Conflicting Messages

randomlychad  —  December 29, 2015 — 3 Comments

The world is a contrary place, full of conflicting messages. We’re told “good things come to those who wait.” That “patience is a virtue.” We’re also told to “grab the bull by the horns,” or “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.” Somehow we’re supposed to be both humble, and yet assertive. Culture tells us we shouldn’t let anyone trample our rights. But then Scripture says (of Jesus, no less) that “He thought equality with God wasn’t something to be grasped.” He humbled himself, taking the form of a servant. Insofar as we can we’re supposed to emulate Him.
 
 Recently, I found myself at the center of a controversy (of which I knew nothing) regarding cubicle size, and who was going where. Instead of insisting, I said I didn’t care. In fact, I was rather irritated by the office politics. I said I just wanted a spot to put my stuff. Let the other folks preen, jockeying for position.
 
 I wanted to be above the fray. I mean we have real work to do here…
 
 Now that we’ve moved, I’m honestly struggling with it. Everyone else in my position class gets their own cube, and I’m sharing with three other folks in an open quad. Yeah, I’m thankful to have a spot, but I’m not less than peers. I work just as hard, having been commended numerous times over the years for exemplary service. I want to be above all of this pertinent, allowing the Lord to reward we in due time. But I also wonder if, being cognizant of the corporate culture, they’re waiting for me to display some initiative, some leadership, some chutzpah.
 
 I don’t know. I’m conflicted, being all too aware that “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” I’m thankful to be gainfully employed, have a roof over my head, and a great family…
 
 And all the times I’ve ever insisted upon my rights have always come back to slap me in the face.
 
 I suppose the best I can do, and in the words of Charles Williams, is to keep building my altars in one place so that the fire from heaven may fall in another.
 
 That’s the story of my life.
 
 How about yours? What conflicting messages do you find yourself struggling with?
 
 
 

This has been rattling around in my head for awhile now, begging to be let out. Forgive me if the title seems crude, rude, scandalous, blasphemous, or unnecessarily vulgar. I have a point. In fact, Jesus Himself was scandalous in His time. Questioning the status quo did wonders for His health… Oh, wait, it really didn’t. Yes, it was all part of God’s plan.

But I think we forget just how scandalous the incarnation was to the first century Jewish mind. It was blasphemy to put oneself on equal footing with God. Yet this is just what Jesus did time and time again. And got Him a trip to Golgotha. Moreover, 2000 years removed from the events in the manner, e.g., the other side of history, I think those of us who wear the title “Christian,” are down with the divinity of Jesus, but not so in touch with His humanity.

I think we’ve largely forgotten just what the incarnation cost Him. By choice, He shed His divinity to become a helpless baby, undergo the indignity of birth (in all of its pain, blood, and meconium), and willingly limit Himself to the form a helpless baby. Which not only included diaper changes (holy sh*t, anyone?), but diaper rash, too. Think on that: the Son of Man, the Second Person of the Trinity, had diaper rash. And that by choice.

And then He grew, suffering privation in the flight to, and sojourn in, Egypt. Not to mention the all the bumps and bruises of childhood–the skinned knees, stabbed toes, and thumbs mashed by hammers as He learned Joseph’s trade.

The creed says “very God of very God and very man of very man.” As I said above, we now, here, get that first part (“very God”), but give short shrift to the second. Consider: Jesus went through puberty, and all that that entails: body hair, deepening voice, body odors, nocturnal emissions (it’s a part of growing up, folks). If He was indeed “very man of very man,” Jesus had wet dreams. It’s just the way the male body works, and there are specific provisions in the law for that. I’m sorry if that offends you, but it’s just all part and parcel of the maturation process of the male half of the species.

Having said that, it would be good to recall that Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” With all of the limitations imposed by His humanity, He still did not yield to temptation. He did this to in order to identify with us, His creation, and to show us that it is indeed possible, whilst yielded to the Father’s will, to live a holy life. If He lusted for anything, rather than sex, it was for God’s will. The late, great C.S. Lewis said (paraphrasing), “Our passions are not too strong, but too weak. We muck about with drink and sex when all the splendor of heaven are available to us. It’s like a child who’s contented to make mud pies when offered a holiday by the sea.”

Jesus, despite His very humanity, despite the hardships and indignities of this world, despite halitosis, hemorrhoids, and likely other bodily fluids (one wonders of He perhaps snored, or drooled onto his pallet), found it possible to live in such a way as to express the the kingdom of God in this veil of tears.

He has called us to the same. After what He has given, how can we do any less? God help us.

Guns are not the problem.
 
 Porn is not the problem.
 
 Booze is not the problem.
 
 Drugs are not the problem.
 
 Gay marriage is not the problem.
 
 No, my friends, something–someone–else is the problem:
 
 Humanity.
 
 We are the problem. Guns, porn, booze, drugs, gay marriage, slavery, sex trafficking are all just symptoms of a deeper issue:
 
 Sin.
 
 It’s not for no reason that Bible calls the human heart “desperately wicked.” Just turn on the evening news, or check your news feed, for word of the latest tragedy. We can legislate and legislate and legislate until we’re blue in the face, and still not affect any real change. Because if one thing is true, it’s this: while we can force displays of compliance, we can’t mandate any change of the human heart. Those that want to will still find the means to gun others down. Those that want to will still look at porn. The same with drugs, alcohol, and all other depravities known to man.
 
 Sin will always find a way.
 
 Historically, prohibition wasn’t all that long ago. And we all know how well that turned out. The same with the so-called war on drugs… Fallen humanity cannot, will not, change. It’s our nature to destroy ourselves and one another. Every evil perpetrated is an extrinsic manifestation of an irrefutable intrinsic reality:
 
 “The heart is evil and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” Yet we, in our hubris, think we can just treat symptoms and be done. All the while Cain kills Abel time and time again, because evil cannot be legislated away. “Man was born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.”
 
 Despite more and more evidence linking smoking to cancer, and tighter and tighter legislation, people don’t care and haven’t stopped smoking. Cigarettes don’t smoke themselves, Internet porn doesn’t make a person look. Guns, like any other tools, don’t operate without human intervention. Are we to outlaw cars because accidents happen? Because there’s such a thing as road rage? Ridiculous. (May as well outlaw air travel while we’re at it. Because planes crash, or can be used as weapons of mass destruction). It’s not the cars that are the problem; rather, it’s the idiots behind the wheel. What makes us so selfish that we think where we’ve got to go is so much more important than everyone else on the road?
 
 The problem lies in the fact that in the supposedly rational West, within its prevalent humanistic worldview, there is no such thing as sin. This is why we’re always shocked by stories of violence, tragedy, depravity. Because in the rational West we believe are better than that, should know better than that.
 
 The sad truth is that we’re not, and we don’t.
 
 Just ask the Carpenter from Galilee, Whom we hung upon a tree for doing exactly nothing wrong. The fact is unless we–all of us–let His story take hold of us things will only continue to get worse and worse. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can affect the change that we’re looking to Washington for.
 
 We should know better by now…
 
 Oh, wait.
 
 
 

  

In the words of famous author, and noted atheist, H.G. Wells, “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.” As a Christian I of course concur. And yet… despite the history-changing life of Christ, despite dividing asunder B.C. and A.D., despite dividing asunder the beating heart of one such as me, I’m weary.

Like Israel of long ago, and like the Jews of today, I’m still looking. The seemingly boundless joy and enthusiasm of the early days of my faith are sin-smeared, and tainted with a world-weary cynicism. Will He ever return? His grace, it is said, is sufficient; His strength perfected in weakness. And whither the joy unspeakable, and full of glory–the half never yet been told? Days bleed into days, into weeks, months, years.

Until they all seem the same. Sufficient unto the day is the trouble thereof, He said. And boy He wasn’t kidding! The problems stack up, and no matter how many get resolved, they come again and again and again. I can’t get ahead; rather, I’m treading water to keep from sinking. Every issue addressed is a pyrrhic victory; everything old comes ’round again…

There’s got to be more!

I’m not ungrateful, but I am tired. Life feels a weary slog through the mire. And with the weary world I watch waiting for that star to shine again over Bethlehem.

Shine, Jesus, shine! We in this vail of tears need Your light again. Won’t you shine some light today? Or must we, like Israel, continue to wait?

Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, and sin is no more. When You are the only light. When there is no more famine, nor peril, nor nakedness, nor disease, nor slavery… when there are no more tears.

Until then, we wait.

It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that, by-and-large, people no longer know how to disagree. One need looked no further than the evening news (or favorite website). We like to think that we’re evolved, enlightened beings, but experience (life) teaches us that human beings just aren’t all that rational. If we were, whether on the right, left, or in the center. Whether cis, trans, pan, or what have you, we would all of us stop trying to make over the world in our own image. Tis a fruitless effort. Nevertheless, we continue. We see something we don’t like, that we don’t agree with, which does not affirm our worldview, and we freak right the heck out. 
This is not the exclusive province of Christians, expecting a secular company in a fully pluralistic society to get with the Christmas spirit by making cups we approve of. No, there are others who simply deny reality and demand that XYZ be implemented for them (fill in the blank). The needs of the noisy, vitriolic one clearly outweigh established social precedent, decorum, and the needs of the many.
YOU. MUST. AFFIRM. ME.
This is nothing other than confirmation bias. I’m right because I’m right, and you better get in line. Or I’ll protest your bigoted, sorry a** back to the stone ages where you clearly belong. You unenlightened, pre-cambrian haploid. Reality is what I say it is. Your view is invalid, and mine is better.
The foregoing is, of course, not the exclusive province of the liberal elite. Everybody does it at one time or another. In such a climate polite, civil, discourse goes right out the window with the baby and the bath water. We, by-and-large, don’t know how to listen anymore because we’re too entangled on our entitlements. 
How fruitless is it for Christians to seek affirmation from Starbuck’s, like we’re somehow entitled to it? You, large coffee company, must support me. On the other hand, how ridiculous is that the queer community boycotts, and indeed fires volley after volley of vitriol, at a chicken chain started by Southern Baptists? Must corporations truly affirm every life choice, lifestyle, and belief system under the sun? I submit that that is not their job. Beliefs are reflected by the actions of the individuals who claim to espouse those beliefs.
It is not culture’s, or the world’s, job to coddle us, and make us feel safe, welcome, warm, and wanted. No, that is entirely the province of those with whom we are in relationship. We can’t demand anything of the world, for it owes us each exactly nothing. Ex nihilo. That’s a zero with its rim knocked off.
The sooner we, whether left, right, center, or whatever, recognize that the sooner we’ll actually be able to make a difference in the world. In fact, Jesus said it best:
“My kingdom is not of this world.” Which means, for everyone, the best course of action is (as Jesus) is to accept this sinful world as it, not as we would have to be. Because it will never be that. It will never be what anyone of us wants it to be. For good or I’ll, it will be what it is. And not a one of us can, via cogent discourse, make a single hair white or black. Or change someone’s mind.
They have to do that for themselves.