Lyrical Theology: In Christ Alone (Part 4)

In Christ Alone – Newsboys (see full lyrics here)

In Christ alone, who took on flesh / fullness of God in helpless babe / this gift of love and righteousness / scorned by the ones he came to save

What powerful words fill these lyrics! The reality of Christ’s incarnation is one the many facets of the Christian faith that sets it apart from other world religions. Jesus is God in the flesh, a truth that is more than a technicality. In fact, it really shows the nature of God. In the incarnation we see that:

  • God comes to us instead of us going to him
  • God is willing to humble himself and experience life on broken earth
  • God is not distant and removed but intimately acquainted with sinful man
  • God’s love is so intense that he was willing to suffer at the hands of his own creation in order to save them

These are just a few profound truths that display who God is and what he cares about. Jesus, who is fully God, became a man through the virgin birth of his mother Mary. How can the fullness of Almighty God dwell in the helpless form of an infant baby? It is a mystery no one can truly grasp.

Jesus, as God in the flesh, truly is to be called a “gift of love and righteousness”. He is a gift in that the Father has offered the Son and his salvation free of charge. It is a gift of love in that the salvation Jesus brings is not earned or deserved, but rather an act of love and mercy and grace. This gift too is righteous in that Jesus is the sinless Son of God, perfect in righteousness…a righteousness that was to be offered for any sinner who calls on the name of Christ.

We must be painfully aware that the amazing love demonstrated by God is met by sickening sinfulness on the part of mankind. Those who killed Jesus – and we, as sinners, by extension – have mocked and scorned Jesus through our words and deeds. Each time we reject God and turn our own way, we “scorn” the One who made us and saves us. What is truly amazing is that Jesus, as God, knew this is how his love would be received…and yet he still chose to come and suffer and die! Truly there is no one like Christ, none who look into the eyes of those who hate him with forgiveness and love.

Thank you God for sending your Son to be a holy sacrifice for our sins!

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Read the Comments

I’m the type of person who appreciates a well-reasoned argument. I can respect an opinion that may differ from mine so long as it is thought out. What drives me crazy, not surprisingly, is when people spout off opinions like they know what they are talking about or they have given the issue serious consideration from different angles. That is one thing that irks me greatly.

This is why it sometimes surprises me that I read the “comments” sections on blogs and news articles. It always drives me crazy! All these people ranting their wild views with lousy grammar and almost zero respect for anyone else…ugh! Not that everyone who comments is like that – obviously – but there is certainly no shortage either. I regularly ask myself, just after I have annoyed myself by reading a bunch of comments, why do I do this? Why can’t I just leave well enough alone?

To be honest, I don’t know the answer. More than likely it probably makes me feel smarter than other people and I secretly like the pride-boost I get (yup, this sinner has a long way to go!). But as I have thought about it, I think it is a good and healthy thing to read the comments. As frustrating as it can sometimes be, the benefit is that it gives me a glimpse into the real world. It allows me to hear what people actually think in an unfiltered way. It keeps me from believing that all people think the way I do or even conduct debates the way I do. I shows me what is really going on in the minds of those around me.

This matters primarily because those are the people that I am called to reach. As a believer in Christ, I have been sent by my Lord as an ambassador into the world around me. How much more effective I can potentially be when I have a better understanding of people! It would be a terrible hinderance to be naive to the people I am to serve and proclaim Christ to. I am convinced it is much better to dive deep into the frustrations of working with real people in the real world no matter how uncomfortable it may make us, because in the end it can help us in our witness for the King who has commissioned us.

Read the comments.

Gimme Five…

Gimme Five is one of my favourite youth ministry games because it is so simple and the kids really get into it. First, you divide the students into teams of 3 or 4 and give each team a pen and pad of sticky paper. Then, you yell out various categories (such as “Gimme five kinds of fruit!”) and the teams must write down five things that fit that category as fast as they can. Then they have to run and put their answer sheet in a basket. Whichever team gets their answers in first (provided they are all valid responses) gets a point. Keep track and give the team with the most points a prize.

Here’s a list we’ve gathered to help you get started. Enjoy!

Gimme five…

  • Colors
  • Actor’s names
  • Clothing brands
  • Shapes
  • Characters from “Peanuts”
  • Kinds of fruit
  • Potato chip flavors
  • NHL team names
  • Words that start with Q
  • Kinds of trees
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Metric measurements
  • Ocean names
  • Kinds of birds
  • Names of singers
  • Months of the year
  • Street names
  • Kinds of hats
  • Words that rhyme
  • Names of bones
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Names of stores in the mall
  • Kinds of clocks
  • Words that all mean the same thing
  • People from the board game CLUE
  • Holidays
  • Pizza joints
  • Kinds of flowers
  • Movie titles
  • Kinds of chocolate bars
  • Shoe brands
  • Kinds of subs at Subway
  • Car companies
  • Churches in town
  • Farm animals
  • Names of high schools
  • Sesame St. characters
  • Kinds of pop
  • Kind of reptiles
  • Kinds of jewels

Lyrical Theology: In Christ Alone (Part 3)

In Christ Alone – Newsboys (see full lyrics here)

What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease. My Comforter, my All in All, here in the love of Christ I stand.

DC Talk popularized the phrase “love is a verb”, and the statement is true. Love is not a feeling that ebbs and flows based on the circumstances surrounding life – at least, that is not true love. Love is founded in actions. Love can be demonstrated. It is more than words or theory.  Jesus taught that there is no greater love than for one to lay down his life for another, and Jesus would go on to prove that with his own death. So when Christ-followers look upon the rugged cross and see the Saviour who gave his life for them, they have evidence of God’s love. It is real and tangible. No wonder we can declare “what heights of love!”, for in his death, Jesus substituted his innocent life to pay for our guilt. The righteous was punished and the innocent set free. It is a free gift, and no greater gift has ever been given.

In addition to this unsurpassable love, there are depths of peace to be found in knowing Christ. Turmoil defines our earthly existence, and struggle pervades our flimsy lives. We have much reason to feel unrest…who knows what the future might hold? And not only are we gripped by temporary troubles but by eternal ones…what becomes of a sinner in the presence of the holy God? Yet because of Jesus dying to pay for our sin, our faith in Jesus gives us the assurance to know that we are acceptable in God’s sight, deemed pure and spotless. This brings peace! And not only did Christ give us assurance eternally, but has promised to his followers that he would never leave them or forsake them, that he is a provider and protector of the greatest kind. These truths bring depths of peace no other can match, and explains why “fears are stilled” and “strivings cease”.

Because of his love and the peace he provides, Jesus can be called a comforter. Additionally, because he provides for our every need and gives us eternal life, Jesus can also be called our all-in-all. In the life of the Christian, he is everything! Therefore it is right for us to declare “here in the love of Christ I stand”. No other ground is like the solid rock of Christ. Only in the love of Christ do we truly find peace, comfort, purpose, forgiveness, acceptance, joy, and abundant life! Indeed, to stand firmly in the love of Christ is the one place anyone can find their every need provided for.

Lyrical Theology: In Christ Alone (Part 2)

In Christ Alone – Newsboys (see full lyrics here)

This cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

Referring to Jesus as a “cornerstone” is something Jesus did himself (Luke 20:17) and is echoed as well by other New Testament authors (Luke in Acts 4:11, Peter in 1 Peter 2:6-7). It is a peculiar title but full of significance. When building a structure in ancient times, the first stone laid was called the cornerstone (sometimes chief-stone or capstone). It was important to pick the right stone as the cornerstone since it would function as the foundation of the structure and the area from which the rest of the building would be built out from. To use the wrong stone as the cornerstone usually meant that over time the structure would weaken and possibly collapse. Therefore, when Jesus is called the cornerstone, it is being said that he is the most important building block of life; that he is meant to be first and everything else rest on his firm foundation. It means also that to replace Jesus with someone or something else as the cornerstone of one’s life will eventually lead to collapse. Unfortunately, as Jesus implied in Luke 20:17, many reject him as the cornerstone.

Similarly, Jesus is called “solid ground”. This is likely a reference to Jesus’ teaching during the sermon on the mount in Matthew 7:24-27. Here, Jesus says that those who obey his words are like a wise man who built his house on a rock, which was able to stand the storms of life. Those who do not obey Jesus’ words are like a foolish man who built his house on sand, which was destroyed when the storms came. A relationship with Christ and obeying his commands is like having your life on solid ground – the storms of life will come, but you will not be destroyed when they do, because Jesus is your foundation.

Jesus as both a cornerstone and solid ground speaks of his strength and stability in the believers life. What a treasure to enjoy! While others are shaken and tossed to and fro by the trials and temptations of life, the one who has faith in Christ can live with rock solid assurance. This is not to say life is easy, but that Jesus will keep us through whatever we may face. These hardships are called “droughts and storms” in this song. A drought probably meaning the seasons of life that are dry, when we feel we do not have all that we need, and when hope and zeal has faded away. In these moments, Jesus is there to give the nourishment we need to go on. The storms here speak of the seasons of life when seemingly everything is going wrong. We are hit and bombarded on all sides, shaken and attacked. Yet Jesus remains faithful, keeping us steady like an anchor steadying a ship at sea.

Jesus truly is a great rock, a stabilizer, a fortress. He is steady when others collapse. He is faithful when others disperse. He is strong when others are weak. Nothing and no one gives us the firm foundation that Jesus does.

Reflections on Turning 26

Today is my 26th birthday. Perhaps it would have been much more fitting to write a reflection when turning a nice, round number like 25…but this will have to do! Now that I’ve passed the quarter-century mark I feel like I have enough life in the rearview mirror to have something to reflect on. So, here are a few random thoughts I’m having at this point along my journey of life:

I love being a family man! If I were the average North American man, I would not be getting married for two more years. Instead, I am a couple of weeks away from celebrating my 4th wedding anniversary. I know it’s not always right or reasonable for some people, but I love being married young! I’m so thankful for my wonderful wife Sarah who has been nothing short of amazing to me ever since we started dating over 8 years ago. Certainly being married young has it’s challenges, and some people look at us like we’re a bit unusual, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

In addition to our marriage, Sarah and I have also had the privilege of having our daughter turn 2 last month, as well as having one child waiting for us in heaven and another on the way in a few months. Wow! It has been a crazy few years! All my kids bring me tons of joy while also bringing a ton of challenges. It is so worth it.

I want to make my life count. It seems that every year goes by faster than the one before it. This crazy pace constantly makes me stop and ask, am I making my life count? Am I focused on the right things? Am I making the most of every opportunity? It is so easy to let life go by without making a difference. Suddenly you wake up one day and realize you’ve wasted years of your life. I don’t want this to be me! I’m trying hard to make a conscious effort to prioritize correctly and ambitiously pursue to goals I have so that my life can have a maximum, lasting impact.

I think I understand my elders more and more. It is not easy to understand people if you have not travelled the roads they have travelled. I know that to many people I am still very young, but slowly I am starting to understand why people older than I think the way they do. They started out in life with certain ideas of how things are and through disappointments and surprises have come a better grasp of the way life actually works. I’ve started to have some of these experiences of my own, and as a result I think I’m starting to better understand people older than me with each passing year.

You never “just become” what you expect to be later in life. I remember being a little kid and thinking what I would be like all grown up. I always pictured myself as a husband and dad who seemed to have such a grip on things: always in control, always knowing the right answer, somehow being able to do it all. By then, somehow, I would simply just know what to do!

What I’ve come to realize is that I was imagining a different person than myself. It’s like in my mind I was skipping ahead 15 years and suddenly I’d be so different – which might be the case if that’s how life went. But because I have lived through those 15 years and not simply jumped them, the process of change has come slowly. It’s kind of hard to describe but anyone who thinks like I do probably knows what I’m talking about.

The one constant in life is change. Everything changes all the time, even things you wouldn’t expect to. Best friends change. Interests change. Opinions change. Societies change. Any person who wants to be able to handle life without stressing themselves out needs to be flexible and ready to adapt. People who fight change are fighting a losing battle.

Living for Jesus really is the abundant life. I can honestly say at this point in my life I am more excited about Jesus Christ than at any point before. It’s not something that I chose intentionally. Jesus simply got a hold of my life and won’t let me go! I have tried living the lukewarm Christian life, and there is a sense in which I see the appeal: get to heaven, but avoid unnecessary inconvenience along the way. Problem is this kind of life doesn’t work, doesn’t bring joy, and likely won’t result in eternal life. Not that our works determine our salvation, but if we truly understand the magnitude of Jesus willingly dying in our place, how can we not be willing to do anything to say “thank you”? I have to say that living for Jesus is often difficult and lonely, but it brings tons of joy and peace and satisfaction in ways I never knew. I just want to pray that I can keep it up for as long as I can.

Lyrical Theology: In Christ Alone (Part 1)

In Christ Alone – Newsboys (see full lyrics here)

In Christ alone, my hope is found! He is my light, my strength, my song.

I’m convinced that everyone is searching for hope. Some actively seek it while others may not even realize what they are chasing, but every person desires something to cling to, the promise of a brighter tomorrow, the chance that one day things can be better. We all want hope. The problem is that we often go to the wrong places to find it. We put our hope in money, trusting that our finances will secure us a life that is comfortable and happy. We put our hope in love, believing that having someone to complete us will make our soul satisfied. We put our hope in power, thinking that we can somehow control the outcome of our lives. We hope in health, beauty, friendship, success, positive thinking, the human spirit, and even the government. Unfortunately, placing our hope in the wrong places always leaves us feeling empty and wanting more.

Often people are holding on to hope without having any real reason for doing so. We have “hope” for a better tomorrow, but based on what? Wishful thinking? Or is there a tangible reason that things stand a chance of improving? This is one thing I love about being a Christian. The hope we have in Jesus Christ is real hope. It is not some foggy concept that I naively cling to. Rather, knowing that Jesus is a real person with the power to make things better and the desire to do so, this gives me hope! By raising himself from death and promising the same to those who follow him, Christ offers a hope that we can hold fast to. His claims have been proven, his power has been demonstrated, and therefore his promises will be fulfilled.

What do you place you hope in? Is it in someone or something that offers a false hope, merely a shadow that looks real but can’t be grasped? Do your hopes have a legitimate chance of being realized and being sustained forever? Or are they empty promises of fleeting satisfaction? I would urge you to place your hope in Christ, as he alone holds the power over the future, and he promises a future that is bright for those who love him.

No wonder that for the believer Jesus is their light, their strength, their song! These words echo the truths of Scripture in a beautiful way.

  • He is my light. Jesus said in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Like a light in darkness Jesus helps us see clearly. He helps us to navigate the treacherous paths of life without stumbling. His light removes fear and brings life.
  • He is my strength. Paul, the great church missionary, understood this when he said “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Even though he faced constant opposition, enough to make any man quit, Paul was strengthened by Jesus to continue his mission through to completion. We, too, often feel overwhelmed by the trials of life. Our strength fails us and our energy is depleted, but in Christ we have an inexhaustible source of supernatural strength.
  • He is my song. When God rescued the Israelites from the hands of the Egyptians, the whole nation burst into joyous song, singing “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him…” (Exodus 15:2). The sure hope that is found in Jesus can quiet our restless souls and bring peace and joy that leads to singing! To worship the Lord in song is a wonderful priveledge and the fruit of a heart that has experienced Jesus’ saving grace.

Only in Christ – our all-sufficient, loving, and powerful Redeemer – can we truly find hope. A hope that lasts. A hope that has a sure foundation. A hope that is sure to be fulfilled.

Why are some sins more acceptable than others?

As a Christian I believe that sin is real. God has revealed to human beings what His will is through the Bible and disobeying the will of God is sin. Everyone sins, probably multiple times everyday. Jesus is the only human (technically “God-man”) who has never, ever sinned. One obvious conclusion then is that both Christians and non-Christians sin a lot. This all makes sense to me.

What doesn’t make sense, however, is that it is common for some Christians to make big deals out of certain sins while not making big deals out of other sins. This partiality towards sin does not seem right to me. Usually the explanation given is that there are differing degrees of sin, essentially saying that there is a scale for how serious a sin is, and some sins register at the bottom and some register at the top. Typically, when this idea is held by someone, they probably feel that the sins they commit are at the bottom while the sins of most others are up near the top. This would explain why some Christians may be quick to point the finger or treat others’ sin more seriously than they treat their own.

However, this logic is flawed. There is no scale measuring the seriousness of sin, because all sin condemns us to hell. James, Jesus’ brother, taught:

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. – James 2:10-11

James is making the point that all sin is equal because all sin is against the same God. Jesus had to die to forgive the “big” sins and the “little” sins. Even the “little” ones make us objects of God’s wrath without forgiveness in Christ.

My suspicion is that some Christians treat sins differently because not all sins are equally damaging in terms of consequences reaped in this life. Put another way, all sin has the same eternal consequences but may bring varying degrees of consequence in this life. For example, a small lie will do significantly less damage than a mass murder. So the truth is that sin does differ in terms of immediate consequence, but it is also equal in terms of eternal consequence.

What’s my point in all of this? My point is that it is wrong to show partiality to sin because we are all sinners in need of God’s grace. The unfortunate result of partiality is that certain people get ostracized. Usually it is the pregnant teen, the divorced mother, the gay man, or the addicted smoker who are hammered on, while no one seems to care about the faithful church-goers who don’t spend time with their kids, are downloading movies online, not earning an honest living, or eating gluttonous amounts.

The Christian who is harbouring a “small” sin should not look down on the person committing a “big” sin. If they do, what is getting communicated is that certain people really need God to save them, while others have half-earned their salvation. Their sin keeps them out of heaven only a little, but the “big” sinner is in serious danger of going to hell. This thinking may not be intentional but it is nonetheless present.

What then should we do? I suggest that we treat all people, including ourselves, as sinners in desperate need of forgiveness. Practically speaking, this means that even mature believers are humble and recognize that without Jesus they are nothing. It means that we stop ostracizing “big” sinners and instead offer them support and show God’s love to them. It means that all sins should be condemned, not for the purpose of guilt-bombing, but with a focus towards the God who saves sinners. When our sin looks big, God’s mercy looks wonderful. Every one of us should feel like guilty prisoners set free. That kind of mentality does not look down on other guilty prisoners. It wants to show them the path to freedom. It wants them to experience the joy you have. It wants them to be forgiven.

Showing partiality towards sin is a huge reason why the church is often perceived as being filled with judgmental, self-righteous, hypocritical people. We Christians must work hard to reverse these distinctions. In order to do so we need to see our own sinful condition, accept people as they are, and point them to Jesus, allowing him to be their judge and to change their heart and behaviour. Reversing the opinion about Christians is certainly an uphill battle, but if we’re serious about seeing people come to know Christ, it is a battle worth fighting for.

Lyrical Theology

Over the next little while I’d like to do a series of posts using lyrical theology. Lyrical theology is, by my own definition, the truths of the God’s Word expressed in the form of music. Ideally, all Christian music should contain lyrical theology. Songs written by Christian artists should contain God’s truth or at the very least be inspired by it. Songs that are sung in a worship setting, in particular, need to contain lyrical theology. There is a difference between inspirational Christian music and worshipful Christian music used for gatherings. In the posts that will follow, we’ll be using worship and praise music designed for Church gatherings.

We see lyrical theology most obviously in the book of Psalms. Primarily written by David (famous for his slaying of the giant Goliath), the Psalms are a collection of poems and songs that have a variety of purposes. They declare God’s wonderful deeds; they sing praises to his name; they cry out for his mercy; they call upon him to defend the innocent; they draw forth a heart of repentance. Yet through all of this variety, David (and the other authors) clearly demonstrate a keen understanding of God’s Word. As such, their lyrics are Biblically informed and click with not only the emotions but the mind as well. This is lyrical theology at its best.

Though the Psalms hold a special place as divine Scripture, good lyrical theology can be found in plenty of both newer and older Christian songs too. Over the course of some time I will take some of my favourite Christian songs and write what will essentially be devotional posts based on the songs lyrical theology. I hope that it encourages you to listen to good Christian music, be mindful of the words, and to worship God on a whole new level.

“Offensive” T-shirt Causes Quite a Stir

One day after our city’s popular annual Rotary Festival, highlighted by the Rotary Fest Parade, an interesting article appeared on popular local news website sootoday.com posting an open letter by a woman named Heather. To summarize, Heather’s letter expressed her concern over a shirt worn by one of the young men within the Gay Pride section of the parade. The shirt had blazoned across it the phrase “haters gonna hate”. Heather specifically stated that she had no problem with the Gay Pride section being in the parade, but felt that the shirt was offensive because “messages of hatred should not ever be permitted from any party”. She felt that the shirt was likely directed at religious people as they tend to be the ones taking anti-homosexual stances. Overall, though I myself was not offended and don’t exactly agree with her, I felt like the tone of the letter was respectful and that she was not coming down on anyone in particular, but was simply expressing her opinion in a responsible way.

Others didn’t think so. At last count, within less than 24 hours of the article being published, 178 responses were posted in the comments section, the vast majority of them expressing their disapproval of Heather’s opinions. Below are some examples, copied and pasted directly (so forgive spelling, punctuation, and language):

  • really Heather??? sounds like a slogan on a t-shirt is the least of your worries…sure seems like there’s alot more deep-rooted issues troubling you. I’m also left with a struggle to deal with as well. I can’t come to terms with the fact that you wasted your time writing such useless dribble. What an absolute jackass
  • Wow Heather…you’re offended by that?! First I would suggest you give your head a good shake and then grow up ! “Christian values”….now that’s rich!
  • At next year’s parade I am going to wear a shirt that says “heathers gonna hate”…
  • Heather, thanks for writing this letter… you just proved his point. Haters gonna hate… seems to me you’re a prime example of the hater.
  • Shut up! Its didn’t hurt anyone! Quit your whining and stuck up talk!
  • Heather quit being a dingbat.
  • Heather I think you should have followed the advice that you gave your husband ‘to just let it go’. Now you have just expressed to the world how narrow minded (close-minded for that matter) you are. Quite embarassing to say the least…
  • I wonder if she feels like an ass yet.
  • Get a life Heather…your pathetic.
  • I bet you wish you didnt write to the editor now LOL!!!!!!!these are personal comments that are best served amongst you christians heather…In the real world there are others who are not of your faith and respect all persons decisions with respect to their beliefs……I think you need to get out a little more my dear……
  • Are you frikking kidding me right now?? It’s all Freedom of choice, relax!! This is almost as funny as that bored old housewife who found the picture of a penis on a Zoodle’s can way back when. Too much!!
  • It’s just a shirt. People like you truly make me sick.
  • Dear Heather, after reading maybe HALF of this article i myself was left disgusted that i had in fact wasted my time reading this…I am floored that someone whom in fact discusses in this article about christianity would have enough audacity to even think writing such crap is ACCEPTABLE! …people like you are sheltered and naive about the real problems of the world… go stress yourself out about someone significant and important.. instead of complaining go contribute to your community by volunteering instead of wasting EVERYONES TIME WITH YOUR IDIOTIC RANTS!
  • Heather..I had many thoughts come to my mind while I was reading your “opinion”. The one that stands out the most is “You mam, are an idiot of diabolical magnitude.”

In addition to these rather cruel comments, someone has designed a “Heather’s gonna hate” t-shirt which they posted and shared on Facebook to try and further ridicule this woman, as well as at least one person linking this story to their Facebook wall with the description “HATERS GUNNA HATE!!! Repost this to see how many people agree!!! Appauled by HEATHER!!!”

After taking the time to read every comment, and follow this story as closely as I can, I am a little disappointed, to say the least. Though some who disagreed with Heather were able to express their thoughts respectfully, a significant majority did not. Instead, the very people who called this woman idiotic, intolerant, and hateful were themselves acting in this way. I find it very unfortunate that people with differing beliefs are unable to share them in ways that are thoughtful and courteous. I also find it disturbing that individuals feel the need to launch attacks online against someone simply for sharing differing beliefs.

As a Christian myself, I do look to the Bible as the ultimate authority on life, religion, and morality. However, I am still able to live peacefully and respectfully with those who do not share this view, even if we may strongly disagree. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and have the right to free speech. This is good and healthy. But it is wrong when strong convictions are stated without love or respect for others. All people are valuable and worthy of dignity and honour, no matter how different from us they may be.

I felt it would be responsible to try and speak with the individual who wore the “haters gonna hate” shirt to see what he had to say about all this. His name is Theodore Syrette, and as it turns out, I went to high school with him and we actually were in the same grade together (I didn’t recognize him from the picture). In our conversation, which took place online, he told me of how in high school he was regularly bullied and ostracized for being gay and struggled with depression, identity issues, and substance abuse as a result. He went on to share:

“I let people wear me down and made me rethink of everything that I believed in and also made me forget about my goals and dreams. I managed to cope through this by involving myself in community theatre. When I was on stage I was able to be a persona that wasn’t me, that didn’t need to worry about what people thought about me while walking down the street. I didn’t need to worry about hurtful remarks, getting egged, pushed or punched. I was able to just be me and all the positiveness that was inside of me. It has taken a long time in order for me to get over all the hurt and not let anyone hinder me from being a successful and well accomplished individual.”

Teddy, as he is called by friends, is currently a student at Sault College studying Social Services in the Native Specialization Program. He went on to say “As a person I have my own values that are dear to me and I have walked a long hard path to understand who I am and what I can offer to the community. I am capable of this now, because I don’t let strangers dictate to me what I should do or how I should do it. Hurtful comments do not effect me as they once did, but only make me a stronger leader when faced with adversity.”

I also asked Teddy what his intentions were in wearing that particular shirt. He responded by saying that “the shirt wasn’t planned to provoke anyone or worn out of maliciousness of any kind. I really was just looking for a shirt to add to my purple outfit.”

In reference to the initial letter that sparked the controversy and the opinions stated by Heather, Teddy states “I’m not the one to ask, because it is only based on assumption”. He shared with me that he has read the comments on the article and that reading them “made me feel bad for her. It brought me back to when I was bullied.” He also told me that he has reached out to the author of the letter and expressed apologies for any hurt she has experienced, as well as placing an invitation to meet with her and discuss what has transpired over the last day. In one final attempt to put all of this behind, he is writing a statement for sootoday.com to publicly post in hopes that everyone can move on.

In the end, this fiasco has shown me that our world still has a long way to go in terms of being able to have people of differing beliefs co-exist. Even those who fight for tolerance and free speech are, at times, not good at allowing it for others. My hope is that we can learn to be more respectful of one another and learn to speak in ways that are thoughtful and respectful, and be able to dialogue and debate in ways that demonstrate value to each person. We don’t have to agree, but we do need to be kind. Hopefully something as small as a slogan on a t-shirt can become a valuable learning lesson for everyone involved.