Not so long ago I had posted an article my friend Michael Coghlin wrote titled ‘Have you Heard the Good News?‘ It had mostly stirred the emotions in me regarding the challenges of evangelism and yet, my friend Don brought up a good point in a comment following the post; “I think that if we try too hard to concentrate on the ‘good news’ then we end up watering it down. It may seem like we’re building bridges but we may be doing very little to touch people’s lives with the real importance of the Good News.” I think he is right; we cannot simply focus on finding righteousness and salvation at the absence of not recognizing our own brokenness and need for repentance. But what exactly is it that we are repenting of?
For most of my life I have heard it said, “To error is human.” “To fail is natural.” But is this really true? Philosophically I can argue that to know failure you must first comprehend perfection. Yet perfection is solely measured in the personal sense. What I consider beautiful you may yet consider absolutely appalling! The same, I suppose, could be said of sin. What I consider to be nefarious in nature may not be to you. Sin in and of itself is undefinable to the exhaustive sense of comprehending its entire meaning.
“Sin is the missing of a target, a wandering from the path, a straying from the fold. Sin is a hard heart and stiff neck. Sin is blindness and deafness. It is both the overstepping of a line and the failure to reach it – both transgression and shortcoming. Sin is a beast crouching at the door. In sin, people attack or evade or neglect their divine calling. These and other images suggest deviance; even when it is familiar, sin is never normal…Above all, sin disrupts and resists the vital human relation to God.”
I think that is the actual problem we have with sin; we live with the expectation of trying to neatly define it to the letter of the law so that we can quantify its structure. To be blunt, we want the easy way of rationalizing the rule book of life so that we can find judgement within it. We want salvation and redemption within the life we have here and now today. It seems ironic to consider this when judgement itself cannot be completely ratified entirely until our life in this world comes to an end.
Perhaps the nature of sin is instead outside of the measurements of dogmatic law and is more than just a set of rules. Perhaps sin is very much like we identified earlier; relational in nature. If this is true, then sin itself must be more of an entity unto itself. Sin has character for the sack of personhood, existence for the sake of personal meaning, malevolence for the sake of self depravity. Perhaps this is what the Apostle Paul meant in saying, “But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.” (Romans 7:8-9)
Let’s wake up people. Let’s free ourselves from this prison of sin which calls itself natural and seek out redemption. This kind of relationship with sin is parasitic and in essence leeches off the perfected natures we as human beings were created for. Let’s put on our new selves and begin building on a relationship with life and not death.
Sin does exist in the objective sense a part from us yet I think the reality of our relationship too it is not to follow its lead but rather follow the lead of righteousness. In teaching his disciples Jesus says; “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” (Matthew 16:24-27)
Jesus’ leadership is in two forms; the first is that we alone cannot give anything or work to find freedom from our relationship to sin. That freedom can only come from the self sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. For that reason he models to us that we must rely of his Lordship, his ownership over our lives, and in acknowledging that authority we will find freedom through his grace and not our own personal efforts.
Secondly, by finding our allegiances in his Lordship we can begin in works which are inline with the very perfected natures God created us in and thus be filled with true purpose and meaning to our lives. Failure will no longer be a word with any meaning to us and freedom will become an expression which fills our heart with excitement and passion for the next opportunity to see the realities of Christ’s Kingdom manifest itself within us through creative, unique, diverse, and dynamic ways!
Sin no longer lives or reigns in this earth. Sin no longer is a problem; for it is dead. We are forever alive in the truth, the life, and the way through the power of redemption and freedom of Christ.
My friend Aaron made a post titled Wisdom Required not long ago and I felt led to leave a comment. These thoughts are still resonating in my heart and mind so I thought I would share them here also as they connect with the magic of Christmas.
I’ve been thinking about your friend and praying for him since we last talked over coffee Aaron. I realized I might have touched on something deeper when I said I wondered if there was something in behind his struggle of faith. Namely the painful struggle of questioning insignificance.
I ask this as I too myself struggle with this question of identity. Why should God care for me? Why should he care for the little insignificant actions I take in life whether they are good or bad? But then I think of the reverse; why should I care for God? Perhaps God thinks that what we consider to be insignificant he sees more as the greater significances. Perhaps what we see as ordinarily unimportant he sees as extraordinarily miraculous!
Have you ever heard of the “Chaos Theory”? (See Here) It is this idea that when a butterfly flaps its wings in South America, the wind created by these motions has the potential of becoming a Hurricane out in the ocean which in turn makes North American land fall. Perhaps this is how God sees us; not only in the physical sense but in the spiritual as well. Why should God care and love each one of us? Because each and every one of us has the potential of creating and experiencing great historical and eternal events, moments, and changes to His Kingdom!
Jesus tells a parable of a fig tree in Luke 21:29-33 that just as we witness the blooming of its leaves on its branches, we also can know that the Kingdom of God is near. God is not far off and he is deeply connected and close to all that we do. The question to choose then is, “What kind of hurricane do you want to create?”
In a sense I suppose that is the message of Christmas. From the insignificance of a baby born in Bethlehem came the Savior for all man kind. In another paraphrase by an unknown author, “The message of Christmas is that the visible material world is bound to the invisible spiritual world.”
Not long ago I was outside of my work waiting for a bus to pick me up. A friend and coworker walked by and noticed I was reading a book titled ‘The Tangible Kingdom’ and questioned me why I would read such a book. After explaining to him that I was a pastor he jumped with enthusiasm saying, “Really?! I never took you as being a particularly religious person!”
And then came the questions; “So you believe in God then?”
“Yes I do.” I responded.
“Do you believe in Jesus?” he asked.
“Yes.” I answered with a little bit of hesitation and internal wondering where he was going to take this conversation. Before I could question him on his own intentions he quickly threw out his next question… “Do you believe in Aliens?”
I must admit to being a little thrown back by the question. It’s not exactly your normal everyday conversations which make you contemplate faith and the vastness of space. I quickly hashed my thoughts in my brain in that moment. If I say no then I will be deemed a fundamental creationist, judged irrational with no liberal freedom, and banished from any sense of acknowledgement to intelligent dialogue. If I say yes then I am just a kooky, science fictional “Star Trek” lover, who probably leads some whacked out cult!
I must admit to contemplating the realities in which we treat the idea and existence of Truth in our culture. Is it objective or subjective? And how does it relate to religion and science? It seems that in the mind set of my friend religion or faith is based on a creed, doctrine, or traditionalism set out by a denomination or organizational affiliation which is stated to be a fact or truth. Perhaps he is right in some cases of fundamental ideology but that is not what faith is; at least that is not what faith is to me. Faith is a holistic approach to our relationship to Truth as it encounters culture, context, tradition, and the crux of what it means to be human. This is something which encompasses not just the beliefs and formation or religious ecclesiology but also transfigures the practices and foci of science.
I often think of truth in the image of a prism. Truth is a white light fragmented into a million different colors, shapes, and sizes. Each color being a conception whether it is religion, science, or philosophy which resembles some part of the original whole. It is when we are willing to look beyond our own rigid borders and ideologies that we might recognize a relationship we have with not just each other in experiential subjective truth but, the source we embody or resemble in the white light of objective Truth. We can leave the conversation of whom or what the prism is for another time.
As for my friend who wondered if I believed in aliens I simply said, “I don’t know if there are aliens or not. But, if there are I believe God loves them just as he does the rest of his creation.”
I might also ask the question though; if evolution is about a truth that constant change is always plausible then is it not logical to assume that scientific fact has the plausibility of changing?
My friend Perry sends me a monthly quote which she calls Power Thoughts from Perry A. every so often. Anyways, I found myself reflecting on her latest and the connection to Liminality and so I thought I would post it here too.
“Life begins at the end of your Comfort Zone. You don’t know what you can do until you do it; what you can be until you become it; or what you can have until you have it. The Comfort Zone is always expanding and leading to new treasures of discovery.”
What is wisdom to you?
My Friend Steve just posted these and I had to share them also. Mohandas Gandhi, considered these traits to be the most spiritually perilous to humanity…
- Wealth without Work
- Pleasure without Conscience
- Science without Humanity
- Knowledge without Character
- Politics without Principle
- Commerce without Morality
- Worship without Sacrifice
Immortality. I can’t help feel as though most people, if not all, subconsciously believe that they possess some sort of immortality. Or at least they desire it and feel they can obtain it through some sort of great work. Even in the personal sense I would agree that immortality or eternal life is deeply engrained within my own faith and has a great roll in the lifestyle and beliefs to which I live. I suppose in many ways you might say it can become more about who we are rather then what we do.
That’s why I seem to puzzle over two questions which seem to point at the way we view this immortality and the how in viewing it this way it seems to have more of an effect to paralyze it then to catalyze it.
- Why is it that we always view immortality as being more of a suspension to the way things are here and now in the present rather then in the mystery of the unknown?
- Why do we always seem to look for that immortality in something we can possess as though it was materialistic, gnostic, understandable, or objective in reality?
In short I’m not sure I am able to answer those questions in the here and now. I think they are more something which we each can wrestle with over conversation and friendship. I might say though that I think immortality has less to do with a possessive nature and more to be about a relational submission (Luke 9:24-25).
In truth, this thought stream has all stemmed from an experience I had in the local Cyclepath which I went to this past week to pick up some new gloves for wheeling. I confessed to the gentleman behind the counter that I was extremely hard on my wheelchair with regards to the distances to which I pushed it. Upon questioning me as to why I didn’t buy another more “suitable” wheelchair I blurted out in a spontaneous remark:
“What is the point in living if you can’t out-live the wheelchair you’re in while doing it?!”
I suppose it wasn’t until later that I realized the effect the remark may have had on those who do not live in the same lifestyle that I am accustomed too. In brief, I have been finding great inspiration from the current Olympics and as my conversation with the gentlemen in the store was centered on the anticipation for the upcoming Paralympics I give great due to those athletes who are competing this year. But… let’s give great due to the source of all original inspiration as I thank my heavenly Father for giving me the opportunity to live that statement out while looking forward to a future immortality which only he can define and I can submit to through my relationship with him.
“We would rather be ruined than changed.”
“The whole law of human existence lies in this: that man be able to bow down before the infinitely great.”