Here’s a little more leakage – some content from the book I wrote this summer…

Yo, we at war. We at war with terrorism, racism, and most of all, we at war with ourselves. —Kanye West (Jesus Walks)

Tears on the mausoleum floor, blood stains the coliseum doors… —Jay-Z (No Church in the Wild)

If you act like wild animals, hurting and harming each other, then watch out, or you will completely destroy one another. —Paul (Galatians 5.15 GNT)

 * * * * * *


We have a problem.

We don’t do peace very well.

It seems like our default position, our normal, is stress. Like the David Bowie and Queen song says, we are “Under Pressure.”

American culture is and has always been bloody. There is constantly another war we’re fighting. We are violent, aggressive, and we love a good revenge story.

We have a John Wayne image of Jesus. We want Him to be tough and leathery, good with a gun, after all the bad guys, the last man standing.

But Jesus doesn’t sound one bit like this…

I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. (The Shootist, 1976)

Young fella, if you’re looking for trouble, I’ll accommodate ya. (True Grit, 1969)

Out here a man settles his own problems. (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, 1962)

Out here, due process is a bullet! (The Green Berets, 1968)

Don’t say it’s a fine morning or I’ll shoot ya. (McLintock, 1963)

Don’t apologize, it’s a sign of weakness. (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, 1949)

Now you understand. Anything goes wrong, anything at all… your fault, my fault, nobody’s fault… it doesn’t matter… I’m gonna blow your head off. It’s as simple as that. (Big Jake, 1971)

It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside to see our Jesus as a John Wayne character, with a “my gun is bigger than yours” and “the law is on my side” world view.

Is the Kingdom of God anything like a John Wayne movie?

Before you answer that question, take a moment to consider the teaching known as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5.3-12). Here, Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth and the peacemakers will be called the children of God.

Of course, John Wayne isn’t making movies anymore. And we don’t use horses for transportation or carry six-shooters around on our hips…

But maybe we’re still living out “Cowboys vs. Indians” in the modern world.

Do you know where the expression “road rage” originated? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not from China or Norway or Spain. If you guessed it came from the United States of America, you’re right.

We are the kings of escalation.

We fight…

We fight for our pride. We fight for our place.

We fight to protect. We fight to advance.

We fight for ourselves and for our kind.

And something always happens in the process: we exchange peace for whatever it is we’ve been fighting for.

Without peace, we live on edge. This life on the edge causes us to be frazzled, frayed, full of tension and angst.

To put it plainly, we have a problem.

I recently witnessed multiple shouting matches and near-fights at the shopping mall in my community. One of the verbal fights was between pedestrians and the driver of a car looking for a parking spot.

It’s almost as if people are quoting lines from a John Wayne movie to one another:

I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on.

Young fella, if you’re looking for trouble, I’ll accommodate ya.

Out here, due process is a bullet.

And all this because someone cut in line, took your parking spot, looked at you the wrong way…

Talk about first-world problems! Going to the shopping mall is gravy—it’s extra, it’s all bonus, a privilege. I mean, really, it’s a leisure activity. Unless you’re there as a thief or you work at Auntie Anne’s making pretzels, it typically means you have time and money to spare. There are hundreds of thousands of items to choose from at the mall. It even has a “food court” – with more options and calories than anyone could ever need. Most of our malls have movie theaters in them too. See what I’m saying? Leisure activity.

Something about all the stress and angst at the shopping mall struck me as odd. I kept thinking, shouldn’t we be walking in with smiles on our faces? Why all the tension and aggression?

And if that’s what we act like when life is good, how do we behave when things are really challenging? We have a problem!

Of course, we’re not all “throwing down” in mall parking lots. Some of us like to hold it in, but that doesn’t mean we have a greater sense of peace and rest in our lives.

I’m by nature reserved and quiet; it takes me a long time to think about what I want to say. This makes me a terrible trash talker (and by terrible I mean I’m no good at it). Sure, I will think of something great to say, but it’s always hours or even days too late. The only person who ever hears my great comebacks is me.

I used to do this when I worked at the animal hospital. As bad as cat scratches and dog bites are, the real danger came from their owners. Dealing with the people was always a greater challenge than dealing with their pets. People would be rude, insulting, and at times would even threaten us.

One time an angry client yelled “B—-, I’ll rock your world!” at another customer in the lobby because she called him a cruel pet owner. That was weird. Is that even an expression people use? I’ll rock your world? In fact, doesn’t it usually mean something good, like “I will make you amazed” or “this will blow your socks off” or something like that?

Anyway, they kept yelling and threatening each other all the way out to the parking lot, so I called the cops. While the people were having an altercation, their pets stood by calmly. Just another day at the veterinary hospital in Rainier Beach where the pets are fine and the people are out of control.

When someone would say something way out of line, I never had a response. I would always just take it, quietly, with sort of a non-expression on my face. My wheels would be spinning. In that moment, I’d be thinking, “Did they really just say that? Am I the only one here who thinks this is crazy? Who talks like this? What’s going on? Is this a dream? I can’t believe this is happening right now.” Nothing would come out of my mouth, not because I didn’t want to argue or fight or hurl insults back at them, but because I couldn’t think of anything good to say in time.

Then, for the rest of my day, I’d be replaying what they said over and over in my mind. I’d think about it, get mad about it, and work on coming up with some good lines that I should have said (and believe me, I would come up with some doozies). In my mind, the situation that was over and done with hours ago would be escalating. I would actually get more upset after the fact than I was in the moment. Crazy, I know.

The thing is, some of us are trash-talkers in the moment, and some of us are talking trash in our heads hours after the moment. Either way, we’re on edge.

With all the straining and stressing, we’re under constant pressure.

It’s a problem.

Especially for those of us who call ourselves Christians.


Because the way of the Kingdom is not strain and stress.

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, gives us something different. What He gives is counter-cultural. It’s subversive. No “Out here, due process is a bullet” lines from Jesus. This doesn’t look or sound like anything we’re used to hearing or seeing in our culture.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14.47 NLT)

Jesus isn’t just giving us a Yogi Bear T-shirt and lanyard to keep people in the neighborhood from shooting or stabbing us. He’s giving us something greater…


This peace is internal. It’s a treasure contained deep within ourselves. It doesn’t shrink like a cotton T-shirt that has been laundered too many times. It doesn’t fade or fray, or get lost, or donated to the Goodwill.

It is ours to have and to keep. It is God’s gift to us.

The way of the Kingdom is not strain and stress. Instead, God wants us to have peace and rest.


Come back tomorrow for even more leakage. Also – check out yesterday’s post, “Sneak Peek Chapter Leak.”

YOUR TURN: Why do you think most Christians today don’t really accept Jesus’ teaching in the Beatitudes as a way of life?

I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

13 Comments to MORE LEAKAGE

  1. Danielle Pridgen

    I think people don’t really know the bible. A lot of us rely on what we are taught about the bible, rather than learning it, exploring it, experiencing it. And unlike you, a lot of pastors are content with keeping it surfacey. Repeating the same lessons in church, but not being courageous enough to go deeper into the mysteries… So when it comes to strange situations in life, involving conflict or grey areas, we don’t see what the right response could be. We have a hard time applying, “turn the other cheek,” it seems, because we don’t really know what it means. We have a shallow understanding of the beatitudes.. Christianity only works in church settings, not the real world when someone is threatening to “rock your world!!” Lol. And when a believer is only working with maybe 15 of the most popular verses out there, then a whole lot of context is lost… Maybe that has something to do with it?

  2. Bryan Stanton

    Though probably an over simplification, I think we are so enveloped in our modern culture we don’t even recognize the tension you speak of. Constant saturation in media – news, sports, entertainment, etc. – dulls our senses to the contrast of the life of peace Jesus offers. Add to that the never-ending stream of doom and gloom from “Christian” fear-mongers who are more concerned with their rights as Americans than the Great Commission, and we have a church on edge full of Christians on edge in a society on edge. There is a passage in Psalms from The Message translation that I love (sorry, at my desk so I don’t know the exact reference) where the psalmist invites us to “step out of the traffic” – a fitting word picture. Psalm 37 is also a great chapter that speaks to the issue.

    The real tragedy here is that it is the love and peace that comes in knowing Christ that sets us apart from the world, and draws them to us. If it is missing in us and our lives aren’t any different from theirs, why would they want what we have?

  3. I just looked up the verse you were referencing Bryan…

    Attention, all! See the marvels of God! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth, bans war from pole to pole, breaks all the weapons across his knee. “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” —Psalm 46.8-10 MSG

    Love this.

  4. I find this interesting. To me, this is a HUGE biblical dichotomy. WHY? God killed people, ordered wars, and Jesus Himself will slay millions in the end times with a sword from His mouth.

    Not trying to argue, this has always been an issue I have struggled with.

    • Rob – Brian Zahnd suggests 3 options to this question (of an apparent huge biblical dichotomy): 1. We can question the morality of God, 2. We can question the immutability of God, or 3) We can question our understanding of Scripture. He has a post on this (it’s really a summary) here:

      Greg Boyd is currently writing a book on this exact topic called “The Crucifixion of the Warrior God.” I am very much looking forward to this book – Greg is a respected theologian with a strong pacifist-bent. There was a recent flurry of internet reaction to Mark Driscoll’s blog post “Is God A Pacifist”

      Greg Boyd responds to Driscoll’s post in a 3-part series. Here’s a brief quote:

      To prove that “Jesus is not a pansy or a pacifist,” Driscoll by-passes the Gospels and instead cites a passage from Revelation. This is a strategy Driscoll has used before. In an interview in Relevant Magazine several years ago, Driscoll argued that, “In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed.” He went on record as saying that he could worship this image of Jesus because “I could never worship a guy I could beat up.”

      Links to Greg’s posts:

      A few other respected Christian leaders reacted to this idea of the prize-fighting Jesus brandishing a sword… and are featured in this article by Jonathan Merritt:

      And finally, back to Brian Zahnd… he responds to John Piper’s idea that God is glorified by genocide:

      None of these posts may be of interest to you – or they may help you wrestle with the tension of this OT picture we have of God – contrasted with Jesus, the fully-revealed God in the flesh – who appears to have a very different way.

      Ultimately, here’s where I rest: Jesus has the final word – in terms of His teaching, His life, His example. He is the opposite of escalation. He did not resist; He sacrificed self. That’s my God.

      • Danielle Pridgen

        That’s my god too! And although the 3 options you gave were helpful in furthering the matter, your list didn’t include the #1 thing which I believe vanishes the dichotomy… Well, for me at least (because I am a NERD for space, and all things Even Remotely Related to the Cosmos..) The dichotomy is an illusion, simply man’s attempt to find an answer. I can’t see any other reason why a Moral and loving God would allow man’s evil behavior to happen like it does. In my humble quest for the answers, I have determined that God’s Omniscience in simply incomprehensible to man, because it is not logic. It is All Knowing, and not like our thoughts. The scriptures say that His thoughts are not our thoughts, and that his ways are above our ways. I have made the observation that man in our advanced society and intellect, cannot so much as to fathom the scale of even the slightest corner of the Universe.. We make telescopes and then peer deeply into space, we try to describe Time, only to find that it is not a linear progression. And with all of our images of galaxies and black holes, we still cant even see a picture WIDE enough to see the suffering, or growth in our own neighborhoods. Hell, we can’t even see BIG enough to look past our neighbors appearance, as we sit next to them on a train, to see that they are a person, the same as us. And we really know nothing about that person, or their story, or their deeply held beliefs… SO, given our human minds, and our acceptance of God as an Omniscient (All Knowing) presence.. How can we blame ourselves for not Understanding His reasons for making Life the way it is? And we may never comprehend the measure of our God’s capacity for giving & taking Life, but we can certainly know that it is a real Power, for those that believe.

      • After much thought I am at the conclusion that God wants peace and love for the world, however we are inherently sinners.

        God hates sin but loves people. When someone has not accepted the Grace of Jesus dying on the cross God doesn’t see that person but only their sin. Once a person has accepted Grace, God no longer sees sin but He sees His Son.

        God’s creation was perfect until man sinned. Because of that sin, that choice to separate ourselves from God, blood must be spilt so that we can be atoned. That is the only way to escape God’s wrath.

        God loves his creation, God loves everyone in the world but rejection of that love means we deserve God’s wrath and judgement.

        I’m inclined to side with Driscoll, God cannot be a pacifist. God has given everyone an opportunity to escape His wrath but those who continually reject that will feel His wrath in full force. A God that is a pacifist would not have created Hell or the Lake of Fire or Eternal Damnation, whatever your flavor.

        God is so just that on your death bed you can still accept His Grace and spend eternity with Him, no matter what your life looked like previously. I love that, I love how loving He is. But I also love that He is just, He is, as the Bible says, “Faithful and Just.”

        For a long time God’s wrath fell on the majority of His creation because only His chosen people, the Israelites could have there sins atoned. But as John 3:16 states, “God so loved THE WORLD…”

        God, in His faithfulness to creation, gave the whole world an opportunity to have their Sins atoned so long as they accepted a free gift. We now live in that period, from the day Jesus’ blood was spilt until His millennial reign we, at least while we are living, are covered from God’s wrath.

        But understand once the end times come, that wrath will be unleashed on all those who have rejected Him. That is not pacifism.

        Our role in all of this? To preach the Good News, that there is hope and love to anyone who will accept it. I don’t worry about the wrath of God because my hope is in Jesus’ Grace, but I don’t pretend it isn’t there either.

  5. Danielle Pridgen

    Pastor Brian, which version of the Bible would you say that most people are reading as their primary choice these days? I wanted to quote a couple things from scripture, but I wanna make sure i’m reading from the same one most other people are. Language can change things ya know, lol. Does your church recommend any certain one? Mine is NLT, but I have others also.

    • Kinda depends on the “tribe.” The reformed gang really seems to love the ESV. A lot of non-denominational types seem to like the NLT (which is what I use most of the time for its modern language & easy understandability). I’m guessing that the old standard NIV is still the most widely used though.

  6. So I went and took another look at the beatitudes. I took out the second half of each segment- the Promise portion. Just so I could see what these qualities are, which Jesus seemed to promote.

    “Blessed are:
    the poor in spirit,
    those who mourn, 
    the meek, 
    those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 
    the merciful, 
    the pure in heart, 
    the peacemakers, 
    those who are persecuted because of righteousness, 
    “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. For in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

    I wonder if most Christians don’t accept this type of living as the way to live life, because as believers in Christ we often feel the responsibility of being the strong ones, full of joy at all times and all seasons, beaming with hope, knowledgeable in the our understanding of “Truth”, always ready to teach, rebuke, or clarify dogma…. We are in a way expected to live like this, as an example of Godliness and perseverance. To help the World find the Light which is in Christ.. Even though Jesus taught us over and over, that blessing belongs to people who live differently.. And seems to suggest that we are expected to use an entirely different grading scale when we judge ourselves and others.

    What did Christ try to teach when he gave this message? I think He was revealing that blessing does not come from the places we expect. Blessing belongs to people who do things that don’t always seem honorable or praiseworthy.. They show their weakness. (they mourn) They back down, and listen in an argument. (they make peace) They don’t prolong a fight in order be found “right”.. They won’t argue for rights to “the last word” (they see real value in being meek) When they know they are right, they can choose to let the other person “retreat with dignity.” After a dispute, they don’t hunt the other person down and chew them up to make a point.. (they are merciful, they show mercy, they give mercy) They go without, and they know what it feels like to be desperate & in need (when they are malnourished, they hunger and thirst for righteousness)….

    Come to think of it, they don’t sound that different from a lot of people who come to church and hear of Jesus for the first time. When new believers are there, finally experiencing the relief which comes from accepting God’s mercy, they are not focused on being “leadership material.” They are (often times) in full awareness of their broken state. They do not worry about perfecting the best arguments for defending their faith. They are looking for answers, and willing to learn. They have not spent the years of study, as we have, which has somehow reinforced the idea that to be Christian means to be above the world. To be better, and to be “righter”.

    But as Christians look around, and we see that we are still like the world, we still live as humans. We still feel mistaken and disconnected from God at times due to our misdeeds. We should remind ourselves, like we remind new believers, that to be weak does not nullify the strength and power we receive from God through Christ. And there is no shame coming down from God, in response to our weakness (or wickedness) Seriously!! We are truly free to be healed and loved while we work through the many stages of brokenness and imperfection. That’s why it says he loved us while we are still sinners. God loves us before we know Who He is, while he orchestrates situations for us to Learn Who He is, while we are in the awkward stages of discovering Him, learning the Law, trying to live by it, then over-and-over coming to the realization that it is our FAITH which has made us right with God, to hopefully arrive at a place of unwaivering conviction that the FAITH we have in our hearts, is what has always reconciled us to God. Therefore, if we know we have faith, we must also believe that there is no longer anything which can separate us from Him… God loves us through the whole process, and personally I think it’s OK to acknowlege that a lot of the stages of faith can look pretty awkward, misguided, and Still those are all purposeful parts of our journey.

    Please comment a response if you have one. I’m stating this to make a point and encourage, but I also want to know what you guys think about it too?

    • I have come to believe that Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” teaching (Matthew 5-7) is the clearest and most pointed explanation of what it means to enter into and participate in the Kingdom of God.

      I see it as a contrast of kingdoms and kingdom ways (or cultures).

      We have a choice to make – participate in the Kingdom of God, accepting His culture, ways, values, economy, priorities… or continue participating in the kingdom of this world, accepting its culture, ways, values, etc.

      What does the kingdom of this world look like exactly? Pretty much the opposite of the Beatitudes. The kingdom of this world is one of power and aggression. The loudest, fastest, strongest, smartest, most powerful succeed. Those who conquer are heroes.

      It is the kingdom of Caesar. It is the kingdom of the sword.

      So we have to choose:
      Will we follow the kingdom of Caesar or the Kingdom of Christ? Will we pick up our swords or will we pick up our cross?

      The way of the Kingdom of God is one of death and resurrection. We must die to self – our ways, our will, even our wants. And when we surrender and “die,” we experience life—real life, life that is rich with joy and peace (that the kingdom of Caesar will never know).

      Q. Why don’t many Christians accept this teaching? Why do we have such a hard time with the Beatitudes?

      A. I think this teaching from Jesus goes against the grain and is so subversive, we don’t even recognize that is of God (just like people didn’t recognize the Messiah because he came as a weak, poor, venerable baby in humble and embarrassing circumstances). Plus – if we REALLY accept and live this teaching from Jesus, it would mean “dying.” We almost always prefer that someone else die (like our enemies, those who are against us).

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