Vulnerability

I’ve been on a journey the last few months that really started for me at an event called Men at the Cross (crossmg.org/matc.php) It’s been a predominant theme in a lot of my thoughts and interactions with people since then, and today a friend of mine posted a TED talk on facebook that just reinforces it all.

I’ve always been taught that true community only comes when people are open with one another. Light-hearted expressions like “nudity builds community” have been tossed out and hopes of “authentic community” have been expressed by participants of various groups in which I’ve been a part. But it wasn’t until the weekend at Men at the Cross where I really experienced how quickly and easily true community can be created when people are given a safe place where they can have the courage to be vulnerable.

Brown doesn’t go into a lot about where this shame and fear come from or why everyone experiences it. How sad that the scientific community is no longer allowed to use ideas like ‘sin’ because it, more than any other theory, completely explains the feeling of not “measuring up” that is universal to humankind.

The answer to this issue that Brown comes up with is for people to “believe” that they are worthy of love and connection. But she doesn’t really give any concrete evidence about why we should believe that. Naturalism doesn’t give any evidence for it, in fact it gives just the opposite: that eventually those people who fail to have this mentality actually aren’t worthy of it and will just get bred out of existence. But religion does give evidence for why we humans are worthy of love, and I believe Jesus gave the most succinct evidence when he said, For God so loved the world that He gave is only son. We are worthy of love because God loves us.

In fact, no other worldview fits the reality that we see around us as well as does the one that says we are all broken individuals who cannot experiencing the abundant life we were meant for until we recognize that we are worthy of it simply because God loves us.

The Church

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Church and her position, commission, and mode of operation in the story of time. This song has become one of my favorite hymns because every time I sing it, I can catch a glimpse of the Church as Jesus intended. It is the Church firmly rooted and fully dependent on the Holy Spirit, eagerly anticipating the renewing of creation at the coming wedding feast with the Son, and passionately seeking to glorify the Father in defending the poor and destitute.

I also heard an great sermon by Francis Chan called “Is This Really Church” in which he goes into detail about exegesis and eisegesis. Being the high and might Bible School graduate that I am, I felt very good about knowing what he was talking about already, but he took it a step further than I’d ever thought about and talked about exegetical living. Basically eisegesis is taking preconceived ideas, notions and norms and finding texts that support those norms outside of the context of the passage. It’s generally considered a bad thing. Exegesis is the opposite, where you come to a passage and without any preconceptions, say “What can I learn from this passage of scripture.”

When we think of the things that make a Church a church here in America, there are a few things that stand out. Worship Music (4 or 5 songs with some prayers by the Worship Director interspersed), followed by 20 to 30 minute sermon by the Pastor, then the offering, another song, and then everyone gets to leave. Of course, this all takes place in some big meeting space with auditorium style seating so that people don’t have to look at each other and breakout space so the kids can go with the Youth Director. But if we look look exegetically at the model for the church that is laid out in the New Testament, I think we’d come out with a vastly different picture.

The Church that the Bible talks about is one centered around a community loving one another, providing for each others needs and sharing the Gospel. It was about breaking bread together and taking communion regularly to remind each other of Christ’s sacrifice for us all. Can we really call it Church on Sunday when most of us find an inconspicuous place to sit, soak up some knowledge and bolt as soon as we’re excused?

Not that Sunday services aren’t good things, but we as the American church need to recognize that we are called to so much more than the 3 hours we put in on Sunday mornings. We’re called to administer our spiritual gifts to one another in communities that are interdependent.

Fearless Love

yes, the high religious still will scorn,
Just like that did all that time back,
They’ll say you helped the other side.
They saw you haul that soldier’s pack.
But now how could you carry that man’s sign?
In your heart the choice was clear:
You didn’t join the other side,
The battle lines just disappeared.

-“Fearless Love”, David Wilcox

At our campus in Chapel Hill there is a man the students have affectionately named the “Pit Preacher” (He has his own page on Wikipedia for anyone interested). Gary Birdsong is what most might call a hellfire and brimstone preacher. His main subjects involve judgment for homosexuals, drug users, and promiscuous people. I have to wonder how much his sermons actually reach people. Does a greater than thou position of accusation ever really cause people to recognize sin and desire that it be taken away?

I read my Bible and it seems the only people Jesus ever stood over in accusation were the high religious. Jesus didn’t demand that Zachaeus change his ways, he asked if he could dine at his table.

Sin isn’t something that “they” do and “we” don’t. Being a murderer doesn’t rate worse on the scale than being a homosexual. And at the same time being a homosexual is no worse than selfishly praying to show off my spirituality. We’re all sinners, period. There is no big or small sin. All sinners go to the same place.

The Gospel of Christ is not about the reformation of the sinful nature, it’s about the removal of the sin. When we accept the gift of Christ’s death, at that very moment, our sin is gone. It can no longer be used against us. He took upon himself every sin you ever commited and every time you falter from now on has been paid for as well. The Gospel isn’t a warning to get people to stop sinning because the Bible itself says that is impossible, it’s a joyful announcement that what is impossible has already been accomplished and all we have to do is accept it for ourselves.

But Christ also rose again. The sin was taken to death with Christ on the cross. But the nature of sin can only be dealt with by an indwelling life of Christ in every believer.

Damn there’s so much more to say. I start talking about the Gospel and it seems incomplete if I don’t say it all. Suffice to say that the Christian life is not meant to be a constant striving against sin and immorality. It’s about releasing myself to let Christ live His life in me.

For those of you who’ve never heard David Wilcox, you’ve got to check it out. This man has a gift for writing lyrics that make you really think about what you believe and why you believe it.