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.