Thursday, October 26, 2006

what's the difference

It seems to me that the real difference between those who are following Christ and those who are not is most evident in the times when "we don't feel like it." You don't have to be a Christian to forgive. Many who don't know Christ forgive people. You don't have to be a Christian to love people. There are many loving families in the world that don't know Christ.

But it seems to me that the real transformation of a person's life is seen in the times where it is difficult to love someone. When it doesn't make sense to forgive someone, and yet forgiveness is freely given, that is when Christ is most obvious. A good example of this recently was the Amish school shooting. The watching world expected grieving. They weren't prepared for the instant and unconditional forgiveness.

Its no big thing to love those who love you. But loving your enemy is something only Christ calls us to. And its something only those who have been transformed by the grace of God can even attempt. Loving your friend is possible to the world. Loving the guy who just shot your daughter is not. Only Christ can enable that.

And so I guess that is where the biggest difference manifests itself. Christ can be seen most clearly in our lives in those moments when "we don't feel like" living out the gospel but we do anyway. So what about the times when "I don't feel like it" and so I don't? I am reminded of the verse in Matthew, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.....But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand."

In the parable, both men hear. But the difference is that one man hears the words and then "puts them into practice" and the other does not. It is our living out of the gospel, not just our belief that it is "the way" that makes the difference. We see many pastors "fall with a great crash" because they didn't live out what they knew to be true.

What is also interesting to think about is that this parable doesn't have a middle step. It goes straight from "hearing" to the "doing" or "not-doing." There is no middle step of "belief" or "thought process" to speak of. Maybe its just assumed that if you believe what you hear, you will do it. But in our culture, this assumption has been messed with. We have managed to create ways to have "belief" without "action." But I imagine with Jesus, there was no such category.

This begs the question, "Can you hear the gospel, not believe, and yet still 'put it into practice'?" And if this is even possible, does this count? If you don't believe and yet still are able to put his words into practice, does that mean you are still building your life on rock? Or, would "putting his words into practice" be Jesus' definition of "belief" regardless of whether you thought His words were "true" or not?

Of course, these questions are only possible because we have managed to divorce belief from practice. I am guessing that if we were to ask Jesus these questions, he would come back to us with questions which were equally as nonsensical. Like, "Can a person go for a jog without believing they exist?" "Can someone build a house without believing in gravity?" While you might be able to squeak out a "yes" to these questions, the "yes" has so lost its meaning and has so missed the point, that it might as well be a "no."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

parables of this kingdom

The Gardner
The kingdom of the world is like a gardner who wants to fertilize her flowers. On the package she reads that one scoop of fertilizer will double the size of her plants. She decides to put two scoops on her favorite tulips. A few days later all that is left is a mound of dirt and some dried up roots.

The Gambler
The kingdom of the world is like a gambler who walks into a casino with all of his money. His best friend told him to put all his chips on the number 40 but instead he decides to diversify. Having spread out his chips to as many numbers as possible, the number 40 is the only number that hits all night. This man walked away with nothing.

The School Bus Driver
The kingdom of the world is like a school bus driver who is driving a bus full of kids to school. She thinks the highway will get her there faster and decides to put her bright red lipstick on as she drives.