Rejecting Christ in a Rejected Land

Jesus was traveling with his core Image result for fire from heavendisciples to Jerusalem for the final time. As was his practice, he traveled through Samaria rather than avoiding it. Having to stay overnight in that region, he sent a couple of His disciples ahead to prepare a place for them to stay. As these two arrived at the village gates, a group of elders stopped them and began to question them. They wanted to know where they were going. They wanted to know why Galileans would be traveling in this part of Samaria. They wanted to know why they should show hospitality to these Jewish travelers.

The elders said, “Why should we show hospitality to you? You are traveling to your beautiful temple in Jerusalem, walking right by the mountain on which the ruins of our temple resides— destroyed by YOUR people generations ago. You treat us as unclean… worse than the Greeks that bring their sinful practices into your land, and the Romans that bring heavy taxes and all sorts of misery.  Would you welcome us into your own village? …Into your own house? Ridiculous! Push off.”

The two disciples were shocked. They have been treated with disrespect before. But these were Samaritans! It was like these Samaritans were considering themselves superior to them! Ridiculous indeed.

Returning to the group, they passed on to Jesus and the disciples what happened. James and John, the fiery and protective brothers, reacted the strongest.

James said, “Samaritans! Treating us like dogs?”

John chimed in. “Yes. And such a miserable village. Rejecting the Lord’s anointed… something should be done.”

Putting their heads together for a moment, they strode over to Jesus with determination and fire in their eyes.

“Lord,” they said. “Do you want us to call down fire to destroy this village?”

Amusement and anger danced across the face of Jesus. But He knew that His time was short and so this learning moment could not be lost.

Jesus called the others over and said to them, “James and John here want to bring down fire on this village. What do you think about this idea?”

The disciples looked at each other awkwardly. Some nodded but then stopped uncertain what was the appropriate response. Not waiting for a response, Jesus pushed forward.

“We have been rejected. Do they deserve death because of this? Should we hate them because they hate us?”

More uncertain looks but the disciples were starting to see where this was going.

Jesus continued. “But do they hate us? They don’t even know us. And we don’t know them. All they know is that our ancestors fought with their ancestors. I can assure you that our ancestors and their ancestors are done fighting. And we should stop fighting as well. So I have a better plan. Let’s go to a different village.”

Everyone nodded, even James and John. It was a much better plan.

<A somewhat speculative reflection on Luke 9:51-56>


Therapeutic Use of Self

I have been reading “The Therapeutic Use of Self: Counseling Practice, Research and Supervision” by Val Wosket. So far it has been an interesting read. It is more for psychotherapy, but I felt that it was useful also for chaplaincy and pastoral counseling. Therefore, I wrote an article that was posted on the CPSP-Philippines website. (

You are certainly welcome to read it if you think it is valuable for your ministry. From a different angle, however, the research is suggestive of something more. The focus on methods is flawed. That flaw in psychotherapy may apply to missions as well.

  • Does it even make sense to ask the question “What is the best evangelistic method?”
  • Can one realistically argue what is the best churchplanting or church growth method?
  • Is it possible to say a mission strategy is consistently?

Taking a quote from my other article (which in turn came from Wosket),

Perhaps as well as considering ‘what approach is most effective and what can we learn from it?’ it might have been profitable for more researchers in the last few decades to have asked ‘which therapists are more effective and what can we learn from them?’

Carrying it over to missions, are we focusing on the wrong things? Roland Allen asked the question of whether we should use St. Paul’s methods (or principles) or our own?  I think a lot of what Allen said over a century ago was and is quite valid. But perhaps a better question would be “What quality traits did Paul (or Barnabas or Peter or John OR CHRIST) have that led them to be successful in ministry when others seemingly did not?”

Businesses are learning that a good resume’ does not make a good employee. Character isses such as EQ and morals/virtues and work ethic, and more are more important. What about in Missions?


More Rules of Dialogue

I had asked my students to create their own rules of interreligious dialogue (IRD). They were allowed to research and borrow from others, but the end result and explanation should be their own. I was quite pleased with the results.  Here are a few of the lists (minus the explanations):

1.  Converse Despite the Differences

2.  Converse with Knowledge of One’s Own Identity

3.  Converse to Seek Understanding (of the other’s perspective)

4.  Converse with Open Mind and Heart

5.  Converse with Silence (focus on listening)

6. Converse to Strengthen One’s Faith

7.  Converse to Build Relationship with the Other

8.  Converse as an Act of Glorifying God


D-I-A-L-O-G-U-E   (Acronym)

Don’t Lie (be sincere)

Involve the Church

Assume Not (what the other believes)

Learn and Grow (be open to change)

Observe Self-reflection (be open to challenge in the process)

Go with Respect (demonstrate courtesy)

Understand Your Own Belief

Equal Your Footing   (demonstrate fairness and mutuality)


  1.  Preparation and Prayer (God is part of the conversation)
  2. Demonstrate courtesy to the other
  3. Build confidence and trust in the conversation
  4. Draw the net slowly. Don’t just pull the conversation quickly to your own favorite topics.
  5. Exchange belief. Listen and Share
  6. Be respectful of individual differences
  7. Interpret one’s belies in a manner that would be understandable or “make sense” to the other
  8. Have a good conclusion.  Highlight good and true points and show appreciation for them.


I will give just the above three lists. However, from others in the group were some good rules to remember as well. Here are some.

  • Choose dress and behavior that will not offend or harm the relationship
  • Start conversation with areas of commonality before addressing differences
  • Bridge the language gap speaking to their language and language level.
  • Demonstrate gratitude for their time and their sharing and listening
  • Have a good introduction… words and behavior that help the person want to have a dialogue with you rather than want to leave.
  • Have a limited time frame. Conversation should not be forced into a small timeslot… but there should be limits so it doesn’t just wander aimlessly.





A Holy and Wholly Translatable Bible

I have written a bit on whether the Bible is translatable. This is important to me being involved in missions where I teach people whose heart languages are quite diverse. Few have English as their heart language, and none have 6th century BC Hebrew, 3rd century BC Aramaic, or 1st century AD Koine Greek. We live in a multilingual, multicultural world. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? To me Revelation 7:9 (along with the Babel narrative, Pentecost event, and Jerusalem Council) point to God viewing diversity of culture and language as a good thing, NOT simply a problem to overcome. But if that is so, how then should we view the Bible?

With that in mind, There are four posts to consider:

Is the Bible Translatable? Part 1  (Considers the Options)

Is the Bible Translatable? Part 2  (Ramifications of saying YES)

Is the Bible Translatable? Part 3  (Reasons for saying YES)

What Makes the Holy Bible Holy?


Listening at the Mosque

Each year in my Dialogue with Asian Relgions class, I have my students visit a local mosque. I also have them visit the Sikh temple and the Budhist temple. And sometimes other places are visited. The Sikh temple has been the favorite so far. But I especially want them to visit the mosque and the Buddhist temple since those are the places of worship of the two groups that my students are most likely to interact with with regards to other world religions.

The experience at the mosque is always different. I tell my students, however, that they are not to proselytize. They are to listen and to learn.

Each year there is some small attempt by those at the mosque to try to persuade my students that they really should join their religion. I am glad they do this because I want my students to learn the art of listening. If they learn the art of listening, they learn a skill that few if any have mastered.

A few years ago, the presentation the imam used to try to gently suggest that the students should become Muslim was pretty abysmal. The argument boiled down to something like “Islam is not a religion but an ideology. It has adherents in every country on earth and is the fastest growing.” If one was of a mind to argue one might respond with “#1. There is no clear line separating ideology and religion, and since Islam has chosen to embrace most of the trappings of a traditional religion, calling it an ideology does nothing to enlighten. #2.  Christianity has adherents in every country on earth as well. It would be pretty likely that this would be true of Hinduism and Buddhism as well. Hardly an interesting bit of trivia. #3. In sheer numbers Islam is growing faster than Christianity right now, but both religions have gone back and forth over the centuries in who is winning the adherent race. Not very persuasive, and even less so in that many religions have a growth rate (including Evangelical Christianity) that far outstrips Islam. And finally, the ideology of secularism right now is almost certainly growing in numbers faster than either Christianity of Islam.”  Sorry, did not mean to turn it into an argument. But you can see that the presentation was really poor.

Last year one of the young men at the tawhid school there tentatively tried to start a debate. My students told him that they were not there to argue but to listen and learn. (I love it when my students listen to my instructions. Some years they do not.)

This year, my students described the presentation my the mosque leadership as “persuasive.” That is quite different from what has come back to me in the past. Therefore, I asked them to talk about the presentation. A few key points came up:

First, The presenters first noted the many things in common between Christianity and Islam. We worship the same God (well… sort of). They (Muslims) see the Old and New Testaments of the Bible as written by God, and they also see Jesus as a prophet of God and a miracle worker.

Second, They noted differences after first noting the similarities. They see the Bible as having become distorted due to copy errors and translation, thus explaining why it disagrees with the Quran, Hadith, and Islamic theology. They also noted that they do not see Jesus as being one with God.

So why did my students find this presentation to be more persuasive than that from previous years? Clearly, there were problems with their presenation. The part where they say that Jesus is not part of the Godhead is hardly new. Most people are well aware that Muslims see God as having oneness without discernible divisions. They also balk at most anything that presents God in terms of immanence (with the exception of some Sufist groups). The part where they suggest that the Bible would agree with the Quran and Islamic beliefs if it weren’t copy and translation errors… well as seminary students they knew that this is highly dubious. We have the Bible available in the original languages so there is no errors from that. As far as copy errors, perhaps 300 years ago that argument may have sounded plausible. But in the last couple of centuries there have been great strides in textual criticism. It is pretty clear that there are substantive differences between the message of the original autographs of the Bible and the message of the founder of Islam (as it was compiled a few decades after his death at least).

Since the second part of the presentation wasn’t very compelling, presumably what made it compelling would be the first pat. This was the part where the presenter pointed out all the things that Muslims and Christians can agree with. Of course, these agreements were a bit deceptive. To say that Muslims agree that the Bible was from God, but since they teach that it is reliable only to the extent that it was correctly transmitted– and correct transmission is only recognized if it doesn’t disagree with the Quran— the Bible is given NO AUTHORITY by the followers of Islamic teaching. However, that is not whay my students heard. They did not hear the presenters say that Muslims give the Bible no authority. What they heard was that Muslims believe they Bible was given by God.

This is classic marketing, right out of Dale Carnegie. Carnegie noted that to influence another person, get them as soon as possible to say “Yes” to you or “I agree.” Additionally, to get them to agree with you, you agree with them as much as you possibly can. A lot of Christian evangelists and evangelistic presentations seem more focused on disagreeing with or discounting others beliefs.

Interestingly, Paul focused on agreement in his presentation to the Athenians. He agreed with the philosophers on many many things, before finally bringing up the divisive point of the resurrection of Christ.

What the presenters at the mosque did was actually what we as Christians should be doing. Start with finding common ground and agrement, before bringing up differences. Although their argument was, to be honest here, a bit weak, it sounded strogner because they started with building agreement from the beginning.


Isaac and the Akedah

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.
2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” -Genesis 22:1-2

The Talmudic rabbis were fascinated by the Akedah (The Binding of Isaac) and analyzed so many aspects of the story seeking to understand motivations and ethics of God and Abraham. St. Paul utilized the story to support the argument that “the just shall live by faith”— even Abraham was declared righteous by his faith. Kierkegaard, in “Fear and Trembling” took the story to point to a “leap of faith.” I can’t argue against the importance of the story. Abraham agrees to do the unthinkable because God told him to. We like to know why Abraham agreed. The writer of Hebrews gives an answer— but a rational justification doesn’t quite give the full picture I think.

But I am more interested with Isaac. Commentators differ, but it is pretty clear that Isaac was most likely a teenager or a young adult. And Abraham? Well, he was old. Really old. In the story in Genesis 22 it states that Abraham left his servants behind and went up the mountain with Isaac alone.

Isaac almost certainly was a willing party. It became clear to him, eventually, that there was no sacrifice except for himself. Isaac could have run, easily outrunning his father. He could have fought back, easily overpowering Abraham. But he didn’t. He allowed himself to be tied up. He may have even helped his dad place himself on the altar.

Why would he do that? I don’t think he did it as an act of obedience to God. It could be, but Isaac is not used as the ultimate example of faith and devotion to God, Abraham is.

Abraham was devoted to God, but Isaac was devoted to his dad. That has a beauty to it, but a weighty thought for a dad.

As a parent involved in missions, I recall back in 2004 when my wife and I acted on our calling and got on a plane to go to the Philippines. We brought our three children with me. Our two youngest— ages 7 and 5— had no idea where we were going. They just went willingly where we went. In a three month period, we went from a very nice house in the suburbs, to sharing one room in a relatives house in the US, to sharing a tiny place in the international dorm of a seminary in the Philippines. Over the next few years, our children were bullied by kids who saw our children as “foreign.” They grew up to feel like outsiders wherever they live. All three of them had atopic dermatitis— possibly triggered by the air pollution problems here. None have died, praise God. Two of three are over their physical problems.

Maybe their living in a different country helped them. Maybe they are better for the experience. I would like to think so, but I don’t know. We are not privy to the results of paths not taken.

But that is not the point. We came here because of God… but they didn’t. They came because of us.

That is a burden. Abraham in the end did not sacrifice Isaac. I do wonder how that affected their relationship. Did it strengthen it? Did it weaken it? I don’t know, but it certainly changed it.

To me, the most interesting thing regarding the Akedah, the binding of Isaac, was that he was a willing party. He did it not for God but for his dad. More than interesting, though— as a dad, it is scary.

Two Missions Quotes from Miriam Adeney

“In the richer Gulf countries the gruntImage result for miriam adeney work is done by foreigners. Sometimes 80 percent of the labor force comes from outside. The Philippine economy is set up to facilitate overseas employment. Without enough jobs at home, there is a push to work in richer countries and send back foreign exchange.

Many Filipino university graduates take jobs as maids or nannies if they are women, or as construction workers if they are men. In the homes where they work they risk sexual abuse. On job sites they risk injuries. Legal protection is rare, and medical help for foreign labor is unreliable.

Meanwhile, back in the Philippines they have left their parents and brothers and sisters, and often wives and husbands and children too. Witness to local Muslims is illegal, and in countries like Saudi Arabia even Christian worship is banned. Yet many Filipinos have grown in their faith in this hard setting. For some nominal Christians it has been a wake-up call. They are stressed. They are spiritually starving. To help them, multilevel discipleship training programs have been developed on the spot.

Others came prepared to witness in spite of the risk. Back home there are at least ten Philippine agencies that provide mission training for workers going abroad. On the field such laborers share their faith with office mates or house mates who show interest. And they sing. Whenever there is a lull, a Filipino sings. If he or she is a believer, Christian lyrics bubble up.

          -Miriam Adeney in “Kingdom Without Borders” chapter 1.


“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

         -Miriam Adeney  (Don’t know the source)

What Makes the Holy Bible Holy?

So it started with a shared media content thing on FB. Some preacher was arguing that we should not simply go to church with a Bible app on our cellphones. We should bring our (paper) Bibles because, “It is called ‘The Holy Bible’ not ‘The Holy Cellphone.'”

I am sure there is a great name for this

Image result for sacred scripture

logical fallacy, but I simply can’t pull it out. To be really parallel, this preacher should have said something like “Is it holy cellphone or holy paper?” With that the argument would have fallen apart, I think. But it does beg the question of what makes the Holy Bible holy.

<I must add that I struggle with the concept of “holy.” I come from an arm of Christianity that tends to downplay “holy.” In recent years I have been part of churches that have used their sanctuary (‘holy gathering place’) on weekdays as transient lodging, school assemblies, a computer shop, and a gymnasium. We also don’t really use symbols (icons and the like) that much in a way that shows high respect as if we consider them holy. Some of this comes from a restorationist thread that seeks to recapture some essence of the primitive church. The early church met in houses, schools, fields, and caves. It also had few symbols that were highly revered. On the other hand, Christianity has its roots in Judaism, and Judaism embraced many things as holy, sacred, set apart. I won’t try to reconcile this here. But I will note it for those who may come from a different tradition who would then struggle to see MY struggle.>

Option #1. The Holy Bible is holy because of its material form. This is the argument of the preacher at the beginning of this post, I think. The Bible in paper form is the Holy Bible. However, in a cellphone it is something less. This doesn’t make sense to me. An alternate version of this might be that the Bible makes its medium holy. Thus, the paper form of the Bible is holy because it is made holy by the message that is on it. I suppose I am okay with this…. but in the case of the preacher mentioned, by the same logic the cellphone with a Bible app on it would indeed now be holy.

Attaching holiness to the material form has a long tradition, and I don’t really want to challenge it all that much. In Rabinical Judaism, Islam, and Sikhism (among others) special behavior is given to their holy books (or scrolls) that is meant to remind the faithful of the holiness of their texts. In some cases that means that some forms are treated as extra special. The scroll torahs are kept in the ark in the synagogue and are given a certain sacred honor that contrasts the same text on a computer screen. (The Decalogue on stone tablets is given greater honor than the same text on electronic tablets.) In this case, the holiness seems to be more symbolic. One symbolically treats a text as especially holy in one form in certain settings as a reminder of the sacredness of the work in a more general setting.

This symbolic treatment may be a mechanism for struggling between ancient faith and modern technology. In the past, ancient holy texts were rare and difficult to obtain. The rarity made it easier to blur the line between the holiness of a Scripture and the holiness of the form in which the Scripture is presented. But with the printing press and, more recently, mass printing, and electronic media, it has become much harder to ignore the fact that the medium and holy texts are not the same thing.

Option #2. The language of Scripture is holy. This seems like a bit of a strawman today, but at one time this was much more highly regarded. Koine Greek was at one time theorized to be a special “holy” form of Greek. The same is true of Biblical Hebrew. Some saw the Bible as only appropriately holy if it is written in Latin or Greek. While Jews created the Septuagint (Greek translation of Hebrew and Aramaic Scriptures), they also utilized the original language of writing as one criterion for determining the canonicity of a text. The problem with this from a Christian perspective was that the books in the Bible were written in the vernacular of the people, and the New Testament writers were quite comfortable with using the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible. There seems to be no “holy language.”

I suppose calling this a strawman is too strong. KJV-only people see the language as linked to its holiness. To translate it to another language or dialect is somehow to move it away from “the Real Bible.” Many Muslims follow the same logic with al Quran. For these people, they establish a clear line of separation between the Quran and books that contain the message of the Quran translated into other languages. Sanskrit is the language of the early Holy Scriptures of Hinduism, and the dominant liturgical language, but I don’t know to what extent they see their translations of their Scriptures as less holy or not. My ignorance in this area goes to other religions as well.

Holy language can also be related to seeing a Scripture where the individual words of the text is deemed holy. It is hard, after all, to take the exact words as holy if one accepts as holy translation out of original languages. Now of course many groups may believe that the very words of the original text are from God while still not placing unique holy value on them. While those who take a dictation or recitation or “verbal plenary inspiration” view of their holy writs may be more likely to see the individual words as holy, they may not and see the issue more about authority. For example, the exact wording of John 3:16 in the original Greek may be deemed as critical for proper interpretation of the message, while still not seeing the exact word placement as uniquely holy.

Option #3. The message of Scripture is holy. With this view, God’s message is holy not because of the language it is in, or the medium in which it is channeled, but because it is the message of God to us. Since I see no evidence that God is “anti-technology,” and I believe it is equally clear (from Babel and Pentecost) that God does not idealize a mono-lingual mankind, I believe that the meaning of Scripture is what is critical and is what can best be understood as holy. It is the meaning authored by God that makes it holy.


To some extent, I think it is good for us to dwell on whether we treat the Holy Bible in too flippant of a manner. Some religious groups, Muslims being a good example, see in Christians’ apparent flippant treatment of the physical, paper, form of the Bible evidence of our lack of respect for our holy text. I think that is worth dwelling on. At the very least, a greater reverence on the Bible in physical form may remind us to revere its message. However, this seems to me to be a less important way to demonstrate holiness.

  1. The most important way we revere the Bible, treat it as holy, is to recognize that its message is authoritative in our lives. To recognize the message of the Bible is special, set apart from all other messages, is to obey that message. This is a major way in which all of us fail to treat the Bible as holy— failing to live based on its message.
  2. The second, almost equal way of treating the Bible as holy, is to make a clear demarcation between the message of Holy Bible, and our interpretation of Scripture. When we treat our interpretation of Scripture as equal to the text itself, we certainly demean God’s message. This is a major sin I see with all too many people who preach the word.
  3. The third area that comes to mind is the abusive language many latch onto in terms of translation. I see this in terms of the KJV controversy especially. I was raised up in a KJV-mostly church, but we did not disrespect other translations. Today there are groups that like to define the NIV as standing for “New Infernal Version.” To link the message of God with Satan may express emotionally their distaste for the NIV translation, but it also demeans God’s word— or more specifically God’s Holy Message to us.

On this last point, there is room for disagreement… for argument. There are better translations and there are translations that need improvement. There are issues.

  • Should “The Message” be seen as version of The Holy Bible, or a flexible paraphrase, or even a running commentary?
  • Should translation be word-for word, meaning focused, or some sort of “dynamic equialence.”
  • Is the move to translate the Bible in a more gender-neutral way good or bad? (Many places, English kind of forces a gender that was not in the original. On the other hand, sometimes gender is clearly identified in the original texts.) Is the move towards gender-neutral language giving in to ‘political correctness’ or a good contextualization.
  • At the other end of things, does the ESV translate in a manner that reinforces the sexist views of its translators… or not?

We can go on and on. Good translation is important, but when we demonize (sometimes literally) a certain translation in an attempt to be faithful to God’s message, are we ultimately desecrating it?

Rizpah– A Short Reflection

She stayed when others ran away. She stayed while others mocked and derided. She stayed while others (filled with shame perhaps?) stayed on the periphery and then snuck off. A man hung above her… and he was not alone. Her son did no wrong. He died because of the sins of others. He died because of political expediency. He died because of what he represented, not for what he did.

And the man was not alone. 0x0_10756834There were others with the condemned man. Were they innocent or were they guilty? It is not really for us to say. But even if they were guilty of wrongdoing, that hardly allows those directly or indirectly  involved with their executions to walk away hands washed of all responsibility.

She stays there… the mother. She will be faithful when no one else is. She will honor as others heap dishonor. One day she, whose own past behavior was questioned,  will be vindicated. This woman of low estate will bring even the mighty to self-doubt.

And one day, she will be honored in a manner that few have. But she did not do it because of that. Her actions came from a mother’s love— and because it was right.

-II Samuel 21:1-14

An additional website that relates to this story, and speaks of the Jewish practice of “shmirah,” is “Rizpah, Guardian of the Dead

The Question of Prisoner #109104

For fun, I guess, I Googled “Prisoner 109104.” Somehow the first word, ‘prisoner’ was ignored and the focus was on the number. The various iterations came up with the top search results being that earlier this year the the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the New Orleans Pelicans by the score of 109 to 104. 

I was hoping to find a result

pointing to Viktor Frankl. He was a psychologist who lived from 1905-1997. He was a prisoner in the German concentration camp system (he was moved around a few times) until he was liberated by Allied forces in 1945 (most of his family, including his wife, were not so fortunate). He served as a physician and as a specialist in “psychohygiene” to help prisoners deal with their shock and grief.

After the war he wrote of his experiences. In his time in one of the more horrible and unjust settings one could imagine, he noted those prisoners who thrived and those who faded. He recognized that people who felt they had something to live for did better than those who did not. Out of this came his most famous book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

In his later psychological work, Frankl was known to often ask his clients an interesting question. The question was:


That sounds a bit harsh, and arguably it may be a bit too direct to be appropriate for most. However, written text fails in that it misses the context of the question, the body language, and voice intonation. It also does not take into account that it was spoken by a man who lived in a place with seemingly NO HOPE, and yet did not succomb to that hopelessness.

It is a good question. I went through a time of deep sadness many years ago, perhaps even (undiagnosed) clinical depression, where I thought about ending my life. Why did I not? As a Christian it might be tempting to say that it was because of God. If I was from a different religious tradition within Christianity, I may have thought not to end things because of fear of hellfire. But I did not, because I did not believe that. If God damned us for wasting the gift of life, all of us could be found guilty to a greater or lesser extent. Much of our lives are wasted.  God’s forgiveness to those who trust in Him is beyond our imagining.

It was that same trust that meant that I knew God’s love to be with me even if I disappointed Him. God WAS the reason that I knew that my time of sadness would eventually pass. I was not in free-fall without a safety net to catch me. So God was part of the reason that I kept going… but was not the only reason, and maybe not even the main reason.

What kept me enduring was family. I knew that there was nothing I could say and nothing I could write that would make this okay with my parents. (This was before I was married.) To take my life would have been a monstrous evil– burden– to place on them. I could not do that.

Some say suicide is selfish. In a way it is— but it is also a failure to recognize a greater meaning or purpose that transcends the momentare feelings of hopelessness.

I suppose that is part of the reason I love the book of Ecclesiastes. It honestly addresses the issues of meaning and hopelessness. I have heard many say that Ecclesiastes has two sections— a Wrong View section (most of the book) and a Right View section (the very end of the book). It sometimes makes me wonder if these people have actually read the book. It honestly addresses the mistaken purposes or hopes that people base their lives on, whether it be on popularity, power, pleasure, wealth or other things. Addressing the vain-ness of these pursuits is thoroughly accurate. They are indeed chasing after the wind.

Integrated into the entire sermon, not just the final two verses, are two answers that the writer wants us to take away from it:

      1.  Fear God (and in so doing keep His commandments)

       2.  Find joys in the seemingly meaningless thing that constitutes one’s life.

We live in a time when more and more people question having a purpose in life worth living for. According to Befrienders Worldwide (, suicide rates have increased 60% over the last 45 years. Considering that world population has also increased greatly during the same period, there is clearly a huge increase in actual suicides. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2020, a suicide will occur once every 20 seconds. Since there is about 20 attempted suicides for each “successful” one, I guess that means that by 2020 there will be approximately one suicide attempt every second (nearing 100,000 attempts a day, and over 30,000,000 per year). 

As Christians, the hope and purpose that we have for the people of the world is NOT cool and uplifting songs. It is not Christian self-help. We have revelation of God (our Creator, our Designer) of both His benevolent intent for us eternally, and His desire to give us both joy and meaning now. We also have socialization— family— of a community of faith that contrasts the growing alienation in the world. We, as the church, should not underestimate this.

I would not be as blunt as Viktor Frankl in asking “Why do you not commit suicide?” but it is still a good question.