Archive for the ‘reconciliation’ Tag

Stop Being Victims   Leave a comment

There are a lot of amazing jobs out there. I can imagine being a reporter for a media outlet that was well-respected for providing fair, full and truthful reporting. Brad’s dream job is to be able to invent stuff all day and just give it away to people who need it. Ah, if we only didn’t have to eat ….

Paul had an amazing job. He was an ambassador for Christ. As such, he saw himself  as Jesus’ coworker. They were partners. Jesus had given Paul (and all Christians) the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Now because we are fellow workerswe also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “I heard you at the acceptable time, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” Looknow is the acceptable time; looknow is the day of salvation! 2 Corinthians 6:1-2

Image result for image christian reconciliationIt’s not like God needed Paul’s help. He’s God. He doesn’t need our help either. But God wants us to work with Him because it’s good for us. Brad was often torn between letting the kids help him with home construction projects or asking them to go away so he could get the work done quickly. Our daughter loved to “help” in the kitchen, but her help frequently meant wasted food and dinner being slow to get on the table. But we both put up with this because we wanted to work with our kids so that they would learn how to do things for themselves. In a similar way, God allowed Paul and continues to allow us to work with Him so that we might benefit from the interaction. If you go back into Genesis 1, you realize that God’s plan for our lives never involved ease and indulgent inactivity. We were meant to be workers with God and now pet potatoes.

What does it mean to “receive the grace of God in vain”? It means to receive the goodness and favor of God, yet to hinder the work of grace in your life (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul explained that even if he hadn’t worked as hard as he had, the grace of God would still have been given to him, but in some measure, it would have been given in vain. Grace is, by definition, given freely, but how we receive grace will help to determine how effective it will be in our lives. It’s not given because of any works (past, present or promised) and yet it encourages work. We are not meant to receive grace and grow passive. Paul knew that God gives His grace so that we might work hard and His work might be done.

Verse 2 is a little confusing. We had to turn to Bible commentaries to understand it. It’s a quotation from Isaiah 49:8 and it was meant to give the Corinthian Christians a sense of urgency. God has an acceptable time for us to work with His grace. The day of salvation will not last forever. Sitting down on the job and taking your ease is not in His plan.

We do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry. 2 Corinthians 6:3

Paul was willing to do almost anything to make sure he gave no offense in anything. He was willing to forego payment as a minister of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:3-15). He was willing to allow others to be more prominent. He was willing to work hard and endure hardship. He wasn’t afraid to offend anyone over the gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18-25), but he would not allow his style of ministry to offend anyone.

That didn’t prevent people from blaming and discrediting Paul’s ministry among the Corinthian church. What Paul meant was that his ministry could not be rightly blamed. Paul had no control over false accusations, except to live in such a way that fair-minded people would see accusations as false.

But as God’s servantswe have commended ourselves in every way, with great endurancein persecutions, in difficultiesin distresses, in beatingsin imprisonmentsin riotsin troublesin sleepless nights, in hunger, by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by benevolenceby the Holy Spirit, by genuine love, by truthful teaching, by the power of Godwith weapons of righteousness both for the right hand and for the left, through  glory and dishonorthrough slander and praise; regarded as  impostorsand yet true; as unknownand yet well-knownas dying and yet – see! – we continue to live; as those who are scourged and yet not executed; as sorrowful, but always rejoicing, as  poorbut making many richas having nothingand yet possessing everything.

2 Corinthians 6:4-10

Image result for image christian reconciliationPaul had an impressive resume, things with which he could commend himself. He’d been patient beyond ordinary example. The word in the New Testament “hupomone” carries a connotation of endurance rather than simply waiting. Patience is often perceived as a passive thing – just waiting around for stuff to happen. That’s not how Paul was using the word. He was writing about an active endurance, of bearing hardships in such a triumphant way that it transforms the enduring one.

Why did Paul need endurance? He was often stressed and under pressure, assailed by tribulations, needy and distressed. He’d been flogged, imprisoned, and assaulted by angry mobs. He’d worked hard, slept little and fasted a bunch. Paul had willingly chosen to be a coworker of Jesus, uncomplaining and enduring.

He was not without resources to bulwark against the troubles that came his way. God was with him, supporting him on all sides. The world might lie about him, but God gave him an excellent review.

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthiansour heart has been opened wide to youOur affection for you is not restricted, but you are restricted in your affections for us. Now as a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts to us also. 2 Corinthians 6:11-13

Paul had spent enough time laying down the principles before making a pointed appeal to the Corinthian Christians. He spoke truth in love. The Corinthians were playing “the victim”. Out of godly necessity, he had been firm with them on prior occasions. Now they were claiming they were restricted by Paul’s judgement. I can just imagine what they were saying — “Well, Paul, we’d love to reconcile with you, but we just can’t get over the hurt of what you said before.”

The real problem was that the Corinthian Christians were affecting a victim attitude. It wasn’t that Paul didn’t love them enough, but they loved themselves and the world too much and resented Paul calling them on their selfish attitudes. Paul wanted to see the same honest self-evaluation from them that he had just displayed to them. That was what was needed to bring about reconciliation.

Narratives   2 comments

Postmodernism has changed American politics and not for the better. The United States was founded by early-modernists. They believed that there was truth and that truth could be discovered, examined and embraced. “We hold these truths to be self-evident” is a modernist statement.

The Founders (by and large) believed in God as a part of reality. They thought faith had a place in the world. Congress held prayer meetings, a church met in the Capitol for many years, our public buildings are inscribed with Bible verses.

Under no circumstances will I ever argue that Christianity is not the best worldview that any human can have. If God exists and if He created you to have fellowship with Him, you are out of sync with reality if you do not have fellowship with Him and believe that He doesn’t exist. That’s a truth claim that is as certain as the 20-story fall because the Bible doesn’t give you a no-fault opt-out if you don’t want to believe. You come to God on His terms or you perish … eventually. No compromise. Your choice.

On the other hand, the Bible is also pretty clear that Christians can’t force others to believe as we do. Dead men cannot become believers and becoming a Christian believer is not about saying some rote prayer or standing/sitting/floating in some special building while some guy or gal in ecclesiastical robes splashes special water on you. Salvation is a change of heart and mind that comes only when we admit to intimacy with God. We were created to have intimacy with God. Since we, as a species screwed that up, we’ve been out of sync with Him by our own choice. Since we were created with free will, the choice is ours whether we will allow Him to touch us and draw us near to Him once more. He will leave us with the dignity of our choices if we wish to choose wrongly.

My parents’ generation grew up with a national narrative that embraced manifest destiny – bringing Christianity and western civilization to the Indians and then onto the Pacific and Africa. These endeavors were seen as good and approved by God. I’m not going to argue that there were no genuine conversions through these efforts. I know there were because my great-great-grandparents left diaries that show them as people who were honestly in love with the Lord Jesus Christ and happy to assimilate (for the most part) into American society. THEY didn’t see it as being forced to give up something. THEY saw it as a net improvement with some complications. I base that evaluation on the 30 years of diaries both of them kept, detailing their ordinary lives.

The Postmodern narrative is that white man came and oppressed the brown man, took away his glorious culture and gave him this god that wasn’t his and doesn’t serve his needs. That comes down to our political discussions and educational system as America, the imperialist power and rapist of the world. “We”, they say, “enslave the world and use up all the resources while not doing anything worthwhile.”

Yes, I’m painting with that broad brush again, but there’s truth in what I’m saying. I’m told, as an American Indian, that I’m a victim of white imperialism and I’m owed something – a whole lot of something – for the loss of that superior culture at the hands of the useless white race that has contributed nothing worthwhile to history.

I call “BUNK!” Neither narrative is completely true. America was not true to our ideals when our forebears steamrolled the Indians in their march westward. Our societal ancestors were not true to our ideals when they enslaved the blacks or when they treated free blacks as second-class citizens, when we interred the Japanese-Americans or fought in Vietnam. We were true to our ideals, as much as possible in war, when we fought to end Hitler’s concentration camps or when we brought the gospel to Pacific Islanders … and American Indians. The excessive use of our power in some instances did not negate the rightful advancement of principles where they occurred.

History is often written by the winners, but the history my children are learning in public school was written by folks who want to believe that if you’re brown, you’re a victim and if you’re white, you’re an oppressor. That narrative leaves us with no option for compromise and no options for societal healing until a generation is born in America that is more brown than white and then — well, who becomes the oppressor then?

I was raised by a mixed-race couple. I loved both of my parents and I’m proud of both of their cultures. I don’t see my dad as an oppressor and my mom as a victim, probably because my mom never saw herself as a victim of racism. It wasn’t that she never experienced it. It was that she didn’t pass it on to us kids … maybe because her mom didn’t pass it on to her kids and her mom’s mom didn’t pass it to her. The first convert to Christianity in our Indian family (Joseph) eventually led his father to Jesus and heard his father’s confession – of scalping white settlers, raping the women, carrying the children off into slavery. Barazai was clear to Joseph that these were acts of deep and shameful sin in his own eyes. Who were the victims in those attacks? White men were the ones dying, white women were the ones raped and white children were the ones enslaved. That doesn’t mean that in other places and times it wasn’t white men killing, raping, or enslaving Indians. Neither side of my DNA is pure as the fresh-driven snow.

Is it possible that both sides were wrong?

For me it is! It’s the only intellectually honest stance to take, really – for me – because the other way, I have to hate some portion of my DNA and that sounds too schizophrenic for me. If my ancestors were all humans and prone to the human condition, then I’m free to admire that which is admirable and regret that which is regrettable.

I’m told this might make me a post-postmodernist. I think that makes me sane and a potential reconciler.

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