Going Backwards

I saw this hilarious video (not funny to #20).

And what did I think when I say this video? I thought, “Boy, that sure looks like me and the carrying of the Gospel message.” Too harsh? I don’t think so. Just like the football has been passed to this tailback, so the Gospel has been handed down to me from earlier generations. The stakes are high (Judges 2:10  “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel”).  Romans 10:14-15  continues this instruction by adding “But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'”

So I’m invested. I care. I have a deep yearning to figure out the Christian life. Especially the part about furthering the Kingdom of God. You know the Kingdom that is in you (Jn 3:3), has come (Mt 4:17), but not come (Lk 22:16), seeks to defend the poor and defenseless (Mt 11:2-6),  and give action that gives understanding to the scandal of the cross (Col 1:24).

And perhaps you are in this place too. You are hoping I’m going to give you five points of success. Perhaps these five points of success will mean victory in your life. Now you can finally go forward, toward the right end zone. Sorry to disappoint you. I could do the five points. I have them in my head now, milling about, making it messy up there. But instead I want to share an observation from my struggle that perhaps might be of some benefit to you too.

My observation is this: Too often the very things getting in the way of my living out the Gospel are not what we like to typically target in our bully pulpit. Although I certainly have those struggles too. But it is something much more subversive because it is like a undetectable submarine in my conscience constantly accomplishing its mission unbeknownst to me. It is my presuppositions. It is funny that as I wrestle against the Holy Spirit in the sanctification process that it is this that is coming up. My presuppositions on how to “correctly” do church, minister to my family, reach out to my community, etc. You name an aspect of the Christian life and I have presuppositions that are brewed and bred right in here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. that like to get in the way. Only I don’t see it. I try to incorporate them into the Gospel and I miss it.

I admit that I have been stuck on part of this issue for a while – knowing that I’m stuck in my presuppositions but not finding a way to gain “a bird’s eye view” on them. It is very, very hard to see your presuppositions for what they are.  It takes a lot of work, at least that has been my experience. So, here I am stuck, and then I read a book recently that helped with my “aha” moment. (side note: that is why it is so important to read, you get to have some really important discussions one-on-one when you read.) It was Jim Belcher’s Deep Church. What he helped me to see was that much of my crisis on how to the live the Christian life was more of an argument between postmodernism and modernism as opposed to biblical living.  That is a mouthful for me.

I started to think about it and I realized that God gave us examples of postmodernism and modernism in the Bible and their traps.  First you have the modernists in the Bible – they are the Pharisees and Scribes. Turn through the Gospels and on every other page you’ll find an expert of the Law testing Jesus. They were famous for building a fence around the law so they wouldn’t break it. “You can only take so many steps on the Sabbath before you break the fourth commandment of the Decalogue.” Or something similar (this is what Jesus is targeting in the Six Antitheses in Matthew 5). Or the Law expert who challenged Jesus when he asked Jesus, “How do I inherit eternal life?”

Jesus: What does God’s Word say? What is your interpretation?

Law Expert: I’m to love the Lord my God with all my emotional, mental, physical and spiritual ability – and love my  neighbor as myself.

Jesus: That’s it!

Law Expert: Just so we don’t equivocate – when I say neighbor – I mean just people like me.

Jesus: Your interpretation has fallen short. Your attempts to put a perimeter around loving your neighbor stops you from going far enough. You have failed to obtain eternal life.

That is an Israel’s paraphrase commentary of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). Check it out. The law expert, like most of Jesus’ antagonists in the Gospels, is so concerned with the tangibles that he misses the heart behind them, which results in his not understanding them at all.

Then you have the postmodernist (or one of them) of the Bible: The Samaritan Woman at the well (interesting that both examples contain Samaritans in them). Consider my loose commentary on their conversation in John 4. Let’s call her Sammy.

Jesus: Can you give me a drink of water out of this well?

Sammy: You’re asking me for a drink? We are suppose to hate each other, you know.

Jesus: If you knew who I am, it would be you asking me for my drink for it is the drink of eternal life.

Sammy: Are you loopy? You don’t have a bucket? Besides, where is this well that you get this water from (and why aren’t you there now)? Besides, what do you have to offer me that is better than what I have now? I drink from the well of people who are no doubt greater than you.

Jesus: The well from which you drink does not satisfy. The well from which I’m talking about springs up eternal life.

Sammy: I’m game. If this water means I don’t have to continue to labor over this well again in the future then I’m interested. I’ll take you up on your offer.

Jesus: So, go get your husband and we’ll talk.

Sammy: Oh! Well, uh, um, I’m not married.

Jesus: Right you are. You’ve had five husbands and you are currently living with a guy who is not your husband. This is a good starting point to talk about how to get eternal life so lets talk about it.

Sammy: Okay, okay. I can see you are a spiritual guru and clearly your knowledge of my past endorses your claims about eternal life. I get that, but let’s not get to excited about specifics talking about actual sins, or specific theological nuances or distinctives.  You say God is in that religion, I say God is in found in this religion and I’m good with that.”

Jesus: Sammy, truth is real and there is only one way to get eternal life. Hearken to the Spirit and Truth and you will have eternal life.

Please recognize how loose this is or I would feel very badly if they thought I was trying to play fast and loose with God’s Word. The effort is in trying to get you to see what is going on behind the conversation. Here this woman doesn’t want to deal with specifics. She doesn’t want to deal with her specific sins and she doesn’t want to deal with the specifics of one religion compared to another, but she does want eternal life as it means a more convenient life for her and she is only concerned about details when it is in relation to the material world (such as having a bucket). She just wants a nice, unconvicting warm cozy covering of a religion. Now that, to me, is a good reflection of pomo Christian living in America trying to figure out how to live godly while still being postmodern.

To borrow a term from Jim Belcher, there is a third way, a better way and to get there we have to see how deep our modernistic/post-modernistic presuppositions really infiltrate our worldview as we attempt to live godly in Christ Jesus. And Jesus gives us the way to approach the subject by his handling of both the Law expert and the Samaritan Woman. He deals with them with where they are at. He shows the Law expert that his propensity to details and creating perimeters in his zealousness for God is getting in the way. And Jesus shows the woman at the well that to live a life that refuses to account for the details of living and belief is just as problematic. The Jewish man over-examined in an effort to explain away his actions while the Samaritan woman refused to consider her actions so she didn’t have to explain them.

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