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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Sinless?

December 4, 2009 1 comment

I’ll try to keep this post short and concise and if there needs to be a bit of clarification, I’ll do what I can.

As my wife and I were discussing some fascinating assertions in a book (The Last Week – John Dominic Crosson, Marcus Borg) this morning, some very interesting notions began to bubble to the surface.  One of those was essentially this:

We (Christians) traditionally understand sin in terms of things we ARE NOT supposed to do.  For example, the 10 Commandments found in the Old Testament.  There are also several other passages contained in the New Testament that outline several activities and lifestyle choices we should steer clear of, or avoid, based upon traditional interpretations.  (By traditional, I mean, “that’s-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it,” not necessarily as the original writings were intended to be understood.)  So essentially, just as in the time of Jesus, the religious systems, or the religious laws of today, define sin.

Here’s what I understand about the person and purpose of Jesus.  In as short a description as I can muster, Jesus came to challenge his followers, his disciples, to transcend the current religious system as well as live subversively in regards to the ruling empire of the day, all for the sake of others (in direct contrast to the idea that everything we do is for covering my own hind end).

What I find absolutely fascinating is the fact that 1. Jesus was not bound by the religious system of his day, which in turn and by default, caused him to violate the Jewish laws and 2. he, repeatedly, spoke, lived and stood against the ruling empire and it’s oppressive, militant way of “establishing peace,” among other oppressive and unjust societal norms.

Thus, sin in Jesus’ day was defined by the marriage of religious and state (empirical) laws.  I would argue, the same is true today.  The obvious next question is then, can we assert that Jesus lived a sinless life?  And if we maintain that assumption, by what terms did he live a sinless life?

I would further suggest, since we cannot answer those two questions as we’ve traditionally done, what then, are the implications for the terms by which we define the notion of “being a reflection of Jesus?

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Stories

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment

This post will probably end up being a compilation of several thoughts, namely because I haven’t quite isolated all of my thoughts, consolidating them into a coherent whole.  That said, I aim to focus most of my energies on the idea of stories.  Or to use a biblical term, parables.  And finally, to expand it a little more, metaphors.

I want to start off by highlighting a few thoughts in a book that stuck out to me.  Then I’ll probably wander aimlessly for a few paragraphs and call it quits in favor of eating lunch.

From Reading the Bible Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg (which I highly recommend), speaking of metaphors through which we see scripture, the author says this:

Buddhists often speak of the teaching of Buddha as “a finger pointing to the moon…”  As the metaphor implies, one is to see (and pay attention to) that to which the finger points.  …the Bible is like a finger pointing to the moon.  Christians sometimes make the mistake of thinking that being a Christian is about believing in the finger rather than seeing the Christian life as a relationship to that to which the finger points.  …Being a Christian is not about believing in Christianity.

This train of thought is stimulating on many levels.  To put Borg’s thoughts in context, he is speaking specifically about the Bible, the lenses through which we see it and the functions we’ve assigned it.  As I begin thinking about all the relative implications of his description of scripture, I can’t help but think about some of the stories, parables and metaphors contained within scripture itself.  I’m thinking more pointedly about Jesus and his use of story.

I’ve often wondered why Jesus speaks most often using stories or parables.  We know the obvious answer; stories are a way of expressing life in terms we can understand.  I would argue that the not so obvious answer is most often the one we either choose to ignore, or fail to immerse ourselves the story to find its true meaning.  Thus, in reference to the Bible as a whole, as it is most consistently metaphor (a discussion for another time), we glaze over the stuff we don’t necessarily like and/or we often refuse to enter into the story and discover it’s true message.  Yet, since our view of scripture more closely resembles a text book with ultimate power over us, rather than the ground supporting us, we pass over so much of the rich truths contained in the metaphor as a whole (Reading the Bible Again… p30).

So then, referring back to the end of the quote above, our energies are spent believing in Christianity or believing in the finger rather than focusing our attention on that which the finger, the Bible, metaphor or story points.  Ultimately, hidden within all this language is the notion that, for too long, we’ve cast our gaze on the lens, or the figure, and we’ve sometimes in hostility, defended those things, refusing to follow the line of sight, to enter into the story and discover that which we were originally intended to understand.  In short, we must, in humility, look deeper, and consider the implications for me and the life I am living, today, in this moment.

Closed

November 8, 2009 Leave a comment

Hopefully this doesn’t come across too negatively since I haven’t had someone to filter thoughts through for the last week or so.  Needless to say, this has become somewhat of a giant urn in which I am able to boil down and sift through things in a writing-things-out sort of way.

The question of the hour is this.  At what point along the journey (of following Christ) did we 1. center everything we do, think and say around arriving at a certain place (heaven) and 2. secure all of those reasons so tightly in a vault of complacency that to even suggest we are closed minded initiates a sort of “preemptive war” mentality that launches us into a state of, honestly, lunacy?

Now, there are countless times that, in the nearly 30 years I’ve been alive, I’ve been wrong.  And I’m not one to deny having thought and acted wrongly.  And I can’t help but wonder, what’s wrong with being wrong?  It’s difficult to admit, but I’ve been raised in a sub-culture that is never wrong, especially when it comes to issues of doctrine, justification for certain behaviors and yes, quite often, with scripture.  It is my assessment that churches are the only places in society that we tolerate and even accept a culture of mis-education and even lack of education, save (most) ministers, priests and clergy.  It’s only here that we are allowed to hold ungrounded and unsupported arguments claiming, that’s what the Bible says or doesn’t say.  End of conversation.  Now, I realize that is a broad sweeping stroke and it’s not my intention to start any debates, but ruffling feathers and peeling away the layers of ignorant comfort is something I’m interested in doing.

Now, some of us may be thinking, “Phew!  It’s a good thing I’m not closed minded.”  Here’s a clue that we may in fact have our beliefs locked so tightly away that we’ve almost completely forgotten upon what ground we were originally standing.  If we can look in the mirror and honestly tell ourselves that we do not need any other influence for Christian living, apart from scripture, we may be closed minded.  It’s awfully arrogant to think we can come to scripture able to flawlessly and correctly interpret scripture.  If you can look someone and tell them with complete conviction, if there’s no heaven, this whole Christian thing isn’t worth my time, we may be just a bit closed minded.  Are we really only in this if there something in it for me at the end?  If we can’t enter into the secular arena, have conversation (NOT debate) and allow our beliefs to be scrutinized, picked apart, mocked or simply discussed, it’s entirely possible that we are refusing to allow the very Spirit of God to penetrate to the deepest recesses of our being, and in turn, bring forth something new, fresh and most likely greater than that which we so desperately and childishly cling to.

I know this is erring on the negative side.  I also know that there are plenty of opportunities to poke holes in my logic.  And it isn’t my intention to ignite new flames of dissent and disagreement.  What I am working toward, as with the way in which I live my life, is to bring about a new life NOW.  There are so few places in scripture that even reference the notion of heaven being our ultimate purpose, or grasping with white knuckles the ignorance and denial that affords us the illusion of comfort and security.

What kind of people could we be if we opened the steel doors of our hearts?  What kind of people could we be if we allowed and even embraced the opportunities for new understandings?  What kind of people could we be if we came to know Jesus as ancient Israel understood the concept to know: as in sexual intercourse… (Borg.  Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time)  Does that change anything?

Proof

October 6, 2009 1 comment

One of the websites my wife and I keep up with is called the Jesus Manifesto.  Overall, most of the discussions we’ve read have been pretty good.  There was however, a letter posted yesterday, I believe that hits close to home for us.  The title of the note was called “A Letter to a Common Sense Atheist.”  Though this was a thought provoking letter, I don’t want to get tangled in superfluous details nor initiate another “argument.”  That being said, there is something I’d like to address.

My wife and I are actually fairly close friends with an atheist family.  We have shared many wonderful discussions together and our conversations have shed light on many of my assumptions, not just about the Christian faith tradition, but on life as a whole.

However, I must say that there is still something that disturbs me about this whole Atheist vs. Christian discussion.  And I feel like I can speak fairly honestly about the subject because I’ve been apart of conversations in both camps.  Here’s the deal.  No matter which way we flip the coin, each faction has their artillery of “proof” intended to blank-out the arguments of the other side, proving them wrong.

Here’s my real issue.  I’m sure that there are many facts that are true on both sides.  But, I think we’ve still missed the point.  I’ll argue from the Christian perspective because that’s what I know and it would be pretty arrogant of me to assume I know the mind of someone else.  I think it is a horrible waste of time for Christian people to try to prove people to heaven.  First of all, that’s not really a biblical concept.  And it’s awfully silly for us to use the Bible as a scientific text since at the time it was written, the concept of science was a mere 1,000 years in the future.  Anyone else see the disconnect there?

So, what then, does that mean?  I believe it to be our responsibility as followers of Christ to translate his LIFE into the language of the world we live in today.  It’s really kind of a waste of time to “prove” someone into believing in God, and I am not really concerned about all the “facts” that we claim to have.  Our job is to BE a different kind of people.  The world doesn’t see anything different in Christians because we can argue with the best of them.

I had the opportunity to preach this past Sunday and I spend some time in the 5th chapter of Matthew, in what we have traditionally labeled, the Beattitudes.  One of the glaring disconnects hidden within that passage is the fact that none of charges Jesus issues has anything to do with “believing” the right things.  I argue that it’s overwhelmingly a description of Kingdom life. LIFE.  It’s not a list of lofty ideals that are good to hope to attain, rather they are a description of the life of someone who is participating in the realm of God here on this earth.  To dive ever deeper into what Jesus is talking about, I even argue that if we are not showing mercy, making peace and being persecuted for doing those things, we are really just warming a seat on the sidelines of life.

So, I then argue that arguing is a waste of time… HA.  Isn’t it sad how quickly we can get wrapped up in our own words?  Interesting thought.  That alone could be flushed out into a few more posts.  Yet I end with the model of Christ.  What kind of life are we going to live?  Will we be participants in the realm of God, or are we going to be content to argue with everyone we come in contact with?  And I will break my own rule for this reason: I believe the essence of Christ is fully realized when we lose churchy language, step outside of the building, file away all our “proof points,” hold our tongues, love people wastefully and bring the Kingdom life here.

So, let’s please stop trying to “convert” people and just recklessly love them, and allow the Christ life to be realized in the decisions I make each day.

Speech

September 9, 2009 Leave a comment

So, here I am at my usual two week mark.  For some reason, the wheels aren’t turning as quickly as I’m used to.  Well, that’s not exactly true… The gears are grinding everywhere else but here.  I think there’s been so much going through my head the past several weeks that it’s a bit difficult to narrow specific thoughts down.  So, this could be your lucky day.  You don’t have to read the typical essay-length post.

A couple thoughts.  I’m really not one to get psyched up about political speeches and such but, how ’bout Obama’s speech yesterday?  It sure was loaded with the poison of socialism and indoctrination, huh?  I mean, who in their right mind would allow themselves to be blinded by the idea of challenging our kids to take responsibility, work hard and make a difference in the world.  When speaking about our children’s role in the greater community, Obama said:

We need every single one of you to develop your talents and your skills and your intellect so you can help us old folks solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that — if you quit on school — you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.

Now, I’m having a little trouble putting my finger on it, but some of this stuff sounds awfully familiar… Oh, wait… it’s coming to me… This stuff sounds strangely reminiscent of, some ancient text.  It just sounds so familiar, almost like something JESUS would say.

Hopefully you can hear my sarcasm coming through.  I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that people are up in arms about a very powerful speech.  I mean, good grief!  If the sun is shining and the grass is green, the temperature is a perfect 75 degrees on the most perfect day you could ever imagine and someone is going to find something nasty about it.  What is it about us that make us want to do that?  Is it really that difficult for us to find and accept good in places we wouldn’t normally look?

Hopefully by now, you’ve gathered from my previous posts that we as fellow humans, and especially Christian people, ought to be working for the greater good, ushering in a new Kingdom, releasing prisoners, fighting injustice, working to eliminate poverty and homelessness.  We are to love wastefully, without restraint, without criteria.  Now, don’t you think we should embrace that message from whatever angle it comes at us from?  That too sounds strangely familiar to something Jesus countered when his disciples complained about “other people” using his name for good though they weren’t in the “in crowd” of Jesus’ inner circle.

So, my point.  I’ve said it before and I’ll probably keep saying it.  Let’s try using our energies in partnering with our fellow brothers and sisters of humanity to work for greater good rather than gripe and complain and get our panties in a wad about everything.  If we are looking for bad stuff, I’m pretty sure your gonna find it.  The same is true on the flip side of the coin.  I would argue, we will all be better people if we spend our time investing in good.