type of thinking is anathema to a free society. That lawyers representing a governmental entity could issue such demands with a straight face tells me that the concept of liberty is in serious peril among our nation's political actors. 

I don't know how this case will turn out. Trial is set for January, and I hope the City loses. I am still bewildered that the City isn't the plaintiff. But what I do know is that this case has served as a medium of exposure—exposure of underlying political philosophies that are competing for dominance as we speak. 

Casting the political sensitivity of this case aside, it should serve as a wakeup call that this is an ongoing ideological battle. Is the government accountable to the people? Or are the people accountable to the government? Your beliefs about the nature of man will influence your answer to that question. And your answer to that question will largely inform your response to similar situations in the future. 


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Victory Through Defeat


Someone told me recently that we would never face religious liberty issues in Houston. There wouldn't be a need for a religious liberty lawyer in such a conservative state. Well, the pigs have flown. The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance controversy continues, this time with heavy religious liberty implications.

Before we get started, a little background is in order. That can be found herehere, and here.

The HERO ordinance and subsequent repeal referendum efforts have been embroiled in litigation since August. Yesterday, news broke that the City of Houston's legal team had demanded, among other things, "all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by" a list of area pastors who are not parties to the lawsuit. The City of Houston issued non-party subpoenas for the document requests, which are punishable by contempt of court if not properly responded to (or quashed by the judge). An example of the subpoenas issued by the City can be found here.

As an attorney, I know that these subpoenas are not quite as big a deal as some people make it out to be. This isn't the Inquisition. But it is unnerving. If the pastors refuse to respond (e.g., turn over their documents), and the Court does not quash the subpoenas or issue a protective order, the pastors theoretically could face jail time. That is scary. Normally, non-party subpoenas aren't that big of a deal. Lawyers issue them all the time. But there is something quite different when a governmental entity demands to comb through sermon notes on hot-button moral issues from non-party pastors. (Phrases like "separation of church and state"—the darling phrase of liberals—come to mind). Alliance Defending Freedom wrote a compelling memorandum in the case on why the Court should quash the subpoenas, which you can read here. Their press release on the case can be found here.

As a matter of normal legal practice, I doubt that Mayor Parker, David Feldman, or anyone at the City of Houston read the subpoenas before they were sent, much less specifically ordered the discovery and confiscation of sermon notes and other communications involving homosexuality and gender identity. Typically in litigation lawyers will throw a bunch of jello at a wall and see what sticks, so to speak. Or, to put it another way, they'll fill up the kitchen sink and see what takes. In other words, the lawyer drafting the discovery requests and subpoenas probably tried to think of every conceivable thing that could possibly be related to this lawsuit and asked for it. You don't get it if you never ask, and litigation is all about being aggressive and taking anything that the other side will give you. Again, these are just requests (issued by a lawyer), and the judge can quash the subpoenas or issue a protective order for the pastors. 

Usually when we address litigation tactics, we are dealing with private parties, commercial disputes, and other non-religious issues. The "sensitivity" in this case comes from the fact that the government is demanding to review sermons and other religious speech in connection with certain pastors' opposition to the HERO ordinance. And, frankly, I think the City of Houston is on a mission to shame the pastors and their beliefs by exposing their sermons and the content of their communications. If it can show that the pastors were spreading an irrational and bigoted fear of the ordinance's moral consequences, then the City can shame the pastors out of the controversy and dismiss their petitions as mere fear-mongering. The only problem (besides glaring First Amendment issues) is that the contents of the pastors' sermons, communications, or anything else requested (one request was for the pastors' resumes!) has nothing to do with the underlying lawsuit. This case, at its core, is about whether the City Secretary properly certified the petition signatures according to the City Charter. You don't need a pastor's sermon notes to figure that out. 

As Russell Moore put it,
 [t]he preaching of sermons in the pulpit of churches is of no concern to any government bureaucrat at all. This country settled, a long time ago, with a First Amendment that the government would not supervise, license, or bully religious institutions. That right wasn't handed out by the government, as a kind of temporary restraining order. It was a recognition of a self-evident truth.
Amen, but I don't think the government is trying to supervise, license, or bully religious institutions here. Not yet, at least.

As we analyze what's going on, I want us to be careful in how we think about the liberty implications of the City's actions. Is this the worst thing that has ever happened to Christians for their faith? Not by a long shot. But it is unnerving. Do not succumb to the lie that "anti-gay" Christians are trying to divert attention away from the real victims of harassment and discrimination. That's a red herring. And don't believe Mayor Parker when she says that if the pastors used sermons for politics, then they are fair game. I disagree. Jesus Christ has lordship over everything, including our politics. Therefore, I believe our preachers should especially preach on politics from the pulpit. From a theological perspective, at least, the Bible has ample advice on the political sphere. You should read Puritan and Reformed pastors' sermons during the Revolutionary War. Pastors routinely addressed political happenings from the pulpit, and this was the milieu that enshrined religious liberty in the Constitution. So I don't buy the argument that political sermons are fair game. They're not. Not even in the ballpark.

Religious liberty, freedom of speech, and freedom of association are foundational principles of this nation. People fought and died for our religious liberty. For hundreds of years and in hostile cultures, people were martyred so that we may enjoy the first-fruits of their sacrifice. So let us not take threats to our religious liberty lightly, no matter how innocuous they may seem.

At the same time, the reality is that we are merely dealing with an overbroad discovery request from a zealous trial lawyer employed by the City. So the sky is not falling. This is not a government-wide "approval" system of pulpit messages. The pastors aren't being threatened with punishment merely for the contents of their sermons. But this is harassment, and the small things add up. A government that tries to intimidate pastors who would seek to employ the democratic process to repeal a morally questionable piece of legislation is no friend of liberty, religious or otherwise. The government answers to the people; the people do not answer to the government. Remember that. The subpoena is only step one in their 12-step program.

In all of this, however, there is good news. And it is a glorious prognosis:
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have (Phil. 1:27–30).
We are not to be frightened in anything from our opponents. Yes, we have opponents. And when we stand firm in one spirit striving side by side for the gospel (including what it says about gender identity and sexuality), it is a sign to our opponents of their destruction and of our salvation.  We will suffer in some ways, engaged in this conflict. Maybe those pastors will go to jail, but they probably won't. The mere threat of jail time, though, is serious. If they do go to jail, it will be a sign that we have won. Our victory will be wrought through suffering, whether great or small. This has been granted to us by God as a sign of our salvation. Praise God for that; it cannot be taken away.

So what do we do in the meantime? Pray for wisdom, think, and never cease to preach the Word of God and all its implications for our lives. And pray that, by God's grace, those who seek to threaten our liberty will soon strive side by side with us as brothers. It's happened before. May it happen again.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The NFL and Moral Authority

I think what Ray Rice did was wrong. You probably do too. Most of the country does—wife (or fiancee, or any woman) beating is not a moral outlier that people are divided on. And I understand that Ray Rice most likely violated the NFL Code of Conduct, which he is contracutally bound to obey. So the NFL is on solid legal footing. But where does the NFL get the moral authority to suspend Ray Rice? They're obviously imposing a moral standard here—wife beating is bad, you're a wife beater, therefore you are bad and can't play in the NFL—but where does the NFL get such authority in the first place? What is their moral standard?

It's interesting that in a society with such perceived moral subjectivity, there's a lot of moral absolutes being thrown around and imposed upon people. What is Roger Goodell's moral framework, and why can he impose that moral framework on the players? Is anyone asking these questions? Countless drug offenders, weapons offenders, absentee fathers, and the like are free to play in the NFL with impunity. Ray Rice cold cocks his fiancee and is banned indefinitely? What gives? Excuse me if I raise an eyebrow at this newly found moral uprightness when, to my knowledge, the NFL has done zero to stem the tide of abortions and deadbeat dads that plague the players' personal lives. 

If the NFL truly cared about what was right and wrong and just, a million things would have happened to other players before Ray Rice was suspended, but they didn't. And the NFL's silence on a host of issues within the league is an indictment on the NFL that it doesn't care about right, wrong, truth, or justice, but about what will make the NFL look good right now. It's not about integrity, it's about self-preservation. 

This leaves me a bit confused, but hopeful. The actions of Roger Goodell show that the NFL is looking out for itself and its image. Ray Rice's public conduct made the NFL look bad, so Ray Rice has got to go. All those players behind on child support and abdicating their fatherly duties? Those are less public, so those guys can stay. Michael Sam? We better not say that his sexual expression is wrong; we shouldn't impose our morality on players. The confusion lies in the arbitrary and capricious selection of which moral standards will be objective (applied and imposed on others) versus subjective (left to the whim of the person). How are we to know what the standard is and whether is applies to everyone? 

On the other hand, the public's response shows that society demands an objective moral standard. This is good news, because it means we need to have a conversation about what that objective moral standard is or ought to be. Moral relativism in its pure form will not withstand the demands society has placed upon it. That house is in ruins. What will we build in its place? Now is the time to be talking about it.




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Uber-Capitalists and Food Trucks

The Houston political scene has seen its share of hot-button issues lately. In June, I wrote about the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which the City Council passed in May. In the intervening months, the City has undergone a public debate concerning two separate industries and whether to allow certain forms of competition in the marketplace. 

First, there’s the restaurant industry’s battle with Mobile Food Units (food trucks). As anyone who has lived in Houston for a while knows, food trucks have become increasingly popular in the last five years or so. These culinary caravans hop from spot to spot serving up interesting and unique food choices—mostly dishes that you can serve in a plastic bowl or in a paper bag. Food trucks must be permitted, inspected, and follow similar health regulations as brick and mortar restaurants. They are also subject to other requirements but generally permitted to serve food wherever they want—except for downtown, which boasts a bustling daytime population and, therefore, an opportunity for increased revenue for the food trucks. - See more here.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Just Like the Church

Last Wednesday, our brothers and sisters at Sojourn Montrose got a little write-up in the Houston Press. If you're not familiar with the Houston Press, let's just say it's where I go to keep my "ear to the streets" on the counter-sub-counter-sub-sub-culture in town. It's an interesting publication, but it's not the bastion of fairness that the Houston Chroni...it's not a bastion of fairness. The articles have an agenda, and that's fine for them. I write with an agenda all the time. 

The article focuses most of its attention on Sojourn's beliefs about human sexuality, which happen to be biblical. This excerpt expresses it well enough: 
But Sojourn isn't likely to budge on its theological stance against same-sex relationships. Church leaders are upfront about that, and though some attendees leave as a result, others stick around to wrestle it out. Gays are welcome to be members, provided they repent for their same-sex attraction. Gay members that refuse to renounce homosexuality would eventually be booted from the church.
To be clear, I'd say that Sojourn wouldn't ask people to repent from their same-sex attraction, just like the church wouldn't ask me, a single man, to repent of my opposite-sex attraction. There's nothing to repent of. But we ask all people everywhere to repent of their lust. There's a difference between attraction and lust. Attraction is a predilection to a certain desire, whereas lust is thought, imagination, or desire that leads to sexual misconduct. So keep that in mind when you read sentences like the one in the article. It belies a fundamental misunderstanding of what is really going on. 

What I want to do is address some of the fallacies implicit in the article—and made more explicit in the comments section. By the way, take a look at the comments if you want to see what modern tolerance looks like in practice. 

First, there is a deep underlying assumption that the morality of a person's desires and their actions cannot be separated, at least when we are talking about homosexuality. Of course, no one would extend this thinking into many other areas of life. "I really desire my neighbor's stuff, therefore I have a right to take it" doesn't fly when you are in front of the judge on theft charges. But notice how, in the article, the author has a terribly hard time distinguishing same-sex attraction from homosexual activity. It's just assumed that if you identify as gay, then homosexual activity is inherently a part of your life. The article says that "gay members who refuse to renounce homosexuality would eventually be booted from the church." Well, yes and no, depending on what you mean. This is the fallacy I'm talking about. 

Maybe the author truly doesn't understand that we would not excommunicate someone merely for their sinful desires, which everyone has. Maybe, under their moral framework, asking a gay person to be chaste for life would be inhumane. Or maybe that notion is so unconscionable that it didn't cross the author's mind as a distinct possibility. Who knows. But I do know this: rarely have I seen people give equal treatment to the fact that we ask all people who are not married to a person of the opposite sex to abstain from all sexual activity. Chastity is not limited to gays. Maybe that makes us even more oppressive...

Second, a common objection I hear is that Christianity is really about love, acceptance, and tolerance, so we should be loving, accepting, and tolerant of the LGBT crowd. This is always a troubling statement for me. What do you mean by "love?" What I think people really mean when they say this is that Christians should support and affirm each aspect of a person's identity. So love, accept, and tolerate get wrapped up into approve. Therefore, we have a completely different framework for what love means. If you are not approving, then you are not loving. This, of course, is false. The Bible defines love as the laying down of one life for the good of another. And that which is good is defined by that same Bible. So how could it be loving for us to refuse to lay down our lives (and popularity) and watch the destruction of another? It is, rather, utterly hateful.

Third, and this is closely related to the first one. The underlying assumption here is that, for a homosexual, that person's dignity and their sexual activity are irrevocably intertwined. If you ask a person to change their sexual behavior, it is tantamount to denying their humanity. (Although you would never say the same thing, for instance, about a pedophile or abuser—a remarkable denial of a logical conclusion). But this notion is simply untrue—and ignorant. A person is so much more than their sexuality. That's why, as Christians, we can encourage each other to "put to death" the sinful lusts of the flesh—because those things are not our identity. Killing sin will not kill our humanity. Our identity is in Christ and Christ alone. And that is the fundamental misunderstanding: one of mistaken identity. 

Fourth, let's get down to the root—idolatry. What's really going on? A deification of the autonomous orgasm. And according to the doctrine of this idol, all religions are welcome as long as their god bows to the great Sex God. Therefore Sojourn Montrose's presence is acceptable so long as its moral priorities conform to the moral priorities of the neighborhood (hint: sexual autonomy). So we can worship God however we want, as long as God submits to the prevailing sex god of our culture. Sorry—not gonna happen.

Fifth, there is some real irony in all of this, courtesy of the comments section. (As an aside, we've thrown around the word "bigot" so much in our society that it's lost almost of all of its original meaning). Marshall Dallas is excoriated for his bigotry, hatred, animus, and intolerance for homosexuals (all of which, of course, is blatantly untrue). His presence in the community, really, is not tolerated. It's a harsh reality these days that the most "tolerant" communities are the most intolerant of different viewpoints. Where's the appreciation for diversity? Where's the real tolerance? 

In the comments you'll notice a consistent demand for moral conformity when it comes to sexuality—just like the church. Consider my eyebrow raised. And the eyebrow says "ironic, isn't it?" Inescapably, we come to this end: it's not whether morality will drive our communities, but which morality will drive our communities. To me, it's better to build a culture of righteousness—not because it is justifying, but simply because it's better to live in a culture of righteousness than it is to live a culture of unrighteousness. That applies across the board. 

Last thing, I promise: I wrote this to help us think through these things foundationally. When we engage in these conversations, I want us to think about what everyone's assumptions are—and to challenge them. But when we work through these things on the way to the cross, things are different. The cross allows us to bear a burden on the hard road to its eventual destruction. As I've said before, a commitment to holiness is so much more than righteous indignation at sin. It requires us to enter into sin as we make our way out of it. And that can only happen through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

When revival sweeps through Montrose, we'll have no recourse to ourselves; we will only be able to credit the work of the Holy Spirit. So come, Jesus, and repair our minds as well as our hearts. 


Friday, July 25, 2014

The Patient Pursuit of Holiness

The pursuit of holiness is more than righteous indignation at sin. In a community of believers, it requires patience and long-suffering. It requires burden-sharing.

Think of the way the Lord—our holy God—has dealt with us. Bountifully. Patiently. With long-suffering and kindness. With sacrifice. His steadfast love endures forever. This is not contingent on our performance and works but rather on God's promises. Since turning to God in faith many years ago, have I maintained holiness of heart and deed? Not a chance. Has God remained faithful and holy, even in the midst of my unholiness? Yes, he has. And he will. God continues to push me (and pull me!) towards holiness, even when I am unwilling, unfaithful, and adamant about pursuing my own selfish ends. Yet he perseveres, and he preserves me. He is patient with me as the transformation takes place.

A holy God's faithfulness in the amidst of our unholiness has huge implications for us as a community committed to holiness. And it turns things on their head, in typical Kingdom fashion. We think of holiness as being "set apart," blameless, without sin, and utterly pure—singularly righteous. Yet in our communal pursuit of holiness, we are called to wade through each other's muck and yuck, with patience, in order that we may be refined, like gold being put through the fire. We are called to restore people, to be patient with them, and to forgive them.

Why must we put ourselves in the wake others' sin if we are pursuing the absence of sin? Because it reflects the character of a holy God, who did the same for us. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). Because God wanted us to be free from sin, he entered into our sin. It was the only way. When you are a slave and prisoner (to your sin), someone has to come to the prison and set you free. You cannot break your own shackles. Christ had to do it. Once he did it, with all authority in Heaven and on earth given to him by the Father, he told us to do the same. And then he gave us the same authority and the same power.

So with all the authority of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, we were commissioned to enter into peoples' brokenness, in pursuit of holiness. Think about this. Let it imbue your marrow.

Holiness does not retreat from darkness. Rather, it shines forth a brilliant light into the darkness that seeks to envelop us. And in order for the light to reach every corner of our hearts, we have to search out the dark places together. For holiness.