Sunday, February 26, 2012

Paradigm Shifts and other Stories (Part Deux)

In "Tea With Hezbollah," in direct response to Ted Dekker's question: "Having lived in both the Middle East and in America, what does being a Christian mean to you?" Sami Awad--the Palestinian Christian who espouses and lives out the Biblical mandate to love your enemies--responded;

"The term "Christian" has lost much of its meaning worlwide; it is mostly a designation of political or social affiliation rather than a confession of faith. As such, to call yourself a Christian carries very little positive connotation and comes with some ugly baggage that is in direct contradiction to the teachings of Christ."

On behalf of American Christianity I say, "Ouch! But...if the coat fit's we've got to wear it. Sami's observations, while Painful, are sadly true."

Paradigm Shifts and other Stories

I'm learning more and more each day that the conflicts in the Middle East run deeper and more complex than rhetoric around a table at the United Nations can resolve. Ted Dekker's "Tea With Hezbollah" may be this popular fiction writer's best work yet...and it' not a work of fiction.

In the chapter, "living Among the Enemy" Dekker intoduces us to Sami Awad, a Palestinian Christian who is a strong proponent for non-violence and the Biblical mandate to, "love your enemies." Seized, handcuffed, and thrown down by the side of a dusty road for almost an entire day for peacefully protesting the destruction of Palestinian homes simply to build vacation condos for the wealthy, Sami Awad declared;

"The sun began to set behind Bethlehem and the beams were breaking through some white and gray clouds. There was a slight and beautiful chill from the autumn air. I gave thanks for that beautiful day and for the fact that the sun does not know Palestinian from Israeli, Christian from Muslim or Jew, and Asian from American or African, and I asked myself: if the sun shines on all of us as one, how much more does the sun's creator see and love us all as one?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How's your love life?

Jesus, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King all have something in common. They died preaching the same message--albeit with differering significance, a message they believed in: Love your neighbor even if he's your enemy!

You say you believe in Jesus and His message? How are your relationships with your enemies? More specifically, are you loving the people you'd probably consider your enemies? It's so easy to pay lip service to this command because it's so much easier in the saying than in the doing.

The truth is though, as much as we'd like to, we can't rationalize our way out of this one. Jesus didn't tell us to do this because it was easy. Nevertheless, He calls us to this "scandalous" adventure of fighting our natural propensities and embracing a higher calling. We can't change our world through rhetoric or religion, but like these three men demonstrated, we can change it through love.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The "Suffering" Gospel Truth

God commanded Israel to establish Feast Days and Altars as memorials to His rescuing them from seasons of suffering. This was not to glorify suffering but to memorialize it as a reminder of both being rescued and what they were rescued from. To deny the "dark shadow" of those perilous seasons in their lives, would make the truth of their suffering and subsequent deliverance, useful to no one.

We live in a world in which the greater majority of people have not lived "black and white" lives, but lives filled with the "greys" of pain, deceit, death, dishonesty, and every other ill known to man. This means that a message of hope dressed in the falsely promised attire of "perfect people" and "always victorious" Christians is at best untenable and at worst impossible to achieve.

Jesus declared, "In this world, you will have troubles." that isn't pessimism or a "negative confession," but an admission of the fallibility and brokeness of humanity. After all, to be rescued from something, you must first be bound by it. Our stories of pain, suffering, and deliverance are not blights on our testimonies but rather, they are the "spiritual tatoos" that signpost the divine encounters along the course of our journey.