Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


A Few Quick Thoughts on Grace

One of the concepts that seems hardest for people--for many professed Christians, even--to hold onto clearly in their minds and transfer from situation to situation is the idea of grace. Much more natural and logical to many, it seems, is the idea of a theology of retribution. You get what you deserve and earn what you get. If you're a bad person you'll get punished and if you're rich in life it's because you must be good. But that's not really what Jesus and the Bible seem to say; quite the opposite, in fact. God's logic is not human logic. Instead: 1) It is impossible to be perfect, or even good enough to be truly good and unstained by sin, so instead of trying to be better than everyone else we must learn to accept that God loves us in our imperfection; and 2) The same applies to everyone else, that God loves them too, even though they also are undeserving. That message consistently runs throughout the Bible, both Old Testament and New, in lots of different ways.*

A few articles from the recent SoJo Mail got me thinking about it this morning. I was trying to articulate to someone yesterday how and why the obsession with the Casey Anthony trial has bothered me. Yes, it is indeed tragic, but so are all of the other children who die every day that no one seems to care about. What I'd love to see, I said, was all the time and energy people are putting into following this trial being instead spent locally and personally, focused on their lives and they people they encounter, seeing if they can't do something to prevent the next child death that might occur closer to them.

So I really liked this article, Loving Casey Anthony in a Culture of Vengeance:

. . . But perhaps most discouraging — chilling, even — has been the response of the people who invested so much of their time and energy in the courtroom drama and in television’s non-stop coverage of it. Presuming to know the players intimately — Casey and her family members, the defense team, the state’s lawyers (and why wouldn’t they? having admitted they’ve been glued to the trial for the last eight weeks) — these diehard observers have made their opinions known on Facebook, Twitter, and old-fashioned TV interviews: They are outraged that “there is no justice for Caylee,” the dead child.

But what many of them seem to want is vengeance. And for those who bring God into the picture, what they seem to assume is karma — that good is always rewarded and evil is always punished. . . .

For those of us who believe in this God, the hard part, of course, is to embody this kind of love — to make it evident, alive, available even (especially) to the unloveable, even to sociopaths (and maybe worse) like Casey Anthony.

The kind of vengeance people seem to want won't do anything for Caylee and won't do anything to prevent the next case like hers. Of course we can't just let the dangerous walk free to do more harm, but how does all the outrage about this case do anything positive?

Turning from crime toward economics, grace is again considered in this thought about The Lord's Prayer, What Does it Mean to ‘Forgive Us Our Debts as We Forgive Our Debtors?’

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” – Matthew 6:12

Smack dab in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, obscured by old translations and otherworldly assumptions, is a radical cry for Jubilee justice. In this most stripped down form of Jesus’ teaching — the bare essentials of what a disciple should bring before God in prayer — freedom from economic debt for all of God’s children plays a central role. Why is this? And what might it mean for the millions of Christians who weekly pray the Lord’s Prayer to live more deeply into this dimension of our faith? . . .

As the one who came that they (and us) may have life and have it abundantly, Jesus saw that debt was (and is) a primary mechanism of social and even spiritual control; one which must be broken if his hearers were to live into the freedom for which God had called them. He invited his followers to return to the Jubilee wisdom of the Law of Moses, practicing an economy characterized by community and forgiveness rather than competition and retribution. Evidently this vision really caught on, for the book of Acts tells us that in the early church goods were held in common so that none were indebted and all had their needs met. Calling his disciples to turn to God and one another rather than an unjust system to provide for their daily bread, Jesus got to the deepest roots of the people’s bondage and enlivened their liberation. . . .

If you're not familiar with the biblical term Jubilee, Leviticus 25 (among other places) sets it up in the Covenant between God and Israel during their founding as a nation as a time of freedom and forgiveness every 50th year. No matter what land is bought and sold, what debts are incurred, what fate leads people into slavery, every so often, God decrees, we'll wipe the slate clean and start everyone over as equals so that there can be no long-term, entrenched inequality and oppression. And Jesus taught us to include that wish for our world as part of our central prayer. Again, grace should be more important than giving people what they "deserve."

And, finally, this article considers the matter in a full shift to economic policy and politics, The Debt Ceiling Play: My ‘CliffsNotes’ Version:

Our country is in the midst of a clash between two competing moral visions. It is not, as we have known in recent history, a traditional fight between Republicans and Democrats. It is a conflict between those who believe in the common good and those who believe individual good is the only good. While a biblical worldview informs Christians that they should be wary of the rich and defend the poor, a competing ideology says that wealth is equivalent to righteousness and God’s blessing. It is a morality play in which Washington, D.C. is the stage, politicians are actors, lobbyists are directors, the “debt ceiling” is the conflict, and we are the audience who will pay the cost of the production, whether we enjoyed it or not. . . .

This play would be amusing to watch if it was just on a stage. Instead, these decisions will have real-world consequences. Should we end farm subsidy checks to millionaires in Manhattan, or baby formula rebates for new mothers? Should we end mortgage deductions for second homes, or house the homeless? Should we end a military tank program that no longer has use, or stop providing malaria bed nets for children?

The actors who are center-stage right now would have the audience believe that it is all much more complicated than that. The directors behind the scenes would like us to stay out of the way of the plot and leave it to them. But as a Christian, I can’t sit quietly by while the audience of the poor watch silently and suffer.


*Just a couple of quick examples from one of the gospels:

But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’ Matthew 20: 25-28

‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’ Matthew 20: 1-16

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Matthew 25: 34-40


At 7/08/2011 5:35 PM, Blogger The Itinerant, Lori Vandever said...

Excellent thoughts, Chris!

Get outta my head on the Casey Anthony thing! I'm currently in the process of finding out what I need to do to become an advocate for abused children. While I'm saddened about Caylee Anthony, I realize that 5 children die in this country every day due to neglect or abuse. Why aren't people outraged about their cases too?!

That grace and forgiveness thing is pretty huge. If it applies to me, I have to believe that it applies to everyone.

I could go on and on about what you've written here, but I have things to do this afternoon.

Thanks for the post!

At 7/13/2011 6:10 AM, Blogger Degolar said...

Thanks, Lori.


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