Category Archives: Quotable

The Line Dividing Good and Evil

You may have heard the recent story about the inmates in Georgia who saved the life of the correctional officer who was guarding them. [1] It reminded me of this quote from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn [2]

Even as Christians we often want to sort people into good and evil, sheep and goats, but we are all a mixture of the two. (For example, even Judas felt remorse.) The only question is are we using God’s grace to become better. We need to be generous, compassionate, and merciful in our assessments of other people just as God is to us.

[1] Catherine Park and Deborah Tuff, “Georgia Inmates save Correctional Officer Who Passed out during Work Detail,” USA Today, accessed June 23, 2017,

[2] Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “A Quote from The Gulag Archipelago,” Goodreads, accessed June 23, 2017, I am too cheap to buy a copy of The Gulag Archipelago just to track this quote all the way down. I’ve heard it attributed to Solzhenitsyn, so I’m taking Goodreads at their word.

We Have Insulated Ourselves From Miracles

The Bible is full of miracles, the New Testament church experienced them on a regular basis. There are several (complementary) explanations for why that is no longer the case, but I think this explanation is the best for our time and place:

[One of my Bible teachers] told me that we have insulated ourselves from miracles. We no longer live with such reckless faith that we need them. — Shane Claiborne [1]

I pray that God might grant us a more reckless faith.

[1] Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 47.

The Crisis in the U.S. Church

A lot of people have given their opinion on what is ailing Christianity in the United States, here’s Walter Brueggemann’s take:

“… the crisis in the U.S. church has almost nothing to do with being liberal or conservative; it has everything to do with giving up on the faith and discipline of our Christian baptism and settling for a common, generic U.S. identity that is part patriotism, part consumerism, part violence, and part affluence.” — Walter Brueggemann [1]

[1] Walter Brueggemann, A Way Other than Our Own: Devotions for Lent, comp. Richard Floyd (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2017), 3.

Looking for Honesty Not Perfection

In my sermon this morning, I talked about our need to be honest with ourselves and each other at church. On Twitter this evening I found Shane Claiborne thinking (and tweeting) along the same lines. First, he tweeted:

People are not looking for Christians who are perfect … they are looking for Christians who are honest. [1]

Two minutes later, he followed that up with a response I am going to have to remember for future use:

When people tell me that the Church is full of hypocrites… I say: “No, it’s not … we always have room for more.” [2]

This is a great response because Christians are hypocrites, we do indeed fail to live up to our ideals, but that’s just part of being human. Anyone who manages to always live up to their ideals has set the bar pretty low. And it is an even better response if it can be said with a tone that conveys the fact that we’re not claiming to be any better than anyone else, but rather admitting we’re screw-ups just like everybody else.

We’re screw-ups, but we’re not content to stay that way. As Christians our ideals are set very high:

This is Church: A bunch of imperfect people falling in love with a perfect God,,, and trying to become more like the God we love, every day. [3]

We want to become more like the perfect God we love, but because we are fallen, sinful, and screwed up we’re going to fail some, perhaps most, of the time. We keep on trying again and again because the only way to avoid failure is to give up entirely and that’s not an option God has left us.

[1] Shane Claiborne. Twitter post, May 27, 2016, 10:21 p.m.,
[2] Shane Claiborne. Twitter post, May 27, 2016, 10:23 p.m.,
[3] Shane Claiborne. Twitter post, May 27, 2016, 10:32 p.m.,

If Not Us, Then Who?

I recently sent a copy of N. T. Wright’s The Challenge of Easter out to my Grandma Ocie. She reminded me of this passage in which Wright sets out the challenge that we Christians must take up today:

We live in a time of cultural crisis. At the moment I don’t hear anyone pointing a way forward out of the postmodern morass; some people are still trying to put up the shutters and live in the premodern world, many are clinging to modernism for all their worth, and many are deciding that living off the pickings of the garbage heap of post-modernity is the best option on offer. But we can do better than that. … The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology and even, heaven help us, biblical studies, a worldview that will mount the historically rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and postmodernity, leading the way into the postpost-modern world with joy and humor and gentleness and good judgement and true wisdom.

I believe we face the question: If not now, then when? And if we are grasped by this vision, we may also hear the question: If not us, then who? And if the gospel of Jesus is not the key to this task, then what is? — N. T. Wright [1]

We must not forget that we have the right message, but we must also remember “joy and humor and gentleness and good judgment and true wisdom.”

[1] N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Easter (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009), 60.

Ordinary, Screwed-Up People

Wow, it’s been several days since I last posted. Today I want to share with you some reflections by Rachel Held Evans on her baptism and the imperfect community that she and the rest of us were baptized into:

But Jesus has this odd habit of allowing ordinary, screwed-up people to introduce him, and so it was ordinary, screwed-up people who first told me I was a beloved child of God, who first called me a Christian. I don’t know where my story of faith will take me, but it will always begin here. That much can never change. [1]

[1] Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015), 15.

If You Want To Be Holy, Be Kind

I’m working my way through the audible version of Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans. She shared this quote and I want to share it with you. It is so short. It is so simple. It is so true. It is so often forgotten.

If you want to be holy, be kind. — Frederick Buechner [1]

I always like to trace a quote back to its original source, and I can’t in this case. But this is too good not to share.

[1] Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015), 114.

God Comes To Us

I’m still working my way through Salvation by Allegiance Alone by Matthew Bates, and I wanted to share this gem:

In the final analysis, we don’t go to heaven; God brings his heavenly abode down to earth, having re-created the universe so that there is a new (that is radically renewed) heaven and earth. We do not go to God, but he comes to us. — Matthew Bates [1]

It’s always been the case that God has come to us, why should the end be any different than the beginning and the middle?

[1] Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, a Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2017), 139-140.

A Church Which is Bruised, Hurting, and Dirty

I came across this in my reading and wanted to share it with you. I share Pope Francis’s preference, even though in my case, at least, the preference is mostly aspirational.

I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security . . . More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us, “Give them something to eat.” — Pope Francis [1] 

[1] Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2014), Kindle Book, 39-40.

Quotable: Ants in the Pants of Faith

I’m working on a sermon based on John 20:19-31, which is the story commonly known as “Doubting Thomas.” I looked up “Doubt” in Beyond Words and was once again struck by Frederick Buechner’s way with words. I know that this is the third day I’ve quoted him, but this is really worth sharing. I promise that I won’t have any mention of him here tomorrow.

Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts, you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.— Frederick Buechner 1

In what ways have your doubts kept your faith awake and moving?

1 Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004), 85.

On Compassion

Another day, another succinct definition from Frederick Buechner:

Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it’s like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too. — Frederick Buechner 1

1 Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004), 65.