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A Gentle Answer

Pastor Josh's summer newsletter.

Quick Hits

A Gentle Answer

My dad turns 81 today. Sadly, Parkinson’s Disease has robbed much of his latter years of what he hoped they would be. And yet, he has described this terrible disease as a kind of “severe mercy” for him. For the first 55 years of his life, my dad saw little need for God, at least not a personal God. We were connected to a church community, but that was more tied to our Italian and Irish heritage than a personal faith in Jesus. My dad saw himself as a self-made man: business owner, happily married (on the second try), a good father, a marine. This poor kid from Boston had carved out for himself a piece of suburbia in the Midwest. He had the life he wanted.

Except he didn’t. It started with a death of a friend, and the unavoidable confrontation with mortality. Then it was the limits of a satisfying career. David Brooks has referred to it as the need for a “second mountain,” when you get to the top of the first one, and realize it's not all that it is cracked up to be. And then the disease. The terrible, chronic and debilitating disease.

My brother Scott became a Christian first, through a friend in college. After moving to Indianapolis, he became a Young Life leader and took me with them to camp in the summer of 1993, where I first met Jesus. My dad thought we were nuts. But a few years later, both my dad and one of my other brothers gave their lives to Jesus on the same day. He was 55 years old.

The change in my dad was notable in the stewardship of his time and money and friendships. He joined Bible studies, served the poor through a local mission, and mentored kids from his church. But the change his family noticed most, is related to what Ryan talked about this past Sunday (“Love is Not Rude”). None of us ever doubted the love and affection of our father; he was always wonderful at showing this. But he was deeply passionate: adept at showing his affection, and equally adept at expressing anger, often explosive and inconsistent.

When dad met Jesus, this began to change. Not all at once, but little by little over decades. It manifested in several concrete ways: 

  1. A new ability to let things go -- “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8)
  2. Love for his enemies -- I witnessed my dad on several occasions extend an olive branch to those with whom he had conflict.
  3. A readiness to apologize -- His confidence in Jesus’ love for him allowed him the emotional bandwidth to see his own sin and confess it to others.
  4. Gentleness -- He came to believe with the writer of Proverbs that “a gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). The gentleness of Jesus with him led him to do the same with others, especially his kids.

I know some of you all have family members that you are praying would come to know Jesus. My brother prayed for my dad daily for well over a decade. I hope you’ll take some encouragement from a late life conversion. And as we examine the attributes of love this summer, I pray we too we see the love of Jesus take hold in us so that others could identify concrete changes in our love for others. Would you join me in that prayer?

Worth a Look

  • Pastor Ryan talked a bit about cancel culture in his sermon on Sunday. Check out this letter with a wide array of noteable signatories published in Harper's last week -- "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"
  • If you're looking to talk with your kids about race, then I highly recommend the wonderful (and beautiful) God's Very Good Idea by Trilla Newbell. Amazon is having trouble keeping it in stock. Buy it anyway; it's worth the wait.