When Christians Love Theology More than People

Love NeighborRecently I came across an article posted on the Internet by Stephen Mattson, on staff at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minn. While it may make the reader a bit uncomfortable, there’s a lot of truth in what he writes:

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When Christians Love Theology More than People

Beyond the realm of churches, religious blogs, and bible colleges, nobody really cares about theology. What does matter is the way you treat other people.

Within Christendom, we’re often taught the exact opposite: that doctrines, traditions, theologies, and distinct beliefs are the only things that do matter. It’s what separates churches, denominations, theologians, and those who are “saved” and “unsaved.”

Historically, Christians have been tempted to categorize the Bible into numerous sets of beliefs that are either inspired or heretical, good or bad, right or wrong — with no room for doubt or questioning or uncertainty.

It’s easy to get caught up in theorizing about God, but within our everyday lives reality is what matters most to the people around us. Theorizing only becomes important once it becomes relevant and practical and applicable to our lives.

  • When I’m sick, and you bring me a meal, I don’t care whether you’re a Calvinist or Arminian.
  • When I’m poor, and you give me some food and money, I don’t care if you’re pre-millennial or post-millennial.
  • When I’m in the hospital, and you send me a get-well basket, I don’t care what your church denomination is.
  • When you visit my grandparents in the nursing home, I don’t care what style of worship music you listen to.
  • When you’re kind enough to shovel my parent’s driveway, I don’t care what translation of the Bible you read.
  • When you give my friend a lift when [his or her] car breaks down, I don’t care if you’re Baptist or Catholic.
  • When you help my grandmother carry a heavy load of groceries, I don’t care what you believe about evolution.
  • When you protect my kids from getting hit by a car when they’re running across the street, I don’t care who your favorite theologian is.
  • When you’re celebrating my birthday with me, I don’t care about your views related to baptism.
  • When you grieve alongside me during the death of a family member, I don’t care if you tithe or not.
  • When you love me in deep and meaningful and authentic ways — nothing else really matters.

But when you idolize belief systems and turn theology into an agenda, it poisons the very idea of selfless love. The gospel message turns into propaganda, friends turn into customers, and your relationship with God turns into a religion.

You may have the most intellectually sound theology, but if it’s not delivered with love, respect, and kindness — it’s worthless.

The practical application of your love is just as important as the theology behind it. Our faith is evidenced by how we treat others. Does the reality of your life reflect the theory behind your spiritual beliefs?

We should never give up on theology, academic study, or the pursuit of understanding God, the Bible, and the history and traditions of the church, but these things should inspire us to emulate Christ — to selflessly, sacrificially, and holistically love others. Theology should reinforce our motivation for doing things to make the world a better place — not serve as platforms to berate, criticize, and attack others.

But too often, we’re guilty of failing to practically apply our beliefs in tangible ways that actually help others. In the end, this is what matters most to the world around us: that we simply love as Christ loved.

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No doubt I’ll be criticized for agreeing with someone who may appear to be less interested in things theological than those of us in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod profess to be. Nevertheless, these words from this brother in Christ make a lot of sense to me.

And I believe Jesus would approve. That’s why he said: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory … [he] will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was a stranger and you invited me into your home, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you cared for me, I was in prison and you visited me…. I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.’” (Matt. 25:31-36)

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+Dr. Edwin A. Trapp, Jr.+

Edwin TrappA faithful servant of the Lord, Dr. Edwin A. Trapp, Jr. of Dallas, Texas, fell asleep in the arms of Jesus on Wednesday, February 12, 2014. Ed was called to his eternal home after an eight year struggle with the rare disease known as Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD).

Ed was born February 20, 1931, the only son of Edwin and Marianette Trapp in Chicago, Ill., and was baptized on June 28, 1931. He was predeceased by his only sister, Marianette Bayley.

After elementary and high school in Chicago, he attended Monmouth College and Stanford University, graduating from the University of Wisconsin. At Monmouth he later founded The Trapp Chair of Business Management and received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Throughout his academic years he was very active in student government, musical theater, forensics and water sports. During his early professional career he continued to perform in dramatic and musical productions and served several years as a compensated church soloist.

After 17 years of sales and marketing management with General Electric and Motorola, Ed moved to Dallas in 1970 as President of Hall-Mark Electronics Corp., which grew from a small regional company into a national leader of electronic component distribution. Ed retired in 1985 to focus on lay leadership in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and to travel the world.

An active member and leader of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Dallas, he served in many positions. He also served in leadership roles on several boards of the church at large, including:

  • Board of Directors, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod—12 years.
  • Board of Directors, The Texas District of the LCMS—12 years.
  • Board of Directors, Lutheran Social Services of the South—seven years.
  • President’s Advisory Council, Concordia Theological Seminary—nine years.
  • Board for Human Care and World Relief—nine years.

With a strong motivation to see the world and its people, Ed traveled to all seven continents, over 140 sovereign nations and all 50 United States, many more than once. Ed will be remembered by family and friends for his love and commitment to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

On a personal note, I am thankful to God for this faithful man. During my first six years as president of the LCMS, the majority of the members of the national Board of Directors were not supportive of my ministry, to say the least. Dr. Trapp, along with Dr. Jean Garton and Dr. Betty Duda, provided encouragement at a time of great need, enduring from other board members much public and private mistreatment for doing so.

Dr. Edwin A. Trapp, Jr. was laid to rest in Dallas on February 18. For his generous contributions and significant accomplishments in the church and in the world, Ed would be the first to say what I and others who knew him would also say: “To God be the glory!”

Hoffman, Heroin, Hard Core Addiction

Credit: Politico.com

Credit: Politico.com

The recent death of Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman demonstrates some of the challenges we face in this country. Hoffman, 46, played roles in Capote, Magnolia, Almost Famous, Hunger Games, Mission Impossible, and Charlie Wilson’s War.

He was found dead Sunday, Feb. 2, in his T-shirt and shorts with a needle in his left arm. Depending on what report one reads, also found were anywhere from several to seventy bags of heroin — in his $10,000-a-month Manhattan apartment. He is reported to have told his friends before Christmas: “If I don’t stop [using heroin] now, I know I’m going to die.”

In an Associated Press article on Hoffman’s death, Meghan Bass wrote: “News of the death of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman from an apparent heroin overdose seemed like an echo from the past, a blurry memory of a dangerous drug that dwelt in some dark recess of American culture.

“But heroin never really disappeared. It surfaces in waves, with the latest one currently stretching across the nation, driving up overdose deaths and sparking widespread worry among government officials. Fueled by a crackdown on prescription painkillers and an abundant supply of cheap heroin that’s more potent than ever, the drug that has killed famous rock stars and everyday Americans alike is making headlines again.

“More than 660,000 Americans used heroin in 2012, health officials say – nearly double the number from five years earlier – and users tend to be more affluent than before, living in the suburbs and rural areas rather than the inner city.”

Others who interviewed his alleged drug dealer conjecture that Hoffman had a “hard-core” addiction and injected twice as much heroin per day as a typical addict. That could have amounted to ten bags of heroin every day.

The questions this story begs in my mind include:

  • What are the primary causes of heroin addiction?
  • Who are the “hard-core” heroin addicts in America?
  • Do I know any of them? If so, I don’t know that I know them.
  • What can we as individuals or as a church do to help those already addicted?
  • Perhaps even more importantly, what can we do to prevent such addiction and its demonic consequences from attacking young and not-so-young people in America and beyond, including people we know and love?

Pastors, church leaders, civic organizations and governmental officials at every level would do well to put these questions on their agendas, prayerfully and powerfully finding answers to an obviously complex and difficult dilemma!

Super Bowl Reflections

Source:  npr.org

Source: npr.org

This article begins with birthday wishes to one of my younger sisters, Karen Newman of San Marcos, Tex. Happy Birthday, dear Karen! Love and blessings to you from all our family!

Dear readers, unless you’ve been in a cave the past few weeks you are aware that this past Sunday was Super Bowl XLVIII. For folks unfamiliar with Roman numerals, all those capital letters can be more succinctly expressed with the number 48.

This annual championship game of the National Football League began with the first such contest on January 15, 1967. The athletic history buffs among us will recall that the Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowls, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders in 1967 and 1968, respectively. I don’t remember that detail. I just read it on the Internet.

It has not been uncommon for interesting things to happen at Super Bowls, both during the game and the halftime show, which has historically been quite elaborate. A few examples will suffice:

  • New York Giants QB Phil Simms shouted “I’m going to Disney World” after his MVP performance in 1987. Disney CEO Michael Eisner paid Simms $75,000 for the ad.
  • A highly publicized “wardrobe malfunction” at halftime during Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 occurred when male singer Justin Timberlake exposed an anatomical part of female singer Janet Jackson before a television audience of millions.
  • Although the words were on the Jumbotron in front of her, Grammy-winning singer Christina Aguilera botched the words to the national anthem in 2011.
  • A partial power outage during the third quarter caused a 34 minute delay in the game during the 2013 Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
  • Especially in recent years, corporations have generated creative advertisements costing $4 million per 30 seconds. Many pay more attention to the commercials than to the game.

More significantly, over the years some Super Bowl stars, mostly from the winning team, have given clear and courageous Christian testimonies following the game. Two examples suffice:

Following the St. Louis Rams’ Super Bowl XXXIV victory, where he was named the game’s MVP, Kurt Warner responded to a question from an ABC reporter: “Well, first things first. I’ve got to thank my Lord and Savior up above — thank you, Jesus!”

Nine years later, upon leading the Arizona Cardinals to the franchise’s first ever Super Bowl, Warner’s response was similar: “Everybody’s going to be tired of hearing this, but I never get tired of saying it. There’s one reason that I’m standing up on this stage today. That’s because of my Lord up above. I’ve got to say thanks to Jesus.”

And this year’s Super Bowl winning quarterback, Russell Wilson, in a post-game interview, said: “It’s a true, true blessing. God is so good.” Russell also quoted his father: “Believe in the talent God has given you … and you can go a long ways.”

While neither player referenced the Lutheran Confessions or recited the Small Catechism, both seized the opportunity to give thanks to God in a highly public manner. I thank God whenever that happens!