Joy: A Prophetic Imagination

“Dashing through the snow, on a one horse open slay, over the fields we go, laughing all the way, “Ha, ha, ha!…” This song filled my heart with joy when I was a young boy. The imagery of being on a Christmas slay going up and down hills like a roller coaster whipping us side to side, laughing and screaming and wanting it to never end; oh, those were the days! The innocent days when joy was so close you could reach out and touch it whenever you would like. Oh, to greatly rejoice so easily and to celebrate without fear of what you looked or sounded like. Maybe the equivalent would be grown, drunk men yelling like children at a football game for their favorite team, all dressed up with foolish make-up on… no shame of how you look (or maybe their should be a little shame in it!).

This type of childlike joy (of dashing through the snow, not being drunk and yelling with a painted face on television) is part of what Advent was meant to bring back into our lives each year. The joy of our imaginations bringing us to the place where the King comes to rescue us and bring us to Neverland with him forever. A rescue that removes the guilt and shame and perversion that the loss of innocence on this side of redemption has created. I’d like to think that this is somewhat close to what the prophet Isaiah was thinking when he wrote this:

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. Isaiah 61:10-11

Oh, the joy of our salvation from God! This joy was not yet a reality for Isaiah, but it was his prophetic imagination that led him in this song that bursts out of his lips and onto an ancient manuscript. Isaiah knew something of his need to be clothed. Isaiah says two key things here in the first verse of this passage. First, he says that God has clothed him with the garments of salvation. Second, he says that he has been covered with the robe of righteousness.

These two things are vitally important for us to understand if we are to experience the kind of joy Christ desires for us during this Advent, and through out our days here on earth. And to fully understand them, we need a little more context from this chapter.

At the very beginning of this chapter, Isaiah 61:1-2, Isaiah says this: 1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 

Then in Luke 4:18-19, we read that at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He came to the synagogue in His own hometown, Nazareth, and stood up to read Scriptures as was His custom, and as He stood up, the scroll of Isaiah was handed to him and this is what He read: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 

Then Jesus rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the teachers of the Law, sat down and said this: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (v. 21). This is one of the places in the NT where we learn of Jesus being the Messiah, the Rescuer that the Israelites have been waiting for. He is the one who would come and clothe them with the garments of salvation, and cover them with the robe of righteousness. Jesus tells the teachers of the Law that the Scripture that Isaiah wrote was about Him! Now, why did they need to be clothed? Why was that kind of wording chosen?

This takes me to Genesis 3. Now, let me remind you, when we pick up in this passage, Adam & Eve are in the garden of Eden, perfect in the sight of God, everything is good, or very good (Gen. 1:25, 31), and they were naked together and there was no shame in their naked exposure (Gen. 2:25). In verses 1-6 we learn that Satan, in the form of a serpent, came to Eve, enticed her with the fruit of the tree that God said was absolutely off limits….after some dialogue with the craftiest beast of the field, Eve gave in and her husband seemingly stood by and didn’t say a word. Eve ate the forbidden fruit, brought it to Adam and said, “This is good try it!”, and so he did, and now let’s read together what happens after that:

7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:7-11).

No one had to tell them that they were naked; this was the reality of their separation from God. They were given knowledge that God did not want them to attain in that manner. They were informed by their sinfulness, that they were naked and it was not acceptable, so in their shame of being completely exposed, they hid foolishly behind fig leaves from an all-knowing, ever-present, good and gracious God.

They are broken and naked because of their rebellion. They are separated from God and thrust into a world of greed, pride, selfishness, and abuse. At this point, they desperately need to be clothed so their shame will not condemn them. Then, as broken people who are separated from God, they had babies, who had babies, who had babies…you get the point. Broken people can’t make whole people. No, but someone who is perfect and whole can redeem broken people.

This is a God-job! He is sending a Rescuer to cover our nakedness not with perishable clothes that will not stand in the fire, but with imperishable clothes that will be received by this great God of justice and mercy. This is what Jesus was going to do, and this is why Isaiah says: I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness…

How did Jesus accomplish this? How could He make them (us) whole and perfect before God and clothe us with salvation, and robe of with righteousness? Turn to 2 Corinthians 5:21 with me: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” There it is! That’s how it happened. 

God sent His Son, Jesus, who was perfect, who knew no sin, and had Him become sin (bear the weight and the consequences of our sin and treated by God as if all that sin was His own); so that Jesus’ perfect life and death and resurrection would be transferred to us by faith in Jesus’ work, not man’s work (and we would be treated as if all Jesus’ righteousness was our own). He has covered our shame and nakedness and sin and made us right with God again!

This is means for rejoicing this advent season! I once was lost, separated, broken, and poor… Now I am found, joined with God, redeemed from my brokenness, and rich in Christ! Hallelujah! With this in mind, let’s re-read together Isaiah 61:10-11 together:

10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. 

Through faith in Christ, we can be clothed in salvation and robed in the righteousness of Christ so that we will be accepted by the God of the universe! Then in verse 11 Isaiah says that this will surely happen just as surely as the earth brings forth sprouts and a garden causes what is sown to sprout up… those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus will assuredly be clothed with salvation and robed in righteousness.

So this is what I want to do as we close. I want to clarify what this righteousness is and what it looks like. Because depending on the way you view your righteousness in Christ, will depend on whether or not you truly get what Christ has done. And if you don’t get the kind of righteousness that is spoken of here in Scriptures, then you will come up short in the joy factor and will wonder what the big deal about Jesus is.

Practically, to rejoice in God, you rejoice in what you see and know of God in the portrait of Jesus Christ. And this comes to its fullest experience when the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and we are clothed in salvation and robed in righteousness.

So hear this closing advent point. Not only did God purchase our redemption through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, but He also causes us to receive His righteousness through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Look to Jesus this Christmas. Receive the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus. Don’t put this gift on the shelf unopened this Christmas.  And don’t open it and then make it a means to gain other pleasures and powers. Open it and enjoy the gift. Rejoice in God. Make Him your pleasure. Treasure this gift above all others. Let it be a type of resistance to the culture of forgetfulness and lusts that rob our joy in God.

Have faith in Jesus and allow Him to clothe you in salvation and cover up the shame of your nakedness. Then preach the gospel to yourself every day and may God, who is our joy, remind you that you stand perfectly righteous before Him, now, today, because of Jesus’s works, not your own works! Oh, this truly is joy for the world!

A Community of Beings

Much ink has been used in trying to better understand relationships and beauty and meaning. I am using more digital ink as well, and by no means am I claiming to have anything that is totally different nor better than what I’ve already read. But I do want to add to what I’ve gleaned from others and possibly help others begin to reframe what it means to experience the beauty of relationships, something that I long to experience more myself in this journey of life’s ups and downs relationally.

Over the last few years I keep coming back to this Greek word “perichoresis” (perikhōrēsis). This is a term that many theologians have used to describe the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (the Trinity). From a psychological understanding, one could define this relationship as differentiated-selves, yet one; or in other words, unified, yet unique. Differentiation for humans is the process of becoming free from your family’s (or any other social group’s) definition of yourself, whether positive or negative. This means you are able to have different opinions and values than your family members (or social groups), without feeling shame or losing a sense of worth; and at the same time you are also able to stay emotionally connected to them.

A healthy view of a differentiated self is found in the relationship of the Godhead, where each person is separate from the other with distinct roles, yet are in a beautiful unity, a “dance of love” as many writers have put it, that honors and respects the other (mutual submission). Perichoresis comes from two separate Greek words, “peri” which means “around,” and “chorein” which means “to make way/space”. It could be translated as “rotation” or “a going around.” I likened it to professional dancers filling the floor yet each have made space for the others to fill the floor with them in symmetry and uniqueness.

Alister McGrath writes this about what the word perichoresis which has some of the same overtones of a healthy, differentiated human: “[Perichoresis] allows the individuality of the persons to be maintained, while insisting that each person shares in the life of the other two. An image often used to express this idea is that of a ‘community of being,’ in which each person, while maintaining its distinctive identity, penetrates the others and is penetrated by them.” Christian Theology: An Introduction, 325

In the New Testament it is clear that God glorifies himself which to some may sound weird. If it does, bear with me for a moment. In Scripture, the book of John’s is important in understanding how Jesus and the Father connect with one another. An important passage in John is John 17:1, where Jesus prays, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.” When this passage is put next to John 16:14, where Jesus says that the Holy Spirit “will glorify me”, we begin to see a perichoretic (big word that I made up!) understanding of God’s glory. In other words, we are seeing the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) reciprocating love and glory and intimacy.

Perichoresis is the fellowship of three co-equal beings (a unique unity) perfectly embraced in a symphony of love and harmony, expressing an intimacy that is beyond human comprehension. The Father sent the Son (John 3:16), the Spirit came from the Father as the Son submitted to the Father’s wishes to leave earth and sit next to him until the final hour comes (John 15:26; John 16:5-7; Rev. 3:10)—another example of perichoresis, with the result that God’s people are blessed and are able to be caught up into this dance of love, by God creating ‘generous space’ (grace) for us to join him, and to be formed into a ‘community of beings’.

This perichoretic (differentiated) relationship can be imagined as a Venn diagram as others have stated, showing three circles intersecting in the center with each circle intersecting the others perfectly and multi-dimensionally, as they go around and around, like beautiful dancer moving harmoniously across a dance floor, not stepping on each other’s toes and moving to be beat of the music, a yin and yang of sorts. Such an understanding of glory (which also means ‘beauty’) displays the love expressed within the Godhead by Father, Son and Spirit as they display the beauty and worth of one another.

So on the journey of a study of beauty (which I have personally been on) I believe this is a great place to start. This perichoresis, being differentiated humans, unified and unique, is at the heart of us, as a community of beings, knowing who we are and in time, being consumed by true beauty, and not getting caught up into all the other false displays of beauty. There are many false (fraudulent) beauties that steal and twist our desires and affections, making us impotent and unable to reflect the beauty and worth of Jesus to a humanity in desperate need of finding and experiencing beauty again without consuming it. These fraudulent beauties are displayed to us in ways that teach us to consume them, and any beauty this is being consumed has in that moment, become tainted or twisted. This is the beginning of my attempt at a type of resistance to that which is destroying life.

Unknown

A Journey Towards Unity – Ephesians 4:14

Many people are afraid of the slippery slope of unity because there have been many pursuits towards unity, by well (and surely some unwell) intended believers who have let the idea of unity become greater than the God of unity. Today, we turn our gaze once again to the orchestrator, the conductor if you will, and to keep the symphony theme going, the very source of all the diverse instruments that are used to play together in harmony, Christ Jesus. If He is lost in all of our pursuits of unity, we will never have unity.

The Armored Body – Ephesians 4:14

Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent.

There is a danger is desiring unity at the expense of losing Jesus as the center. There is also danger in thinking that our ways are the best ways, and everyone else has missed out on God’s purpose for the Church. Many of the church divisions of the past and present end up forming churches and parishes that often look nothing like what we learn from the apostle Paul.

Jesus clearly called out the religious leaders of his day. In fact, it was always the leaders with whom Jesus was angry— those who were out to make money on the weak, the emotionally fragile, the naive, the ones who were full of guilt. Jesus called them a brood of vipers, hypocrites. They had an outward appearance of holiness, but their insides, their hearts, were far from God (Matthew 23).

God has equipped the body of Christ to withstand the schemes of the devil and the trickery of those who do not want Jesus, but prefer profit and selfish gain (those who suffer from the “me” and now” syndrome we discussed in the previous post). God wants the Church to grow up, rejecting hypocrisy. We must not be known in the world as those who say holy things with their lips, but live deceitful lives. God desires that we recognize the counterfeits and resist them, so that Jesus is the One who is followed, not denominations, movements, or church leaders.

Paul knows this will be a struggle within the Church, and this is why, at the end of this letter, he speaks of the Church arming herself, not with a material armor, but a spiritual armor to combat the real enemy, the rulers and authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:10-20).

Putting Christ at the center of our pursuit, and allowing Him to stay the center of our pursuit are two different things, and we must be intentional to labor towards both. Christ is Lord, we are not. May the journey towards unity lead us closer to (and more intimately united with) Jesus and not our ideas of unity.

A Prayer For Us Today

Lord Jesus Christ, we are all susceptible to lies and schemes that twist the truth. Grant us grace that we would have the wisdom and discernment to see counterfeits and run from them. Help us as we labor toward maturity and the building up of the whole body, so that we are not children tossed and broken as if by the waves of the sea. We don’t want to bring shame upon your name through our actions. Purify your Church, remove corrupt leaders, and bring us to unity in your Son, for your glory. Amen.

For Those Who Want To Go Deeper

The ways of the devil are tricky and he desires to disrupt the life of Christ’s body, the Church. Is there trickery in your life that you need to confess and move on from? Bringing things to light in love is always the best way to combat the schemes of the enemy (1 John 1:5-10).

-1

Lessons From The Early Church: A Person, Not a Form

Lessons From The Early Church: A Person, Not a Form

The first century church has much to teach us followers of Jesus in the twenty-first century, not in the way of copying forms or methods, but as a way of peering into the heart of this movement which is still moving today. One notable lesson for us is that they did not seem as concerned as we do today with the “form” of the church. The idea of church structure seemed to occupy very little brain or heart space. Plans for how the building should look or what the stage should be decorated as bore little weight in the hearts and minds of our fore-fathers and mothers.

Indeed, the One they followed, Christ Jesus, did not leave a blueprint for the church, for the building or the form of her gatherings. I guess the question/statement to be made is, “Why would he? It’s his workmanship, not ours.” He has said, “I will build my Church,” and gave no builders manual, codes, or forms for its development.

So, from he heart of the One who is followed, the first century believers were more concerned with the proclamation of that One person, than the building of an institution or method of “doing” church. As they declared and displayed the person of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, things began to take shape, and in many different shapes they formed, from context to context, city to city, culture to culture. As Christ built, they observed, learned, and applied within their particular geographic locale.

The early church took lessons from Jesus, lessons that shaped this unstoppable movement. In a series of posts to come, I will share small lessons from Jesus that I have gleaned from as I observe the gospels and the early church.

Divine Dancers

IMG_3671

I don’t know about you, but in my family, when a good song comes on, we’ve got a team of dancers hitting the living room floor pulling out their best moves, not caring what anyone else is thinking… just going for it! Every now and then, we all look to one person and we join in on their dance, and start dancing like them; a similar dance, but not exactly, because we all have different movements.

This dance party can go on for over an hour sometimes, all of us laughing and enjoying the spirit of joining one another in their favorite dance style. Dancing causes movement. Dancing creates joy and life.

As I’ve been reflecting on this during advent this season, I’ve been stuck reading the passage in Mark 1:9-11, where Jesus is going down to the Jordan River to get baptized by Johnny B (John the Baptist). This is a beautiful intro to Mark’s account of Jesus, as the sinless savior is identifying with sinful man, and in this humble and gracious identification, God’s Spirit (the dove in this narrative) descends upon God’s Son (Jesus) as God the Father speaks words that thrust us into his heart for all humanity:

“This is my son, the beloved. He brings great joy to me.” There it is. A divine dance. God in all of his mysterious nature honors and brags on one another. Jesus being obedient to identify with sinners. The Spirit anointing Jesus as the One who Israel and all of humanity is groaning for. The Father showing love and affection for his child. Could this be a dance, or at least a beautiful song. If God’s love is song as Switchfoot gives imagery to, then a good song demands dancing!

God’s dance, a divine dance if you will, gives humanity a glimpse into the Father’s heart from the beginning. This takes me back to the unknown days before anything was, God was, and if you’d indulge with my imagination for a moment, I would like to retell the story of God briefly through the lens of a “dance party”.

How It All Began

God the Father, before all of creation, dancing to the jam of the Son. The Son, dancing to the jam of the Spirit… and so on. And then out of this beautiful, divine jam dance and jam session, angels were created to dance to the jams of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Then all of a sudden, something shocking happened. The angels who reflected like a mirror, the beauty of this tri-dance jam session, were asked by this mysterious three person dance machine, to pick their favorite jam and this divine Trinity starting dancing with them to their favorite jam.

The joining in of joy and praise bust forth with mighty arrays of lights beaming and bouncing off of each creature, and in the midst of this creative jam session, the Trinity couldn’t contain their beauty and grace, and began sharing their mojo…

  • The universe was created and the dance party got better…
  • God spoke light into existence and the dance party got better…
  • God separated the heavens from the earth and the dance party got better…
  • God gathered all the waters of the earth together and gave them their boundaries and the dance party got better…
  • God brought texture to the land with plant and trees and all kinds of seeds and the dance party got better…
  • God made a sun to govern the day and a moon to govern the night and the dance party got better…
  • God filled the waters with life and wonder and the land with beautiful and crazy creatures and the dance party got better…

But the angles were wondering how crazy this party was gonna get?!

Then, the invitations went out and a whole new people group joined the dance… humans starting joining in, and their dance was goofy and funky, unlike any other dance the angels had ever seen, but they were cool with it! The dance party was a success; it was very good!

How It all Fell Apart

But something terrible happened. The humans started making the dance about themselves and taking credit for the dance moves that they learned from their divine company. The even started to control how others were dancing and were claiming authority over this type of dance and over that type of dance. This broke God the Father’s heart, as his purpose in this dance party was always to give everything he had to humanity… for their joy, not for coercive power.

Spiritual destruction took place, and the rest of God’s story is a glimpse into the the Father’s heart to redeem humanity and their dance. Everything in God’s story after this moment, points to spiritual transformation as the deepest and most profound human need. And as one follows the story of Scripture throughout the Old Testament approaching the New, you would understand why this transformation requires death.

Human effort after human effort; failed attempts after failed attempts, we begin to see that humanity is in desperate need of someone greater than themselves.

Broken promises, false gods, oppressing the poor, raping the earth, objectifying women, mocking the humble, making themselves kings, neglecting to love the immigrants in their land… This is the story of Israel in the Old Testament, and if we’re honest with ourselves, this is our story as well. Humanity needs something much greater then what we have to offer.

How It Is Being Put Back Together

Enter Jesus. Born from a Virgin teen mom and a refugee, coming from a land where nothing good has come from it; you can call it the wrong side of the tracks. He humbly learns as a child, becomes a construction worker, and end up teaching like no other teacher of his day. He stands opposed to the religious system, he casts out demons, he moves into the neighborhood of the marginalized, he touches the filthy ones, he feeds the poor, he heals the sick, and he welcomes the sinner and rejected.

Jesus is utterly different than us, but becomes like us for our sake;

– so our dance doesn’t suck anymore

– so we can begin dancing again with joy

– so our dancing can produce justice and goodness

– so our dances begin to include others who dance slightly differently than us, or even radically different.

– so our dance actually moves us and isn’t centered around us

Jesus redeems our off beat dancing. He realizes he must die in our place to give us his dance moves, because we have utterly lost our step. So he freely and lovingly offers his life for ours. He is tortured for the crimes we have committed. He is rejected for the very things we were too afraid to stand for. He dies a cursed death in the place we were supposed to die.

But there’s something utterly unique about this man. Jesus, the God of all creation, made himself flesh, moved into our neighborhood, took our death upon himself, because he knew that ‘death for him’ was ‘life for us’. Death would destroy us, but this Jesus can destroy death. He puts to death the power of death once and for all in his death for us fallen dancers, and restore our dancing abilities.

How Our Future Is Secure

His resurrection means life after death for his followers too. It also means that the life of his followers dance like his life. They are no longer dancing in their own power, but are now dancing in the power of His Spirit.

You see, this is a new kind of dance the world knows not of, until Jesus’ followers begin busting out in their divine dance and reveal that their dance is not about themselves, but about their King. All of Jesus’ people believe Jesus is who he says he is by faith, and at that moment, something magical happens in their lives. Death produces life.

For a seed to give birth to life, first it must die, then, and that point of death, a dance busts out of the tomb that had become a womb, and gives birth to something beautiful and life changing. All the dancers who become Jesus’ people are now remade in such a way that death no longer is the final blow. Instead, death is entrance into life the way it was always supposed to be, before it all fell apart.

The Mission of Worship

You see, this dance talk is what worship is. It’s very beautiful, but very dangerous as well. For if we begin to worship in the complete sense, the necessary outcome is a life transformed to do justice, offer mercy, and be humble, like Jesus.

Worship is dangerous. It means you may make a fool of yourself dancing, you may even die because of your dance, but you are no longer defined by anything except what Jesus thinks of your dance.

We see this danger in worship throughout the narrative of Scripture we just breezed over. Think about these words and phrases and what they meant to the characters in Scripture:

Build a boat

Leave your land

Sacrifice your wealth

Wilderness

Exodus

Stand before giants

Exile

Lions den

Fiery furnace

A throne high and lifted up

A helpless babe in a manger

Take no provisions with you

Lose your life to gain life

Persecution

Flogging

Crucifixion

Resurrection

Witness

Take up your cross

Martyr

Marginalized

Dispersion

Worship is utterly dangerous. It moves us. It will be what we are about for all eternity. For any of you who have a boring idea of what heaven may be like, let me burst your bubble. It will not be full of short, pudgy, half naked angels sitting on clouds playing harps (unless you really like that kind of thing… in that case, indulge!).

It will be party full of “American Idol” type singers and “So You Think You Can Dance” type dancers… and they will be you and I, cutting it up, always full of fresh new moves, joining in the dance of others, and never taking the glory from the one who makes the sun shine. The eternal dance party that continually creates beauty, joy, life, and laughter.

I’m convinced that life with Jesus, that following Jesus, allows us to experience glimpses and foretastes of some of that here and now! Jesus does not allow his people stand with him without being moved by him. And Jesus’s movements are dance moves that aren’t controlling or oppressive, but humble and giving. Jesus doesn’t take; He gives.

Jesus also give his people the freedom to join in with others who are dancing differently than them and not judge them or curse them, but dance with them, not to their tune, but to Jesus’ tune. Jesus’ people are free to break out of any dance circle to reveal to everyone that Jesus isn’t part of any dance circle. This dance was meant to be for all, to give life, not to hoard life or brag about having the “right” life, but to display the only way to life with joy and gladness, through humility and suffering, in friendship and community.

Jesus, move us. Change us. Make us legit dancers. Give us courage to act. Grant us grace to rest and listen. Offer your presence to us in fresh new ways. Shape our thoughts. Direct our passions. Create new life. And we will promise to give you all the glory and fame!

An Injustice Anywhere Is A Threat To Justice Everywhere

IMG_3034

 

This artwork is on the backyard wall of a home facing Roosevelt St. near my home. I drive or walk by it most days, and lately it has spoken much louder to me, of the urgent need for all of humanity to begin looking inward at the injustices that go on everyday, right in front of us, by us, and against us.

It has made me realize that what is going on in Ferguson is a microcosm of what is at war within our hearts and minds. Whatever your analysis of Ferguson is, it would be negligent of all of us to assume that “our” understanding is the “just” view, without taking into consideration all the injustices that take place within injustice. Our story isn;t the only point of view, and we could all spin most stories in certain ways to see the rationale of why people do what they do. But we don’t want to “spin” stories, which means we must be humble enough to step out of our stories and believe that there is truth and reason from the other person’s point of view.

Injustice breeds injustice. Hurt people, hurt people. To say that Ferguson is only a race issue is to ignore all the other injustices. To deny that what’s going on in Ferguson isn’t a race issue is to be ignorant of reality. To step into someones else’s story without a preconceived idea of what to expect is almost impossible, but it’s something we must work towards as neighbors and family members who share this beautiful world.

Maybe we have been guilty of having “single” stories of people and events. Maybe our single story of someone or a people group has become so dominant that we have become part of the injustice against that certain group just by the very nature of not being able to get into their shoes. Maybe our single story has been shaped by news reels and stories of other people from our “tribe”. Maybe our story has been shaped in concrete from snapshots of the worst days of those in the other “tribe”.

I long to get rid of my snapshot judgments and to step into the story of love that allows me to journey in the shoes of those who are different from me, to be a lover of diversity, even if that diversity is offensive to me, or even causes me to rethink the way I view or live within this world.

To be an agent of change, is to be one who accepts responsibility of our thoughts and actions, and I believe if we all begin there, inflammatory moments in our world would at least have more sane people on every side looking inward before arrows are shot outward. Division is dangerous and has ravaged humanity. Looking inward first can give us a clue of the cause of certain divisions and can give us the tools we need to begin rebuilding and reconciling from injustices that go unnoticed day after day.

This is what Jesus gives us the freedom to do. He doesn’t join anyone’s tribe or circle. He doesn’t have to defend any ideology or way of living. He is the way, and his way does not ignore injustice, nor does it exclude people. His way is full of love that pierces through lies and short-sighted worldviews. His way is peace and reconciliation that happens through broken people being accepted by him and freed up to deal with their own junk. Injustice anywhere is a threat to the way of Jesus.

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Incomplete

Johnny Gosch was the first kid to appear on the side of a milk carton.

Have you ever seen a “missing person” report on an old milk carton or hung up in the front of a local grocery store? I have all kinds of emotions that pop up when I see them, and think of that child or adult, who’s missing… lost, and I wonder:

What are they thinking? What’s happened to them since they’ve been lost? Are they alive and happy somewhere, or alive and suffering? Are they even alive? Is there family at home grieving over the loss of their presence, their smile? Are they still looking for them, or have they given up?

And the more I think about missing people, I think about the season of my life when I’ve been a missing person, right here in my normal, everyday self, when the only person who’s been kidnapped is my identity. Then I ask myself those same questions:

What am I thinking right now? What’s happened to me since I’ve been lost? Is this what living really is like? Is this happiness? Am I even really alive in the truest sense? Does anybody care that I’ve been missing? And does anybody care if I’m found, or will they even recognize me when I show up again?

Over the last 15(+) years I’ve built relationships with people in such a way as to be a friend to people who are longing to have/find a voice, to be heard, to vent, and to offer freedom to those trying to figure life out. I can say that I’ve really learned a lot over the years, and have heard lots of longings and doubts, fears and confusion, loss and pain.

Every single person, in their own way, are incomplete, just like me, trying to find out who we really are what life’s really all about… and in this journey of life, there’s a lot of relational wreckage in my life, and in those of my friends’ lives as well.

Missing person. Incomplete. Where will I find myself? But as Switchfoot poetically puts it, the real question we should be asking ourselves is: “Where will I lose myself?”. Check out their song “Incomplete”:

He’s washing face to start his day

He’s lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely

Nothing in the mirror ever shows him what’s within

Now he’s checking out the faces

On the back of the milk

He’s sour under all this pressure

He thinks the missing person looks an awful lot like him

And he starts his engine

But he knows he’s missing gears

Incomplete!

Where will you find yourself?

Incomplete!

Where will you find yourself?

Where will you lose yourself?

‘Cause you’re the missing person now

Step outside your doubt

And let yourself be found!

He’s sick of the race just to save face

He’s tied and tried, he’s sick and tired

He’s tired of the holes that are keeping him incomplete

He’ll push the pedal to the floor

Like the day before

He’s trying to be always trying

Try to find an end to justify his means

We all long to be complete. To be found and feel safe and sound. The problem is, we often try to feel complete within a system that has us running off fumes. The rat race. “The pace of life is full, busy, and hopefully, one of these days,” we say to ourselves, “I will find my purpose or be noticed during one of my busy activities, then I’ll feel complete and the burn out of life will be worth it.”

We don’t have to keep saving face. We can step out of the race, out of the system that tells us what it looks like to “succeed”. We don’t have to keep pushing till we drop, and lose or miss all that we already have. As missing people who try to find themselves in what they do, we will miss the people who truly love us now. We will miss our kids, maybe lose our spouse, and hurt those we love most. It’s not worth it. Take your foot off the pedal, slow down, and smell the flowers that are closest by you.

There’s freedom when we take our eyes off the systems and place them on the person, Jesus. The luggage-free savior who isn’t owned or managed by anyone. The problem is, this system, or the systems we’ve created, have squeezed out the very person who helps us find ourselves by losing ourselves.

Losing, or cutting off the baggage that comes with whatever it is we’re trying to protect. It could be Christianity or your faith (or lack there of) of choice, it could be your lifestyle, your job, your “significant other”, or your faith community. Jesus isn’t owned by any of those things or people.

Jesus doesn’t come with the baggage of their history. Jesus rises above the entities, circles, and teams, and clearly makes known, there’s no team that can contain him. He’s complete, and our incompleteness melts away to the degree that we walk in his direction.

Where will you find yourself? It’s where and when you’re willing to lose yourself, to cut out all the lines you’ve drawn and the circles you’ve joined, and realize, Jesus isn’t following you. Crazy thought, huh? Jesus isn’t following us. He’s inviting us to follow him. This is where life is found, not in right belief, or in a well-ordered life, but in a life pursuing Jesus. This is where we really find ourselves and can offer ourselves to people in a ways that give life.

Jesus is the beginning of all that is good, and he cares about missing people, and longs for them to be found.