What is Love?

.. Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more..

Just kidding. You were all thinking it though, weren’t you? When Haddaway wrote that song, he asked a valid question. What IS love? What does it look like? What does it mean? What does it require?

Our world has attempted to answer that question over the last few thousand years with many, many different ideas. In this moment in history when school shootings, police brutality, racism, protesting, and wars permeate our daily news, it is a good time for a reminder of what love is.

Ultimately, the answer to the question of “what is love?” is God. God is love. It is who He is, and we cannot understand Him apart from it. He is the author and creator of love. We see what love looks like in the walking around, everyday world when we look at Jesus. His sacrifice of leaving heaven to come to earth and suffer and die at the hands of the people he was coming to serve is the ultimate example of love.

A few years later, Paul has a nice succinct list of what love looks like. We’ve all heard it, but right now especially, it’s worth repeating and really thinking about again. We’ve seen this love lived out in the life of Jesus, and because of that, we are free to love others in the same way.

Love is patient, love is kind.

Are you patient? Are you willing to lay down your desires and needs in order to give people the space they need to grow, or change or mature? Are you patient with people you disagree with? How are you at waiting for the things you want? Are you kind? Do you treat people with kindness and graciousness? Is grace your first response to people? How would people describe you?

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

How do you feel when something good happens for someone else? Are you quick to celebrate with them? Or is there a part of you that feels gypped that you didn’t get that good thing? Do you feel entitled? When it’s your turn to get something good, how do you treat others in light of it? Do you lord it over them? Do you brag? Do you think that suddenly you’ve arrived or are now superior them in some way?

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

How do you speak about people behind their back? Can people trust you to stick up for a friend if someone else is dishonoring them? What about after a conflict when your emotions are strong and you feel hurt? Do you tell stories or use life examples when you speak that highlight you and the good things that you do? Are you always the victim in your story? Is it of ultimate importance that others think highly of you? When someone disagrees with you or does something you don’t like, are you quick to jump to anger and attack them? How short is your fuse? Do you hold the sins of others over their heads? Do you bring up people’s sin repeatedly in conversations? Do you think of people’s sins first when you think of them?

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

How do you react when someone brings up something you have done to hurt them? How do you react when someone shares an experience with you that is hard for you to hear? Do you rush to justify or defend your actions or the actions of others? Do you turn it around and blame the other person for feeling hurt? Are you grateful for hearing the truth, or would you prefer to stay in the dark?

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

How are you at protecting the people in your life? Physically, emotionally, spiritually? Are you doing your best at keeping them from harm, from yourself or others? Do you live your life in such a way where you are free to trust that God is sovereign and in control of your life, others’ lives, and in situations? Do you trust that He is good and He will work it out? Or are you seeking control? Do you look at the lives and situations of yourself and others and see hope? Are you willing to see the best in them? To hope for the best in them? Or are you quick to discredit when you don’t get what you want? Are you willing to continue to love people even when you don’t like them much?

Love never fails.

People fail. All the time. People hurt us. We hurt people. But God doesn’t fail. Love doesn’t fail. God’s love doesn’t fail. God’s love does all of the things on this list perfectly. God is working His perfect plan of love all the time. We can trust Him. We can trust His love, His goodness, His plan.

 

Christian, it’s time for us all to live as if we believed that.

 

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Jesus and the Sinful Woman

“…So I tell you this. Her many sins have been forgiven. She has shown that she understands this by her great acts of love. But whoever has been forgiven only a little loves only a little.” Luke 7:47

Her story inspires imagination. The woman described in Luke 7. Who was she? What is her story? What was her childhood like? Did she have parents who treated her with kindness and respect? Had she been hurt or abused somehow in her young life that resulted in poor life choices, either her own, or others choices for her? Did she feel used? Did she feel trapped?

If I was writing a fiction story about her, those would be the questions I would answer. We must ask ourselves these questions, I think, when we come to scripture like this. It is so easy to judge. So easy to think ourselves above her, or find ourselves immersed in “chronological snobbery” as C.S. Lewis would say. When we put ourselves in her place, imagine walking in her shoes, if only for a moment, that is when grace begins to infiltrate our dreary souls. We are all desperate for that infiltration. We are desperate for that Grace.

The Bible leaves out the details about who she is. We don’t even know her name! We know only that there was a woman, well known for being ‘sinful’. Most of us have assumed or been taught that she was a prostitute. The Bible does not label her that way, but the rest of us have. Whatever her sins were, she has clearly been defined by them. Everyone knew she was a sinner. Herself included. Seeking grace and forgiveness from the people around her had clearly not panned out. She carries the labels people have placed on her wherever she goes.

This woman’s very foundation is shaken when she meets Jesus. She finds out where Jesus will be dining, and she decides to go to Him. It does not matter to her that He will be at the home of a highly educated and religious man. A man who could have been the one who gave her the labels in the first place. It doesn’t matter that she was uninvited and would be breaking every social rule. She is drawn towards Jesus. She is drawn towards His goodness. The grace and truth that He is. She longs for it.

Walking into that home, uninvited and unwelcome must have taken a great deal of strength and courage for her. She knows that she must walk through that crowd of people with their opinions and judgements, in order to get to her savior. Bravery begins to build in her soul as she gets closer to Him. The weight of her own sin, the weight of the judgements against her begin to lift. She feels the love, the acceptance, the grace from Jesus as she gets closer. By the time she reaches Him, she can no longer hold it together. She is overcome. She throws herself down at His feet and weeps.  She anoints His feet with her tears; sorrow and joy overflowing. The tears mingle with the expensive perfume she pours, and together they slowly wash away the dust and grime from his sandaled feet, and create an offering that she, and she alone can give. She lets down her hair in gratitude and freedom and wipes away her tears of sorrow.

Interestingly, the more freedom she feels in this moment, the more shocked the people around her were. A woman’s hair in that day was considered to be her crowning glory, sensual. No one was meant to see a woman’s hair except for her husband. For this woman to have such a public display of emotion towards a man who was not her husband, is scandalous. Even worse, taking down her hair in front of the group of religious men, goes against everything that would have been considered proper.

The Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this. He said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him. He would know what kind of woman she is. She is a sinner!”

How many times have I myself seen someone feel free in Jesus to do a particular thing and judged them in my own heart, for thinking that they dared have the “perceived” freedom to do that thing! And how many times have I myself felt judged by others, when I was feeling free in Jesus to do a thing. I am both the sinful woman and the pharisee, Jesus help me!

We must wonder to ourselves at this point in the story, why Jesus’ feet were still dirty. We take for granted here our paved roads and close-toed shoes, but at this time, there were only dirt roads and open-toed shoes. Culturally speaking, when guests entered into someone’s home, a good host would have a servant ready to wash the dust off of the guests feet. If they didn’t have a servant, the host would offer to do it, or have it available for them to do it themselves. To invite someone to your home and not offer this, was poor hospitality and a slap in the face to your guest.

When our friend enters the room and begins to cry at Jesus’ feet, she sees that His feet have not been cleaned. This host has not treated Jesus with the respect that He deserves. He invited Him in, but did not care for Him. This emotional woman weeping at His feet, gives Jesus the honor that He did not receive from His well educated, religious host, who certainly knew better. This is what we should be shocked about. The other men sitting with Jesus are shocked by this woman. They are shocked at her actions, her freedom. They are shocked that Jesus does not send her away.

How many of us are shocked at the wrong things? The things that offend our own sense of “rightness”, rather than be shocked at the things that offend Jesus.

Jesus’ response to the woman at His feet is beautiful and breathtaking. He is not shocked. He does not treat her as “just a woman”. He does not rub her sin in her face. He does not tell her to leave, or indicate that her presence is unwelcome. He does not tell her that her emotional response to Him is wrong or inappropriate. Jesus takes a moment to look at her. He sees her for who she is. He sees her sin and her emotion and her repentant heart and He honors her. In front of the arrogant, religious men, He esteems this woman for doing what they did not do, and being what they were not.

Then he turned toward the woman. He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?

Do you see this woman? Do you see her? Do I see her?

Look. Look at her. Look in her eyes. Don’t look at her sin, look at her soul.

Her sin after all, is not the point.

Jesus knew who she was. He knew what she had done. He acknowledged that this woman was a sinner, EVERYONE knew, especially her! But Jesus affirmed this woman, accepted her, SAW her in the midst of her sin and forgave her. Jesus loved her.

This is the Kingdom of God breaking through to earth. This is the Kingdom of God come to walk among us. This is the God who sees. This is the God who knows. This is the God who looks deep into your eyes and says, “I see you. Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

This unnamed woman gives us such a beautiful picture of faith, courage and love. She walks through the labels and oppression in order to throw herself at the feet of her savior, and in doing so is received with grace, love and acceptance. She faces her fear in order to learn that He is safe.

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.. Hebrews 12:1

 

Just Breathe

Breathe in. Breathe out.

It’s all going to be okay.

 

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Nothing is impossible with God.

 

Breathe in. Breathe out.

You are under the shadow of His wing.

 

Breathe in. Breathe out.

He is hiding you in the cleft of the rock.

 

Breathe in. Breathe out.

You are safe.

 

Sometimes we need to be reminded that it’s okay to stop and breathe for a while.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are not the saviors of the story and do not need to carry the weight of that responsibility.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that God does not condemn us, and anything that feels like condemnation is not from God.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that the Gospel is beautiful. The Gospel encourages the fruit of; Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control. When we are not growing in these things, it is not the Spirit that we are listening to.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that the victory has already been won through Christ and we do not carry the weight of responsibility for how things turn out.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that God’s grace is big enough for our situation, for our relationships, for our sin.

 

Breathe in. Breathe out.

 

God’s grace is easy. Comfortable.

God’s grace engulfs us, surrounds us, swallows us up. We can wrap ourselves in it like a warm blanket on a cold day. Best of all, it is already ours and it is free.

There is no such thing as too much grace. Grace begets relationship. Grace begets love. Grace begets safety. Grace begets truth. It all begins with grace.

 

Breathe in. Breathe out.

God’s grace is enough.

 

That Time Kanye West Taught Me About Jesus

The other day in my car, Kanye West taught me a little bit about Jesus. I’m not even kidding. Now, I am not one of those people for whom celebrity news holds much appeal. In fact, celebrity news holds about as much appeal for me as politics, which equals approximately less than zero. So when the song started playing through my car stereo, I had no idea who was singing it. Initially I liked it, because I like pretty much any music that makes me feel like I want to dance. As I started paying attention to the words, however, my mind changed very quickly. Let’s just allow the lyrics to speak for themselves. Please excuse the language:

“Stronger”

Na-na-na that that don’t kill me

Can only make me stronger

I need you to hurry up now

‘Cause I can’t wait much longer

I know I got to be right now

‘Cause I can’t get much wronger

Man I’ve been waitin’ all night now

That’s how long I’ve been on you

 

I need you right now

I need you right now

 

Let’s get lost tonight

You could be my black Kate Moss tonight

Play secretary, I’m the boss tonight

And you don’t give a f*#k what they all say right?

Awesome, the Christian and Christian Dior

Damn, they don’t make ’em like this anymore

I ask ’cause I’m not sure

Do anybody make real s@$t anymore?

Bow in the presence of greatness

’cause right now thou hast forsaken us

You should be honored by my lateness

That I would even show up to this fake s#&t

So go ahead go nuts go ape s*&t

Especially in my pastel on my bape s#*t

Act like you can’t tell who made this

New gospel homie, take six, and take this, haters

 

[Chorus]

 

I need you right now

I need you right now

 

Me likey

 

I don’t know if you got a man or not,

If you made plans or not

If God put me in your plans or not

I’m trippin’ this drink got me sayin’ a lot

But I know that God put you in front of me

 

So how the hell could you front on me?

There’s a thousand you’s, there’s only one of me

I’m trippin’, I’m caught up in the moment right?

Cause it’s Louis Vuitton Don night

So we gon’ do everything that Kan like

Heard they’d do anything for a Klondike

Well, I’d do anything for a blonde-dike

And she’ll do anything for the limelight

And we’ll do anything when the time’s right

Ugh, baby, you’re makin’ it (harder, better, faster, stronger)

Charming, isn’t it?

One does not have to dig too far to understand the ‘deep’ meaning of Kanye’s song. It is clear. Kanye is the king. And as the king, Kanye gets have anything he wants, whenever he wants it and has the ‘right’ to treat women (or whomever) any way he damn well pleases. Because he is the king.

Let me just be clear. Kanye- God has nothing to do with any of this. Kindly leave Him out of your lyrics.

There’s something about this that is deeply disturbing to me. It’s not that Kanye has this attitude, because let’s be honest.. We ALL have this attitude about some things, sometimes. And I bet most of us would act on it more often if given the opportunity. Kanye’s language is not disturbing to me either. They’re just words after all. What is disturbing to me is this; Kanye (I presume) is a pretty popular, well-known guy. His songs are (I presume) pretty popular and well-known as well. It disturbs me greatly that this is the message that our young men are getting about how they should behave as “men”. And equally, or perhaps even MORE disturbing, is the fact that women are submitting to this nonsense.

We live in a strange society. On one hand, we and the women coming before us have fought hard to have equal rights to vote, to own property, for equal pay and treatment in the workplace, etc. In a lot of ways, women are more “liberated” than we have ever been in the past.

On the other hand, songs like this are wildly popular. And not only are the songs and lyrics popular, but the performers of these songs are worshipped like gods. This song belittles, objectifies and devalues women, and yet, HOW MANY WOMEN WISH THEY WERE THIS GIRL? How many women would give their right arm to sleep with the man who wrote this song?

There is something DREADFULLY wrong with this.

My own heart both rages against this and understands it. A strange dichotomy. I truly understand that desire. To be beautiful. To be important. To be valued, and honored, and cherished. Those are good desires. And I understand how easy it is to long for someone to show me and tell me that they think these things about me. I get it. I’ve been there. I will probably be there again. I understand. But listen..

THIS IS SLAVERY

Beauty, importance, value and honor are already yours through Jesus. We no longer have to be a slave to the opinions, the words or the attitudes of others; men or women. We no longer have to fight for it. We no longer have to feel self-righteous when we ‘earn’ it. We no longer have to feel crushed when we do not. We are no longer slaves.

We have been set free.

Galations 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Christ has set us free. Stand firm. Do not submit to slavery.

Let us be FREE.

Thank you for the reminder, Kanye.

 

Confessions of a ‘Dirty’ Feminist

Why am I here? What am I doing on this blog? I want you guys to know my heart, so I’d like to share some things with you. The name of my blog is Redeeming Freedom. The tagline under the name is, “A fresh look at faith, food and biblical feminism.” The decision to use the word “feminism” was one I wrestled with. I decided to go for it, even though it is a ‘dirty’ word in Christian circles. I like to live on the edge. I’d like to explain why.

The church has been a large part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was young, I attended AWANA. Through the years I participated in church on Sundays, church events and youth group. My husband and I continue to participate in church, through small groups, serving and leadership in various ways. We’ve brought our children to church and encouraged them to serve as well as they’ve gotten older. I have labeled myself as a ‘good, Christian girl”.

When you hit your thirties, God starts doing crazy things. Life altering, pendulum swinging, foundation crumbling, paradigm shifting sort of things. I’ve watched it happen to others, and I am no exception. A pattern of freedom and redemption has emerged in my life due to God’s work in the last few years. (Redeeming Freedom. Get it?). He needed to set me free from sin- others’ sin against me and my own. Much of this sin has come in the form of religion.

That may sound funny to you, the idea of needing to be set free from religion. It would have to me a few years ago. Religion in this context can be defined by the legalistic rules that we add to the Bible that HINDER us from having a genuine relationship with Jesus. As Jesus works, I am finding myself more free to be in relationship with Him. I am less hindered by all the things I think I have to do. Or even worse, the way I have to BE. A particular area where God is continuing to free me is in the area of men and women.

A year or so ago, God told me to start studying the women of the Bible. Who were they? Why are their stories in the Bible? What did they do? What are we to learn from them and their stories? How does God feel about them? As I have studied these women, God has opened my eyes. He has shown me the incongruency between His view of women and my own.

Years ago, a friend said to me, “Kristi, if you weren’t such a Godly woman, you would be a raging feminist.” I’ve thought about that comment over the years and I’ve thought a lot about the idea of feminism. You may not believe this, but as my heart aligns more with scripture and with Jesus, I’ve actually become MORE of what you might call a feminist.

Secular feminism, or feminism without Jesus leads to dark and ungodly places. Man shaming/hating, abortions under the guise of sexual equality, and damaging generations by pushing an agenda of “equality means sameness” by not affirming that God created men and women to be DIFFERENT, to name a few. It is no wonder that feminism is a dirty word in the Christian culture. These things are NOT the heart of God, but without Jesus, this is probably where I would be.

The thing is, I LONG for value and worth. Not in spite of being a woman, but BECAUSE I am a woman. I LONG to know and believe that there is not anything lesser about who I am because I am a woman and not a man. Without Jesus, I certainly would be fighting for that on my own and stomping on anyone who stood in my quest for it.

What I’ve come to learn is that my longing for worth is good and it is right, and it a God-given desire. Jesus longs to fill that desire for me. All I needed to do was ask, but for so long I didn’t know! I believed my desires for value and worth were contrary to God’s word. My fear was that if asked Jesus about it, He would tell me my desires were sinful, or worse, that He really did think women were less valuable than men!

Oh, how I was wrong! In Genesis, Eve was given instructions to rule with her husband. Women were named as rulers and queens and prophets in the Old Testament. In the New Testament women traveled with Jesus and learned from Him just like any man. Jesus dignified them, and freed them to work alongside of Him and His ministry. And this was counter cultural! Jewish leaders at the time believed women to be little more than property and not worthy to teach. Paul also worked side by side with women to spread the gospel. He honored their work and sacrifice, and named them as leaders. (Romans 16)

If we define the word ‘feminist’ as the dictionary does, (Adj: advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men. N: an advocate of such rights.)  then it’s pretty clear that Jesus Himself was a counter cultural feminist! Let that sink in for a moment! Jesus affirmed the worth, value and dignity of women in the face of religious men.(Luke 7:36-50) Jesus did NOT have to stomp on the value of men to show the value of women, and nor should we. Jesus stood firm in the truth of the original creation story. Equal value for both men and women. Partnership. Ruling and subduing the earth, side by side.

This is why I chose the word ‘feminist’ for my blog. Jesus was a feminist, and He shocked people with it. I want to be like Jesus. Jesus came to set captives free. Male and female both. He called both men and women to ‘pick up their cross and follow him’. He called both men and women to be leaders. And He called both men and women to be warriors.

I now know that I am free to be fierce. I am free to be a warrior. I am free to fight. I am free to be a feminist. I am free. Jesus has set me free.