Tuesday, June 28, 2005


A Void or A Vision?

The human state is, in a sense, a thing of tremendous comedic material. Or maybe it’s just me that I find hilarious – in an ironic and sad sort of way. I’m becoming more aware of the fact that I’m constantly distracted. The exact moment I gain awareness of some nugget of Truth, it vanishes and in returns some lame navel-gazing strain of thought. It is very annoying.

I deeply yearn, if only for a moment, to concentrate on something greater than me or anything directly related to my small little world. There is enormous peace and enlightenment in those fleeting moments of spiritual awakening. What I’m really talking about is the hope of coming to grips with the implications of the Greatest Story Ever Told and realizing that it is… true.

The best writer in the world could never recreate a story that reaches the glorious magnitude of the one told of Jesus Christ. (I would hope that even my atheist readers – though interpreting the story as a myth - would acknowledge this.) It is the tale of a thoroughly innocent man being subjected to one of the cruelest forms of execution ever devised.

Now, think of the most generous and kind person you know. This sort of person, at times anyway, thinks and cares of a world outside him/herself. Now, imagine a person not only thinking and caring for others to such an extent, but dying for them. And the sacrificial death would be intended not only for those of the friend variety, but also for those who mocked, laughed, and spat upon the man while he was dying.

Imagine the thought of loving someone in a way that is completely disconnected from your own interests. No matter what that person did or said, you would return the favor with a reaction dictated by nothing but love. No conditions or stipulations. The only strings attached are used to tie a huge bow on this divine gift of love.

During those precious, albeit fleeting, moments when I look to a cross on my wall or in the sanctuary and my tiny brain really, truly grasps the reality of the sacrifice made, I can barely contain my emotion and amazement. It is the story that we all long for internally. It fills an omnipresent God-shaped void in existence in every single human being.

This audacious tale of Christ is the only answer to the odd, nagging guilt that can linger in me from time to time. When I realize it is not about me or my own efforts thanks to an unmerited mercy and sacrifice made on my behalf, I am about to burst at the seems in a spirit of thanksgiving.

So, here’s THE question... the question that every believer should be asking him/herself and every non-believer should be wondering:

Why is it that the most prevalent ‘vision’ of Christianity and the Kingdom of God is defined by what it is not? I’m imagining myself as a non-believer now: I think of all of the best experiences I’ve had and then imagine Christianity as no more than a set of rules which would have prohibited me to partake in a large portion of them. I'm thinking, “Uh, sorry, holy rollers, keep your message to yourself. Don’t cramp my style.”

How did it come to this? Look, I’m not saying there are not rules and morals we need to live by. But the rules are not the point. The point is the greatest sacrifice ever made and the corresponding unconditional love that, when truly understood, results in an enormous paradigm shift in the mind of the believer.

At that point, there is a reciprocated desire for obedience and discipline that will swell up in us. We actually want to obey due to the gratitude for the love shown to us. You can catch a glimpse of it in the eyes of a little boy looking at his father respectfully and gratefully and seeking to please him. The same is true – though exponentially more so – to us looking to the heavenly Father.

Jared at Thinklings Blog wisely counseled:

…we should be calling the lost into something, not just away from something. My hope is we are inviting the lost into an alternate reality, into a kingdom life that buzzes and hums with God’s active presence and abundant grace and love.

Exactly. Now if you need to be told where to send your kids to school, there are plenty of self-righteous legalists more than happy to oblige. Jollyblogger, Rev-Ed, and Internet Monk have all recently and astutely pointed out (infuriating) examples of pious attempts at control mongering and/or petty rule making.

I’d rather have a vision. Or, more specifically, I want to hone in on those ever-rare moments of spiritual revelation that can occur when I get my mind off of myself. Then I want to turn around and present that thrilling Truth to people who need to hear it. The story is the Paradigm Shifter.

The secret needs to get out. Amazing grace needs to flood this superficial culture to stop the downward spiral. Everyone needs to know of one man who came in the name of love. Lives depend on it.

Excellent thoughts, Chad. Christians too often take the view that we need to convince the lost to put aside their "bad" things, and after doing so, they'll get the parting gift of the "good" things. Instead, we should be focusing our efforts on passing out the Good News, for if it received, its recipient will no longer have need for the bad things.
Chad, to a large extent these thoughts represent the motive behind the journey I've traversed in recent years. Until we come to a genuine existential realization of the life- and world-changing character of grace, we haven't grasped anything of Christianity. How did this become confused with a set of rules? Sometimes the simplest questions are the hardest, aren't they...

I appreciate what you said about the impossibility of trying to grasp the enormity of the narrative of Christ; I've always thought that the sheer concept-shattering character of the Christ event was what led the early church to accept four gospels - we can only ever get at that event of love and grace in fragmented and momentary form!
Yes, it's all about grace. Of course, grace can be extremely difficult to grasp and actually hard to accept. We naturally want to "earn" it, but of course, it is completely unwarranted. It is also unfair, and that is a hard concept to grasp since we think so much in terms of "getting what we deserve". In that regard, we need to be careful what we wish for. I, for one, do not want what I deserve eternally. (i.e., the wages of sin is death...) God's grace is an immensely humbling concept, but also a glorious and liberating one.
Chad -
Sorry to have to post this here, but I don't see an email link on your site.

Your prayers would be much appreciated: I was fired today as a result of this post on my blog.
Lance, I'm shocked to hear about this after reading what was a tactful and discreet sort of venting on your blog. So much for free speech.

I will be keeping you in my prayers. Also, FYI, I've just added an email address if you click under 'my profile' in the top left corner. Feel free to contact me anytime.
Positives and negatives, right? You should really try some mainline churches. They dwell entirely on God's love and grace, void of the sin and repentance. This kind of baby food made me a weak Christian for most of my life. The Greatest Story needs to dwell on our failings before the Savior can save us from anything. I don't know your denomination. There is a balance we need to seek. There is vision in the whole story...fragments are hazardous to our spiritual health. Blessings to you. Like the deep thoughts.
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Bush goes ballistic about other countries being evil and dangerous, because they have weapons of mass destruction. But, he insists on building up even a more deadly supply of nuclear arms right here in the US. What do you think? Is killing thousands of innocent civilians okay when you are doing a little government makeover?
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