News That Illustrates for Sunday, August 17th - 24th
News That Illustrates for Sunday, August 17th - 24th
The Complexity of Robin Williams, Texting While Driving, and LAPD 'Misclassify' Crimes
Robin Williams' Death is a Reminder of Our Human Complexity
Last Monday night, the tragic announcement of actor and comedian Robin Williams' death, apparently by suicide, shocked many of us. It was known that he struggled with severe depression, but still—this was Mrs. Doubtfire, Peter Pan, the Genie from Aladdin. For most of us, celebrities like Robin Williams are one-dimensional people, summed up by the quality they're best known for. It can be hard to understand that a man who made so many others laugh could struggle with the disease of depression. But the truth is that no one is a one-dimensional person. We all have areas of beauty and of darkness in our life. The strongest of us have weaknesses, the "weakest" of us have strengths; the happiest of us can be sad, the saddest can be happy, the healthiest, sick, and the sick, healthy. When we look at another human being—whether Robin Williams or the person next to you—as only embodying one characteristic, we dehumanize them, and make it impossible to truly know or love them. So let's remember that each of us are a beautiful, complex creation of God—worthy of love and being fully known.
PREACHING ANGLES: Depression; Love; Neighbors
The Most Persecuted People on the Planet
Most people in the West would be surprised by the answer to the question: who are the most persecuted people in the world? A British paper reported that persecuted Christians around the globe have a surprising ally—the former chief rabbi of the U.K., Jonathan Sacks. Rabbi Sacks recently said that the suffering of Middle East Christians is "one of the crimes against humanity of our time." He compared it with Jewish pogroms in Europe and said he was "appalled at the lack of protest it has evoked." Also, "according to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular group with members in 38 states worldwide, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians … In Burma, Chin and Karen Christians are routinely subjected to imprisonment, torture, forced labor and murder. Persecution is increasing in China; and in North Korea a quarter of the country's Christians live in forced labor camps after refusing to join the national cult of the state's founder, Kim Il-Sung. Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Maldives all feature in the 10 worst places to be a Christian." The article concludes with a heartrending quote from Fouad Twal, the Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem who asks, "Does anybody hear our cry? How many atrocities must we endure before somebody, somewhere, comes to our aid?"
PREACHING ANGLES: Church, global; Persecution
Texting While Driving: It's Risky but We Do It Anyway
Almost everyone knows and agrees that texting or talking on the cell phone while driving is dangerous. But apparently many young adults still text and drive anyway—and their parents aren't helping. 89 percent of the young adults surveyed placed cell phone calls while driving and 79 percent texted while behind the wheel. One of the researchers said, "Young drivers rate texting as very distracting; yet they still report frequently texting while driving." Why do they take the risk? Another researcher said, "Younger drivers seemed overconfident in their ability to multi-task." But their parents aren't helping the cause of safe driving. The research also found that 53 percent of the study participants who talked on the phone behind the wheel were talking to a parent who just had to get in touch with their child. This isn't exactly new. About 2,000 years ago the Apostle James put it this way: "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them" (James 4:17).
PREACHING ANGLES: Disobedience; Obedience; Sin
LAPD 'Misclassify' and Skew Stats on Violent Crimes
File this story under the heading of "Humanity's Habit of Underestimating the Prevalence of Sin." According to an article in L.A. Times: "The LAPD misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes during a one-year span ending in September 2013, including hundreds of stabbings, beatings and robberies … The incidents were recorded as minor offenses and as a result did not appear in the LAPD's published statistics on serious crime that officials and the public use to judge the department's performance. Nearly all the misclassified crimes were actually aggravated assaults. If those incidents had been recorded correctly, the total aggravated assaults for the 12-month period would have been almost 14 percent higher than the official figure." It's also easy for us to "misclassify" our sin. We rationalize it, justify it, deny it, minimize it, excuse it—all in an attempt to avoid the simple confession—"I have sinned against the LORD" (2 Sam. 12:13).
PREACHING ANGLES: Confession; Denial; Sin, confession of
Guardians of the Galaxy—an Unlikely Redemption Film
The new film Guardians of the Galaxy, based on the 2008 comic, hit theaters a few weeks ago. A review on Breakpoint calls it a "tale of a ragtag band of space-traveling misfits"—hardly the kind of superhero most of us want. "[The superhero] Quill is a rogue, womanizer, and thief—charming, yes, but with a questionable moral compass. The green-skinned Gamora … is a much-feared trained assassin. Drax the Destroyer is consumed with the desire to avenge the murders of his wife and daughter at Ronan's hands. And finally Rocket, the fast-talking raccoon bounty hunter, is a mechanical genius with a twisted sense of humor and a homicidal bent." Everyone of these heroes are either hurt, angry, or selfish—or all three. A shocking band of heroes? Sure, but they aren't much different than those first followers of Jesus—or us. And yet, they are also on a path towards transformation (at least some transformation). "As Quill comments during a crucial turning point in their quest to stop Ronan, they're all 'losers'—all having suffered loss and survived a life that has seemed always to demand more than it gives. But, it is in large part their losses that have made them who they are, each individual capable of playing a crucial role in their current quest. And so, rather than be defined by their painful pasts, they are now given the opportunity to choose how to respond to their present circumstances—and in so doing re-chart the trajectory of their lives from victim to hero." Sounds like a familiar story, doesn't it?
PREACHING ANGLES: Brokenness; Disciples; Gospel; Redemption
Greek Priest Buys Freedom for Prisoners
In Greece, being jailed for a minor offence doesn't mean that you have to stay in prison—as long as you have money. For an average rate of five Euros per day, inmates can buy their freedom, which, given the "hellish" prison conditions of the financially troubled nation, is an act of (expensive) mercy. But few other than the rich can afford the option, which is where Greek Orthodox priest Gervasios Raptopoulos comes in. The 83-year-old man uses donated money to purchase freedom on behalf of inmates without money, a lavish gesture of mercy. He's helped nearly 15,000 prisoners go free over the past decades, including some with children to support, the ill, and those barely able to make the necessary sum themselves. What an image of the redeeming grace of Christ—the man of God, roaming the prison to set free those in captivity, who neither deserve their freedom nor can pay to restore it.
PREACHING ANGLES: Atonement; Christ, cross of; Ransom; Redemption
Man Lost as Boy Finds His Way Home After 26 Years, Using Google Maps
When he was five years old, Saroo Brierley fell asleep on a train bound for Calcutta, India from his hometown. Separated from his family and unable to describe his way home, he was taken into state care and eventually adopted to a family in Australia. But his memories of his village in India, of his mother and siblings, persisted. Fast forward 26 years, and Saroo is sitting at a computer looking at Google Maps. He realizes that this might be the tool he needs to find his family again, and begins using the photographic map to follow the rail lines that radiate out from Calcutta. Eventually, he sees the image of a train station that's the same as the one in his memory, and sets out in search of his home. He finds the house of his childhood, and, a few meters away, his mother. Reunited after 26 years, because of a longing for home, and the right kind of map. Have you ever felt a longing for heaven—what C.S. Lewis called your "true home"? The Bible describes us all as strangers and pilgrims in a foreign land, who long for reunion with our true family. What we lack though, is a map that shows us the way back. But we find that map in the Bible, where we realize that by following Jesus's path through life, death, and resurrection, we can arrive, with the sweetness of a half-forgotten memory, in the true place where we belong.
PREACHING ANGLES: Bible; Lost; Found; Home; Pilgrims; Strangers