By Tony Merida

OrdinarySocial causes come and go like bad fashion trends, sometimes quite literally: what color bracelet are you wearing this month?

Surely our consumer-conditioned attention spans have something to do with this, but let’s be real: when you care about something enough to devote serious time and energy, it can be discouraging when the anticipated results never materialize.

Many people know they should care for the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed, but few are motivated to do this over the course of a lifetime. Jesus reminds his followers, “You always have the poor with you” (Mark 14:7). In other words, we ain’t gonna solve poverty anytime soon.

How in the world can we keep up the good work when it feels like a lost cause? Good theology.

Theological types often get stereotyped as all head and no heart. This is unfortunate because a few key doctrines of the faith provide the sustainable inspiration we need for a lifetime of good works.

Love everybody, because imago Dei

If we believe that everyone is made in the image of God—imago Dei—then everyone is worthy of dignity, love, basic human rights, and hearing biblical truth.

Those who abuse people made in God’s image through enslavement, torture, rape, and grinding poverty, are dehumanizing people and insulting God Himself. Many victims of human trafficking and abuse report how they felt inhumane after being oppressed.

Those who believe in the imago Dei should live out their theology through practical acts of love for the oppressed and vulnerable.

Show mercy, because redemption

The Bible records for us the story of God coming to save people. When we were enslaved, He freed us. When we were orphans, He adopted us. When we were sojourners, He welcomed us. When we were widows, Christ became our groom.

The mercy and justice of God meet at the cross, where our redemption comes from. We needed His redemption because we cannot live up to the standard God has set. But One did. Jesus Christ is the ultimate display of a life of righteousness and justice. Through repentance and faith in Christ, we are clothed in His righteousness.

Now, as believers, we have power to live just lives, and when we fail, we know God won’t crush us, for He has already crushed Christ in our place. Now we pursue justice because we love God, and have already been accepted in Him.

We want to show mercy. That’s what God’s redemption has done for us.

Stay hopeful, because restoration

The good news about injustice isn’t only that we’re making some progress today, though we are. We take heart knowing that the King of kings will return to restore this broken world, bringing perfect peace—shalom.

In the coming Kingdom, will be no more orphans; no more trafficking; no more abuse. This fallen world will give way to glory. Doing justice and mercy is about showing the world what our King is like. It involves bringing the future into the present, that is, giving people a taste now of what the future will be like then.

When you welcome the stranger, share the good news among the nations, cultivate diverse friendships, adopt children, or defend the defenseless, you are simply living as the King’s people before a watching world. We don’t fight the problems of this fallen world as victims, but as victors.

Work for good not grace, because justification

We can’t keep God’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves perfectly. But Jesus has kept the Great Commandments perfectly for us. And only Christ can justify us. Only Jesus can make us ordinary citizens of the kingdom of God.

Justification means “just as if I’ve never sinned” and “just as if I’ve always obeyed perfectly,” as my friend Daniel Akin has said. Jesus Christ can forgive you entirely, and give you His perfect righteousness.

Justified people stand accepted in Christ. So, don’t look to yourself or your good deeds for salvation, but trust in Christ alone. From this acceptance and justified position, we can live in the power of the Holy Spirit to do good to all your neighbors. Tim Keller explains how receiving the good news leads to a life of good deeds:

Before you can give neighbor love, you need to receive it. Only if you see that you have been saved graciously by someone who owes you the opposite will you go out into the world looking to help absolutely anyone in need (Generous Justice, 77).

In other words, justification leads to justice for others. Receive— and give—the neighbor love of the Great Samaritan, and give Him thanks.

Always remember the people

My focus flowing from these theological motivations is on people.

You may do justice and mercy through large-scale, political and social transformation like William Wilberforce, who worked to abolish slavery. Or you may do mercy and justice through simple acts like welcoming a foster child.

In whatever case, let’s do it all in effort to bless people. Because people are made in God’s image, because people need redemption, and because people will one day dwell with God in the new heavens and the new earth where everything will be finally transformed, we should be seriously interested in how to love our neighbors as ourselves—our orphaned neighbors, our lonely neighbors, our impoverished neighbors, our enslaved neighbors, our racially different neighbors, and our lost neighbors.

That’s how God loves us, as good theology helps us understand.

For more on this topic, see Tony Merida’s new book Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down.

Tony Merida is the founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC. Tony is the author of OrdinaryFaithful Preaching, co-author of Orphanology, and serves as a general editor and as contributor to the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series along with David Platt and Danny Akin. He is married to Kimberly, with whom he has five adopted children.

Imagine for a moment you lived in a sane world.   In this sane world, sin is truly sin.  People understand evil.  They cherish what is good for society, and they shun what is bad.

We do not live in such a world.  In our backwards world, we live in an era where the insane run the culture, and they are running it to an early death.

For instance, Dads are undeniably the cornerstone of a healthy family.  Not to discount mothers, but in a society where fathers are more likely to be absent, it is easier to measure the impact they have on children.  The studies prove this one point: Fathers, biological fathers, are essential to a healthy family.

A few months ago, I reported on a new study that shows the impact of fathers on the family.  The conclusion was simple, fathers do not give more parenting, they give a unique form of parenting that children need.

Study after study has proven this fact.  Study after study shows an engaged biological father is the best for the family.

And yet again, another study has come out exploring the added benefits a dad brings to the family.  Look at some of the findings from the Atlantic Magazine article by Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox from the University of Virginia and you find

  1.  “Teens with involved fathers were 98 percent more likely to graduate from college, and teens with very involved fathers were 105 percent more likely to graduate from college.”
  2. “Young adults from more privileged backgrounds are especially likely to have had an involved father in their lives as teens.”
  3. “Compared to children from single-parent homes, children who live with their fathers in an intact family have significantly lower rates of  incarceration and teenage pregnancy and higher rates of high school and college graduation.” 
  4. “Engaged fathers play an important role in “helping sons and daughters achieve independent and distinct identities” and that this independence often translates into educational and occupational success.”
  5.  “A U.S. Department of Education study found that among children living with both biological parents, those with highly involved fathers were 42 percent more likely to earn A grades and 33 percent less likely to be held back a year in school than children whose dads had low levels of involvement.

Slam dunk!  No doubt about it!  Biological fathers make a tremendous impact on kids.  But when there is overwhelming evidence for the need to have two biological parents in the home, why is the secular world ignoring these facts?

There are several reasons:


1.  There is an attack on masculinity in our culture

It starts when children are young and it progresses into adulthood.  Boys, by nature, are designed to be a little rougher, active, and with distinct characteristics as a boy.  In a research study my wife read to me a few years ago (Yes, we read to each other…. isn’t that cute?), it is shown that men and boys are distinctly different from girls (gasp).  In one example, the study showed that boys are more vocal so they are more likely to make noise.  Girls, on the other hand, are more sensitive to sound.  In a classroom setting, the boy is playing drums with his pencil, tapping his feet, and making noises with his mouth while driving the more sensitive girls crazy.  The teacher, who is often a female, can’t stand it either.

They see the boy as being annoying and disturbing the class when in reality, the boy merely is being a boy.

In a culture that demands we accept people “as they are born” when talking about sexuality, the society contradicts itself by demanding  the boy be medicated or we label him as a trouble maker.  His crime?  Being born a boy.

2.  The insane social agenda to accept all types of families.

Not all types of families are the same.  Not all types of families are healthy.  If you don’t like that assessment, don’t argue with me, argue with science and more importantly, argue with the Bible.  It is clear, different types of families are more healthy than others.

The social culture is trying to show that two fathers or two mothers are as healthy as a biological father and mother.  The fact remains, they are not. Because these studies go against the grain of the social agenda, people are pushing these facts aside.

This, by the way, is what an insane society does.  They continue to push for an irrational agenda because it fits their preferred social agenda.  They ignore the evidence, they ignore centuries of proven history, and they ignore God because they are just arrogant enough to believe they still must be right.  They are not!

3.  This study proves that men and women are different.

Let’s be real, boys and girls are different.  These differences are more than merely physical, they are different in a number of ways.  This is not bad, but God designed men and women to be compatible with one another.

The problem is that this does not fit the social agenda being advanced in our culture.  They believe that women are just as capable as men, just as talented as men, and just as intelligent as men.  Yet, this totally misunderstands what compatibility means.  I am not saying I am more capable, talented, or intelligent than my wife.  In fact, in all three areas I believe I am the inferior in our relationship.

What I am saying is that her femaleness and my maleness are distinct and different, making us compatible to each other.

The irrational sociopathic groups are adamant that any distinction made is an attack on women.  Despite the evidence proving otherwise, they want to live in their insane world where, despite the facts, they believe women and men are distinct only  because of their physical make-up.

This is insane, but the political and social pressure is to deny the facts.

4.  They have a homosexual agenda

You cannot deny there is a push among many in the cultural centers of our day for complete acceptance of homosexuality.  Many are not allowing for any disagreement on the issue in the public sphere.  Whether you are the CEO of Mozilla and donated to help pass a marriage law in California, an athlete who expresses his disgust at a homosexual kiss on Twitter, a baker who desires not to bake for a homosexual wedding, or the Boy Scouts somewhat “compromise” on the homosexual issue, the cultural leaders of our day demand full acceptance and no compromise.

Evidence like what has been presented in his article goes against the clear agenda to uplift homosexuality.  Evidence like this goes against the narrative.

As a result, when a study shows that fathers are a necessity to a healthy family, they ignore it, hide it, and jettison science, the Bible, and history for their own insane approach to the world.

There is no doubt, children are better off in a family with a biological father and mother, but some people don’t want you to know this little secret because it doesn’t fit their agenda.

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland — usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will “accidentally” swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following except was written by Dan back in July 2011. The world's view of love is “an all-encompassing matrix of deception…God's view is very different.”

As usual, the comments are closed.

You don't need me to tell you that “love” is an important word, both in our culture and in the Bible. The problem is that English Bibles and American English speakers use that same word, “love,” but with very different cargoes. In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

I can't speak for other cultures, but in America, “loving” people don't judge and they don't ever say “no”… which is to say they don't say that certain things are wrong, or shouldn't be done.

“Loving” people are against murder (except of the unborn), sexual violence (unless consensual), theft (unless warranted), tyranny (unless by their political party), oppression (unless of the views they oppose), and wealth (unless possessed by themselves or their celebrities). “Loving” people disapprove of people who disapprove of people. Well, certain people. Disapproval of homosexual behavior, for instance, is wrong because it is hateful; disapproval of disapproval of homosexual behavior is right because it is loving.

It is a reflection of the world's view of itself, which is framed in an all-encompassing matrix of deception (Jer. 17:9). The world is our great-great-grandparents' real firstborn. The world is the invisible bastard child born to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, long before Cain uttered his first cry. The world was begotten by the embrace of the foundational lie “You shall be as gods.” This became the central motto. Anything, then, that affirms my godhood (over against God's godhood) is good and loving. Anything that challenges that view is bad and hateful.

It can't surprise us that God's view of love is very different. While the world's view rests on sheer and unbridled autonomy, God's rests on the truth of His Lordship. Love is at the center of both ethical systems: in the world, the autonomous self is the center. In reality, God Himself is the center. The two could not be more polar opposites or more mutually exclusive. The ramifications are countless.

Therefore, in American culture if not in others, “love” has come to mean “unconditional approval of what the world accepts.”

By contrast, in the Bible “love” means something like commitment to pursue God's glory and others' good, as defined by God. That definition needs work, but I think it's a good start.

So it is that the real world, as created and ruled by God, is structured with love for God as primary, and love for fellow-man as derivative and secondary (Matt. 22:37-40). The fantasy-world, ruled over by the prince of lies, finds this ethical system offensive and repugnant… and immoral. Ironic, no?

You see, the thought that anything or anyone (even God; particularly God) could take precedence over our (or anyone's) yearnings and passions and dreams… terrible! Terrible!

Ah, but that is where we have the eternal parting of the ways. If God is not God, then indeed it is a monstrous, hateful thing to try to deny anyone his desires; and chaos necessarily results.

But if God is God? If Jesus is true? Then what could be more loving than to turn someone (anyone) from damning, destructive ways to the saving and liberating knowledge of the true and living God?

“Love wins,” indeed.

Defined God's way.

It’s not a joke, you know. As we make our way through this life, we face some powerful enemies. In the second chapter of Ephesians, Paul describes the pre-Christian past of the people in this church. As he does that, he tells them that three powerful forces were arrayed against them: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

These people had a deep inclination toward evil that came from their inmost parts (“the passions of our flesh”), they faced a powerful opponent from outside themselves (“the prince of the power of the air”), and all the while their whole environment was opposed to them (“this world”). They were outside of fellowship with God and, therefore, were “children of wrath.”

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

For some time now, and especially since I read Thomas Brooks’ Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, I have been pondering the way these forces were, and in some ways still are, opposed to me. Though through faith in Jesus Christ I have been delivered from the dominion of these forces, I have not yet been fully and finally delivered from their influence. Each of them continues to oppose me, and at times—too many times—I succumb, choosing sin in place of holiness. No wonder then, that the Anglican Book of Common Prayer leads Christians in this prayer: “From all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil: Good Lord deliver us.”

I have a theory about these three influences and the way different Christians understand them. There are many theological tribes within Christianity and I believe that each of them has an imperfect balance in their understanding of the way these forces operate against us. Let me give just three examples. Each example is imperfect, of course, but I believe there is a thread of truth in each.

Fundamentalists tend to have a deep suspicion of the world—a world that is full of sin and adamantly opposed to God and his purposes. In my experience, Fundamentalists are quick to look to the world and to hold the world responsible for sin and the temptation to sin; hence, they battle hard against worldliness and look to worldly pleasures and entertainments with deep and lasting suspicion. If Fundamentalists are out of balance, it is toward the evil influence of the world and away from the influence of the flesh and the devil.

Pentecostals tend to lay the blame for sin and temptation at the door of the devil and demonic forces. They often have a heightened sense of demonic activity and influence. When they face the temptation to sin, or when they feel or discover opposition, they are quick to see the influence of Satan and to find ways of standing fast in the face of that kind of power. If they are out of balance, it is toward the evil influence of the devil and his forces and away from the influence of the world and the flesh.

Calvinists have a deep sense of their own depravity. After all, Calvinism begins with the T of TULIP—Total Depravity. We believe that humanity is totally depraved, so that sin extends to our every part. In his grace God restrains us from becoming as sinful as we could possibly be, but we are all still sinful to the furthest extent; the heart, the mind, the will, the desire, the inclination—all of it—is marked by the Fall. As we consider the enemies of our souls, we tend to focus on the flesh, assuming that temptation arises from within more than it arises from without. If we are out of balance, it is toward the influence of the flesh and away from the influence of the world and the devil.

All of us, I am convinced, need to understand that evil takes many forms, that it arises from within and from without, that we face enemies physical and spiritual. To emphasize one at the expense of the others is to lower our guard. Perhaps the most helpful response is not to diminish our own emphasis, but to elevate the others. When we understand the vast array of forces against us, we better understand Christ’s power in conquering them, we better arm ourselves to resist, and we better anticipate the day of the Lord’s return when their influence will be finally and completely broken.