Monthly Archives: March 2012

Unnatural.

 It’s getting close to Easter, so naturally Jesus’ sacrifice has been at the front of my mind… and well as the subject of consequences. The two things may not make a whole lot of sense together right away, but allow me to explain…

Within Christian culture we talk about consequences a lot, almost, in my opinion, to the point of being a little obnoxious. It’s the way we talk about them that bothers me, as though it’s not politically correct to mention hell so much anymore, unless you want to be considered a big fundamentalist, so instead we speak incessantly about consequences. We remind each other and those we are trying to evangelize that there are severe consequences for their actions. So severe it may even cost them their soul. We voice these consequences as a threat, going almost back to that age-old picture of God sitting in wait, ready to strike with a lightning bolt when you’ve done something wrong. Our lightening bolts today look like suffering, financial problems, sickness… the list could go on, and of course it gets more dramatic in some groups than in others, but by and large as the body, we succumb to a degree to this practice of using consequence a way to wield God’s Justice.

Last night in a bible study we got to talking about this very thing and I began to think, why do we have to remind people of consequence, why do we feel like it’s our duty to remind each other and everyone else of the looming consequences for our actions? We should know this, we live in a world that is governed by consequence. We know that if we jump from a window that the consequence will be falling to the ground. We know that the consequence of touching flame is being burned. We are all subject to the law of consequence… shouldn’t it go without saying that when we sin that there will be consequences, because it’s natural?

Then something bigger started to hit me, a reality that had never quite sunk in in the same way before. I thought of Jesus on this earth, first as a human being which should blow our minds in and of itself. God becoming one of us. That alone is huge, but when I begin to think about Jesus here with us, being the only perfect human being, the only one of us not subject to the law of consequence bearing the ultimate consequence… Just beginning to wrap my brain around it is almost unbearable. It’s unnatural… not even that, it defies the laws of nature! So much so that Matthew says that the sky became dark, the sun refused to shine on its Creator being murdered and the ground shook in repulsion. What Jesus did was so outrageous, so scandalous, so unnatural, that the earth literally cringed.

Please don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not saying that teaching right from wrong is not important… but my heart and my head can’t take in the magnitude of what Jesus did for us in living, dying, and resurrecting for us. How can we spend so much time arguing about whose faith counts, about if there are consequences or if there aren’t? Yes there are consequences, but in light of what Jesus did, I have to really risk wondering, do the consequences matter? Obviously they will impact people, but in regards to how I talk to people, how I share with them, is there room for consequences when what my Savior did was so huge?

I believe that balancing truth and grace is important, but what I know is that while I may have to balance truth and grace, God does not. God is 100% truth and 100% grace, He doesn’t  compromise one for the other. What I find is that often we look at truth as a sword and grace is weaker, more indulgent. But I see it differently… Truth is a sword, it is absolute and it’s what helps understand our sin and leverage what we know as right and wrong, but there’s a reason that scripture says that we were saved by grace. Truth makes us aware that we need saving but it is grace that made our salvation possible and if we think of the reality of what Jesus did on the cross as mentioned before, then we can understand that grace isn’t truth’s softer counter-part.

Grace is courageous.

Grace is bold.

Grace is defiant.

Grace fought for us… and for my part, instead of weighing consequences, I will fight for grace.

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What does it mean to care?

Kristin and I have been having a conversation largely about how Jesus interacted with people. We’ve both found it beautiful and sobering how much Jesus paid attention to people’s immediate needs. He healed people and fed them, even just acknowledged them when their expectation was to be ignored at best, shunned at worst. Jesus touched people who needed to be touched, and mourned with those mourning even when he knew what would happen next.

Certainly we know that the state of one’s soul is important, and certainly we can assume that no one could have known that better than Jesus, and yet, he so often took time out of preaching his vital message to address the immediate and physical needs of those around him.

While thinking about this I’ve started to wonder: have we underestimated the power of caring?

After my Mom passed a friend suggested I read Philip Yancy’s, Where Is God When It Hurts. One of the things he spoke at length about where the lengths to which there have been studies done to help people with leprosy acknowledge pain. It was discovered that leprosy was a nerve disease that caused people not to feel pain, and thus things as simple as shoes that were too tight resulted in the loss of a foot because where you or I would treat the blisters and wear different shoes, people with leprosy do neither and wounds become infectious and very serious in the end. I’m trying to solve this problem a system was created where leprosy patience were able to wear a device that lit up to alert them of actions that were harmful to them so they could adjust their behavior, sounds like a simple solution, right? And yet it was hugely unsuccessful, why? Because knowing they were hurting themselves was not enough to change their behavior, without the presence of pain or discomfort they were not motivated to do anything differently.

You may be wondering how this connects, and so I’ll explain. Through this example we see the importance of pain. For these leprosy patience adjusting their behavior in many cases would be life saving, but even to save their lives, mere knowledge of dangerous actions was not enough to change them, they needed discomfort or pain because discomfort and pain cannot be ignored. Pain takes center stage. When reaching out to people who are in physical or emotional discomfort or pain, how can we expect them to believe that we care for their spiritual well being if we show little to no regard for their present needs?

I think this is something Jesus understood and because he wanted them to know he cared about them and knew that when they knew he cared they would be receptive to his message for the benefit of their souls, it was important to him to address people’s discomfort or pain.

In following Christ’s example, I think this should be something that is more important to us.

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Leaders

Leadership has been the theme of my reading, thinking, praying, and discussions lately.

Something I’ve noticed in my bible reading lately is a common thread between all of these great leaders we look to, and that commonality is risk. Throughout the old Testament and the New you see God’s chosen leaders taking risks and acting in ways that are counter-culture… even counter church-culture.

I don’t believe that any of the great biblical leaders had a more personal or authentic encounter with God than the encounters we have today, so I find it hard to believe that they wouldn’t have faced within themselves, and the people around them, the same doubts and frustrations that we feel and face when God asks us to risk everything to follow Him.

What would your most trusted friends say to you if you went to them and told them that God had told you to build an Ark to preserve life on earth because a giant flood was coming? How about if you told them that after He had promised that you would be the father of nations, He’d asked you to kill your own child? What if you had to go to your pastor and tell him God had told you to marry a prostitute, or that His will was for you to lead a nation out of captivity to the land that He’d promised you. Would your siblings question you if you told them that you dreamed that you were a king and that they would bow down to you? Would your church family be scandalized if God told you to lie with a man who was not your husband yet, or how about if you became pregnant with God’s own child? Need I go on?

I hope that I have the courage to follow where He leads against all odds, and all doubts, and all of those who are well-meaning, but afraid. I hope that I am always so desperate to be near to God that I’m able to risk everything in order to point people towards his scandalous love and grace. After all, can it really be a risk? If He is for me, than who can be against me?

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