If you go to the store…you are going to do something there. if you are there to be with people, just to be with people…then you are among them. Christ didn’t come to earth. Sure, in the physical scientific sense he came TO earth. But he didn’t just come to earth. He came to be among us. Emmanuel – God with us! There is a difference whether we come to another culture or arrive to be among. i like to say around vs among. if you come around them, sure you are there with them…but not to learn from them, not to gain from them. you are only there with your agenda and that, to you, is all that matters. we have been incorrectly made to believe that our job as believers is to “save others”…it is not. there are no scriptural references to this. there is a huge number of verses telling us to love people. and this one where jesus tells us to “make disciples”… what you have to understand is that making a disciple was not a momentous occasion. it was a lifelong process. a process that took time, patience, compassion, selflessness. maybe somewhere in our history, some bishop somewhere said this is going to cost us way too much effort, so, let’s market jesus and salvation and throw this “sinner’s prayer” in there for effect. (Just fyi, that prayer didn’t come into play until 100 of yrs after Christ’s resurrection). In fact, salvation is played out differently for each individual in scripture. i mean, for the rich young ruler, he was called to give up his possessions. for the woman caught in adultery it was to “go and (do this) sin no more”…and others it meant just receiving healing. in fact, the word salvation means healing. for any doctors reading this, you can understand that healing takes time. it doesn’t happent overnight. it took the criminal on the cross to be near death to finally realize his need for Christ. Somehow, Christianity thinks they have the monopoly on salvation. When that in and of itself is not something humanly bestowed. We must realize this. We are called to be among people, whether its family or some obscure tribe. everywhere we go holds its own culture. we must live out that realization. An encounter with Christ was always transformational. Yet, Christ himself didn’t always talk about spiritually lofty things when he encounterd people…he talked about their needs…soul deep stuff…He came to save the world, not us. We can’t. We are just seed planters. But, even then, it doesn’t mean we shout Christ’s name everywhere we go…or treat Christianity as some spiritual catch-all to our problems…it is an invitation to the most romantic spritual encounter one will ever come into….yes, there will be times when the words will come out…but we are not told to force people or situations…but we are invited, commanded to live out transformational lives through loving others…
here in england, white socks are not common place. they might even be out of style here to be honest. this is a wide generality, but almost every person here prefers black socks over white socks. if you take a walk down high street (a nickname for main street) you will notice the entourage of black socks. now, don’t think of me as one who goes around studying the ankles of strangers, that’s just not me. 🙂 Yet, when i first got here i thought it was the weirdest thing ever, in fact, my first knee-jerk reaction was to “buck the system” and just go on wearing white socks. a lot of you know me well enough to know i won’t just follow the culture for culture’s sake, but, at times we are called to live within a culture to reach a culture. now, if i went on wearing white socks i don’t think it would really create such a cultural rift that all of England would be in a white sock tirade. But, this got me thinking….
America is known for its sometimes brash methods of assumption. going into another country and changing their politics. we see this with the Middle East, now America has to go back to the way of the already situated government which was in place for that particular area. Christians have been known by this, there are articles still being written about “us” (i use this term loosely and quite broadly, this is a preview of what the world does with this term)…where we go into other cultures and try to change all relgious aspects of their beliefs, we strip them of their culture, their identity and then promise that Christ will replace it all and is more than enough than how they have lived their lives thus far, for some maybe even 80’s oyears of their lives. Or if in their culture, they don’t have women who are clothed or maybe only partially clothed, we clothe them. we think it is cultural to be clothed. Yet, at one time clothing was a reaction to sin (Please go back to Genesis 3 and read why clothes had to come into the picture). We are on dangerous ground when we assume our culture/mindset is the only way to do life. the only way to see God. When Christianity seeks to be the fix all, it ceases to be Christianity. Jesus didn’t come to fix it all (“In this world you will surely find, trials of many different kinds…”) He came to change our focus. Every interaction you have has its own culture, has it very own life. When you sit down and have a meal with your family, therein lies a culture. When you go and hangout with some friends at a bonfire, therein lies a culture, and when you meet a person who is marginalized, therein lies a culture. And God is there. We must begin asking: “Where is God here?” (All the while realizing God is there, but how?). How do I love them well is the Gospel, not how can i get them saved? (by the way, there is no scriptural stance for us being responsible for the salvation of others; Jesus does say that HE came to seek and save the lost– When He was leaving he does tell us to be intentionally incarnational (be Jesus) through our lives–aka, Making Disciples). That doesn’t mean that you never bring Jesus up into a conversation. But we are told to love people, that is the Gospel. Maybe our culture has really created a Christianity that Jesus did not intend. Maybe our culture isn’t always getting it right. Maybe white socks are acceptable in America, but not here in England. Maybe democracy works in America, but not in some remote region in the African bush. We need to be culturally sensitive enough to know when to “buck the system” and when not too…this is the exciting part of the journey. One you must be willing to take. It may even be a frustrating one, but when is discovery ever so clear, when is mystery ever so decisive…jump in, and jump in with both feet!!!!!
~chase things that won’t set me free~ Goo Goo Dolls
I loved hide and seek, i think i still like it, to be honest. the urgency of the chase, the excitement of being found. and even the unraveling of discovery. i think we might keep these things up in our lives in certain ways. we sometimes chase things that won’t set us free. for some its drugs. others its relationships. maybe even dreams. let me explain. the dreams of personal fame. where you are always the star of your show. i used to be a “light” hungry hippie myself. i still love the stage, i want to act, but, sometimes our very own stage(s) can do more damage than not. it can leave you wanting more applause and you end up leaving more of your self. the more you gain, the more you lose. you see sometimes the chase isn’t as exciting as it may seem by the end of the story. i don’t believe in regrets, yet, if you do, who wants to choke on them.? you don’t want lose yourself in something. you want to give of yourself to something, right? but, there is a distinct difference between the two. when you become synonymous with the very things you chase then you lose out in the end. i am dream maker and a dream follower, so for someone like me, it is easy to become entrenched in the chase. to lose myself rather than gain. sometimes we will be someone else so we can take on another reality. to believe we can not get lost in dreams of grandeur, to be like Don Quixote and get lost in our delusions. What I am saying here is the very opposite of encouraging one to follow their dreams (aka, “what makes you come alive?”)….this is a callout to those who have given themselves over to the desire for personal fame, the ones who create their own stages and live out their lives chasing things that they lose themselves in. this is the clarion call to come off the stages, to live out who you are without apology and discovery rather than creating scene after scene of an endless demise…it’s the curtain call…time to bow and walk away.
I’ve never really gotten into mysteries. you know the genre of writing where you as the reader have to figure out who perpetrated the murder…it just never was for me. and if you’re honest, for you either. oh sure, the writing is one thing, it is fiction and not true. but, when it comes too close to home, we walk away from mystery, we would rather “chalk it up” as confusion. In fact, we tend to call anything we don’t understand—confusion. and confusion frustrates and bewilders its audience. who wants to be confused and frustrated. i just don’t find that in the character of God. so, it leaves us to wonder why there is so much “mystery” wrapped up in his character. so much of the unknown is who He is to us (at least at this point in our journey), he even tells us in the Old Testament, that He is beyond our logic, beyond any definition we can muster; He will always be sitting right on the outside of the circumference of our ideas of Him.
Now, if we see him as mystery well, there is something much different than confusion. Mystery woos its lovers. it draws and weaves and invites and is scandalous in the most romantic way. A woman’s heart is a mystery to a man, but it draws him in. it takes him on and invites him in. this is so much more than chemicals and sex here. this is a deep metaphor for God, scriptures are rife with these kinds of parallels. Mystery initiates us all into a journey. Confusion thwarts movement and causes one to look only inward, only inward. Mystery brings curiosity and wonder, whereas confusion stops both in their tracks. There were these early monks who were heretical in their name giving (for their time), they called God the Abyss. the idea was that you couldn’t get to know God by standing on the edges (i.e., theology, study of God..and etc.), that the only way you could encounter him in all his mystery (an abyss is covered in darkness (a medieval metaphor for mystery) is to fully immerse yourself in him by taking the plunge…do you have it in you to take it? We all want to be found, to be discovered and unraveled. we all have in us the image of God (Read Genesis 3), and in us are hints of God’s character. fragments of his grace. He too wants to be discovered in new ways, and wants us to be monastic in our understanding of him by jumping in with both feet. by living out your life in awe and wonder and deep curiosity of what you don’t know. imagine your life is a book that is unwritten (thanks to Natasha Bedingfield for that), try not to live your life as a secondhand book. live out your life in the scandalous mystery of not knowing until you do it. live out the mystery. discover god. discover you, turn the page and find out how those two collide.