The Blind Condemning The Blind

The Blind Condeming The Blind FB

It is common to look on other cultures, and especially past generations with some disdain. This is almost a requirement for anyone who thinks of themselves as a “modern” person.  We see their flaws so clearly, and congratulate ourselves for our clear vision in areas where they were so blind. How could they have missed it?

But to a thoughtful observer, this experience should be a little terrifying. What if I am not so very different from those barbarians? What if history repeats itself? What if my children will have the same critical thoughts about me that I have about my parents and grandparents? What if my own bias makes me blind to my own moral failings? And above all, what if God sees it all very clearly? Then what?

This was the argument of the Apostle Paul in Romans Chapter 2. He said, “you who condemn another do you not condemn yourself?”  It is too easy to limit the idea of condemnation to moralists.  Our generation readily condemns those guilty of greed, racism, environmental irresponsibility, sexism, etc.  And we do this most readily when looking at past generations. But when we make these kinds of judgments we are unwittingly conceding that there is a standard that transcends generations and cultures. That there is a standard that is not relative, and that applies even when we don’t see it or know it.  And when we are honest, we will have to admit that this law stands over us as well.

CS Lewis ruminated on this 75 years ago:

“If, then, you are ever tempted to think that we modern Western Europeans cannot really be so very bad because we are, comparatively speaking, humane—if, in other words, you think God might be content with us on that ground—ask yourself whether you think God ought to have been content with the cruelty of cruel ages because they excelled in courage or chastity. You will see at once that this is an impossibility. From considering how the cruelty of our ancestors looks to us, you may get some inkling how our softness, worldliness, and timidity would have looked to them, and hence how both must look to God.”

-CS Lewis, from “The Problem of Pain”

Altered photo used by permission from troita_<><  Some Rights Reserved

God Loves Me & So Does My Dog, But It’s Different

God Loves Me,And So Does My Dog. But 2

I have a 1-year old chocolate colored poodle. She’s a great dog and she’s always happy to see me. Wait, that’s an understatement. She goes nuts when we come home.  She is so excited that often she wets herself.  We feed her, and pet her.  We take her for walks occasionally. We play with her and hang out together. And that’s enough, she thinks we are wonderful.  She jumps on the bed in the morning and licks my face to wake me up. She always wants to play. And even when we aren’t playing she just wants to be near me. She follows us around the house and lays at my feet.  And all her enthusiasm and love is great for my self-esteem.  And she does this even when we ignore her. Sometimes we have to lock her up in a crate for most of the day to keep her from destroying the house. But when we come home and let her out, it’s a celebration.

For some Christians, this is a close description of how they understand God’s love.  He is really excited about us, makes hardly any demands, and won’t mind if we lock him away in a crate when we have better things to do. They have attempted to tame God, and as a result his love is… Well… Just okay.  But it doesn’t match the love we see at Calvary where we see Christ pouring out his life for an unfaithful spouse.   The puppy-dog  kind of love doesn’t produce the (seemingly) irrational joy, worship, and sacrifice we see described in scripture.  It doesn’t buoy up the soul in the face of great sin and suffering.

I am slowly working my way through “Yawning At Tigers” by Drew Dyck. He writes about this phenomenon, and our tendency to domesticate God.  Writing about modern preachers, he says:

“Unfortunately, in our efforts to make the Bible interesting and relevant, we try to normalize God. We become experts at taking something lofty, so unfathomable and incomprehensible, and dragging it down to the lowest shelf. We fail to account for the fact that God is neither completely knowable nor remotely manageable”

Unfortunately, in our efforts to make the Bible interesting and relevant, we try to normalize God.

He says that we are often uncomfortable with the mysterious, and transcendent descriptions of God. They are too strange or even unpleasant to our American sensibilities, so we explain them away.  Again, he writes “Here’s the beautiful irony: making God strange actually enables us to know him more. Once we have marveled at his magnitude and mystery, we are able to achieve the deep intimacy that grows out of a true appreciation for who God is. Instead of treating him as an equal, we approach him with reverent awe. Only when we’ve been awestruck by his majesty can we be overwhelmed by his love.”

I love my dog, and enjoy the way she worships me. And that would be the best word to describe it!  But God’s love is different, it’s not about his infatuation with my greatness.  One of the reasons we are “yawning at tigers” is because we are not impressed with the love of God. And we are underwhelmed with his love because we don’t understand his holiness, majesty, and greatness. If we did, we would understand our own sin as well and see just how much it cost him to love us.  And that would make his love something to live for.

Monday Morning Haiku on Rest

haiku-logo

More amateur poetry offerings.  In the last year I have been writing more haiku. Today I am taking a day off and wrestling with the benefits and difficulties of rest when it is both needed and difficult. I am a workaholic and have been learning that rest is a form of both worship and repentance. It is a way to confess that I am not God,  and that it doesn’t all depend on me. It is also a way to express my trust that he will take care of “business” while I enjoy some time of restoration. Enjoy.

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Absolute Goodness

Beware

“God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger—according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way.”

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

 

Photo Courtesy of James Quinn. Some rights reserved.

The Ministry of Listening


The Ministry of Listening

 

“The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear. So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words. One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point and be never really speaking to others, albeit he be not conscious of it. Anyone who thinks his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies.”

“Life Together” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer