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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.