Tag Archives: grace

Advent Through the Centuries – the second Century

Every day during advent (December 1 to December 24) I’ll be posting a scripture reading, a short passage by a pastor, theologian, or church father, and a prayer. Each day will follow one century of church history, so today will be 100-200. Tomorrow will be 200-300, and so on. Some days will be more closely related to advent than others, depending on the availability of texts. This has been posted before, but I’ve updated the scripture readings and in some cases the historical texts too. Enjoy.

Friday, December 2
The Second Century of the Church

Scripture:

Isaiah 29:17-24

Is it not true that in a very short time the Lebanon will become productive ground, so productive you might take it for a forest?

That day the deaf will hear the words of the book and, delivered from shadow and darkness, the eyes of the blind will see.

The lowly will find ever more joy in Yahwehand the poorest of people will delight in the Holy One of Israel;

for the tyrant will be no more, the scoffer has vanished and all those on the look-out for evil have been destroyed:

those who incriminate others by their words, those who lay traps for the arbitrator at the gate and groundlessly deprive the upright of fair judgement.

That is why Yahweh, God of the House of Jacob, Abraham’s redeemer, says this, ‘No longer shall Jacob be disappointed, no more shall his face grow pale,

for when he sees his children, my creatures, home again with him, he will acknowledge my name as holy, he will acknowledge the Holy One of Jacob to be holy and will hold the God of Israel in awe.

Erring spirits will learn to understand and murmurers accept instruction.’

Reading: 
2 Clement c.130-160 AD. Full text here.

BRETHREN, it is fitting that you should think of Jesus Christ as of God,–as the Judge of the living and the dead. And it does not become us to think lightly of our salvation; for if we think little of Him, we shall also hope but to obtain little [from Him]. And those of us who hear carelessly of these things, as if they were of small importance, commit sin, not knowing whence we have been called, and by whom, and to what place, and how much Jesus Christ submitted to suffer for our sakes.

What return, then, shall we make to Him, or what fruit that shall be worthy of that which He has given to us? For, indeed, how great are the benefits which we owe to Him! He has graciously given us light; as a Father, He has called us sons; He has saved us when we were ready to perish. What praise, then, shall we give to Him, or what return shall we make for the things which we have received? We were deficient in understanding, worshipping stones and wood, and gold, and silver, and brass, the works of men’s hands; and our whole life was nothing else than death. Involved in blindness, and with such darkness before our eyes, we have received sight, and through His will have laid aside that cloud by which we were enveloped.

For He had compassion on us, and mercifully saved us, observing the many errors in which we were entangled, as well as the destruction to which we were exposed, and that we had no hope of salvation except it came to us from Him. For He called us when we were not, and willed that out of nothing we should attain a real existence.

fresco from beneath the Vatican, dating to the 2nd-3rd century.
fresco from beneath the Vatican, dating to the 2nd-3rd century.

Prayer:
Polycarp, c. 110-140

May God the Father, and the Eternal High Priest Jesus Christ, build us up in faith and truth and love, and grant to us our portion among the saints with all those who believe on our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray for all saints, for kings and rulers, for the enemies of the Cross of Christ, and for ourselves we pray that our fruit may abound and we may be made perfect in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Doubt, Anxiety, and Witness.

I have been very busy with school since Christmas. Besides this fact, it has also been the Dark Months – working nights, I wake up after the sun has disappeared, and go to bed just as it is rising. January and February represent  for me a particular kind of Hell for this reason. Thankfully, It is now March and I am getting a little sunlight every day. Easter and summer are coming, finally.

That’s not what I want to write about right now. Well, not precisely at least. It’s maybe connected, but in a loose sort of way.

Longtime readers of this blog (all three of you) may know that I struggle with anxiety at times. often it is minor, a kind of tic in the back of my brain telling me that something is not quite right. Every four or five years, though, the feeling of ‘wrongness’ explodes, filling my entire body with a palpable sensation of unease. It hits my gut, full-on – my digestion gets screwed up, I stop eating properly, I can’t sleep well. My mind fixates on far-off and uncontrollable events – back in 2009 it was the outbreak of the H1N1 pandemic, this time it was the Ukraine crisis – and I find it hard to concentrate on anything.  I begin to doubt.

First the doubt is vocational – I’m thirty years old, is this what I’m supposed to be doing with my life?
Next comes educational – I’m not smart enough, I can’t write well enough, I’m not up to this.
Finally the doubt manifests as theological. God? Who is this God? What kind of God would put us here, in this broken screwed up world? Afterlife? What afterlife? Once the electrical signals stop flickering in your obsessive brain, you’re done man. Just done. That’s it. Stop bothering with God. He can’t hear you.
Then I get scared.

This all takes place over the course of a few days, with the theological part usually hitting suddenly and lasting a few hours, a day at most. Life seems almost pointless – not in a suicidal kind of way, just in a ‘everything is meaningless’ sort of way. That’s what we’re looking for, isn’t it? Meaning? That’s what we’re all looking for. The idea that we’re alone in the universe is terrifying.

Every time this happens (and it’s happened maybe three or four times in my life), I’m always afraid that it won’t end. I pray, and I’m terrified that I won’t hear anything back. I think, and I’m terrified that my brain will lead me down rabbit holes that there is no escape from.

Don’t get me wrong, some doubt is helpful and healthy. If we never doubted, we would never discover anything. If we never doubted, we would still think the sky to be a solid dome, and think that hell was somewhere below us and if we just dug far enough we would find it. Doubt, the refusal to accept things to be the way they seem, and a desire to find out how things actually are, is good. When my anxiety gets going, though, the doubt becomes soul-sucking and destructive. It starts to feel like there is no hope, no answers, just a big rotten hunk of rock hurtling through space. Meaningless. A nihilist would call these ‘moments of clarity’. I think the nihilist would be wrong.

Fortunately these anxiety attacks do not last long for me. I’m sure others struggle with the same thing though, and so here I’m writing down the process through which I find hope in chaos.

First, I pray. I don’t pray often enough, and usually the anxiety hits when my praying has ceased almost entirely. Prayer is helpful. Maybe Psychosomatic – I don’t care. It feels good. In the early stages of an anxiety attack, I’m just trying to feel good.

Second, I remember. I remember the times when God has shown up for me. I remember my friend Ricky, and the light in his eyes before Jesus took him home. I remember the feeling of standing on the beach, the wind in my hair, sure, absolutely sure, that this creation is no mere accident. I remember that our God is a God who suffers. He is not aloof, not distant, and not impotent… But also not domineering and not compelling. Our God is not coercive. Having a coercive god would be much easier actually. But no, our God, rather than coercing us, suffers with us. His heart breaks for the abused and battered woman, for the child left alone thanks to the horrors of war, for the poor, the marginalized, the addicted and the cast-out. He suffered, and suffers – we worship a God who understands suffering intimately – or so the story goes.

But in the midst of my doubt and anxiety, I question the story. What if it is just a projection, as Freud and others have suggested? What if religion is the opiate of the masses? What if that whole Jesus thing never took place? It is absurd, after all. The dead don’t rise. A car battery can’t jumpstart itself. Once the lights are out, no one is home.

And then I remember the witnesses. Men and women, throughout the centuries, willing to die for the sake of the Gospel, but unwilling to kill for it. I think of Stephen, the first martyr. of Perpetua and Felicity, singing hymns as the lions of the colosseum approached. Of Dirk Willems, who rescued his pursuer knowing it meant certain death for his own life.

These witnesses, especially the early ones, point me to Christ. They point me to an individual so radical, so different from the rest of society, that people were willing to die for him. This remembering has been the role of martyrs (which means ‘witness’) for centuries now. And it was the realization of the conviction of the martyrs which caused my anxiety to ebb again. If they can go to death trusting in Christ, surely I can place my faith at his feet as well.

This doesn’t mean I don’t doubt. I absolutely do. And I’m sure the anxiety will flare again in the future, and all the insecurities will come rushing back once more. But for now, for now I am content. For now I trust. For now my heart is at peace, and I know that God is for me rather than against me. This may not seem satisfying to some, but for me it’s the difference between heaven and hell, light and dark, day and night. Christ is lord, and the resurrection of the dead is true. Hallelujah.

Mark 1.32-2.12

Well, today I’m returning to my series through Scripture. I know it’s been a long time since I wrote last, but these things come and go in waves. I’ve never been very good at consistency. Before we start, I thought I would let you know about a few other things I’ve been working on lately.

1. I’ve put in applications for scholarships to Regent College here in Vancouver. If I get the funds, I may be going back to school in September, possibly.
2. I’ve been following along with the Atheism for Lent series found here. The idea is to take a critical look at faith from an outside perspective in order to ground oneself better in true faith. I’m not sure what I think of it yet. These kinds of things can get very depressing. Believing in God is like breathing to me, so it’s not like I could just give it up, even if I wanted to… it colours everything I do. But it is good to look in from the outside, to see the flaws in our organized religion, and to get back to the heart of what my faith is – a relationship with my creator, who is bigger than anything I can imagine, and yet cares intimately for all of his creation.
3.I’m writing an editorial series on casual facebook games at JTMgames.com. This has been fun! Go read it.
4. I’m applying for an addictions counselling course that runs through the summer, with the potential to continue into next year. I’m excited about this opportunity, and about the doors that it might open in the future.

Now, on to Scripture! We’re picking up the story immediately following the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law. I’ll be liveblogging through it, and adding some theological asides where I feel I have the wisdom and / or resources to do so. mastly I’ll be asking a lot of questions though.

Mark 1.32-2.12

32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Interesting, the line ‘he would not permit them to speak, because they knew him’. This indicates that Jesus was still hiding something of his nature from the people. Perhaps Mark wrote this line in response to questions that were asked after Jesus’ death – ‘well, if he was the son of God, why didn’t the demons he cast out recognize him?’
I don’t know why Jesus didn’t want to be fully known yet. My suspicion is that if people knew what he was claiming to be they would have killed him all the quicker. It’s a possibility for sure.

35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

I like this. Jesus did not come just for a small group of people, but for everyone – he knew that people would try and contain him, or would just use him as a miracle man, and there was much more to his story. He had to keep himself from becoming hemmed in by his audience.

40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 AndJesus[h] sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Jesus did not want the credit from this, but wanted to give the credit to God. He also knew that this would restrict his movements, as the people would become desperate for healing while missing the point. It’s important to note here that Lepers were dirty in more than one way – they were sick and disfigured, yes, but they were also ceremonially unclean, unable to worship in the Temple before God. Jesus healing the leper represents more than just a healing – it represents a cleansing of the body before God.

 

2.1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

This is one of those accounts that those of us who grew up in the church heard in Sunday School all the time. It’s a neat little package with a good story, and so makes for an easy lesson for the Sunday School teacher. Plus, there’s something awesome about friends who would tear open the roof of a house in order to get their buddy in to see Jesus.

We often miss the theological significance behind the story though. The question that Jesus asks is actually a puzzling one. What is the correct answer? Is it easier to say to someone ‘your sins are forgiven’, or to tell someone to get up and walk? I would argue that the easier thing to do is to say ‘your sins are forgiven’, but saying either if you are lying about it will do no one any good. And so Jesus does both, proving that his words have power, by telling the man to get up. This astonishes the crowds on two levels – one, Jesus has the power to heal, and two, he has the power to forgive.

Why do we judge?

This past weekend was the weekend before Haloween, and as such, Gastown was flooded with people. I had the privilege of guiding some college students around the DTES, introducing them to my friends and to my neighbourhood. As we walked back and forth from Hastings to Gastown on that wet rainy night, we saw the crowds gathered, engaging in their vice of choice. On Hastings, the drug pushers and the addicted interacted, exchanging money and favours for a little bit of rock or a shot of heroin. On the streets of Gastown, in front of the Blarney Stone, the Whiskey Bar, and many others, crowds stood in the rain waiting for a chance to enter and imbibe. The girls wearing their ‘sexy’ costumes, the guys staring at them and playing along with the hope of some action (perhaps bought with a few rounds of drinks? hmmm.), the bouncers and the bartenders looking on, ‘just doing their job’.

Are we really that different? Is the upscale really less hurting because they happen to still have some room on their nearly-maxed credit cards for a few rounds of drinks? Besides the legality of the action, I don’t see a lot of difference. This isn’t just about alcohol though; it’s about filling a void.

While for some it’s alcohol, and for another it’s crack, for someone else it might be shopping, or work, or porn, or food. We hurt because we isolate ourselves, and because we have been hurt. We lack compassion because we don’t understand that compassion is being shown to us, if only we are able to accept it.

After a night of revelry, some will return to their rented beds in high-rises, and others will return to their shelter, or SRO, or chunk of cardboard under an awning. In the morning all will be hung over, all will be filled with regret. One group, however, is glamorized for its indulgences, while the other is criminalized.

It comes down to this: Who do we serve? the desire to serve the god of Self is strong. ‘I need this.’ I need that.’ ‘Finders Keepers’ ‘The Early Bird Gets the Worm’ ‘There’s no ‘I’ in Team, but there is an ‘M’ and an ‘E’.’ We are an egotistical and self-indulged people. We have no time for one another, no patience for anyone who thinks a little bit different, no care or mercy for the one who was abused and raped and molested by the very people that were supposed to care, protect, and love.

Why? Why can’t we look past the ends of our noses? Why can’t we engage the other as friend and ally? Why have we built an entire society which believes that helping one another out financially is wrong? I don’t know. I just don’t know. What I do know, however, is that God calls us to each other. He calls us into community, a community that transforms rather than condemns. A community that loves incredibly, stupidly, even at risk to itself. A community that gives passionately, and that loves unequivocally. Our commandments are these: Love God, and love the person in the ditch. The person that hates you. The person you despise. That’s your neighbour. Love them.

And yet our churches are full of ‘good’ people wearing nice clothes and singing songs that have the word ‘I’ in them more often than the word ‘We’… or even the word ‘God’, often. We talk about God ‘blessing’ us, about tithing so that we get something back, about how great we are and how terrible THEY are.

God forgive us. Please, show your mercy.

Christe Eleison
Kyrie Eleison
Christe Eleison

Amen.

our obsession with death.

Note: Some spoilers for Looper in this post – if you plan on seeing it, you might not want to read on.

 

I have seen two films in theater this week. I don’t get to the theater too often, as it is expensive, and there is rarely anything that I feel warrants the big-screen experience. However, this week I saw both the documentary Hellbound? by local Abbotsford filmmaker Kevin Miller, and the sci-fi thriller Looper, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis.

While these are two radically different films on the surface, they actually had a connecting theme – Humanity’s obsession with death. Hellbound? explores the question of Hell – who goes there, why, and for how long (if at all). Miller and his team talk to a range of ‘experts’ on Hell, including pastors, an exorcist, and death-metal rockers. This question is intimately tied with the question of death. I believe we want to know where we’re going, because we are rarely satisfied with where we are now.

Looper, too, is about where we’re going, and why. In the movie, JGL (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) plays a ‘looper’, a hitman for unwanted fugitives from the future. Generally it’s an easy job – gangsters in the future send someone to JGL’s time tied up, JGL shoots them, and collects payment. Life is going pretty well until one target that jumps back turns out to be himself, from the future.

The movie twists and turns like any good time-travel sci-fi does. At the heart of all the action and weirdness is this question: What would you give to preserve your future? How far would you go to make sure that YOU are the one who has the happy ending? The movie ends on a rather bleak note, with either a supreme act of self-sacrifice or a nihilistic outlook on everything, depending on how you look at it. The question is, I think, where are you going, and how are you getting there?

Both of these films are concerned with the future, and how our actions today affect the future. While the future is a good thing to think about sometimes, the problem is that our society, both Church and secular, is so future-focused we have no time for the present. We fill our lives with busyness and always look to the future either with fear or wonder, and miss the present.

I myself often get caught up in this future-focused mindset, and I find that it causes me great anxiety. I remember a few years ago when the swine flu epidemic first broke in Mexico – I spent a whole afternoon on my porch, dwelling about the possible future. More recently, the stresses of the 24-hour news cycle and the unhealthy world economy had me tuning out all news sources for the better part of the year. God challenged me in this thinking, however, and gave me a new mandate: be Present.

Being Present means acknowledging the importance of today, and the importance of people who are in our path today. Jesus speaks about this in Matthew 6:25 – focusing on the future puts our faith in our own hands, rather than trusting in God. When I am Present, I trust that God will open up the way before me, that he goes with me no matter what – in fact, that he is there already. I don’t need to fear the future.

Here’s a quote from the book The Shack, a book I greatly appreciated, although it is imperfect, as all books are. The author, William Paul Young, is, by the way, also featured in Hellbound?. This is the character of Jesus (Young’s words, not scripture) talking to the main character, Mac.

“When I dwell with you, I do so in the present – I live in the present. Not the past, although much can be remembered and learned by looking back, but only for a visit, not an extended stay. And for sure, I do not dwell in the future you visualize or imagine. do you realize that your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever, pictures me there with you? [Why, you ask?] It is your desperate attempt to get some control over something you can’t. It is impossible for you to take power over the future because it isn’t even real, nor will it ever be real. You try and play God, imagining the evil that you fear becoming reality, and then you try and make plans and contingencies to avoid what you fear.

[This is] because you don’t believe. You don’t know that we love you. The person who lives by their fears will not find freedom in my love. I am not talking about rational fears regarding legitimate dangers, but imagined fears, and especially the projection of those into the future. To the degree that those fears have a place in your life, you neither believe I am good nor know deep in your heart that I love you. You sing about it; you talk about it, but you don’t know it.

What Young is getting at is this: We never imagine a future with Christ in it. Our futures are always human-made and human-controlled. When we remain rooted in being Present, however, we can begin to see God working in miraculous ways all around us. I have related some such encounters on this blog already, and I’m sure there are more to come.

The second part of being Present is acknowledging the value of the people that you come across. I challenge myself to treat each person I come across as the most important person in that moment. I am rarely successful, but it does help open my eyes to the small encounters I have every day. I believe God often speaks through the minute encounters we have every day, and that if we focus on those encounters, we enter into the tapestry of God’s amazing plans as they unfold.

Heaven and Hell are important topics, don’t get me wrong, but they must be examined in a way that can allow us as Christians to remain grounded in the present. Too often the exploration of Heaven and Hell leads us to an escapist theology, or to a lack of care for anything – why bother, if everything is going to burn eventually anyway?

These are important topics, and the way that we think about them affects the way that we live. I believe being rooted in the present is the best way to be fully engaged with the Kingdom of God as it unfolds, and I challenge you to try it, at least for a time.

I am conservative… Kind of. Maybe. I think.

We’ll get back to the Bible posts soon – I’m working on the next Genesis post, but it’s a doozy, and taking way longer for me to chew through than I thought. In the meantime, I have a few thoughts I thought it would be good to share.

I have, for a very long time, thought about myself as a left-leaning moderate. What I mean by that is I come out central on many issues, and often have a hard time with both the ‘left’ (liberal) and the ‘right’ (conservative) theological perspectives. However, when my back is pressed to the wall, I tend to lean liberal. Here are some examples.

1.On Creation, I don’t plant a flag in either the literal-six-day-creation or the Something-Else camp. however, I do believe that creation is a witness to the glory of God, and so I have a hard time with the idea that God would cause creation to lie to us about its age (creating light from other stars in motion, for example – if light wasn’t created in motion, we shouldn’t be able to see stars millions of lightyears away. The light would take millions of years to get here, much longer than a literalist interpretation allows). therefore, many would term me liberal, as I have a hard time reading Genesis 1 literally.

2. On Homosexuality, I don’t plant a flag in either camp – instead, I affirm the right and the responsibility of the church to read Scripture, and to interpret it as a church body wisely. My church is in the process of this conversation right now, and currently they state that practising homosexuals may not lead in the church, and homosexual marriages are not performed by the church. I stand with my church. However, I will not attempt to ‘fix’ a homsexual, and I do not feel it is my place to try and convict a homosexual of his or her sin. I have enough sins of my own to worry about – I can leave the convicting to God, if he chooses. Therefore, many would label me a liberal, as I refuse to make a firm commitment against homosexuality.

3. On Hell, I refuse to comdemn any particular person to eternal damnation. I do not believe that God desires anyone to be damned, and I do not believe that one is saved by the luck of having been born in the right place at the right time. Nor am I so arrogant to believe that my preaching or witnessing saves anyone – only God can save, and only by his work, not by mine. I do believe in Hell, however, firmly. We’ll come back to this in a moment. Because of my refusal to believe in a God who damns based on the geographic location of one’s birth, many would label me a liberal.

And, you know, I used to label myself a liberal too – or something close to it. Love of one’s neighbour and for God has always been the bottom line for me, and following that love seems to lead me towards some gray areas. I discovered this past weekend, however, that I am conservative.

This past weekend I had the chance to speak to Columbia Bible College students who were spending the weekend in the Downtown East Side. This is always a privilege for me. My heart was stirred for the DTES on my own weekend trip about five years ago. To help stir that passion in others is an honour I do not take lightly. Now, I have done this talk before, but it always seems to come out differently. I work off a series of notes and book quotes, but do not script myself word-for-word – I find this allows the talk to be more organic, and perhaps leaves room for the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit. During my talk, I reveal the fact that addiction is often the product of abuse and trauma. The drug becomes security to the addict – it creates the feeling of peace, of everything being OK. We also create this feeling in ourselves, I tell the students, through a myriad of destructive habits, from shopping, to porn, to electronics, to food. We substitute shallow imitations of true intimacy and love in order to make ourselves feel good.

And then I said this: ‘We are all addicts. We are all broken. Simply because you cannot see the hurt, does not mean that the hurt does not exist. But there is hope, and that hope can only be found in Christ.’

Wow. Did I just say that? That sounds like a pretty conservative message to me. I realized that as I said it, I truly believed it as well. It’s not enough to make people feel good about themselves, although self-esteem is important. It’s not enough to give them some earthly peace and rest, although those things are part of the message. It’s not enough to reduce the harm being done to their bodies, although we should be doing this as well. If we do all these things, but do not do them in the name of Christ, but do not do them through the power of Christ, we will fail. The message of Christ is not purely spiritual, but neither is it purely physical. It is always both/and. I think safe injection sites are good, but I want to tell the person who has used the safe injection site that there is more hope available than what can be found in a needle. I desperately desire to have enough housing for everyone who needs it, but I also want to be able to tell my homeless friends that there is more waiting for them than just a dry bed.

I want to welcome all into a community of hope, grace, and mercy. A Kingdom ruled by a gracious and wise king, who only wants what is best for His subjects. A king who is just waiting for us to return home. And a kind who, with great sadness and frustration, will allow his wayward subjects to make their own paths, to set up their own petty kingdoms, to play at being gods. He won’t stop them, because he desires true love, true relationship with His subjects. And, hopefully, all his subjects will see that, and will willingly give up their plastic crowns and cheap polyester robes to sit at his feet as subjects of the one true king.

 

But some won’t. Some will cling to their petty fake self-indulgent small-g godhood, clinging to the same lie that Satan sold Adam and Eve: ‘You will be gods, and you will know right from wrong’. Some will refuse to bow, knowing that to bow means to give up their ‘right’ to a self-centred universe. It will mean admitting that they’re wrong, about so many things. It will mean their brokenness exposed to the harsh light of day, their failure revealed for all to see. For some, it will seem less painful to stay in the dark, playing god of their own little lonely and broken universe.

Some, many, are also living in Hell right now. They believe that the best they can do, the closest they can come to God, is sticking a needle in their arm, or having sex, or buying the next best gizmo, or building a materialistic empire with their own two hands. These things are hell. Our way, the way of the self, always leads to Hell. It is only through the power of Christ that we can see Heaven – Love God, and Love your neighbour as yourself, are not only commands. They are also a picture of Heaven. In Heaven, the first will be last, and the last will be first. I do not seek a crown – I simply seek after him. And I fail. And I trust that He is there, willing to pick me up again, if only I can let go of my pride and stubbornness. I believe this because Christ is real, and he really walked on the Earth, and really rose from the dead. It is true.

I think this makes me conservative, maybe? We’re all in this boat together. We’re all broken (sinful). We all claw after our own way, despite the harm it does to our relationship to God and to our fellow human beings. And we will be saved, if we can bring ourselves to submit to His kingship over our lives. If we do submit, we must be willing to show our loyalty through relinquishing our claims of ownership over our lives, and offering ourselves as his servants to feed, clothe, visit, and love those that the world has rejected as worthless. I believe in a true god, and his True son Jesus Christ, who truly does save in a very real and physical way. We are truly ambassadors for his kingdom, and we come bearing truly good news for the poor. Does believing this make me conservative? I don’t know, and I don’t care. What I do care about is Christ, and about the people he calls his children… especially those who have been hurt and broken and impoverished.