Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lunching with the Enemy

The holidays are a time where spend a great deal of our waking hours with those we love. A lot of these occasions seem to involve eating and maybe rightly so, as it seems that eating together is often associated with a level of intimacy not found between mere associates. Maybe this is why business executives and Hollywood agents are quick to "do lunch"; it's a tangible sign of inclusiveness.

Inclusiveness, however, doesn't happen just around the dining room table of our homes. For those of us who are Christians, our Heavenly Father has promised that not only are we part of our own families, we are part of His (Titus 3:7; Ephesians 1:5). Therefore, we get to eat at His banquet table, and share in fellowship with Him (Luke 14:15). This is a common understanding of grace; those of us who were wrong with God get to be made right with Him. However, as in much of Christianity, that which has become common, has perhaps lost its impact. While all the above is true, what is often forgotten is the degree to which we are anathema to God except for Christ's sacrifice. Getting the privilege to eat at Christ's table is comparable to the outrage that would occur if President Bush had Osama Bin Laden over for Thanksgiving, except comparably our crimes against a holy God are far worse. (This is not to say that the earthly consequences of our behavior are the same, but the contrast between our sins and God's holiness is much more pronounced than the same comparison made between sinners.) The shock of such a meal would resound throughout the CNN-world, because we would recognize that a privilege was being given to a man who not only had not earned it, but had earned the exact opposite response. The President would be granting an act of inclusion to somebody whose behavior calls for him to be ostracized. Osama would be accompanying the same seat that the President's children had sat in, served from the same dishes, and allowed the same access. The fact that we find this absurd, shows us the scandal of God's grace. For those of us who were enemies of God are now His children (Col. 1:20-21); He has allowed them unprecedented access (Rom. 5:1-3), and shows them favor they can never earn (Eph. 2:8-9). We have become so used to calling ourselves "children of God", that we forget the affront our adoptions paper must cause in heaven. The enemies have been made kids.

Many of us will gather this holiday season and get together with friends and families out of obligation. Let us not forget that God has no obligation to lunch with us, and yet through faith and repentance, He gives us the privilege anyway.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Not Understanding

My dad likes to call me a professional student and I suppose there's truth to that description. While some people hate school, I love it. It's not that I think homework or projects are the best thing since slice bread (who does?) but I love the process of learning. Some people might ask, "If you love it so much, why'd you rush through it?" but frankly that's another story for another day.

My relentless quest of inquiry is great for studies, but less than magnificent when it comes to relationships. I guess its because within education there's a certain expectation that understanding can be achieved. I apply that to people and I'm often left short. Despite my intuitive nature (according to Meyers-Brigg), and years of study, people still surprise me. Sometimes in good ways, but unfortunately those are the instances that are hard to remember. It's the hurts, trials, and careless words that pierce my soul. These happenings dig even deeper when I can't fathom the reason for their existence. It's one thing if I can anticipate that someone might be upset with me (like the person I accidentally cut off on the freeway) it's a completely different thing when someone I'm close to is less than thoughtful with their actions. It seems to hurt even worse precisely because the cause of it remains a mystery.

What I'm trying to learn though is that understanding is not a prerequiste for trust. Just like I want to remind the upset person on the freeway that we all cut people off sometimes, I try to remind myself that I'm sure I've unintentionally hurt others before. Just because I'm guilty of this fallacy, I don't want my friends to write me off. Instead I want them to understand that sometimes life isn't what we intend, but that my commitment to them, while maybe not evident in that particular action, is still meaningful and strong. Complete understanding isn't required for relationships (after all, how many of us can say we understand God). Love triumphs understanding, even in pain.

I am certain that despite my commitment to inquiry there are things in life that will forever remain a mystery. I'm also convinced that sometimes a lack of understanding is for our good for complete understanding would destroy the beauty of the unexpected blessing. So I aim not for understanding, but for love, trusting that it really is "the greatest of these." (I Cor. 13:13b)


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Cult of Celebrity

Social networks have become so proliferate that its no longer "cool" and "hip" to be a part of them. They are now part of the social fabric and one can find their teachers from high school, pastors, and a lot of other more "conventional" personalities online. The curious thing about social networks is that once you are someone's "friend" you can track what's going on in their life without ever actually talking to them. Want to know what the Homecoming King is up to 20 years later? Become their Facebook friend and you can see pictures of their family, find out what's happening in their day, and know where the work, where they went to school, and what their daily status is, without ever having a conversation. In fact "facebook stalking" has become a common term - the process of tracking the nature of status updates to see who's doing what, with whom, and when.

This abundance of information about ordindary people's daily lives helps create celebrities out of "regular joe's" (not to be confused with Joe the Plumber - he became a celebrity all on his own.) At first the paparazi tracked only A-List stars, then they began hunting after people who's only claim to be fame was the fact that they were famous. Now, everyone has the opportunity to broadcast their personal business and get "fans" and "friends" alike to follow them.

While this cult of celebrity is an interesting social phenomenon, it's also a scary one. Christians especially should be wary of the pride it can create. It's human nature to desire attention, but that's not what God has required of us. He has asked us to be humble (James 4:6), a servant (John 13:12-17), and to seek Him above the acclaim of others (Matt 6:33). Sure, its rewarding to gather as many "friends" as possible, and to try to capture the attention of those who surround us, but how much greater to attract the attention of our Creator, and to get a "well done" comment from the One who's opinion really matters. After all, even those who have long-standing relationship with the paparazzi in this world see their fame slipping away. Why not be celebrated in the kingdom that will last forever instead?
Better Things Ahead: November 2008

This page has moved to a new address.

Better Things Ahead