Conversations with myself . . .

Our dear friend Kelly wrote a two part post on her blog “Restless Heart” yesterday, entitled “Who I Want to Be.”

It’s a great post, and her opening words struck me deepest. She says, “I tire of the constant mental/emotional energy wasted on seemingly consequential issues. I am sick of fighting, sick of division. I am weary of encountering misdirected passions for everything but what really matters.”

I know exactly what she means . . . I grew up in a religious culture that directed its passions toward a large number of issues that were divisive at worst, irrelevant at best and exhausting in all cases. I work in a job that requires me at times to manufacture passion for things I don’t really care about . . . and I’ve worked in such jobs for a long time.

There are moments when it feels as though my only outlets for passion about things I really care about are my relationships – particularly that with my wife – and this blog.

But Kelly’s post got me thinking . . . and eventually, engaging in a sort of running dialogue with myself.

“what is it that really matters?”

“God.”

“Ok . . . fair enough . . . why?”

“Um . . . because He created you, you ungrateful twit.”

“So?”

“So that means He matters to you just a tad.”

“Why? . . . how do I know He cares?”

“Because He said so.”

“How do I know some ancient prankster didn’t just make that up?”

“How do you have the mental capacity to ask that question?”

“. . . hmmmm . . . so you’re saying that because I can ask that question, He must care enough to have given me the mental faculties to do so?”

“not exactly, no.”

“What then?”

“He gave you a choice.”

“. . . huh?”

“He gave you the choice whether to believe what He says, or not. If He truly didn’t care, there are a few things He could have done differently:

A. He could have set the world on its course and abandoned it to the laws of physics.

B. He could have just created a pretty blue-green ball to play with, with lots of little robotic, funny-looking ape-like creatures for His amusement.

C. He could have decided that the whole idea was a waste of His time and energy and done nothing at all.”

” . . . ok . . . and . . . ?”

“And He gave you the choice to believe either that he took one of the above courses of action, or a different one, or whether or not He even exists.”

“ok . . . ?”

“So he cares about you so very much that He wasn’t willing to just create a little action figure for Him to move and twist in whatever form He saw fit. He cares enough to give you a part to play in the process of the story He’s writing for you. He gave you a choice! So what really matters, matters at an even more basic, more visceral level than what you choose is the simple act of choosing.”

. . . I had now given myself some serious food for thought – enough so that the conversation in my head terminated itself abruptly. I think it was confused . . .
But does this not make perfect sense, given what we know about who God is? It’s precisely because of this notion that I think the whole debate over predestination versus free will is so . . . pointless. Certainly, scripture teaches that God is sovereign. But just as often it implores us to “believe,” or “follow,” or “repent,” or “come,” or myriad other such things.

God wants desperately for us to make a decision! Naturally, He wants us to choose to follow Him. This, Christ made pretty clear throughout His ministry. However, It is also clear that there are many different ways of doing so.

I was thinking through all of this, and reading through some random scripture passages, when I happened on Romans 14, and on an interesting passage I hadn’t considered in this light before. The beginning of the chapter reads:

“Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another ? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

It really doesn’t sound much like Paul thinks God puts a whole lot of stock in dietary laws, does it? It seems that what Paul wants the Roman believers to do is quite simple – respect one another’s choices.

All well and good, right? After all, I’ve sat through many a long, boring sermon about how eating meat offered to idols is my choice (though usually the point of the sermon is that I shouldn’t do it – or any other, such “iffy” behavior – because it might offend somebody).

But the passage goes on:

“One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.”

hmmm . . . so you mean that God doesn’t really care whether we consider Sunday, or Saturday, or any other day particularly “holy”? You mean that it’s Ok for some to honor Sunday as “The Lord’s Day,” and for others to . . . well . . . not?

That, it appears, is what the passage says. The Fourth Commandment . . . and Paul says it doesn’t matter a whit.

Why? Because that’s not the point! The passage continues:

He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

The point is not the behavior, it is the choice . . . not the choice to eat meat or veggies, or to go to church on Sunday . . . the choice to follow Christ.

I’ve seen so many people get passionate about behaviors . . . do this, don’t do this, go here, don’t go there, spend time with this person . . . but not with that one . . .

Kelly’s right. There’s no point to it.

What, though, about the choice to wake up each day and engage in an eternal relationship with the one who gave me life . . . twice!! . . .

. . . now there’s something I can be passionate about.

2 Comments

Filed under Ideas I stole from somebody else, but improved on, Things that will piss somebody off

2 Responses to Conversations with myself . . .

  1. I have enjoyed reading both you and Heidi’s blog for about a month now having discovered you quite by accident! I think I have read just about every post you guys have written to date and can identify with so much of what you write. You are both talented writers.

    My wife and I, along with our two children have served as missionaries here in Ecuador for the past 20 years. We are involved with planting “simple churches”, most of which meet in homes or out on the street, or under trees. Much of the “clutter” and religiosity that you write about in institutional Christinaity (Churchianity)is foreign to these wonderful new believers. It is a joy to work amongst them. Come over to visit our blog sometime and read some of what God is doing in our midst, as well as some of our own thoughts on church, etc.

  2. Hey Mike,

    It’s funny how those two posts have sparked a number of comments that I didn’t expect. First, nobody ever comments on my “deep” posts, and second, I’m surprised that I was coherent enough to provoke thought!

    Heard a good sermon (yes, sermon!) on legalism this morning, from Galatians 5. It was odd how your post leapt to mind as he talked about not being under the law, but under grace. He spent some time on the question of whether or not we should sin, since we have been set free from the Law.

    His illustration about how to answer someone who asked if he had seen a somewhat immoral show was very thought-provoking. He listed three ways to answer that were very clearly legalistic, and one way that made a whole lot of sense for a believer seeking and following the Lord: “I don’t watch that show because it’s not who I am.”

    In living the life of Christ and walking in the Spirit, we’re not even needing to nitpick others over their actions. Galatians 5:15 has a valid point–“If you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!”

    But then, you knew all that. 😛

    Thanks for sharing. I am learning to appreciate my interesting role as a catalyst. 😉

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