Archive for September, 2012

Poetry Slam on Same Sex Attraction and Childhood Sexual Abuse

Below is a 9 minute video where a courageous man tells of his experience of childhood sexual abuse and same sex attraction through poetry. I will offer several thoughts on what he has to say. But before I or you applaud or critique his words, I believe it is imperative that we affirm his example of bringing secrets into light.

Based upon the title of his poem “I Promised I Wouldn’t Tell,” this seems to be the main message of his poem – secrets have power in darkness that is lost when they are spoken in the light of loving Christian community.

This is my biggest take away from this video – we (the church) must become a place it is safe to talk about these kinds of experiences. In a culture where 1in 4 women and 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused (those numbers are likely under reported) anything else would simply be “playing church.”

I will start with two quick points where I would nuance in the poem (this likely reveals why I don’t write poetry). I start with a few concerns in order to end positive. I believe there is much more to affirm than there is to nuance.

  • Overly personifies sin as a demon. In large part, I believe this is because he views his sins as being more significant to God than his suffering. I believe if he understood the effects of sexual abuse, he would be less prone to personify these effects as demons.
  • Could be taken to mean that all same sex attraction originates from childhood sexual abuse. This is the danger of any testimony. This man is simply telling his story, which is common in many cases of same sex attraction but not universal to all.

But my points of commendation far exceed any areas of concern.

  • Powerful example of finding your voice again after sexual abuse. One of the most damaging effects of sexual abuse is the loss of one’s voice – being threatened not to tell, saying “no” yet the abuse continues, telling yet not being believed, etc… The strength and courage of this man’s verbal presentation is a message to those who have been abused that you can get your voice back.
  • Picture of how our attempt to kill sin with strangling silence feeds the power of sin to destroy us. His imagery here was very instructive, even outside of sexual abuse and same sex attraction. We will never be more pure (from any sin) or free (from any suffering) than we are honest.
  • Clearly says we are more than our desires. In a day when our culture teaches us that the highest virtue is to “be true our selves” this message is essential. We do want to be true to the person God made us to be, but we cannot allow that person to be defined solely on the basis of our attractions or emotions.
  • God does not just want us to straight, but to be holy. We often lose this point in the discussion over same sex attraction. When this happens, the tone turns angry and in an equal-yet-opposite way Christians begin to define those who struggle with same sex attraction by their desires and attractions.
  • Creates a contagious hope for those who feel locked in darkness. The balance of pain and hope in his voice is palpable. It is clear these past experiences firmly imprinted his life; this creates resonance with those who are hurting. But the accompanying hope that is strong enough to counter-attack despair with the grace of God is clearly the more defining mark of his life.
  • He frames his testimony on the larger story of the gospel. Hitting all the themes of the gospel (creation, fall, and redemption) allows the listener to trace his story within God’s gospel story. While tracing the unique contours and emotions of his journey, he clearly portrays God as the “star” of the poem.
  • He has an intense expectation that God is going to change lives. The poem is clearly a counter-attack against Satan’s intention to destroy his life. Truth is the weapon and his confidence that “God’s Word will not return void” (Isa 55:10-11) is clear.
  • His final call is not to the unique experience of sexual abuse or same sex attraction. He realizes that secrets are one of Satan’s primary prisons. But that God has given His people the key for escape – honesty with God, self, and others. This is what allows us to escape the prison of shame and enter the freedom of loving Christian community.

I do not know the man in this video and am not sure how to contact him, but I would like to say “Thank you” to him publicly for his courage and willingness to tell his story in a gospel-centered way in order to point others towards the hope we have in Christ.

For additional resources on sexual abuse see the “Hope and Restoration After Sexual Abuse” seminar.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.

Family Devotions from the “Overcoming Anger” Seminar

One of the desires of The Summit Counseling ministry is to be a part of the “normal” church life. We do not want to be a church with a counseling ministry (read “on the side; just for crisis cases”).  We want to be a church that uses our counseling ministry to EQUIP our members to counsel one another and our community.

We have put a great deal of time, energy, and conversation into designing the counseling ministry to strengthen existing ministries or core values of our church. This is something we are passionate about and want to continue to refine.

There are several ways that we have sought to accomplish this:

  • Each counseling initiative is designed to lead participants into a small group
  • The focal point of change in each counseling initiative is the Gospel
  • Counseling seminars are written and recorded to be available as small group studies

There is another core value the counseling EQUIP seminars want to strengthen – parents are the primary discipler of their children. Part of discipling our children is teaching them how to handle their anger, anxiety, conflict, grief, etc… in biblical ways. For this reason, each counseling EQUIP seminar will have an appendix that applies the material covered at a child’s level and in a family devotion format.

The following sample is taken from the second point of the upcoming “Overcoming Anger” seminar.

Devotion for Luke 6:43-45. Give your children a visual of the key teaching in this passage. Take a glass of water and shake it. When water comes out, ask, “Why did water come out of the glass?” Most likely they will answer, “Because you shook it.” Kindly say, “No,” and repeat the question emphasizing the word water. After a couple tries tell them, “Water came out of the glass because water was in the glass. If it were a glass of milk and I shook it milk would have come out.”

Our hearts are like that glass. When life shakes us the content of our heart is revealed. We cannot blame our sinful actions on the things that happen outside of us. “You cannot blame your brother taking your toy as why you hit him anymore than I should blame your disobedience for why I yell at you. In those situations you wanted to enjoy the toy more than to love your brother and I let my desire for a peaceful evening override my responsibility to honor you.”

Use this conversation as another opportunity to present the Gospel to your child. Christ comes to change hearts. He wants to keep their hearts and minds healthy. Only Jesus can change our hearts. Talk about how you still need the Gospel even as a Christian parent.

Follow Up Study: The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones – “God Sends Help” starting on page 326.

We hope to see a large number of our parents at this event and pray that God will use it to strengthen our families. Here is the PDF version of the full family devotion appendix from the “Overcoming Anger” seminar (Overcoming Anger Family Devotions). There is at least one devotion for each of the nine steps to be covered in this presentation.

Dates: September 29 and October 6, 2012
Times: 4:00 to 5:30 pm and 6:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free

C.S. Lewis on Pretending

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children’s games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown-ups—playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits so that the pretence of being grown-up helps them grow up in earnest (p. 188).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

In a previous post I have critiqued Lewis’ tendency to come across as having a “fake it until you make it” methodology of change. I don’t believe that is what he is advocating for here. In this quote I believe Lewis is drawing out two key elements of change.

  1. The role of imagination in faith.
  2. The necessity of visionary faith for change.

Faith involves a sense of assurance about things unseen (Heb. 11:1). That requires imagination; not the imagination that believes in Mickey Mouse, but the imagination than can see Disney World as a place where families would flock from all over the world when it was still an empty field.

Part of faith is believing that things can not only be better than they are, but better than we have ever known them to be. That is the challenge of the person who was sexually abused from childhood, the marriage that began broken, or someone suffering through chronic pain. For them faith requires more than getting “back to” where things were before.

But that is the plight of every person who understands our sin nature and what it means to live in a fallen world. We are morally stillborn people (Eph 2:1-3) searching for power to live up to the ideals that painfully echo in our soul from being made in the image of God.

When we cry to God for redemption we are (strangely) asking Him to make us into something we have never known, but feel compelled that we should be. The imagination to pray this kind of audaciously creative prayer is itself a mark of being made in the image of the Creator God.

But not only is imagination necessary for faith, this visionary faith is necessary for change. We must see ourselves as a child of God before we will live like we belong to Him. The addict must believe there is a life without substance before he will pursue it.

It is because we often reduce faith to intellectual assent to propositional doctrines that we often access so little of its power to change our lives. This kind of teaching can often be used to neglect doctrine and espouse prosperity teaching, but it does not need to be used that way.

The question is – do we “see” our doctrine? Is our adoption by God so real that we relate to Him as Father? Is our slavery to sin and emancipation by Christ so tangible that it shapes our identity? Can we use our imagination to bring to life what we say is true?

If not, then our ability to mature will be hampered like children who never play in the way that Lewis describes. Let us play with our doctrine; not by trivializing it, but by letting our imaginations explore all its implications and taking the playful liberties of children to live as it were true until becomes an increasingly accurate description of our life.

How to Use Counseling EQUIP Seminars

There is a story of two ladies fighting over an orange. One lady wanted the juice for her recipe. The other needed the zest for a different recipe. Until they talked they didn’t realize they could both have the orange. Usually this story is told to teach win-win conflict resolution principles, but here I want to point out that Summit’s counseling EQUIP seminars are a lot like the orange – they have many uses and you need to know what they are.

If you do not see the various uses of these seminars, then the opportunity for these events to impact in your life and your circle of influence will be truncated. I want to talk about three uses of these seminars and give a few examples of each.

1. To care for a given area of life struggle with gospel-centered hope. The “audience” of each seminar is the one struggling more than the care giver. Each seminar is designed to take you on a journey from rightly assessing and understanding the struggle to the solutions and hope found only in God. At each seminar you will leave with…

  • … an overview of how to approach the subject matter,
  • … the tools necessary to review and implement what you’ve learned,
  • … materials that can be utilized to the relational resources of your small group, and
  • … an awareness of the formal counseling ministries hosted or launched by Summit.

2. To equip our people to care for others with gospel centered hope. A plumb line of Summit counseling is that “we don’t do events; we create resources.” Every seminar is designed to facilitate the one another care of God’s people (Gal 6:2). In order to achieve this goal we make sure that every seminar…

  •  … is video recorded so that lay people do not have to be the “lead teacher” in the helping relationship,
  • … has a mentoring manual to guide important questions, and
  • … has assessments to let mentors know when more formal or experienced care is needed.

We believe this design gives the dual advantage of empowering God’s people to care for one another while also offering the confidence that comes with additional levels of care when needed. Because of this design, the “real relationships” (friendships, co-workers, small groups) can be maintained and work in cooperation with the more experienced levels of care. This is vital for the longevity of change.

Note: We want these seminars to enhance the quality of every local outreach effort of The Summit Church. A common fear of ministry is, “What if someone asks…?” The goal of the counseling ministry is to ease this fear so that our people are more free to get to know those who are hurting and love them in the name of Jesus.

3. To serve as a front door ministry of our church. People are in search of answers to life’s struggles. We believe a robust seminar ministry designed to operate within real relationships will be an incredibly effective way of taking the gospel to the heart issues of people all over our city.

People seek help from friends and family members before seeking professionals.Counseling (broadly defined as seeking to offer hope and direction through relationship) happens all the time. We talk with friends over the phone, crying children in their rooms, spouses in the kitchen, fellow church members at small group, and have endless conversations with ourselves. We listen to struggles, seek to understand, offer perspective, give advice, and follow up later.

We want the counseling EQUIP seminars to facilitate more of these interactions and allow these conversations to more naturally lead from the depths of life struggles to the hope of the gospel. Here are ways that you place yourself in a position to be used by God in this way.

  • Attend each seminar so that you have a framework for how life struggles connect with the gospel.
  • Get to know your friends well enough that they will confide their struggles to you.
  • Invite friends to the seminars with you or use the video resources (great testimony video).
  • Post flyers and posters in your work place (waiting room, point of sale, or break room). To be added to our mailing list for free posters and flyers e-mail your name, address, and number of desired poster/flyers to Bridgehaven Counseling Associates.

Angry Tweets

Do you know any angry people who need the gospel? If that question made you smile, then realize how needed a gospel-centered seminar on “Overcoming Anger” is.  We have just such an event coming up at The Summit on September 29 and October 6. We want to make sure the word gets out.

With that in mind we have one request, send out the following tweets (or Facebook posts) like they’re angry text messages over the next two weeks. The link provided goes to the free RSVP page with more information about the event and how to reserve childcare. All you need to do is copy, paste, and tweet enough to annoy RDU to the point that we realize how much we need this seminar.

  • Anger is not an emotion we can avoid. It is an emotion we must do well.
  • Until we do anger well we will misunderstand and misrepresent God.
  • The gospel is about reconciling righteous anger in a broken world.
  • If we disciple only our minds and not our emotions we will not represent Christ well.
  • If you hate being told to go to your happy place, this is the seminar for you.
  • I’m not angry! I’m just frustrated!
  • Anger says two things: “This is wrong and it matters….” Sinful anger says a third thing: “…more than you.”
  • The clearest gauge of whether anger is right or wrong in its expression is whether it acts to condemn or to      offer help.
  • Do you know of any examples of anger done in a way you want your children to model?
  • Of the seven deadly sins, anger is probably the most fun.
  • The longer anger consumes you, the harder it is to let go of the pride that comes with it.
  • How have you seen anger as your friend? How have you turned to anger in times of trouble before God?
  • God is angrier over the sin committed against you than you are.
  • When god-players admit the truth, they find amazing grace in Jesus: forgiveness, sanity, a fresh start, power, freedom.
  • The wise and foolish are distinguishable by how they get angry.
  • Jesus did not live a calm life; He cared too much.
  • Angry people r convincing communicators. Anger always sounds like the logical response when you listen to angry person.
  • Unless our anger is constructive it only contributes to the wrongness to which we are reacting.
  • Patience is the evidence of an inner strength. Impatient people are weak.
  • Anger is often a cowardly emotion. It shows itself most where it believes itself to be most safe.
  • True strength in God’s eyes means victory over one’s temper more than one’s enemies.
Dates: September 29 and October 6, 2012
Times: 4:00 to 5:30 pm and 6:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free

C.S. Lewis’ Warning for Two Party Elections

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“I feel a strong desire to tell you – and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me – which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs – pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies upon your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors (p. 186).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Lewis did not make this statement primarily about politics, but I believe it can apply to any setting where one person (or group of people) believes he is right simply because he is opposing someone else who he believes to be wrong.

Most two party debates take on this nature: Democrat vs. Republican, God’s sovereignty vs. man’s free will, nature vs. nurture in shaping human behavior, etc… We begin to live as if the strength / validity of one rules out any legitimacy of the other.

The result is that (with time) the weaknesses of each position become inflamed and emboldened as acquiescing to the other side is viewed as “making a deal with the devil.” Soon one answer (or type of answer) is believed to be best for all questions. What would be absurd in an isolated conversation becomes “essential” in an entrenched two party debate.

Does this mean we cannot or should not have positions in cultural or theological debates? Not at all. In each of the three debates listed above I generally prefer one position over the other.

The point is that is it as wrong to say that both positions in most two party debates are right as it is to say that one position is exclusively right. When we come to this point we are able to hold our positions and have a real conversation. When we embrace this level of humility we are able to screen our own position with comparable scrutiny as we screen the other position.

We begin to ask, which type of issues / questions is each position best suited to answer and why? We begin to see how the goodness of what we are for affects how we weigh what our “opponent” is for. Partial goodness blinds us to truth and wisdom.

We begin to miss that God designed a plurality of leadership (elders in the church; mimicked by branches of government in the United States) to balance the fallen human tendency to debate pairs and miss the truth/wisdom in the middle.

What does this mean practically? It means we should strive to become better listeners, especially to those with whom we disagree. Most of our bad communication (political, personal, marital, and in the church) is not primarily because of what we say but because of how poorly we listen before we speak.

It does not mean that we should necessarily change our convictions. But if we listen well (with humility and presenting the good intentions that those with whom we disagree have in an accurate way) we will sharpen the strengths and blunt the weaknesses in our own position. The result will be that we significantly lessen the effect of Satan’s strategy of sending errors in pairs.

How to Respond to a Sermon on Disappointment and Grief?

Our pastor, J.D. Greear, delivered an excellent message on how Jesus offers hope to those who struggle to believe because of disappointment and grief. This is a struggle that every person and faces. It is one of the most personal and challenging obstacles to faith.

A natural question becomes, “What do I do if grief or disappointment is challenging my faith?” The best advice I can give as your Pastor of Counseling is to be honest about it – be honest with God in prayer and be honest with trusted Christian friends. Nothing makes pain echo like isolation.

We have developed resources to make these prayers and conversations more effective. We also have various options for where and with whom you can have these conversations.

Small Group

At some point in your journey you need to confide in the people with whom you have covenanted to “do life with.” We have created a resource to equip our small groups to care for one another in times of grief and discouragement.

If you need to apply this seminar to the loss of a dream (i.e., infertility), innocence (i.e., the effects of abuse), the loss of stability (i.e., job loss), or the living death of divorce, we have developed an appendix to help you understand how this seminar applies to those griefs. Appendix B — Other Causes of Grief

If your small group is looking to care for someone after a major loss, we developed a ministry plan that will allow you to be meaningfully supportive for the full grieving process. Appendix C — 12 Month Care Plan

We also created a parenting tips and family devotion appendix to this seminar in order to equip parents to more effectively care for and disciple their children during a season of grief. Appendix H — Parenting Tips & Family Devotions

Grieving a Miscarriage

If you are a mother who has experience miscarriage, we want to develop a special ministry for this often neglected grief. Eli Hawkins ( is coordinating this ministry. We want to pair moms who have experienced this grief to walk with moms who are freshly experiencing this pain.

Here is the job description for the mentoring role in this kind of relationship. Job Description — Miscarriage Mentor

Here is a memorial service that can be conducted by a small group to provide the grief benefits a funeral provides which are often not available to families who experience a miscarriage. Appendix A — Memorial Ceremony for an Unborn Child

Graduate Intern Counseling

We offer free, personal counseling with a counselor completing his/her masters or doctoral degree. You can learn more about this ministry and download the intake forms at this link.

Bridgehaven Counseling Associates

We have launched a non-profit counseling center where you can receive more experienced counsel with a full-time pastoral counselor on a donation basis. You can learn more about this ministry at this link.

GCM “Foundations” Video 4: Shared Job Description of Husband and Wife

This video segment is one of six presentations in the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Foundations” seminar. There will be four more seminars in this series covering the subjects: communication, finances, decision making, and intimacy. As those presentations are ready they will be posted on this blog.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

Part 4: Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Foundations from Equip on Vimeo.

Unit Three Evaluation: GCM_Foundations_Eval3_Character&Roles

Worksheet Five: Job Description — Husband

Worksheet Six: Job Description — Wife

Memorize: Ephesians 5:15-18, 21 (ESV), “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit… submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “Look carefully”– The Christian life nor marriage are for lazy people who resist regularly examining their life.
  • “Making the best use of the time” – As Paul prepares to teach on marriage, he reminds us of our use of time.
  • “Do not be foolish” – Most of what wrecks a marriage is living foolishly (short-sighted, self-centered living).
  • “Be filled with the Spirit” – When overwhelmed with your role, remember, it is the Holy Spirit who sustains you.
  • “Submitting to one another” – Most of marriage is mutual submission to living out what is mutually agreed upon.

 Teaching Notes

“There is a conservative approach to marriage that puts a great deal of stress on traditional gender roles… There is a lot of emphasis on the differences between men and women. The problem is that an overemphasis could encourage selfishness, especially on the part of the husband (p. 66)… It is my experience that it is nearly impossible to come up with a single, detailed, and very specific set of ‘manly’ or ‘womanly’ characteristics that fits every temperament and culture (p. 200).” Tim Keller in The Meaning of Marriage

“Your identity as someone’s spouse is secondary to your identity as a servant of God (p. 83).” Winston Smith in Marriage Matters

“The example the husband sets has eternal consequences. This means headship is more about controlling one’s character than controlling one’s wife. The man who is more concerned with how his wife should obey him than with how he should obey God fails the kindergarten of biblical headship (p. 78).” Bryan Chappell in Each for the Other

“God is always worthy of being obeyed and served, so when I act out of obedience to him, the person who receives my service doesn’t have to be deserving—they’re benefiting from what I owe God (p. 188)… Service includes allowing your spouse to give—if, of course, they are willing to give. In other words, service isn’t just washing somebody else’s feet; at times it’s letting your own feet be washed (p. 190).” Gary Thomas in Sacred Marriage

“After declaring that there is mutual submission in verse 21, Paul devotes twelve verses to unfolding the difference in the way a husband and wife should serve each other. You don’t need to deny mutual submission to affirm the importance of the unique role of the husband as head and the unique calling of the wife to submit to that headship (p. 78).” John Piper in This Momentary Marriage

What Is Righteous Anger?

Anger is not something we can avoid. It is something that we must do well. But few of know what “righteouss anger” would look like. This post is an excerpt from the “Overcoming Anger” seminar provide a way to discern righteous anger.

Below are seven test questions for righteous anger taken from David Powlison’s article (bold text only) “Anger Part 1: Understanding Anger” from The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Fall 1995).

1. Do you get angry about the right things? (Right Trigger) Anger declares actions wrong and / or people evil. Anger is a moral emotion because it makes moral declarations. Too often our anger is triggered by personal preference or mere selfishness. In order to be good or right, anger must be in agreement with God about the nature of what it condemns.

2. Do you express anger in the right way? (Right Response) Anger should address problems not attack people. Godly anger wants to see sin eliminated and sinners redeemed. If our personal anger degrades or harms another person it is wrong either because it is excessive or because it is personally addressing a matter that should be addressed by the church (Matt 18:15-17) or state (Rom 13:1-7).

3. How long does your anger last? (Duration) Sinful anger can be excessive in degree or duration. A long, slow burn is as wrong as a quick, hot flare (although the impact of each is different). While the saying “forgive and forget” is neither possible nor biblical, an offense that is harbored and replayed in one’s mind is bitterness (another flavor of sinful anger). One good measure for bitterness is how many details you remember about the offense.

4. How controlled is your anger? (Controlled) Anger can consume you without sinning against anyone else. Anger management techniques rooted in venting or catharsis, often encourage uncontrolled anger. God never “loses it” even in private. The more we use exhaustion-based techniques to squelch anger, the more we build the stamina and power of our anger (and the less we address the heart as the source of anger).

5. What motivates your anger? (Motive) We can be angry about the right thing in the right way for the wrong reason. Example: Rudeness in children is wrong. There are many forms of appropriate discipline. However, if our primary motive in disciplining our children is to prevent them from embarrassing us in public, then our anger is sinful. We have made our glory and peace the center of the world and emotionally forced it upon our children.

“Truth that is not spoken in love ceases to be truth because it becomes distorted by human impatience, bitterness, and anger (p. 228).” Paul Tripp in War of Words

6. Is your anger “primed and ready” to respond to another person’s habitual sins? (Primed) Godly anger restores peace; not just externally (life situation) but also internally (emotional disposition). When we settle for anger management that leaves the “fire” just beneath the surface, our solution has left us in perpetual temptation. It is also a good indicator we have only addressed the expression of anger and not the heart (beliefs, values, agendas) that fueled it.

7. What is the effect of your anger? (Effect) Godly anger restores the repentant. Godly anger genuinely wants peace more than vengeance. Do you want the offender to repent or pay? Do your words while angry point the other person towards God or focus upon you? Are you just concerned about whether God agrees with you (“I’ve got a verse that says I’m right”) or are you trying to represent God in that moment (2 Cor. 5:18-21)?

“The clearest gauge of whether anger is right or wrong in its expression is whether it acts to condemn or to offer help (p. 50).” David Powlison in “Understanding Anger: Part 1” in JBC (Fall 1995).

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Anger” post which address other facets of this subject.

C.S. Lewis on the Collective Human Race

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“The idea that the whole human race is, in a sense, one thing – one huge organism, like a tree – must not be confused with the idea that individual differences do not matter or that real people, Tom and Nobby and Kate, are somehow less important than collective things like classes, races, and so forth… Six pennies are quite separate and very alike: my nose and my lungs are very different but they are only alive at all because they are parts of my body and share its common life. Christianity thinks of human individuals not as mere members of a group or items in a list, but as organs in a body – different from one another and each contributing what no other could. When you find yourself wanting to turn your children, or pupils, or even your neighbors, into people exactly like yourself, remember that God probably never meant them to be that. You and they are different organs, intended to do different things. On the other hand, when you are tempted not to bother about someone else’s trouble because they are ‘no business of yours’, remember that though he is different from you he is part of the same organism as you (p. 185-186).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Can’t say I’m sorry we didn’t consider “Nobby” as a name for either of our boys (assuming it’s a boy name). But this conception of the human race is something that warrants consideration.

Do we view people like collectable quarters – different dates and regions stamped on them, but having no vital interconnection? Or, do we view people as organs within a body – the health of each one essential to the health of all the others? Either-or is probably too strong of language; it is more likely a spectrum of positions that exists. But where are you on that spectrum? And, where is Scripture?

I find myself guilty of both aspects of Lewis’ warning – wanting to duplicate my “strengths” in others and wanting to distance myself from other’s “weaknesses.” I believe I can defend that as legitimate, in some cases – saying as Paul did “follow my example as I follow the example of Christ (I Cor 11:1)” and avoiding codependently taking responsibility for other’s sin or folly.

But my tendency, which is generally not codependent, often neglects the unity of the human race. A big part of that may be my competitive nature. I’ve accepted that in a fallen world that there will always be losers, but that by God’s grace every time we lose, it can become a powerful motivator, life lesson, and source of healthy humility.

Yet, even that mindset is not as incarnational as Jesus. I can become much more callous to the realities of a fallen broken world than Jesus. Worse, I can begin to use the mindset of competition to generate “success” in my Christian walk.

While I may not “defeat” someone else, my non-organism view of the human race allows me to measure progress by how far “ahead” I am of others instead of (a) how far we’ve come together, (b) how much I’ve spurred others on, (c) how my temporal setback may result in a greater advance for many others, (d) whether my gain is the best measure of “success” in a given moment, etc…

What I need to realize is that the questions I think I answer well (being an example and avoiding codependency) often deafen me to the questions I’m not asking. I would encourage you to consider three things in light of this reflection: (1) Where are you on this relational spectrum? (2) What questions are you asking/answering well? (3) What questions are you overlooking in the way you relate to people?