Monday, December 30, 2013

Saturday, August 15, 2009

God's Unfailing Goodness Comes in the Weirdest of Ways

Reading Mark's Gospel while our house church met last Sunday, I was reminded that Jesus always wanted to help. He was moved by people's plight. The greek word that gets translated as "Jesus felt compassion for them" really meant "Jesus got his gut twisted in concern for them". So. He loved people.

But that help of His often came in the weirdest of ways...

When a deaf and mute man is brought to him, he spits in the man's ear's and on his tongue! When a gentile woman asks for help for her daughter, Jesus seems to insult her. What the??

I think at times Jesus makes it hard for us to accept His help. He seems to want to affect us more deeply than just answering our prayer, or else we'd treat him like an ATM and our lives less seriuosly as a result.

At other times it comes in ways which are uncomfortable and hard for us to accept (or even perceive) simply because God ain't like us.

In either case, what are you asking God for in this season of your life? Could it be He wants to offer you help in a weird weird way? Can you be humble and accept the way forward the way that woman and that man did? [Mark 7:24-37]. I think I still struggle with this myself.

But in the end, our lives can be testimony to the goodness of God in the same way the people around these incidents spoke of Jesus: "He has done everything well".

Understatement?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

How Do We Deal with the Sin in Others?

Sin.

Did you read that word in the title without blinking? Or did it make you angry or uncomfortable? When you hear the word 'sin', do you think of Reverend Lovejoy (my favourite quote of his) saying,

"Oh just about everything is a sin, have you ever sat down and read this thing [the Bible]? Technically, we're not allowed to go to the bathroom."

I hope as I write this, you don't think of me as one of those tubthumping curmudgeons who don't believe in dancing, drinking or any form of pleasure. It's funny that for the last couple of years, it's only been my "christian" contacts who think I'm harsh and judgmental. (yes they've called me judgmental). My gay friends, my friends who smoke, the other parents in the kids' tennis club, my Catholic friends, the disabled people I worked with last week, the affluent managers I coach sometimes, the longterm unemployed with no self-esteem ... all the people that you'd imagine a fundamentalist christian would offend and judge ... they call me warm and accepting ... maybe I've become only judgmental about christians ... hmm ... :)

Anyway, it was probably sin causing me to write the paragraph above. Pride! Oh dear ... I should get back to whatever it was I was actually going to write about...

A question that has been bothering me for a few years now, percolating in the depths of my brain, was fully formed in my mind just an hour ago, it came to me with clarity: "How do I deal with sin in others?"

See I'm pretty good at knowing how to deal with it in me: I either take steps to uproot and destroy it ... or I ignore it and hope it'll go away but secretly like it and hope God will do something about it without me trying. :)

Because of that second option, to even think about other people's sin begins to sound like hypocrisy and judgmentalism to me.

But I still have to deal with it because let's face it, we're all confronted with other people's sin all the time. My youngest son asks me "Dad why did they do that?" after the car he and his Mum are travelling in gets hit with an egg ... and hit so hard that the egg (hitting the driver's window at an angle) smashes through the seal and splashes across the inside of the glass all the way back to the windscreen!

My response to him: "It's good that you don't know why, son. I hope you never understand why people would do a thing like that. It's basically just sin."

Sin can be defined as ignoring God's expectations and, yes, rules. It can also be defined as doing something that gratifies the "sinner" at the expense of others (including God). Both work for me.

And I've been stewing over what is the disciple-of-Jesus' response to sin in 21st Century postmodern enlightened Australia? And in emerging non-traditional non-institutional church where you have to figure it out for yourself instead of just doing whatever the Holy Man (ie., ordained minister/priest/pastor) says?

There's an emerging orthodoxy within christian circles that says "Well you can't challenge anyone on anything. Judging people is the ultimate unforgiveable sin". This is probably an understandable reaction to the bible-bashing or shunning of people like my gay friends, my affluent friends, my divorced friends, my longterm unemployed friends ("they're just slothful!") by Big C Church in the past.

In the end, all I have that even has a hope of objectivity for me to build my life on is the written word of the Bible. If the Bible is not an authoritative source of direction and wisdom for you, I don't judge you. I do suggest that the things I write here will probably not resonate with you. If it is, then I hope together we can explore some "answers" to the question I started with, some directions ...

It's 4 am here and I've already typed for 30 minutes. I can feel sleep overtaking me so I'll just make a start on the next part of my thoughts on this topic...

When christians are looking for stark definitions and commentary on sin, they turn to the writings of Paul. Paul is very blunt about many things, particularly things he believes are just not ok. Paul's "conservative".

When christians are trying to make the point that we should be permissive and inclusive, they turn to the figure of Jesus and say "He hung out with drunks and prostititutes and swindlers; he didn't judge people; etc etc".

See, that's interesting to me. The outcasts, the "reprobates", the every-day people - yeah, they all felt very comfortable with Jesus ... well most of the time. There are some exceptions.

It was mostly the people with power who had a problem with Him, yes. But there were also times when the "crowds" - as in middle and working class people with a few criminals thrown in there too - got sick of Him or offended by Him and they rejected Him too...

And He didn't judge? Hmmm. Jesus was much firmer on the topic of sin than even the Jewish Law. (And this is just my limited understanding, my Jewish friends may be able to show me that he was actually interpreting Jewish Law here). He said, (I paraphrase)

  • "It's not just what you do, it's why you do it."
  • "You can do all the right things for the wrong reasons and still wind up on God's scrap-heap."
  • "No one can fault the things you do, but the motivations of your heart and the burning selfishness in your mind, these negate your 'righteous' behaviour."
  • "You're full of it. You're a murderer, you're a liar, you're a hypocrite."
[see Matthew 5:20-30; 6:1-8; Luke 11:39-54; John 8:42-47 just for starters]

So for now, I just want to flag the tendency of the New Testament writers to not go soft on sin, but to actually call it for what it is. In terms of dealing with it, well, God willing, I'll explore that with you in another post ... or in the comments that follow this one...

Question: Does noting the sin in other people mean that we don't love them? (ie., Is it a betrayal of the principles of love and grace?)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Awakening Light

When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him; and you are torn by the thought of the unhappiness and night you cast, by the mere fact of living, in the hearts you encounter.

- Albert Camus

Friday, April 11, 2008

Integrity

"And so, since God in his mercy has given us this wonderful ministry, we never give up. We reject all shameful and underhanded methods. We do not try to trick anyone, and we do not distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know that." (2 Cor 4:1-2)

I have been apalled over the last decade at how easy it is for "apostles" and "prophets" and "pastors" to outright lie with a straight face in order to save face. To bend Scripture to suit their will instead of bending their will to allign with Scripture.

Whenever you come across the opposite of of Paul's qualities and behaviors (verses above) in a church leader or parachurch leader, please people. Don't make excuses for them. They are practising sin.

Don't just blindly follow them, thinking that's what you "have" to do. God doesn't expect you to follow immature and insincere people. Verses like these make it clear that some "leaders" are NOT our true elders, are not following in the footsteps of Paul, Timothy, Silas ... let alone Messiah Jesus.

Sadly, they're just dysfunctional people, unwilling to repent or grow, desperate to enjoy power over other people's lives and in real need of some good ol' fashioned disciplin'. :)

Be free of them and look for elders and teachers who reflect the behaviours that Paul writes about above. There are plenty of them. They're out there. Thank God (literally) I'm meeting them again!