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Cue Balls and Causal Love

August 5, 2013

I had always thought of our loving of God and neighbor as related to God’s love the way a cue ball was related to the cue. God loved me in Christ (the moving pool cue)  therefore I ought to love others (the cue ball), God’s love for me was sort of hermetically sealed off from my love toward others. They sort of “bump into” each other, but are discreet acts; God does his thing and I do mine, they meet in the moment of causality but then go on their separate ways. It has only been in the last few years that a series of experiences, books, conversations, and passages of Scripture that this paradigm of love began to shift. Though I don’t have the space (nor do you probably have the interest) to walk through all of those moments of insight, I’d like to offer a few reflections on this shift and the horizon opening up because of it.

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Paul’s autobiographical polemic against those corrupting the gospel in Philippi is a good starting point: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss… in order that I may gain Christ – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead (Philippians 3:7-10 ESV).” What is this “sharing in” the sufferings of Christ which Paul refers to? It is related similarly to his suggestion that he is “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Colossians 1:24 ESV).” This doesn’t so much answer the question as indicate a deeper and more confounding mystery (at least to my modern Western ears).

Paul seems, at least, to suggest that there is level in which his experience as an apostle co-inhere’s with Christ’s passion. That is, to some degree they participate in each other. They are not merely externally related events (as the cue and cue ball), but share in the same reality. Or perhaps put another way, the Christ event (the passion) is extending itself into Paul’s ministry. Theologically speaking we might say that the Christ event is distinct but not divided from Paul’s ministry. Better yet, the reality of the Christ event is present in the sufferings of Paul. Paul’s self-awareness was such that he understood his own life was (and I know I’m treading on thin ice a bit here, but I am still trying to understand this too, so help me out) sacramental. Sacramental in that the sign (Paul’s suffering) signified the greater reality (Christ’s suffering) as a sort of vessel which held, but could not possibly contain, the glory of Christ. In this way, it seems to me, Paul can say to the Corinthian church that he has:

This treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 ESV

The thrust, in closing then, is that our obedience (read “loving”) does not stand on its own outside of the Christ event as if his passion merely “caused” me to obey because it meant so much to me. Put another way, our obedience is not an autonomous response to Another’s love for us whereby we are not simply obligated to love because we are loved. I don’t think I am suggesting that Christ’s love doesn’t at some level “cause” or “obligate” us to love, but that those treatments don’t plumb the depths of what our love is in relation to God’s love in Christ. Our love toward God and others is an extension of Jesus’ own love for God and others, or in Pauline terms our love is “in” Christ.

Perhaps there is more to come on this…

Tullian Tchividjian on a Father’s Love

April 30, 2013

Father and SonGo read this… NOW.

Children will run from law and they’ll run from grace. The ones who run from law rarely come back. But the ones who run from grace always come back. Grace draws its own back home.” I ran from grace. It drew me home.

Holding the Arms that are Holding You

April 29, 2013
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It came crashing in at an age that I don’t know nor can I remember the precise moment I came to realize it. It’s entrance into my conscious framework threatened my very sense of existence.

The finitude, even weakness… better yet fragility of my parents.

It is the knowledge that comes to you that your parents can’t actually do certain things, no matter how big they seem. It forces itself upon you when you find that you can actually hurt your parents – physically, emotionally, spiritually. Real hurt. This awareness is deeply threatening to the insatiable need to be/feel secure in a universe which, on all accounts, is threatening. My response to my parents fragility was to protect them. At the time they didn’t know what I was doing, even I myself didn’t know what I was doing. But this is what it was. I protected them, most especially from myself. I buried my truth because the need to feel strong and safe was greater than the need to be honest. I was “holding the arms that were holding me” I was told. Eventually this meant my truth was lost even to myself. It was only by jack-hammering through concrete layers of fear that I was able to find my truth, but in finding it I didn’t find strength and security. What I found was weakness and vulnerability, right down deep.

I have come to see this in my own children now as they see their own father experience limitation and pain. When my little Samuel crashed on my throat his tender heart melted into hot tears on a frightened face. My weakness was now his weakness. Even at three years old so desperate to feel strong. Now my children have a mind to protect me and so protect themselves. Though what they want to protect themselves from is the very thing they need to feel, to know, to become well acquainted with.

It is this vulnerable, weak, frightened little “I” deep down at the core which needs to be uncovered.

It is this “I” that, when awakened by the “true light which gives light to everyone,” will find strength beyond and outside. You will find that there are strong arms that are holding you even as you hold the life which you have been given.

Freedom Friday: When God Doesn’t Tell You What to do

April 26, 2013

peugeot soundI remember those days a number of years ago, locked away in a cabin on the Peugeot Sound, begging God to tell me what to do. Aching for direction I laid myself bare before him, and staring out at the silent Sound I heard nothing. In that moment of excruciating vulnerability before the great Silence a new horizon opened before me: there actually is a good reason for why God doesn’t tell us what to do in so many of life’s circumstances, He is big on freedom… I mean He set us free for Christ’s sake (Galatians 5:1).

Kierkegaard told us that “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom” and it is precisely this dizziness that we so relentlessly try to avoid. We avoid it because we don’t want to take responsibility for our choices. We pray from this dizziness, asking God to tell us what to do in every circumstance where there is risk involved. We read into the Scriptures this dizziness, scouring the pages of sacred writ for some holy word of advice and foolishly stuffing God’s wild and wide open Word into our crammed little circumstance. God being the freedom-nut that He is means He is going to be a minimalist when it comes to instruction and guidance. He is profoundly un-interested in micro-managing our lives, and in fact stubbornly refuses to tell us what to do when we so sincerely beg this of Him. Sure there is instruction in the Bible, and yes God does intervene in our precious little lives for the purpose of re-direction (typically called the miraculous, e.g. the new birth), but it is not His normal habit. If you go to the Bible to figure out if this girl is the “one” all you’ll probably get from him is “are you equally yoked?” If you are looking to him to tell you what career path is right for you, he’ll probably tell you “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” His instruction simply isn’t that precise because he is dead serious about your freedom and the capacity He has given you to make a responsible choice.

I mean He has already taken the blame for all your bad decisions anyway, i.e. he has taken responsibility for you, as the old catechism reminds us “we are not our own but belong… to God,” so what’s the hold up?

Speaking of dizziness…

Rodney Mullen and the Innovation of Outsiders

April 25, 2013

HT: Mbird

The Audacity of Tiger Woods to Say What We All Really Think

April 10, 2013
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“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21

Tiger Woods’ new ad is making the rounds and causing quite the stir. It seems the folks over at Nike in cahoots with Eldrick himself have conspired for yet another stellar publicity stunt (I think the saying goes something like ‘all publicity is good publicity,’ right?). If you are interested Rick Reilly over at ESPN has a well written piece and planting his flag squarely in the “this is crap and we shouldn’t put up with it!” camp. Reilly is right to intuit, contra Tiger, that no, “Winning doesn’t take care of everything. There are some stains winning can’t scrub clean. Like the worst sex scandal in pro sports history. Like talking about being sorry but never walking it. Like pretending you’re going to curb your temper and your filthy mouth on the golf course and then doing nothing of the kind… Life is life and lies are lies. Playing golf well doesn’t buy you forgiveness or redemption or peace. The road to heaven isn’t paved with giant novelty checks. Ask Lance Armstrong if winning takes care of everything. Ask Pete Rose. Ask Joe Paterno’s family. If winning took care of everything, why is the winning prison softball team still in prison? If you’re Elin Nordegren, his ex-wife, and you see that line, “Winning Takes Care of Everything,” don’t you throw your laptop across the room? He cheated on her with a parade of porn stars, Vegas escorts and even a daughter of a neighbor. I’m thinking another win at Bay Hill isn’t going to take care of much for her. The problem isn’t ‘winning takes care of everything.’ The problem is that Woods clearly believes it does.

tiger woods winning

Reilly is, intentionally or not, stumbling upon something deliciously profound: namely that our winning ways can never undo our losses. It’s ironic, the shock at Tiger’s ad has engendered, I mean isn’t that the way most of the world actually thinks? The shock then, is to have a mirror held up to us for us to see the absolute hubris we all posses in thinking that the “way to heaven is paved with giant novelty checks” that winning can actually scrub clean our stained souls. We want this wisdom to work and passively live as if it is way the world actually turns. Good making up for bad, praiseworthy behavior somehow undoing behavior worthy of blame. All this ad does is highlight how absolutely silly this wisdom is, how very trivial winning actually is in a world full of losing. Human winning, be it religious winning, family winning, sports winning, career winning, dream winning, all fall tragically short of dealing with the world’s losing streak. Tiger Wood’s winning or ours is about as meaningful as a Washington Generals victory over the Harlem Globetrotters, it is only noteworthy because it happens so rarely. Our winning, the apostle Paul discovered, was only considered “rubbish (Philippians 3:8).”pantsed

“Jesus came to save a lost and losing world by his own lostness and defeat; but in this wide world of losers, everyone except Jesus remains firmly, if hopelessly, committed to salvation by winning. It hardly matters to us that the victories we fake for ourselves are two-bit victories, or that the losses (and losers) we avoid like the plague are the only vessels in which saving grace comes; we will do anything rather than face either the bankruptcy of our wealth or the richness of our poverty.” Robert Farrar Capon

A Little Valentine’s Treasure

February 14, 2013