Josh j Smith

#Lent, Wednesday, 3/23: Serve others dang it!
March 23, 2011, 5:10 pm
Filed under: religion | Tags: , , , , ,

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 5.25-28

The Good News of Jesus is so compelling because it is contrary to everything that is natural.  I believe we long for the Gospel because it is provacative.  The Gospel inspires us to be different, to swim against the stream of culture, and to fight the good fight.

But it scares us.  My 3 year old son gets so scared when I jump from a dark room to scare him.  But he always asks for more because he loves the feeling of not knowing.

I admit there are times I am scared of being different.  Thinking about being radically different, watching it on movies, or reading about it is not the same as living it.  I admit I get scared of what others will think.  I am afraid of being embarrassed.

I’m sorry that I am more scared of being selfless than selfish in bringing God’s kingdom to earth as it is in heaven.


Jesus.  Help me to fear you.

Help me to be scared of bringing shame to your name.

Help me to be scared of losing the opportunity of seeing your kingdom each day.

Jesus.  Light the fire in my soul to ridiculously serve others.


people of God
June 26, 2008, 2:27 pm
Filed under: theology | Tags: , , ,

The perception I get from the conversations I have with some of the Kmer people, is that America is the “land of opportunity” still.  It seems as though they gaze upon me similar to how I gaze upon an iPhone.  I guess this is what it means to covet.  But my goal here is not to convict the Kmer people of coveting, but to express the tension between a person’s desire for gospel against their desire for a western lifestyle.  This tension is worth our time because it has implications for how we are missionaries to foreign countries.    

I am not one to judge another’s salvation, but I feel it is wrong to ignore the implications of my citizenship upon people and the gospel.  when a group of white middle class Americans decide to join forces and inhabit a country, similar to Cambodia’s conditions, for the sake of planting churches and spreading the gospel, I question whether the native people become Christians for the kingdom of God or the empire of western civilization.  Thus, their commitment to Christianity is merely a means to becoming American.     

My problem with being American is from a global context.  We are one of the most feared and powerful nations.  As far as land size and resources, we are an extremely blessed country, but extremely under populated for how much land we have and how much resources we consume (waste).  In a global context, I think America are the rich who are getting richer, and countries like Cambodia are the poor who are getting poorer.  And we all know what it feels like to be poor (even when we are not) we gaze upon the rich as though they have found life.  At the same time we all know what it is like to be rich.  We all have those possessions that we want only for ourselves and we will do anything to make sure it stays that way.  We develop individual defense programs.   

I began to soften my blow toward American by comparing westernization with ancient Israel’s invasions when they were moving into the land of Canon, the Promise Land.  I thought about God’s missional prerogative to reveal himself as the God of gods through the language of war.  I remembered Rehab’s faith and commitment to Israel and their God because she heard not what Israel did to the other nations, but what Israel’s God did to the other nations; the other gods. 

I began to think that maybe God has a missional prerogative with westernization.  While   people might become christian to be more western, God can easily change our means to achieve personal glory to become his means for his glory.  In other words, God is not too small to transform the desire for the people to be western into people of his kingdom.  

After this epiphany, I still felt uncomfortable with my citizenship.  I also realized that the western movement is not a good comparison with Israel’s entrance into the Promise Land because Israel was a nation of slaves, nomads, refugees, they were a bunch of no-namers shaming the strong, wealthy, and proud.  So,I have decided that it is impossible to be an American Christian (or whatever you want to call someone who follows and has faith in Jesus).  The problem is whatever I do it is still from an American perspective.  

In the midst of this tension where I think the beauty and mystery of the kingdom of God resides.  I think this is what Jesus meant when he said you cannot see the kingdom.  The kingdom is within.  When Jesus prayed that his disciples would be in the world, but not of it – I think it might have been this issue.  

Since I belong to Christ and am part of his kingdom.  God’s kingdom allows me to observe my context from a distance in order to engage it with gospel in a language that resonates with my neighbor.  I am of Christ, but in America.  I am of the kingdom of God, but in Baltimore MD.   



Forgiveness | additional thoughts
November 12, 2007, 8:32 pm
Filed under: society, theology | Tags: , ,

I was reading over my previous post and had additional thoughts.

I thought it was interesting that on Halloween they made sexual offenders post a sign on their door saying “No Candy At This Residence” in Maryland. My wife, Gina, commented that it is smart – keep them away from the temptation of making the mistake again. Gina is very wise. But now everyone will judge and socially outcast that house, that family, that person because of the sign. The names on the internet are a subtle way of communicating the truth, but the sign is full exposure to neighbors, friends, and coworkers.

The problem I have with this is not the necessary action to protect children – please protect children and protect the offenders from hurting children and people. The problem is our exaggerated judgment upon these offenders for their mistakes. Would we treat these people different if everyone else knew all the things we struggle with. If there was a list on our door or on the internet that revealed all our sins, would we be so quick to judge? Would we be so quick to outcast people?

Isolation deceives. We isolate ourselves so that we will not be isolated. We hide the truth from people because we know how they will respond – as if no one else makes mistakes or does things they are embarrassed of. There are too many pastors, leaders, business professionals, husbands, wives, and children that are in isolation because they know that if they confess the truth it threatens their livelihood. At one degree it might be necessary to loose the job or temporarily be isolated from normalcy. So we take the risk of isolating the truth of our inner struggle to avoid isolation from things we depend on – job, friends, family, house, neighborhood, reputation.

Forgiveness frees people to be vulnerable. If we learn to forgive the big and the small offenses, it might save a divorce, stop a school shooting, prevent people from becoming sexual offenders, and hault rising prices caused by thievery (maybe forgiveness is the answer to rising gas prices). Forgiveness is the reason to confess. We might find that upon confessing we put our livelihood at risk, but having our livelihood in isolation is hell on earth. At least, loosing our livelihood for confessing the truth is choosing the road that leads out of hell.

The majority of us would agree that stable marriages, safe schools and neighborhoods are all good things. The Kingdom of God is this and much more, but it means that we must be risky. Jesus came to us with an agenda for us to follow. He knew that people are not going to be vulnerable all the sudden. He knew that people are not going to be radical forgivers unless they see others forgiving them radically. With small, subtle changes in our own life and patterns, we will achieve what we all strived for through our own agenda – making a difference.

September 23, 2007, 8:37 pm
Filed under: society, theology | Tags: , ,

There was an interesting conversation on NPR centered around sexual offenders and their names published for all to see on the internet. There is tension because the life of this sexual offender is forever influenced by this public information, yet this public information is deemed valuable to concerned neighbors and co-workers.

As I understand it, as long as the name resides on the list everyone has the right to treat the person as an outcast. Can the person be forgiven for such a crime? And does forgiveness for this mean the name being deleted from this list? Finally, does forgiveness mean that person should be trusted again?

Forgiveness, too often, is taken lightly. If we were honest with ourselves, we would know that fear drives us to keep people who hurt us far away. So we say we forgive, but in our hearts we know that this person will never be the same to us. Not only are offenders outcast by those they hurt, but those never hurt or will hurt or even know. Outcasts are not a result of crime, they are a product of unforgiving people.

Is it possible that when Jesus challenges us to forgive over and over, that he is actually challenging us to trust and continue to trust that person no matter how much they wrong us? Is it possible that Jesus is challenging us to wipe the slate clean when we forgive people, to treat them as if they have done no wrong? Finally, what would this world look like if we forgave like that?

It is easy to assume the worst. However, maybe the Kingdom of God can be experienced through this radical type of forgiveness. It would be ridiculous if people kept trusting and forgiving, but in many cases that is what Jesus calls to be – ridiculous. We might come to find that the lack of authentic forgiveness is the reason for increasing violence, sex offenders, and injustice.

Forgiveness frees people to be vulnerable. The more forgiving we are, the more people are willing to be vulnerable and confess what makes them inhuman; the more willing we will be to confess our inhumane acts. Forgiveness is a full expression of love that moves us closer to finding out what it means to be human. I am sure that the prodigal son that Jesus talks about, never felt so human than when his father treated as if he never left.