“Liberal” Is Not a Bad Word

credit to npr.org
credit to npr.org

What do you think about when you hear the word liberal? I was raised to equate the word with all sorts of negative qualities, and I imagine many of you were too. It was a word that denoted an enemy of truth: “His views are too liberal.” It was a word to discredit political enemies: “Don’t vote for that liberal candidate.” It was a word to identify those congregations: “We can’t visit there. That’s a liberal church of Christ.”

When we use the word liberal, we create all sorts of negative imagery fostered by the past twenty or so years of political culture wars. But this post is not about politics or political philosophy. It is not about sound doctrine or church institutionalization. It’s not about church daycare or charities. It’s about individual Christians being liberal the way God is liberal.

Take a look at a portion of the Sabbath law in Deuteronomy 15:12-15 (NKJV):

If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the LORD has blessed you with, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today.

Under the Law of Moses, if I owed you a huge debt, I could indenture myself to you as payment. Then, every Sabbath year, those who owned these indentured servants were to let them go free, but it didn’t stop there. The masters were to liberally supply their former servants from their own blessings. The servants in no way earned this favor; their service was paying off a past debt. Instead, this was supposed to remind both servant and master of God’s blessings to His people. As God was generous to His servants, so His people should be generous too.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

– James 1:2-5 (NKJV)

God is liberal with His gifts for us today as well. Not just in the knowledge of His word, but God is liberal in grace, in forgiveness, and in goodness. All good things are from Him, and He pours His grace and forgiveness on us when we cannot earn it or deserve it (see Romans 5). Like the servant in Deuteronomy, we are undeserving of the gifts He bestows upon us. We have a debt of sin we cannot possibly pay, but God liberally grants us grace and redemption in His Son. We should, therefore, be as liberal with our own gifts.

This means we forgive when we don’t feel the other party deserves it. This means we show kindness and goodness to all around us. This means we assume the best when someone is at their worst, and it means we give of our time and resources to benefit others. The first and easiest way we can practice God’s grace is to give — to individuals, to families, to churches, to charitable causes. We can give our money. We can donate food, books, clothes, and other blessings. We can donate our time. If we cannot liberally give of our physical blessings, how will we ever share our spiritual ones?

I’m a conservative Christian, and I seek to conservatively practice the faith brought by Jesus and practiced by His disciples, but we cannot allow conservatism to become a stumbling block. While we seek to conservatively preserve God’s way and prevent worldly influences from corrupting the gospel of hope, let’s also take note of the ways we should be liberal — in our giving, in forgiveness, with grace, with goodness.

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; m he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; o he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Romans 12:6-8 (NKJV)

Worth & Others

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Over the last couple of posts, we’ve looked at the value God places on each of us — that you, as an individual, are worthwhile and valuable to God. Knowing we’re valuable to God then changes how we treat ourselves, how we conduct ourselves, and how we present ourselves every day. I’m not simply some office worker living a mundane work-home-work existence; I’m a child of God. I’m a light on a hill. I belong to a royal priesthood, set apart and sanctified by God. So I should act like it.

The next big step comes when we realize that God views everyone as valuable. The Spanish-speaking girl working behind the Subway register? Valuable. That senator saying things against your chosen party? Valuable. That person texting and driving? Valuable. That telemarketer who just mispronounced your name? Valuable. The lady paying with food stamps right in front of you at the grocery store? Valuable. God places just as much value on every one of them as He does on you.

Jesus shows us just how far this thinking should go toward the end of Matthew 5:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers,what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Even people who mistreat and misuse us are valuable to God, so Jesus says to care about them and to pray for them. This goes against our sense of justice, against our desire for retribution, against our instincts. Immediately prior to these statements, Jesus says:

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

I’ve heard numerous reasons for denying mercy or forgiveness, but none hold up against Christ’s teachings. Every person has worth, and it’s my responsibility as a child of God to treat them as worthwhile. If someone cuts me off in traffic, I don’t rail against them or begin driving unsafely to make a point of how affronted I am. If a politician says something I disagree with, I don’t go to Facebook to berate them. I don’t joke about shooting “illegals” or “liberals”. I don’t take joy in misfortune visiting any person or group of people, no matter how much a part of me wants to feel they deserve it.

Instead, I visit kindness wherever I can. Someone in line at the grocery store says something disparaging about our cashier? I make it a point to say something nice to her or him. The table next to me is giving our waiter or waitress a hard time? I tip extra. My coworker is late meeting a deadline that affects our project? I help out. Little moments of self-sacrifice and mindful kindness can go a long way in making others feel better about themselves and, in the long run, more open to spiritual matters. Depending on the dispositions you’ve grown used to living with (optimist, pessimist, trusting, skeptical, etc.), this may take some adjustment, but it is an adjustments God expects all of his children to make.

Finally, Galatians 6:9-10:

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Sometimes it can be tough to keep a positive attitude and treat everyone with the love and grace God shows, us. There will times we need to recharge, but the more we make kindness and goodness a part of our daily routines, the easier it will get. What starts out as effort becomes habit when practiced consistently. It begins with recognizing the value God places on all of us. If I can see you as a creation of God first, and all other qualities secondary to that, then I can go a long way toward treating you as I should. I know that God loves me and cherishes me. When I can realize that God loves and cherishes you as well, then I can begin to imitate that love.

Christianity & Self Worth

worth

In my last post, I looked at the fact that God sees you as valuable. He has done a great deal to care for you and to ensure you have a home with Him for the rest of eternity. We do not have a God that sees us as sinners unworthy of His grace. Rather, we have a God that regards us highly, who sees each and every one of us as valuable and worthwhile. How, then, should that affect how I view and treat myself in this life?

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

I Corinthians 6:19-20

I’ve seen this passage used in the context of forbidding alcohol, drugs, even piercings and tattoos; but Paul is communicating something deeper to us. He tells us that God has purchased us. He has redeemed us at great price. Therefore we should treat ourselves as valuable. It might seem obvious, but I can’t tell you how many Christians I’ve known who treat themselves poorly. It saddens me when I encounter brothers or sisters in Christ who obviously think little of themselves, who don’t take care of themselves, who just seem to drudge along with little sense of self-respect or self-worth.

I also can’t say there are any easy answers to that problem. A low self esteem can be a difficult thing to overcome, but maybe these verse can help you or someone you love view themselves as God sees them.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139:13-14

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

I John 3:1

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Luke 12:6-7

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

I John 4:4

If you don’t feel very valuable right now, talk to God about it. Go to Him in prayer. Study your Bible, and see the great love He has for you. It may be that you have a hard time seeing the love your family and friends have for you right now, but God will always be there. He is always waiting to lift you up. I don’t think for a second that a single blog post will fix everything, but I hope to inspire you to start seeking help, to start looking upward.

Take care of yourself, for God cares for you. Value yourself, for God values you. Talk to others about your feelings, and let your fellow Christian lift you up. You have a hope greater than anything this world can offer, so don’t let the world knock that hope out of you. You have been purchased with a very high price. God sees you as worth His time, His grace, His sacrifice. None of us may be able to earn God’s grace, but that doesn’t make us worthless. In fact, it speaks all the more to how much our God loves us and values us. It means He has to put that much more effort into our being with Him, and He doesn’t begrudge us that effort. We are His craftsmanship, so let’s start treating ourselves like the valuable souls we are.

Worthwhile

worth

Have you ever thought about what you are worth to God?

Too often, I hear brothers and sisters talk about themselves as if they are insignificant to God – sort of reflecting the question David asks in Psalm 8:4: “What is man that you are mindful of him?” What can we possibly mean in the context of an eternal God? What can one person mean to the Creator of the cosmos, to the Alpha & the Omega, to the Almighty? How can one speck of sand mean anything in the landscape of human existence?

But you are worthwhile to God. You are meaningful to Him. You are valuable to Him.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

Psalm 8:3-8

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Jon 3:16-17

When the apostle writes that God loves the world, he means you. “For God so loved you that He sent His Son.”

There is no one in the entire history of the universe who is exactly like you, and there never will be. You are singular and unique, and God wants you to spend the rest of eternity with Him. He made you to be with Him. He has prepared a home for you with Him. He sacrificed greatly so you can be with Him. These are not the actions of a Creator that sees you as worthless. Rather, they are the actions of a God who sees you as worthwhile. So let’s stop beating ourselves up and instead let Him lift us up. Let Him lift us up to His standards, to His love, to His grace.

It begins with the simple realization that yes, you are, as a point of fact, worth something.