Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Living something worth believing

Sleep is fleeting.  Images of hungry kids.  Images of well fed kids happily living into life.  This is my Africa.  It seems like moments ago, but it was nearly two months ago.
Images of a giraffe on the plains of the Kenyan Masai Mara.  Every inch of its body tight with muscle.  An astounding thing of life and beauty. This place on the plains of Africa.  So far from home and yet so full of creation.  A sense of closeness to the Creator.
A trip that made me feel so alive.  And now I’m back.  Back to America where life goes so fast.  A place where dollars don’t go far, but they are the means of happiness by far.
And faith becomes not so much about feeding the orphaned AIDS kids in the village but a discussion about original sin.  What?  I wrestle.  I cry out. I don’t sleep.  
There are moments when life doesn’t make sense at all.  I want to cry out for justice.  But some friends want to talk about original sin and how we understand it as important for salvation.
I can’t comprehend.  I strain into the future. I’m torn between worlds.  One being a place where a word is a word.  Another a place where we choose how to hold those words.  One makes sense.  The other seems lost.  
For has my salvation come down to how I think in my brain about original sin? Really? Are the neurons of my mind the things that matter to God?  To Jesus Christ?  For this I hope not.  
If this is our salvation, it is no wonder the children of these generations are not seeking God but gods.  We speak of truth, but we care mostly for only the agreement of ideas about a God.  Do we really care for this thing we call God or do we worship our beliefs about God?
I long to return.  To Africa.  To Kenya.  Where a giraffe gives me an image of the creator God that is more grand that anything I’ve heard in a sermon.  Where the plains breathe life and death and renewed life.  Where Jesus Christ is my risen God even without any ideas of original sin.  Thanks be to God.

Perhaps I can die on those plains and know the God for whom I love.  But that too would be selfish.  For justice and mercy need to be pursued.  And I know of kids who are expecting me to pursue those things on their behalf.  
As for original sin, I don’t know, and I’m not sure I care.  Had Jesus really cared more about it, perhaps it would have been something of which he taught a great deal.  And yet, I can only hear Jesus commands to care for the poor, the orphans, 'the least' in my head.

While I deeply wish I could get this conversation out of my mind, it haunts me.  I hear Jesus prayer that we, as his followers, all be one.  And yet, sin, our sinfulness, being wrong, being apart from God, being broken, and confessing those sins is so paramount to some of his followers that we entirely miss living into the missio dei, aka ‘the mission of God.’  We entirely miss living into the reality of the kingdom because we’re so busy getting ourselves mentally right with God.
It’s late.  I’m exhausted.  I live in this quandary. Yet, I know that I know that I know that being ‘right’ isn’t what matters to Yahweh.  When I am not lacking sleep, I hear Hebrews, “It was credited to him as righteousness.”  Righteousness not being ‘right’ but being obedient to the ways of God... and for some, and particularly one, even death on a cross.
As for sin, how it happened, and how we understand it. Jesus took care of that once and for all.  As for orphans that need care, we still have plenty.  Perhaps it’s time to really start believing.


Kurt said...

These are great things to wrestle with, and I know from my own experience that some of the worst ‘culture shock’ I’ve felt is not in some poor village but after returning home, because I see my own culture with new eyes that don’t like what they see.

You reminded me of Matthew 23:23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

I certainly share your distress with the pharisaical spirit in my hometown evangelical American culture, and see Jesus clearly agreeing with the way your post prioritized justice/mercy. However, I’ve been challenged that he ended by saying ‘do both.’ So yes, justice and mercy to widows and orphans is more important than head-level doctrine, but a after a couple of years of seriously wondering if doctrine/head belief is unimportant or a distraction, I’m now trying to figure out how to get it in this kind of line: it is important, worth doing well…but number two. I’ve also wondered if Mike/Jeremy (and the others like them) are over-reacting to the overstatement that doctrine/head belief isn’t important. How would it change the discussion to say that orthodoxy is important…but of second priority, and only really formed in the context of orthopraxy? Probably not much, but it’s the both/and type middle ground I’m working on now.

Thanks for the good food for thought.

Naomi said...

beautifully written, Randy. thanks for this.