Life is beautiful and imperfect, a source of wonder and a challenge so complex that it’s good to pause from time to time and check our perspective and priorities against eternal truth. Jim Daly’s blog, Daly Focus, is full of daily insight and wisdom that promises to help you navigate today’s culture.
Christianity says that the trouble with men and women is in their heart, in their ultimate power of vision and understanding. It is not that they are partially wrong, they are all wrong; they are looking in the wrong direction, they are blinded at the most vital point. The organ that keeps them going is itself in trouble—the heart. So our Lord puts this great emphasis upon “first,” and “heart,” and “eye” and this is just a pictorial way of saying that what the human race needs is not just to be improved a little bit here and there … they need to be radically changed.
- Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Kingdom of God
Kyle Idleman is the teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and the author of Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus. His words strike right at the heart of this issue:
We have all kinds of funny ways to measure our relationship with God and have things that we point to as evidence, like the fact that there is a fish on our bumper or people will talk about the fact that their grandparents went to church or that they have four Bibles in their house … Jesus doesn’t want fans; he wants completely committed followers.
I strongly resonate with Pastor Idleman’s perspective. He is addressing the very thing I was confronted with in college when I finally took a serious look at my spiritual convictions.
How authentic was my faith?
When I was twenty-two, just prior to graduation, I decided to spend a year studying abroad at Waseda University in Japan. It was another eye-opener for me, especially related to my growing love for Jesus, as I learned about some of Japan’s main religions—Shintoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. For example, Shintoism teaches that you have to pay money for a good name so that when you die, you get closer to the Creator. It saddened me that poor people pooled their money to buy a name for their deceased loved ones. And it struck me as suspicious that you actually had to pay the priest to get the name. Again, the exposure to these religions caused me to dig deeper into Christianity.
For me, the contrast between the faiths was startling and instructive.
It can be valuable to have a person or culture challenge core beliefs. During my college years I finally read my Bible from cover to cover to make sure I really did believe what I claimed to believe. My time in Japan gave me an entirely new perspective on the doctrine of grace. It helped me better understand how deep God’s love is for us and caused me to rejoice that unlike other major religions of the world, we don’t have to pay any institution in order to draw closer to Him.
We all can remember studying for our final exams. After all the hours sitting in class, after all the homework and pop quizzes and papers, the entire academic year comes down to a few last tests. Ace them and a carefree summer awaits. Choke and you could be facing the prospect of summer school.
Times may change, but the discipline of studying remains constant. It’s all about preparation and focus. I once heard about a teacher in a Christian school who led her classes in the same prayer before every final: “Lord,” she would say, “please help these kids remember what they studied. But more importantly, may what they studied and remember be on the test!”
According to experts (and backed up by common sense) the ability to remember what you study often comes down to avoiding distractions. Back when I was a kid, the distractions ranged from television to music to wanting to play ball with my friends. Those still exist, of course, but technology is threatening to further distract our kids. Consider this observation from Slate.com:
Researchers recently observed 263 students (from middle school, high school and college) as they were studying: Within two minutes, many were texting, tweeting, surfing the Web, watching TV or updating their Facebook page. After 15 minutes, the scientists found that students had spent just 65% of their time, on average, actually studying.
Research also indicates that multi-taskers generally remember less of what they study. And the stuff they do remember, they have more difficulty understanding. "There's nothing magical about the brains of so-called 'digital natives' that keeps them from suffering the inefficiencies of multitasking," says David Meyer, a professor of psychology from the University of Michigan. "They may like to do it, they may even be addicted to it, but there's no getting around the fact that it's far better to focus on one task from start to finish."
So moms and dad, if you want to help your kids finish the school year strong, you might urge them to turn off their phones and stay off Facebook and Twitter for a few hours at a time. Not only will they increase their quality of study time, but they may also be surprised (and relieved) to discover the Earth will continue to spin on its axis without their texts, tweets or status updates.
Have you heard about “thigh gap” yet? If not, it’s likely your teenage daughter or granddaughter has.
Thigh gap is a troubling – and potentially dangerous – new trend. It’s causing some girls to starve themselves in hopes of achieving a gap between their thighs when they stand with their knees together. Other girls exercise obsessively or resort to other self-destructive behavior, so they can become thin enough to accomplish the thigh gap and post pictures of their success on social networking sites like Tumblr.
When trends like these emerge, I’m grateful for the team of counselors we have at Focus. They can shed light on the root causes of body image disorders like thigh gap – and can help parents successfully walk with their children through what can be a scary and confusing time.
Christina works as one of our ministry’s counselors, and she recently shared some advice about this new obsession. She talked about warning signs, what’s normal and what’s not, and pointed out some resources that will help parents learn more about body image issues so often prevalent among young women. She also gives great advice on how to get difficult conversations started with the young person in your life.
What’s at the root of trends like thigh gap? Why do some girls fixate on things like that?
The issue around thigh gap is, at its core, a body image issue. Like any other body image disorder, it’s part of an identity crisis that reveals where the young lady is getting her sense of worth from. In this case, the teenage girl is getting her identity from what she looks like, instead of who she is in Christ.
When someone becomes so focused on body image or things like thigh gap, the danger is that the disordered thinking leads to disordered actions. It also impacts eating and living, and the teenage girl is at risk to develop eating disorders like anorexia.
It’s also worth noting that we’re seeing a huge rise in male teens with body image issues and eating disorders.What causes body image issues?
A lot of it is caused by comparing ourselves to other people. We look to our peers for a measure of who we should be, or what we should look like – and this tendency is now facilitated by social media. When a person becomes very competitive in wanting to be like everyone else, or to be liked, you’ll soon start to see a competitive edge that insists on wanting to do X, Y or Z no matter what. For example, your teen may insist on running outside for an hour despite the freezing blizzard and weather warnings.
What are some red flags parents can watch out for in their children?
There are a few warning signs that can indicate to parents that there may be trouble lurking. First, parents can watch for changes to a teen’s sleeping, eating and exercise habits.
You may also notice complete emotional meltdowns in reaction to body changes. We’re not talking about normal disappointments to gaining five pounds or to a pair of jeans not fitting well at the store fitting room – I mean an unwarranted emotional reaction to what seems like a small trigger.
Another thing parents will notice is a personality change. If their daughter was outgoing and carefree, she’ll become isolated. She may not talk with you. She may not socialize with the same peers, or go from a large social group to a few friends. Conversely a daughter who is usually quiet and introverted may suddenly try to fit in with large groups and may be working towards popularity.
The teenage and young adult years can be a confusing time. I’ve heard from parents of teens that it seems their son or daughter changes every five minutes. How can a mom and dad distinguish between what’s part of normal teenage development and what’s not?
You’re right – teenagers are trying to find themselves. They’re trying to figure out who they are, and they tend to ‘try on’ new roles for themselves. They’re trying out new things. It’s also normal for teenagers – and for all of us, actually – to struggle in some way with our body image.
I encourage parents to listen to and choose relationship with teens. This puts parents in a better place to notice when their son or daughter becomes stuck with disordered thinking, and when that thinking leads to a disordered lifestyle.
When I’m talking about behavioral changes, I’m talking about things that go way beyond what’s expected. Generally you don’t have to look for these changes, because they won’t be temporary or too subtle. You’ll see changes in your teen and wonder, ‘Where did my child go?’
The prospect of talking about such a sensitive issue with their teenage girl can be intimidating to some parents. I can imagine moms and dads might feel overwhelmed and at a loss as to how approach a conversation like this. Can you give any pointers?
Oftentimes, when you ask your teen how they feel about something, they’ll respond with an ‘I don’t know.’ That can be very frustrating for a parent to hear. One way around this is to remember that most teenagers are very friend-oriented, and to use that to help draw information out of your son or daughter. Instead of asking your teen directly about how they feel, ask, ‘What do you and your friends think about this? What are they saying in school about that?’ Oftentimes, that will help a teen open up. They’ll talk about what people are saying or thinking. This technique could be the key to opening the door. From here you’ll learn about the expectations they are feeling from their friends, what they think about things, and so on. Spending time doing an activity that your teen chooses and enjoys doing can also open up conversation and insight into their world.
At that point, it’s easier for parents to enter the situation with advice and perspective on what God has to say about our bodies.
Is there a way to help prevent these issues in our children?
We make a big deal about talking about the “birds and the bees.” In my view, the conversation about body image should go hand-in-hand with sex education because it’s all connected. It’s all part of who we are, who God created us to be and how to honor God with our bodies.
So as you have your talks with your kids as they grow up, connect it all to the larger issues. The earlier parents start connecting God’s design for our bodies the easier it is to feel secure in the body God gave you. That will help build a foundation you can continue to build on.
Obviously, issues as complicated as body image disorders aren’t something that can fully be dealt with in a blog post. If you want more information on the topic, you can visit the parenting area on Focus’ website which features a section on Eating Disorders and Kids.
If you feel your child has an eating disorder, I encourage you to contact us at 1-855-771-HELP (4357) to arrange to speak with one of our licensed professional counselors. For more information, please visit our Counseling Services and Referrals page.
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The trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell came to a conclusion today when the Philadelphia doctor was found guilty of first-degree murder. It took the seven-woman and five-man jury ten days to reach its verdict. The proceedings were filled with gruesome and horrific details, including charges that Mr. Gosnell murdered children born alive. The more I learned of what happened inside that clinic, the more my heart was rubbed raw.
To be clear, the guilty verdict elicits no glee. But what we saw inside the courtroom was an exposé of evil, and it always benefits society to bring wickedness and evil to light. The victims of Gosnell's crimes join the sad and long roll of more than 50 million children aborted in America since 1973. The United States is an infinitely poorer nation without these precious lives, each person unique and loved by the God who made them.
It should be the prayer of all people that the Gosnell trial will ultimately serve as a turning point in the ongoing effort to promote the beauty and protection of all life. The innocents must not die in vain. “Justice,” as Thomas Jefferson once put it, “cannot sleep forever.”
I believe that for too long, too many have viewed abortion as a clinically sterile procedure. It is anything but. For too long, too many have been so obsessed with the “right” to abortion that they’ve thought very little about the pain to the people involved, and chosen to ignore what actually goes on before, during and after the abortion itself.
As a Christian, I process heartbreak and evilness through the long lens of the Bible, believing that man often means to inflict evil upon others, yet somehow, someway, someday, the Lord will bring good out of the very worst of all things (Genesis 50:20). We know that God identifies with human suffering, especially the suffering of children. If abortion breaks my heart, I cannot even fathom how it touches His.
And as a Christian, I not only turn to my Bible to understand and process the evil of this fallen world, including the evil inside Gosnell’s clinic and countless others like it around the world - but just as importantly, I also cling to the cross. Jesus willingly carried His cross to Calvary because He so hated evil that He was willing to die for you and for me – and yes, for Kermit Gosnell, to save us from an eternity separated from God.
“I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England.” (John Wesley)
"All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." (Abraham Lincoln)
"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts." (Washington Irving)
"When I was a child my mother said to me, 'If you become a soldier, you'll be a general. If you become a monk, you'll be the pope.' Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso." (Pablo Picasso)
My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her. (George Washington)
"The mother's heart is the child's schoolroom." (Henry Ward Beecher)
"Mother - that was the bank where we deposited all our hurts and worries." (T. DeWitt Talmage)
Happy Mother's Day!
It’s a question we get often from parents – and for good reason.
For many adults, going online and visiting social media sites is simply about checking in with our relatives a few states away, sharing some cute pictures of our own children or connecting with a childhood friend.
The impact of social media on our young people can be far greater, however. For many tweens and teens, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram bring the stresses of school and peer pressure right to their smartphones and home computers. The virtual world makes it easy for them to compare themselves with their peers, leading some to wrestle with body image issues and even eating disorders.
Social media sites are also a place where some young people endure cruel comments and bullying from classmates.
What’s a parent to do?
For starters, our counselors here at Focus always encourage parents to work at forging a close relationship with their child. A loving bond will survive the ups and downs that accompany the teenage years.
Secondly, we advise parents to be involved with their child’s social media use. Yes, that definitely means monitoring. However, it also includes asking questions that will help you engage your tween or teen – “Could you help me understand Tumblr?” or “What do your friends think about Facebook?”
Questions can also prompt them to connect the dots to how their online use impacts their faith: “How does this help you with your walk with Christ?” or “Is this something that helps you be who God wants you to be?”
In addition to keeping open conversation about social media use, a third tip is to involve your teen in creating the do’s and don’ts that ultimately must be put in place. By including them in this process, you are teaching your child how to make good decisions. And yes, I understand that this process might seem more cumbersome. However, we’ve found that working now with your teen on creating sensible guidelines will help you avoid power struggles later – it teaches children that their parents are partners in processing through issues.
As with all things, there is no foolproof way to guarantee your child will make wise decisions at every turn. This is why we turn to our Dad – our Heavenly Father – and pray for His grace to cover and protect our kids.
Our website has more advice on staying on top of your teen’s technology. If you want to speak with one of our family-help specialists, you can contact us at 1-800-A-FAMILY.
So those are some general guidelines. I’m interested to hear from you. How have you navigated your child’s social media use? I’d love to hear your story – the good, the bad or the ugly!
Within Christian circles, Max Lucado is a household name, beloved for his gentle and inspiring books. The San Antonio-based pastor is a publishing icon. More than twenty million of his titles are in circulation, and his throngs of readers eagerly await each year’s new release. Now at about this point you’d probably expect me to share a story of Lucado’s humility, to tell you that even with his bestseller status, he doesn’t struggle with pride or ego.
But the fact is, he does, which is why Lucado is winning the battle we all fight, one way or the other.
Looking back to his early writing days he reflects:
“I really think God said, ‘I can’t trust Lucado with too much, but I’m going to give him this ability and see how he handles it … OK, he didn’t mess that up. OK, here’s another idea,’” he says. “I try to be faithful. I try to get my manuscripts in on time. I try not to let it go to my head, but sometimes I think too highly of myself.”
As minister of preaching to a congregation of three thousand, Lucado is refreshingly candid when he discusses the battle he endures with his ego.
“I confessed it to the church,” he stated. “I was sick of always wanting to know if our church was as big as the others. A man gave me some great advice. He reminded me that when another church does well, we all do well. After he said that, I suddenly saw Oak Hills as one tiny corpuscle in the body of Christ.” And despite having sold millions of books, he acknowledges he always hopes to sell more. “I take too much pride in that. I ideally want to be able to say that I can be content if 500 people read my books rather than 500,000. But I can’t … I know competitiveness can be healthy and good, unless it is pride driven. It’s a struggle for me.”
Max Lucado’s candidness should serve as a good model, and though most of us are not faced with balancing our gifts with widespread fame and even fortune, the premise is instructive. It’s easy to justify our own out-of-control pride and ego. Lucado could easily suggest he’s interested in selling more books because he wants to reach more souls for the Lord. But he knows better—and he’s honest about it!
A person obsessed with their physical image may claim they’re simply concerned with good grooming. A workaholic tells their spouse they’re providing for the family, but the truth is, they’re finding their identity at the workplace, not in the person and divinity of Jesus. On and on it goes.
Of pride and its pull, Puritan writer William Jenkyn puts it well. “It is only a Christian of strong grace,” he said, “that can bear the strong wine of his commendations without the spiritual intoxication of pride.”
Have you noticed that most adults share a curious trait?
We can turn almost anything into something gravely serious. It’s no wonder stress-related illnesses have become so prevalent. That’s why it’s good to remind ourselves regularly to take a deep breath, relax, and laugh at ourselves.
Well-known pastor Bill Hybels can teach us a little something about that. He’s passionate about his work and calling, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He even proves it from time to time by inviting others to laugh along with him. Take, for example, his humorous, tongue-in-cheek account of cooking his first Thanksgiving turkey.
A few years back, his wife decided she’d rather not cook the Thanksgiving meal, so Bill stepped up. After all, he said, this situation called for a leader, and he was the senior pastor of one of the largest churches in the United States and the founder of the Global Leadership Summit. How hard could this be?
To really impress his family, he elected to cook the holiday bird outside on his new grill, a fancy built-in connected to the house’s gas line, with enough BTUs to power a small city. He spent weeks planning the meal and declared this turkey would be the greatest his family had ever eaten. The big day arrived and – true to his promise – the turkey was a hit.
Weeks slipped by. Christmas came and went, and the New Year was underway. Then, one chilly Saturday morning, a landscaper finishing up some work around the house asked Bill what he’d cooked the night before.
Bill looked back with a confused frown. “Nothing,” he responded.
Now the landscaper seemed puzzled. He motioned toward the grill. “I think you left a burner on. Your grill is hot.”
Bill investigated and noticed the burners were roaring full-blast. It was at that moment he realized he’d never turned off the grill after using it nearly six weeks before. He now jokes it was the most expensive Thanksgiving turkey in history … and he was the biggest turkey of them all.
Listen, there are plenty of things in life that require us to be serious.
Why drum up (no pun intended) extra problems to add to that list? Sometimes we need to give ourselves a break. Relax. And laugh at ourselves and our silly mistakes.
NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER, 2013
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Americans have long turned to prayer both in times of joy and times of sorrow. On their voyage to the New World, the earliest settlers prayed that they would "rejoice together, mourn together, labor, and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work." From that day forward, Americans have prayed as a means of uniting, guiding, and healing. In times of hardship and tragedy, and in periods of peace and prosperity, prayer has provided reassurance, sustenance, and affirmation of common purpose.
Prayer brings communities together and can be a wellspring of strength and support. In the aftermath of senseless acts of violence, the prayers of countless Americans signal to grieving families and a suffering community that they are not alone. Their pain is a shared pain, and their hope a shared hope. Regardless of religion or creed, Americans reflect on the sacredness of life and express their sympathy for the wounded, offering comfort and holding up a light in an hour of darkness.
All of us have the freedom to pray and exercise our faiths openly. Our laws protect these God-given liberties, and rightly so. Today and every day, prayers will be offered in houses of worship, at community gatherings, in our homes, and in neighborhoods all across our country. Let us give thanks for the freedom to practice our faith as we see fit, whether individually or in fellowship.
On this day, let us remember in our thoughts and prayers all those affected by recent events, such as the Boston Marathon bombings, the Newtown, Connecticut shootings, and the explosion in West, Texas. Let us pray for the police officers, firefighters, and other first responders who put themselves in harm's way to protect their fellow Americans. Let us also pray for the safety of our brave men and women in uniform and their families who serve and sacrifice for our country. Let us come together to pray for peace and goodwill today and in the days ahead as we work to meet the great challenges of our time.
The Congress, by Public Law 100-307, as amended, has called on the President to issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a "National Day of Prayer."
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2, 2013, as a National Day of Prayer. I join the citizens of our Nation in giving thanks, in accordance with our own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and in asking for God's continued guidance, mercy, and protection.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.
Tomorrow is the National Day of Prayer, a wonderful and sacred time-honored American tradition. The effort is headed by the NDP Task Force, led by our friend and Focus emeritus board member Shirley Dobson. I’ll be recognizing the day in California with some colleagues and other ministry partners, but our team will be gathering on campus to spend some concentrated time in prayer.
On this eve of this very special day, I would like to pose a few questions.
Why should believers take a day to focus on prayer? Why pray for our fellow citizens, our leaders and the needs and challenges facing America?
Simply put, I believe God invites us to do so and promises a blessing when we do. In the book of 2 Chronicles, God says, "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (7:14).
I’ve heard people suggest that God answers every prayer from His children – but sometimes the answer is “no.” I think that’s a true statement, but if we only look at prayer as a transaction we’re likely to miss the richness of prayer itself.
Are you familiar with the acronym (adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication)? I find that to be a helpful guide for how we should approach our Heavenly Father. In addition to that, I believe God's looking for four things from us when we pray:
1. He wants humility: That's a tough one. We can be so proud of our accomplishments, our inventions, our lifestyles - you name it. I'm afraid humility isn't one of our strengths as a nation or individually.
2. He wants to talk with us: God wants to engage in the dialogue of prayer. About the only prayer I knew growing up was one of those stock prayers recited over meals. Now that I'm older, I know what God longs for is an ongoing conversation with us. He cares about the details of our lives. He invites us to bring to Him our fears, pain, sadness, confession, joy, hopes, dreams - you name it, He's waiting for us to talk with Him about it.
3. He wants us to seek His face: I've read that the word "seek" carries with it the sense of pursuing God with a "burning desire." With passion. With gusto. At some points in life that is not as easy, is it? Ever wonder why not? Maybe a good place to start is to ask Him that question: Why am I not passionate about seeking Your face at this time in my life?
4. God wants us to experience the freedom and joy that comes through confession and turning from our sin: It's one thing to say, "I'm sorry God for my sinful choices" and another thing to do something about it, namely, turning from our sin and embracing what's right.
Prayer is a critical practice for any Christian, but it's also something that, since we do so often, we run the risk of taking too lightly. How often have we ended a conversation with a friend or loved one by assuring them, "I'll pray for you" but the failing to do so? Or how frequently have we been the one asking for prayer ourselves, but not thinking too deeply about the significance of the request?
Habits and routines can be good—but they can also cause us to get into an easy rut and maybe forget just how awesome a privilege it is to be in communion and conversation with the Creator of the universe.
The Lord has answered many prayers in my life – from trying to decide whether I should play football in college, to finding the love of my life, to permitting me the privilege of being a father. He’s also said “no” to my prayers, too. Like all of you, I’ve had to shoulder the burdens of managing difficult people and wondering why loved ones die all too soon.
Indeed, God answers prayer just as sure as the sun rose this morning and will set tonight. I would love to hear your story, and learn of how the Lord has responded to you. Scripture tells us to publicly acknowledge and give praise for His good works and kindness to us including answered prayer. Psalm 105:1 says “Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the people!”
So, how about it? How has God answered your prayer?
The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The headlines have been gruesome and the facts behind the stories are difficult to even read. We recoil at the horrors that seem to be present at every turn these days. The Boston Marathon bombings, the agonizing trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, the shootings at Sandy Hook and the Aurora theater come readily to mind.
Sadly, this road of national tragedy is growing increasingly familiar. It’s almost as if the public has grown accustomed to the aftermath of senseless death. Within moments of the news my friends on Facebook had created memorial and tribute pictures. It used to be we didn’t know what to say. But now it seems we do, and I don’t think that’s a positive development.
What of the long-term impact?
We may take a short time to mourn and reflect, but once the shock wears off, the gloves are off.
Just the other day a pundit said he hoped the Boston bomber was a white American, lest racial tensions escalate should it be an individual of foreign descent.
And so in the days and weeks following tragedy, we all too soon succumb to the temptation of fitting grisly facts into tidy political narratives. Pundits go to the airwaves, and the nation watches the heated exchanges on TV. The extremes seem to dominate. Opinions are encapsulated into 30-second sound bites and 140 characters or less.
None of this changes the fact that babies and children, the most vulnerable among us, are increasingly becoming the victims of unthinkable evil that should have never, ever have happened. Somehow, what really matters gets lost in the chaos.
Can we do something differently this time?
I think we can.
For starters, we have to be willing to accept tough truths. We have to curb our instinct to say that it was bad public policy that allowed this or that to happen, or that entertainment/culture/the right/the left was to blame.
Instead, let’s be honest and recognize the evil that can dwell in the human heart.
It’s certainly not popular to throw around terms like wickedness and sin. As we marvel at our achievements, our education and our technology, it’s easy to think we’re somehow worlds apart from our uncivilized ancestors. The reality is, however, that human hearts don’t change simply because our thinking may have advanced. The only way out is back, reversing course from our decades-long march into the wasteland of moral relativism.
Simply put, we may not want to admit there’s right and wrong, but deep down, we know it’s true. That’s the truth that gnaws at us as we learn about 20 murdered children or a suddenly departed 8-year-old who dreamed of peace or infants apparently brutally killed moments after they were born alive.
What I’m about to say will not be a widely popular message in our present culture, but I’m convinced it is the only cure for what ails us.
There is a creator who has given us, his creation, the blueprint for a healthy humanity. It involves love and selflessness and respect and truth and grace and clear moral standards and a host of other principles by which societies are designed to function. Yet we have, in our “wisdom” and “sophistication,” turned our backs on those timeless teachings, dismissing them as outmoded and unenlightened.
As our culture drifts ever further from the truth that each person is created in God’s image, and is therefore of unspeakable value, life will continue to be viewed as a cheap commodity. Troubled souls will continue to wreak havoc on innocent men, women and children. And we will continue to wring our collective hands in desperate search of a solution. But short of a moral and spiritual reawakening, we are left to apply Band-Aid solutions to tourniquet problems.
We must lead by example, living out a true love that cares, that tends to people’s needs, and that speaks the truth.
God help us.
NOTE: This essay originally appeared in the Washington Post's On Faith page.