Catalina and I have a somewhat unconventional way of handling property issues with our children. We developed it after reading a parenting book which highlighted our often pharasaical approach to parenting. Whenever a property dispute used to arise between our children, our immediate question had always been, "Who had it first?" But this didn't teach our children anything except that power and dominance came by a speedy and selfish appropriation of property. While we had a clear method for resolving the issue, our parenting did not at all address the idolatry of control, selfishness, a lack of consideration of others, and other issues of the heart. After realizing this pitfall, reading articles and books, and talking with those who were much wiser than we were, we decided to institute "Toy Jail."
The story of "The Prodigal Son" is a seemingly familiar story for most of us. However, as our men's group goes through this story again, guided by Tim Keller's book, "The Prodigal God," I am finding it more beautiful and convicting than ever before. In the first place, simply reading this story in Romanian has illuminated the passage. In our culture, the notion of "prodigal" has always (at least in my mind) meant "wayward." A prodigal is someone who has lost their way. However, in Romanian, the story is of the "wasteful" son. That makes sense, as the son wasted the love of his family and his full inheritance on that which was fleeting and meaningless.
This revised understanding of the meaning of "prodigal" opens up Keller's book title as well, as we understand that Keller wants to clue us in to the "wastefulness" of God. At first this notion perhaps comes across as blasphemous. But as Keller expounds on the story of the Prodigal Son, highlighting Christ's audience, Christ's character, and the overly generous love of the father, it becomes clear that God is "wasteful" in his love, at least in the eyes of the world. The Pharisees couldn't understand how Jesus wasted his love and attention on the sinners and tax collectors. Such a message is just as important for us today, as we likewise horde the love and forgiveness of God which we believe we have obtained through our merit, refusing to dispense any of it to those who we perceive to be less than us.
Our world is fed two narratives when it comes to democracies - either you vote and uphold patriotism, honor, duty, and morality, or you abstain from voting and refuse to participate in the world in any meaningful way. While I will acknowledge that many who abstain from voting likely do so because they are either lazy or uninformed, I believe there may often be a good rationale for Christians to abstain. I want to provide a few of the reasons which stand out most to me, and provide you with a few other resources to ponder if you decide to consider this option further.
*This is a very rough draft of a strange rebuttal I've developed against the Violinist Argument for abortion. I'm putting it out there not because I'm certain it's solid, but for honest critiques. If you would like to a more comprehensive and solid rationale for the intrinsic valuing of all human life, you can find that here. You can also find a more mainstream rebuttal for the Violinist Argument.
What's the difference between a lost cause and a noble one? When does another chance turn into the last chance? If we're supposed to forgive someone seventy times seven, as Jesus said, how do we respond to the 491st offense? These are difficult questions all Christians must ask themselves. As I ruminated on such questions over the past few years, I was never able to arrive at a solid conclusion. In fact, I don't know many Christians who have nailed these issues down. Whether the answers are just too difficult to see, or our hearts too hard to accept the Christ-like answers we really know to be true, most of us, most of the time, seem to meander away from truth or certainty. In such a pragmatic society as ours, we are strangely content with labeling Christ's hardest exhortations, like those on forgiveness and mercy, as conundrums - gray areas we're happy to keep gray. Instead of working hard to discern God's Word and align our decisions with Christ's teachings, we instead tend to choose to be guided by our subjective, situational feelings rather than the objective truth our savior brought, and the tangible truth our savior lived out. Instead of embracing grace and forgiveness apart from merit, we all too often choose to forgive - or not, based on who has wronged us, how many times they have wronged us, or how severely they have wronged us. Our feelings are often the determinate standard for our actions, not God's decree.
Imagine that time travel has been discovered and you have the opportunity to travel anywhere in history you'd like. Being a Christian, there is nothing more you desire than to go back and be there for the most influential moment in the history of the universe, the trial and crucifixion of our savior Jesus Christ. As you enter history, you slip into the crowd standing before Pilate and hear the offer Pilate is making to free one prisoner to the crowd. Being a part of the crowd, you can choose to free Jesus, the innocent, Barabbas the murderer, or a thief. You know your Bible and understand that Jesus has no hope of being freed. The crowd wants his blood too badly. But maybe, just maybe you and those who traveled back with you could influence the result between the thief and Barabbas. Maybe you could have the thief freed instead of the murderer. While you might not be able to save Jesus, you may at least be able to lessen the injustice that occurs in this situation. So do you vote to free Jesus, the innocent man, though your vote will have no influence, and allow a murderer to walk free? Or do you vote to mitigate a greater evil by voting for the lesser evil which has a chance of winning, though it would mean failing to support justice for the innocent?
I am a product of America. I've been trained to be a good citizen of the American Kingdom. I've been supportive of upholding the Constitution and founding documents. I've been patriotic. I've taken on my responsibility to vote in every presidential election for which I've been eligible. But during the last election cycle I realized that while I had been well-trained and indoctrinated in kingdom ethics by my country and community, I hadn't been all that well trained in certain Kingdom ethics by my spiritual community, particularly as it pertained to politics. Growing up, I was always told who to vote for or what issues to vote for by my spiritual community, yet I was never taught to evaluate that decision making process. I was to be like a questioning Berean when it came to the scriptures, but not when it came to political parties and issues. This is probably because the moral answer was always so simple in the political sphere. The Republican party is the only party which has a chance of winning and which doesn't support the great moral evil of abortion. The Republican party obviously deserves my unquestioning vote. On top of that, the Republican party has become so tied to the Religious Right - a huge demographic - that they'll give my Christian community more power and influence. With the Republican party, conservative Christians have the greatest chance of making America godly, or at least the greatest chance of staving off the impending moral decay by holding back God's judgment on our nation through the legislating of morality. So I voted Republican for the first three elections of my life - quite literally without thinking twice.
Daddy, I'm scared to go to the beach. What if there is lightning again?
I assured Elin that she could trust me and that I wouldn't purposefully take us into danger. As we continued our preparations to walk down to the beach, she didn't seem too reassured. She had honed in on the danger of lightning.
But daddy, if there was lightning, you would protect me, right?
While her faith in me was endearing, I had to break the news to her that I couldn't protect her from lightning if it struck. In fact, if I held her hand like she wanted, that would only allow the lightning to strike us both. I just wasn't powerful enough to stop lightning. Elin thought for a minute, then asked another question. She didn't ask it in a genuinely inquiring way. She already knew the answer to her question - but the answer she was coming up with didn't comport with what she had been taught.
wouldn't God protect me?
If we had lived our whole lives in a world devoid of sharp objects, what would we think if we were to see a blade for the first time? As our hand examined it and we cut ourselves, our initial tendency may be to surmise that the maker of this object was malicious, for the effects of her creation are certainly evil. But what a faulty conclusion this would be if the maker of this blade had intended for it to be used to cut down trees in order to build comfortable dwellings, or a blade to harvest wheat for the many wonderful feasts she held. While the knife could certainly cut and kill, the sharpness of the blade would say nothing about how it is to be wielded. As we came to know more about the maker of the blade, we might eventually arrive at the conclusion that the maker was fond of precision and balance in order that the wielder might extend his life through its use. But our initial experience with the blade was that it had cut us. The mishandling of this well-made blade may lead to pain - or even death.
A few weeks ago, our youth group played an interesting game called "Courageous or Stupid." The leader provided a number of scenarios and the kids had to discern whether the action was courageous, or stupid, as the name of the game implies. Give it a try.
- Walking into a fire
- Jumping into freezing water in the middle of winter
- Running across a busy highway