Monday, August 22, 2011

Doors


"You better be careful that you don't develop a God-complex," one of my former students told me today. He told me this because, yet again, I shared a story about how my current relationship has given me new insight into how I think God pursues us. And he told me this because he is sarcastic.

The story in question.

I have fallen for a girl. I have chosen to limit myself and walk beside her, instead of trying to control our relationship. I have chosen to allow myself to experience the potential pain of rejection because I want to see if she will catch up with and fall for me herself.

I believe God made the same decision when God created humanity. I do not believe that I am God or that my experiences define who God is. I merely see a potent parallel.

When I say that I'm walking beside her, I mean that I have chosen not to walk behind her and try to "push" her ahead. I also don't have the intention of walking ahead of her and "pulling" her into the future. And when I say future, I mean, the point in the space-time continuum where she feels nearly the way about me that I feel about her. And, then, we continue to walk ahead together, side by side.

I alluded to this concept in a recent conversation with my girlfriend and her response made me think about a third option. No pushing. No pulling. Still walking beside, but...

She said, "I like that while you are walking beside me, every once in a while you venture out ahead and start opening doors."

Here's where the God-complex comes into play. I'd like to think that this is exactly how God pursues us. I'd like to think that God, as I said in my previous post, has chosen to limit God's self in order to pursue us and see how we will react. I'd like to think that God has chosen to walk beside us and love us where we are. I'd like to think that God, while walking beside us, is also, from time to time, opening doors for us.

And here's the thing... God is a gentleman and God will not force God's self upon us. So God is not behind us trying to push us into the future. Nor is God in front of us trying to pull us forward to where God is. Instead, I think God is walking beside us, every once in a while opening doors that we can choose whether or not to walk through.



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Love In Free Will


According to Christian theology, God is trinity. Have you ever considered what that means? The fundamental force behind creation was and is and ever will be involved in a relationship with God's self.

Father. Son. Holy Spirit. And, if you think about it, that is not enough for God. God extends that relationship to us.

What does that tell us about who we are meant to be? What does that tell us about what God desires from us?

God, while being in perfect harmony and communion with God's self, chose to create a world inhabited by people who could chose either to live in loving communion with God and each other, or could chose to reject those relationships with God and with each other. In a sense, for that to be possible, some say God had to limit God's self.

After all, if God chose to reveal God's self to us all at once, we would be overwhelmed. So there is a parameter in which God desires to have us know God's self and respond to love, grace, forgiveness and acceptance, while at the same time allowing us to sin against God and each other. God did not create robots, but people with free will. What does God get out of this? And how much does God limit God's self itself in order to find out what our response will be?

I had never been able to understand this concept clearly until I found myself in a healthy and loving relationship with an incredible girl. I have found myself falling more and more in love with this girl, but at the same time I have chosen to limit myself in the context of this relationship. After all, she is a young, free spirit and I don't want to control her or scare her off with statements of the love I hope to share with her.

I choose to limit myself. I choose to hold back the entirety of what I feel and to walk with her where she is. I have chosen to write her letters that perhaps I will someday send to her when she is ready, while, at the same time, I'm enjoying the daily process of growing closer to her and getting to know her better.

Is it possible that God made the same choice when he created me and you? Is it possible that God is also a hopeful romantic like me who merely desires that we choose to grow closer to God daily?

I resonate more deeply with a God like that than I do with the religious idea of a God who is some cosmic accountant weighing our good and bad deeds, who will someday choose to accept or reject us based on the balance of our account.

God is a creator and a lover and I think God has chosen to limit God's self to see if we will answer the call. Will we create a better world through love or will we chose to stifle that creative force? Will we choose to truly live and love or will we die a little more each day by allowing fear and guilt to snuff out our calling to love God and each other?

In this sense, life is a love story. And as a hopeful romantic, I love a good love story.





Friday, July 29, 2011

Beware of the Exploding Theologian


I'm Peter Petrelli. I want to save the world.

In Heroes, Peter is the empathetic hospice worker, who discovers he can absorb and then emulate the abilities of other gifted heroes and villains. In the beginning, the abilities manifest seemingly at random and his control over the abilities is erratic at best. After a series of prophetic dreams, in which he sees himself destroy New York by becoming a nuclear bomb, he becomes convinced that if he cannot learn to control his powers, he will become a danger to society.

What a conundrum! He has the ability and the heart necessary to be a hero and save the world, but if he doesn't learn to channel the ability in a productive way, he may very well destroy the world he so desperately wants to save.

Okay, what does all this have to do with me? I have absorbed a steady diet of theology in recent years, theology that many people in traditional mindsets might deem dangerous. As my mind has been challenged by new thoughts on what it means to be Christian and the importance of the kingdom of God, I have found many of my original presuppositions about God and theology have been challenged. All the while, as I'm learning to own my religious beliefs, I sometimes have to wrestle between ideas I once held that no longer work for me and ideas I believe are true, yet still have a difficulty accepting with confidence. I have learned the the world is not all black and white, nor is it gray. There is a certain beauty to living in color, i.e. being willing to admit that we simply do not know everything!

Since much of this wrestling with God and theology has taken place while I had been working and doing church in a traditional environment, I believe I created a Censor out of necessity. As Peter initially tried to suppress his dangerous abilities, I have suppressed my own voice hoping not to offend others. As Peter's abilities gave him the opportunity to save the world and also the potential to explode and hurt the creation, I feel my voice may offer healing to some and yet may seem to be explosive to others.

I have decided to lift the Censor.

I have decided to allow my voice to be heard.

I have decided to share my deepest fears.

I have decided to share my journey.

Else, I might explode.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

An Open Prayer For Our Enemies

Almighty, loving and gracious Lord, we're here to pray for our enemies. With you as our model, we know that we must end the vicious cycle of returning violence with violence, offense with offense, hatred with hatred, spite with spite. We must turn the other cheek, as you did.

Lord, sometimes it's difficult to do this, to lay down our pain and frustrations at the altar of peace, but because your Word tells us not only to forgive our enemies, but also to pray for their welfare, we are here to offer a prayer.

We pray for our personal enemies. We pray that you transform our enemies by lavishing your love upon them. Help us to see our enemies through your eyes. Help us to see the beauty you have bestowed upon your creations. Help us to see the image of God that is present in their DNA.

We pray for the enemies of our nation. As contrary as it feels to our sense of justice, we pray that you break into the lives of the nations, rulers and even the terrorists that have caused so much pain and destruction in our world. Jesus, love them, as only you know how to love. Change them. Overtake them with your gracious love. Gracious Lord, transform our enemies before our very eyes.

Finally, we pray for ourselves. At times we can be our own worst enemies, when we allow our own interests to get in the way of your perfect plan for our lives. At times we can be our own worst enemies when we assert authority and deny you Lordship over our lives. At times we can be our own worst enemies when we allow sin a stranglehold over our lives.

We pray that you transform us, so that we look like the loving, holy and gracious people you have asked us to be. Lord, today we pray for our enemies, all our enemies. And we seek transformation in every case. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those of our enemies, as hard as that is to do.

We pray all of these things in your name. Amen.

Friday, April 18, 2008

An Ethical Dialogue Between Jesus and Uncle Sam

“Are you gonna join my revolution?” Jesus asked.

“What revolution?” Uncle Sam replied, adjusting his very patriotic top hat.

“We need a new way of doing things. We need love and peace, not war and commerce.”

“You have guns then?”

“It’s hard to fight for peace with a weapon in your hand. We turn the other cheek instead.”

“You can’t change the world without guns. What are you gonna do, ask heads of governments politely to step down?”

“We disobey civilly.”

“You’ll end up in jail.” Uncle Sam chuckled, knowingly, “Or worse yet on a cross.”

“Without honest folks to challenge bad laws, there will never be justice.”

“You can’t just pick and choose which laws to obey and which to disregard. Be reasonable.”

“What’s reasonable about the rich and powerful hoarding everything while everyone else starves?”

“They wouldn’t be starving if they knew what was good for them. What they really need is to work harder, pull themselves up. They need a good idea.”

“What about compassion? Is that a good enough idea for you?”

“I rather prefer freedom.” (For a running commentary of the discussion click on the read more link)


This relatively brief discussion is the result of my furtive imagination mingling with challenging books I've been reading lately like Jesus for President that detail how Jesus' message was not only religious, but also very political in nature. Sometimes I wonder if emperor worship still exists, albeit in a slightly different context than in the Roman Empire. We don't worship our President, but maybe we worship certain ideals that are in the best interest of America, but run contrary to many of Jesus' teachings.

Take this for example, we seem to believe in fighting fire with fire. Take the 'War on Terror.' It certainly seems to run absolutely contrary to 'Turning the other cheek.' Retributive violence only leads to more retributive violence. When will we end the cycle? The more you go after terrorists and kill innocent people in the process, the more new terrorists will rise with perhaps even more fervent hatred.

And yet, if you're honest, turning the other cheek seems like an ineffective answer to violence. How does allowing a prize fighter to strike you again and again offer any defense? I must ask myself, if Jesus were President of America as He is Lord of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, would he lead us into wars, however just? In his life, he certainly championed such concepts as humility, love, forgiveness and compassion. And yet, there is certainly some biblical imagery of war, Armageddon included.

Is there such thing as a just war? I hate the thought of senseless violence over borders and imaginary lines, but sometimes war might be just. If nobody stood up to Hitler, for example, what would the world be today?

I believe the war Christians should take place in is a war against injustice in the world. It is a war not fought with tanks and tomahawk missiles, but rather with love and compassion. Stop worshipping the almighty dollar and start giving to the poor, fighting poverty and disease wherever it might be found, here or abroad.

Jesus, after all, said this when John the Baptist sent messengers to ask him if he was the messiah or not, justifying his ministry and the kingdom of heaven on earth: "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."