My first question had to be, “was it me?” I didn’t feel like I was asking for anything out of the ordinary. But there he was, a defiant almost seven year old refusing to respond in the way I deemed appropriate. I suppose this isn’t even necessarily just one of the joys for adoptive parents, but for parents in general. You feel like you are making wise decisions and not expecting too much of your children and then all of a sudden, Bam!: blatant defiance. And I suppose the most frustrating part is that most of the time we as parents feel like that which we ask of our kids is for their betterment and their relative social “success” in the world around them. And I know we can examine all the realms of childhood psychology and recognize that this is one of the many stages in the individual’s formation into adulthood…but I can’t help but think that perhaps our frustration in this process reflects that of our Father in Heaven at times.
In the book of Luke Jesus shares with his listeners a famous parable about a wise and a foolish builder. We all know the story well, but I am not sure we necessarily understand the context. Immediately preceding the parable we hear Jesus call out to his audience, ““Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” – Luke 6:46 And actually this is where the difficult part in Jesus’ teaching lies. In 1st century Palestine, where Jesus would have delivered this parable, everyone understood the difficulty of building a house. Foundations had to be dug by hand in the summer months in order to avoid freezing and the winter rains. The ground in the summer in Palestine had even been compared to bronze because of the high clay content. But in his book Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes Kenneth Bailey comments on what a villager in that part of the world would say regarding the foundational task. “I have asked numerous village builders about the depth they must excavate to construct a stone house. The answer is always the same. They tell me they must dig “down to the rock.” If that means one inch or ten feet, the principle remains the same. Building must be done on the rock.”* And Jesus tells us what this foundation is…”hearing and doing what he says”.
Now back to my confrontation with my kids. For years we as humans struggle to form our individual identity. It is almost as if our life’s credo is independence at all costs. And yet, we as Christians declare Jesus as Lord. Our “digging for our foundation” is so contrary to who we have sought to become because it essentially becomes a journey from independence back to dependence. We dig through our hardened bronze-like resolve for personal freedom to yield our very foundation to the will and words of Christ. And I can only think of one way in which this can be achieved; intimacy. If we don’t know the words of Christ, then how do we struggle to obey them. If we aren’t allowing ourselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit daily then how do we know who to become dependent upon.
The digging is difficult through the sun-baked soil of individualism. But if we are to really embrace Jesus as Lord then we obey and obey and obey until we find ourselves bonded to His foundation…and ultimately becoming more like our Lord.
*Kenneth E. Bailey. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels (p. 324). Kindle Edition.
So at this point, unless you have been living under a rock, we are all acquainted with the Hunger Games phenomena. I myself am even a fan of this trilogy. But I think it’s social commentary has more to say to us than one would gather at first glance (Spoiler alert: I might reveal sensitive details to the story line and or movie; depending on your mode of consumption). And that’s just the point. The series is about an oppressive capitol that wreaks havoc upon it’s subjugates by consumption of the goods produced by those subjects. And as if that isn’t enough they destroy any hope of collective unification among their subjects by pitting children from each of the districts against each other in a battle to the death in what is known as the Hunger Games. And now here comes the ironic part…Western Culture (I speak mainly of the 1st world i.e. the United States and parts of Western Europe) spent over $155 million dollars this weekend to be reminded through film about it’s consumptive tendencies. Do you know what $155 million could do in healing wrongs wrought in the world?
$155 million could supply 7.75 million people with clean water who previously did not have it (http://charitywater.org). $155 million could build over 7,000 schools in impoverished third world areas (http://worldvision.org). $155 million could fund over 8,000 lawyers annually for International Justice Mission in order for them to work to free slaves around the world (http://ijm.org). Or $155 million dollars could cement the fact that we have no idea of what righteousness looks like in our world today and perhaps the fact that we are no better than the evil “Capitol” in the Hunger Games trilogy.
In Matthew 5:6 Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” I love the fact that the words for seeking righteousness refer to basic human needs; hunger and thirst. And righteousness in this sense is not what you may think. You see righteousness, at least as it was understood by a 1st century Jew, meant right-relationship; justice for your fellow man. So Jesus is essentially saying, “Blessed are you when that which drives you, almost as much as your life sustaining drives, is the desire to see justice for your fellow man. And guess what? You will be so driven that you will be filled. You will see justice done, otherwise your hunger and thirst will never be abated.” Okay, maybe that was a little wordy for Jesus but you get the point.
That’s ultimately the problem in our broken world. Misplaced hunger. We hunger for entertainment and escape, rather than deliverance from oppression from those who make our clothes, grow our crops, build our toys and suffer our indifference. I am pretty sure at this point the $155 million speaks for itself. And although I loved the story…even the movie, I can’t help but be convicted by my appetite.
Don’t we all love confrontation? I mean I know I do. I can’t wait to get up in the morning and start confronting all the ills of society and relationships as I go throughout my day. Really, it’s my Morning Cup of Jo. For those of you who know me well, you know that this is the most outlandish of the outlandish claims I am prone to making. In fact, unfortunately I err to much to the other side. Maybe if I just ignore “the issue” it will go away. Or maybe I can “drop” subtle hints or employ others it will mend itself that way. Seriously this was/sometimes still is me.
Now the reason I say “was” is due to the fact that my amazing wife keeps me in check. The only thing she lets stew is soup. All of our cards are always on the table and our marriage is all the better for it. In fact, she once revealed to a group of ladies that we never (with the exception of about three occasions) have fights* in our marriage and they were astonished. Which I thought was kind of crazy. After all, we are best friends. And why would you fight with your best friend all the time? It really comes back to a Biblical treatment of relationships. In Matthew 18:15-17 puts it like this, “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (On a side note, this passage includes a verse that is taken out of context more than any verse in the Bible I think, “where two or three are gathered…” It’s not about worship or prayer gatherings, but about the honest confrontation of the breakdown of healthy relationships.) But there you have it. Jesus shows us how to deal with being wronged by others…you go to them in an honest, open, and healthy fashion with the expectation of reconciliation.
The major problem I see hear is not that there is a breakdown of this mode of conflict resolution within our marriages, but that it has been modeled in the church. How can we expect our marriages to be healthy relationships when we see passive aggression becoming the mode of operand for church life. You see it all the time…this person goes over another persons head to a pastor because it’s easier to tattle; said board member rallies others to confront an issue versus joining the fray themselves; writing an email that goes all around the issue versus stating the obvious; circumventing the full life of the body by having closed room discussions…Is this really the way?
I sometimes wander how Christ would respond to our church politics and our resultant relationships that model that form. Do you think we might have some tables being turned over? Pretty sure Jesus was never passive aggressive in his relationships and aren’t we all trying to be a little more like Him.
*This was not defined as differences of opinions but rather as a breakdown in communication where someone raises their voice, calls a name or gets their feelings hurt.