Thursday, May 8, 2014

God's Love Doesn't Shame

A stained glass of Thomas and Jesus, Jn.20
I think if more people were willing to treat beliefs as beliefs instead of facts, it would make talking with each other easier... I guess I’d just like Christians and church leaders to be more honest…with everyone. Stop treating faith as a fact. Call it hope. Call it confidence, not certainty.” Matt Casper,  Jim and Casper Go to Church.

Picture it now: Thomas asks the risen Jesus for a sign, a clue as to Jesus' identity. Just as surely as Jesus was known in the breaking of the bread (Luke 23), Jesus is known by the wounds of his execution at the hands of the Romans eight days earlier. (John 20) 

What if Jesus had bullied or shamed Thomas, his own disciple, by discounting both him and his search for the honest truth? The ugly reality is that churches are susceptible of being as shame- based as any family, organization, or individual. If we can see ourselves, our family, or our church in these characteristics, it may be time start moving from shame-based to grace-based behaviors.   

Even if we grew up being shamed for who we were, for having the feelings and thoughts and behaviors we had,  the good news is that it's possible to identify the places in our lives where we can change and choose to live by grace. We don't have to live by what our shame says we are.  

Because works- righteousness is a shame-based theology (we're not good enough or worthy to receive God's free acceptance of us), then I really wonder how many who say we have accepted Christ have also accepted ourselves? Is this self acceptance embedded all the way to our psyches, our spirits, our bodies, not just our heads, not just "deciding" for Jesus in one moment? 

I don't and cannot believe Jesus shattered a shame-based sacrificial system in order to create another one! I believe that we're still wrestling with the fact that Jesus died to show us that the true nature of God is love. Jesus didn't die to buy off an angry God. Our sin killed Jesus. This is what was at stake in Jesus' death: not God's rage but rather, God's love and grace, mercy and compassion. 

Jesus, in the suffering he endured to his death, showed us that God is love. (I John 4:19) That's not shaming, but freeing, now and forever, from our sick slavery to shame, sin, and death.  

Friday, May 2, 2014

Peace is Possible

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid." John 14:27  I've said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.” John 16:32-33        
What would it mean to receive Christ's peace?

It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” John 20:19

Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” John 20:27

We're a multitasking, ADD culture. And fidgeting with many things challenges our brains and can jeopardize our physical safety. In a quiet moment alone, we may be especially confronted with the cacophony of our own racing thoughts. We can't run away from ourselves, no matter how good at avoidance we may be.

But while solitude can nurture and strengthen us if we let it, isolation is a captivity all its own. Isolation seems to have been a real temptation for the disciples in the post Easter narrative of John. After running scared, they were in hiding behind "locked doors." The natural response to fear is usually to run and hide.

Jesus always seems to show up, even through our locked doors. In John 3 and 4, Jesus enters into the shame of a Nicodemus and a nameless Samaritan woman. For Nicodemus, it was fear of being found out: he was a leading teacher and yet was coming to Jesus with total lack of answers about spiritual life with God. For the Samaritan woman, it was the addictive pattern of the past and another toxic relationship in a continuing cycle of brief and broken ones.

Yet our way of fixing things causes more, not less, pain. Into the mess that we create, Jesus Christ speaks his peace. The Spirit is breathed on the disciples, and even as the wind moves across the waters of Genesis 1, so are we are recreated in the presence of the living Christ. 

Oldies but Goodies