Freedom vs. Equality

The worst arguments are when both people are right.

As a pastor, I see these kinds of arguments all the time in marriage counseling, board meetings and conflict resolution.  Should we save money or trust in God’s provision?  Should we focus on evangelism or discipleship?  Should we be generous to those in need or should we “teach the man to fish”?  Should we help our kids out or should we let them learn their lesson?

It’s these types of arguments that seem to have no solution because both sides are convinced of their being right and won’t give an inch.  This is the type of argument that we see over and over again in our politics as well.  Two of the values that Americans value highly are freedom and equality; and yet, if you think about them you know that they are inherently opposites.  These two characteristics are oppositional in nature: Should we force desegregation on our country’s neighborhoods or should we allow people the freedom to choose where they want to live?  Should we utilize affirmative action type of legislation into our society or should we be a meritocracy?

It is so easy to castigate the Republicans for being against equality or to condemn the Democrats for being against freedom.  We wonder, as a nation, why we are so divided.  Here is the reason: we are too busy blaming the other side for being against freedom or equality instead of valuing the opposition’s view as being valid also.

Our country believes that “all men are created equal”, and yet we are the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Here is the biggest crux: should a parent be allowed to improve their child’s life?  I know that the answer seems obvious at first blush – but with the obvious answer of “yes”, we have created an inequality.  The next generation will have unequal opportunities based upon their parents’ accomplishments; and after 200 years of this – the gap will be quite wide.

Everyone knows that if you give the exact same scenarios to two different individuals, that their exercise of their own free will (among a whole host of other variables) will create different outcomes…which will then be inherited by their children.

I would love to see a dialogue begin in our country in a wholistic way that asks this question: “Where are the appropriate boundaries for freedom and equality?”  Ultimately, righteousness should be our highest goal.  As Teddy Roosevelt stated in response to those who didn’t want to get involved in World War I in order to have peace:

“The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.”

“if given the choice between Righteousness and Peace, I choose Righteousness.” – Teddy Roosevelt

Children should learn from their mistakes…and their parents should help them through them.  We should store up our provisions as the ant does and put our confidence in God’s provision as sufficient.  We should be generous to those in need and teach him to improve his situation.  Both/and, not either/or.

Our Great, High Priest

When I was a little boy, the one thing I wanted most in the world was to be a big, strong man.  While there are many reasons one has for such a desire, the premiere one was that I could then do what I wanted to do.

The thing I hated most about school was the constant reminder that I was not a man.  Nothing did this more poignantly than the need to request permission to go to the bathroom.  Oh, the granduer of just being able to rise from one’s seat and go relieve himself without first abasing himself before an adult in two significant ways: 1.  I have to pee.  My body requires of me this obedience, and should I not respond correctly, I will eventually be covered in my own waste.  2.  You can tell me “no”.

Are you serious?!

Weakness is the antithesis of greatness.  There are no grand statues of our leaders throughout history holding themselves while dancing due to their need to pee.  It, in fact, seems disrespectful to even mention it.  Greatness is strength.  Greatness is not asking permission.  Greatness is doing, not submitting.

…and yet, Jesus is our Great, High Priest precisely because of his choosing our weaknesses, limitations and position.  In fact, he didn’t just choose to be a human but to serve to the ultimate extent of the expression of our limitations – he died…naked…in front of everyone…until his own weakness meant he couldn’t breathe anymore, and so he strangled to death due to his own body’s frailty.  Remember the pleading of Jesus for a drink?  Remember those in power telling him “no” in so many ways?  No, you aren’t worthy of the title Son of Man.  No, you are not our long-awaited Messiah.  No, you aren’t in control, and we’ll prove it by killing you after torturing and humiliating you.

And this is what makes Him great.  No, I am not lessening his perpetual divinity, nor his miraculous healing of others, nor any of the other “great” things he said/did.

What makes Him great is that Jesus understands our pain, our suffering, our weakness, our temptations.  He gets it.

He also defeated them.  Not in physical prowess, but in spiritual submission to the Father.  Nothing could make Him deny the Father’s will for His life, nothing!  The Apostle Paul knew this same truth when he said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

We often pray for God to make our lives easier.  Oh, that the Church would begin again to pray “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven”, and in this, show Christ’s victory to the world.  The indomitable will of the submitted servant.  “You can kill me, but you can’t make me deny my LORD!!!!”  May my brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Asia and Africa be strong in the midst of their weakness, and may we be inspired by their example of following Jesus.

Tablesaw, Bandsaw or Workbench: Your Spiritual Gift(s)

Bob's New Table Saw

Bob’s New Table Saw (Photo credit: milletre)

In woodworking circles, there is always a debate over which tool should be the centerpiece of your shop: The tablesaw, the bandsaw or for handtool aficianados – the workbench, usually with a 3″ thick hard maple slab top upon a similarly bulky trestle leg setup.

Those in favor of the tablesaw cite its unparalleled ability to make repeatable, accurate rip and cross-grain cuts, not to mention dadoes, rabbits, tenons, etc.  If you want square, you want a tablesaw.

Those in favor of the bandsaw cite its unparalleled versatility from resawing firewood into lumber, lumber into laminates, rounded cuts or even straight cuts (once drift is accounted for).  This is of course not to mention the greater safety of the wood being forced into the table instead of being shot off of it like the tablesaw.  If you want versatility and safety, you want a bandsaw.

Hand tool gurus love their workbenches!  These heavy, flat, square pieces of furniture excel at holding your workpiece for sawing, planing, drilling, routing, assembling and finishing.  If you want to do handtool work, you want a workbench.

In fact, let’s be honest, the real argument isn’t about what should be the centerpiece of your shop, but rather which kind of woodworking you should be doing (which is in fact a ludicrous argument to get into).  If you primarily do cabinetry, for which you need repeatable, straight cuts – a table saw should be the centerpiece.  If you do woodturning, furniture-making or sculpture-based woodworking – a bandsaw should be the centerpiece.  If you do primarily hand tool work, whether cabinetry or sculpture – a workbench should be the centerpiece of your shop.

The question therefore is not which is the best centerpiece tool, but rather what kind of work do you want to do?

This same principle applies to the Church as well.  The Apostle Paul said that there are many gifts but one Spirit, and again that Christ is the one that apportioned the gifts to us based upon His good pleasure, and yet again that those parts which are hidden are worthy of double honor.  If your gift is giving then do so generously, if your gift is preaching then do so in accordance with your faith, if your gift is hospitality, etc.

We have been gifted by Christ, our Savior for that kind of work which he desires for us to do.  There is no best gift, no right gift.  Let Christ, the master craftsman shape how you work by the gift he has given you, and don’t look up to or down upon another based upon the type of ministry they have been called to perform.  After all, who doesn’t want kitchen cabinets, a rocking chair and beautifully handcrafted pieces in their life?

Inside the Lines

Centerline rumble strip, as well as at edge of...

Centerline rumble strip, as well as at edge of roadway, located in Henniker, New Hampshire on Rt. 202. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember like it was yesterday, my first driving lesson from Coach Lloyd.  I spun out trying to turn left onto our gravel road from our concrete driveway, then proceeded to make my way the 1/4 mile to the paved road without incident.  Once I had successfully turned left onto Section House Rd., I had a strange problem…I couldn’t stay in the middle of my lane!  I would veer slowly right until the rumble strips informed me that I was about to take a nosedive into the drainage ditch, then the oncoming traffic would loom closer and closer as I veered towards the opposite lane.  this pattern was repeated over and over and over during a hair-raising 1 minute until coach would say one simple sentence that forever fixed my veering problem, “Focus on the center of your lane, stop looking at the lines on either side.”  I remember thinking that’s way too simple to work, and how can you not look at the massive vehicles rocketing by just a few feet away!

Then I tried it…and it worked!  It actually worked!  I was no longer veering back and forth and back and forth and…

The Apostle Paul tells us that we are to “fix our eyes upon” what is eternal.  I know, you’re thinking the same thought I was thinking, “that’s way too simple to work”…yet it does.

We men naturally follow after that which we focus on.  Start fantasizing about that woman at work, and you will eventually follow after that desire, wrong though you know it to be.  Start focusing on your career and you will soon be frustrated every time your wife complains that you aren’t spending enough time with the family.  On and on it goes.  Whatever we focus on in this life will become an idol to us.  We will find ourselves gradually drawn to it, only to jerk away and be drawn to something else.

Our activity in this life will only stay on course when we are focusing upon the goal of this life – the next one.

Want to stop veering all over your life?  Stop focusing on your life.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18 NIV)