A Christian discussion blog for those interested in living a blend of Christianity that is as counter-cultural as it’s supposed to be. As a counter-culture we need to make ourselves truly different, yet also truly available – to anyone and everyone. Postmodernism is here and the Church needs to embrace a paradigm shift- (i.e.- emergence). And we need to do this while coming together (i.e. convergence). The journey continues…

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Living Under the Law of Love

On the surface life would be much easier if more were decided for us. While we can rest assured that some things are always true, things such as the fact that God is God, an unchangeable and merciful deity who abounds in grace, it's amazing to me how much is not clear. I'm speaking of the day to day details- where so much in the manual of life doesn't easily fall into place. For all we do know, it's clear that we are frequently, almost daily called to wrestle with issues in order to decide what the best course of action is in any given situation.

However, I think that while things, may on the surface, appear easier if more were decided for us, in reality we would miss much of what the Christian message has for us as it's goal if we asumed it were only a system of easily ascertained "yays and neys". Yes, we are to lean not on our own understanding. Yes God's strength is made perfect in our weakness. However, this doesn't deny the fact that much of the Christian journey is about learning to think, and be, as God is- by his very nature. For him it's automatic, for us it's hard work and sacrifice. This means wrestling is part of the equation- there's no way around it. And that's why we must caution ourselves not to turn Christianity into a set of laws that easily fall into place in preexisting slots. It's just not as simple as square pegs and holes. And yet much of the time it seems that this is what we default towards as we seek to live life.

Paul himself says, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling". How often do we breeze past this passage without grappling with it's meaning? Surely an implication of what Paul is saying here is that if fear and trembling are necessarily involved, that our journeys will not be simple ones. But how often do we seek answers as if the wrestling, and the tension, were not involved. Take this following case as an example... Person A comes to Person B and reports a problem. Person B is a Christian and has therefore at his disposal the Truth Machine. So he merely smiles knowingly at his neighbor, pulls himself up to the keyboard in front of the machine and types in the query. He then looks over and smiles at his friend as he punches the enter button with fervour. With little delay, the machine churns for a moment and then spits out a response in the form of a little piece of paper. Person B, unfolds the paper and proudly reads the response to Person A, whom upon hearing the correct course, smiles broadly, claps his hands together above his head and offers his friend an enthusiastic holy hug.

Yes perhaps I am being more than a little facitious here. But, in reality, the approach we take sometimes doesn't seem to stray to much from this scenario. The only issues we don't approach in such a manner are those to which the Bible doesn't provide us a clear and unequivicable answer. I think we almost unconsciously assume that these questions can't be all that important if the Bible doesn't address them specifically. We never seem to consider, on the contrary, that if so many issues are not dealt with specifically, that perhaps clear-cut, black and white answers are not the goal of the enterprise at all. It doesn't take much thought to realize that this is perhaps a strange possibility to ignore.

But perhaps I am being too obtuse for you here. Let me address some specific examples where I see the Truth Machine used in such a manner. By now, I'm sure our human natures have convinced us that while we whole-heartedly agree with the argument I'm making here, that we ourselves are not guilty of this all too common Christian oversight. I am all too aware that I have frequently employed the T.M.method to people, and in turn done nothing to practically help them in their difficulty.

My first example came up in a conversation I was having with a friend on this very topic. The issue of fasting came up. We are all very aware of the gospel passage where Jesus warns us not to fast openly in front of others. In context, what Jesus is speaking of here is avoiding making a prideful spectacle of one's intimate relationship with God. Of course his admonition has everything to do with motivation. It is all about the heart. What he is not saying, on the other hand, is that fasting should be an entirely secret affair that is never to do be observable to others. And yet we often take the precept almost to this extreme. In short, we make a law of what was always meant to signify a "heartcheck"- if you will.

Perhaps another biblical example would be helpful. Consider for a moment another gospel passage which depicts Jesus intervening in the potential stoning of a woman caught in adultery. Those who were about to search the ground for large and jagged stones surely felt that they were completely within their right to follow "the law" and put to death a sinner who had clearly transgressed. From that perspective, judging only the facts of the matter, it would be hard to find fault in their 'legal" reasoning.

Interestingly, Jesus doesn't address the law at all in this instance. He doesn't try and apply a mitigating factor that is written somewhere in Rabbinic fine print in order to relieve this woman of her sure demise. Instead, he takes a different approach entirely. He turns the situation on it's head. He asks each of those present to consider themselves before considering the adulterous woman. He calmly responds "let he who is without sin cast the first stone". After moments of inner wrestling, surely for some it took longer than others, the woman suddenly finds herself alone with Jesus. Jesus' challenge had hit it's mark- the center of the hearts of those who were about to commit murder in the name of "the law".

I am not trying to suggest here that we should abandon absolute truth, or that we should at all costs seek to avoid confrontation over issues of right and wrong. On the contrary, I think we should apply all of our faculties to this task. But doing so, by definition, means wrestling through difficult issues. It means considering first and foremost, the nature of God's heart and his redemptive plan for all of us, then secondly humbly considering our own sinful brokenness, and then lastly considering the sins of another in light of God's intention for his shalom community.

If we were to merely settle, on the contrary, for a legislated system of moral law which provides everclear-cut, one-dimensional, abstractions of truth, I think we would leave more than much to be desired. I think such an approach amounts not only to poor exegesis, but even to a form of sin itself. Earlier I mentioned Paul's statement which calls us to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling". Another of his comments comes to mind here, that being the admonition to move into a spiritual maturity that sees us no longer drinking the equivalent of baby's milk wisdom. Not only would we be a wiser church if we took this to heart, I think we would be a more compassionate one as well. And when all is said and done, wisdom and compassion should always appear as two sides of the same coin. May we heed this the next time a question arises and the Truth Machine threatens to raise it's ugly head.


Blogger DErifter said...

Hi Darren-
I know what you're saying here, and I experience it myself. I often find myself asking for God's guidance so that I'd know His will in every circumstance. But although on the surface it seems like a godly prayer, it seems to miss the point under closer scrutiny. Jesus told the pharisees in John 5, "You search the scriptures because you think that in them is life, and it is they that bear witness to me yet you refuse to come to me."

I think that's what I sometimes do. I'm looking for God's answer in the written word, when His Spirit dwells in me and offers living advice. We need to listen for His voice, rather than find a way to pack every situation into a biblical example ( or Truth Machine, as you cleverly put it.) We need to be more fluid/less rigid.

The wineskin parable. Anyway, thanks for your insight. Blessings!

6:10 PM


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