Know Yourself. Know Your Idol.

The two latest tragedies that are in front of me are the school shooting in Texas, and the abuse scandal unraveling in another Christian denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. Both are incredibly painful. They should be. They are another example of how humanity has fallen and how determined, it seems, humanity is to stay mired there.

Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.

1 John 5:21, New Living Translation

It was this verse, however, that strikes me as the core issue…idols. Whether one is a Christian, in a Christian community, or not a Christian at all, we each have idols or, more importantly, something that is so close to being an idol that it may not be one spiritually (though that may be debatable), but functionally is.

I speak from ignorance regarding the shooter at the school tragedy, and deliberately so. Reading what pundits and talking heads have to say, even first-person testimonies aren’t particularly helpful and may be more damaging in regard to a solution. From a shepherd’s standpoint, I see pain. Whether it is generational pain, cultural pain, and/or personal pain, it seems to me that someone was in such spiritual and emotional pain that they reacted in a seemingly inhumane way.

He responded inhumanely, but he responded far too humanly.

One of the words I’ve seen applied to him, the accused SBC abusers, and the abuse enablers (in the cases of both shooter and abusers) is inhumane. That can be a misleading term. Humane is a moral stance that is, in the US at least, based upon cultural and supposedly Judeo-Christian frameworks. Humane from a Christian standpoint can best be framed by using Charles Sheldon’s words (culturally popularized in the ’90s), What Would Jesus Do?

On the other hand, human (i.e., less the “e”) is different. Frankly, both tragedies are emblematic of human-ness. Yes, both were inhumane, as are we. I bring this forward, as we often respond to inhumane as if it were the same as being inhuman, or not human. This is a grave danger for us, as when we remove the “e”, we tend to make others out to be less than we are. This leads to tirades against others and the hardening of hearts.

I’m convinced that the Gospel has not lost its power. I’m equally convinced that we have lost the power of the Gospel. We are agents, it seems, of becoming more human and less humane.

In What’s Wrong with the World, G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” I might amend Chesterton and say, “it was found difficult and abandoned.”

Each of us has an issue that ignites us. Each of us has a pain that motivates or chains us. These can be our idols. Pray with me that God frees us from them all and that we become more like Jesus (humane) and less a sinner (human).

By Pastor Ian

Ian is an ordained Elder in The Church of the Nazarene, and is currently serving as the Online Campus Pastor at Generations Community Church in Marysville, WA, USA.