Skip to main content

contrast

I am currently a teaching assistant in a course called Introduction to Christian Origins. One of the books that I just finished reading for this course is a fictional, but historically-based account about what life was like for Christians in the first century. Yes, it inevitably ended with one of the main characters being martyred. Nowadays, the word 'martyr' has somewhat negative connotations because we associate it with radical political and religious action, such as recent terrorist acts. That is unfortunate, because by devaluing the term we miss out on some incredible lessons in devotion and courage.

I have been thinking about what it looks like to be someone who has devoted their life to following Jesus in the present age. The three M's, becoming martyrs, monks, or missionaries, are no longer the obvious options for whole-hearted surrender that they were at different times in history. But then, is a radical change of lifestyle, location, and livelihood vital in order to follow Jesus? Are extreme sacrifice and large doses of asceticism important to the integrity of a contemporary Christian? I don't know. What I do know is that everyone has to answer these questions for themselves. We can't just go along with what those around us are doing, or emulate the behaviour of someone we admire from another time. My guess is that the question of how belonging to God contrasts with living according to society's mores will not be quickly answered. However, personally wrestling with this challenge will hopefully not only reveal how strong or weak my devotion is, but will cause my devotion to grow. Not through comparison with saints and martyrs, but through recognizing what it means to belong to Someone holy.

Here is something that that I read today that gave me some perspective on this question:

One of the stubbornly enduring habits of the human race is to insist on domesticating God. We are determined to tame him. We figure out ways to harness God to our projects. We try to reduce God to a size that conveniently fits our plans and ambitions and tastes. But our Scriptures are even more stubborn in telling us that we can't do it. God cannot be fit into our plans, we must fit into his....'Holy' is the word that sets God apart and above our attempt to enlist him in our wish-fulfillment fantasies or our utopian schemes for making our mark in the world.

Holy means that God is alive on God's terms, alive in a way that exceeds our experience and imagination. Holy refers to life burning with an intense purity that transforms everything it touches into itself. Because the core of all living is God, and God is a holy God, we require much teaching and long training for living in response to God as he is and not as we want him to be. (Eugene Peterson in Introduction to Leviticus, The Message)

May I be transformed by Holiness today and every day.

This is a photo of some long grass along the ditch, glorious in its winter coat of fresh snow.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

what does the cross mean?

Words which we use a lot can sometimes become divested of their depth of meaning. In the Christian tradition, we talk about the cross a lot. We see visual representations of the cross in prominent places in our gathering spaces, we wear crosses around our necks, some get crosses tattooed on their bodies. The cross is a ubiquitous symbol in Christianity, so lately I have been asking myself, what exactly does the cross mean? For the most part, the cross as portrayed in contemporary Christianity is a beautiful thing, festooned with flowers and sunsets and radiant beams of light (just google cross or cross coloring page). But in the first century, the cross was a symbol of disgrace. To the Roman empire, this ignoble instrument of death was for those who were traitors and enemies of the state. We are many centuries removed from this view of the cross as the locus of torture and death and shame. The fact that Christianity has made the cross a symbol of hope and beauty is a good thing, but p…

stained and broken

Recently, I was asked to speak at another church, and the passage of Scripture which was assigned to me was John 1:6-8. "There came a man commissioned and sent from God, whose name was John. This man came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe [in Christ, the Light] through him. John was not the Light, but came to testify about the Light." (John 1:6-8, Amplified Bible)

The first question I usually ask when reading something in the Bible is this: What does this tell me about God? Two things are immediately obvious - God is a sending God and God wants to communicate - but there is a third which merits a bit more attention. Though God could communicate directly with humanity, sending truth and love to every individual via some divine mind-and-heart-meld, God chooses to send messengers. Not only that, instead of introducing Jesus directly to the world as the main event, an opening, warm-up act appears as a precursor. What is the point of incorporati…

the songs we sing

NOTE: I am going to make some pretty strong statements below, but understand that it is my way of taking an honest, hard look at my own worship experience and practice. My desire is not to be overly critical, but to open up dialogue by questioning things I have assumed were totally fine and appropriate. In other words, I am preaching to myself. Feel free to listen in.

---------------------

When I am in a church meeting during the singing time, I sometimes find myself silent, unable to get the words past my lips. At times I just need a moment of stillness, time to listen, but other times, the words make me pause because I don't know that I can sing them honestly or with integrity. This is a good thing. We should never mindlessly or heartlessly sing songs just because everyone else is. We should care deeply about what we say in our sung, communal worship.

At their best, songs sung by the gathered body of Christ call to life what is already in us: the hope, the truth, the longing, t…