Who Is Chloe?

Victor Chininin Buele

We are cherry pickers by nature. Those cherries are always there, topping the pretty cake. And there we go, grabbing them, one and then another and then another. I do it. You do it. We all do it. We are prey for our own confirmation bias. We want to believe what we already believe. To step out of the line is uncomfortable at best.

But we don’t have that luxury with the Scriptures. That’s why we are to examine them constantly. And that’s more than daily, and that’s more than our verse of the day approach or our text from Sunday’s sermon approach. We have to be soaking in Scripture: whole books, whole chapters, reading fast, reading slow, focusing on one of the human authors, focusing on a verse, focusing on a paragraph, focusing on a genre. There are many ways we must read the text: microreading, macroreading, reading it for fun, reading it for comfort, reading it to learn, reading its history, reading it to learn its themes, reading it to summarize the history of redemption, sing it, pray it, argue with it.

I have spent months in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Why? Because Paul does this really strange thing there. He refers to a filthy people who would not pass anyone’s Christianity smell test, much like us Christians today, as brothers. The question has bothered me for all these months: why would Paul call them brothers? Over twenty times, Paul addresses them directly as brothers:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

1 CORINTHIANS 1:10 (ESV)

If you want to talk about a corrupt church, the Corinthians will provide the perfect illustration: divisions, quarrelling, boasting, sexual immorality that would have made the pagans blush, drunkenness while saying they were celebrating the Lord’s Supper “at church,” idolatry of all kinds.

Andrew Naselli says of chapter 3 the following, “Based on the way the Corinthians were acting, Paul could not address them as who they actually were. Although they were people who had the Spirit, they were acting “as” or “like” people not having the Spirit because people having the Spirit characteristically live in a certain way.” He quotes Gordon Fee, “His ultimate point is: ‘Stop it! People of the Spirit must simply stop behaving the way you are.'”

Over the course of the last several months, there is one section of 1 Corinthians that has often been quoted at me:

I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

1 CORINTHIANS 6:5-8 (ESV)

And that’s where I’ve lived for the last several months.

Let’s summarize what it is that gets communicated in various degrees of implicit and explicit communication: a good Christian should much rather get abused inside of the church and keep his mouth shut than to take this great dishonor and discredit to the name of Christ and His church before an unbelieving world. And, we must handle everything in house. That’s the God-honoring thing to do!

So, now, read the text with those presuppositions, and there it is: it would be, then, easily read that to speak of that which happens within the church before unbelievers (and mind you, we are not talking about petty offenses or things we are called in the Word to overlook in grace) would not be a good thing to do. And you can take some creative license with other texts, and you have a recipe for gossip and slander allegations that you are compelled to ignore. As a matter of fact, to ignore them is the godly thing to do!

But, I’ve asked for months before the Lord, is that what the text says?

It most definitely does not.

First of all, the Corinthian church was very corrupt in her sin, and that included her leadership. Right before the reminder of the institution of the Lord’s Supper by Jesus Himself, Paul writes this to these brothers:

For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

1 CORINTHIANS 11:18–22 (ESV)

Somebody was watching this. Her name is Chloe. And her people, whatever that means, took it up to Paul. Paul was not the pastor of the Corinthian church. He was not gathering with the Corinthians at Corinth. This was definitely going outside of the local church.

For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.

1 CORINTHIANS 1:11 (ESV)

Tom Schreiner says, “He discloses that he heard about the divisions and strife from those associated with Chloe, which may designate ‘ business associates, business agents, or slaves acting on her behalf.’ We wish we had more details about how Paul received the report, but nothing more is said about it. Perhaps Chloe’s people travelled from Corinth to Ephesus and communicated with Paul. It is also possible that Stephanas and friends (16:17) were the means by which the information that came from Chloe was communicated to Paul.”

Anthony Thiselton says, “Whether or not Chloe had church connections, probably her agents belonged to the church at Ephesus and had regular links with the church at Corinth. On their last return to Ephesus, as Fee vividly expresses it, they gave Paul an ‘earful’ about the state of the church at Corinth. ‘The mention of Chloe’s people gives credence to the report received by Paul. The report was not hearsay.'”

We don’t know who Chloe is. We don’t have certainty about who her people were. Schreiner and Thiselton offer some food for thought, but we don’t need them to get to the point of the text. The text is there, and that’s what we were given.

Either a church member or a group of church members were unable to effect change at Corinth. We don’t know what they did or did not do, what they tried to do or what they failed to do. We don’t know anything in detail. We don’t know if they filed charges, to use modern polity language, and they were dismissed, ignored, or blatantly rejected. But what we do know is that the message had to get from Corinth to Ephesus, from the heat of the struggle at Corinth to Paul. It was a cry for help. And the message arrived to Paul.

First Corinthians is the response of Paul to what he heard.

Chloe is not berated by Paul for taking her business before unbelievers. Thiselton thinks that perhaps Chloe did not have church connections (does that mean that perhaps she was not a Christian but some of her people were?) Regardless, the thing is that the Corinthian sin had public implications that could not have just been contained within the fences of the local church. Their bad witness was having public impact. The Christian lives in a glass display case, I like to often say. People from all kinds of backgrounds walk to our store, to put it that way, every day and notice whether we live what we proclaim. Do we love? Do we represent Christ? Are we the salt of the earth, the city on a hill?

A whole book of the Bible is written because the matter was reported, not gossiped to Paul, nor were they false allegations, that is, slander. The matter required the apostle’s correction. And you have 16 chapters of how Paul handled a dispute of that kind. The gospel is preached. Appeals are made; entreating is the way. Parakaleo is expected of those who have the Paraclete–those who can entreat do so because they have the Spirit in them. Truth is presented. Bad doctrine and practice is discussed in the light.

To this day, the reputation of the Corinthian church is marred by these actions. And we don’t know to what degree they repented or not. But we do know what was Paul’s response to this heinous sin. And as he was imitating Christ, we are to imitate him in this.

In the Old Covenant, that is before Christ came, lived a perfect life, died a brutal death on the cross for all my sins–past, present, and future, and rose again to be raised at the right hand of the Father, the people were given the following instruction:

“If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

DEUTERONOMY 17:2–7 (ESV)

Before you freak out about the stoning, remember that’s what Christ took on the cross for you if you repent. His death is because of that. He took the stoning. Freak out now, but unto repentance. You can receive peace and reconciliation through His blood, shed for you at the cross.

In the Old Covenant, this was the means by which they kept the holiness, the sanctity, of the people of God. Evil sin was to be purged radically from their midst. In no uncertain terms. But because of that, they needed to be incredibly careful to not be swayed by appearances. They were called to inquire very diligently. And the witnesses needed to be very diligent. There is no, “You told Paul, Chloe, so we are not going to talk about this matter of the dude sleeping with his father’s wife. Until you repent of being naughty and telling on us, to Paul, there is no possible door to repentance. Don’t ever come back here.”

How much more should the church of Christ, redeemed and being redeemed now, be all the more diligent to purge the evil from her midst. No sacred cows. No preference. No hiding anything in us either. Sin must be constantly killed as any good reader of John Owen would say–“Cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

The Christian’s repentance, not afraid of shame or consequences, not afraid of appearances or implications, is a key witness unto salvation to a world that has found a way to minimize sin to such an extent that everyone can pretend with a straight face that sin is laughable, praiseworthy, admirable, and worthy of pursuit. May it not be so in the church of Christ.

When we minimize sin (https://chininin.com/2020/10/25/it-is-not-character-flaws/), let us not be surprised that we end up protecting the wrong honor and reputation, and not the honor and the reputation of the King of Kings. Don’t be swayed to think that you can protect the church. The church is Christ’s to protect, and His promise is sure: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

So, whoever Chloe may have been, if her people would not have carried this awful report to Paul, what would have happened?

Will you be like Chloe’s people or will you sit there, quote that one verse to placate your fear (I would know it–I’ve done it), and sit under abuse, sit under corruption, thinking you are doing the right thing by protecting the honor and reputation of an institution or a human? Or your own?

Yes, by all means, honor your elders, follow the polity, challenge things, ask questions, raise challenges, be gracious, be humble, listen, respond, correct. But if the thing is a swamp, not to quote the President, you may have to follow Christ and be like Chloe’s people. Do not be afraid. God put a whole book in the Bible to remind you He is with you, and nothing will ultimately defeat the advance of His precious gospel for His glory and our good.

Spread the Faith: Lessons from my Church Homelessness

Victor Chininin Buele

The President-elect has been saying that his grandmother would not tell him to keep the faith but to spread it. Now, I’m not advocating for spreading the President-elect’s faith, of course, but he managed to get inside of my thinking with that phrase.

We are multipliers. That’s our nature. The blessing at the creation, reported in Genesis, was to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. There is so much to do! There is work to be done excellently, classes to be taught, bread to be baked, women to be rescued, children to be raised, a nation to be saved. We cannot possibly do it all.

I have been homeless, from an ecclesiastical point of view, so to speak, for a bit. I’ve learned a lot.

Multiplication is unavoidable. The question is what are we multiplying?

We will multiply, but if what we are multiplying is the wrong kind of leaven, the whole thing will be bad. That is, it is not just about spreading the faith but about what kind of faith it is that we are spreading.

We become what we worship. I’ve been saying that phrase a lot as I’ve been preparing a class about worship that I’m teaching. Greg Beale came up with it, of course, to summarize the biblical teaching about idolatry. I didn’t make it up myself.

So, what have I learned? Churches become what is sown in them. If you sow self-preservation, they become ingrown monuments to self-preservation. If you sow sacrificial giving, you get to watch a couple depart the comfort of a rising career in Kansas City to go serve in the east where they will very likely face severe persecution for daring to bring the message of salvation in Jesus Christ.

We now know what it feels like to “date” the church as the now-not-a-Christian Josh Harris plastered in a little book once. We know what it is like to walk in and to have literally no one notice that you exist. We know what it is like to have severe reservations about something and not know how to get out. We know what it is like to raise concerns and have them shut down. We know what it is like to have your children ask you why they heard a gospel different than the one they themselves can read in their Bibles. We know what it is like to have children ask legitimate questions you have no good answer for whatsoever.

We now hope we can see the overlooked, not ignore the red flags, not fear the appearance of conflict, not confuse boldness with harshness, not confuse questions with an anti-church mentality, not disregard questions asked whether they seem thoughtful to us or not, not avoid the difficult conversations that sorrow and pain bring about.

We long to see Jesus Christ magnified in Kansas City, disciples growing and thriving, multiplying the good news of Jesus, not a message that kind of, sort of looks like him if you twist your head 63 degrees to the right, put on 3D glasses, squint real hard, and step up a ladder to see.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Christ has come. There’s work to do.

Like I heard many times coming out of that TV screen, “get busy living, or get busy dying.”

The Absolute Truth that There Is No Absolute Truth

Víctor Chininin Buele

In case you are not familiar with my usual points: I do not support Vice President Biden. I will not call President Trump’s lack of observable fruit of repentance moral flaws. I do not believe it is morally neutral to think that secularism and scientism are not religions. And true freedom of religion and speech, not to say common sense, love, and compassion, are there to help us better our arguments and lives by being challenged where we need to be challenged and grow. That is, we can’t just call any and everyone the worst human being on earth for holding a divergent position than our own.

With that said, there is hardly anything to celebrate in America this weekend. The last four years brought plenty of devastation, and the next four years will also bring plenty of devastation.

This is a season of judgment, of living the results of what we have sown. We cannot possibly walk out of this one smelling like roses. We have been injecting young minds throughout the nation and the globe with the idea that there is no such thing as truth. Only to have this brilliant observation, the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth, proven to be worthless in front of our very eyes as we have seen lie after lie play out in our very own handheld screens. The President and the media, the not-the-mainstream-media media, the establishment and the opposition, the Republicans and the Democrats have asked us to not believe what we see, hear, and think. We have asked ourselves not to believe what we see, hear, and think. We have killed our consciences.

At the end of the story, we don’t like the challenge of truth because it exposes us. Every claim has an answer.

We are a highly pragmatic society. We prop up little gods because we want what we want, and they promise to give it to us faster, sooner, and better than the other god. Both parties have grossly overlooked obvious sin in the lives of the candidates. Both are liars. It is documented that Vice President Biden lied about his education. It is not fake videos. It actually happened, and he could not become president back then because of that. But today, it has been washed away and not by repentance. I need not waste my time writing about President Trump in this department as they are sites live right now showing statistics about this. And frustrated fact checkers showing their homework to the country, jumping up and down, trying it in bold, red letters, catchy videos without even beginning to make a dent. It just doesn’t register, like when the five year old boy tries desperately to show his mom that he can jump from the roof down to the bushes without breaking a bone. Watch me, mom! Watch, watch, watch! Or I may actually have to jump…

We hate direct questions because we can’t fudge with them. When we take down the lies we tell ourselves to justify the things that we do, we know we have been exposed, so we work feverishly to keep the covers on, no matter what the cost may be. We are expert lawyers at making poor excuses sound like sophisticated legal, scientific, and irrefutable arguments.

Murder becomes a euphemism. Immorality becomes flaw. Fornication and betrayal become an affair. Lawlessness becomes peaceful protesting. Lying becomes hyperbole. Abuse becomes tone. Prejudice becomes inclusiveness of all but that kind over there, those ones are evil. Sin becomes tolerance. Tolerance becomes permissiveness. Racism permeates our hearts.

We want the right to not be told we are wrong. We want the right to not hear the truth that we are sinners in desperate need of grace. We want the right to not have to amend our ways. We demand change in the streets, but we abhor it for our own hearts.

I had a physics teacher who used to say, “Cadets, you love to play and wallow in the mud of your youthful arrogance.” That’s us. Please, let us live in here. It’s nice. This is not mud, how dare you, bigot, to say this is mud? Go to the priest on the internet, perhaps wearing a white coat, who will show you the chemical composition of this material I’m wallowing in to be gold. Yes, the finest gold, the best gold, tremendous gold. Sad!

Reading Isaiah 1 this morning was difficult. I have absolute confidence in the absolute truth that God is in the business of redeeming a sinful but repentant people to Christlikeness. But to repent, we have to hear both the bad news and the good news. Yes, it is worse than you admit it is. You are worse than you want to show. But Jesus Christ came into the world for you, to live the perfect life you can never live, to make atonement for your sins, all of them, the vilest, the Trump-like ones even. Because you know when you look at yourself in the mirror, the orange color is there in your skin, too. What you hate in him, you desperately try to hide in you. And it is vile. That’s why the cross is so vile. It was an abomination. The Son of God became an abomination because we are a walking abominations, and for Him to be just, truly just, not Brett Kavanaugh kind of just or Sonia Sotomayor kind of just, He must also be the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. He died and rose again. Unbelievable as it sounds, test the evidence, run it through the principles of historiography. But ultimately, He must give eyes to see and ears to hear. There is hope, true hope, glorious hope, eternal hope of a better country, of a better patria. Turn. Now. Turn. You don’t have to believe the lies of the flesh, the world, and the devil. You can know truth, and you can have life and life abundantly that transcends the feeble circumstances that surround us.

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Isaiah 1:16-18

It Is Not Character Flaws!

Víctor Chininin Buele

Why waste our collective time, writing and reading, if I know already that you won’t change your mind? Precisely because of that. And that matters because language matters. And because the gospel message, through language, is the only thing that will regenerate your mind.

Iosif Brodsky knows a bit about language since he was strongly urged to emigrate from the Soviet Union basically for being a poet, a free thinker. He once said, “You think evil is going to come into your houses wearing big black boots. It doesn’t come like that. Look at the language. It begins in the language.

There is something going on that has been bothering me during this entire election cycle. It’s been going on for years, though.

I keep reading things like these:

“Evangelicals in general who support Donald Trump recognize, that he has character flaws.

“All of us are human, and none of us are without sin, Trump is human like the rest of us.

“I will vote for the policies I believe most accurately represent God’s will for human flourishing. I will not make a big show of it or make apologies for my chosen candidate’s character flaws.”

I could quote many more, and you may have just made similar statements. Granting all the context and nuance that these and other statements may offer, they magically transform sin into flaw. A line of reasoning is advocated that (1) all human beings sin, (2) Trump is a human just like the rest of us, and (3) at that point the necessary conclusion that Trump sins is not quite articulated but left in the air, hanging, unresolved yet implied. Logic fills the void. So, the need for explaining it away is needed. The air is then filled with a much more respectable-sounding word: flawed. And that is something we can all relate to easily. So, next! I am flawed, you are flawed. “We are a happy family!/With a great big hug/And a kiss from me to you/Won’t you say [you’re flawed], too?” Enough, Barney!

The obvious yet unfortunately necessary disclaimer: This is not an anti President Trump only tirade or a pro Biden motivational speech. I can do the same exercise with Vice President Biden or with Victor Chininin Buele. My point here is to use the caricature in front of us to illustrate something critical. And Trump makes for such a poignant illustration. He is us on steroids, naked and shamelessly unashamed, out in the open, and twitted at crazy hours.

The point is that there is absolutely nothing false about the biblical truth that all human beings sin (Romans 1-3). If this were not true, there would be absolutely no need for the gospel, and with there would be no need for Jesus Christ. Simple fact. What this truth is not, when we rightly understand the gospel, is an excuse to sin flagrantly. And since my wife always prefers that I would stick to biblical terms and descriptions of sin, let me rephrase: This simple fact that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God is not an excuse to live unrepentantly in sin.

We don’t need a lot to illustrate the need for justification. First, we go and do something super dumb, like watch a bad movie, buy something stupid, say something embarrassing, you name it. We immediately rush to find a way to explain it to ourselves. (Actually, we say, it was a great movie, a smart investment preparing for the future, the needed word that needed to be said).

This is a deep part of our sinful, fallen nature. Once we have found a way to deceive ourselves that wrong is right, bad is good and even desirable, we become evangelists because we desperately need others to affirm what we’ve done, approve of us, and close the cycle. We start telling others how wonderful that terrible movie was. Because we can’t just own it. We start telling others to go buy the product because we can’t face it that we made a mistake. Because we do this for relatively simple stuff like hoarding toilet paper during a global pandemic, for example, we don’t pay much attention to this sequence of self-justification and self-deceit.

And that is where I want you to hear the language.

This is how we allow sin in our lives. We tell ourselves it cannot possibly be a big deal because both everyone else sins and others, like Trump, for example, sin way more than us, or their sin is worse than ours. This is how we self-justify our walk away from the pursuit of holiness. We’ve taken our eyes off of Jesus and His Word and have diverted it instead to excuse-making. And in that simple line of argument with ourselves, we’ve deemed our sin to not be a sin. And as it becomes systemic and permanent in our hearts and lives, well, we just associate our identity with it—we are flawed! The societal expectation to require others to love us just as we are (that is, without calling us to repentance and change) comes in, and there we are: self-justified in our self-described flaws but needing to run to any and every instrument of self-medication possible to quiet a guilty conscience. Because we know that when the night comes, and the land is dark, and the moon is the only light we see, that’s when we know we’ve sinned. We can’t hide anymore from God. And even if we over medicate and fall asleep deadening our conscience, sooner or later, we wake up.

And that is also how we allow wolves into our churches. We are pragmatic. We are sinners, and yet we want to see change. We want to see the gospel at work. We want results. We want to see lives changed. But we get mixed up. The world’s definition of success gets into us as we trade the concept of sin in our personal lives for the more palatable idea of flaws or mistakes. Then, this infiltrates the church. We are far more likely to overlook sin when things look just like we want them. Or even trending up to look just like we want them. Actually, the promise of something is far more entangling than getting the thing itself. Especially if we are constantly persuaded that the goal is just over here, almost within reach. We can see that promised land, y’all!

And wolves come in, walk on the red carpet we set to welcome them, eat our food, drink our beer, come into our homes, get to know us and our sins and our secrets. They set shop in our church, get paid by us, give us what we want to hear and see. We see their anger, sure, their wrath, their immorality, their covetousness, their lusts, their greed. We see what John Piper highlighted as the New Testament sins of “unrepentant sexual immorality (porneia), unrepentant boastfulness (alazoneia), unrepentant vulgarity (aischrologia), unrepentant factiousness (dichostasiai), and the like,” but we explain them away. We lie and say to ourselves and then to others when we become evangelists for our guy that we are all sinners just like Pastor Steve up there. He is so vulnerable and raw, honest and transparent! He struggles like I do! We are all flawed and say silly things from time to time… It’s just the tone. Our man, he gets results! That’s what we say.

Never underestimate the things you will say and do to justify your own sin. The Word is true—the wages of sin is death. Devastation follows sin.

So, let’s watch our language, shall we? If we don’t call out sin without euphemisms, we will never be able to repent of it. And without repentance, there is no regeneration. No regeneration means no renewal.

Is that what we want to leave behind? Lives consumed by selfishness? Churches consumed by wolves? A nation consumed by sin?

The Road to Incarnational Politics

Victor Chininin Buele

I keep getting asked a flavor of this question–what am I supposed to do with all of these issues related to the election? Last week, I started some more general thoughts regarding an earlier question about a distortion of the two-kingdoms view of theology here: https://chininin.com/2020/09/19/our-place/. Essentially, what is our place as Christians in politics? God is sovereign, and we are responsible. We cannot force change. The gospel is not coercive. We vote, but we know that our vote cannot ultimately change the hearts of a nation. We advocate for more just laws, but we know that ultimately a nation will legalize what it worships. We need regeneration before any revolution.

What I want to do here is to take up an additional path of discussion about the enthusiastic support of a party platform this side of eternity. Especially the current platforms. To do that, I want to discuss incarnational politics. I cannot see how we can be enthusiastic about either one of the two platforms as Christians. We really are in a season where our status as sojourners and exiles is blatantly clear. If we are feeling too at home in a red hat or a blue shirt, something is out of balance. John Stott always taught me in his writings and public communications that the Christian was going to be too liberal for the conservatives and too conservative for the liberals. I do not see us acting as sojourners in such a situation in this election cycle.

We are political beings. We have convictions. We have very strong convictions. And we live in a pluralistic society where our neighbors have very different convictions than we do. Algorithms serve us and our neighbors with different views of the world and reality, different pages and experts. We live in a massive cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias sociological experiment.

The essence of incarnational politics is this–Christ came into the world to save sinners. I know of no worse sinner than I because I do know the darkness, depth, and stain of my own sin. I hear myself always, and I know what I do, don’t do, and do without all my heart. Christ became like I am in every way except one: sin. He went through the similar human experience of emotions, convictions, disappointments, insults, conflicts, temptations. The big difference and hope for me is that he did not sin. In the power of the Holy Spirit, I’m daily being transformed into someone who sins less and less and less as I’m transformed into the image of Christ, yet still sins. Christ came, he became like us but without the sin, and he did not set himself on a mission to impose beliefs on us, to use magical powers to force us to comply to his divine will. He brought what Craig Blomberg calls contagious holiness. He encountered sinners and loved them. He had compassion. And they were changed. Never to be the same again. There ought to be no one more welcoming than the Christian. Our message is the best news of happiness to the world. We don’t have a monopoly over it. It was freely given, and much is expected out of us in getting it out.

Do we do that in our politics? Do we actually love the other person? Do we know her? Do we know why she goes to a certain march? Do we know why he feels isolated and left behind by the world? Do we know why he falls for QAnon ideas? Do we know why she is passionate about the Second Amendment? Do we know whether she is tired of being thought of as somebody who is becoming a liberal?

Do we know the person? When we don’t, we are not showing love. We are caricaturizing. We don’t like caricatures of us. But we dish them out easily.

Take this matter of immigration, for example. I have major conflicts of conscience. I know that ALDI can sell me strawberries for 1.99 every once in a while because there are people who look like me who pick them up under almost-slavery conditions, exposed to chemicals I would not put anywhere near my children while they are compensated less than what I would dare to make at my job. We have policies that wink at those who cross the border as if saying, “If we catch you, we’ll put you through hell, but if we don’t, please clean our toilets, pick up our fruit, make our burgers.” We thus encourage parents to endanger their children to cross the desert and the river, and yet these parents are responsible for making these choices. Not every immigrant is fleeing dangerous conditions. Some just want, like I once did, to come and become rich. Our asylum laws are awful, and we put children in cages separated from their parents. Do the Democrats have an actual solution for this? They do not. Do the Republicans? Absolutely not. Why do people not realize that building the wall will eventually result in the rising cost of our cheap food? Why do people not realize that if we don’t do something about bringing people out of hiding they will only live in a cycle of poverty and darkness. Amnesty sends an awful message, but tons of families live under a lot of stress and fear. The church doesn’t ask them about certain sins–as if we were saying it’s OK to use a stolen SSN to get a job. We aren’t watching for the ultimate spiritual wellbeing of these souls, of these humans. Immigration is far more complicated than a bumper sticker. And it’s only getting worse.

Take abortion. It is the dismemberment of children. It is as simple as that, but it is also a lot more complicated than that. I cannot possibly persuade you that this is murder. But it is. Have you read Defenders of the Unborn? That is a really good work of history showing us how we got to the current polarization. What was life like before Roe v. Wade? Democrats cared about the rights of the baby and the mother! What!! Yet, we seem to agree about the inherent value of every human life lost to COVID-19. Every life outside of the womb seems to matter, well, except when you talk about wearing masks. I get so frustrated with arguments that America is a totalitarian state. Have you ever been in a coup d’état in Bangkok? That is a very different thing. Have you ever been in a lockdown in Latin America? I hate to say it, but you really don’t know what you are talking about. America has institutions that as crazy as they may seem today, bending to the will of a polarizing figure, are still constitutionally accountable and liable for watching over each other.

We could go on and on. We disagree on a lot. I get it. But do you know me? Do you know why? Do you care to know why?

We can’t build a future together if we demonize the other, if we turn everything into a test of left or right orthodoxy. We need to know that some of these issues need to go through some sort of triage. We don’t have enough time to sort through all the massive waste dump that social media and the mainstream media dump on our lap. I have to confess, I was happy to only think about Molina’s 2000th hit yesterday rather than to research about the forced sterilizations of women at the southern border.

But we cannot lose the prophetic edge to speak truth to power and to not give up in doing good. Have you read Amos lately? If the man behind the Resolute Desk calls himself a Christian to pander my vote, you better believe that I’m going to call him to account by the standards that he claims to confess. Where is the fruit? I’ve been looking and looking, and time and time again I fail to see the fruit of repentance. Does that mean that I must vote for the other guy or for him? Abortion matters a lot because it’s tied to the gods of this age and nation. There is a way in which the exaltation of abortion is tied to all kinds of fundamental aspects of American life. It matters greatly. Am I a “single issue” voter? No. Why? Because I’m tired of the Democratic party pandering to African Americans, Latino/as, the LGBTQ community. I’m tired of the Republican party pandering to “evangelical” Christians and gun rights advocates. Nothing changes. Welfare increases under both red and blue administrations. There is a really neat little book about that if you are curious. I am tired of a system that consistently produces more of the same. Why are we content voting for the “lesser” of two evils? That means we know and acknowledge that both are terrible choices.

I am more than a caricature. I care about life inside the womb and outside of it. I want people to have the best opportunities to hear the gospel and live the best life possible in this earth. I want to see people live life in freedom and with true joy. I can’t achieve that only with politics, but I can’t see that by ignoring politics or by demonizing the other side or by ignoring the other side.

We all want to change the world, don’t we? We know that living incarnationally is critical. Because we can be fully known and yet loved. I can love you even as I try to show you why x or y subject can lead down a path that will not benefit either one of us. In the process, I will learn what drives you, and we will be better for it. Yes, there are horrendous ideas out there. But will we ever see them if we create for ourselves echo chambers designed to only echo the things we want to hear. Take one another seriously. And please, this is not a post where I throw out the Bible, its inerrancy, efficacy, authority, and sufficiency. I am not on the road to Liberaland. I am a son of God. Trying to do his will, trying to live with an honorable conduct in this strange age where I live.

Let’s talk, OK? Jesus did. He wept.

Our Place

Victor Chininin Buele

What is our place as Christians in this world? The Bible gives us what seems to be at times contradicting instructions, and it is easy to see that many have given up on Scripture because of what they perceive as contradictions. We are told that the kingdom of God is here (Matthew 3:2, 4:17, 10:7; Mark 1:15; Luke 17:21), and we are clearly also told, “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’” (John 18:36 ESV). We, Christians, live in a paradox. We are to think in paradoxes. Our minds will always be stretched through paradox. Not contradiction but paradox. So, what is our place here?

We are citizens of an earthly nation and citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20). We have responsibilities in both realms. We are to be the best citizens here and serve as leaven in this realm for the kingdom of heaven. Peter in his first letter, chapter 2, addresses the Christians as those who were not a people but now are a people, those who are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.” And the purpose of all of that is “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (9). We’ve been reconciled to God and made part of His kingdom (now and in its future consummation) in order to be an evangelistic light. We’ve been saved to proclaim. After taking Hosea’s “not a people” theme and turning it into “now you are God’s people,” Peter urges the sojourners and exiles (how he refers to the Christians) to “abstain from the passions of the flesh” and “keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak of you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

The Christian is then called to “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” Verses 13 and 14 issue a heavy command to these resident aliens in Asia Minor. They are to “be subject (submit yourselves, NASB) for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme (a king, NASB), or to governors as sent by him (2:13-14 ESV).” The task is great: obedience and submission are required of the believer to every human institution. It doesn’t narrow it down just to the king/emperor, and it doesn’t narrow it down to governors. The reason for the submission is not shown to be the worthiness or the righteousness of the human institution. The sojourners and exiles are not asked to be subject to every human institution because of the institution’s own righteousness or goodness. It also does not say to be subject to every human institution because of self-interest, i.e., what the exile can receive from submission to the human institution. Instead, Peter centers the rationale for the submission on the Lord alone. These believers are asked to submit to the human institutions for the Lord’s sake.

Defining what Peter means by every human institution is marked by the context. Peter uses the word κτίσει, creation/creature. Peter refers to human creatures, that the submission is to be to “every human creature,” literally speaking. The context that follows this helps clarify this command. Peter highlights the emperor/king, governors, servant/master relationships, wives/husbands, Shepherd/undershepherds/flock of God. Then, Peter is not telling any of us to submit blindly to any and every institution created by men, especially not on the basis of worthiness or goodness or self-interest. He is also not telling us to submit to every person. He is also not making a case for slavery, for blind following, for subservience. He is making a call to honor the Lord in all relationships and spheres of our lives. The exiles will glorify God by deriving every aspect of their relationships from God, for the Lord’s sake.

With this said, there are three things to evaluate: the nature of the Christian’s involvement, the limits of the Christian’s involvement, and the nature of change.

Some commentaries indicate that it is possible that the sojourners in 1 Peter were originally all living in Rome but were deported and spread throughout Asia Minor after their conversion. If that is the case, the call to submit to such a government is even more difficult. The command to display an honorable conduct towards evangelism is one issued to those under an authority that would be, to say the least, very difficult to submit to. So, we engage trying to be the best citizens that we can, letting the fruit of our regeneration and conversion spread through our actions and involvement throughout the society. A little leaven can do much for the whole nation. The gospel is leaven. If we hide and don’t engage, then we surrender critical ground. The gospel is not imposition, though, so we cannot force our beliefs on anyone. We are not to be cultural warriors in the caricaturesque sense of the word. We are to keep our conduct honorable. We live for Christ here, all our life. We live in a glass case. Everyone is watching us and measuring our witness with our actions or lack of action. There should be no one more committed to the pursuit of justice, beauty, truth, and order than the Christian citizen of a nation.

But there are limits to our engagement. Ultimately we will not be able to decisively persuade a godless culture without regeneration. There can be no revolution without reformation. We cannot persuade a single person about Jesus Christ being the Son of God who came into the world to live a perfect life and die a brutal death in our place for all our sins before rising up again and ascending to the throne of the Father where he intercedes for us even now as he makes all things new. We just can’t. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the heart, mind, soul, to give eyes, ears, and soft hearts to take in the message we proclaim. Because of that, we can’t persuade somebody to display the fruit of repentance, the fruit of the Spirit from mere human persuasion. We can’t ultimately persuade anyone that abortion is murder and ought to be obliterated from our land. We can’t ultimately persuade anyone about a host of moral issues that are the outworking of the gospel. People need eyes to see given from God and they need our witness so that they can respond to God’s call.

And that is also the final point, the nature of change is that we cannot force change. We fully depend on God for that, but we must obey God also. He is sovereign, and we are responsible. We vote, but we know that our vote cannot change the hearts of a nation. We advocate for more just laws, but we know that ultimately a nation will legalize what it worships. We seek to root out corruption in worldly systems, but we know that when true repentance comes, the change will be mind blowing and a testimony to the power of God. We run for office, if it’s our call, remembering that men like Wilberforce fought to bring about impossible change. He was accused of preaching the gospel to the “savages” while he was trying to root out the slave trade from England.

The former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Abraham Kuyper, notably said that there is not one square inch over the whole realm of this world over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry out, “Mine!”

The Kingdom is at hand, in our midst, but also not of this world. So, we live in this tension. We are sojourners and aliens. We are citizens. We don’t truly have a home in this world, but, as my friend Mike Bull says, “We must not be so heavenly-minded that we retreat from
the world nor so earthly-minded that we are disqualified from God’s blessing”

Sugarcoating Sin’s Bitterness

Victor Chininin Buele

When I worked in DC, we were at the tipping point of implementing our fears in that post-9/11 world into law and practice. Riding the Metro to work, I’d always hear our WMATA recording ask us, “if you see something, say something.” If we were to see a suspicious object or a situation or a person, we were not to doubt but report it. Fresh images were in our minds of the colossal Twin Towers coming down and people dying. We were determined to never let it happen again. Or at least, we were deadly afraid of it happening again.

Terrorism seeks the disruption of “normal” life. You just don’t expect the nice, kind doctor in the lab coat to blow up the hospital, or the sweet pregnant lady that was sitting next to you at the school function to set the school on fire. Terrorism is successful when it leads to ever-present doubt and suspicion. That’s how terror wins.

Yet, this hyper-alertness is very important because it helps with survival. Or so we think. If we doubt everything, then we will be able to report that which is strange and obliterate terror. Right? Wrong! We just can’t.

We wear ourselves out. We can not possibly be on alert always, ever, all the time. We can’t be evaluating every situation and every person. We are finite. We get tired, and we get complacent. Or we become the boy who cried wolf, or even worse, we are told we are the boy even though what we are seeing is real.

So, two simple takeaways today: 1) We can’t stand at the watchtower alone. We need others to watch with us. We need others to listen and challenge whatever needs to be challenged. We need others to act. 2) We have a messed up view of causality. Psychologists use the acronym DARVO: denial, attack, reversal of victim-offender. When we are confronted with our sin and feel threatened, the first response is to deny the sin ever happened. Once the truth is made clear (from our very own mouth and actions, mind you), we attack. It’s full survival mode at that point; it was the other person’s fault. And when it becomes clear that the actions or the abuse were clearly that sinner’s fault and responsibility, the next act is to flip the script: I am the victim of that horrible, horrible victim. Don’t you see it?, we will be asked, she is a sinner! And let’s face it, it is a lot easier for us to start chanting, SINNER, SINNER, SINNER! than it is to actually sort out the whole picture in the light of who Christ is and what He called us to be: Christlike.

One of our most fundamental, cultural heresies in America is that people are good, inherently good.

And when we believe in such a heresy, one of the most fundamental follow-up heresies is this: Grace becomes putting everything in its best possible light. Sin becomes putting everything in its worst possible light. Grace becomes about perception, which it most definitely is not.

Naming the sin, killing the sin, repenting of the sin, and redemption from sin all become impossibilities at that point. Let us not be surprised that cancel culture can creep in like this. For grace to have its full strength effect in our dead bodies and revive them, we have to recognize just that: that apart from Christ we are dead. Our sin is death. It produces death. We need to recognize, name, and repent of the totality and the depth of our sins.

It will most definitely not have a pretty ring to it, and it will cost us dearly. There just is no possible way to sugarcoat sin and live. Brazilian pastor Hernandez Dias Lopes says that the lie has short legs. I found that very insightful and just awkward enough when translated to English to stick in my mind. As a lifelong owner of short legs, I know this: it takes me many, many more steps for me to keep with someone with longer legs. It requires more effort, and I look ridiculous while doing it.

Do not waste your life trying to catch up, always, ever, all the time. Go ahead and picture it, me making four steps for every one step from a tall person. Laugh at it. Then, come back, surrender the lie. Live in the light. Name your sin. Repent of it. Be redeemed by the Redeemer.

When is the last time you were able to name your sin without sugarcoating it?

I have some pills that need to be made specifically for me at a compound pharmacy. It costs extra to have them coated. I never do. And every once in a while right before bed when I’m taking my pill the water will hit it just right that its bitterness hits me. There is no way of getting rid of it. I remember getting sick in Mexico City once and getting my antibiotics from Dr. Simi’s Farmacias Similares. Those things tasted like death itself.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

Ephesians 1:7 

Dead Whiners Society

Towards a Practical Theology of Work — Part 2
Victor Chininin Buele

In the last post, we left off in Numbers 11, which tells the story of the people of God complaining, “There is nothing at all but this manna to look at” (6).  It didn’t matter to them that the Lord had rescued them from slavery and given them manna abundantly. God’s faithfulness and generosity were perceived as betrayal and stinginess. They deemed Yahweh to be untrustworthy. Complaining and thankfulness are polar opposites.

And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD 
about their misfortunes.

Numbers 11:1 (ESV)

The people of Israel had been parked, so to speak, at Sinai. From Exodus 19 (the chapter before they receive the 10 Words from God) to Numbers 10, they had been at Sinai. They were impatient, they rebelled, they worshiped a false god. The cloud lifted from the tabernacle in Numbers 10:11-13, and the people started to move out of Sinai. And what is the very next thing we read starting in chapter 11:1? That they complained.

This is not just a common temptation for me, but one of the areas where I struggle the most. And let’s pay close attention to the fact that when we say “struggle,” we really mean “lose.” After all, we do not go around saying we are struggling when we are winning the battle. Struggling sounds more elegant than stating the truth that we are in fact losing. We lose the battle with whining and grumbling and discontent. We need heart transformation.

Israel complains and looks back to Egypt. Have you considered how hard it was to get Israel out of Egypt? It took miracle after miracle from the unrivaled and mighty hand of the Lord. The liberation of Israel was nothing short of a manifestation of the power of God. But, have you considered how hard it was to get Egypt out of Israel? You see, Israel became Egypt in many ways:

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving.
And the people of Israel also wept again and said,
“Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt
that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions,
and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up,
and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.

Numbers 11:4-6

They just couldn’t shake Egypt off so easily. They had vivid memories of the fish, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, the garlic. They craved the food of their slavery. They longed for their chains. They had no category for the generosity of God and for the faithfulness of Yahweh to keep His promises. They were hungry and nostalgic. They longed for their slavery.

I am like Israel. Every single day. My flesh wages war against what is good and right. Justification for my sins can very easily be concocted. Thorns and thistles are all around us. It is hard to earn our wages and to bring food to the table. It is hard because work, though originally created good by our good God, was stained by sin and cursed because of sin, the sin of our parents. Now, work gives us blisters.

Our backs hurt, we need surgeries, our eyesight diminishes, we have vitamin D deficiencies, our fingers don’t work as well, we suffer fatigue, depression, mood disorders, carpal tunnel syndrome. We become easily irritable and angered. We take what is not ours–whether a pencil from the office supplies or an “extra break.” We don’t always respect our leaders and speak well of them to others. We grumble and complain. Our compensation is not sufficient. Our package is not up to industry standards. We work too much. Too much is expected of us. We have to work yet another weekend, another long night. The customer has high expectations. We eat alone. We become disconnected. We disconnect from our spouses and our children. We divorce. We have “affairs” and divorce. We live hypocritical lives. We drown in debt. We put up appearances. We check our investment apps every few minutes to see just how rich we are. We spend too much.

It is hard to be a working human being!

“There is, therefore, a great need for discernment in our self‑understanding.  Who am I? What is my ‘self’?
The answer is that I am a Jekyll and Hyde, a mixed‑up kid,
having both dignity because I was created and have been
re‑created in the image of God, and depravity because
I still have a fallen and rebellious nature. 
I am both noble and ignoble, beautiful and ugly,
good and bad, upright and twisted, image and child of God,
and yet sometimes yielding obsequious homage
to the devil from whose clutches Christ has rescued me.”

John Stott, The Cross of Christ, 277.

If in our sinful nature we are natural grumblers, and that affects the quality of our work as well as our attitude towards our work, then what must we do to be saved?

Yes, that is the right question. I could have said, “then what can we do to work better?” or “then what can be done to avoid those horrible side effects?” No, this is a matter of salvation. This is a matter of eternal life.

Eternal life is not just a time concept–to live forever. Eternal life is about the presence of God forever. The believer in Christ receives this undeserved gift through no merit of his own. It’s free but bought at the highest price of them all–the blood of Jesus Christ at the cross.

So, what will we spend eternity doing? No more Jekyll and Hyde, good mixed with bad, evil mixed with good, upright mixed with twisted. Righteousness, holiness, fruitfulness. Forever. Fruitfulness is not an eternity spent doing nothing. We will spend eternity in true productivity. We will pick up there next time and see how this can affect our day-to-day productivity as we await the Lord’s return and invest in the Great Commission to make disciples of the nations.

Time to Reflect

Until then, if the fruit of our salvation is joy in Christ, then that joy in Christ will be obvious in our work. The battle against grumbling and complaining will lead us into more and more of God’s presence as we are transformed into the image of Christ at every battle, every step of the way.

What is one tangible, practical way to work out our salvation as it relates to our work?

Thanksgiving. Being thankful will help us to shift our focus from our self-pity, self-centeredness, and self-awareness of our difficulties into the generosity, mercy, kindness, and love of God. After all, if Christ had not come, our work would have zero redemptive hope. As we seek discernment in our self-understanding to help us orient our sight heavenward, consider thanksgiving. Practice thanksgiving. Pray thanksgiving prayers. Pray for the heart to desire to pray thanksgiving prayers. Be thankful. Thank others in tangible ways. Every encounter is an opportunity to be thankful to God and to your neighbor. Our unbelieving coworker will eventually have to come to ask one simple question, “If we are thankful, who do we thank?” “What am I thankful for?” And the universe, or life, or chance, or luck will not stand the test–we can’t thank an impersonal god. Only God will suffice.

May we see eyes open to the glories of Christ as we set aside our self-indulgence in grumbling and pick up thankfulness to God our Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

Psalm 86:12

It’s Monday! Time to Worship

Towards a Practical Theology of Work — Part 1
Victor Chininin Buele

Let me ask you something. When you come in on Monday and you’re not feeling real well, does anyone ever say to you, “Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays?” The Christian cannot have his theology of work dictated more by the old “classic” Office Space than by the Word of God. But it happens. We all do it. It’s easier to just go along with it and say, “Yes, I have a case of the Mondays” than it is to actually live by faith, to worship God with our work.

I’ve done it countless times. It’s easier to give in and go through the motions on Monday (or any other day, really). We just gathered to worship God on the Lord’s Day. How can we possibly have a case of the Mondays?

“[…] Immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.  […] [No] one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces.  No one had the strength to subdue him.  […] [Crying] with a loud voice, he said, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’ For he was saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit! […] As [Jesus] was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him.  And he did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’”

Mark 5:2-4, 7-8, 18-20 (ESV)

After reading this, we need a very different vision for Monday.

Let me tell you how much the Lord has done for me, and how he has had mercy on me. Let me live that out in my work, doing it excellently, to the glory of God and the well-being of my neighbor. How can I pursue delighting in God in worship through the checking of emails and writing of documents and reading of documents and producing of my work product deliverables?

“The enjoyment and the glorification of God are one.  His eternal purpose and our eternal pleasure unite.  […] For:  ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.’”[1]

If I am to glorify God by enjoying Him forever, and I give in to the so-called case of the Mondays, there must be something wrong with the way I am approaching my day-to-day work.  We cannot compartmentalize our faith–There cannot be a difference between the person that goes to Sunday service and serves the church, the person that goes to community or prayer group on Tuesdays, the person that goes to school, the person that goes to work every day. All of our lives are worship. All of life for Christ’s glory.

Over the years, I’ve read a number of books and articles on the theology of work, but the following statement really stirred me up inside: “Eventually, Christians tend to adopt one of two solutions to relieve the tension they feel at work.  They either run or they hide.  The run response comes from the idea that it would just be easier to make a clean break – to start over in a new environment or to withdraw completely by enrolling in seminary and going into ministry full-time.  […] The hide response is nothing less than a subtle surrender of the mission.”[2]

As a result of the Fall, we struggle with work.  Numbers 11 tells the story of the people of God complaining, “There is nothing at all but this manna to look at” (6).  It didn’t matter to them that the Lord had rescued them from slavery and given them manna abundantly as they walked away from their chains and towards the land that He promised to their fathers.  It didn’t matter that God had proven time and time again His love, mercy, wrath, and justice.  The people were complaining and kept on complaining.  They complained so much that Moses went to God, and that’s where we will pick up with this attempt at a practical theology of work next time.

Time to Reflect

Until then, reflect on the following. Peter writes to the exiles:

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)

This presupposes the freedom I am highlighting today. We are all walking out of prior chains of oppression and slavery to sin. Whatever our past sins, they are all covered by Christ once we call upon His name as Lord to be saved. Our work is the fruit of our repentance, the fruits of our justification, the fragrant offering of the fruit of the work of Christ in our lives through the Holy Spirit. So, our work ought to leave people wondering. Our colleagues, our customers, our managers, our partners, our vendors will necessarily be driven to ask why. Why is this person so different? Why does he conduct his business in this way? Why does he treat me differently from the rest? Why do I leave his presence with a renewed sense of encouragement and an appreciation of my value as a contributor? Why do I feel loved? Why?

And it is in that context that we will have that opportunity to do, gently and respectfully, lovingly and compassionately what Peter calls “a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” and what the Lord commissioned the Gadarene man to do, “to tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.


[1] Piper, John.  Desiring God.  (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2003), 307

[2] Campbell, Regi.  About My Father’s Business.  (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2009), 27

Otto, Walter y Confía

Víctor Chininín Buele

Ya que Otto renunció esta semana y ha salido un documental acerca de la vida de Walter Mercado en Netflix y mi estimado amigo Pablo Ruiz escribió una columna en el diario digital hora32 titulada “No te comas el ‘manicho’” el día de hoy, a más de haberme hecho acuerdo de que no compré suficientes Manichos para sobrevivir la cuarentena que jamás pensé que iba a durar tanto, estas circunstancias me han hecho acuerdo de un artículo que he tenido pendiente de escribir por varios meses.

Algo me llamó mucho la atención a principios de este año en Loja y fue el movimiento Confía que es parcialmente a lo que se refiere mi apreciado amigo cuando dice en su columna “construir procesos y no personas, un país y no un partido, un colectivo y no un candidato”.

Me llamó la atención el vacío que existe en la política actual lojana y ecuatoriana expresado por un deseo profundo y muy válido de transformación y cambio. Es que algo debe ya de suceder. Algo debe ya de ser diferente. Solo lo mismo y lo mismo y lo mismo. No sabíamos que iba a haber una pandemia cuando Jorge Bailón triunfó en las urnas pero si hubiéramos podido imaginarnos que tal situación se podía suscitar en nuestra urbe, país y mundo, hubiéramos podido extrapolar con gran facilidad cuál iba a ser su gestión manejando el COE cantonal. Caras vemos. Las hemos visto por años. Y los hemos tenido a él y al Chato como alcaldes por tantos años que en verdad parece que corazones sí sabemos.

No me malentienda—oro por Jorge Bailón y por éxito en su gestión. Primera de Timoteo 2:2 me lo recuerda siempre. Si no oramos por nuestro alcalde, desobedecemos la Palabra de Dios y el llamado de Dios a que amemos bien a nuestro prójimo. Loja para Todos debe ser en verdad el ideal que todos los lojanos debemos compartir, seamos partidarios de Bailón o no. Y debemos procurar el continuo adelanto en verdad para transformar estas palabras en una realidad que transcienda un eslógan de tiempos de campaña.

Me puse a hacer una broma acerca de lanzarme a la presidencia y al hacerla me acordaba de las esperanzas destrozadas de quienes confiaron alguna vez en pan, techo y empleo. De quienes miraron con anhelo a quien se proclamó su defensor y que desde pequeños nos endoctrinó con aquella cancioncita que no podemos olvidar: pero hay una esperanza, la fuerza de los pobres… y que ahora dice «yo no sabía».

Y he ahí el problema. Seguimos pensando como lo hemos hecho siempre. No ha cambiado nada políticamente en nuestro país desde aquellos días en los que aprendí a leer y escribir leyendo el periódico con mi abuelito y leyendo las propagandas de Rodrigo Borja con mi papi en la campaña, silbando la canción de la ID e imaginándome un futuro diferente que en realidad nunca se materializó, ni con León ni con Rodrigo ni con Sixto ni con Abdalá ni con el interino ni con Lucio ni con Jamil ni con sus vices elevados al poder.

Es aquí que viene Confía.

La tercera vía. Otra manera de buscar el cambio o de hacer política, como lo quieran llamar. Ni de izquierda ni de derecha sino lo que venga de las raíces populares. Consenso.

Y la idea es atractiva en una sociedad posmodernista y relativista. Es claro que hay una alergia a dogmatismos y una aberración al culto a la personalidad. El posmodernismo es atractivo porque parece ser muy inclusivo e incluyente como se ha puesto de moda escribir. El relativismo promete mucho, nos da la impresión de que podemos vivir sin conflictos morales y éticos si simplemente dejamos que todos hagan lo que quieran, crean lo que quieran y vivan a su manera. Pero lamentablemente tarde o temprano el posmodernismo se choca con la verdad absoluta y el relativismo se estrella con la consciencia ayudado por el desenfreno. «No hay verdad absoluta» proclamaban en las universidades estadounidenses por muchos años hasta que el mentiroso más grande se volvió presidente y resulta que sí hay mentiras en este mundo. «Todo es relativo» decían hasta que llegó el momento de imponer nuevos dogmas para reemplazar los dogmas de antaño. Todos decimos que es el otro quien tiene dogmas pero nosotros no. Y tarde o temprano tendremos la tentación a hacer una sustitución en el culto a la personalidad—adoraré a alguien, ¿a quién? ¿A mí mismo? ¿A Rafael?

El documental de Walter Mercado nos muestra la explosión masiva y el impacto casi perenne que puede causar un ser humano cuando invade nuestros hogares con energía, magnetismo y dulzura. Cuando nunca nos dice nada negativo y nos miente con una sonrisa en la cara, de oreja a oreja. Cuando nos habla de lo que queremos escuchar y nos hace sentir como héroes. Cuando nos susurra que somos buenos y que todo saldrá bien mientras se aprovecha de nuestro sufrimiento, nuestra debilidad, nuestros temores y nuestro dolor. Todos queríamos saber qué nos deparará el futuro, desde las abuelitas hasta los nietos. Pausábamos todo para oírlo. Cáncer: hoy será el mejor día de tu vida. Y yo inmediatamente entraba al mundo de la fantasía en el que mi realidad podía ser distinta y acoplaba sus palabras vanas a lo que yo quería que se volviera mi realidad.

Deseo lo mejor para Confía. De hecho, me interesa mucho el movimiento. Pero no por mis amigos, o por el poder de la oratoria de quienes son parte del grupo, o por sus grandes ideas, o por algún interés político que en verdad no tengo. Yo tengo otro llamado en mi vida. Pero mi llamado no es apolítico. Es que Confía es lo más cercano que he visto en Loja a un deseo profundo por la salvación que solamente se puede encontrar en Jesucristo.

Escúcheme bien. Y espero que no detenga su lectura allí. No se me vaya por favor.

Confía demuestra la sed de mi generación por un cambio profundo, radical y verdadero. No más mentiras. No más luchar por los intereses y proyectos de otros. Que no nos vean la cara. Que no se aprovechen de nosotros. Observé que mi generación tiene ansias de ya poder dedicarse a lo que quieren dedicarse. Hay tantos problemas de falta de empleo y barreras a los emprendimientos que se empeoran con la corrupción y la negligencia de quienes tienen “el poder” y no lo utilizan para servir a los demás, por el robo y el engaño.

Hago una invitación a ustedes a una humilde investigación, a una búsqueda aun más apasionada por el cambio verdadero y duradero de la que ya tienen. Ustedes han leído mucho. Piensan mucho. Escriben y dialogan. Esto es muy admirable. Y han tenido tiempo de educarse en las palabras de filósofos y pensadores como Nietzsche. Es por ello que yo les invito a leer a un personaje muy interesante y que estoy seguro que no han tenido la oportunidad de conocer: John Stott. Particularmente su obra “El cristiano contemporáneo: Un llamado urgente a escuchar con los dos oídos” disponible aquí.

¿Por qué? Porque este caballero pasó su vida con humildad sirviendo a su comunidad y a Cristo haciendo lo que ustedes tienen en mente. Él lo llama escuchar con los dos oídos. Stott siempre fue considerado muy conservador por los liberales y muy liberal por los conservadores porque su agenda no fue la agenda de un dogmatismo ciego sino la agenda de Cristo basada en Su Palabra y Stott la dejaba transformar su corazón primero para luego salir a transformar el mundo a través de las esferas de influencia de cada persona transformada por Cristo. De hecho dedicó gran parte de su vida al LICC (Instituto del Cristianismo Contemporáneo en Londres) no educando al clero sino a abogados y doctores y periodistas y a todo aquel que deseara escuchar tanto a la Palabra de Dios como al mundo contemporáneo, con un pie en dos mundos.

¿Por qué es esta mi propuesta a Confía? Porque sin Cristo, es imposible escuchar con los dos oídos y eso es lo que ustedes anhelan. Lo llaman de otra manera. Su educación laica y sus presuposiciones tal vez les lleven a decir que no lo es. Tarde o temprano vendrá un conflicto que no podrán resolver. Tarde o temprano las masas seguirán a alguien y harán su becerro de oro o forjarán a su Mesías sustituto aunque ustedes crean con todo su corazón que están construyendo procesos, un país y un colectivo. Sus procesos traerán conflictos y sin convicción clara, sin una roca sobre la cual construir, el colectivo se hundirá o al menos estará amenazado y seguiremos en lo mismo. El pueblo lo va a escoger al más guapo o al más hablantín. Es cuestión de tiempo nomás. Y uno de los grandes obstáculos es llevar su mensaje a la colectividad en general sin que pierdan el interés en tres minutos. Necesitan construir puentes y los puentes deben tener un origen y un destino sólidos.

La transformación que necesitamos es mucho más profunda que cualquier colonización de las que hemos vivido. Moreno escribía a Alianza País alguna vez que el correismo no pudo transformar el corazón de los ecuatorianos. La Unión Soviética tuvo grandes planes para matar a Dios y no lo pudieron hacer. Es que el cambio que anhelamos es muchísimo más profundo que la imposición de dogmas a los cuales tenemos miedo. Es mucho más profundo que la euforia momentánea que podamos tener cuando nos arremangamos la camisa para trabajar pero después nos cansamos. No podemos cambiar el corazón, la mente, la opinión y los deseos de nadie. Nuestra persuasión tiene límites.

Es que eso es lo que le falta a Confía. A Confía le falta en quién confiar. Y sin Cristo toda confianza sustituta se desplomará. No quiero que se lastimen, ni que sufran, ni que se frustren. Más bien quiero estar a su lado y ser parte de buscar esta transformación radical. Quiero que prosperen y que prosperen en gran abundancia porque en su éxito está una posibilidad de transformación radical y duradera para Loja y el resto del Ecuador. Pero es una transformación que debe originarse desde adentro y eso no lo podemos manufacturar nosotros mismos, debe ser un regalo de Dios. Un milagro en sí para transformar cada uno de nuestros corazones y ramificarse de allí esta transformación para salvación y bendición para Loja. No permitan que los engaños de charlatanes que dan mal nombre a Cristo los desanimen de buscarlo. No permitan que sus propios prejuicios y parcialidad los hagan creer que este camino definitivamente se debe evitar a toda costa. No es religión lo que quiero compartir con ustedes. Es algo muy diferente a la religión y cuando lo vean, verán que es algo que huele a lo que anhelan pero que es infinitamente mejor. De hecho esto no es un problema de iglesia y estado como supongo que lo puedan ver. Ambas instituciones tienen esferas diferentes pero ambas son políticas. La iglesia jamás puede ser politiquera, eso es otra cosa. Y el estado jamás puede imponer la fe. Y ese es el punto de todo lo que he dicho. El evangelio no se cree a la fuerza, no se impone. No es conquista. Es irresistible eso sí y cuando vemos y atesoramos a Jesucristo por todo lo que Él es en verdad, podremos ver cada día un poco más lo que quiero decir.

Desde aquella reunión en la Juan José Peña aquella noche de enero, con mucha frecuencia me hallo cantando en mi mente, “Yo confiaré/Aunque la traición reciente me duela/Dios me consuela. Mi entorno va a cambiar/Si en Dios puedo confiar. Si el mar no se ha abierto, confía/No hay de qué dudar, aún en el desierto/El cielo está abierto, confía. Dios lo hará otra vez, otra vez”. Es que debemos confiar. Pero todo depende del objeto de nuestra confianza. Si me piden que confíe en Confía, nos desmoronamos, y no pienso que eso es lo que ustedes piden para ser transparente en mi opinión. Si me piden que confíe en las personas, nos desmoronamos. Digo personas porque antes se decía pueblo pero me han dicho que eso ya no es cool.

La obra delante de nosotros no es mía ni suya. Es de Aquel que vino al mundo a vivir una vida perfecta y morir en una cruz para resucitar al tercer día (hecho histórico, no una fábula) porque Cristo tiene mucha gente en Loja que van a creer en Él para la vida eterna. Apúntenme para ser parte del cambio. ¿Se apuntan ustedes?

Confía en el SEÑOR con todo tu corazón, y no te apoyes en tu propio entendimiento. Reconócelo en todos tus caminos, Y Él enderezará tus sendas. No seas sabio ante tus propios ojos; teme al SEÑOR y apártate del mal.

Proverbios 3:5-7 (NBLA)