Once again my young friend Berkels got me to thinking (although I don’t understand a word of what he writes in his own blog…the closest thing to Anime that I ever watched was Battle of the Planets which rocked! G-Force!). But when he starts to talk about faith issues I pay attentionbecause he usually has something thought provoking for me — even if it does include a little poke in the ribs every now and then.
So much of what has been taught when it comes to faith and following in the way of Jesus is skewed because we understand it from a certain point of view and we don’t understand how that point of view colors our understanding. In other words, I see what I see because of the point in history that I see it from, but I never take the time to notice the process of seeing. My view is colored by my experience, the time in history in which I live, my understanding or paradigm, and an endless list of other factors.
So much of what is discussed in the “Christian conversation” these days sounds more like social exchange theory than gospel. It reminds me of back when I too my first computer classes. Back in the days before Windows we were actually taught how to work in DOS. (Back when the cursor was a little green horizontal line rather than the skinny black vertical line!) One of the first commands that I was taught was the “If, then” command. Basically, it was a statement of input and output. “If x=8, then print “correct.” So that if the user puts in the right answer the computer answers, “correct” on the screen. Pretty simple — input = output.
I see a lot of people approaching faith this way as well. The reason is that we (as Christians) have sold it this way for WAY too long. “If you’ll be good and go to church, then God will bless you. If you ask for forgiveness, then God will forgive. If you pray for something, it will come true.” (In my mind I hear Jiminy Cricket singing, “When you wish upon a star.”)
This sets up a scenario where God becomes this cosmic vending machine that requires a certain amount of input to generate the correct amount and type of output. And just like when we’re “cheated” by the machine when our Funions get hung on the Peanut M&M’s, we want to kick the crap out of God when He doesn’t live up to his end of the bargain.
What I’m beginning to understand (although I don’t always live like it) is that following in the way of Jesus is not about an “If, then” kind of faith. Jesus doesn’t promise me healing or forgiveness or anything else to lure me into a relationship only to renege on the promise when I really need Him to come through. Following in the Kingdom way is not about doing what God wants me to do so that God will do what I need him to do. It’s about acknowledging the present reality of who God is — YHWH (I am; The One who Is; The Source; The Creator; Love).
Think about the epic poem called Job in our Bibles. Job did all of the “right” things. He was a “righteous” man. He “should have been” blessed, right? This story looks like a cosmic game between God and The Accuser with Job as an innocent game piece (like the poor little guy on “Operation” who’s nose lights up every time someone makes a wrong move). But the story is actually a call for Israel to acknowledge that God “IS” whether their circumstances point in a positive direction or a negative one. God reminds Job (and Israel, and us) that He is the foundation, the creative force that is working in history to draw us toward himself.
Jesus does the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes are not a “check list” of “if,then” statements. (i.e. IF you’re poor in spirit, then you’ll get to go to heaven when you die; IF you’re meek, THEN you’ll inherit the earth.) They are a statement of a present reality — BECAUSE you’re poor in spirit, you’re blessed to be a part of the kingdom NOW…not through any act of your own but through a relationship with the King who is standing in front of you!
We ask for forgiveness, because forgiveness is already available. We beg for mercy, because mercy flows always. We long for grace, which is right there at our fingertips. The “asking” is not what gets us there, it’s simply a part of a larger process. My kids don’t ASK for my love, but it is a deeply moving experience when we both acknowledge that love is already there. We grow together.
There is too much CRAP in this world for the “If, then” kind of God to be someone worth believing in…to be quite honest. But to believe in a God that is an “ever-present” reality that is working through history to draw all of his creation back into divine relationship with himself is totally different. The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t something you do or an exchange that you make with God — “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-22)
And faith then is stepping into the presence of that reality. It then shapes me and invites me to become a co-participant. It re-frames my story to fit (and start to make sense) in a larger Story. So that somehow, both the good and the bad that happens in my life draw me deeper into the One that Is.
“Let your will be done on earth (in ‘real time’) as it is in heaven (where you reign always)!”