Southern Duality

Duality: an instance of opposition or contrast between two concepts or two aspects of something (“the photographs capitalize on the dualities of light and dark, stillness and movement”).

People are round, and by this, I don’t mean their shape. In literature, round characters have depth and are not bound to being just one way, which would be called a flat character. Real people are like this in that we have a duality. No person is ALWAYS happy or ALWAYS angry, etc., but instead, people have different emotions and moods that can change depending on a myriad of stimuli.

There is light, and there is darkness in everyone. I like to look at it through this old Cherokee story:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

This is a truth that has echoed throughout the Bible in the New and Old Testaments. This is what Paul meant when he spoke about the Spiritual and fleshly natures, the new man and the old man. We have to make the conscious decision almost constantly to put aside the old man, the way of the World, and choose to do the will of God.

There is a duality in God as well, though it is very different from the duality of man. God is both “good” and “severe” to us, but the choice is on us as to which we receive. Paul tells this to the church of Rome when he says to “consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off (Rom. 11:22).”

It is just like the role of a parent. A parent cannot always be “good” because then the child will think there are no consequences for his or her actions and will rebel. A parent cannot always be “severe” because then the child will fear the parent, which can lead quickly to hatred, instead of love. There must be a balance in our approach to our children as God has toward us.

Niccolò Machiavelli, the 16th-century Italian philosopher, wrote in his most well-known work The Prince that princes (and we can extend this to all leaders/authority figures) should strive to be both loved and feared. This is the balance that I spoke of; however, Machiavelli went on to say that “it is much safer to be feared than loved because …love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

Many today, including myself, forget the punishments God has wrought on mankind over the centuries most likely because He has chosen to step back and not “be” here in a way that is tangible. We have no pillar of cloud and fire. We hear no thundering voice of God giving judgment. This does not mean that God does not judge. Like any good parent, our Father knows our deeds and will call them to account in good time. If we continue to strive to do His will, we will have a representative to stand in our stead and tell the righteous Judge that our debt has been paid.

So, as you go through your day, which “wolf” are you feeding? Are you making choices that bring the “goodness” of God, or the “severity”?

Peace. Love. Roll Tide.

Southern Discussions

I like to argue. Anyone who knows me knows this. It’s not that I just like to pick fights, but I feel that I wouldn’t have my opinion without good reason, and you are going to have to show me how and why I am wrong. If you can, I will submit that you are right, and I am wrong; however, if you can’t, I’m not going to just drop it.

This tenacity may seem like a good quality (strong self-esteem and all that), but what if I were to take that into a different arena like religious beliefs? The definition of faith is believing in something that you may not necessarily be able to prove, so if someone disagrees with me, I should be able to debate my position and show my opponent the error of his or her ways, right? Wrong.

The apostle Paul, who was one of the most knowledgeable men in the New Testament when it came to the Scriptures and a Godly life. You would expect Paul to be on my debate team with the purpose of showing others the Gospel by crushing their theories, but he most definitely would not.

In his second letter to Timothy, he says to “avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will (2 Timothy 2:23-26).”

Now, I see plenty of people who call themselves Christians who post on social media about controversial topics, seemingly in the interest of expressing their faith; however, all it does is stir up trouble with those who believe the opposite. Before you get mad at me for talking bad about you, just know that I am as guilty as any in this regard. I have made those posts about same-sex marriage that condemn homosexuals for their lifestyles and “Smh…” (Shaking my head) at folk who express other views contrary to my own. Do you think I have lots of responses from those people telling me how my comment really made them contemplate their choices and decide to repent and be baptized? You shouldn’t.

My friend, John Michael Kennedy, is the Involvement Minister at Mt. Juliet Church of Christ. He wrote an article about being a Christian in America and was part of my inspiration to write this blog. He said, “When I read the Gospels, I find a Jesus who likes focusing more than fighting. He seemed to focus more on God’s kingdom and his mission than speaking out on the day’s cultural hot points. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus cared about the news around him, but he cared more for God’s kingdom. It is through reading the Gospels that another thought occurs to me; where did we get this urge to fight tenaciously for our beliefs? I don’t find this urge in the Gospels, or the rest of the New Testament for that matter. I find this concept of fighting for beliefs within my American culture. It’s an American thing. I don’t think it should be adopted as a Christian thing. The Jesus of Scripture does not fight with and manipulate people.” He goes on to say that Jesus saved his harshest criticism for the Pharisees and teachers of the law – those who shared his religion – and was kindest to the tax collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners. Shouldn’t we, as Christians, be more like Christ?

When I was in college at THE University of Alabama (Roll Tide!), every spring we had a man who called himself Brother Jonah who would come to campus, stand in front of the student center with a Bible in his hand, and scream condemnation on everyone who passed by, calling the female students “whores” and the male students “drunkards” and “fornicators”. If anyone came by that he even remotely thought looked like a homosexual, woe be to that student, for hell fire and brimstone rained down upon them from the lips of the righteous Brother Jonah. Lots of students would gather around to listen to him shout and watch him stomp his feet in “righteous indignation” as he proclaimed that God had commanded that he bring the Bible to the heathens. They watched because it was entertaining to see who would get riled up at his accusations. Campus police were always there for his protection.

I once tried to reason with him and brought up Romans 3:23 that says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” in order to curb his condemnation, but he simply replied that he had sinned in the past, but was perfect now. I realized then that there was no convincing him that what he was doing was only hurting the Church by turning others away and making them think that all Christians were like him.

No one wants to be the guy on the street corner screaming at the wicked and beating them with Bibles, but how often do we unknowingly browbeat others on the Facebook corner? How many times do we tweet things that will only stir up trouble? This is not what Christ had in mind when He told us to “[G]o therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20).” The Great Commission does not give us permission to persecute sinners like we aren’t just like them.

Instead, we should seek to teach patiently and in humility correct those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth. It is God who grants salvation, not us. We do not decide who will be in Heaven, so we should stop wielding the Gospel like a hammer and start showing God’s love through our actions. We are not God’s hand to express His vengeance. We are His emissaries to lead others to Him. So the next time you want to post about someone’s “un-Christian behaviors”, check your motives. Are you truly trying to show people the way, or just assert yourself by putting someone else down? Love conquers all, not force.

Peace. Love. Roll Tide.