Self inflicted bruises

14 04 2008

My wife and I joined a lifegroup a few weeks back. As is the case with most life groups, the serious nights normally start out with an ice breaker. In this case everyone had their chance to tell the group how their week had been, and how they felt spiritually.  People were quite honest with how they felt but i did start to notice a common theme in the responses as we went around the room. People seemed to beat themselves up about how little they had read their bibles and how little they had spent “time with God” that week. The more I listened the more my heart sank and i really felt for these people. I found it hard to relate to that way of Christianity. I’ve wrestled with what those people said and since then I’ve come to some conclusions and as usual – feel free to disagree with them.

Too often I’ve noticed Christians have a very narrow view of spirituality. In some cases some Christians think the only way to be spiritual is to read your bible and pray. Anything else is not spiritual. The problem with that, is that isnt the picture scripture paints. Ironically that way of thinking has more to do with Plato than with Jesus.  
Plato developed this idea of a life that is split between what matters and what doesnt matter. The part that doesnt matter is the body and all living matter.  The only thing that actually matters is your soul and the world of ideas. Plato argued that your body will die but your spirit or soul will (hopefully) float off to heaven. These ideas were adopted by the Epicureans who argued that if matter was evil, then the body was to be shunned and disciplined. Many Christians have sadly bought into this idea too. Some Christians had the view that the only way to escape this evil world is to read the bible and pray. For them that is the only way to be spiritual. This form of Christianity is something at odds with being human. Let me be the first to say that most of my Christian life I have bought into these ideas.

However sincere these Christians are in seeking God, starting from this point of view will only lead to some serious problems. At one extreme end it leads to people cutting themselves off from society altogether in an effort to become more spiritual. This leads to more frustration than anything else. On the other end of the scale people simply “abandon” the whole idea of being Christian and just do as they please. These extremes should be avoided but hopefully some of that frustration pushes them to find a better picture as it did for me.  I started seeing that the idea of being Christian and being Human were not at odds with each other and that I had been living with a false split.

I guess my question is why did we stop seeing ourselves as something valuable to God?
If we are supposed to be beat ourselves up for not measuring up to “Gods standard” (I use that term loosely because I dont think that picture is Gods standard) then why did Jesus have to die on the cross?
Why did he even bother to create us anyway?
More importantly why Jesus rise from the dead as a human but not quite the same?

John 3:16 “God so loved the world…”,
Genesis 1,2 “…and God said It is good” , “Let us make man in Our Image…”
Ephesians 2:10 “We are Gods workmanship…”
Romans 8:16 “…we are Gods Children…co-heirs with Christ”
Mark 1 “This is my son in whom I am well pleased”
2 Corinthians 5:17 “…he is a new creation”
John 10:10 “I have come so that they may have life and life to the full”

The wisdom books (Proverbs, Job, Song on Songs etc…) approach the idea of wisdom from creation. A wise person would be able to read the patterns and harmony in life, and see their place relative to the creator. A wise person would enjoy all that God had placed in the world while living in relationship with Him. This was the same as living faithfully under the covenant. Its worth noting that Job highlighted a problem with this way of thinking. Sin had distored the harmony and patterns. But even He at the end of the book is silenced by God. In wisdom there are still many hidden things we will never understand. Its futile to even try.

– What would it look like if we started seeing creation as something good and something to be enjoyed?

– What would it look like if we started to see that we are made in the image of God, however distored that picture has become as a result of sin?

– What would it look like to start living in the victory Jesus has won for us on the cross?

– What would it look like to take to heart what God says about Jesus when he is baptised by John (and also says to every son and daughter of God as well) “This is my son in whom I am well pleased”?

 – What would it look like to see all of life as spiritual not just some small activities we do every so often?

So often what we hear preached in Churches is “Sin management 101”. When did we stop proclaiming the good news? The more I focus on sin, the more problematic it becomes.  Managing my sin is not good news. Taking away my sin nature entirely and covering me in Gods own righteousness, even when I dont deserve it, is great news.

Of course there are always objections. “This way of thinking elevates man to the same level as God and results in pride, people will sin more…” – BLAH BLAH BLAH ! All garbage in my  opinion. Again these ideas are false choices. I’m not advocating a selfish pride. I’m saying that when we hold what God has given us with humility and reverence we come to see how good it is.  I’m not advocating people sinning, and When did the church become the authority on sin anyway? It surely is not the job of the church to manage sin but rather to proclaim the good news. If we’re busy procaliming the good news theres no time to sin anyway.

We need to start seeing life in terms of the bigger pictures that scripture paints for us.  

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