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David Burchett Christian Blog and Commentary

David Burchett

David Burchett's weblog

If I could have one wish for those of you who read these humble ramblings it would be very simple.

Amy Grant recorded “My Grown-up Christmas List” for her “Home For Christmas” album. The lyrics imagine an adult going back to Santa with a different perspective on what matters most in life. Instead of material things the writer now asks for good things for others. I love the sentiment of the song.

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
Everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list

I thought about my “grown-up” Christmas list this week. I would love for all of the things in the lyric above to come true. But I have lived enough to know they will not. Everyday lives are torn apart. Wars start too frequently. Time does not heal every heart. Some who are reading this are lonely. Right seems to lose way too often and love ends for many.

Blackboard with the text: All I Want For Christmas in a conceptual image

So what could I wish for that would be available for all? My grown-up Christmas list would have one simple wish. That every person would truly understand the outrageous grace gift that God offers to each one of us. All we have to do is open that gift in faith. Christmas is when the gift came to earth wrapped in swaddling clothes.

I wish that everyone who hears the Gospel message would comprehend the one way love that God demonstrated. Instead of turning His back on sinners who deserved just that God chose to reach out to His creation with a radical plan for forgiveness. A plan that is unlike any other religion in history. Man made religion always demands something to earn salvation. God’s plan for redemption requires the lost to bring nothing to the table other than their sin and the need for salvation. Nothing.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NLT)

Not a single requirement other than believing. A gift of grace. Grace that is so vast and inexhaustible that no sin or sinner can exceed the scope of this amazing grace to cover their sin and redeem them. I coined an acronym for grace that only partially captures the enormity of God’s love.

God’s Radical And Complete Embrace.

God initiates salvation. The plan is so radical that it feels otherworldly. Salvation is complete and God’s embrace shows His desire to know us as His beloved children.

I wish that everyone who believes the Gospel would truly believe that they are a brand new creation. Recreated as a saint with complete freedom in Christ. Adopted as a child of God. Forgiven forever. And that all of those things are completely true because of Jesus.

I wish I could give those things to everyone on my list. Life will give us sadness, loss and loneliness but trust in Jesus gives us hope in the darkest storm. It started with the baby we celebrate at Christmas.

The next couple of months of our political season are going to be brutal. The conversation between the two parties will be less than gracious. You have to be a trained professional to have that kind of grasp of the obvious. I felt like it was worth revisiting an earlier post about our political discourse as followers of Christ. A song by Chris Rice cycled up on the iPod titled “You Don’t Have to Yell”.

I tuned in to hear the news
I don`t want your point of view
if that`s the best that you can do,
then something`s missing
and experts on whatever side
you plug your ears, you scream your lines
you claim to have an open mind,
but nobody`s listenin`
don`t you think we`re smarter than this?

How should a follower of Christ engage in the political discourse? Dr. Gregory Boyd has said some controversial things but, in my humble opinion, this is not one of them.

“Christians are not to seek “power over” others – by controlling governments, passing legislation or fighting wars. Christians should seek to have “power under” others – winning others hearts by sacrificing for those in need.”

That is indeed what Jesus did. That is EXACTLY how a group of men and women in the first century with NO political power turned the world upside down. They sacrificially served others.

Dr. Boyd also noted that “America is not the light of the world and the hope of the world. The light of the world and the hope of the world is Jesus Christ.”

Hard to argue with that. I love America. Like a lot of people of faith I once thought that electing the “right” politicians would change the culture. I was wrong. The fact is that government and laws can only restrain behavior begrudgingly and usually temporarily. Paul had a lot of thoughts on that in his letter to the Romans. Jesus can change the heart and change behavior from the inside out. I am saddened when I see good, well meaning people thinking that more education and regulation will solve our problems. I am certainly not against education but I would point out that it has been the brightest and best that got us into such a mess on Wall Street and in Washington. The problem is not lack of knowledge but a lack of understanding of the hearts of men and women. We all have a nature that needs to be changed. We deny that at our own peril and the peril of our culture.

I am not smart enough to decide what God has called people to do. If He has placed a desire for people to impact the culture through political action I am not about to question their motives. But I do believe that those of us who claim the name of Jesus need to communicate our views with grace and compassion.

I get nervous about using the church as a political base. God’s Word taught effectively will mold followers of Jesus that will view social issues wisely. My goal is to introduce people to Jesus, disciple them into a real relationship with Him and then watch as the Holy Spirit changes what my sermonizing and loud arguing cannot.

The body of Christ is about Jesus. About being a good citizen that respects authority. And about demonstrating His amazing grace to a desperately needy world. The message should be grace, redemption and the forgiveness available to everyone. All parties and colors are welcome at the foot of the Cross. We need to spend more time there…for the good of America.

That sets the stage for today’s gentle plea. May I challenge my fellow followers of Jesus to show grace in the current political season?

I have much to repent over in my past political history. I did not trust God consistently to accomplish His plan and I thought that my politics had to prevail for God’s plan to prevail. How arrogant on my part. Once again I was wrong. I was obsessed with politics and it was dangerously close to idolatry. I am sure I crossed that line at times. As we head into some spirited debate I am begging my fellow followers of Christ to be graceful in your debate. Things will be said that are maddening, unfair and mean. Responding in kind damages the name of Jesus. Solomon wrote these words that are so timely today.

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness. (Proverbs 15, NLT)

You cannot change the minds and hearts of others by strident arguing and yelling. You can change a few hearts and minds by demonstrating the grace and good news of the Gospel of Jesus.The hope of the world is Jesus. That is my message. I want to be a good citizen but I must first be a grace filled representative for Christ.

Dave Burchett is the Author of Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace. A portion of every sale goes to train service dogs for wounded veterans through Patriot Paws.

My heart has been deeply saddened by the racial tension that has surfaced in recent months. Like many White Americans I rationalized that I was not a part of the problem. Three friends have been helping me to see another side.

My eyes began to be opened by my friend Kevin Butcher. Kevin is a white pastor to a predominately black congregation at Hope Community Church in Detroit. He told me that Black Christians want their White brothers and sisters to listen to their hearts and not offer excuses or rationales. They simply want to be heard. So I decided to do just that by seeking to hear the hearts of two Black brothers in Christ.

I know Duke Barnett well. He is an amazingly talented educator, administrator and leader. He is a great husband, dad and friend. The other man I asked to share his heart is a pastor in Nashville, Tennessee. I became friend with Montagne McDonald through my books and blogs. I was impressed with his teaching and heart for his flock. These are men that love Jesus. They love their Black community and they also love the White community.

I asked these two African-American brothers to share their frustration and feelings about how White Christians respond to them.

My assignment was simple. Ask questions. Shut up. Listen. Don’t get defensive. That is a slightly edgier but accurate paraphrase of James 1:19.

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (NLT)

Perhaps that would be a good strategy for all of us when we are trying to understand another brother’s story. Here is what my brothers shared with me. I pray that you will open your hearts to hear them as well.

Montagne:

“I feel I am becoming depressed talking to my friends who are Caucasian who have automatically judged me because I try to explain where the anger in many black communities are coming from. I try to discuss how a group like Black Lives Matter is not monolithic. They are made up of individuals who are angry, scared, and/or fed up.”

Duke:

“It seems the word "empathy" would be most important in your circle of friends right now. They must see you from your perspective and not theirs in order for the conversations to take any form of positive movement. Once again, that's a sign of the presence of White privilege. They are telling you by their responses and action that they don't have to see it from your perspective but you are expected to see it from theirs.

Montagne:

The fear is from a real place. There was a time we wished for cameras to catch police in the act. Now we have them, but nothing has changed. No one is being punished. As a young man, I have had a gun to my head by a police officer just because I reached for my license too fast. He said he would blow my head off. I was 18. Can you imagine what that does to a young boy's mind? I have had my car searched, was patted down simply because the officer thought a friend of mine who was riding with me mouthed "F-you." He was actually trying to get the cops attention because we had just left a friend who was in a car accident two blocks away. He was fine but he was waiting two hours for the police to show. I was nineteen then.

Duke:

In this world, there are people with good intentions and there are people with bad intentions. Black Lives Matter has both, All Lives Matter has both, Blue Lives Matter has both and I can go on and on. However, it's important that we look past the symptoms of hurting people and focus on the cause. When some say that Black lives matter, they are saying this to bring value to the Black community. There is systematic racism in this country that affects Blacks, Asians, Indigenous people, and many other ethnicities. However, the public battle has always been Black and White. From schooling to jobs to neighborhoods to church, systematic racism is alive and well.

I spent my childhood in the poor areas of Dallas, so I understand how "some" law enforcement (Black and White) view/treat people (especially, Black males) in those poor areas. Fortunately for me, I was able to get out of the projects, have different opportunities, and hear a different message. Now, the racism is still evident, I just have the capacity to respond differently. Unfortunately, many of our Black brothers don't have that option. So, they have lived their whole lives in survival mode, some working 2-3 jobs and some using crime as a tool.

So, when people combat Black Lives Matter with All Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter, they're in essence reducing their value…again and again and again.

I live in a predominantly White neighborhood, go to a predominantly White church, and I work in a predominantly White school district. Why? Not because I want to be "White", but because I want to be a source that helps White people reconnect with their culture. See, many of them deny their culture because they don't believe they had a part in this history. But the continued existence of White privilege proves that ideology wrong. You see, when I can help my White friends reconnect with their culture, it helps them to see clearer the dominance that so impales me. It also helps them understand they are a part of this humanity circle of WE, not us and them. WE have to ensure that all of society is entrenched in each other's cultural makeup. This is known as authentic engagement! This is when social justice really starts to take shape!

Montagne:

When we talk about White privilege, it is not an indictment on all White people. It is just there is a social system that favors Europeans over other races. I does not mean I am blaming them or hate them. Also, I don't believe in the whole "color blind" philosophy. Many people I know who live by that code, have a harder time identifying inequalities concerning race.

Being African American, I also feel as though I have to prove myself to Whites. To prove I am not a thug, or a deadbeat. To prove I am smart, or respectable. Even with that, when we see images on TV or in movies, either we are not prominent in the story, or we are depicted in stereotypical ways. I am finally learning I should not have, and will not keep trying to prove myself to others. I am smart because I love to learn, I am respectable because that is how I was raised. I cannot get caught up in the "race" race like that anymore. Color does not prove a person is predisposed to violence, ignorance, morality, or respectability.

I love my White brothers and sisters. I just want some who do not get it to, for a moment, understand how I feel. Empathy is so important. To be understood is a precious gift. That is the best way to love us. Attempt to understand. Thank you again. This means so much to me.

Dave:

Thank you my brothers in Christ. I love both of you as friends and as fellow followers of Jesus. I have been guilty of “defending” myself from my culture. Forgive me for trying to rationalize or justify that I did not directly contribute to your pain. I compare my previous responses to an apology followed by a “but” that explains the behavior. There is no “I am sorry but” in this situation. I am deeply sorry for the hurt the black community has suffered and continues to suffer far too often. Period.

I hope and pray that my White friends will ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts and not get defensive. Just hear the pain and the frustration of my brothers. But do not miss their heart. Their love for Jesus and their deep, deep hope for change. I share that hope. And we all share that hope in the One that can actually change the hearts of all races. The church must lead the way on racial issues.

I may be a very small part of the solution but I can be a part. Helen Keller said it beautifully.

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

Will you join me in this quest to listen, love and pray for our Black brothers and sisters? Will you join the three of us in praying for Jesus to be the unifying factor in real reconciliation?

Remember the words to the Galatian church…

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In the body of Christ we are one. No Black or White. No rich or poor. No male or Female. Lord, give us the grace and love to be agents of change and to be one in Your love.

Dave Burchett is the Author of Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace. A portion of every sale goes to train service dogs for wounded veterans through Patriot Paws.

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