Archive for February, 2011
My little girl rolled over from belly to back today! Right in front of mommy and me! Incredible experience!
Do you ever feel like a failure? Of late, such feelings have been magnified in my inner man. I have been painfully aware of past, present and potentially future failures. Making matters worse, I have been reading through 1 Samuel—just finished today—and Saul’s life is one with which I wish I was not able to identify . . . but today, I am. I told a couple of my best friends the other day that Saul seems to always act out of fear—particularly fear of failure (with references to his role over the people of God)—instead of relying on YHWH. Just today, I read the culmination of his continuous fear and failure. YHWH would not make himself known to Saul in any way, so he turns to a conjurer of spirits,
And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a medium at En-dor” (1 Samuel . . . pause—my baby girl just threw up on me—okay . . . 28:6–7).
We know the rest of the story (if you don’t, read the rest of 1 Samuel). Saul continuously acted out of fear, and it eventually led to YHWH removing him and putting another in his place (wow vomited on and pooped on in one blog post—that’s my girl).
As a man desirous to be useful to God in his mission, this is perhaps my worst fear—to fail God and become unemployable in his work. As strolled down the panorama of my brief life, fear and failure are strung throughout. I wept when I did not make the Junior High basketball team two years in a row; I wept when I did not make the varsity basketball team; I didn’t finish a B.S. in Chemistry (this admittedly is complicated); and now much bigger things are at stake; will I be a faithful husband? Will I be a faithful father? Will I finish seminary? Will I stop learning? Will I get my doctorate? Will I be a faithful and employable pastor and teacher? Oh man. I think about these things a lot.
When I find myself in the midst of a struggle, I generally turn to Jesus’ life, and I always find an example of faithfulness in the midst of struggle. His faithfulness unto death is the strength for the believer to participate in Romans 12:12. However, sometimes I need an example of someone who has blown it big time to encourage me in the grace and mercy of God. Saul is not what I would call an encouraging example. It’s like the dude was predisposed to blowing regardless of the grace and mercy given to him (I realize that’s a theologically loaded statement).
So, I found this word—ἥττημα. It is used in the New Testament twice and in the Old Testament once. The OT example . . . not encouraging . . . basically, YHWH is a warrior who will bring defeat to the young men of Assyria—not a pleasant notion if you ask me. The two NT references are a bit more encouraging to those of us who know we are naught but failures desperate for God’s grace, mercy and strength. First, Romans 11:12,
Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
Paul speaks of the failure of Israel with regard their role in God’s mission as that which resulted in riches for the world. Further, their failure does not appear to be final, rather a restoration is promised to the failing people of Israel. Second, 1 Corinthians 6:7,
To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?
The Corinthians were failing to live out the fullness of the Christian brotherhood. They were not able to handle their disagreements with their own community, and instead, they took their arguments to the judges of the world. While they were failing in the Christian life (and not only in this way!), the apostle still reminded them that,
you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11).
If adulterous Israel and immoral Corinth can be employed by God for his mission, then perhaps there is hope for all of us. May God remind us of the Spirit given to the Christian so that we may be faithful like the Lord Jesus and remember his kindness when we are not.
Check out this video:
Prior to launching my series on Radical Christianity, I thought I would do a quick survey on Facebook in order to get a surfacy idea of what my friends thought about the concept. My page typically doesn’t get too much attention, so when 19 responses appeared rather quickly, I was a bit surprised. Apparently, several folks have their 10 cents worth to contribute to such an idea. I understand. The language strikes a chord in the heart of the pious person or better yet at least in the person who is seeking piety.
Of particular interest is my dialogue with Jon Wasson, who engaged me at length. Here is our conversation:
Rex: Give me your one sentence description of what you think when you hear the label “Radical Christianity.” Ready . . . go.
Jon: I think Christianity is more about being ordinary than radical. At least the way its used today – radical is a word that’s become gimmicky and, ironically, not very radical at all.
Rex: Great thoughts guys. Jon—I can always trust you to squash the fads bro. Let me ask you this, would you consider Luther ordinary? Or something like radical?
Jon: Good question.
The better question I think, however, would be to ask would Luther consider himself ordinary or radical? You see, it’s one thing for others to look back on our ‘contributions’ to the christian faith, whether theological, ethi…cal, missiological, etc and say, “Dang, that dude or lady was radical”…it’s an entirely other thing to aspire to it in the here and now.
Further, the call to be radical is often identified with a sense of overt-ness about our faith. It fails to grasp the subtlety of the christian faith – the arcane. If by radical you mean something close to Dostoevsky’s ‘Idiot’ then perhaps I am on board – but even then, ‘The Idiot’ is given his title for radically ‘ordinary’ behavior – loving all unconditionally, forgiving those who have wronged you, disinterest in sexual conquest and pursuit of wealth and power. The types of things that are ordinary…arcane…but not elevated oftentimes. make sense?
Rex: With regard to your first paragraph, I think—after listening to his Here I Stand speech recently—that Luther did see his actions (i.e., his opposition to the Church on the teaching of Scripture) as radical. He prayed, “God help me.” He knew… he might die for his stance. By saying this, I am not affirming or rejecting the necessity of everything that happened as a result of his stance, but I do think his conviction and choice was radical.
I do like what you are saying in the second paragraph—although I read a little bit to find out about the “Idiot.” Hahaha. Perhaps, it is best to say that to be radical is to be faithful, which sometimes makes one look ordinary, magnificent, brave, stupid or weak depending upon the situation. Jesus appears to be weak in his homelessness, beatings, mocking and death, but weakness is not at all a descriptor we would use of him in his resurrection, ascension or second coming. What describes all of this is his faithfulness (can I get a subjective genitive witness somebody?). Luther was faithful to what he felt the Scriptures revealed. He was but a weak monk in the presence of majesty on that day, but his stand was brave and powerful. Does this at all correlate Jon?
Jon didn’t respond to my last question, which was posted on January 20th, 2011. However, this appears to be a topic on which he has been brewing for quite some time. On January 24th, 2011, he posted a blog entitled ordinary. His take is primarily directed toward student ministry, but generally to Christianity as a whole. His three primary points are as follows:
(1) In challenging students towards radicalism we make it the end—the telos—of the Christian transformation.
(2) Further, radicalism creates positions of power.
(3) Lastly, I think calling students to be radicals is exploitive.
I will respond more directly to Jon’s post later, but here are my initial inquiries into this dialectic dialogue. First, I do not want to raise an opposing view just for the sake of doing it—Jon and I are both going to agree (I think) that faithfulness is the key to Christian discipleship. Jesus was faithful to the Father and in his dependence upon the Spirit, even until the point of death on a cross (Rom. 12:12). Second, I wonder if the juxtaposition of ordinary Christianity with radical Christianity simply creates two “new” Christian sub-culture fads, which Jon and I both happen to hate. Third, should the terms radical and ordinary be employed depending upon the times in which one is living out his or her Christian life? Lastly, the third point demands that we define our times and ask the question—what does faithfulness look like in our day—radicalism or ordinariness? In other words, what does it look like to be faithful in the American Church in 2011? More to come as the pot continues to stir . . .