Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Tale of Two Articles



I got a call on Monday from the Tribune asking if I'd be willing to write a 550 word piece for the Opinion/Letters page for Easter Sunday.

I used to run FROM these opportunities. Now I'm forcing myself to run TO them.. . .

Tribune Gal told me that just submitting something from an Easter sermon would be fine. So that's what I did. I wrote my little article, proofed and reproofed it and got it down to 630 words or so and emailed it off.

Tribune Gal thanked me and then promptly rejected my submission asking if I could do something a bit more "relevant" to the wars and terrorism of our modern day.

I refused.

No, I'm just kidding. I responded by telling her the Resurrection wasn't relevant if it wasn't true. . . if it didn't happen . . . and so that was my starting point. But I agreed to give it another shot.

With a few slight changes, Tribune Gal accepted Version 2.0.

A couple of thoughts. . .

  • It's hard to say anything of significance or depth in 550 words. (or maybe its just me!)
  • It's hard to walk the line of engaging culture while at the same time not compromising or watering down what you believe. No wonder so many well-intentioned politicians fall into corruption. The Gospel is not politically correct.
  • I'm really glad that our local paper includes stuff like this on occasion. They do seem to see issues of faith as relevant issues in our community conversation. I know this is not the case in other communities. We haven't been completely marginalized. . . yet. I've been pleased to see the stories about the soon to be built Youth Ministry Centers at New Life & Atascadero Bible Church.
. . . even if Tribune Gal wanted me to be a more "relevant." Whatever that means! I'm grateful for the opportunity and my one aim and desire is to be pleasing to our Risen Lord.

What oportunities have you had or are you having to engage culture with the Gospel of Christ in your neighborhood or in your workplace?

I thought I'd let you take a gander at both versions. . .

Version 1.0

On this Easter morn, as Grace Church, SLO kicks off its seven week 75th Anniversary Celebration, we recognize the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the cornerstone of the church’s belief, practice and life. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ in space and time is also the cornerstone of the Christian worldview. Biblical Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus did not rise, then Christianity isn’t true and it doesn’t work.

The Apostle Paul puts it bluntly in his letter to the church at Corinth:

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. . . if we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. –I Corinthians 15:17, 19

The Apostle Paul, like those at Grace Church, bet his life and eternity, not on the merits of his own life, but on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. But is that a reasonable bet for an intelligent person of the 21st Century?

Consider these two lines of evidence, just a portion of the mounds of evidence that convince me and others that the resurrection of Jesus is an intelligent, and reasonable cornerstone to build your life upon. . . .

1. The Eyewitness Testimony of the Apostles. The Apostle John says, “what we have heard, what we have seen, with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands. . . . . we testify and proclaim to you (I John 1:1-3). The Apostles Paul and Peter say similar things. Within 1st Century Judaism there was no concept of individual resurrection, only of a mass resurrection of humankind at judgment. In other words, the Apostles were not hoping for, or expecting, Jesus to rise. Which is why they are so shocked, doubting and, disbelieving when they meet the Risen Jesus (Luke 24:36-43). In fact, the Apostles had every reason not to believe, since believing the resurrection meant being ostracized from the intense social and religious structures of their own Jewish culture. The Apostles and many others, not only believed, but died martyrs’ deaths for their steadfast commitment to the resurrection of Jesus. They believed because they saw Him and touched Him.

2. The Presence of Women at the Tomb of Jesus. In 1st Century Jewish culture, women did not occupy a very high place in society. . . to put it mildly. Women, for example, could not serve as witnesses in a court of law. Jesus, in contrast, treated women with respect and had women as some of His closest friends. It is surprising that women are the first witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus and are initially disbelieved by the Apostles (Luke 24:1-12). If the Gospel writers were carefully fabricating “a resurrection myth”, why would they insert women as the very first witnesses to the empty tomb? The answer is, they wouldn’t—unless women were really there! The Apostles are simply reporting the rather “embarrassing” facts as they happened. The most important question facing each one of us is this:

Did Jesus Christ rise from the dead? If He did, then that fact changes everything. Have you taken the time to honestly examine the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus yourself? We believe that the Christian worldview is intelligent and reasonable--the very best hypothesis to explain the world as we experience it. We all bet our lives on something. Where are you placing your bet?


Version 2.0 (should run on Easter Sunday)

On this Easter morn, as Grace Church, SLO kicks off its seven week 75th Anniversary Celebration, we recognize the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the cornerstone of the church’s belief, practice and life. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ in space and time is also the cornerstone of the Christian worldview.

In these bleak days filled with wars and rumors of war, terrorism, and natural disasters. . . so many things we don’t understand, cannot control and do not know how to fix. . . . how badly we need this “resurrection perspective”! The universe is not an accident. The world is not out of control. Life is not meaningless. Death is not the end. All hope is not lost.

Biblical Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus did not rise, then Christianity isn’t true and it doesn’t work. The Apostle Paul puts it bluntly in his letter to the church at Corinth:

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. . . if we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. –I Corinthians 15:17, 19

The Apostle Paul, like those at Grace Church, bet his life and eternity, not on the merits of his own life, but on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But is that a reasonable bet for an intelligent person of the 21st Century?

Millions today and millions more throughout history have come to the shocking conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is indeed an intelligent and reasonable cornerstone to bet our lives on and build our lives upon. These believe that the Christian worldview is the very best hypothesis to explain the world as we experience it.

So what if Jesus Christ did actually rise from the dead? What if that tomb was really empty? What if Jesus really did go into the grave and come out the other side? What does the resurrection mean?

It means that God is really out there and He cares. It means that God is in the business of bringing triumph out of tragedy; healing out of brokenness; victory out of seeming defeat; grace out of wrath; forgiveness out of judgment. It means that nothing is impossible with God who brings life out of the grave. It means that redemption has been realized, the great rescue has been accomplished. It means that what looked so much like “Bad Friday” to the friends and followers of Jesus, was really “Good Friday” for us all.

C.S. Lewis, the author of the beloved Chronicles of Narnia, put it this way. . . .

Jesus has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so.

Out of the darkness of the tomb, shines a bright morning of hope. Jesus Christ has risen, He has risen indeed

9 comments:

Jeannett Gibson said...

So, just a few minutes ago, two co-workers mocked my excitment for Easter and then went on to explain how "Night of the Living Dead" the whole thing was, and how "pagan" and creepy the whole idea seemed...they then went on to suggest that my lesson plan for the 2-3 year old Sunday School class wasn't too "scary" or the kids would have nightmares.

Speechless. Yup. No grand professing of truth from me...my only reply was: "wow, sucks for you".

Maybe I'll copy/paste your "version 2.0" into an email for them. I hate not having an answer. Another problem I have is the double sidedness of working in government: they can go on and on, but if I had the wherewithall to actually respond, it would be inappropriate in a government office. Ugh.

Pastor Tim Theule said...

I appreciate your honesty, Jeannett! Hang in there!

Andy Gibson said...

Nice. I'm suprised that the tribune will run something like that in the fear that it might "offend" somebody, for the same reasons Jeannett can't really respond at work. Unfortunately that sickness extends past just government....it's ruining this country flat out and it is BS.

It is really heartwarming to read that and know it will get published. It softens the blow that the reality of ignorance and PC is in our society.

Brian Wong said...

Version 2.0 is, in my opinion, the better version. I think it incorporates that "relevance" that the Tribune was seeking. Nice job, Pastor Tim!

550 words is a fairly standard length for extended editorials. They do require in-depth thought because of the requisite conciseness. However, being able to condense one's thoughts to such a length is just as important as it is to be able to tell one's own testimony in 2-3 minutes. The common citizen does not want to read a dissertation as part of his morning paper-reading ritual. I think you did a great job of condensing your thoughts.

I do agree with you that it is difficult to walk that line of engaging our culture. That's why I believe it's so important that Christians understand how to do so.

We are definitely blessed to live in the Central Coast where issues of this nature are freely presented. I can almost guarantee that the city 100 miles south of us would not be so quick to invite such discussion.

Suzette Lyons said...

Good job Tribune Gal. Just recently Pastor Tim asked about what areas would it be good to get a different perspective. Thank you for giving our Pastor a different perspective and encouraging him to dig a little deeper so that more of your readers could be reached.

As I Chorinthians 1:18 says “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved is the power of God”. Webster on-line says relevance is: having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand. Your first article was relevant to Christians or even people deeply exploring Christianity. The second was more significant to non-Christians who like Jeannette’s co-workers consider the cross of Christ to be foolishness.

Before I became a Christian Christ’s death was a truly horrible thing to contemplate. For me it overshadowed his resurrection. The idea of becoming the child of the same God who allowed all that to happen to his Son was a little terrifying. When I looked at the violence in our streets, the wars, natural disasters and the starvation and inhumanity around the world, it seems so terrible and senseless. Life seemed meaningless and hopeless. What made me look more closely into the Gospel was the sense of hope and the idea that life could have meaning and purpose. I needed some how for my life to actually make a difference and for it to be valuable to God.

This paragraph made the whole article for me:

“It means that God is really out there and He cares. It means that God is in the business of bringing triumph out of tragedy; healing out of brokenness; victory out of seeming defeat; grace out of wrath; forgiveness out of judgment. It means that nothing is impossible with God who brings life out of the grave. It means that redemption has been realized, the great rescue has been accomplished. It means that what looked so much like “Bad Friday” to the friends and followers of Jesus, was really “Good Friday” for us all.”

This reached deep into my heart. There is a deep hunger in all of us that can not be denied. When I was unsaved statements like made me ask, “Is that really possible for me?” It seemed foolish and crazy, but it was the only ray of real hope that I had ever seen. The desire for that hope is what made me look deep into who Jesus is.

I want to be more prepared to answer comments like the ones Jeannette was hearing from her co-workers. I don’t always think fast on my feet. I feel challenged to do as 1Peter 1:15 says “…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” It is a great challenge for all of us.

Joe Pollon said...

Jeannett,

I know how those kinds of comments have left me dumbfounded or shaking with anger. It is incredible how rude, close-minded and intolerant are those who claim that open-mindedness and tolerance are the highest moral values.

Having a short and sweet reply to the out-of-the-blue broadsides would be helpful. And my experience is that Christians are most effective when they behave in a ..well.. Christian way.

Try this one on for size.

“I can understand how it might be easy to take drive-by shots at me and my faith and how strange it all seems to someone on the outside. However, if you would like to sit down sometime and have a respectful exchange of views, I would be happy to pay for the coffee. And if not, I would be grateful for your kind indulgence.”

It’s probably not what you want to say, but it doesn’t confirm what they might already think and it leaves the door open for the future. I would love to hear some of the other responses people have come up with.

Andy Gibson said...

Nice!

Roy said...

Great job Tim!

Suzette Lyons said...

God sent a whole lot of people to talk to me before I became a Christian. The ones I could not dismiss seemed to really care about me (although I could not understand why) and they had a confidence in God that could not be shaken. I really did not understand what they were saying, but I could not dismiss it and God used it.

Another possible response to that type of criticism from a non-Christian might be:

"It really hurts me that you would compare my faith and the death and resurrection of my Lord and Savior to horror movie. If you knew Him and how much He loves you, you could not say things like that about Him. I would love to get together over coffee and talk to you about it. I have time on Thursday."