Black & White Thinking in Relationships: Differences in Men & Women

Below is Part 10 in the Black & White Thinking Series.  Please click on the respective links for Parts 1-9:  Part 1 (Introduction), Introduction (Part 2)Part 2 (Biblical Lens),  Part 3 (Grace),  Part 4 (Mental Illness), Part 5 (Depression), Part 6 (Anxiety), Part 7 (Pride), Part 8 (Christian), and Part 9 (Anger).man and woman head

Men are from Mars.  Women are from Venus.  Men are like Waffles.  Women are like Spaghetti.  There is no doubt that men and women are different, yet both men and women can be Black & White Thinkers.  And even though there are some similarities in the sexes with Black & White thinking, there are some differences as well.

SIMILARITIES

To review, Black & White Thinking involves processing events and situations as “all or nothing,” “either – or,” or “right or wrong.”   This type of thinking over-simplifies all the ins and outs of situations and reduces them to basically two choices.  Since there are only two choices (good or bad, right or wrong, etc.), it is important to meet the standard (successful/good), or else you fail (failure/bad).  While standards can be good, setting standards without a measure of grace is unwise.  Black & White Thinking may lead to setting high standards for others and criticizing them when they fail to meet them.  Such interactions will cause others you are close to to feel insecure, lonely, and resentful.  In situations of abuse, Black & White Thinking combined with pride is always present.

DIFFERENCES

Generally, men and women who think or process things in Black & White do so differently because they are created male or female.  Hormones, societal norms, and past events and relationships will certainly influence how one perceives, processes, and performs (acts).  These influences will also impact the amount of Black & White Thinking that is present in the individual.  Typically, the greater the hurt, broken relationships, or trauma of the past, the greater the Black & White Thinking may be in every area of life.  In all cases, when Black & White Thinking is combined with pride, it is about my way, or my will be done in the relationship.  It is important to be mindful of these laws (expectations / standards) as they can harm the relationship and cause hurt feelings, fears, and resentments.

Ladies First

In general, women seem to be more relational (and probably less Black & White as a whole) than men. I believe this is because women were created by God to be Relational. This conclusion is based on the ability and plumbing to give birth and bond with their children through breastfeeding.  In addition, the Creation order and reasons for Woman to be created seems to suggest that woman was created FOR relationship (Gen 3) with man. Therefore, I would conclude that women seem to be created to be more Relational, in general.  So it would make sense that either women are more Relational and less Black & White in their thinking, or, at least, the content of their Black & White Thinking may be more relationship oriented.   For example, in many Black & White Thinkers with whom I have spoken, the Black & White Thinking in women often occurs as “relational laws.”  In other words, your husband MUST love you (love is desired by women, whereas respect is more desired by men) by spending time, serving, etc. That becomes the right way and only way to love, and your husband must do this or a punishment (criticism, withholding sex, etc.) will be given.  Either you love me this way (which is rightor you don’t love me (which is wrong).  Demanding love (instead of desiring it) thus becomes an idol of the heart.  This idol is held on to because she knows she is right, but in holding onto it, she becomes wrong.  This can turn into being controlling and will cause damage in the relationship.

Some questions for female Black & White thinkers: What if your husband was loving you in other ways?  Why are these other ways dismissed as wrong?  What relationship laws have you set in your heart? How do you respond when you don’t get what you want? 

Men, Your Turn

Although the same Genesis account shows us that Adam desired companionship and, I believe, wanted to be IN relationship (It was not good that man was alone – Gen 2:18), man was not created FOR relationship like woman (unless it is a relationship with God), but instead was created FOR work (there was no one to tend the Garden -Gen 2:5, 15).  But to be clear, relationship is important and necessary for men to learn, grow, love, and become like Christ.  In addition, although women were created FOR relationship, they were created to be equal with man, and not FOR man to do as he wishes. If the Black & White Thinker believes that his spouse is created FOR him, to please him and make him happy, he is outside of God’s plan for marriage.  Like women, male Black & White Thinkers also have “relationship laws,” but these laws are not about being loved, but about being respected. When these desires become demands (from desiring respect to demanding obedience), however, the laws will become overbearing to spouses.

Some Questions for male Black & White thinkers: What if your wife is honoring or serving you in other ways?  Why are these other ways dismissed as wrong?  What relationship laws have you set in your heart? How do you respond when you don’t get what you want?

Final Thoughts

The differences above are not meant to be comprehensive, by any means, but outline areas where God has created men and women differently (men desiring respect and women desiring love – see Eph 5 and the book, Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs).  “Relationship Laws” are essentially expectations and standards set for the other person (or maybe for oneself), that when unmet, result in criticisms or “advice” for the other person.  The goal is to make the other person into your image of a perfect spouse (as if they are created to make you happy or fulfilled).  However, our goal is not to get others to meet our standards, but for us to seek after Christ and be changed so that we become like Him (the full image of God).  Future blogs will continue to address other relationship issues that occur in relationships with someone who is a Black & White Thinker.  What would you like to know more about?  Write any questions of comments below…

The Black & White Thinking Christian

Here’s Part 8 of the Black & White Thinking Series.  I would encourage you, at minimum, to read Part 1 (Introduction), Introduction (Part 2)Part 2 (Biblical Lens), and Part 3 (Grace) before reading this blog.  Part 4 (Mental Illness), Part 5 (Depression), Part 6 (Anxiety), and Part 7 (Pride) can be read by clicking the appropriate links.

black-and-white-puzzle-profileWhether in the counseling office, at church, or at home, all of us either know a person who thinks more Black & White, or we are one.  Christians are as different from one another as the rest of the world are from each other.  Our shared beliefs in Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection, & our trust in His Word unite us together to live out our faith together at a local church.  Yet, how we live out our faith can be very different than the next person.  How we interpret Scriptures, perceive events, and treat our fellow Christians will partly depend on whether our thinking is more Black & White or Relational.  This particular Blog is more about how the Black & White Thinker lives out their faith.

As stated in previous blogs, Black & White Thinkers often focus more on the fruit (the actions & behaviors) than they do the heart (motives, desires), although the heart is certainly acknowledged. Typically, in the heart of the Black & White Thinking Christian, the motives tend to be more focused on the importance of obedience to the Word / Law (you can also exchange “law” for expectation or standard) and living a life that demonstrates this.  If you are not obedient, which is right, you are disobedient, which is wrong.  And if you are wrong, consequences are deserved.  And basically, this would be correct.  The Black & White Thinking Christian emphasizes obedience in his or her Christianity, yet may have more difficulty feeling or understanding the relational component that is also important in the Christian faith.  While some acknowledge that Christianity is not about religion, but a relationship, the relationship is often lived out by works, which may tend to lean toward religion.

“I’m a Christian.  I believe all Jesus did for me.  Now, just tell me what to do and I will do it.”  Devotions and service, for example, stem from the desire to be a good (not bad) Christian. Relational individuals will focus more on God’s love for them and their love for God as motivation for doing something for Him, and may tend to de-emphasize the obedience to God.  Black & White Thinking Christians tend to focus more on obedience to God and have difficulty with less concrete things such as the feelings and emotions of faith.  According to Jesus’ words in John (14:15, 23), “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” or “obey me.”  This verse captures the love of a Black & White Thinking Christian towards God…it is demonstrated mostly through obedience.

One of the main concerns of Black & White Thinking Christians in the church and in family life is that grace becomes a license for people to sin and do what they want (see Romans 6:1-2) . This is one of the reasons grace is a difficult concept for many.  If you give grace (a relational concept) to others, then others will take advantage, they won’t learn, and they will be more disobedient.  If fellow Christians live by grace (as opposed to obedience), they will not act regularly according to His Word.  Since obedience is such an important dimension of faith, grace seems to stand in contradiction to obedience.  What the Black & White Thinking Christian needs to comprehend on a greater level is that while remaining true to being obedient to God, it is God’s grace that empowers such obedience. If you haven’t already, please read the Blog on Grace & the Black & White Thinker for more on this…

While recognizing that overemphasizing grace (some call it cheapening grace) and overemphasizing obedience (religion) is a danger to our faith, Black & White Thinking Christians ought to be cautious of not judging others by the standards of obedience. Obedience is certainly important in the life of a believer, but it is not the standard by which others are measured (as good/real or bad/fake Christians).  Christ’s obedience on the cross is the measure of obedience necessary for us to be considered righteous by faith.

One additional caution for Black & White Thinking Christians is to recognize that relationship is just as necessary as obedience.  This relationship between God and us was made possible only through God’s love and grace (“We love because God first loved us” – 1 Jn 4:19), and was never made possible through our own actions.  We will never be able to earn God’s favor, love, or attention through our works.  Therefore, all of us, Relational and Black & White Thinking Christians alike, need to remember to focus specifically on Him and His love and Grace through the cross, and not focus on our own or other people’s works.  Our treatment of others must reflect our relationship with God through Christ, based on His grace and mercy to us, and not on whether others are obedient or not (good or bad Christians).

Finally, I would also argue that paying attention to the vertical relationship with God through Christ will help us to be able to acknowledge our own blindness.  Often, while focusing on obedience to certain standards, we can be blinded to the relational commands in Scripture.  For example, we may speak truth to those who are disobedient,  but we are often blinded to the fact that in speaking truth, we do not speak it “in love” (Eph 4:15). When speaking the truth overshadows the “in love” part, the truth spoken ceases to carry any weight of the Truth (with a capital “T”).

Black & White Thinking Christians are very important to the Body of Christ.  Although I’ve mentioned some weaknesses and cautions, let me share one significant strength as well. The Black & White Thinking Christian’s passion to stand for the Truth and the Word of God is exemplary, and often guides and challenges others around them (hopefully in a good way). Though personal feelings may heavily influence interpretation of a Relational person, feelings are typically submissive to the Truth with Christian Black & White Thinkers. Any feelings that are present are more of a response to Truth (or of other people’s not believing the Truth) than an actual guide for discovering or learning Truth. Without this anchor to the Truth, the Christian faith can easily become watered down if we gave in to the demands of “feel good” culture or even the fears of our hearts.  If we cannot stand with the Truth, we will fall with this world.

There is so much more that can be said of Black & White Thinking Christians that has not been said in this blog.  Hopefully, in reading the series, additional insights can be gleaned throughout that can bring some clarity to our differences in our world views.  My hope is to one day put all this together into a resource for many…

(Note: The Black & White Series is based on observations and conversations with many individuals in the counseling office and beyond, and includes various insights into the Scriptures as well.  While not stating all that is said in these blogs are Truth, the series is meant to be a starting point for further discussion and perhaps help us to understand, love, and live out our faith and relationships better.  That being said, I would love to dialogue with you and hear your thoughts and add to the discussion and one another’s understanding.  So, in that spirit, let me ask you: What other areas do you see are different for the Black & White Thinking Christian?  What challenges or questions do you have that you can add to the discussion?  I hope to hear from you soon!)

Black & White Thinking in Depression

The following blog is Part 5 in the Black & White Thinking Series.  Click on the links for Part 1 (Introduction), Part 1b (Introduction)Part 2 (Biblical Lens), Part 3 (Grace), and Part 4 (Mental Illness?).

b_w-thinking-pic

According to the Mayo Clinic, depression is “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.”  It is characterized by low energy or fatigue, change in appetite and sleep, low self-esteem, poor concentration or inability to make decisions, and feelings of hopelessness.  Feelings of guilt, shame, being unloved, and numb feelings can be oppressive and lead to inactivity and loneliness.  The more severe the depression is, the more likely the oppression seems to control you (thoughts, actions, mood, etc.), which means the more you feel powerless to control yourself.

Some of the writings about depression state that the depression itself causes thought patterns.  Though I am unsure as to whether depression itself causes negative thought patterns, I can certainly say that they are present in depression.  One of the common thought patterns found in depression is Black & White Thinking.

b_w-diagram-1If we take a look at the diagram on the left, we see the green ball which represents the actions or words of another, or events that take place.  The Black & White Thinker hears the words (green ball) and they are interpreted (fall all the way down the triangle) as either “all or nothing” or “black & white.”  There is no stopping the interpretation until it reaches the bottom. For example, a student who is depressed will tell herself after receiving a “B” on a test: “I failed it.  I’m stupid.”  A father who did not handle a situation well will tell himself, “I’m a lousy father.  I’m a failure.”  The event happened and the interpretation of themselves goes to one side or the other.  But a “B” certainly is not failing, but far from it! The father may not have handled a situation well, but that does not mean that he is a horrible father as he has probably done many things well!  In Black & White Thinking, the simple conclusion is that it has to be one or the other.  To conclude that a “B” is not stupid or that a good father can make poor decisions is difficult to comprehend, let alone believe.

People struggling with depression make similar conclusions about themselves.  “I am unloved.”  “No one really cares.” “I am a failure.”  “All is hopeless.” “Nothing will help me.”  When Black & White Thinking is present and its conclusions are believed, the depression gets worse.

We not only feel oppressed by our depression, but we also participate in our depression.  In other words, we not only feel it, but we do it.  We actively (or passively) engage in our depression.  We may wear dark clothes, think depressive thoughts, remain in bed, and basically obey our feelings.  At times, we may not feel as though we have a choice, even though we do.

In order to combat the Black & White Thinking in Depression (or in general), new conclusions based on a different Truth needs to be introduced.  This new Truth is not based on one’s own flawed interpretation, but it is a Truth based on God’s Word.

Take a look at the second Diagram to the right.  Here, wb_w-diagram-2e see that with the intervention of God’s Truth, the green ball does not fall to the previous Black & White conclusion, but instead falls a shorter distance.  And what are these new conclusions based on God’s Truth? Let’s go back to the examples.  In both cases, the Truth of God’s Word (based on Rom 2:8, 3:23, 8:1; Jn 3:16) is the following, “I may not have done as well as I would have liked, or maybe even failed, yet I can expect to do poorly at times as ‘All have sinned and fall short.’ But who I am is based on Christ’s actions for me, not on my own actions (grace).  Therefore,  I may have failed, but I am not a failure.  I am loved, worthwhile, blessed, cherished, and adored by Him…not because of what I have or have not done, but because of who He is.”  Or perhaps these Truths may be better for others: “I know I failed or did poorly.  My failures were taken to the cross by Jesus.  Therefore, I do not need to punish myself any further, as my punishment fell on Christ.”  When these Truths become more important than personal truths and conclusions, and when they are trusted and believed more than one’s own truths, there is progress made for those who struggle with Depression.

It sounds simple enough, yet it is difficult for someone who is depressed to think differently as they have been thinking this way for a long period of time.  At times, medication may be necessary to lift the person up to be able to challenge their own thinking successfully.  Other times, medication is not necessary at all.  It may be necessary only having accountability and a list of God’s truths available to rehearse, repeat, and challenge the Black  & White Thinking.

What are some other examples of Black & White Thinking found in Depression?  How about truths that have helped?

Black & White Thinking is not only found in Depression, but it is also found in Anxiety as well.  Next week, we will take a look at Black & White Thinking found in Anxiety Disorders and God’s Truths that will help!

Black & White Thinkers vs Relational Thinkers (an Introduction)

2-thinkersAs I have looked back at my counseling throughout the years, I have noticed that there has been a certain population I have a difficult time connecting with and counseling.  It’s not that the counsel was bad, per se, but that the counsel was not connecting to how they operate.  As I considered their characteristics and comments, and as I did more research, I would say the similarities of these clients would lead me to conclude that they tend to be black & white thinkers.

As I thought about my relationships, I also learned that there are those close to me who are more black & white thinkers.  As a parent of one such thinker, I also found it difficult to connect with him at times because we think so differently.  For me, well, I am more of a relational thinker.  My motives, desires, and hopeful outcomes are very different than the black & white thinker.  As I have done some research on black & white thinking, I have found it to be seen mostly as a negative thing (one article called it a cognitive disorder) and all I have seen in writings have been from a secular viewpoint.  So, let’s take a few blogs to explore the black & white thinking biblically.  But first things first, what is a Black & White thinker and how is it different than a relational thinker*?

Black & white thinkers are typically described as believing in “all or nothing,” “good or bad,” “right or wrong,” “strong or weak,” and “smart or stupid.”  In these extremes, events or people (including themselves) are judged to be one or the other.  There is no middle ground or gray area.  Black & White thinkers typically focus on the tangible, “out in the open” things.  These are things that can be seen, heard, or measured (the fruit).  The thoughts or emotional processes and motives in decisions (the heart) are practically irrelevant and are difficult to grasp.  You make a decision based on what is right or wrong.  Period. You see other’s actions as “either-or.”  Either they love me and will show it (the way it is right for me (self-defined)), or they don’t love me.  Either the kids do what I say when I say it or they are disobedient.  Black & White thinkers generally recognize their need for relationships, but have a harder time connecting emotionally in relationships (I find this to be more true for males than females, who seem to be more relational than males).

Relational Thinkers (I’m using this term to describe what is most important to this type of person – relationship) live in the gray. Hardly anything is black & white. Relational Thinkers tend to be more flexible in their judgment of actions and people for the sake of the relationship. Relational thinkers tend to be more empathetic to others, placing themselves in the other’s shoes as much as they can, and sympathetic, identifying with the emotional struggles of others.  They will focus more on the “behind the scenes” stuff, such as emotions, thoughts, motives and desires and will tend to be more considerate of the other’s feelings.

In an argument, relational thinkers will tend to give in to others for the relationships’ sake while black and white thinkers tend to stand more on the absolute truths or facts.  In other words, relational thinkers will focus on the relationship of those engaged in the exchange, while the black & white thinkers will focus on the content of the exchange.  Each one focuses on what is most important to them.

As humans created in the Image of God, I believe it is important to see how both of these type of thinkers can reflect Him.  You see, God is both moral and relational.  There is absolute Truth because it is His universe.  There is absolute right and absolute wrong.  In His Word, He explains what wrong is (sin) throughout every 66 books of the Scriptures.  Yet as His Word explains what is wrong and sinful, these wrongs are also explained in the greater context of relationship between us and Him, the Bride (church) and the bridegroom (Christ).  Former Pastor and Speaker, Paul Tripp said, “Sin is not simply a breaking of the rules, it is a breaking in the relationship.”  In declaring what is wrong, God seeks the greater good for us, to have a relationship with Him that comes through the repentance of sin (moral) and the reconciliation with Him through Christ (relational).

Yet, even though both type of thinkers come from being image-bearers of God, it is necessary that we recognize that our type of thinking has been stained by the sin in our hearts.

For the Black & White Thinker, consider this: You interpret and perceive things as right and wrong, but in doing so, have you defined right or wrong, or does that come from God?  Does it take into account your relationship with God or others, or only yourself? Are you becoming like a Pharisee focusing on how others need to get in line while being blind to your own sins?  When you speak truth, is it spoken in love?

For the Relational Thinker, consider this: You can see things relationally, but in doing so, are you so focused on having a good relationship that you are refusing to deal with your sin or overlooking others’ sin?  Are you so focused on love and feeling good that you are making moral compromises?  Are you sidestepping discipline for the children so that you have good relationships with them?

Throughout the next few months, we’ll consider these two types of thinking and how they play a role in our relationships.  We will also focus on some passages of Scripture to help us understand the strengths and weaknesses of each and how to grow in faith & love.

For more on understanding Black & White Thinkers vs Black & White Thinking, Click on Part 2!:  

 

Q. What more can you add about black & white thinkers vs relational thinkers?  What questions come to mind when reading this?

 

*Honestly, there may be more types of thinkers than the two I have written about (black & white vs relational).  Yet for simplicity sake, I have narrowed it down to these two types of thinkers.  Perhaps further research will allow for additional categories and more discussions.

 

Christ-Reflecting Biblical Counseling: Part 1

bibleIn preparing for a Biblical Counseling Conference, I stumbled upon a blog from a woman who had been raised in a fundamentalist Christian Church.  In reading her experiences as well as some experiences of others who have been raised in a fundamentalist church, I am grieved by how many people who are “put off” by supposed “Biblical counseling” and even moreso grieved at the misuse and abuse of God’s Word, especially by fundamentalism Christianity.  Let me share a few thoughts on how, I believe, true Biblical Counseling reflects Christ:

1. True Biblical Counseling is administered by humble individuals who are willing to come alongside the sufferer as a fellow sufferer.  Philippians  2 reminds us how Christ humbled himself, became like us, and walked with us on our level.  He did not stand above us to condemn us (even though we deserve this), but came along side of us, even becoming a servant and considering us better than himself.  In humility, there is listening more than advising.  In humility, there is love for the person and not judgment over the person.  In humility, there is a willingness to enter the person’s world.  In humility, there is also biblical instruction, but the instruction is always clothed in love.

2. True Biblical Counseling is about counseling God’s Word as it is intended.  God’s Word is not a set of rules and standards in which we must  live so that God will be pleased with us.  Therefore we must not use God’s Word in such a way (the 10 Commandments were to show how salvation can only come from God and not from obedience to the law).  The Scriptures are God’s inerrant & inspired Word that share how a holy, loving, and righteous God demonstrates His grace (unmerited favor) on us through Christ.  That through faith, we may have a relationship with Him.  Though we pursue Christ-likeness, this can only be achieved by Him working in us through His grace and Spirit, and not through heart-less actions of obedience.  God’s Word must be used in Biblical Counseling, but it must not be used as a book of standards to force upon people, but as God’s book which reveals His holy character and abundant love to us so that we may be in relationship to Him through grace, by faith.

3. True Biblical Counseling is not simply about sharing God’s Word, but it is about the manner in which it is shared.  When we look at the life of Christ and his interactions with people and sufferers, we see several things: 1) His interactions with those who were seeking God (Zaccheus, Peter, Mary (who washed his feet), etc.), involved in sin (Woman at the Well) and even those who have been caught in sin (woman caught in adultery) as compassionate and loving.  Yet, at the same time, 2) though Jesus made himself available to the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law, and He even ate with them at times, his harshest words were for them…for the self-righteous who were not compassionate and loving towards others and who saw His Word as a Law to uphold to earn the favor of God.  In counseling, most people who enter our offices or churches are those who are involved in sin.  Yet they are also seeking God (Why else would they come to a biblical counselor?).  Therefore, our counsel must be clothed in compassion & love.

These are only some thoughts on how Biblical Counseling must also be Christ-reflecting.  Stay tuned for Christ-Reflecting Biblical Counseling: Part 2 for more thoughts.   What would you add or challenge to these thoughts?

The Great Cover-Up

My son cut his thumb the other week while cleaning a can.  The fact that he was cleaning his soup can…awesome.  The fact that he cut himself…not so much.  An ER visit and 4 stitches later, he is healing well.  While living in the age of Facebook, I decided to post this news as I knew the world would want to know about this tragic event in the Jacoby household.  However, I later learned that my son did not want such information posted for the world to know.  Thus began the great cover-up where I asked all who saw the post not to say anything to my son about the event or that they learned it from dad posting it on Facebook.  Why the cover-up? So my son would not become mad at me.  Did I do anything wrong?  Not exactly as I didn’t know about his request until it was too late.  Though perhaps I did do wrong while trying to cover up my actions…

Covering up is so natural (that is, in our sinful nature), isn’t it?  It started with Adam & Eve covering themselves with fig leaves and hiding in a covering of bushes from God and it continues to this day.  What is the purpose for the cover-up?  To hide our embarrassment & shame.  To avoid a punishment or consequence.  For Adam & Eve, they were naked and unashamed, but as soon as they went against God, they felt the need to cover up.  They were embarrassed.  They were ashamed.  They were naked before God and one another and they could not bear (bare) it.

Adam & Eve’s  fig leaf clothing cover up was insufficient.  What would happen after a day or two?  Exactly.  They would need a longer lasting covering for themselves.  God knew this, and so in His love and mercy, He sacrificed an animal to use the garments of skin to cover up their sin, guilt, and shame…their nakedness.  This was the first death recorded in Scripture and it was done by God providing the need for the covering of sin for Adam & Eve.

How often do we use our own fig leaves to cover up our guilt, shame, and sins?  Our fig leaves of busyness, alcohol, food, entertainment, self-deprecation, and blame-shifting, to name a few,  are insufficient.  Even some of the mental health disorders that plague our society can be attributed to our inability to deal with sin, guilt, and shame.

Like He did in the garden, God provided a covering for our sin, guilt, and shame.  He provided it through His Son, Jesus Christ.  The first sacrificial death was for the covering of the sin of Adam & Eve.  The sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross was the last death needed for the covering of sin, guilt, and shame.  The first sacrifice required Adam & Eve to put on the garments, the second sacrifice requires us to put on Christ by faith.

We can try to cover-up our sin, guilt, and shame, but in the end, our coverings will always fall short.  However, when we accept the coverings provided by faith in Christ, our sins, guilt, and shame are no longer seen by God.  Instead, when He sees us, He sees what we are covered by…He sees Christ.  He sees Christ’s righteousness (not our sins), He sees the One who is innocent (not guilty), and He sees the One with whom He delights in (not shame).   Yes, He sees Christ in us.  May we accept His Son by faith and accept His covering for us through Christ!

For more information on overcoming shame through the gospel, read Shame Interrupted by Ed Welch.

THE (It’s Not) FAIR CARD

I had the pleasure of watching The Grace Card on video a few months back.  It was a great movie, but the whole “card” bit as mentioned in the title was lost until the very end.  When presented at the end, however, it became a touching moment.

There is another “card” that is frequently played among the masses.  It’s called the Fair Card, or better said, The (It’s Not) Fair Card.  You know what I’m talking about.  I don’t think a week goes by without hearing the phrase “It’s not fair” at least a few times in my home.  If you have more than one child, you know what I’m saying.  One child gets two cookies.  The other gets one.  One child goes to bed earlier, the other child goes to bed later.  One child gets to play on a video game longer.  The other does not get as much time.  One child has more popcorn in their bowl.  The other has less.  One child gets to drink beer with dad, the other doesn’t.  OK. I’m joking with the last one.

When such perceived unfairness comes about, out comes the (It’s Not) Fair Card.  “No fair! He got to have more than me!”  or “Why does he get to have more than me?!”  We parents typically respond one of two ways.  We either hear their plea and make things even or fair, or we say something along the lines of, “Life’s not fair (Deal with it).”  As parents, I believe we try to do what we can to make things fair, while taking age and maturity into factor as well in parenting decisions.

Sometimes we forget that we are also children (of God) who sometimes give the same complaints to our heavenly Father.  “Daddy, It’s not fair!  They have more than me!” “Dad, I get disciplined for what I do, how come they get away with their bad behavior?!” “Dad, I’ve been good.  How come I can’t have what I deserve for my good behavior?”  Can you hear these words echo through the chambers of your heart?  They are the cries of a child that call out for fairness, justice, and equality in a world that is broken.  They are the cries of a child who has a hope that their world would become safe and good.  They are also the cries of a child who lacks the perspective of an eternal, holy and just Father.

Our perspectives are often askew when we simply consider our small world versus the eternal and entire kingdom of God.  When we consider God’s eternal plan, His love for us and Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us, can we really ask such questions?  Our heavenly Father will not answer us in the trite ways we answer our children by giving them more or by telling them to suck it up.  No, our Heavenly Father, in His wisdom, has already answered such cries.  Listen to how He responds:

Me:Daddy It’s not fair!  They have more than me!”

Father: “I have blessed you in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. chose you in Christ before the creation of the world. I’ve adopted you as sons through Christ. I have given you redemption through Christ’s blood, and I have forgiven you your sins” (Eph 1:3-7).  You have my love. I have given you eternal life (Jn 3:16).  

Me:  “Dad, I get disciplined for what I do, how come they get away with their bad behavior?!”

Father:  “I have given mercy to everyone who has been disobedient.  Even to you when you were disobedient” (Rom 11:32).  “I have also set a day when I will judge the world with justice by the man I have appointed (Christ). I have given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). 

Me:  “Dad, I’ve been good.  How come I can’t have what I deserve for my good behavior?” 

Father:  “All your good deeds and righteous acts are like dirty rags (Is 64:6).  You have sinned and fallen short of my glory (Rom 3:23).  The wages of sin is death.  Because of your disobedience, you deserve death…eternal separation from me.  But because I love you, I am giving you a free gift: eternal life with me (Rom 6:23) through faith in Christ (Eph 2:8).”  

How can we play The (It’s not) Fair Card with God?  God, in His love and wisdom, chose not to be fair to us.  If He was fair, he would have given us what we deserve-eternal separation from a relationship with Him in hell.  This would have been fair.  Thank God that He is not fair.