Sunday, August 20, 2006

homosexuality and polygamy

With religious right fundamentalists and folks like Dr. James Dobson crying out against gay marriage, it has been in vogue in liberal circles, and many times the Emergent Church, to support gay marriage. The hope of many emergent Christians is that by allowing gay marriage, the Christian community will show the love of Christ to many in the homosexual community.

I sympathize with this line of thinking, while I don't necessarily agree. My hope is that the gay community would begin to experience the love of Christ and would reflect that in the way they operate in their relationships. My hope for gays who become followers of Christ is that they begin to live out a God honoring sexuality. But a new twist in current events has revealed the problem of gay marriage in a very real way.

I don't believe homosexuality is what God intended in His creation. Some of my friends don't believe active homosexuality is sinful. But regardless of all of the moral disagreement behind the issue, the legal question still stands. Should gay marriage be legal? For it to be legal, the definition of marriage has to change. Once that happens, who else do we "legalize?"

This past Saturday a rally was held in Utah in favor of polygamy. Polygamy is against the law in the U.S. But have we ever asked ourselves why? Most of us have just taken it for granted that polygamy is not right. But who says it's not right? And who's definition of "right and wrong" do we go with? Here is an article which describes the rally.

If we change the definition of marriage, what do we change it to? If you have ever seen Jerry Springer, you can imagine that there are different kinds of "marriages" that people would like to take place other than just polygamy or homosexuality. How do we know what to allow "in" as marriage and what to outlaw? My guess is that many feminists in the N.O.W. march in rallies for gay rights and gay marriage. And yet many of those same activists are appalled at polygamy, claiming that it is abusive and oppressive to the many wives who are involved. So the irony is that while they want to open the marriage door for gays and lesbians, they want polygamy to stay illegal.

So regardless of where you come out morally on homosexuality, the problem of gay marriage still stands. If we change the standard definition of marriage from what it has always been in the U.S., we would never be able to agree on what the new definition should be. New activists in every generation will rise up to claim their right for their own unique kind of "marriage." Should we allow anything to become a "marriage"? After all, who are we to "legislate morality?" Who are we to say marrying multiple wives is wrong? Who are we to say what someone can or can't do with their pet goat? Why should our morality matter at all when it comes to making laws?

Or, maybe we are called to draw the line. Maybe we are, as Christians, called to help manifest the Kingdom of God in our own culture, nation, and yes, laws. Maybe this means we advocate for a biblical view of marriage for our country and not be swept up in what's "politically popular" with our demographic.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

a taste of the Kingdom

I watched some of the Ironman Triathlon competition this afternoon. Sometimes in life you get a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. Sometimes God delights to reveal what His Kingdom is really like. And sometimes we are blessed to be able to be there to see it. That is what happened to me this afternoon watching these men and women race.

The Ironman Triathlon is a grueling race. It is one of a kind and maybe the most difficult endurance race every created. This triathlon starts with a 2.4 mile swim, continues with a 112 mile bike ride and then finishes with a marathon (26.2 mile run). It is an honor just to finish.

In fact, most of the racers simply want to hear those words on the loud speaker when they cross the finish line. Better than any prize or medal, the announcer simply says your name and then says, "You are an Ironman!" That is all they want to hear. Years of training and dedication come down to those simple words. It is a shadow of something even greater that is yet to come. Someday we too will cross the finish line of life and hear those words, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" And its all worth it just to hear those words from our heavenly Father.

But this race reveals an even deeper truth. Jesus said, "...many who are first will be last, and the last first." (Mark 10:31) And we see this truth shine bright in the final hours of the day. The heroes of the race are rarely the ones in front. They get their cheers and are celebrated as the champions they are. But the real cheering is reserved for after the sun goes down. The ones who have been racing for 15 plus hours are the ones who are the real heroes.

Each have their own story. One man decided to race at 80 years old. It was almost midnight before he crossed the finish line but he did finish. His grandchildren were there to give him a hug. Another lady had been racing all day on just one leg. She was born with only one leg and had to learn to compete with a prosthetic leg. Can you imagine? 2.4 miles in the water, 112 miles on a bike and then a marathon to finish it. She did all of that on one human leg and one metal alloy leg. She also didn't finish until almost midnight.

And finally, a man named John Blaze. John was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. This is a degenerative disease that attacks the upper and lower motor neurons. Eventually, the brain is unable to send any signals through to the muscles. Despite all of that, John finished. As he crossed the finish line and fell to the ground the announcer called out for all the cheering crowd to hear, "John Blaze, you are an ironman!!"

Indeed, he is an ironman. And so were all the others who pushed through into dark hours of the night, never giving up hope that they would cross that finish line. These are the heroes of the Ironman Triathlon. While the racers who finish first get smiles and cheers, the ones who finish last get a standing ovation and a crowd moved to tears.

The power of that midnight moment makes sense. It is a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. It is a taste of what is already breaking through on this earth and of what is yet to come. In these moments we don't just see the truth of Jesus' words, we feel them in our bones. Maybe that is why the apostle Paul said that he would only boast in his weakness. He knew Jesus was right. The last will be first.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

core values

I have been thinking through what our church (Horizon Church) values. What we often state is that our core values are Relevance, Creativity, Unity, Integrity and Multiplication. But saying this often rings somewhat arbitrary in the ears of many listeners. Are these values arbitrary? Is their any real meaning behind them?

Here is my take on the significance of each of these core values:

Relevance: We value relevance not to be hip or cool. We don't want to be a passing fad. We value relevance because Jesus was God incarnate. God could have been in relationship to humanity at arms length. He could have continued to communicate through prophets. Instead, God came down and dwelled among us. He didn't just "meet us where we were at" as the cliche says. He actually became human. Jesus literally embodied the very creation that he created. He was the God-man. He was the "sent one" of God. And because of this, we take our example from Him. We try to live the gospel in a way that embodies the culture around us. We try to speak the language of the people. We desire to see the gospel incarnated in our society. We call this "being relevant."

Creativity: We value creativity not because we want to have style. We don't want to be flashy. We value creativity because we are creations of our Creator. And He made us in His image. We humans were designed to create. We were built to be creative. This manifests itself in offspring, visual art, music, stories and the like. N.T. Wright notices that beauty has a way of captivating us while simultaneously stirring in us longings for more. All beauty points us back to our Creator. Being creative doesn't necessarily mean being cleverly and stylistically new. Being creative means peeling back the layers of this world to reveal a beauty which points us Godward.

Unity: We value unity not so that the majority can have power. We don't want to establish uniformity. We value unity because it is a reflection of the relationship in the Godhead. Three in one. God is a perfect unity of diversity. He is one being of three distinct persons. As the Body of Christ, we too desire to be a unity of diversity. We too desire to participate in the relationship of the Godhead. For us, being unified does not mean we all agree or that it is easy for us to get along. Being unified means that we work at our relationships because we recognize that our ontological reality is that of "one in Christ Jesus." We do not strive for relationships of perfection, but rather relationships of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Integrity: We value integrity not just as a reaction against the unethical and immoral behavior of many leaders of the Church. We don't want to be those who try to clean out the speck in someone else's eye while we ignore the plank in our own. We value integrity because we believe Jesus came to make us whole. When we hide our sin from everyone, pretend to be someone we are not, and are generally two-faced in our approach to our lives we display the brokenness that comes from sin. We believe we are made whole again in Christ. Our fragmented selves are put back together into a complete person. In this state of "wholeness" we are free to be transparent with others about our weaknesses. We are free to confess sin, bear our burdens and admit our failures. Being a person of integrity means that there is a stability to your character that doesn't change from situation to situation. We value integrity because it is the source of authenticity.

Multiplication: We value multiplication not because we want the status of a big church. We don't want to foster more consumerism in our community. We value multiplication because we believe that it is how Jesus did ministry. Multiplication demands a giving away of power rather than a protection of it. All around us in the created world organic things grow by multiplication of cells. Healthy things grow and we want to be a healthy community. We value multiplication because it follows the Great Commission model of disciples making disciples making disciples. Multiplication breaks down unhealthy hierarchy. It also follows the organic and redemptive cycle of death preceding life. One must always be replacing oneself. Dying to self means life for others and true life for yourself.

To me, these values are anything but arbitrary. They have earned the name "core values" because they are at the core of who we are as a church community. Understanding the core values isn't about reciting a list of 5 catchy words. One can understand the core values without ever knowing the words to use or the language to describe it. Understanding the core values is about living out the gospel in our culture and community in such a way that you are leading others to follow Christ. This is who we are at Horizon Church.