Albus Dumbledore, John Piper and Our WORDS

men with compound bow

 

 

When I was little, I talked all the time. On walks with grandma through the woods, I’d run ahead and turn and turn, mesmerized by the festival of the forest. Everything I saw I told her about as if she were blind. After humoring me for long enough, grandma would squeeze my hand as we poked past crimson red cardinals and cobalt blue jays, and say sweetly, “Sometimes, dear, it is best to keep our words inside.”

 

My big brother was a little less kind. Having had enough of me and my annoying every day questions, he brought me close and let me in on a big secret. It was one that mom and dad wouldn’t dare tell me. It would scare me too much.

 

“When we’re born,” he’d whisper, his eyebrows raised, “we are given a certain amount of words. If you talk too much, like you do, you’re going to run out of them. You won’t be able to talk ever again.” And then he’d point at his moving silent mouth. “Ever again.”

 

Sometime between this harmless sibling prank and my loving, but tired, grandmother, I learned how to watch what I said. I learned that there is virtue in being slow to speak, because words are not just expressions- they are expressions received. If they are laced in barbed-wire, they will cut. If they are impulsive, rash, hasty, they run the risk of being too raw and blunt and you may not even believe in them after a moment’s thought. And I knew that this wasn’t just for my own right conduct, but for the fact that in dark moments when things feel tender and very vulnerable, words can hurt, they can pluck at every vein in a heart.

 

I also learned that depending upon who you are, words weigh more. The prophet holding a sign on a street corner could be laughed off and forgotten, but the words of a pastor must enter and interrogate your mind, sterilizing the sin out of you.

 

I love the last thing Albus Dumbledore ever said to Harry:

 

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”

 

While wreckage was still cracking and the fires were still smoldering, John Piper decided it best to drop a tweet into the feeds of his 300,000 + followers. He quoted the Bible to tell everyone that God had done this before, and it was on purpose. He left no explanation because, of course, you are only allowed 140 characters and it was better to get the truth shipped out fast even if meant no room for bubble wrapping.

 

piper-tweet-screen-shot-2013-05-20-at-11-58-46-pm

 

Now, I don’t agree with John Piper’s theology at all. I don’t think God pressed his finger into Oklahoma and twisted it through homes and pulverized small children. But then again, I am not a theologian and I’m not talking about theology.

 

What I am talking about are words and their limitless power. Their ability to soften things and encourage one another. The way they can shine a light in the shoving darkness.

 

And also, their ability to take the knife and twist it. To sprinkle salt in the wounds. To step into someone’s grieving process and take away their ability to be mad at God. To interrupt a survivor’s private pain and rob them of the time taken to sit in the quiet and hold the loved ones they have left without being bothered by their favorite author/pastor telling them that God sent the twister.

 

I felt the same way last week when my pastor said something that sent me running out the church in tears. Words and body language, inside a quick puncture of a moment, made it clear that gay people will find no place here. My mom and I lamented over this, not for us, but for the families of gay folks in the church and for closeted gay kids and for the gay couple looking for a church home in their new neighborhood. Words carry weight. They injure.

 

But they can also mend.

 

They can be in a quote that a broken hearted mama hears and wraps her arms around like a buoy out at sea. They could be the one thing that carried her and her husband through the darkest days of their life. They could come in a whisper and a hug, through a phone call from far away, or through their favorite pastor’s twitter account.

 

To be able to speak is a privilege and a responsibility. To be able to speak from a balcony is something not to be taken lightly at all. You are one hundred times more responsible for weighing out your words before you broadcast them to the world. Furthermore, if they aren’t even your words, but the holy words, well, that’s something else entirely. That’s abuse.

 

The use of “holy words” should be taken with a kind of caution that checks and rechecks over and over until they are sure that their delivery will not strike at the hearts exposed. You should think about whether your intention is to make a point or provide relief, because in the darkest of moments the very last thing the world needs is a pastor taking scripture and flinging it out like an arrow.

 

Pastors, your words carry weight. You are responsible for them. For their correctness. For their sensitivity. For the wounds they inflict.

 

And if you can’t manage that, if you can’t apply the gentle words of my grandmother, then maybe it’s time to step away from the conversation altogether.

 

RR

~


What is your reaction to Piper’s tweet? Do you think I’m off base?

As always, you can disagree, but do so respectfully.

  • I am amazed at how so many of the “leaders” of the church understand so little about grace. Thanks so much for posting this.

    • registeredrunaway

      I’m amazed that they don’t pause before their 300,000+ followers and THINK that mayyyyybbeee this isn’t the Best time. Maybe I should just tweet out my condolences.

      Thanks for visiting here and leaving a comment!

  • I’m pretty sure he’s way off base. As I’ve grown in my faith and my knowledge of who God is I’ve come to believe that He is not this vengeful God who sends a horrific F5 to demolish people’s lives because of gay marriage. Yeah, I saw that one last night. I know God that He’s loving, holy and truthful but to shred lives and kill people because of sin. NO, not my God. Piper and his cronies are way off base.

    • registeredrunaway

      Thank you Bethany! I can’t imagine my Jesus Christ taking away a child from his mother in the most brutal of ways because he is pissed off at us. It runs counter to my faith. To my belief in God’s love and redemption for all of his children. And it breaks my heart every time I see him sit atop his twitter account and send short, curt, tweets about how gay folks (like myself) are responsible for every disaster zone. Growing up, I heard Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell say that and it traumatized me.

      Thank you for your words here. Even though I know many Christians reject what Piper said, and has said over and over, it helps just to see it written out like that.

  • i appreciate your post, but in the end believe TWEETS are a very limited BUT dangerous communication as 140 characters cannot capture our heart and intent on such a big matter.

    personally i am not a big John Piper follower and tend to travel a different frame of thinking BUT I do not see this evil intent that many seem to apply to his tweet.

    I believe the cold hard truth of Oklahoma is the cold harsh truth of the story of Job. Job loses everything and mourns his loss, but stays faithful through tragedy though he is tested harshly by God and tempted by Satan.

    Job came through this horrific event in his life to come out on the other side finding comfort in God and a life restored. In this way, Job may be a very fitting analogy for Oklahoma. A tragedy beyond compare BUT the challenge will to remain faithful and trust in God during this horror.

    The prayer of Job is in many ways the prayer of those in Oklahoma. Neither understands why such tragedy has happened to them and it is simply a horror hard to imagine.. but just like Job we all need to trust in the same God to deliver us to a better day.

    I believe God answered Job’s prayers and I believe God answers the prayers of those in Oklahoma.

    Again, like John Piper or not.. ONE 140 character TWEET should not be seen as so outrageous when looking at the whole story of Job and the terrible possible parallel to the experience of those in OK.

    • registeredrunaway

      I appreciate your comment!

      I see what you’re saying in that selecting a verse from the story of Job he is expressing a call to stay faithful even when things go horribly wrong. I get that. My problem is that Piper has a history of blaming natural disasters on different things and people, specifically, gay folks like myself. It would be one thing if he shot this tweet out and he hadn’t had a past with saying inflammatory things over social media about God throwing around wrath, but he does. Furthermore, it was very insensitive to those still searching for their loved ones. And though the verse didn’t say it directly, looking at how Piper views the weather as the way God goes about his wrath, it was pretty clearly implied that God sent the storm. That this was some sort of punishment for something.

      • I appreciate you taking time to reply to me.

        I have a difficult time with the calvinist view on life as I believe we are blessed with free will and we live in a world broken by sin where horrible things happen to the just and unjust. that seems cold to say but is true and it is biblical.

        i am just trying to separate those tweets from the emotion of the day. i think it is best to pray for and mourn for those suffering in OK and let the few tweets out there that don’t hit us right not distract us from what is right.

        can i ask you on a separate point, your views on being gay. I personally believe this is a wrong lifestyle but I know you of course disagree. Can you explain to me with or without scripture why you believe this is not a sin as traditionally taught in the bible. I am not judging you but simply do not understand the argument for gay relationships. By me saying I believe it is wrong is not in my opinion an old outdated view on gay relationships but I believe is founded in logic and scripture. By saying this I am not picking a fight but am sincerely curious of the argument that is pro gay.

        Thank you again for taking time to reply to me. I appreciate and respect you in this dialogue.

        -Jeff

        • Ford1968

          Hi Jeff –

          I think you are absolutely right that now is the time to pray and comfort the victims. Thank you for that.

          As for the issue of the sinfulness of homosexuality…I won’t speak for RR, but I’m happy to share my perspectives, and I’d love to hear more about yours. There have been volumes written on this topic, so please forgive the length of this response.

          From a theological perspective, there are a ton of resources out there that articulate both gay-affirming and gay-disapproving positions. Google “clobber passages” and you will get a host of hits that examine biblical references to homosexuality.

          Here’s a good affirming one: http://ecinc.org/clobber-passages/
          Here’s a good recap of traditional beliefs: http://www.worldmag.com/2013/04/the_bible_and_homosexuality).

          For me there are a few clear things about the clobber passages (and not all of my gay-affirming friends agree with me here). First, the best we can say about Paul is we don’t know if he would have affirmed covenant gay relationships; I think it’s too big a presumption to say that he would. Second, every time homosexuality is mentioned, it is in a negative way. Third, contextual care has to be taken – especially with Romans 1, which is problematic in myriad ways for both those who affirm and disapprove of homosexuality.

          Personally, I don’t believe the bible proscribes homosexuality any more than it endorses slavery. The bible has to be taken as a whole; you can’t pluck a few verses out and declare moral certainty. The pro-slavery churches that formed the SBC had the preponderance of scripture to support their Christian position. The abolitionists only had Galatians 3:28 which, arguably, has absolutely nothing to do with slavery. Over time, the Church has come to recognize that dominating another human being is not aligned with the gospel; the bible was affirming the morality of slavery in a much different cultural context.

          In the same way, I believe that Paul’s prohibitions on homosexuality refer to practices specific to his time and place. I don’t think any of us would affirm pederasty or ritualized sex. So the question becomes: are committed, loving, monogamous relationships between people who are gay aligned with the gospel. I believe they are.

          Here are a few key points to consider. First, is being gay a choice? I know for me it wasn’t (and I tried desperately not to be gay). If homosexuality is innate, we need to consider what the bible says about humanity and divinity – we are all children of God, created in his image. When it comes to my sexuality, through study and prayer, I have come to accept myself as wonderfully made, not deeply flawed.

          Second, are all gay people gifted with celibacy? I don’t believe so (as evidenced by multiple scandals). I understand Genesis 2:18 – It’s not good for man to be alone. While I believe that some people – both straight and gay – are called to celibacy, I don’t believe that’s true for all people. Celibacy can be a beautiful offering of one’s sexuality to God; I don’t want to dismiss it. But I think that for most of us, God intends us to know and be known by one another. Romantic love is the most intimate form of relationship.

          Third, do gay relationships separate us from or bring us closer to God? Committed relationships are not simply an erotic expression of homosexuality any more than straight relationships are an erotic expression of heterosexuality. Intimate relationships require selfless, agape love. The discipline required for intimate relationships are a true reflection of the gospel. I understand the metaphor of the Church as Christ’s bride; I sacrifice for my husband daily just as he does for me. I believe intimate relationships can bring us closer to God – I don’t believe they are a sin.

          I’ll presume that when you say disapproving of homosexuality is “founded in logic” you are referring to the procreative nature and/or physicality of sexual intercourse. I think there’s another logic contributing to the cultural shift. I think the reason so many Christians are reexamining their beliefs about homosexuality is that the traditional beliefs are at odds with their lived reality. When they know people who are gay who do not fit the stereotypes, or when they know couples in loving, committed relationships, their conception of sin becomes illogical to them.

          I know this is a long response, but there’s so much more to say. I’d really like to know more about you and your perspectives. Do you identify as straight or gay? If straight, have you had the opportunity to know any people who are gay – especially Christians? I’m happy to continue this dialog either here or offline if you have any interest.

          All my best to you
          Ford

          • Ford,

            thanks for your post, i have not been ignoring it just in the middle of a very busy day.. and you gave me a lot to look over. I appreciate that.

            I will try to reply to you over the next 24 hours

            Jeff

          • Ford, I do have time to reply and why I have more traditional views on the gay lifestyle.

            First of all, I am a big fan of the C.S. Lewis book ‘Mere Christianity’. What I like best about this book is that he argues correctly IMO that there is a God through logic and common sense without even opening a bible. C.S Lewis is amazing in his defense of why there is a God, there is only one God and he is the God of our bibles.

            Then we take our Bibles including many of the books of the Old Testament that at best leave me scratching my head. It is like Braveheart on Steroids.

            But I am currently reading through my Bible this year (my second time) from cover to cover and find continuity in these pages. Though culturally much is hard for me to understand, I believe the common story is a God who loved and cared for his people and was faithful to his people and forgiving even when they were far from him.

            Next I add to this pursuit of God puzzle the Ten Commandments, and the Laws and punishments found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Much of it makes wonderful sense, while other punishments.. not so much. I remember reading about a guy who collected firewood on the Sabbath and was STONED. Now I grew up in a logging community in Northern Wisconsin and if this law was still on the books there would be a lot of DEAD LOGGERS. 🙂

            Of course the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament is easier to handle, BUT plenty is left up to us again to interpret for ourselves.. like divorce. But still much easier on the brain and heart than the Old Testament.

            So we all have much to process and make sense of, but it does not leave the laws of God to become ambiguous and ultimately relative to whatever we each choose is right in our own hearts. AND.. I do not believe we are more enlightened now than we were 2000, or 100 , or even 10 years ago. Like Solomon wrote often, there is nothing new under the sun.

            So where does this leave us on tough topics of debate today? For me it brings me back to Mere Christianity. Christianity (though I do not understand it all) makes sense. My belief that there is a God makes sense. I believe in a BIG BANG theory, meaning God spoke and BANG creation started. I believe this because I believe creation requires a creator that exists outside of the boundaries of man which are time and space… and he must be omniscient and omnipotent. Missing any of these pieces to the creation puzzle and creation does not happen. BUT I DIGRESS..

            My point is in a Mere Christianity + believing the Bible is truly the word of God I come to my conclusions about right and wrong behavior. Of course as they say .. opinions are like noses, everyone has one.. AND SOME ARE BIGGER THAN OTHERS.

            So here I go.. I believe the gay lifestyle is not what God intends because
            1. sexually we are not created to work this way. Not just procreation but the true pleasure of sex as intended by God is designed to be between a man and a woman.
            2. While the Bible regarding issues like slavery seem to be false.. I believe this was a cultural truth of the times and was addressed because of this. To be honest I do not still understand it, but I don’t believe I understand what slavery meant in the Old Testament v the New Testament v today. Simply put I just don’t understand. BUT.. when discussing homosexual desires in the Bible there was NEVER a moment it was ever addressed in a positive choice.
            3. Jesus never spoke about a man leaving his father and mother for another man… not because he just spoke flippantly to the common lifestyle choice but because this IMO is not what God intends for the best of mankind.
            4. Men loving other Men.. I have some great friends and I love them like a brother, but this of course is different than Gay love. To love another man and for them to be your best friend is fine, but IMO this should not cross the sexual boundaries.
            5. I WAS BORN GAY ( I had no choice ) – I obviously cannot speak to this, but do not believe this is what God desires for men and women.

            So there you have it. You are probably cringing at my blurb more than if I said I was going out to perform some sin sacrifice of a bull for the sin of flatulence in accordance to some Leviticus law followed by doing #2 in accordance with Deut 23:12-14. eeewwwwwww!

            Though I have strong feelings and opinions I do not hate, nor do I judge. Judging is what God does and he does it fairly as this task is above my pay grade.

            You probably read this and think I have heard this all before and you probably have, but I have to be honest in what I believe. I appreciate you giving the opportunity to share my beliefs and I respect you for sharing yours. My opinions are no more ignorant any more than yours are enlightened. In the end God’s truth is the only truth, and the pursuit of God is the most important pursuit in this life. May God bless you on your journey.

            Blessings

            Jeff

        • Ford1968

          Hiya Jeff –

          Thank you so much for the thoughtful (and entertaining!) response. How about one more cycle?…

          Before I respond, I have to tell you how much I appreciate the way that you engage in the conversation. We have serious disagreement, but you express yourself with a ton of grace. And, no, I don’t have the sense that you are judging me at all. Thanks for that.

          You say: “I do not believe we are more enlightened now than we were 2000, or 100 , or even 10 years ago.” I don’t agree. Tradition is important to be sure, and should not be dismissed lightly. But keep in mind that the traditional understanding for 1500 years was that the sun revolved around the earth. We’re objectively more enlightened today; we understand our world in a much different way than the biblical authors did. Our traditions and our scriptural interpretations have changed over time as our understandings change.

          As for your five bullets:
          1 – I think you are expressing the “ick factor” of gay sex. God engineered our bodies beautifully. (Sorry RR – I’m risking getting overly graphic here). I’m guessing you understand how one part of the male anatomy expels waste and also produces sexual gratification. You may not realize that there are also pleasure centers in the prostate gland. That’s why many straight couples also incorporate this type of sexual expression into their moments of intimacy.

          2, 3 – In the same way that biblical slavery is not the same thing as antebellum slavery in America, biblical marriage bears very little resemblance to marriage as we know it today. There was no consideration of love or mutual respect; women were legally bound to men as property through a marriage contract so as to establish inheritance lineage. Culturally, marriage just worked differently. The marriage to which Jesus referred was different than marriage today. Does that put modern marriage outside of God’s will?

          You are correct that there is no positive mention of same sex relationships (although some people would point you to Jonathan & David and Ruth & Naomi); likewise, there is no negative mention of the institution of slavery (at least to my knowledge). Making an argument from silence is intellectually suspect and could be done by those arguing either the affirmation or the disapproval position.

          4 – I wonder if you aren’t projecting your own experience as a straight man onto others? David and Jonathan kissed passionately. Did that cross a line?

          5 – Whether or not being gay is innate is a key concern in this conversation. I’d seriously encourage you to consider the implications to your position if being gay is an immutable characteristic. You don’t believe being gay is God’s will? OK…so…what’s a person who is gay supposed to do? Stop being gay? That’s not going to happen. So then what? Does God intend for people who are gay to live in chaste singleness for their lifetime? Some people believe this – I don’t. If you’re serious about the trying to understand this issue and feel comfortable in your position, you can’t simply dismiss being gay as “not God’s will”.

          I’ll leave you with two more thoughts. First, you might want to consider changing the way you talk about the issue of homosexuality. The phrase “the gay lifestyle” is freighted; it implies that being gay is a depraved choice, and that phrase is often used to condemn all gay people as sexually promiscuous. I think you’re probably better served by saying something like you disapprove of “erotic homosexual behavior”.

          Also, if you have any interest in doing further reading, I’d suggest a book called “Over Coffee” by Dave Thompson. It does a good job of articulating an accommodation position. I’d also suggest reading Steve Chalke’s recent article called “A Matter of Integrity” (http://www.oasisuk.org/inclusionresources/Articles/MOI). Both are really quick reads – less than half an hour.

          Jeff, thanks again for engaging in the dialog. I truly appreciate it.
          I, too, wish you blessings on your journey!

          Ford

          • Ford, thank you also for your continued discussion on this issue. I think we both have stated our views clearly, but I just wanted to follow up with a few of your responses.
            1.Again, I believe it is very clear we are not sexually created this way. The way you described without being graphic is a high health risk method of pleasure and not the way we are designed. It is easy to google to topic to find details on these very serious risks. Here is one link http://www.webmd.com/sex/anal-sex-health-concerns from webmd, but I am sure you are aware of this.
            2. I do believe modern marriage if this means gay marriage is clearly outside God’s will if not all by itself the unnatural intimacy as noted in item number 1.

            With regards to Jonathan & David or Ruth & Naomi there is never any indication of a same sex attraction beyond that they loved each other. To love someone of the same sex and to be intimate as in a marriage are two entirely different things.
            3. David and Jonathan kissed and wept together.. that is all it says. There is nothing in the !st Samuel 20 passage that indicates and they laid down and had a brokeback mountain moment. They loved each other like a brother. The bible often shares scriptures of a kiss without it being a sexual intimacy connection.

            In Luke 7:36-50 I believe Mary Magdalene was the woman who with great emotion kissed Jesus feet and wiped them with her hair.. this of course was not a sexual attraction but rather a deeply emotional expression to Jesus from a woman with a repentant heart.

            The Naomi and Ruth possibly gay reference too is beyond conjecture. They loved each other very much but if they were gay then the rest of the book of Ruth kind of crumbles as this would imply she left her lover Naomi to marry Boaz to procreate. There is NEVER an indication of intimacy in the book of Ruth.

            4. David and Jonathan kissed and wept together.. 1 Sam 20:41 gives NO indication this was gay passionate intimacy, it is the love of family. They were like brothers.. The bible never avoids recording sexual intimacy and again it is pretty wild conjecture to imply David and Jonathan were intimate.

            For me to reject the notion of gay intimacy in the case of Ruth and Naomi or David and Jonathan is not simple denial to support my views. It is again for me the logical reading of scriptures but to imply gay relationships is IMO a big leap..

            And as we both know the bible does clearly state a case against men desiring other men or women desiring other women. This is not IMO an arbitrary guideline just so God can say NO and smite someone, but it is my belief this is not healthy to have a sexually intimate same sex relationship. As detailed in item number one this type of intimacy contains high risk consequences. It NEVER talks about same sex relationships in a positive light. The passages about burning with desire for those of the same sex IMO does not simply apply to being promiscuous or else it would just say burning with desire outside of marriage. But instead the bible speaks directly to the sin of gay desires that are acted on.

            I do believe in love of others of the same sex, but not as intimate marriage partners. Just a few years ago I lost one of my best friends in life to cancer. I still grieve over losing such a close friend, and I miss him dearly. I even was asked by my friend to give his eulogy. It was an honor.

            5. With reference to how a person is born. with gay feelings. It is not fair for me to say how you feel regarding this topic, and of course know there are others who feel the same way. I cannot tell you no you don’t really feel that way as I am not in your head. I have a comparison from my life that is not a perfect parallel but let me share. I LIKE TO DRINK, I like how it makes me feel as I am someone who struggles with anxiety so it as they say takes the edge off. But it has become a problem in my life to where I should not drink. I do well most times but then WHOOPS I don’t do so well and it has come to the point I KNOW this is not good for me. I know in my heart I should not drink BUT I still desire to. I like the idea of a couple glasses of wine and the feeling that comes with it.. it goes down smoothly, it tastes so good BUT again.. I cannot do this and it is wrong for me even though I desire it.

            Forgive me for this maybe awkward analogy, but the point I am trying to make is.. Just because I desire it does not make it good. In a similar way, this is how I view those like yourself who desire a gay relationship. I don’t doubt this is how you feel, but I do not believe it is a healthy desire.

            With regards to using the phrase gay lifestyle I am sorry that this was offensive. I did not understand (my ignorance) that this implied a sexually promiscuous gay lifestyle. This is not what I intended to imply of yourself or gays in general. I think we both agree that sexually promiscuous as a gay or straight is a shallow pursuit that is harmful to the individuals and society.

            I do live in Minnesota and they recently passed the Gay Marriage Bill and the first Gay marriages will be legal in August. Of course I am sure this is a happy day of approval for yourself, but just being honest it makes me sad. Sad because I believer our society is becoming watered down with relativism where the laws of God are not being honored as a Christian nation.

            Finally with regards to society being more enlightened now than we were in the past. I believe as Jesus taught, and lived out the WORD. He was the word and fulfilled the laws of Moses John 1:1-17. This being said, Jesus did not ADD to the Old Testament he simply and completely fulfilled it. He never spoke to the religious leaders of the day saying.. that was the laws of Moses but NOW things are different because of me. Jesus was a RADICAL LIBERAL when it came to the laws as taught by the Pharisees but was a RIGHT WINGED CONSERVATIVE when it came to God’s never ending truth.

            Whew.. I am long winded. Again, my prayer for both of us is to find truth from our God. That we both would be listening and open to truth and not stick to our guns if persuaded we are wrong or don’t understand.

            I hope you find what I share to be reasonable and fair even if you do not agree with me. I find in today’s society to speak honestly that I believe gay is wrong is branded by a large segment of society as a form of hate and intolerance. This is not true or fair.

            Thanks again for the time to discuss this important topic. I am not sure how this post will be received, but again I am just being honest.

            Blessings

            Jeff

    • I have to interject a critique here about using Job’s story as synonymous for Oklahoma’s tragedy because, frankly, if anyone is going to try use his story as a means of explaining tragedy, you have to consider all parts of the story. That being said, consider this passage at least:

      “11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. 12 And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. 13 And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.” (Job 2:11-13, ESV)

      “And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.” They empathized with Job’s pain, they felt it, they allowed him to yell and cry — his heart desperately needed to.

      If you are someone who believes the “seven days and seven nights” is merely a symbolic representation of the “perfect amount of time needed for grieving” (as the number seven is often used to depict perfection) or if you are someone who literally believes Job and his friends mourned for seven days and seven nights, you can quickly agree that Job and his friends spent a significant amount of time mourning. There is something holy about spending tears after tragedy — simply taking time to mourn the brokenness of the world without interjection or confrontation.

      John Piper’s intentions or theology are beside the point here: he failed to empathize with the mourning in this context, and instead thrust their heads into Scripture when all they really want right now is for someone to just hold them and simply feel their pain — so that they might not feel crushed by it. I certainly don’t believe Piper is honestly wants to hurt people, but if any brother or sister in Christ uses words in a way that causes pain, one must call them out on it. If anyone ministers or “loves” in such a way that brings more suffering, they must realize that is not Christ’s way.

  • I don’t think you are off base at all! Maybe I am being overly optimistic, but I see young Christians (much like yourself) stand up to these kinds of leaders and their detrimental words more and more. I’m convinced that being like Jesus includes standing up to religious leaders who claim to have a monopoly on truth. Which is something Jesus is CONSTANTLY doing in the Gospels. Thank you for your bold words RR!!

  • Pingback: words matter. | the WayWard follower()

  • Matt

    I agree with the message of this post, but we’re all assuming this was Piper’s intentional response to the tornado in Oklahoma. Last I knew, John Piper scheduled his tweets days or more in advance and isn’t actively involved with Twitter throughout the day. That may have changed now that he is retired, but if not, it’s just an ugly coincidence. I also read that tweet was removed shortly after it went live.

  • Great post – powerful and full of grace. Words matter, and words have power. Thankful for how you use yours.

  • Sujith

    Here is a response that i came across form desiring God to this issue. i read your blog and i think its a well written article that communicates strongly a very relevant point of not being careless with words especially if you are in a place of influence in a congregation. http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/those-deleted-tweets

  • fyi, a new tweet by john piper, love him or hate him.. this explains the deleted tweets PLEASE READ AND CONSIDER http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/those-deleted-tweets

    • Ben Funk

      The problem I have with the response from desiringgod.org, and what that response doesn’t mention, is that John Piper doesn’t fully explain his beliefs on these matters. God certainly is compassionate, loving and sovereign. He sent his son to save the earth, not to condemn it and he hears all who call upon his name (I’m paraphrasing). Calvinists, like John Piper, will tell you that God is not the author of sin, yet he wills evil acts such as the Boston bombings and terrible acts of nature such as the Oklahoma tornado. I have a real problem with that theology and I don’t want to get into all the problems here in this response, but the point I want to make is that Piper’s explanation probably wouldn’t have been necessary had he put God’s love and mercy at the forefront of his thoughts rather than his broken theology. God will bring good from all tragedies. We can trust in that, but it gets hard to trust if you believe that he is causing all the horrible things to begin with. Thanks for the posts by the way. Greg Boyd posted this on facebook and that’s how I found it. God bless!

  • I am a Pastor, I disagree with Piper’s theology and approach. I agree with the need to be caring and careful how we present our convictions. First thing is to be as accurate as possible theologically, secondly there is a time and a place to express conflicting unsettling issues that arise as we realize the struggles that each of us deal with. I believe that Jesus is the definitive revelation of the Father and I have not read anywhere in scriptures where He did harm. The only people He got a little testy with were the religious leaders of His day that were misrepresenting the Father to others… i.e. the Pharisees and such. I think God grieves with the families of Oklahoma and elsewhere when pain and suffering occur.

  • Pingback: 2013 in Review » The Registered Runaway()