Reflections

Sometimes I find myself just sitting and thinking about my life. Before I turned twelve I’d been shot at, thrown a kid off a cliff (don’t worry he didn’t die or anything), broken someone’s nose in two different fights, tried to kill myself, been beaten senseless several times, eaten and fed others poison berries, been called every bad word in the book by one or both of my parents, almost made my mother leave the family, fallen off a cliff (obviously I didn’t die either), and been thoroughly inculcated into the demonic (I mean that literally, not figuratively). Cognitively, I understand that this is a bad childhood. Actually, I think from the average American perspective, this is an extremely violent, troubled childhood. However, for me, it’s just the way I grew up. I realize that my childhood was violent and disturbed, but I generally don’t think of it that way.

Before I turned eighteen I’d tried to kill one person,  been told I’d actually killed someone else (and that I was being charged with manslaughter), put together a plan to set off a nerve gas bomb in my high school (it was a stupid plan in the first place), tried to kill myself several more times, made a habit of watching porn at least six hours a day, and started hurting people (especially women) in order to make myself feel good. I feel the violence and depravity of my teenage years much more than that of my childhood. There isn’t much in my childhood that I actually regret doing. I understand the things that were done to me, and the problems they caused, and I understand the things that I did to others. The core of pain that I’ve mentioned a couple of times now certainly had its start in my childhood.

However, many of my deepest regrets come from the things that I did during my teenage years. After I converted to Christianity these things haunted me for many years. I lost a lot of sleep over the things I’d done and the people I’d hurt. I spent days at a time praying for them, and begging God to make me a better person. I struggled with many of the sins that I’d lived in before my salvation, and I often wanted to walk away from the Christian life. God would never actually let me walk away though, no matter how much I fought him. I’ve never been one to run away, but I tried to run away from God, a few times.

God doesn’t let go of what’s his though. He’d track me down, tell me he loved me, and drag me back onto the straight and narrow path. He did this more times than I can count, and I can’t thank him enough for it. I don’t deserve such treatment. I’ve certainly hurt God more than most people, but he never gives up on me anyway. I want to be able to love like this, and in a few cases I’ve been able to (a very few cases).

I want to be more like Christ, and God keeps making me give up integral parts of myself in order to make me more like Christ. I have to admit, I like becoming more like Christ, but I’m not always fond of what it requires. I started my fast today.

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Making the Cross Too Important

The cross, or rather Christ’s death upon the cross, is the only hope of mankind. It is the only means to salvation, the only propitiation of sin, and that completion that was intended and expected in the Mosaic law. This is all true. However, when I make my faith entirely about the cross, what I inevitably wind up saying is that my faith is about me, and this is the problem.

I need the cross. It is my hope and my salvation. God does not need it, because God does not need me. He’s perfectly fine on his own and there is nothing that I can do for him which he cannot do for himself. The cross has an important, irrevocable place in the Christian faith, but it should not be the center of that faith, because we should not be the center of that faith.

We often say that ‘If only one man on earth had ever sinned, Christ would have come to save him’, and I don’t actually disagree with this claim in anyway. God loves us and he wants us, this is made clear by the fact that the father would sacrifice the son so that men might be saved. However, when I hear this I often respond with this question: ‘If saving man hadn’t glorified the Godhead, would Christ have come to die?’

The answer to this is obviously no, because we aren’t the center of the Christian faith. Christ died for our sins because it glorified the Godhead. Our salvation is the primary means by which God is glorified (though certainly not the only means), and thus our salvation is important, but any attempt to make the means into the purpose is a mistake.

We serve a God that is beyond our understanding. A being of infinite knowledge, majesty, power, and presence, and in glorifying him our purpose is served. We should be obsessed with Christ, because he is both God and King. He is our savior and our hope. We should be obsessed with the cross because it was the means by which our salvation came, and that is important.

However, in these obsessions we must never forget that our highest obsession, our highest purpose, is to glorify the Lord of Hosts, and only in doing is our purpose served.

You Think You’re Better Than Me?!

Christian exceptionalism pisses me off. American exceptionalism also pisses me off, actually… exceptionalism in general pisses me off, but Christian exceptionalism really gets to me. The idea that because I’m Christian I am therefore somehow better than others has done more damage to the cause of Christ than possibly any other single heretical belief, and it is a heretical belief. Scripture has nothing good to say about pride, and a lot good to say about humility, so why do we spend all our time thinking about how wonderful we are as Christians?

In the beatitudes Christ tells us that the meek shall inherit the Earth. Proverbs tells us that God destroys prideful men. Zephaniah tells us that those who are meek follow God. Peter and Paul both tell us to humble ourselves, repeatedly! Today, I had someone tell me that because he grew up in a Christian household he didn’t fall for crap (in context this was a discussion about how Americans simply take in information without assessing it). He may have meant that his parents taught him to analyze the information that was presented to him, or he may have meant that Christians have a natural immunity to crap. If he meant the former then I applaud his parents… but I’m guessing he meant the latter.

The idea that being Christians somehow makes us inherently less gullible, more virtuous, less responsible for our actions, or more worthy than others is utter hogwash. Many of the Christians that I meet have no real conception of their own sinfulness. They may say that they are sinful, may even mouth the words about being utterly wicked and needing God’s grace to save them, but if you look at their lives, especially at the way they look at others, talk about others, and act towards others, they don’t believe it. They are interested in judging people, interested in looking down their noses at people, interested in proving that they are better than others, but they aren’t interested in loving people or in helping people.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming to be above all this. I’ve done my share of judging, and I still do sometimes, to my shame. However, I think a lot of people confuse my unwillingness to take their bullshit excuses for their sin as judgment, and it’s not. I have plenty of my own bullshit excuses, and I generally won’t take them either. Actually, I know there are a few people who think that my calling them on sin is the same as my judging them for that sin, and I have no place to judge anyone. I’ve been a thief, I’ve tried to kill people, I’ve left some people permanently hurt, I’ve looked at truly massive amounts of porn, and at some truly and deeply sick porn. I am a prideful, lustful, jealous, wrathful, foolish, and ultimately destructive man. I’ve done things that I don’t like to think about, and certainly don’t like to talk about because I am ashamed of them, and I should be ashamed of them… well, perhaps not anymore. I am forgiven and redeemed, and that’s what matters. I won’t let the people I care about sin and not say something, but I also won’t stop loving them because of that sin. Our sin can’t change God’s love for us, and so it shouldn’t change my love for people. It took me a long time to learn that, and I’m still not perfect at it. There are too many times that hurt proves my love for someone to be phileo love and not agape love.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean that I’m better than anyone else, it just means that my sinfulness is covered by Christ’s righteousness, and that God isn’t going to stop working until he makes me worthy of that righteousness… and trust me, that process thoroughly sucks sometimes.

There is nothing that makes me better than anyone else, and there are probably plenty of things that make me worse. That might not be entirely true… humility is not simply being down on yourself, which is what we turn it into far to often. Humility is about seeing the truth, and letting yourself go. In Romans 12 Paul tells us to think of ourselves as we ought to think, and to think with sober judgment. Humility is knowing where we fit, what we can do, what we should do, and what we are worth. It goes hand in hand with honesty and integrity, and it doesn’t have either a high view or a low view of self. It’s not worried about self.

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? We’re so worried about ourselves, making ourselves look good, making ourselves feel good, that we forget how to be humble and loving. Even our selflessness becomes selfishness because we focus so much on feeling selfless that we forget to actually care how someone else feels, and that in itself is selfish.

Anyway, that’s probably a rant for another time. Go out and give two craps about someone else.