Archives for the month of: May, 2013

Broken.

I’ve written about this a lot. Kevin has written about this. There are probably millions of Christian books on this, but it keeps coming up.

Humans are broken.

The whole lot of us. In every way we’re fractured. It’d be funny if it weren’t so horribly true and the main cause of so much trouble in this world. We’re all part of a great tragedy. We are all born into a play that keeps moving at a slow dull pace reminding us daily that you and I are hopelessly wandering in a world that eats its young. I can barely stomach the news. I can barely stomach the sad realities that my friends face. I can barely stomach much of anything anymore.

You can call me jaded, cynical, whatever. I just look out and see so much pain and suffering that I want to tear up my clothes and hide in ashes. I see now why people would do that in mourning. It makes sense to me – gather your family and weep together. A band of broken people hurling themselves face-first into somber reflection.

I’ve recently become a manager within my company and the part that’s the hardest is dealing with employees with horrible issues happening outside of work. Work becomes an escape for them. Work becomes a refuge because you can control the variables. You can lock yourself into another reality for a period of each day and not face the other pressing issues outside. It shouldn’t be like this.

I had a post written about “truth” and how we avoid it. How we as humans spend so much time lying to make ourselves look better, that real truth escapes us. We no longer know where the line is between fact and fiction. But that’s not entirely true. There’s one truth we know – there is pain in this world. True pain. Everyone at some point will have their heart split wide open. You cannot escape that.

So now what? I’ve painted a bleak picture haven’t I? And it is bleak, but it’s not the end. There’s joy in this world. Insurmountable joy. A joy that breaks through the bondage of death. A joy that tears open the floodgates of heaven and pours out hope on a world awash in pain. This is why Jesus talks about abundant life before the grave. He knows and we know that eternal life in communion with the father is beautiful and glorious, but if that’s our only hope and the only thing we preach, we render this life meaningless. This life is not meaningless. Christ has come, the old is gone. You can commune with him now. You can pass from death to life now. The reason the Gospels carry on is not only because they’re true, but because they offer a glimpse into what humanity can become. The better man. The second Adam. Christ came not only to save us, but to give us a vision of what we can be. He himself said we’d do greater things than he did. And while we need to understand that verse in context, there is still this – the full power of God is available now to you. Why do you not allow it to work in your life?

The bleak sad story that is humanity has been interrupted by the eternal blazing glory of its creator. There is a life swelling in our midst beckoning us to take hold.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:18-21 NIV)

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Late last week during a presentation at the Catalyst conference, Mark Driscoll said, “I know who made the environment and he’s coming back and going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV.” Now before I get too far into this post let me state I was not at the conference. I cannot speak to the context or the purpose of the statement. As someone who speaks in public on occasion, I know there are times you cringe as you hear the different things that come out of your mouth. Mark might want to nuance or withdraw this statement. It is not Mark I am interested in here, but the argument because this idea is out there in the Christian world.

One place I will agree with Mark’s statement is our God is the Creator God. Central to the Christian belief is that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel. The God we read about in the creation stories is the same God who raised Jesus from the dead.A theology of creation begins with a communion forming out of love. Paul talks about us as the bride of Christ. Creation was not designed by the ego-driven deity, but formed with the desire to rest with creation. In this sense, creation is defined by God’s love and care for the other, and God is glorified as he communions with creation. And God created with the divine intent for his creation to move towards a goal—to mature, adapt, and change.

The God we meet in creation is the God who will return. However, this return will not be to burn everything up but to put everything back together.

God’s creation was not finite, but given the ability to move towards God’s preferred and promised future.  This means the Garden of Eden was not God’s finished product. In Genesis we are told Adam and Eve had work to do. They were to partner with God as they moved creation towards God’s promised and preferred future. Human sin ushered a veil of evil and death into the world; bondage of decay placed its defining mark on all creation. While God’s creation was changed as sin and death emerged, God’s preferred and promised future remained.

This future, the Kingdom of God, is alluded to throughout Scripture. From the Jubilee language in the Torah to the prophetic imagination most clearly articulated in Isaiah. This imagination comes to life in the person of Jesus. The Messiah is Jesus the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises.

As Romans says, Jesus is the first of those ones who are raised. Jesus ushers in the Kingdom of God through his life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. One thing we notice in the resurrection is Jesus has a body yet this body is a little different. The risen Lord has been made new from the flesh Jesus took on. If Jesus is the first one to experience God’s transformation then it is important to notice there is a relationship to the present. The resurrection points to a New Heaven and a New Earth that is put to right or refined.

Creation theology believes God is working in our time and space to remake all creation. The world is not to be thrown aside, but God is somehow transforming creation into the New Heavens and New Earths. This means we are to live in this world restoring the broken places. We, the covenant people, are invited to proclaim and embody the new creation of God in our world.

If creation is lost, then the material existence is a lower order concern. The real concerns are the infinite, the soul and this leads to an escapist mentality. The faith community often only concerns itself the soul of the believer, so is unable to traverse differences in belief and circumstance. Fellowship is formed around a set of beliefs and religious tenets, instead of the mutual love that gave birth to creation. Secondly, the church sees itself as saving souls as opposed partners in reconciliation. This bore itself out as churches setting aside God’s call to break down barriers in favor of the church’s prejudices. An “everything is going to burn” view of salvation dulls the senses of the Christian to the real situations of the world, but it is in margins where true fellowship with Christ is found.

Therefore, in view of God’s action in creation, the church is to live a certain way. The mission is to join God’s move towards the other. Our desire must be to embrace and love the other. This means our mission is to be involved in the lives of all people. We are not to minister to but with others. Also we have to see ourselves as part of God’s redemption in the world. From the beginning, humanity’s vocation was to worship God in all thoughts, words, and deeds. This does not only happen through songs, hymns, and spiritual song, but partnering with God in moving the creation towards fullness. As NT Wright says in After You Believe, we are to be “rulers” in God’s new world. So we bind up people in love, we proclaim good news to the broken, we heal the sick because we believe we are joining God in his work in the world.

We had a long post written up on Jason Collins….and we nixed it. We nixed it because we could spew 10,000 words on the topic and you’d say, “so?”

You see, the world doesn’t need another Christian voice on homosexuality.

What the world needs is silence.

Silence.

The calm that comes with it. The peace that comes with it. You see there’s power in silence. Nothing is more deafening. Nothing is more powerful. Most people become extremely uncomfortable with silence. Why? Because in silence you are introspective. You look inward because you must. Think of the times you went to your parents to explain something you had done. What was more impactful – the yelling or the pause in thought before speaking? The moment when you saw that your parent’s are truly chewing on what you had done and were going to respond.

Look at the beginning of John 8. The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law bring an adulterer before Jesus and try to trap him with a question. Did he immediately respond? Did he fire back a quick retort?

They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

Jesus was quiet. He kept drawing. I think of this scenario playing out in a way where Jesus looks bored with them. He continues to draw, looks around, then up at the teachers of the law and says with his eyes, “So you lot of sinners brought another sinner to me because somehow her sin is worse?” He then utters a great line – “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

This verse is used in a millon ways, usually as a defense tactic when people do something they don’t want other people to criticize them for, but I don’t think that’s what he meant. I think he meant – “look, you’re all knuckleheads, what makes that knucklehead any worse? You all deserve the same thing.”

It’s not a defense tactic, it’s a statement that paints humanity how it is – broken and looking for a cure. So I say – be silent on issues like this.

Do I mean indefinitely? No. Do I mean never speak out biblical truths and justice? No. I mean – think first. Seek first the word of God, pray for wisdom, search the bible, wear his commandments on your heart so that when you do speak, you speak with love and truth.

The world does not need Christian leaders condemning someone every week. The world does not need Christian leaders condemning other Christian leaders for their condemnations every week. We need Christian leaders that look at each other and say, “You’re broken?! Me too!” It’s time that we not be bogged down in petty discussions. You want to argue that Jason Collins isn’t a petty story, and I’ll show a revolution in Syria, a collapsed building in Bangladesh, and millions of women persecuted throughout the Middle East. The sexuality of a NBA player is so small in comparison to the true issues this world faces.

Jesus spends more time speaking on money then he does homosexuality. But let’s not make this all about that. Let’s make this about the question of where are our priorities? Something we say at work is this – when do we care? This usually comes into play when we are going above and beyond for a customer and doing something out of the norm – overbuying a product, taking full liability of something, giving away perks for sales. When do we care? At what point is what we’re discussing an actual issue and when is it merely noise? When we are among the world, do we point out every flaw? Do we become riled up when we see sin happen? Do we then forget that we ourselves are sinners? Being a Christian doesn’t make you a better human automatically. It means you’re chasing after the better human, hoping that by being caught up in the swirling love of who he is, you can pass on a piece of that love. The love of God isn’t about going to heaven, it isn’t about your wildest dreams coming true. It’s about loving Love itself. You are in love with the full embodiment of Love. You are so in love with it, you want to share that love with others and see that love spark in them and cause them to take that love to the next person. We need to be less like lawyers and more like children that have found a lightning bug. You run to your friends and show them the light, then they pass it along.

We find ourselves too often caught up in discussions we needn’t be caught up in. And while I realize this whole post sounds like the ramblings of youngster bucking the system it’s not. I love the church. I love the communion of saints. I do not love that we too often look more like a political party and less like the island of misfits toys that’s been discovered, loved and set free to show others the same love. We are not a political party. Jesus did not come to establish a hierarchy. He tore apart that hierarchy. When the veil tore in two, so did the idea that God was far off and only obtainable through certain rituals. The torn veil reveals this – God’s spirit is lose and free. It is not retained by a small group of people. It is not boxed in by laws and regulations. It’s free.

Circling back. Silence. When do you need to speak? Why do you need to speak? Are we concerned that if we do not defend Jesus or his truths, no one will? Are we concerned that somehow sinners free in this world will ruin this country? Are we not to expect Jesus and his followers to face trouble in this world? Should we not be silent, seek God, seek his word, then respond? Do we need to add to the noise?

I’m not advocating never speaking out, I’m advocating thoughtful responses full of Christ’s love and not courtroom like retorts laced with our own humanity and pride.