21 August 2006

Revenge, Apathy, or Care?

"Some Righteous Foster Care"

Using legitimate military force to privilege the interests of our good country . . .


Using a foster care opportunity to love someone unprivileged in our country's system . . .

Can you find an even better way for us . . .

There are usually three ways . . . right? Did someone strike your innocent friend? There are two options: 1) strike back with equal or greater effort, 2) cowardly run away.

I guess if there are only two options, I have to choose 1). Is there a third? Somebody tell me what it would be. If there are only two options, I have a lot of striking to do. In fact, I think I'll begin with you because you are the most different from me.

But I think there are three options (at least). I think the above case of foster care is an example of a third way. I don't know much about foster care. But, it seems like a ripe opportunity for a third way. Rather than complaining about stereotypical characteristics of people who are different from me . . . Rather than ignoring people who are different from me (I think this might even be more destructive) . . . Entering the lives of people who are different from me while carrying the love of God in my body would be the third way. Is that true? Is there a clearer way to say that?

If there are only two ways . . . MLK jr. took the first way. He and many other men and women of peace and righteousness jammed a stick into the spoke of the wheel of racism. The former fools of racism have gone extinct. Unfortunately, there are new fools in a greater age of fools. How do we determine who they are? And How do we jam their wheel?

14 August 2006

Israeli Irony

Here are two of my favorite excerpts from "Paint Lebanon Red":

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. ~ Mohandas Gandhi


"In my alternative universe, where Israel paints Lebanon red, the action would have captured the attention of the world and it would have shone a spotlight on the naked aggression of Hezbollah . . . Martin Luther King’s nonviolence required publicity to be effective. He and his followers were happy when violent men couldn’t bear to act reasonable even when the cameras were rolling . . . I think that Hezbollah would have responded to the painting of Lebanon with continued rocket launches."

You'll have to read this article. It reminds me of a true story I heard just yesterday. Several Jewish men in some law firm or corporation (I can't remember) came to a professional conflict resolution guy, Randy Lowry. Randy recommended that if one of them had an issue with someone else in their network or knew that someone else had a problem with one of them. The person should try to make things right with that person before expressing dislike or waiting for dislike to spread behind the person's back. Finally, if the offending or offended person cannot be reconciled, the responsible person will take one person with him/her to attempt reconciliation. If that doesn't work, he/she should get the whole rest of the group to try and reconcile the offending or offended person. If that doesn't work, you should still treat the person with utmost kindness.

Well, after these highly intelligent and professional men heard these ways of conflict resolution, they said, "Wow! This is unbelievably amazing! Where does this come from?"

Randy said, "Actually, Jesus said it."

The Jews said to one another, "Let's do this the Jesus way!"

Imagine if the people with the power to drop bombs decided to start doing things the Jesus way.

Randy also pointed out that Jesus' way indicated that after we went through the attempt-to-reconcile stages and the person still won't reconcile, "treat them like a non-Jew and a tax collector (Matthew 18)." (We might say, "treat them like a foreigner and a lawyer," in our day and time.) The funny thing, as Randy pointed out, is to consider how Jesus himself treated non-Jews and tax collectors! Immediately I recall the Syrophoenician woman whom Jesus helped, though he did, in a way, refer to her as a dog. (Still, the fact that he was in her neighborhood demonstrates an act of peace many of us wouldn't even consider today. For example, if you are a white middle-class male, would you go hang out in a ghetto where *you* are the minority?) I also recall the impromptu sermon Jesus gave in the synagogue (Luke 4). He refers to God sending prophets to bless and be blessed by *foreigners* . . . Naaman was from Syria. I believe Jesus, in that sermon and in other actions and lessons, is laying the precedent for his own people to accept Gentiles into his way. It seems to me that when we read the book of Acts from chapters 8 through the end, we see how the early church accepted the Gentiles, albeit slowly and conditionally (Acts 15). Jesus, the Jew, successfully converted the spiritual nation of Israel to his way, the way of peace, and to reconciliation extended to non-Jews. (Although it wasn't exactly easy, as seen in Acts 15 and in the food wars evident in Romans between Jew and non-Jew meal customs.)

The next time I'm tempted to retaliate, I will be as creative and imaginative as I can to do what Jesus would do. It is a more successful way of converting enemies than any method involving use of bombs.

13 August 2006

The Good News I Speak of

This is kind of an intro to "The God Who Sends: Who is He?"

I believe the Good News is this: Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.

I believe we respond appropriately by accepting the truth of that. How? We begin with the confession that his lordship and salvation are true and absolute. In our confession, essentially, we renounce all rulers and false gods. We are baptized into that name with the intention of loving and honoring that Lord and accepting the effects of his salvation on us and around us. We continue in this truth by letting our lifestyles become congruent with his goodness and telling the news through both words and actions that Jesus Christ is our Master and Redeemer, our King and Deliverer. He is the only Ruler who actually brings eternal peace and declares victory over death.

Why do I say this is the Good News? Besides Scripture . . . I was reading some inscriptions found in the first half of the first century in places like Ephesus. They also mention "Good News" in relationship to Caesar Augustus. I think it gives us a clue to what the New Testament writers meant when they used the term "Good News". Here is a quotation from a decree dated 9 B.C.:

"Whereas the Providence which has regulated our whole existence, and which has shown such care and liberality, has brought our life to the climax of perfection in giving to us [the emperor] Augustus, whome it [Providence] filled with virtue for the welfare of men, and who, being sent to us and our descendants as a Savior, has put an end to war and has set all things in order; and [whereas,] having become manifest, Caesar has fulfilled all the hopes of earlier times . . . , not only in surpassing all the benefactors who preceded him but also in leaving to his successors no hope of surpassing him; and whereas, finally, the birthday of the god [Augustus] has been for the whole world the beginning of good news [euaggelion] concerning him [therefore, let a new era begin from his birth, and let his birthday mark the beginning of the new year]." {Translation in _Ancient Roman Religion_, 174.}

Compare with Mark 1:1, "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

I should probably also mention the tradition on which the Good News is based: God created the universe. He made humans in his own image and they ruled over the animals, but they broke their relationship with him by sinning. Jesus was spiritually anointed by God to bring good news to the poor and enslaved, the blind and the oppressed. They followed him and put their faith in him. He suffered shame and died for the world's sake. He came back to life and was clothed with an immortal body. He ascended into Heaven to sit on the throne until he will return like a thief in the night. Then, everything will be burned up, but he will create a new universe. Righteousness will be at home and humans will exercise proper dominion over the animals in this new age which as actually already begun in part because Jesus Christ conquered death.

In brief, I guess I should have said that the good news of Jesus Christ is set in the context of the tradition of the eternal history to which the Bible testifies.

What do you understand the Good News to be?

10 August 2006

Old Saints vs. New Saints

What about struggles we “missionary types” have with already-Christians, who are not as excited about new Christians being so different?

Well they aren’t new struggles, anyway. Consider Acts 11-15 to see how the Good News spread so naturally. But, eventually the “official” church felt the need (appropriately) to check them out. They sent “sent ones” to Antioch. (“sent ones” is the translation for “apostles”.) The “sent ones” came back and reported “all is well,” but the report wasn’t accepted at face value. There was a lot of struggle, as chapter 15 reveals, between the “stay-at-home” leaders in Jerusalem and Paul and Barnabas and even Peter’s “fresh” theology that included new, different people in God’s grace.

I’m hoping to interact in the next few posts with Acts 11-15. Conveniently, I’m preaching Sunday night on “The Sending God”. I’m preaching Sunday morning, too, but I’ll probably post on that later. I hope I get some feedback, questions, and even corrections from family, friends, neighbors, and strangers.

07 August 2006

Riddles © 1995

Dark by day
And by night just the same,
Yet harder to find then,
And strangely arranged.

Noel made up a riddle around that time, too, while we were in Australia. Want to hear it?

Gambling and poker you may not play,
But you use this first. wager.

If you don't already know the answers . . . guess!

03 August 2006

Bad Breath Confession, 1/∞

I went to bed and deliberately stayed there this past Friday night (really it was 3am Saturday) . . . .
. . . . even after having realized that I hadn't brushed and flossed my teeth. This hasn't happened since . . . I don't know . . . it's been years . . . unless you count being on airplanes for 24 hours straight, but I don't count those anymore. I eat vegan on them and my mouth doesn't *feel* as polluted that way (though it most certainly is as my breath can knock over even the burliest of flight attendants).

But there was that one time when I was between the ages of 6 and 10 . . . As I was heading to bed on a Saturday night, Mom and Dad said, "Jason, did you brush your teeth?" Arggg!

"No. I'm going to bed," I said.

"Oh, no you're not," said Mom, but I went into our bedroom anyway with a particularly ugly scowl that unfortunately only God could see (Stephen was asleep in the bottom bunk and lights were out). Mom said, "JASON! GET IN THERE and BRUSH YOUR TEETH!" Mom didn't get my point. I needed just this one time to be freed from obedience; it was very important to my growing independence and maturation. "JASON!"

"MOM!" said I.

"BRUSH. Your. TEETH! Now!"

"Grrr!" said I. I took the six to eight steps between bedroom and bathroom, stood up on the stool ("This little stool of mine, I use it all the time, to . . .), and oh was my tear smeared face ugly in that bathroom mirror. I watched myself say the words "YOU'RE AS MEAN AS THE DEVIL!" (I was mad but, fortunately, I thought about it carefully for 0.008 seconds so that I was careful not to say, "You're *meaner than* the devil.")

As soon as I screamed those words outloud my face instantly became sorrowful. I said, "I'M SORRY! I'M SORRY! I'M SORRY!" though too late, because quickly I saw Mom's reflection as she whipped around behind me with the flyswatter! (She was quite agile in those days.) I kept apologizing sincerely as she swatted me and swatted me and swatted me. (I think it was more than three times, but this was loving discipline for sure.)

In fact, I was almost glad that Mom had swatted me and done so so vehemently. I knew that I deserved it. I had been unreasonable, disobedient, and rebellious. (Though nothing compared to sins I've committed since.) And I brushed my teeth really well that night and for every night since . . . until this past Friday night.

Why can't I be that sorrowful and repentant and obedient now, especially about *big* things besides personal dental care? Maybe I can be more repentant. I want to learn what it takes to be so. Maybe it would help for me to think of God as a person--even a mother--who really does know what's best for us . . . even if it means having to take swats.