Thursday, April 26, 2007

should i stay or should i go

this one got going on 'northVUs' and it seemed like there might be more to say so i transplanted it here...

"How bout those who reject Jesus, or the church, or faith? It seems to me that as soon as you define the role of something, specifically an institution, then you are necessarily excluding." (hineini)

i agree that those who reject the centre of a faith community- in this case Jesus- will find themselves outside of that faith community... but that is what rejection means, isn't it? the turning from rather than towards something or someone?

does this mean that these individuals fall outside of the love of that community or the love of the God of that community? no, it shouldn't imply this at all. as a matter of fact, it is pretty scriptural that the love of God and his faith community, the Church, is offered inclusively with no expiry date and no umpire keeping track of strikes. if Jesus would implore peter and the boys to forgive seventy-times-seven then i think it would be rather inconsistent for God the Father to say

"well, yeah, that's a rule i made for you. however, with me it's down to your basic three strikes and you're out."

however, some of hineini's comment seems to reflect this understanding or characterization of God. in my view, that god is a construct, created in the image of certain members of fallen humanity who would seek to somehow justify thoughts of condemnation of the people beside them... much like the parable Jesus told in luke 18.9-14 . the reality of who God is is not limited by our sloppy theology. the only thing that is limited by our sloppy theology is our ability to experience a deep relationship with this God person... oh, and the ability to invite others into relationship with God as well, for a relationship based on misconception is going to have some pretty arbitrary limits and some therefore pretty limited appeal.

but back to rejection... it is my belief that when individuals reject that which is being offered (and continues to be offered regardless of their decision to accept or reject it) then they have no place entertaining feelings of embitterment or alienation based on their own decision to reject. they've chosen exclusion of their own design.

remember, i am not talking about somehow barring the doors or shutting the lights out and pretending no one is home when an 'other' (in the biblical sense) comes by. i am simply acknowledging that the burden of one's own redemption lands right back where the burden of damnation began- free will.

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"I am curious though why we work so hard to avoid guilt. I am aware its an unpleasent feeling but... the risks are too great, the costs too high to start to justify our actions to ourselves, excusing ourselves from our infinite debt to the other."(hineini)

Friday, April 13, 2007


"The problem seems to be not the mere thought of 'lust' - but the cultivation of that idea until we 'act' in ways that compromise 'do not commit adultery' (societyVS)

hmmm. i'm not sure about this. i guess it's the whole cultivation thing that has me doing a double take. where is the line in the sand that separates the doing from the done?

i mean, Jesus' words point out that, in the eyes of God, there is no real difference between what we do mentally and what we do physically. in other words, although we think of ourselves as these fragmented, compartmentalized beings, God does not. as hineini has shared from his ongoing study of the teachings of philosopher emmanuel levinas, to put someone into a box of our own design is to murder the person's identity and therefore rob that person of freedom and life... regardless of whether we treat that person the way we think of them or not. similarly, our hindu friends assert that all of life is in the mind, and go on to suggest that if we were actually able to think certain things, those things would be realized.

the word realize in and of itself is used more often with reference to an idea than to a physical situation. we speak of 'suddenly realizing' something, meaning that an idea which has been elusive up until now becames an accepted truth for us. for us it has been made real: it has been realized.

a friend of mine was recently sorting out some life stuff and it was getting messy. the challenge was that he was trying to apply the wise teachings of another to his life, but was having trouble doing so because he was basically stubborn. he wanted to but he didn't want to, you know? classic divided heart stuff that we all encounter from time to time.

in a different context, i was recently speaking on the biblical character of samson. to summarize the biblical narrative, his story is the story of the slow demise of a super hero…

this is a guy who seems to be best known for his arrogance and impulsiveness, his belligerence and unteachability, and his tendency to push hard against the limits to see if they will hold. yet while still in the womb, it is established that he is to be set apart to live a life of radical holiness and dedication to God in order to bear radical fruit. he is to be a nazirite.

it is your basic three-part vow (as detailed in the sixth chapter of the fourth book of the bible):

*no contact with fruit of the vine- inner purity, self control and self discipline
*no contact with any already dead thing- inner purity, alignment with life not death
*no haircuts- common among holy men around the world, outwardly signifying this ‘vow of separation’

but samson’s fall is a gradual descent from radical consecration to regular compromise… samson systematically dismantles his own 'super powers'…

first he goes wandering off from the rest of his group, getting into a scrap with a lion down by a certain vineyard and then keeping it secret. later, he wanders off again, returning to the scene of his secret crime, and enjoying strange and exotic delicacies from the insides of this carcass, hinting coyly at it with riddles. now whether we look at this narrative figuratively, or literally, it appears that, with two down and one to go, this revocation of vows just needs an outward signature to authenticate the inner abandonment. it is no surprise when the hair finally comes off- what is a surprise is that it takes twenty years and a personal midlife crisis for the divided heart of this guy to finally be outwardly realized.

in my view, it is of even greater import that we give attention to the inner struggle of submission and yieldedness, as the growth in this underlying area will serve our journey in the decisions and actions of many overlying ones. i almost said 'superficial' here but then realized that our outer life is in no way superficial... if it were, i think that Jesus would have focused entirely upon mystical teachings, rather than calling people again and again to an awareness of how their hearts and their bones need to be in sync.

after all, the actions of the outer man betray or celebrate the state of the inner person. they are the realization in our outer, physical realm of the angel or devil inside.

gordon macdonald has a rather successful book called rebuilding your private world and i imagine much of this thinking is better-articulated there. the book asserts, event within its title, that we live in (at least) two worlds, an inner one and an outer one, and that their prudent management, order and reorder are both possible and necessary.