Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Gospel of Chopstick February

With the exception of its brevity there's not much I like about February in Michigan. If you share my locality you won't need me to tell you that it's a doldrum of sunless misery, mud, and false hope. February is the time when seasonal depression hits hard. February is when the sun teases us with her gorgeous face, only to vanish again. The hope she gave us will make the cold even more bitter. February is when valentines day saddles poisonous obligations on otherwise happy relationships. This is the month you abandon your new years resolution. We all gained weight over the holidays and we no longer believe we'll lose it by spring. That is February.

One February about six years ago a friend of mine had an idea to make February fun. We were skeptical of course, but the idea was a good one and the challenge was issued.

The challenge: To eat with only chopsticks for one month.

The rules: Anything may be used to cook, but prepared food my not be eaten from spoon, knife, fork, or spork.

Because human nature finds evil easy and because it's February, this challenge will eventually divide brothers and sisters into two camps The camps consist of puritan chopstick heroes and backslider. Those who've not forgotten their chopsticks at home will tease and exclude those who have. Eventually however, almost everyone will fail the challenge.

The beautiful thing that happens is when the chopstick puritan finally fails and to realizes s/he's not any better than those s/he's been looking down his/her nose on. The fallen chopstick purist, if they pick up their chopsticks again, they have a real chance of being a new and beautiful creature.

A person doing a hard thing is admirable but often obnoxious. A person who has failed and been forgiven, however, is the portrait of whom Christ seeks to make us. There's a misconception among Christians that we are a beacon of morality; we're not.

“No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl” -Luke 33:11

The light of the church is not Christians; it's not our goodness. The light we ought to be displaying is God's goodness, and God's light is Christ on the cross, not a rule. God's light is unconditional love, Unconditional love accepts and seeks to heal people who're hurt and who've failed. When Christians forget that we're only Christians because of what God has done we become like the chopstick puritan. Praise God he allows us to fall again from our pedestal and re-learn that he is the one who belongs there.

One that has failed, dropped their pride, and been helped back up, can become a powerhouse of patience, encouragement, and merciful love. That is the lesson of Chopstick February, and that is God's will for his people.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I Love Romans!

Romans is so very much my most favoritest book in the Bible because it is about me. I fall into guilt and shame when I consider the good person God created me to be and then consider the creature that I actually am. I'm not alone in this shame. Romans starts off by talking about how people, like me and like you, choose evil instead of good. We choose selfishness instead of charity; we steal, kill, lie, and hate senselessly and constantly. These behaviors hold their own punishments and, for a time, God lets people destroy themselves.

Romans starts with that darkest picture of human villainy so that it is as unsurprising as it is heartbreaking when it goes on to say that we cannot fulfill the righteousness that God requires.

The Son rises on Chapter 8. After Paul has a tantrum of self-loathing frustration in chapter 7 which concludes with a cry of despair at his own inability to act righteously or wisely; it turns out God knew our condition and decided that since we couldn't get holy then he would make us holy.

This gives a full picture of a holy God giving everything he is to salvage unholy humans. Which is a mind-trip in and of itself but he goes on to say that since God died for us when we were impossibly lost, now that we are redeemed we're not on some sort of probation; we didn't use up our last chance. God's infinite love is still there for us, the only difference is that it is now there for us: “his sons and daughters” instead of us: “his rebelling enemies” leaving us to guess and gasp at the question:

If The God of the universe loves so intensely that he died for his enemies, then what will he do for his sons?