Christians believe in the Incarnation – that is, God, in an abundant act of love for humankind, took on a body like ours to walk among us. To be nurtured, live, teach, suffer and die among us. And (I believe) did so to prove that we NEVER stop belonging to God, and to demonstrated how much God longs to be with us. In fact, this human is known in scripture as Immanuel, “God-with-Us.”
In competitive fighting games, the words respect and disrespect have odd connotations.
To play respectfully is to play conservatively – you respect your opponent’s ability, and thus are focused above all on avoiding their traps and gambits.
Respect in fighting games is passive and reactive. When taken too far, it results in a playstyle based entirely out of a fear of adversity and failure, fear that your own commitments will be your downfall.
Disrespect, though, is pure confidence. You don’t respect the idea that your opponent has the ability to counter you. It is a complete trust in your decision-making, trust that your plans – whether meticulously crafted or entirely instinctual – will win out no matter what your opponent throws at you.
When a player is playing disrespectfully, they’re either going to crash and burn spectacularly or put on one of the best shows that fans have ever seen.
I’ve been thinking about the Bible. I’ve been thinking about the book of Job.
Because the story of Job is the oldest book in the portable library we call the Bible, I’ve wondered if maybe this story might be THE story. I’ve wondered about whether the other books could be commentary – a working through and a working out of the themes introduced in this first story, the story of Job: a story of suffering.
Unexpected. Undeserved. Unexplained.
Why is there suffering? The book of Job takes up quite a bit of space discussing the problem. Each of the friends introduces an idea as to the source of suffering and how we should respond. Job argues. The friends argue back. But it seems that suffering is not the moral – only the motivator. Without suffering, Job – a stand-in for humanity – might have no reason to consider his existence.
According to the Luke version, “And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs…” He is diagnosed as demon possessed with chronic demonic fits: “For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness.”
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”
Many who followed Jesus hoped for a revolutionary, a leader who might liberate Israel from its imperial oppressor. Christ could have been the answer.
But he died.
And I wonder, if Jesus wanted an insurrection, then why did he die on the cross? Why didn’t he accomplish a revolution?
I’ve been sitting on this question, waiting and thinking. In the meantime, my apocalyptic theology has grown more and more anarchist. I’ve been impatient and angry. But my sense is that this isn’t the way of Christ.
God in Christ reveals what it means to be human. It is love – to live in communion with God and with your fellow children of God. It is to be surrendered to God’s liberating love, embracing the way we are all connected and bound to one another, and following the riskiest and most beautiful implications of this connection, even unto death.
Jesus embodied the truest, fullest way to be human.
In my dreams I am frequently met with all manner of bodily calamity – teeth falling out, piping hot lava, exhaling steam pipes swallowing me up in fine, chalky mist. These dreams have been accelerating lately – there have always been zombies, but now they’re butcher-proof, the triggers on my pistols don’t work or the barrels spray only water.
I would be surprised if this back-order of spontaneous nightmares had nothing to do with November's election, or with the wider climate of fear and hatred that seems to be growing around us. I recently preached on the marked increase of hate crimes affecting Muslim, immigrant, and LGBTQ communities since the election. In December, our Japanese Americans in Chicago held a press conference with Arab and Muslim American groups condemning recent rhetoric seeking to justify a mass detention or profiling of these groups on the basis that, well, “we did it to those Japs.”
One afternoon earlier this week, I was driving in the car and flipped the radio to the local AM Christian station, as I occasionally do. Generally their programming ranges from pre-recorded sermons to shows about parenting and marriage advice to "current events" programs which tend to mirror whatever the latest point of outrage on conservative talk radio is (Liberals! Gays! Intellectuals!). On this particular afternoon the topic of the show in progress was ISIL (or ISIS or Islamic State or Daesh or whatever we're calling them now).
The guest on the show, a "global security expert" whom I've never heard of, was making the case that the U.S. and Europe needs to "get into the gutter" and use the same "cold-blooded" tactics of brutality that ISIL uses. "If you don't want to fight the way they fight, you're going to end up being a victim,” the expert warned.
As I have found myself drawn to Quakerism, it does not feel like I am discovering something new. In fact, I feel like I am rediscovering the impulses I had as a new believer in Christ, as well as seeing those subtle, quiet revelations I have gained over the years come together. I have often said that my charismatic convictions have led me to Quakerism, and I mean it when I say that. The implications of the Pentecost, in how it revealed the egalitarian nature of the Church and the accessibility of God’s power and presence, are radical and I find that Pentecostalism, the Charismatic Movement, and Quakerism have understood this to various degrees. The past few years, as I have been confronted by the revelation that Jesus defines God, and have had my views on both the Scriptures and sacraments change a bit, I have discovered that these sorts of things have been addressed and realized in Quakerism for quite some time.
Even though I hold pretty strongly to the Evangelical side of my Evangelical Friends tradition, I find it difficult to adopt the view, often associated with Evangelicals, of the Inerrancy of Scripture. Having actually read the Bible (like, all of it, more than once) I can admit that there are some stories that seem pretty historically improbable, some parallel accounts that are contradictory, and some descriptions that seem scientifically inaccurate. For the most part, this doesn’t bother me. As a Friend, I see the Bible as a secondary source of revelation. In my experience, it’s the direct, unmediated revelation of Jesus that is central (though, like Robert Barclay, I don’t think the two necessarily contradict).
It is a phrase that we are well acquainted with, and one we like to use quite a bit. It is biblical. It is a creed that inspires us to be like God, and to seek the heart of the Father. We believe that love is at the center of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that we are to love just as he loved. But we often disagree with each other on what love looks like for us, as 21st century Christians. Is love tolerant? Is love convicting? Is love tough?
I don’t think I have the answers to all the questions of what love looks like in every situation we find ourselves in, but I would like to propose a different way of looking at ‘Christian love’ (or, in light of what I am about to say, just ‘love’).