About the Evil Adolf Hitler

I’ve been learning about Hitler. Everyone kept comparing Donald Trump to Hitler, so I decided I wanted to know what Hitler was actually like. I wanted to know the details of his person, especially the things that had no connection to the evils he perpetrated. So I’ve been carting an enormous book to and from work with Hitler’s pic on the front. Such a book tends to start conversations.

Hitler is the epitome of evil. Whenever someone is looking for the most evil example of a human being, she evokes images of the Holocaust and the man who is most responsible.

Funny thing: when you actually study Hitler, you realize he was kind of artsy and adorable. I know he played a major role in the murders of millions, but if you take away everything he did as German Chancellor and Dictator, and only look at his personal life, you end up seeing him really differently. He wanted to be an artist. He loved going to the theater/symphony/museums. He loved his mom and carried a picture of her with him always. He was awkward with the ladies to the extent that people who knew him teased him as being prudish. He didn’t drink or smoke. He loved dogs and teaching them to do tricks. He was a vegetarian. I haven’t gotten far enough in the biography to be sure about this, but I’m pretty sure he only loved one woman in his life and was completely faithful to  her.

I bring this up because I had a fascinating conversation with my boss about human nature. My boss self-identifies as a Christian who believes that everyone is going to go to Heaven. She believes a lot of things that don’t really fit with the Christian Bible, and I’m not sure she realizes how many tenets of the faith she actually disagrees with… if she were aware, I think she might reconsider the label, or maybe she wouldn’t. She attends church and helps out with the youth group. She’s proud of her Christianity.

Somehow, my boss and I started talking about a documentary I recently watched, called Blindspot: Hitler’s Secretary. It’s a great movie. It’s really just interviews with Traudl Junge, who was one of Hitler’s secretaries, and actually dictated his last will and testament. She was in the bunker when he committed suicide, and she was completely lost to history until about 2001, when she told her story. In 2002, she died.

It’s one of the most engaging interviews I’ve ever watched, because she talks about how hard it was for her to discover the atrocities committed by Hitler, who she’d actually liked.

The weird thing about the conversation with my boss was that she was adamant that Hitler had done horrible things to his secretaries. She interrupted me to claim that he’d slept with them. She even implied that he raped them. And when I told her that wasn’t true, and that men actually teased him for being a prude, she said that he may not have slept with them, but he urinated on them. I told her there wasn’t any evidence of that, but she insisted that her husband had been watching some show that had that on it. I said I would believe it when she showed me a reliable source that corroborated her claim, because everything I’d read said that he was actually a very principled man in his personal life. I told her about his mom, his love of art, his dogs…

And she just wouldn’t believe that he could have been kind to his secretaries.

I said something like, “It must be hard to believe that he could be both kind and evil at the same time,” and she said it wasn’t possible.

This was the moment I probably should’ve turned back. After all, she is my boss. But I saw it as an opportunity, and she talks about Christianity to me nearly every week, telling me what she believes… so I figured it was fair game.

I said something about how all people have both evil and kindness in them; I do both kind and evil things.

She responded by saying that I might do evil things, but I’m not evil.

I told her that I am evil. Everyone is evil.

She acted as if it’s very unChristian of me to say such things and how could I say that? And I said that’s the point of Christianity. The fact that we’re evil is the whole point of salvation… our evil is what we need salvation from…

She said something about how if we look at the big picture like that, then sure… we’re all evil.

It’s difficult for a self-proclaimed Christian to argue that humans don’t need salvation from evil, but it’s hard for me to describe how much it worries me that her day-to-day beliefs suggest that a man can’t murder millions and yet love his mom. It worries me that she thinks murder is a different kind of evil that’s beyond the evil within her.

She and I were talking about infidelity a few months ago. I don’t remember how we got into that conversation either, but she was adamant that she could never forgive a man who cheated on his wife, and she was surprised I was willing to forgive.

It’s always eye-opening to me to talk to people who believe evil is a term that can only be applied to men who’ve done worse than they’ve done. My boss has never murdered or cheated on her spouse, so men who cheat and Adolf Hitler can rightfully be labeled as evil. She wasn’t comfortable labeling me as evil because I’m a victim advocate who helps out at my church. She isn’t comfortable labeling herself as evil… Evil is the slayer of a race, who urinates on his underlings, who was so bad he couldn’t possibly have been kind to anyone in his life. Evil isn’t the vegetarian prude, who dreamed of becoming an artist, loved one woman, loved dogs, and loved his mom… She (and so many self-proclaimed Christians) prefer the narrative where evil has nothing in common with us…


The Status that Can Never be Updated

Something Lori said to me about six weeks ago has stayed on my mind, because it so reflects the gospel. She was talking about her family, and she said that you can be completely, fiercely angry with family and they can be completely, fiercely angry with you, but your status doesn’t change: you’re still family. And the next time you talk, family doesn’t think less of you.

I’ve struggled for what seems like ages with the fact that my status with family changed to the degree that I was no longer welcome at the holidays. I’ve struggled with where the line is that just cannot be crossed without a status update: ___________ is no longer sisters with Katie James…

I almost have a numbness to people saying they don’t want me as around; it feels like it happens all the time. It’s really only a few times that it’s happened, but sometimes I think it’s my fault. I think about how I must’ve really done something terrible… I must be a terrible person for family not to want me.

It’s actually been the absurd responses of people who don’t know me very well that have most steadied my nerves about it. They say things like, “What did you do? Have you been selling drugs?” or “They must’ve found out about that time you shot a guy and had to get the hell out of Reno.” People saying that to me is so incredibly and unexpectedly helpful, because it reminds me that I’m not an uncommonly bad person. It helps me put it into perspective… I was disowned because I wrote a blog post… or because I wasn’t good at being a Maid of Honor… or because I…

Sticking with people is really difficult and painful. There’s no denying it. I get that it’s really stressful to work out conflict, and it’s much simpler to just find a person to replace me. There are endless masses who are looking for a new spouse/friend/sister/etc… at the very same moment someone has decided it’s time to move on from me.

But I wonder how it would change the world if each of us looked at our lives right now, listed the top ten most important people to us, and determined we would stick by them no matter what…

Mom, Dad, Jennifer, Dave, Lisa, Lori, Steve, Ashly, Matt, Lauren, and Danny.

Okay, so I picked 11 – that’s not the point.

What if we looked at our lives and committed unconditionally to however many people…?

I really struggle sometimes to believe that my status before God is consistent – that He adopted me once and for all – that He looks at me like I’m His daughter every single day and every single moment. I struggle to believe that He sees me as righteous, blameless, and pure. It’s honestly the greatest struggle of faith to trust that Jesus took care of it and I’m okay. There’s nothing more I can do to be cleaner and more perfect before God. My status before Him is secure.

I think it would be easier to believe if my status before my friends/sister/coworkers/etc… wasn’t so subject to change. I’m going to try to be better at letting those closest to me know that their status isn’t subject to change.

The Sanitization of Christ: God is Better

There are mountaintop moments in every person’s life.

For me, there was one such moment as I stood on a hill in Mongolia at 5:30 a.m. I’d woken up early to have some time away from the 11 people on my team. For a couple of weeks, I’d been in the introvert’s worst nightmare having trained with 100 people in Colorado, sharing a room, eating meals with all 100 of them, never having a moment for myself. After stateside training, there were several days in airports, on buses, in hotels, and in training rooms in Beijing. Then, our numbers lessened for a few days to 50 when we arrived in U.B. (Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capitol). We did a few more days of training there, and finally 12 of us went on to spend the summer in Zuunmod, a town about an hour outside of U.B.

I’d gone for a run through town and impulsively continued to hike across a large field filled with goats, across a road, and to the top of a huge hill with a strange, man-made mound of rocks on top of it, surrounded by the bones of animals sacrificed over the years. I stood there looking out across the open expanse, and the air felt different. That’s what I love the most about international travel. If you pay attention, you can take a place in through your senses the moment you arrive. The air in Zuunmod was unpolluted, crisp, chilled, and, for me, it was pregnant with hope. It was the moment of a lifetime.

And yet, God is better.

As I was thinking about how to write this post, I really struggled, because there’s cliché to saying that God is great or holy or good. Of course Christians believe that about God, right? That’s one of those things that’s a given… except that it’s really not.

Last week, I posted about why Christians believe men are evil. You can get to that post by clicking here.

This week, I’m writing the second post in a series called: The Sanitization of Christ. While the idea that men are evil is sanitized for obvious reasons, it probably seems a bit of a stretch to say that Christians sanitize the idea of God being better than everything. I promise, it isn’t.


Phillipians 3:7-8

“Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and counted them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…”

I took this a little bit out of context, because Paul is writing here primarily about counting his own righteousness as rubbish, but the thing about Christianity is that Christians are to consider everything in their lives as rubbish in contrast to “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus…”

This is really difficult, and I struggle with it a lot. I am NOT saying that a person who struggles with this is not a Christian. What I AM saying is that a Christian must try to view the most sublime experiences in her life, the closest people in her life, and the achievement of her most secret ambitions as rubbish next to Christ.


Matthew 10:37

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

This is one of those verses that aches, because it’s about the love of your life, your family, your friends. It’s about people who have meant the world.

And yet, Jesus, Himself said those people can’t be primary. The most out-spoken Christians take an enormous amount of pride in saying that they put their families first. They judge people around them as less, because they detest the idea of a person putting his job or his hobbies first. And yet, Jesus specifically condemns people who put family first. He said that He has to be more to you than people are.

It is a cheap and false Christianity to believe that any person can be more important than Christ is. Christ claims all (every part of the being) of His followers, not the left-overs after family has had what they want.


*This last one is a little long, and pulled from context, but it provides some poetic descriptions of God’s greatness. It’s in the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, so the people for whom he gives thanks are the Ephesians.

Ephesians 1:16 – 23

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

The sheer volume of doctrine in that passage is overwhelming, so I want to draw out the idea that God the Father “put all things under his [Jesus’s] feet.”

Mongolia is a footstool to God’s enormity.

The only man I’ve loved is a footstool.

My favorite book is a footstool.

My family is a footstool.

Camping at the foot of an iceberg in Peru is a footstool.

Matt and Ashly are a footstool.

Everything is a footstool. Everything and everyone is rubbish.

That’s what Christianity says and is.

When I look at what the New Testament says about God’s ranking in my life among the most valuable people, belongings, and experiences, I have to either concede that they are a footstool God created for Himself, and therefore, insignificant next to Him OR I have to say that the Bible didn’t mean what it says and isn’t the infallible word of God – that Christianity isn’t based on something that really happened, but is rather something I can invent for myself. And, if I can invent it for myself, it is fiction.

Mongolia was awesome. It really, really was, but Christ requires that my heart love him more than it loves Mongolia. He requires that my love of people/mountaintops exist in the shadow of my love for Him.

That is why people sanitize Christianity… they want to love mountaintops more than they love Christ, which Christ, Himself, said makes men and women unworthy of Him.


Finally, I want to deal with one crucial implication of believing that God is better than everything.

If God is better than I am, you are, my friends and family are, Mongolia is, books are, money is… If He is greater than everything, then He can rescue me. If He isn’t, then nothing can rescue me.

I am evil (See previous post) and deserve to be punished for my evil. You are evil and deserve to be punished for your evil. Everyone I know is evil and everyone who exists is evil… If that is true, then I cannot save you and you cannot save me. The Dali Lama, President Obama, and the Pope are all evil. They cannot save themselves, and certainly cannot save me.

We need Someone better. That is the basis of Christianity. Christ entered the world because of our evil and our need for Someone better…

Have a lovely Easter and think on Who Jesus was and is.


More Resources:

In an effort to focus on only New Testament passages and only three of them, I’ve left out some of the most poignant pieces of scripture that point to how great God truly is, so I want to quickly refer to them here so that we don’t end up in a place where we feel forced into a doctrine that says God is great, rather than being wooed into it. Here are some passages that woo me every time I think on them.

  1. “In the beginning, God…” Genesis 1 is a great place to see the surpassing greatness of God, as He speaks creation into being.
  2. “In the beginning was the Word…” John 1 is a great place to see how Jesus fits into Genesis 1 and to marvel at the idea of a God Who relinquished deity to rescue his murderers.
  3. “Moses said, ‘Please show me your glory.’” Exodus 33:12-23 is one of my favorite passages in all of scripture, because it makes tangible my ever-present plea: God – please show me Your glory.
  4. “…stop and consider the wondrous works of God…” The last ten chapters of Job (32-42) are so difficult and beautiful. They make my entire point for me, because both Elihu and God answer Job’s tragedy by pointing to the greatness of God in comparison to all else.

There are other passages. The Book of Psalms, for instance, is a great place to go to see the greatness of God. The whole Bible proclaims the greatness of God, although it’s more explicit at some times than it is at others.

And lastly, a book that changed my life and revealed God’s greatness to me is called Knowledge of the Holy. It’s by A.W. Tozer.

The Sanitization of Christ Series: Man is Evil

We were asked to go around the room and put a label to our spirituality. While I felt the request was really a bad idea to begin with, the results staggered me a bit.

In a secular setting, everyone claimed Christianity of one sort or another (Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc…) and everyone described Christianity as all-accepting. At first, I was pretty angry. Then, as it’s bled into me a little bit more over the past few days, I started to feel really sad.

In my favorite sermon, Matt Chandler describes unregenerate faith (people who attend church every day, but don’t actually know God) as inoculation to the faith – getting just enough of it never to fully experience it.

That’s really sad.

It’s out of a brokenheartedness over misconceptions about Christ that I thought I’d write a series of posts on what Christians actually believe. I’m not going to go at this in a comprehensive way. That would be impossible. I’m only going to write what I believe it’s necessary to write to combat the god who doesn’t condemn anyone and the christianity in which everyone gets into Heaven.

The basics:

  1. People are evil and deserve Hell.
  2. God is better…
  3. People cannot be good enough.
  4. Jesus died the death humans deserved.
  5. Some people will receive justice, while others receive unmerited grace.

I’m going to try not to go crazy citing all over the place here, but I’m also going to try to support each of these claims with three passages from the New Testament. Although I believe the Old Testament is equally valuable as a source of support for these claims, I don’t want to deal with the argument that God was different in the New Testament.


On the subject of evil, one of the more commonly cited passages is Romans 3:10-18 (although I’m going to stop at verse 13 for the sake of brevity):

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Although this is New Testament citing Old Testament, I think it’s fair to use just about anything Paul wrote, because he was most definitely after Jesus, and it’s impossible to say that he was writing about pre-Jesus God.

We could also go into John 2:24 & 25:

“But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”

Although it’s not explicitly stated here, there is an implication that man is evil.

Jesus does explicitly state that man is evil in Luke 11:13:

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children…”

I particularly like this one, because the verse isn’t even about man being evil. It’s a foregone conclusion that man is evil.


So… if I am a Christian, I either have to concede that Jesus said some things that aren’t true and man isn’t evil, or I have to figure that it must be true if God said it.

If I decide the former is true, I end up down the rabbit hole of why-the-hell-do-I-worship-a-god-who-lies? (or possibly doesn’t know the truth)… However, I, myself, get to feel a little bit better about my own heart. God shrinks, and I expand.

The result, however, of believing that man is inherently evil is really interesting, because the rabbit hole I jump down in leads to the realization that I, myself, am evil. There are both humility and excruciating vulnerability in me when I admit I’m evil. Admitting I’m evil leads to admitting that justice would be served if I burned.

I actually think it’s impossible to be one of those severe, Bible-thumping Christians when I spend time thinking on the implications of man’s evil nature. A Christian who believes she, herself, is evil, really can’t stand on a corner holding a sign saying that “God hates fags.” She can’t think she’s better than others are, because her own sin is ever before her. She knows the evil of her own heart.

So, while it’s a cleaner, seemingly gentler thing to say that people are imperfect, but not evil, it ultimately does the opposite of sanitizing the faith and making it accessible to non-believers; it causes Christians to believe their goodness can be measured by comparison to others. It causes me to think I’m better than you are because you use the F-bomb or you watched an R-rated movie last week or you drank three glasses of wine and I only drank one. It causes me to think I’m the best student in the class and God owes me a gold star for a job well-done. It causes me to believe that I don’t need rescue; I’m okay without God…

The more fully I believe I am evil, the more fully I believe I need God, and the more clearly I see His glory and goodness for saving a wretch like me.


Jesus Was Troubled…

I find those three words to be some of the most comforting in all of Scripture.

That “troubled” feeling leaves a legacy throughout the Bible. David wrote in the Psalms of feeling troubled (especially Psalm 6). Great kings and even entire nations are described as troubled. Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2), Pharaoh (Genesis 41), and Herod (Matthew 2) were all troubled. Hannah was troubled (1Samuel 1). Jesus Himself was troubled several times (Matthew 26, Mark 14, John 11, 12, 13)… and it’s fascinating to me.

People so often panic when someone expresses a feeling akin to “troubled.” Christians, occasionally and in particular, go so far as to shame each other for feeling troubled because “His yoke is easy and his burden is light,” (Matthew 11) or because of the instruction: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God,” (Phillippians 4). Christians wield those verses to drive home a false doctrine that a true believer shouldn’t be troubled – that faith should erase the heart’s woes and a good believer ought to be happy. While the verses are true, they do not supersede the verses that depict Jesus feeling “troubled.” They are not more relevant or applicable than the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’s tears in response to the death of Lazarus, or His cries to His Father from the cross, and the uplifting words of God cannot be divorced from the painful passages.

I’m tempted to write this entire post as a defense of feeling troubled, because I feel defensive about it. However, I’m going to try to limit the defense to a quick anecdote…

I had a rough week last week. I interviewed for several positions I should have been offered, but wasn’t, and I’m confident it’s my fault. I’m a terrible interviewee. Admittedly, spending a week not getting a job isn’t all that bad, but what I had was a compounded feeling from weeks and weeks and interviews and interviews that also didn’t work out. I woke up that Saturday and my car wouldn’t start. Then my grandmother passed out and had to go to the E.R. (and I thought she might die). At some point during the week, I was involuntarily separated for an undefined amount of time from someone I love and adore.

In short, I felt troubled, and not without reason.

So… a well-intentioned friend texted me with irritation that I hadn’t called her back when she’d called. I sent her a quick response that said, “The ish just keeps hitting the fan. I’ll call you when I regain my footing.”

The response she sent said something like, “You can vent to me. You don’t have to seem happy all the time.”

When I didn’t write back, she called and left me a voicemail, to which I didn’t respond.

The thing about this isn’t that any of that is wrong. It’s more of something I feared about talking to her… something hiding beneath the surface of her claims that I didn’t have to act a certain way. This friend has a great heart, and she wants to be there for me, but she has a response to other’s troubles that communicates the opposite of what her words said: she frets. It stresses her out when I am, or anyone is, troubled. She often cries in sympathy, which can be admirable. The problem comes when we’ve finished talking and she asks if I feel better.

As much as this friend wants to believe she’s a great listener and someone to whom I could turn when I’m troubled, her ultimate goal in the conversation is to fix it, whereas my ultimate desire and goal is to sit in it indefinitely.

Jesus was troubled…

I want to meditate on that. I want to think about what that means – that the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Creator, Savior, etc… felt troubled by the things He experienced and saw in this world.

I want to sit in it, and my friend wants to drag me out of it… and in my troubled state, I don’t have the energy to try to persuade her to just sit down beside me in it and say nothing. I didn’t want to have to tell her everything I’m writing here: that Jesus Himself felt troubled, so I’m in good company.

In the chronology of Jesus’s life, the passage I’m really thinking of that says He was troubled comes in John 13, just before Jesus told His disciples that one of them was going to betray Him.

If we were created in the image of a God who feels troubled about betrayal, then it’s not an accident that I struggle to understand and cope with betrayal. There’s even hope in a troubled heart because it indicates that I was created for better and more than I experience here. There’s hope because, “…we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses…” (Hebrews 4).

Admittedly, I pulled that passage out of context a bit, but I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that the sometimes troubled feeling of my heart is one letter of Jesus’s personal signature over me. It’s the red paint of His name claiming that He painted me and I am like Him. That’s why it’s important that I accept feeling troubled – because, in fighting it, I may be fighting one of my Christ-like reflexes, the reflex that feels troubled when things are broken.

What the Flip… Where’s the Complementary Chapter, eh?

I’ve been reading Numbers. I basically started with the beginning of the Bible, read an OT book, then a NT book, then an OT book, and so on… and I’m currently reading Numbers, which begins with a bunch of numbers – go figure. The first four-ish chapters are about counting different groups of people who are able-bodied enough to perform tasks surrounding the setting up, tearing down, transporting, and maintaining of the camp, including the tent of meeting and dealing with the Ark of the Covenant.

So I was pretty excited to be on chapter five, because it isn’t a bunch of numbers; it’s more along the lines of, “This is what you do if (very specific sin thing) happens. I’ve unexpectedly found these kinds of laws pretty interesting of late. My interest in the details of law that in most ways are impossible to apply today probably makes me a weirdo, but I’ve been really into thinking about atonement lately, digging animal sacrifice and how that and the gospel overlap and align. Also, with the taking some first steps towards vegetarianism, I’m pretty grossed out by some of the sacrifices because they seem real and graphic to me, whereas they used to seem so far removed that they were irrelevant.

Chapter 5 is mostly about what to do if a man suspects that his wife has committed adultery – if he has no evidence of the adultery, but feels what’s described as “jealous of his wife.” That doesn’t read well in modern American English, but I think it means he has all of those jealous, betrayed, bitter feelings that come along with wondering and maybe even believing your spouse cheated on you.

The chapter goes on to explain an oath, some water of bitterness, and the possibility of bitter physical pain, a swollen womb, and a thigh falling away. I’ve read some commentaries that suggest “thigh” there is a replacement word to sanitize the language when it’s really talking about lady parts… no one really seems to know for sure what it means. It’s all very, “It probably refers to…” or “It might mean…” Also, I should note, there’s a supernatural aspect to this situation and its justice, as the oath and the water will not bring pain on an innocent woman.

Numbers is one of those books that people often don’t read because it soooo gets into the minutia that it’s hard to stick with it. It’s too specific for our attention spans or something. It’s this consistent level of detail in addressing every possible scenario in this part of the Bible that led me to assume chapter six would be about what should occur if a woman is “jealous of her husband.” However, I was highly disappointed that the book seems to keep its silence on that one.

Is it just me, or does it seem unfair not to have the complementary chapter where a guilty man’s thigh falls away?

Of course Numbers is a book that can’t be taken out of its historical context, so I get that things weren’t particularly fair to women. I get that all of my thoughts are tinted with the insidious effects of having lived in a time when men sometimes decide to become women, and get to be all over the Facebook and the news for having had a sex change. I get that my idea of gender roles is wonked out by this crazy culture I inhabit… but I feel dissatisfied with what I read today. It feels unfair and unjust.


In this same category of thing: I haven’t written about it before now because I don’t know how to write about it well, but my reading of this chapter is also tinted by the recent adultery of someone I’d consider to be my brother. The ripples of betrayal that spread out around any infidelity are too shocking for words. And, while I feel a sense of defensiveness towards Brother, because his actions don’t make him any less my brother who I love, I read that chapter in Numbers and my heart cried out at the unfairness in the unaddressed situation where the husband rather than the wife has sinned (or is suspected of sin). My heart cries out for the Bible to explicitly condemn the great men in its pages who had multiple wives, but, as far as I know, it remains silent there as well. The double standard bothers me. I lack resolution with it that I feel I should find there, but I can’t see it.

Then, there’s the added thing of how a friend called me last week, needing advice because one of his close friends had cheated, and Friend wanted to talk through how to be a friend to his friend, how to think, how to forgive…

Unfortunately, I didn’t have answers for him. I hope I said some things that are helpful, but it isn’t an equation:

Friend cheated + (something I need to say or do) = I’m a good friend

or, worse yet:

Friend cheated + (something I need to say or do) = problem solved

Maybe that’s why I’m annoyed at the Bible right now. Numbers went at this scenario as if a man would and should want his cheating wife to suffer physical pain and be publicly shamed; it’s a foregone conclusion that he would, without evidence beyond his intuition that she’d cheated, take her to the priest and subject her to a test of her character.

Did my wife cheat on me? + Test the priest can perform = Problem solved!

This equation doesn’t account for the affection and gentleness that a man should have toward his wife. Numbers and the law boil life down to what must be done, omitting the ineffable human parts…

They exclude mercy and its provision. They exclude the mercy I want for Brother.

I’m angry. It would be dishonest to ignore the anger I have, that mostly manifests itself in a desire to list all the ways Brother’s actions impacted me and others I love. Though I try to remember that love keeps no record of wrongs, it feels like an injustice for him to remain ignorant of his affect on the entire body of Christ. I’m sure he’s aware, when I actually think about it. The body is mysterious in its interdependence, and he knows, but that’s still where my anger rests… in wanting him to know and care about the parts that matter to people who aren’t him… the little ripples that are easy to miss while focused on the big picture.

Yet, even in my angriest moments, my lack of desire for Brother to suffer physical pain stands conspicuous to me. Maybe it’s different when it’s closer… maybe if I was the spouse of infidelity I’d want him pummeled. Maybe.

However, it seems universally true to me that the affection and desire for a person’s good doesn’t vanish when he sins or betrays, no matter how personal and evil the sin.

One of the reasons reading Numbers is so dissatisfying is it takes sin out of the context of Christ. The only hope I have for simultaneous mercy and justice for myself, Brother, and the rest of the people who mean something to me… the only hope is the cross. The only place the anger and hurt can be worked out satisfactorily is Calvary. No law, penalty, consequence, or punishment can provide what Christ gave us on the Cross.

Regarding Rebuke and Sin

In being rebuked, I’ve learned:

1. It is never an incorrect move to agree with someone who says I’m wrong. However, it is often an incorrect move to disagree with someone who says I’m wrong. The former will always grow me in humility and build the relationship. The latter will grow me in confidence (or arrogance) and will likely damage the relationship.

2. Apologizing is one of the most underrated opportunities in existence. Asking someone for forgiveness reminds me of my status with God and the mercy He shows me. Asking someone for forgiveness also offers that person the opportunity to be like Christ. It is an overt pleading that he do for me what God has done for him in granting him mercy.

3.  People don’t feel comfortable rebuking one another. Thus, it takes great courage and care for a person to tell me I’m wrong, and (unless it’s some guy I don’t know telling me I’m going to burn in Hell because my shorts are too short) I should give my full attention and humility to the rebuke, assuming that my rebuker doesn’t want to be rebuking me.

4. It is never correct to point out my rebuker’s flaws. Even if I’m in a situation where the person rebuking me is wrong to do so… and I mean REALLY, 100%, obvious beyond even the slightest reasonable or unreasonable doubt wrong, there is no return-rebuke that’s good or right. It doesn’t matter how that person spoke to me; it doesn’t matter if that person is involved in open sin; it doesn’t matter if that person is a professing atheist. In the midst of a rebuke, it is always the wrong move to point out the rebuker’s flaws. Rebuke isn’t actually about the rebuker at all, and seeking to make it about him is a childish move. It’s a cowardly deflection.

5. People who rebuke one-another make excellent companions. There are some obvious exceptions, but the general character of the rebuker includes a rare courage and caring. It involves a sense of duty to both man and God, and it involves humility.

6. Rebuke is not the same as working through conflict. Rebuke requires a statement of wrong-doing. It is a push towards repentance and forgiveness. It is only to be used when there is clear-cut evidence of sin. Rebuke is far more serious than the vast majority of disagreements I have in my life, and I should respond to it as weighty.

I bring all of this up because I rebuked someone this week… over the Facebook thing… and I hate the feeling that comes in the wake of an unsuccessful rebuke. It’s been something like three years since I last rebuked someone, so I’m not used to the way it eats at me, although it ate at me that time too. I wish I was on the other end of the rebuke, actually, because one of the most painful things in life is watching someone I care for destruct, especially when there’s nothing that can be done in aid. The person just has to live it out for the time being.

I was reading Romans this morning, and chapter 7 has always been a confusing one for me. Scratch that – all of the things Paul writes about his relationship to the law confuse me. He writes such convoluted sentences sometimes, and I know they express something marvelous, but I can’t always access whatever that marvelous thing is, or sometimes I access it for a fleeting moment, and then I spend years trying to recapture that epiphany.

The passage that captured me today was towards the end of the chapter in v. 21-25:

“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? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

There are several parts of this passage that resonate with me today. I don’t think I fully understand what Paul is saying here, and my thoughts get all jumbled because some of the verses seem to condemn me, while others justify me. Put through the filter of who and what I am at this very moment, I feel that the good I want to do wars with the evil that’s close at hand. Sometimes I feel that I am wretched. Other times, I feel completely at peace with it all because I’m confident in the cross. So, in many ways, this passage is about me. It’s the Bible, so it’s not more about me than it is about anyone else, but it’s important that I know it’s about me.

Then there are moments today when I filter the passage through the girl I rebuked. I don’t know if that’s a healthy thing to be doing… it sounds a little like the self-righteousness of sitting through a sermon and thinking about all of the people who need to hear the sermon because Pastor is talking about them. However, when I filter it through her, I actually just feel that ache of how difficult it is to allow ourselves to be wrong. How difficult it is to admit that we’re wretched. She dug in her heels against my rebuke, and I can feel that stubbornness, that hardness of heart. I intimately know the blockade I went up against in her. It’s a strong wall that won’t allow her to entertain the possibility that her good intentions are wrapped up in evil ones. I’ve been the person who says, and honestly believes, like she does, that I’ve examined my heart and that there is no sin in it. I’ve felt the pain that comes when I looked back and realized just how much sin was there that I was ignoring.

And after all of the thinking about rebuke and what it should be, how it is to be done… After reading Romans and filtering it through her and me, I’m left with the same ache I had before, during, and after the rebuke… the ache that wishes she wouldn’t keep throwing herself up against that stubborn blockade. I feel the ache that knows it’s far easier to ask God to destroy all that is in me that’s proud, self-assured, oh-so-very right – easier to ask Him to replace that stubborn wall with the righteousness of Christ… a righteousness that gave up a throne and authority in Heaven to be humiliated on behalf of sinners. And yet, my ache is also one that knows such a request of God only seems easy in retrospect. Really, asking that of God is so incredibly difficult.