Half-hearted Creatures

I talk a good deal about the importance of the resurrection to the Christian faith. Typically, this comes off as some hare-brained attempt to advocate social justice or inadvertently support global warming, which is so unfortunate. I struggle to enunciate exactly why I think this is so important, even though the thought of it on certain days sink down into my soul so thoroughly that I fight tears. So, for a brief moment, allow me to use someone else’s words:

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. – C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”

This was my first real encounter with resurrection theology, and while I didn’t realize it at the time, this notion has become one of the most foundational concepts in my faith. I do not want to be a half-hearted creature! And I genuinely believe that only way to live a full and rich kind of faith is to see the resurrection of Christ as the focal point to, well, everything.

As someone who struggles with traditional church, and mindless institutions (collegiate or otherwise), the resurrection screams to me that we cannot, we must not, go quietly along simply because “this is the way it’s done.” My response to that? “Dead men don’t rise from the grave!

We’re working through a series on Saints right now over at the College House, and in some ways this is simply revisiting what I’ve already taught to my juniors and seniors during the school year, but it never ceases to amaze me how God’s Truth runs right smack dab through the middle of everything, and the resurrection of Christ is no exception. So many of the Saints who stand out in the twenty centuries of Church History do so because their faith, anchored in the same sentiment that Lewis enunciates so clearly, causes them to live a life totally different from everyone around them. I think of Watchman Nee and Dietrich Bonheoffer, men who reflected Christ even as they died in such unjust circumstances, and I pause: “how will the resurrection change me? will people see that truth in my life?

It’s a powerful question. Father, help me to live it well.

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Am I liberated?

Jesus liberated us from mind games. If we are into philosophy we might have a hard time with Jesus. He does not lend himself to our games. Jesus preferred solitude and silence over study. He did study the scriptures, but whenever He wanted clarification He went away, alone and apart from the crowd. – Richard Rohr, Jesus as Liberator

Brother Rohr is not my favorite author. I enjoyed Wild Man to Wise Man, but his blogs, articles, and daily meditations often leave me frustrated (the same can be said of Jim Wallis’ writings, but that’s for different reasons). My most common thought is this: “if that’s true, why don’t you back it up with Scripture?” I know that this isn’t the Spirit of Discernment at work, but rather the spirit of division. And so, I continue to read those I don’t agree with (as well as thosethat I do) believing that I don’t have everything figured out. And every now and then, this kind of thing pays off.

In Rohr’s meditation for today, he touched on a subject that I have given a lot of thought to recently. When Jesus needed clarification or rejuvenation, He went off alone (i.e. Matthew 14:23, Mark 6:47, John 6:15). I’ve been mulling this over in my head quite a bit. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it the need for “Scripture meditation, prayer, and intercession.” The idea is a simple one: we need time away from everything. Not vacation. Not time off. Rather, time to renew our mindsand strengthen our resolve.

This isn’t something I’m particularly good at accomplishing. But I’m working on it. Simple steps, like riding in the car without music (and without constant planning going on in my head), are a start. Refusing to constantly have Netflix playing in the background is another beginner’s move.

We all need solitude. Mainly because, in truth, we’re never completely alone. However, when it’s really just me and God, that’s when I can really listen.

Free me, Lord, to hear Your truth. Teach me to relinquish the day’s cares. Your grace and mercy are so magnificent, Lord. As Your truth permeates my spirit, may the rivers of life that You so graciously provide spring forth from the innermost parts of my soul. Free me, Lord, that I may in turn help free others.

Limited impossibilities

It amazes me the things that motivate me.

And one of the things that motivates me most is when someone tells me: “that’s not practical.”

Maybe it’s a false sense of rebellion. Maybe it’s a shallow, John Locke moment of yelling at the Island, “don’t tell me what I can’t do!” But I doubt it. I think ultimately, I simply desire to rise to the challenge.

With that in mind, what is next in line to get a Bible School open and running? Well, lots, actually.

The first step: getting others on board with the project. I do not doubt that God is calling others to this school just as He called me. Locating them, and figuring out how to put their individual talents to use in building God’s vision, is a necessary forward motion. Moses needed Aaron. David needed Nathan. Paul needed Timothy. As a new friend once said, “you can’t do anything great alone.” And so, I need an Aaron (or maybe three).

The next step: really trying to nail down numbers. This is hard for me, as I have always lived by the adage, “there is nothing to fear, but math itself.” But I’m resolved to move past this fear, and teach those intimidating absolutes, known as numbers, that they won’t stop me. I think I have a new teacher in that regard, and the prospect is exciting.

After that? Well, the tough stuff starts.

Through all of this, holding everything together, will continue to be my ultimate dependence on God. Without God, this dream would fade into obscurity just like so many others. I’m reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together right now, and it speaks so loudly in my mind that I can only handle so much before I feel like I’m being yelled at. It’s convicting and inspiring in the same breath. I cannot wait to see what fruits God will bring through this study.

So as things move slowly, pray with me. Pray that I will not abandon God’s vision when things get difficult, and that regardless of what happens along the way, that God will receive the glory. After all, just because it looks like I’m not working, doesn’t mean I’m idle.

Loss of freedom?

I’ve spent the last couple of years thinking about prison. I have a cousin who is serving his second stint, and it often breaks my heart. While I don’t mean to exonerate him, I still can’t help but feel as though something is wrong with the way he’s been treated.

I do think those who break the law should be given a consequence, I just also happen to think that the consequence should be relevant. Putting someone in prison is almost never related to the actual crime. But what else is there to do?

Dietrich Bonheoffer, who spent the last years of his life in prison, wrote out some ideas he had during World War II to create a better justice system:

I think a lengthy confinement is demoralizing in every way for most people. I’ve been thinking out an alternative penal system on the principle of making the punishment fit the crime; e.g., for absence without leave, the cancelling of leave; for unauthorized wearing of medals, longer service at the front; for robbing other soldiers, the temporary labelling of a man as a thief; for dealing in the black market, a reduction of rations; and so on.

Bonheoffer’s ideas obviously pertain to wartime. So the question becomes, how do we make this work today? I don’t really know. Some crimes are indeed heinous, some kinds of evil to much to simply “repay.” And what of the death penalty? An eye for an eye? No, I could never endorse that. When I was younger, my self-righteousness couldn’t see why a person shouldn’t be deprived of their life if they had taken the life of someone else. I was having an arrogant rant one night when my pastor at the time said, “everyone deserves God’s grace.” I hadn’t ever thought about it quite like that. Tommy went on to talk about how killing someone is taking away any chance they may have at discovering God’s redemptive power. The idea took some time to sink in, but it is a lesson I have never forgotten.

That of course, only complicates the concept of eliminating prison. How can you make a punishment relevant to murder? I don’t know. Public servitude to the victim’s family? I don’t know if that would work. Going Germanic and instating a wergild, or man price? I don’t think money will really soothe someone’s wounds of loss. And let’s face it, some people have enough money to really take advantage of a system like that.

Ultimately, I don’t know of an adequate alternative.  but I know the system we have now is not sufficient. Bonheoffer goes on to ask,

Why does the Old Testament law never punish anyone by depriving him of his freedom?

I think its a question worth looking at. I’m not saying we should adopt the Old Testament law. Surely though, a system designed to reflect God’s desire for justice has some truth to teach us? And if God didn’t see fit to deprive an individual of their freedom, why should we? Because its the best we can come up with? I just don’t think that’s acceptable.