Monday, June 16, 2014

Hills Worth Dying On

No hay búfalos - Arte Rural by -Dj Lu-, on Flickr

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  -Dj Lu- 

If you will not stand for anything, you stand for nothing.

How can I know that what I stand for is worth anything? The oceans of culture are constantly washing up against your banks, threatening to erode away your shoreline and eventually everything that mattered to you. There has been much discussion lately about how very few people are willing to take risks. We have grown into a culture that expects everyone to always be polite and correct, but we neglect that progress comes from those who are willing to stand apart.

When you look back on your life, will it be the routine days that you remember or the times when routine was broken for something extraordinary? Routine is our soft blanket, our warm fire on a winters night. It keeps us comfortable when the icy tendrils of winter's chill scratch against the outer walls. Yet very few words are written about those who stayed comfortable. It was those who went charging out into the night, aware of the dangers of the adventure ahead, yet heedless of what it may cost them. These are the people we write stories about.

The question that remains, then, is what will you stand for? What are the lines that you refuse to cross, the hills that you will defend until your dying breath?

The answer to those questions are deeply personal, and shaped by your own past experiences. They should also be intimately informed by your relationship with God... because we need perspective. Picking the wrong hill on which to die can bring about a lot of pain not only in your own life, but in the lives of many others around you. Inevitably there will always be those who disagree with your choice, but it would not be a hill to die on if people were not throwing stones, now would it?

So we hold them firmly with conviction, but constantly ask the worth of these hills.

In my journey, here are a few that I have discovered hold true for me.

Family First

Priorities are a tricky thing, but they bring an immense amount of clarity. The fog lifts and the path is illuminated when priorities are in the right order, because they immediately show you which questions to ask where. If God is my first priority, then my wife is my second, family third, and then everything else. 
What does that mean in practice? My first job on this earth is to love and honour my wife. With my time, my efforts, my love. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing gets my ear when she needs it. It also means that I have her back in whatever battles she might find herself in, whether that be internally or externally. 
The same is extended to my family. I am thankful for the family God has blessed me with, because I know that they reciprocate the priority -- and aren't afraid to tell me when I am wrong privately, either.

The Right to Ask Questions

Too often I have seen in churches and broader leadership contexts a herd of people, blindly following a leader because they have bought into some measure of secret knowledge or foresight. It is my firm belief that in our walk with God, anyone has the right to ask questions of leadership. We are a priesthood of believers, not believers following the priesthood. 
This is a scary hill to plant a flag on, because it means defending those who are searching and those who challenge the status quo. Sometimes it even means defending those who are clearly in the wrong, but on an important journey nonetheless. 
God is bigger than your questions. Nothing in His character is afraid of the questions we can ask here on earth. Instead of fear and retribution, I believe God listens to our questions with a loving heart and open arms. That does not mean we will hear an answer, or the answer we were looking for -- as God showed in the book of Job.

Local Community

A community has no right to speak into their local context until they are involved in it. There is no throwing of stones from the pews, and no criticizing from the sidelines. Has someone come to you with a complaint about someone or something? 
The answer is simple... go talk to that person, go get involved in that thing you are complaining about. Enact change from within, instead of attempting to mould someone from the outside. The church is not meant to be a manipulator, but a salve on the open wounds of this world. Is there a homeless problem in your city? Do not merely complain to the politicians about it, but participate in the change that needs to happen, whether that be a local food bank, soup kitchen, low income housing, etc. 
We cannot lead from our hills, behind gates and expect to empathize and relate to those in the valley.

Above Reproach

No one is above accountability. Those with the most 'power' should be the ones under the most accountability. Those who lead should be first to follow and submit to the authority of others. Those who have the opportunity to speak should be the first to listen and learn. 
As Christians, we have seen in the past decade the damaging results of leaders standing above the structure and accountability. It is something that we should rally against fiercely, and hold any leader to account for decisions and actions taken. In the same, yet counter-intuitive way, we should ensure that our leaders are adequately supported and loved. 
Do not drive your leader into the ground. Give them times away to refresh and renew themselves. Give them the benefit of the doubt when assumptions are being made, and put down any rumours with the truth -- which you no doubt have gone to the source to procure. 
As Christians, we should always be above reproach, and when we have stumbled, be the first to own up to it. Not waiting for the scandal to break, but with integrity humbling ourselves before those wronged and the community to seek restoration.
Following these guidelines has cost me much: friends, community, jobs. Yet reflecting back on those times, I can never say that I regret the moments I took a stand -- because I knew where my lines were drawn.

What stands true for you in what God has called you to? Are there any hills that are worth dying for, or is needless grandstanding? Maybe God is asking you to stand up for something you have let slide... do not let it slide any longer.

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