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To Be One in the Body

What if your hand decided it didn’t like being attached to your body? It thinks your stomach is a little too flabby or your armpits need better deodorant. It thinks it would be better off on its own. So your hand decides to sever itself. What would happen?

Obviously, it’d die.

With the body, your hand can paint a masterpiece (more or less) as well as feed the body (for better or worse). But a severed hand is useless (excepting Thing). It can do nothing. Not even sustain its own life. Your hand is dependent on your body and cannot function alone.

Further, my pastor added in church that a hand disconnected from the body is, by extension, disconnected from the head. The Bible calls Christians the body of Christ while Christ himself is the head. Each Christian makes up one part of his body, just like a hand is one part of yours. Therefore, if we want connection to Christ, we have to be connected to his body. If we want oneness with Christ, then we must be one with his body. There is no having Christ without having his church (which just means other Christians).

stockvault-people-walking-on-the-beach132394Christians also like to call each other “family.” Once upon ages past, family had a weightier meaning than it often does in today’s American culture. The majority of the world has kept this “traditional” style of family, where the family is the most basic social unit, not the individual person. Families are there seen more like a body, and I believe this is the way families were seen in biblical times. But American families now look increasingly segmented and estranged rather than a united and close-knit body.

Sometimes I wonder which of the two kinds Christians refer to: the modern American family or the more globally historical one. If the first, that would explain many issues now present in the American church. A family that is not a body is easily divided, easily weakened, easily destroyed. If the second meaning of family is used, then the church is full of hypocrites, which we already knew.

What we need is a resurrection of the family body. May all Christians live as if other believers are actually part of the same body. When one part of your body hurts, the whole body suffers. I’d like to see my brothers and sisters stop being ashamed of each other or setting themselves up as judge. Stop criticizing; start encouraging. We need to stop attacking and start defending. As one body, we belong to each other in Christ. “Be devoted to one another.”

Once we can stand up for each other, we need to also lay down. Lay down our pride, our self-righteousness. Let’s be courageous enough to be vulnerable. Let’s admit that we are dependent on each other. Let’s humble ourselves in front of our family and confess to one another that we don’t have life together and that we do need help. No one is immune to discouragement and stumbling. God works through his people, so let him use his people to answer our prayers. Care for the body, and let the body care for you.

After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. Ephesians 5:29-30
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Posted by on September 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Back to School: A New Perspective

Seven months after graduating college, I’m back in class. By my free will.

But this isn’t college. It isn’t cooking basics. It isn’t road rage control. No, this class meets at a church and is all about Christian missions. It’s a class that started about 40 years ago and has spread around the world. I will let the class introduce itself with its own promo video:

If you didn’t catch all that (or just skipped the video), Perspectives on the World Christian Movement is a 15-week course with 15 speakers and a whole lot of reading. The Perspectives reader weighs more than most of my college textbooks. It includes 136 articles or essays by Christian leaders around the world. The class also uses a study guide alongside the reader to keep students on track with the reading and lectures.

Since college still feels like yesterday, I decided to opt out of the certificate and credit options for the class registration. I instead signed up for the lowest level of commitment, otherwise know as “key reading.” Of course, I still plan on attending each week’s lecture and keeping up on the reading, but key reading students are not required to read as much, submit lesson reviews, take exams, or create a final project. Key reading students do not receive grades. In other words, I felt lazy.

I look forward to seeing where this class goes, though. From the first, I’ve heard only good things from all corners to recommend the class. Overall, everyone told me this class will change my perspective on the world–and ultimately, it will change my life. So I already had high expectations by the time I showed up for the first lecture last night.

The church hosting the weekly class is on the outskirts of town and is the closest I’ve ever seen to a mega-church. The building looks more like a conference center than a place for worship. Walking inside, I found 40 to 50 people milling around before the start of class. A woman found my registration and directed me to the book table, where a man stocked me with the reader and study guide before sending me on to have my photo taken. Once I made it into the classroom, I realized the class offers dinner. Students were roaming along the tables laden with crock pots, vegetable trays, and plastic boxes of store-bought cookies. I grabbed some apple slices and a chocolate chip cookie and chose my seat.

The three-hour class introduced the course, covered the beginning of God’s story in Genesis, gave time to meet other students in small groups, and instilled in me an eager excitement to begin my reading and go to class next week. Our hilarious first speaker asked us why we chose to take the class and what is our motivation to finish. I chose this class to continue learning about God and his plans. More specifically, I hope God will speak to me through this class, saying what his plans are for me.

It’s already obvious that this class will impact my life and the way I think, although I’m not sure yet in what ways. Who knows who I will be by the end of 15 weeks? Only God.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Other thoughts

 

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Searching for God Knows What Part 6: Stop Performing

Jean-Louis Forain [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Living in the lifeboat means we have to prove our worth to other people. If we don’t , we worry we’ll be thrown into the sea. Miller introduces a new metaphor in the next section of Searching for God Knows What. He compares life instead to working in a circus. Every circus performer wants the audience to clap for their act and therefore say they have worth in the circus. If they entertain the audience, they keep their jobs. Like performers, we want others to redeem us. We think others can save us if they say we have value.

Jesus’ words comfort us because he said we don’t have to perform to be loved. We don’t have to please an audience. We don’t need to act like circus monkeys. Jesus gives us freedom.

“This is what we have always wanted, isn’t it?” Miller asks. “And it isn’t the American dream at all, it is the human dream, the deepest desire of our hearts.”

But even then, we often don’t accept freedom for free. We continue to force ourselves to perform for God and other people. Maybe if we just act good enough, we think, then we can earn redemption and freedom. If we’re good enough, can we give ourselves value by performing to God and others? No, morality cannot redeem us, but we all know some sort of morality must exist. We want it to exist. As much as we idolize rebellion, we actually want rules and guidance. Without them, everything is chaos.

Morality can’t free us on its own, but we should follow it all the same. It means imitating God, choosing right over wrong. If you’re a Christian, though, morality is more a relational connection than a list of rules. That’s important to remember. If you do something immoral, you don’t just break a rule. You break your commitment to God, much like cheating on your spouse. It does not just violate the law, but love. This morality is personal and should not be belittled by claiming God’s grace when you disregard it.

Loving God and following his morality also means loving the other people he created. Miller brings up the hot button issue in churches of homosexuals and the Moral Right. Having morality does not mean condemning “immoral” people, setting yourself up higher than them. It doesn’t mean a “culture war” between Christians and the rest of America. No, if we’re going to follow Jesus, we have to love God and others above all. Our “war” is against Satan and his power, not the people he has captured and blinded.

“Morality, in the context of a relationship with Jesus, becomes the voice of love to a confused community, the voice of reason and calm in a loud argument, the voice of life in a world of walking dead, the voice of Christ in a sea of self-hatred,” Miller says.

Miller speaks from one step back, taking in the American chaos of squabbling voices and telling it as he sees it all. He addresses the major issues American churches like to debate, but instead of blaming liberals or homosexuals as some Christians are so fond of doing, he puts up a mirror and asks how we look when we argue about moral rules and judge people not like us. Is this the image of Jesus in the Church?

“The person who believes the sum of his morality involves gay marriage and abortion alone, and neglects health care and world trade and the environment and loving his neighbor and feeding the poor is, by definition, a theological liberal, because he takes what he wants from Scripture and ignores the rest,” Miller says.

Miller makes the case that God isn’t worried about fighting for power in one nation or about which party is in office (an especially good reminder this year). God wants to rescue the unloved and give them his Son. Those who have already gained life in Jesus are no better in their natures than when they were prodigals. Morality does not bestow superiority. We need to stop visualizing ourselves in a lifeboat or circus trying to fight to the “top.”

I would like to add that God-centered morality substitutes misplaced pride with proper humility. If we remembered we are nothing outside of Jesus, then perhaps our hypocritical tendencies wouldn’t get in the way of God’s children meeting their Father. Everything we do should point back to God and his unfathomable love. It should all direct our fellow humans to the One who can rescue them from this crumbling world.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2012 in Books

 

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Theology is a Scary Word

The term “Christian theology” is not as straightforward as I had thought.

My blog’s banner says, “Thinking about faith, publishing and Christian theology.” The “About” page goes into more depth on what that slogan means to the blog, but even there, I assume you know what I mean by “Christian theology.” A bad assumption.

Spring semester classes just entered their second week at my university. I am particularly excited about this semester because my classes cover all the fields of my academic interest. There’s a couple major classes in journalism and communications, there’s an English creative writing course, there’s one with a practical focus on the work of the Church, and then I have Christian Theology. Yes, it’s a class.

Now the first thing we addressed (besides, you know, the class syllabus) was what “theology” means and how people react to it. If you bring up theology in conversation, some people give you a blank stare before asking why you are talking about rocks. Then, you have to politely repeat for them, “I said theology, not geology.” I get that happens. Other people I meet generally don’t have as much interest let alone knowledge of theology as I do. I think that’s sad because I really don’t know that much and it must be one of if not the most important topics for people to discuss. But it never occurred to me that people, including Christians, could have a negative outlook on discussing theology.

We tested in class different objections to theology. When we came to our professor’s argument in defense of theology, it boiled down to people not understanding the difference between “good” theology and the “bad.” My professor explained, like many other things in life, theology can be abused and distorted, but that does not mean theology cannot be useful when treated properly. He summed up theology as “speaking about God by following after what God has already said about himself.” It’s human thinking in response to revelations God has given us. Literally, “theology” means the “science of God.”

My professor suggested a synonym for Christian theology: witness. Basically, theologians ask questions and seek to know God better. Through this, they are a testimony to others. Christians who participate in theology learn more about their faith, the Church, and who God has shown himself to be. This means we can defend our faith, aid the Church, and be a testimony to the world of the living God.

Not only are there such benefits to studying theology, Christians can suffer from a lack of theology. IMere Christianity, C.S. Lewis explains the danger of avoiding theology:

In other words, Theology is practical: especially now. In the old days, when there was less education and discussion, perhaps it was possible to get on with a very few simple ideas about God. But it is not so now. Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed. Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones — bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today are simply the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected. To believe in the popular religion of modern England is retrogression — like believing the earth is flat.

The point is “Christian theology” shouldn’t be intimidating. It is a gift God hands to us so we can get to know him better, not in a cold analyzing of theories, but through questions that build our relationship with our Father.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Other thoughts

 

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