I have three items for this post:
1. John Shore had an excellent post a few days ago entitled “The Life of the Party”, which was about Jesus’ first miracle of changing water into wine at a wedding party. Jesus was not condemning or criticizing people, but he was enhancing their enjoyment of the party . John says that the following is the lesson:
“I think he’s telling us to just be with people. If we’re with someone who’s soda is running low, we should ask if we can get them another soda. If their wine glass is empty, we should fetch ourselves a glass, and ask them if they’d like any more. If they’re smoking, we should act like we don’t mind their smoke blowing on us, and get them an ashtray. If they’re eating french fries, we should at least try not to steal one when they’re looking the other way. If they’re wearing a nose ring, we should tell them it looks cool, and maybe ask them if it hurt them to get it. When it comes to engaging others—all others—we don’t have to wonder what Jesus would have done. The Bible’s really clear about telling us, over and over again, exactly what he did do when engaging others. He loved them. He didn’t assess their worth, or evaluate their moral standing, or in any way determine their quality before he loved them. He ‘simply’ loved and respected them, exactly as they were.”
A few days ago, I wrestled with how Jesus approaches the issue of the family (see here). At times, Jesus comes across to me as a wild-eyed cultish apocalypticist, one who divides the world into clear categories of good and evil and demands that people leave their families to be his disciple. His moral requirements appear to be unrealistic, making one wonder if anyone could be in the Kingdom of God if they had to conform to such high standards. But, on the other hand, in his interactions with people, Jesus comes across as approachable, even to sinners—-as one who wants to enhance what is good rather than asking us to give that up. Jesus enhanced family life, for example, when he healed or raised from the dead people’s sons or daughters.
A while back, when I was more of a Christian conservative, I was debating a liberal (who later went on to become press secretary for a prominent Democratic politician) over the issue of school prayer. He referred me to that passage in which Jesus told us to pray in secret rather than publicly, and I responded by appealing to incidents when Jesus prayed in public, as occurred when Jesus fed the multitudes. This guy then asked me over and over (since I was not answering his question) whether we should follow Jesus’ words, or his actions. To this day, I still wonder about how to answer that question (assuming that Jesus’ words and actions are even in conflict).
2. My reading of Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest has been interesting—-not exactly edifying or inspiring, but interesting. In my reading yesterday, Chambers essentially said that a person can be converted without being saved. Conversion is when one’s eyes are opened—-when he’s enlightened. Salvation, however, occurs when one has received the gift of God’s forgiveness. Chambers ventures a guess that most so-called Christians are converted but not saved, for their eyes are opened—-and he may mean by this that they have some awareness of God, the correct way of life, and Christian doctrines, and even enough sense to accept these things as true. But they have not received God’s gift of forgiveness. I wonder why they have not requested and accepted this gift, if they indeed have not (since there are many who have said the sinner’s prayer whom some evangelicals would not consider to be saved—-such as Christians who fall away, or who do not bear spiritual fruit, or who say the sinner’s prayer within the context of what evangelicals would consider a cult, such as Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses).
3. Rachel Held Evans yesterday published her post, Ask a Muslim (Khurram Responds), in which Muslim Khurram Dara answered questions. I did not find the post to be as meaty as I hoped, for I expected a detailed exposition and explanation of Islam’s doctrines. Khurram admitted that he was not a religious scholar or expert on Islam. But I thought that he made a good point when he said that American Muslims should get to know others in the United States. I think that there’s something to that. The more that the two interact, and the longer that the interaction takes place, the less that non-Muslim Americans will view moderate Muslims as a threat and as the “other”.