Monday, June 11, 2018

Salvation Rights

Salvation Rights

“Agape is not a weak, passive love. It is love in seeking to preserve and create community...The cross is the eternal expression of the length to which God will go in order to restore broken community...The Holy Spirit is the continuing community creating reality that moves through history..If I meet hate with hate, I become depersonalized, because creation is so designed that my personality can only be fulfilled in the context of community”
Martin Luther King, quoted by Peter Mommson in Plough Quarterly; Spring 2018.

We are saved as individuals; we are saved into relationship-with God and with one another. Scripture provides ample evidence;
see, for example, Jn 12:32; Ro 12:5; Eph 2:1-22; 1Pe 2:5. How does this effect our individual rights and liberties? Again, scripture has much to say: 1 Cor  6:1-8, 8:7-12; 9:12,15, 19-23; Phi 2:1-11; Gal 6:2-5. See also Mat 5-7. This relationship with one another and with God is called The Church and we are saved into it but we are most definitely not called to hide within it. We are called to influence culture, demonstrating and preserving God’s truth by being His presence-to be salt and light in the world. In the world because it is where we are; there is no place else where we can be. Today, as in Martin Luther King’s day, we are not living up to our calling, as evidenced by the church-at least a sizable portion of it-attempting to redeem secular society by political means. 
We are not redeemed, nor does the Church exist, to enable the exercise of individual rights-this is what brought down the curse to begin with-“But the serpent said to the woman...God knows that when you eat of will be like God, knowing good and evil...the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise...” Ge:3:4-6 (NRSV). Exercising individual rights and liberties at another’s expense-especially when the rights in question rob another of their God-given dignity-is simply the modern version of knowing (and deciding) good and evil for ourselves without input from God. This is where conflict inevitably arises-my good is not always your good. Whose good gets to win?

The above referenced passages, and many more, indicate that, contrary to modern thought and practice, the one who surrenders often wins. It is as Jesus teaches-“Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-24 (NRSV). Surrendering individual rights and liberties is one way of denying ourselves to save ourselves; one way agape love builds and preserves community. Insisting upon our individual right to...(fill in the blank) almost always pits one against another, breaking communion (and community) and in the end no good, greater or lesser, is accomplished. In order for one to win another must loose. Any time one looses we all lose. The word ‘lose’ itself is defined by SIRI as “to be deprived of or cease to have or retain (something);or to cause (someone) to fail to gain or retain (something). Life as God intends is not a zero-sum game. The more we give of ourselves (lose) the more we receive from God (win) Who, by the way, loves to empty Himself into His children. As if emptying Himself were even possible...

Martin Luther King makes a couple other points worth noting. One is the cross as restoring broken community. It isn’t just about getting your sins forgiven or going to heaven when you die; God was, as Paul tells us, reconciling us to Himself. Restoring us to communion with one another is part of the reconciliation process. Because the nature of the Trinity is self-emptying love (other- centered, if you prefer) our lives are meant to be other-centered. This is what restoring broken community means. To paraphrase Paul, in Christ there are no black or white, brown yellow or red; no gay or straight; no Republican or Democrat or Libertarian or Socialist or Tea Party. There is only “all of [us] in Christ Jesus”.
The second point worth noting is “creating reality”. Another way to say this is restoring normalcy. The situation we have in this country today is not normal. It is not God’s reality; it is the reality we create when we allow the gospel truth to be compromised; when we redefine our worldview to fit our definition of right and wrong. Don’t ever let anyone tell you God’s reality is not practical or obtainable or for this present age. Just as one chronically homeless creates a new normal so as to cope with a new situation and, as a result, comes to fear the old (housed) normal; so we have created a new normal to justify our self-centered way of life. Like Jesus, Paul and the Church before him, Martin Luther King is calling us to return to God’s normal; to life as God intends. This life is possible, and it is time. 


Friday, June 8, 2018

Who is My Neigbor; Who is My Samaritan

Regarding the Baker and the Same Sex Couple; or 
        Who is Your Samaritan 
When Jesus said turn the other cheek He was not saying ‘stand there and let someone wail on you’; He was saying ‘you be the one to break the cycle of violence’. When He said ‘give your clock as well’ He was not saying give away all your clothes, He was saying ‘be the one to go beyond the minimum effort required to serve your brother or sister’. When someone asked Him ‘Who is my neighbor’ He said said ‘whomever needs your help-and by the way, your neighbor may be a Samaritan’.
It is quite possibly Jesus will say to the baker “Well done, good and faithful servant”. It is also possible He will say “I sent that couple to you, why did you turn them away?”. It is even possible He will say both. 

Insisting upon our individual rights, our civil liberties, is always the American way. It is not always the Way of Jesus.