Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Devoid of Stars" pondering the Xian's reaction to the death of Bin Laden

The past couple of days have been a whirlwind of quandary as I have tried to seek out a balance of conviction that goes against a consensus of emotions. You MAY have heard that a certain individual, who held certain radical beliefs, was recently killed in a raid on his hideout on May 1st. “Bin Laden is dead”, said the news crews and twitter feeds. “USA, USA, USA” chanted the elated crowds on the streets of the major metropolitan cities. And I’m sure a few Natural Lights were consumed as the sounds of "Yee Haws" & shotguns were fired on the banks of the Suwannee River. Each, in accordance with their own cultural celebration let out cries of joy and elation at the knowledge that this man, who caused so much pain and tribulation, could no longer hurt another person. As Twitter feeds blew up and the Facebook news feed panted in electronic exertion with the statements of jubilee over this man’s death, my heart became, strangely, saddened. It was NOT bereaving the loss of a mass murderer nor mourning the death of the head of the largest terrorist organization. Instead, I would liken it most to the feeling that Jeremiah had as he stood and looked upon his people Israel, and wept. His sadness was not only because of the sins that his people had committed, but it was also for the relationship that they lacked with their Father. Jeremiah wept for he knew the benefits of right relationship and the recompense for knowing the Father, and he wept for he also knew that his brothers and sisters were missing out on something greater, something Jesus would later call abundant life.
That is more of the heavy-heartedness that I was feeling. I read the statuses of men and women of God and my heart began to weep, for taking the place of love was hate; mercy was replaced by judgment and wrath overflowed its muddy banks flooding the land where grace flourished thereby drowning its fruits. We claim to be Christ-followers, those who follow the teaching of Christ and try to live as he lived. If HE is our paradigm then we must be true to HIS word. We cannot pick and choose what we follow and what we discard, lest we become like lukewarm water (not able to cook with nor good to drink, in other words useless).
In the greatest life principles ever given, the sermon on the mount, we find the six antitheses, the portion where Jesus says “you heard it said…, but I tell you…”, Jesus was not negating the law but rather providing true perspective on what these laws were meant to produce in us. One of the most difficult of these antitheses is found in Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This passage has been circling in my mind like a buzzard over some fresh road kill since we found out about Bin Laden’s death. How can we claim to follow Christ and ignore some of his core teaching all together? Now, with that being said, I do not claim to be perfect and I can think of several of Jesus’ teachings that my wife and kids would say I fail miserably at everyday. I just ask that we take an honest look at our reaction to Bin Laden’s death and compare that reaction to unbiased scripture teaching.
A long-distance mentor of mine, Bruxey Cavey, posted on his twitter account: “The State brought justice, as it is called 2 do (Romans 13:1-7). Now let the Church offer grieving & grace, as it is called 2 do (Romans 12:14-21).” Although, I still have trouble with the death of an un-salvaged soul, I accept that his death may have been a necessary evil. However, it is now time that we as Christ-followers stand up and be the subversive, counter-cultural group we were born of and not celebrate the death of any man, but rather offer grace, mercy and love to even our enemies. Martin Luther King Junior once wrote: "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. So when Jesus says “Love your enemies,” he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition.” (“Strength of Love”, pg. 53) Let us work out with humility what it means to love our enemies. Let us not have our light be driven out by darkness, but rather drive the darkness out with our light. Let us be the salt and light to this earth. Let us be the stars in a sky devoid of them. Grace and peace to each of you on this journey.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Truly Dangerous Religion

It was the morning of September 12th and I was sipping my hot tea in my Pink Plush bath robe with matching slippers and enjoying my daily dose of “The View,” when one of the hosts let loose a comment that initially caught me so off-guard that I almost spilled my hot Chamomile all over my embroidered morning-wear. Ok, so I wasn’t watching the view and I don’t have an embroidered pink plush bath robe with matching slippers, though it sounds very comfortable, but I did read this quote from one of the hosts of “The View”: "Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America.”

As I wrote above, my initial reaction to this comment was a bit of shock and defensiveness, after all this is MY religion that she is talking about here right! Right! It is MY religion, this is what I have created and not what was intended by Christ. This view of what Radical Christianity is, is a misconception that, unfortunately, WE have propagated about our faith. You see Christians rarely exemplify radical Christ-following. Instead, we take Christ’s name slap it on the back of our “Lord’s-Gym” t-shirts and do whatever we want all along shouting that we do it in the name of Christ. This results in radical Christianity being associated with heretical churches standing outside a gay soldier’s funeral with signs saying “God Hates Gays!” It also results in hoards of people standing outside abortion clinics screaming hateful obscenities and hurling derogatory comments at 16 year-old girls as they woundedly promenade to their infant’s deathbed.

This is the image of radical Christianity that most have. Christ did not come teaching rules and regulations so that we can have ammunition to create a religion which hurts and wounds further the already hurt and wounded. Instead, he became hurt and wounded so that we are able to show love and mercy and give hope to those who need it most. Radical Christianity, as it has been shown to the world, is not AS threatening as radical Islam, it is MORE threatening. This radical Christianity is misappropriated and antithetical to its paradigm. True radical Christ-following would invoke scores of praise for God and the people of God as they exemplify radical love, radical mercy and radical hope. Hope for new life in the here and now, hope for the replacement of joy where there is mourning, hope that the Kingdom of God is breaking through, not as a get out of hell free ticket but as abundant life in the present.

If this type of love were to be shown and this type of hope given we would be much closer to the early church as they were praised for their ability to show the love of the Lord to the most destitute of people. In A.D. 362 whilst Christians were still a persecuted people Emperor Julian who was anti-Christianity encouraged the Jews and Romans to be more like the Christians because of their care for other people: “For it is disgraceful that, when now Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galilaeans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us. Teach those of the Hellenic faith to contribute to public service of the sort.” Wouldn’t it be great to hear this report about Christians today!
It is true, radical Christianity as it is known is part of the problem, but the anti-religious alternative; true radical Christ-following is the solution to that problem. So let us be challenged by the call of our Creator and the example of our forefathers. Let us show others what radical Christ-following is about. Go out of your way today to love someone in a BIG radical way!

Quote from: The works of the Emperor Julian, LCL, vol. 3, pp. 67-71.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's in the name: "ruinous REDEMPTION"

The ruinous REDEMPTION of LOVE removes religious riddles and relational retardation; revealing the radically ravenous REDEMPTION writhing restlessly & within reach of those remembered by the righteous God.

Some have asked what this ruinous REDEMPTION is that is the title of this blog. The word ruinous is in lower case because of the importance it has in the sentence structure. Though it is first in order it is the less important of the two words. What does ruinous mean? Ruinous forces destroy and lay to waste whatever they touch. A tornado crosses the path of a house and it smacks the house straight in the face. The house is razed, unrecognizable and in need of major rebuilding. The landscape around that house completely changes and landmarks that once demarcated an essence of an area become useless. Life, if not completely destroyed, is damaged and ravaged.

Redemption, on the other hand, infuses life to that which was lifeless, purposes to the purposeless and gives form back to the formless. This seems to be an authority acting in complete dichotomy to that destruction produced by the ruinous. So how is it that these oxymoronic words co-exist? Because it is the way that Kingdom works. The redemption that is given to us by the Lord is a gift, it is free, undeserved and cannot be earned. However, there is an effect, the redemption that we seek and need is given freely, but in true acceptance of that gift we find ourselves misrepresented in motive and different in our desires. Before my children were born I was selfish and interested in things that would make me happier. After they were born my desires became less and less about me and more and more about how I can make their lives more joyous. In a way my paradigm was destroyed and new values and purposes manifested within the deepest bowels of my being.

The same is true with the ruinous REDEMPTION that is given to us by our Creator. Often times I hear Christians claiming how they were a mess before God got a hold of them and then like one of Lewis Carrols magic cakes, God’s entrance signified that everything in life seemed to become the right size for Alice. The truth of the matter is when God entered into my life he completely ruined the plans and paradigms I had established. He led me to something with a much greater purpose and fulfillment, but it required a lot more work. Instead of treating others as secondary to my happiness, I began to realize that true personal fulfillment came from considering others better than myself (Philippians 2:3). Instead of living with a religious-spirit guided by law, I opened up and found that Love is a much better source of discernment than law can ever be (Philippians 1:9-11).

This is the ruinous REDEMPTION that I speak of. This redemption ruins the false paradigms, broken relationships and religious mindsets that have guided our lives to a place of complacency, and then it redeems, rebuilds and renovates the heart to desire the good kind of life, the abundant kind of life (Mark 8:35). This ruinous REDEMPTION requires a lot of demolition and construction, which feels a lot like hard work, sacrifice and growing pain; but the journey is worth it. Allow the ruinous REDEMPTION to ravage your heart and mind, and find that the Creator’s good life.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Christians and Earth-Care

“What we do in life echoes in eternity!” Do my actions in the here and now affect the there and after? According to Maximus from Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator, it does. This is a question that we have been dealing with in my community group the past couple of weeks. We have been dialoguing a lot about Christians and earth-care and the affect that certain mindsets have had on our overall view of the earth. Do we as Christians have an obligation to this earth, and if so, what is that obligation?

I have a friend who is not a Christian and highly values the earth and the care of the earth. I asked him once about what he knew when it came to earth-care and the Bible. He responded to me: “From my understanding, the bible teaches that there is no reason to take care of the earth as a Christian, because in the end things will just be destroyed anyway.” My heart melted, I knew this was the message the church and church leaders have most certainly projected as the church’s position. Christians are not asked about environmental issues because those asking the questions already know what the answer is going to be.

But is this what the bible teaches, or is it a misunderstanding of scriptural teaching? In the Garden there was perfection. God walked together with Man in the cool of the day and perfect peace and all animals, plants and people enjoyed harmony. God said to Man “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen. 1:28 NIV) Man is most certainly commanded to rule over the earth in this passage. However, we must understand what it is to rule as God’s steward in order to rule rightly and justly. The concept of authority and ruling over the earth implicitly states that we are to be the caretakers of the earth. This passage has been used in the past as a defense of utilizing the earth for whatever our wants, needs and desires are. However, a good ruler recognizes the needs of that which is being ruled as well as his/her own needs. This is where the misunderstanding of the concept of ruling and authority occurs. As Christians we are to rule over the earth with an understanding of what the earth needs as well. This does not give us the right to take whatever we want but rather what we need so there will be enough for all. Mahatma Gandhi once said: “There is enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

Another argument Christians use against earth-care is that according 2 Peter the earth will be destroyed anyway and so why should we even bother with this current earth. I believe that this too is a misconception of what scripture teaches. The fires of 2 Peter perhaps are not fires of complete destruction, but rather fires of purification and reconciliation. The Lord is a big fan of reconciliation and redemption. And so it follows within his nature that he would not completely destroy the earth but rather make it new: as in new to those who inhabit it. This fire will destroy the imperfection and unrighteousness that has settled on this earth since the fall of man and leave the beautiful imprint and reconciled image of what was intended to be. If God’s plan the whole time was to destroy the earth and make it new, then why did He go through tedious task of redeeming his people over and over again? Instead, it is just like God to reconcile not only those who inhabit the earth, but also the earth along with them.

Christ was the first fruits of all humanity (1Cor. 15:20) and we are the first fruits of all Creation (James 1:18). Bruxy Cavey says “Resurrection is a foretaste of what we look forward to experiencing and what we will experience is a foretaste of what all creation will look forward to experiencing.” The Lord gave some pretty strict Levitical laws to the ancient Jews about taking care of the earth and the punishment for not following through with those laws was expulsion from the land, for his covenant was not just with humanity but with all of creation (Gen. 9:8-10). Earth care is not just for Greenpeace and hippies, it is our responsibility and duty to rule over the earth with proper stewardship and understand that what we do in this life echoes in eternity. It is those who have shown proper stewardship and care who are brought into the Kingdom.