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Hannah AndersonHannah Anderson is an author and Bible teacher who lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with her husband, Nathan, and their three children. Her books include Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul and All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment...more
Author Hannah Anderson talks about justice and our call as Christians to pursue what is just. Learn how to teach your children to promote justice without raising legalists.
Ann: I’d say: “Let’s get them home at this time. This is what’s happening.” He said: “You know, they are going to be in college next year. Let’s just kind of see the decisions that they make.” I’m like, “Are you insane?!” [Laughter] Those were our conversations. [Laughter]
Dave: If I had to do it all over again, I’d go with Ann; and I shouldn’t have given them so much freedom.
Ann: I think we were a good balance, actually.
Bob: I was going to find out what the expert on this subject has to say, because we’ve got her in the studio: Hannah Anderson—
Ann: She was shaking her head too.
Bob: —with you, she was agreeing with?
Dave: She was actually laughing, I think, at us. [Laughter]
Bob: Hannah, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Hannah: Yes; it’s good to be back.
Bob: Are you glad to be called the expert on these kinds of issues? [Laughter]
Hannah: Oh, no, no; but I love this tension between concrete and more abstract; because that describes my relationship with my husband, Nathan.
Bob: Which are you?
Hannah: Oh, I am very abstract. I can—
Dave: Oh, yes; I read her book. You’re very abstract.
Hannah: A problem comes up—I will give you 12 different ways we should think about it and the implications for global peace. [Laughter]
Ann: You are super objective; aren’t you?
Hannah: Yes; yes. He will look at me, very patiently, and say, “So, which restaurant do you want to go to?” [Laughter]
Bob: Hannah is a blogger; she’s a podcaster. We’ve got links to her blog and her podcast on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. She has written—this is your third book?—All That’s Good.
Hannah: It is.
Bob: Made for More was the first one; then Humble Roots; and now, this one, that’s called All That’s Good. All That’s Good, as we’ve been saying this week, is an extended meditation on these verses in Philippians, Chapter 4, that say we ought to be thinking about those things that are true, and honorable, and just, and pure, and lovely, and commendable. As we spend more and more time just soaking on the good, that will allow our discernment—not just to say, “That’s bad,”—but to be able to say, “This is good, and I’m going to pursue what is good.”
I know, in your family, I’m pretty sure that you have Ticket to Ride somewhere on the bookshelf; right?
Hannah: We do.
Bob: Yes; are you big board game people?
Hannah: Love—love Ticket to Ride.
Dave: Wait; wait. Ticket to Ride is a game?
Ann: Oh, see a glimmer of—
Bob: Oh, you’ve never—
Ann: —competition in your eye.
Dave: I thought, Ticket to Ride—you want me to play it?
Bob: He thought it was a Beatles’ song.
Dave: I can go play it right now, but—
Bob: It’s a board game, like Settlers of Catan; right?
Bob: Which one do you like better?
Hannah: Ticket to Ride.
Ann: These are for the genius people. We don’t play board games; we play with rackets.
Dave: [Singing phrase from Ticket to Ride]
Hannah: I did not play board games for the longest time until we discovered a set of board games—like Ticket to Ride, and Settlers of Catan, and 7 Wonders—and this whole set of board games that have a lot of strategy underneath them—really beautiful boards. I love board games now. I’d never—never—played them before.
Bob: There is something about board games and All That’s Good that comes together; right?
Hannah: It does; because, as a family, we like to make time for playing board games together. That means we also have to make time for the fights—[Laughter]—that emerge from the board games.
And I guarantee you these three children that I have—and even myself and my husband; I will include us in this process—you would think that these children have legal careers ahead of them by how they can parse the rules of the game so that they come out on top. [Laughter] It’s unbelievable the degree to which they can read the rules and clarify that: “Yes; actually, that piece can be moved in that way.” [Laughter]
Bob: High sense of justice—and that’s a good thing that they have a high sense of justice; right?
Hannah: Yes; very much.
Bob: Why is that a good thing?
Hannah: Well, I think, you know, justice—a lot of times, we hear it in legal sense or legal terminology; but really, justice means things are working the way they are supposed to work—that things are right—that the way God made the world to function, it is actually functioning that way, whether it’s in our families, in society, in government.
When we come to the call to think and to pursue what is just, it’s really a call to pursue the world the way God made it to function—that your life and your choices would align with the way He created things: the way He created us/the way He created communities to work. When things are not just, that’s when you do see oppression; and that’s when you do see harm; and that’s when the child comes crying to the mother to reconcile things and to be the mediator to make things as they should be again.
Bob: Justice is a part of God’s character. In fact, I’m thinking of David’s words to Solomon, when David was at the end of his life, and Solomon was going to be the king. David said, “He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” He was saying: “We have got to treat people with the kind of honor, and dignity, and worth, and value that God created them with. We have got to be God’s agents, treating them with the dignity that was endowed by their Creator”; right?
Hannah: Absolutely; and we’re also promised that this the way God conducts Himself—that: “Shall not the Judge of the earth judge rightly/judge justly? Shall He not do what He has said He will do?” So many passages in the Old Testament go back to relying on God’s justice—that He sees things are not what they should be; and He is at work, through His Son, actively redeeming and restoring.
This is really the hope of the gospel; right? This is justification; this is Christ at work through the gospel/through His own sacrifice, restoring us in our sinfulness to a right place.
Bob: You know, it’s one thing—when you are playing board games, and you’re trying to play by the rules, and the kids are pulling out the rules—it’s another thing when you’ve got a child or a parent who is, what I would call, a high-justice individual and everything has got to be exactly right and: “They didn’t do their thing, so they shouldn’t get to do this.”
Dave: Is that in your family, too, Bob?
Bob: I think one of those in most families—
Bob: —who is always aware of what’s fair. Well, we did not have to train our kids, when we were raising them, to say, “That’s not fair!”
Ann: “That’s not fair!”
Bob: They knew it instinctively. How do we promote justice without raising self-righteous legalists?
Hannah: I was going to say, “There is a very fine line between sensitivity to justice and to being a legalist.” I will confess now that I am that person in the family—[Laughter]—that I have a highly-tuned sense of something being not right.
And the difference, I think, is—again, we go back to what discernment is: “Discernment is knowing the difference between good and evil so that we can purse goodness.” The trajectory is what’s important. The trajectory of a finely-tuned sense of justice that leads to goodness is a gift. We need people, who can look at our systems and our structures and say, “That is not leading us to goodness.”
Often, legalism is a finely-tuned sense of justice that leads to self-righteousness. It leads to self-justification; it leads to: “I’m right; you’re wrong.” Again, the same thing really is about: “Where is it heading? What is the purpose? What is the intent?”
Bob: And if your pursuit of justice is always so that you are the beneficiary of what is fair, and right, and just, then, maybe, there is something a little off. If you are pursuing justice for others/if you’re looking at what is fair for the other kids in the game—but if it’s always like, “That wasn’t fair toward me,”—then, maybe, your focus isn’t where justice ought to be.
Purity is one of the things that’s on the list in addition to justice. There’s a lot about a culture of purity in our day. Do you want to expand our definition of purity beyond what we think of as moral or sexual purity?
Hannah: I do, because I think we can’t understand why God calls us to sexual purity if we don’t understand the larger category of purity itself. Sexual purity is an application of a larger vision that God has for His creation and for us, as His sons and daughters. If we look at purity in the Scripture, it is this idea of wholeness—that everything in your life would be operating, internally, with this organic, holistic integrity.
When we talk about sexual purity, we’re talking about doing something with our bodies that is in opposition to what our hearts or minds might believe; so it’s actually a form of fragmentation. When the Scripture calls us to purity—and one of the classic examples of this is in Malachi, where the Spirit of the Lord comes upon the priests, who had been acting impurely. He testifies against them by saying: “You said this with your mouth, but you did this with your body. You testified of my statutes, but you were unfaithful to the wives of your youth.” There is this fragmentation that’s happening.
When we are pursuing purity, what we are actually pursuing is the wholeness and the healing that the gospel brings to us—that there would not be a disconnect between the faithfulness that we profess to seek and how we use our bodies and how we live in the world.
Bob: Is that a synonym for integrity? Is purity—are they the same?
Hannah: It is in the sense that purity comes from the idea of wholeness that something—if we talk about “water is pure,” or “pure gold,” or something that is the same, all the way through.
Bob: —through; yes. That’s good.
Dave: Yes; I love the idea of wholeness in purity, because there’s the giving of your soul in the area of giving your body in sex. People tend to fracture that. It’s like: “Oh, it’s just a body thing; it’s not a soul thing.” Yet, you’re saying, “Purity is this integrity,” which is integer—whole number.
So, wholeness—explain that a little bit more because I think people—really, we tend to want to divide that—it’s like, “I’m still pure, even though my words and my body aren’t matching up; but that isn’t really impure. It’s okay”; but you’re saying, “No, no, no; it can’t be separate.”
Ann: And I am also listening to this in regards to how I would talk to my kids about this.
Ann: Rather than just saying, “Sex is wrong; don’t do it before you get married.”
Dave: Yes; coach us on that.
Hannah: Right; so raising our children in a highly sex-saturated environment, we have to have these conversations with them as soon as possible—I’ll just give that plug: “Get comfortable with the sex talk, because you are going to be having it a lot—
Hannah: —“if you’re doing it right.”
Ann: When should that start, Hannah? What do you think?
Hannah: As soon as they start asking questions. Give them the answers that they can receive. They’ll usually shut down the conversation when they get the answers they want and move on to something else.
But we have to be comfortable having this conversation with our children; but we don’t want to just say, “Don’t have sex before you’re married,”—even though that’s the application that we want to get to—because, again, it’s that negative: “No sex”; “No sex”; “No sex before you’re married”; but we haven’t explained: “Well, why does marriage tip that over? What is it about entering into marriage that, now, you have this massive freedom with your spouse?” What is that underlying goodness that we’re trying to reach?
What we teach our children, instead, is that the level of intimacy—and soul and body connection—that happens in sex can only be kept safe through faithfulness. It can only be kept safe through commitment, which happens in marriage. The reason we reserve this for marriage is because it’s such a powerful, wonderful thing that needs to be safeguarded.
Bob: You’ve got your earphones on, so are you wearing the pearl earrings today?
Hannah: I have. I will show you. [Oohs and aaws]
Bob: The famous pearl earrings—
Dave: They are there.
Bob: —you talk about. Explain to everybody what is so big about these earrings.
Hannah: I have a pair of earrings that I wear almost every day. I only take them out for a special occasion that I might want a slightly different earring. These are earrings that my husband brought back from a trip to Japan—and probably shouldn’t have, given the budget we had at that time in our life—but I’ve worn them now, probably, for ten years.
These pearls represent to me something that is beautiful and lovely in this life and how that leads to goodness; because I think, when we read the passage in Philippians 4, we understand why we should pursue truth; we understand honor and justice; we understand purity; and then we come to this word, lovely. We live in a very practical society/very pragmatic society. The idea that pursuing lovely or beautiful things would help us discern what is good in this life just doesn’t make sense to us. To us, the most discerning thing to do is pursue the thing that is most practical or most efficient.
This really led me down, kind of, a study of: “Why would beautiful, lovely things draw us to goodness?” It’s because beautiful, lovely things require sacrifice from us. The Scripture talks about the pearl of great price. Jesus teaches about the merchant who found a pearl, so he goes and he sells all that he has so that he can purchase this pearl.
Then, embedded in that, is a counter-cultural understanding of value. It does not make sense that you would sell all that you have to get a pearl. It does not make sense that the God of the universe would give His Son to die for sinners. The difference is that, if we judge by our value system, we will never arrive at goodness. We must judge by the value system that God presents in the Scripture; and sometimes, it will not make economic sense to us.
Loveliness and beauty pulls us above that kind of pragmatic, earthy, mundane, accountant mindset, where everything has to tally before we would risk anything; and it calls us to the kinds of values and practices that invest in the life to come, even if they don’t make economic sense in this.
Bob: This is where we have to define loveliness in biblical terms, not in cultural terms. It’s not defined by the magazines at the check-out counter at the supermarket, or by the fashion shows, or by all of the cultural trappings. We have to know that what God calls lovely may be different than what the world calls lovely.
Hannah: Absolutely; because the same Scripture that calls us to loveliness also says that: “Charm is deceitful—
Hannah: —“and beauty is vain; but what is lovely?—a woman who fears the Lord.” That’s true loveliness, and that’s going to require a level of investment that doesn’t make sense in this life/in this world’s values.
Bob: You know, this whole conversation we’ve been having here—I just keep coming back to the big idea which, I think, is really a big idea. I’m so glad you’ve tackled it, Hannah. It is that, as parents/as Christians, we need to be emphasizing what is good, and pointing to what is good, and celebrating what is good, and pursuing what is good—not ignoring what is wrong, and bad, and evil—but not making that our focus.
Hannah, tell our listeners the conclusion you came to as you were writing this book about why God had you write this book.
Hannah: Right. I finished this book; I was finishing up the edits, and one of the things they have you do toward the end is write a dedication. I felt compelled, at that point, to write the dedication to my children. I wrote: “For Phoebe, Harry, and Peter. May you know how much you are loved. May you grow strong, and brave, and wise. May your lives be filled with all that is good.”
I finished that up; I sent it off to the publishers. That’s when it hit me—I had been writing this book for my children the whole time. I did not realize that that’s what I was doing in the process; but I think I was feeling some of the weight that, maybe, Solomon felt when he was writing Proverbs to his children and to the young men he was training up.
I wanted my children to know how to navigate the world. I knew I wouldn’t be with them in every space, where they had to make a decision. What they needed most was a vision of goodness and, then, the ability to learn discernment so they could pursue what was good. For me, this was really a very personal project, even though I didn’t realize it in the moment.
Dave: It’s interesting to think—sort of like Solomon—
Dave: —he wrote it to a select group of people, and thousands/hundreds of millions have been affected.
Bob: You’ve given a vision of goodness,—
Dave: Same way—
Bob: —not just your kids, but to all of us.
Bob: Thank you for the book. Thanks for the time, here on FamilyLife Today. Whatever you write next, let us know; okay?
Bob: Yes. We’ve got copies of Hannah’s book available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. The book is called All That’s Good. You can order it from us online; or if you’d prefer, you can call to order. Our number is 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order the book, All That’s Good. The number is 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Well, I hope this conversation this week has encouraged you to be thinking about things that are good, and right, and noble, and pure. David Robbins, who is the president of FamilyLife®, is here with me. All of us need to recalibrate our thinking from time to time; don’t we?
David: Oh, yes. I mean, I was listening to the conversation—just reminded how often I focus on the negative—what’s wrong/put shame on myself—instead of looking at what is right and what is good—
Bob: —and celebrating it.
David: —and celebrating it.
David: At FamilyLife, that is what we desire to do. We want to be known for pointing you to what is true, to what is noble, to what is honorable, pure, and just—just like Philippians 4 says. This is why we desire to stay committed and rooted in bringing practical biblical help and hope to families every day with FamilyLife Today. This is why we are committed to it and want to get the message to as many people as possible.
I want to thank many of you, who support FamilyLife Today and enable this message to go forward. I want to ask you, if you’re not a part of the team and partnering with us, to become a Legacy Partner today.
Bob: Yes; and a Legacy Partner is somebody who, on a monthly basis, provides financial support and prayer support for what we’re doing, here at FamilyLife. You guys are a critical part of this effort.
David: Yes; I mean, Legacy Partners and that monthly commitment allows us to really know how we can fuel the mission, going forward, and how far we can take it.
Bob: Well, we have an incentive for you to become a Legacy Partner today. You know, we’re about to kick off our spring season of Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. When you become a Legacy Partner today, we’ll send you a certificate so that you and your spouse, or some other couple you know, can attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember as your guests. The gift card is good for free registration to any upcoming Weekend to Remember. It’s our thank-you gift when you sign up to become a monthly Legacy Partner and help support the ongoing work of FamilyLife Today.
If you’re a longtime listener—you’ve benefitted from this program; you want to see it continue in your community, and see us be able to expand and reach more people with practical biblical help and hope for their marriage and family—call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say: “I want to join. I want to become a Legacy Partner”; or go online at FamilyLifeToday.com; and the information about becoming a Legacy Partner is there. Again, we’ll send you the certificate for a Weekend to Remember for you or to pass along to someone you know. We hope to hear from you. Look forward to welcoming some new Legacy Partners to the family.
We hope you can join us back again tomorrow. We’re going to talk about how we can, as grandparents, make spiritual deposits in the lives of our grandchildren. What can we do that’s more than birthday cards, or Christmas presents, or occasional phone calls? How can we pour into our grandkids’ lives? Larry and Gladine McCall will be joining us. Hope you can join us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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