Tuesday, December 8, 2009

And why shouldn't we ligislate morality?

In recent political history there has been several battles over morality. Notably are those that seem to divide the Christian world from the Secular world. And of these, the most volatile and precarious, include Homosexual Marriage and Abortion.

Now before you dismiss this entry, I believe that no matter your stance on either current issue, this blog will likely not be what you expect.

Here is the back-drop: Homosexuality and Abortion are two of the most private personal struggles, and at the same time are two of the most publicly hated. For the most part the Christian Camp identifies both as sin and therefore should be outlawed, end of story. For the most part the opposing Secular Camp do not identify sins in general, which makes the Christian Camp's argument seem insane. Interestingly, there has been some inclusion of science (a traditionally secular field usually seen as antagonistic to the Christian Camp's world view) by the Christian Camp to try and prove that homosexuality is un-natural (both in nature and in reproductive sense) and that abortion is murder (by pin-pointing the exact moment when the embryo becomes a life). Both of these issues have been topic for discussion in the legislative function of the U.S. Government. To this I ask, what is the goal? What is the reason for addressing these topics as potential decisions to be made by legal mandate, rather than individuals?

And now I take a step back.

Back in 1802, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter as a response to address the concerns of the Danbury Baptist Association regarding the potential persecution of the Church by the State. In this letter the following was written by President Jefferson (emphasis added):
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."

This letter has been adopted as a staple and placed as the standard for the different roles and responsibilities of the Church versus the State. Supported and emphasized by the first amendment, religious and personal freedoms have been protected in the United States since 1802 (barring some significant historical lapses in better judgement which I will not address here).

Additionally the Word of God helps us all understand this separation. There are rules and laws that govern the Kingdom of God, these can be found in the Bible. There are also laws and regulations that govern the secular world. Referred to as laws of the wicked, laws of the Romans, laws of the Gentiles (depending on what version of the Bible you read). These are also alluded to in Romans 2:12 "All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law." THE LAW here is God's law, "Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, ... they are a law for themselves" (Romans 2:14). Thus humans are not lawless, but instead without God's Law, unless there has been a personal acceptance of God's Laws to govern the person, individually.

So, with the established separation of Church and State, the expressed difference between the laws that govern the citizens of a state and the laws that govern the hearts of individuals in the Kingdom of God, what's happening in politics? The Christian Camp is essentially trying to legislate in secular law the laws of the Kingdom of God, which have been distinctly separate. There is a relationship between the God of God's Laws and the individual who accepts that law upon themselves. The personal conviction that is experienced by the individual wrought by the Holy Spirit is what prompts the individual to abide by these laws. How then does anyone expect those not under God's Law to abide by those laws? Even in Psalm 50:16 says "But God says to the wicked: 'What right do you have to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips?'" God Himself states that there is no sense, and even a bit of disgrace that comes with adopting the Laws of God when there is no conviction, and no relationship between HIM and those outside of His Laws.

Indeed there is a separation/difference between Church and State... and it goes both ways. The public does not govern the Church, reasonably the Church should not govern the public.

Our role as Christians is to love, unconditionally, to be an image of Christ to those who are lost and hurting. There are sadly far too many churches and Christians that become the reason conflicted and hurting individuals do not turn to the Church. Our role is to provide a place of healing, not judgement. Love your neighbor, and your enemy as yourself. Leave the convicting to the Holy Spirit, He's better at it, and more effective.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"We all live in hiding. In one way of another each of us conceal parts of ourselves. Some hide because their lives depend on it. Others hide because they don't like being seen. And then there are those special cases who hide because, .... because the just want someone to care enough to look for them" - In Plain Sight.

I believe we all have a desire to be sought out.... I think this may be a quality we have recieved when recieving the Image of God (Coram Deo) when we were created.

I get to seek people out every day, and know that somewhere I'm being searched for.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The parable of the Mustard seed as it applies to Evangelism.

First lets break apart the sections of the parable a bit. There is reference to the Mustard seed itself, the mustard plant, Levin, which is yeast, and the scene that is produced by each item. A literary analysis may produce that the seed represents the smallest and most unassuming start to what grows into the largest and best place of rest in the fields/garden. The parable talks about how the mustard plant grows into a source of shade and a place for the birds of the field to get rest. Resting and calm patches of shade often represent restoration strength and recovery. Thus, the mustard plant is touted as a true prize to have in a garden, something that is special and worth cultivating. But as it is pointed out in the parable the mustard seed that produces such a large plant and strong benefit to the garden is the smallest seed known to the world of horticulture at that time in that particular area. So in the same way, the most unassuming and smallest of actions can be used and grown into the largest and most beneficial situations or experiences for man.
So what of the yeast in the parable? Just a small amount is combined within the dough and left to grow and do what it’s meant to do. It is also interesting to note that the parable does not say anything about the mustard seed requiring a skillful farmer for it to grow and flourish. Which leads me to believe that this parable is saying that the smallest and most innocent of interactions, when intended by the plans of God will grow and consume the “host” (if you will) when left to itself.

Now a look at that modern ideals of evangelism. I was taught as a child that if someone wasn’t a “believer” they were going to hell, and I needed to be the one to warn them about this inevitable situation. I was taught that essentially I needed to tell them repeatedly that they were going to hell if they didn’t stop doing whatever it is that they were doing that made them non-believers. Now as I get older this makes less and less since. First, since when has anyone been able to avoid doing X by thinking about it in any way without having an alternate activity? Second, and probably more important, since when has condemnation made anyone want to be more like the person spouting off the judgments? And Finally, isn’t it the holy spirit’s job to “convert” souls to the side of Christ? So all that to say that according to the parable of the mustard seed, we have this evangelism thing a bit off.

Saint Francis of Assisi is attributed to have said “preach the gospel every day, and use words only if you must.” So showing through actions the gospel is more impacting than speaking it. This is shown in other areas of life as well. Who are the best bosses? The ones who lead by example. Who are the best teachers or mentors, the ones who will show you how to do things by practicing for themselves how it’s done. Okay, so lead by example, show through your actions the gospel of Christ, and use words if you must. But how many words? If we take the parable into account the smallest token and least amount of active ingredients will consume and grow into exactly what it’s meant to be. So the least amount of words coupled with the appropriate examples will be the most powerful and influential evangelistic tools. Why? Because they are like the mustard seed, and the yeast. These small actions, these things that we are merely asked to do because we serve God are the things that are actually the most effective in showing the love of Christ and thus the Gospel of Christ to our fellow humans. It’s not easy to have faith that the mere consistency of believing and following Christ will actually be showing others what it is like to be a Christ-follower.

I’m not a huge fan of evangelism as it is defined today. But I evangelize every day by loving my God and my neighbor. By allowing someone into my lane in busy traffic, by saying “God bless you” when they sneeze. I do this by just believing in their humanity and lending the ear they need so desperately. I do this by having peace and humility. I show Christ by giving a shit about people who don’t “fit in” and don’t do it the “right” way. And when the time comes to answer the question of why I do these things, I’m ready with an answer… Because Christ would do the same.

I think that having the faith of the mustard seed is not about believing you can do great things but rather believing that the smallest and most unassuming things will be what makes the difference in the lives of those you interact with.