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Archive for December, 2010

Is Morality the Goal?

December 10, 2010 5 comments

I found this quote today, attributed to Gandhi:

“The message of Jesus as I understand it, is contained in the Sermon on the Mount unadulterated and taken as a whole. If then I had to face only the Sermon on the Mount and my own interpretation of it, I should not hesitate to say, ‘Oh, yes, I am a Christian.’ But negatively I can tell you that in my humble opinion, what passes as Christianity is a negation of the Sermon on the Mount.”    ~Mohandas Gandhi

I really like this quote (and other similar things he said). Gandhi seemed fairly adept at calling a spade a spade when it comes to the hypocrisies of Western Christianity. In that regard, I am totally with him. From an outsider’s perspective it sums up pretty well how we Christians aren’t quite living up to Jesus’ call, and have headed down our own paths to the Kingdom of God enough that the term “Christian” tends to call to mind someone pretty well opposite of the kind of person the Sermon on the Mount describes.

On the other hand, I think in saying this he may be understating Jesus’ message. The Sermon on the Mount is a picture of how followers of Jesus should live, a personal and cultural code of conduct showing them how to relate to God and be the “light of the world”, a people who embody God’s love on the earth. Jesus was calling a new people out from Israel just as the Mosaic Law called Israel out from the nations. (To be fair, Jesus was calling all of Israel, whoever would listen to him.)

But to say Jesus’ message ended there misses the point I think. I am thinking (and rethinking) through many of these things, but here is where I am at right now. Jesus didn’t just say “here is how to live, now everyone go do it,” he actually showed the way, which involves a whole lot of humility, holding your tongue, and putting yourself after other people, among other things. And, most importantly, Jesus went first down the path through death and resurrection. The promise of his teachings isn’t just a moral and loving society but a world reconciled to God in a complete and permanent way. His message in the Sermon on the Mount (and everywhere else he taught) is “the kingdom of God is here.” His message in the cross and his resurrection is “follow me to enter it.” His actions paved the way for everyone else to follow, and somehow provided the ability for us to do it.

This is an incomplete thought right now. Jesus made statements and actions that I think pointed to himself as inexorably connected with his message but I am still sorting those out. And then there is the question of why he seemed to knowingly march straight into the custody of his murderers as if his death was not just inevitable, but chosen and necessary. In any case, he doesn’t seem to consider himself as just a moral teacher, but something more than that, and by extension he wouldn’t consider his teachings to be separable from his life.

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Childhood Is Not a Race

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

In the midst of holiday celebrations and preparations, a round of the stomach virus, A studying for her upcoming finals and the day-to-day parenting mayhem this week I stumbled on this article on what a four-year-old should know and it has stopped me in my tracks. I can get very impatient with my kids, often about getting things done and behaving well, but also about what they do or don’t know or what they will or won’t try. Why hasn’t she learned yet that she always needs to… Why won’t he just sit down and do this… It is hard in my often hectic-feeling life and our competitive culture not to feel behind, and not to look at my kids sometimes and think of them as behind, when what is really important is a different set of things entirely.

1. She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.

2. He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.

3. She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.

This advice for parents is gold too:

That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children “advantages” that we’re giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.

I have no further comments. I am still digesting.

Discovering the God Imagination Online Class

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Jonathan Brink, author of Discovering the God Imagination, has offered a free copy of his book for helping promote his online class. I’ve followed his blog for a while and found his perspectives on relating to God to be intriguing and often helpful. I can’t recommend the book, having not read it yet, but with this post I intend to rectify that. Below is originally from his site:

 

Many of you have asked me what resources are available for Discovering The God Imagination.  I’m pleased to announce that we’re finally announcing an online class with BeADisciple.com, a division of Southwestern College.

Title: Exploring a Postmodern Gospel

Dates: January 3 to February 18, 2011

Cost: $69

The class will explore the book over seven weeks and will include online interaction with those who are also reading the book.  If you’ve read the book and want to explore it in dialog in community, this is your chance to do so.

This seven week class is limited to the first 20 participants, so if you’re interested, I would encourage you to sign up today.  I’m really looking forward to the dialog that will happen over the seven weeks.

The class takes place online using Blackboard’s classroom technology.  If you’ve used it before you’ll know it’s really simple to use.

 

Let’s Get Practical

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

I am not big on “what if” as a bottom line. I went to a church once for several years where it seemed every sermon ended with a what-if appeal. “What if we all acted this way? What if every one of us prayed daily for such and such? What if everyone in the world was able to know…”

These fall for me in the category of daydreaming or  inspirational chain mail. “Pass this on – think of the difference it would make if everyone did this.” What-ifs are powerful in the right context. But on their own they leave you gazing into the sky, until you shake it off and get back to life.

What-ifs are probably more aptly put in the category of dreaming and visions. Can you imagine a future where… But on their own they have no power to take anyone anywhere. If I am trying to change your mind or inspire you to join up with something, I need to give you more than just a compelling vision. I need to suggest how we get there. If leadership is essentially all about getting someone from one place to another, it does only so much good to describe just how great the other place is. I need to show you the way there, and be heading there myself.

image courtesy of emplifya on deviantart.com