The Write-Off

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Yes, I know this months theme for Wineskins is about Casting a Biblical Vision for Healthy Sexuality. Rebel that I am, I am not writing about sex… However, the following has something to say about a healthy spirituality and that does have an impact on every facet of life, including the sexuality God created…

It’s everybody’s favorite season, right?

Tax season. April 15th looms large. Some of us are excited because we are going to get a tax refund. Others of us are wondering what we are going to do to limit our tax liability.

Tax season finds many scrambling to find another write off. Limiting your tax liability without compromising your integrity shouldn’t be that difficult and yet many of us struggle. Deductions, losses, expenses… It can be very confusing and disheartening. At the end of the day, whether you get a refund or owe Uncle Sam, if you can get it all done legally and without compromising Christian values or principles, it is a win!


I really wish we could limit the usage of that word to accountants, tax preparers, and (shudder) IRS agents.


In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous novel, The Scarlet Letter, the main character, Hester Prynne, is labeled for her infidelity and other indiscretions.

It has occurred to me that the good people of fictional 1642 Boston are not much different from me. And neither is Hester Prynne.


Isn’t that what we do?

When someone with whom we have a relationship (however tenuous that may be) fails to meet our standards—whether it be doctrinally, theologically, behaviorally, or any other word that indicates how a person lives, acts, or believes—there is the temptation to write them off.

Maybe we don’t quite say it like that, but functionally and attitudinally there is no difference.

I confess.

There have been those folks of whom I have grown weary. There have been those who wouldn’t conform to my standards—who wouldn’t accept my understanding—who wouldn’t do the things I thought they should.

And to my shame and discredit, I wrote them off.

Unfortunately, I know how painful being written off can be, because at times, others have written me off. In fact, I have recently been labeled and written off for writing in Wineskins and speaking in certain places.

Yes, It’s what we do when we disagree or are challenged

Sadly, the most common and easiest way to do this is by assigning a label with a pejorative twist.

  • She’s a hopeless case (and if we are being charitable that day, we follow the comment with bless her heart).
  • He’s an idiot (and if we are being nice that day, we’ll just leave it at that).

And then there are the religious write-offs all said with a sneer and a sense of uber superiority.

  • He’s a liberal.
  • She’s conservative.
  • He’s ultra-conservative.
  • She is a progressive.
  • He is a digressive.
  • She’s a change-agent.

Oh my! We use these labels and more to write-off and erect barriers.

It’s even worse when we write-off whole churches/ congregations of people (as if everybody in any one place thinks exactly the same)!

Here’s the problem we face:

  • We don’t all look alike.
  • We don’t all think alike.
  • We don’t all understand alike.
  • We don’t all come from the same background.
  • We don’t all read the Bible through the same pair of glasses.
  • And, we don’t all find ourselves at the exact same mile marker of our journey…

This is not a plea to ignore doctrinal error.

This is not a preacher gone soft on sin asking for us to tolerate what God has clearly defined as wrong.

On the other hand, this is a prayer for the extension of grace.

This is a preacher begging for the church to be the church—to exercise the full fruit of the Spirit

  • To be kind, patient, and gentle.
  • To show goodness and love.
  • To seek peace.
  • To exercise self control.
  • To have faith in God (He’s got this too, right?)
  • To maintain a sense of joy in the uniqueness of others and the work God is doing in us all.

I am a work in progress. God is not done with me yet.

Amazingly enough, John 1:16a says, Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness…

I am so glad, because as it turns out, I need just that much grace and more!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

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