on who we are and what we do

A while ago I uploaded a video I made onto social media, a speed drawing of a Turkish Janissary soldier. Most of the views were (unsurprisingly) from Turkish viewers, and while the vast, vast majority appreciated it, and were touchingly… touched by the interest I showed in their history, one incident did stick in my mind: one Turkish viewer, a complete stranger over the internet, was so incensed by what I’d drawn that he felt justified cussing me out – me, a complete stranger over the internet – because he felt mortally offended by a silly line drawing, which in the words of another viewer, ‘looks like shit.’ Continue reading “on who we are and what we do”

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on the stories we tell

Hong Kong, my home, was rocked by major protests in 2014. Localist riots and student-led scuffles break out much more regularly now than in my parents’ day.

In June 2016, the UK voted by referendum to leave the EU. There was a spike in reported racial crimes across the country in the weeks afterward.

In July 2016 a French North African and an Afghan refugee launched attacks in Nice, France, and Wurzburg, Germany. There is little evidence for any coordination between both attacks, though Islamic State has claimed responsibility for both.

In the same month, a girl in the Indian state of Haryana was assaulted and gang-raped, allegedly by the same men who had been convicted of gang-raping her in 2013.

And as the 2016 US Presidential Election draws ever closer, both Republican and Democrat supporters are stepping up their rhetoric. International opinion mostly sides against Trump.

Every one of these stories stars a clear villain (though tellingly no clear heroes emerge). Who is to blame? Continue reading “on the stories we tell”

on heroic idiocy

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Continue reading “on heroic idiocy”

on jesus being alive redux

[I’ve written about this topic before…]

“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”

Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. So he went and preached to the spirits in prison— those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood. And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers accept his authority.” –1 Peter 3:8-22 (NLT)

This passage seems a bit disjointed: the first half is a list of commands to do this and that. Then the second half talks about high theology, who Jesus is, and where he is. How do we make sense of that? Continue reading “on jesus being alive redux”

on us and them

When I was about 12 an older relative of mine said something to me I’ll never forget. We were watching the news, and the story switched to a high-profile couple undergoing a divorce, because the husband had cheated.

My relative said: ‘Don’t judge people who do that. The only thing that separates us from them is grace.’

In other words, self righteousness makes us forget who we are. Continue reading “on us and them”

on subliminal gospel preaching

So I’ve been reading W.B. Barcley’s The Secret of Contentment recently and thinking about Philippians 4:11-13.

It’s one of my favourite parts of the Bible to feel smug and sanctimonious about – you know how it is, verse 13 is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible; people use it to give every one of their actions divine backing and therefore diving legitimacy, because they can do all things in Christ. But in fact all the ‘things’ of verse 13 are precisely the unglamorous things Paul had listed just a sentence ago: being in want, having almost nothing, being hungry. So every time I read that verse I like to smugly give myself a self-five. Nice one, you’re not like the muggles. Continue reading “on subliminal gospel preaching”

on Messiah the son of David

“Later, as Jesus was teaching the people in the Temple, he asked, “Why do the teachers of religious law claim that the Messiah is the son of David? For David himself, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’ Since David himself called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with great delight.

Jesus also taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished.” -Mark 12:35-40, NLT

Why should the Messiah be the Son of David? On the surface of it this seems like a very uniquely Jewish question, more or less unrelatable to many Christians. And in many ways it is a uniquely Jewish yearning, but it does have more to do with us as Christians than might seem. Continue reading “on Messiah the son of David”

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