In Christ we see that to do justice is not to get what you deserve. To do justice is to give until it hurts and all things are set right. To love kindness is not to let anything and everything go. To love kindness is to value the person above the rule; to aim for the new life that is possible rather than settle for the way things have always been. To walk humbly with your God is not to hide from every confrontation or keep quiet about your faith. To walk humbly is to give up control and stop thinking that any of us could come up with a perfect list of the fundamentals of anything meaningful.
You are not and will never make yourself perfect; and for that you are loved all the more.
“If alternatives exist outside of these forced choices (and they almost always do), then the statements are factually wrong. It’s turning an emotion-driven approach into weaponized belonging. And it always benefits the person throwing down the gauntlet and brandishing those forced, false choices.” Brené Brown
The operative theory here is the same one that drives half my preaching… if we think our options are either/or, we’ve already given up on affecting the outcome. “Weaponized belonging” is all that’s left when we fail to recognize the embrace of a love that cannot end and never fails; a love that is present not in spite of our fears and failures, but in and through them; a love that compels us far beyond the walls of the way it’s always been. Intensely partisan “debates” are just one specific symptom of a much deeper failure to see the world God makes possible rather than the fear that so naturally dominates our attention.
To “apply scripture” to life implies that there is in an I to do the application apart from the story of scripture that wrote the I. The story we tell ourselves is too much a part of us to think a rational process of application is a coherent or even possible goal.
In which Joseph writes a not so flattering Yelp review of the inn…
“At it’s heart, the Christian faith is about making room where there is none…
What begins as a story with no room in the inn, ends with a story of room for all who are willing to come and see. Jesus constantly pushed the boundaries to invite others closer to him. He lived his life unafraid to let people in and by doing so empowers us to know and be known…
To be loved with and even through our failures and shortcomings is the most profound kind of love we can hope for. In Christ, we are loved not because of our ability to be perfect, but through our willingness to be vulnerable. We are accepted not because of the value we add to some divine economy, but because we are God’s children.”
This has to be one of my all time favorite videos –
It also helps illustrate a profoundly important point in my theological formation.
I’ve long had a problem with the form and nature of most Christian theology, but am still working to figure out how to express that problem. I’ve tried twice to say that theology is relationship, full stop (see here and here). I’m also convinced that there is no “I” to do theology prior to or apart from the community and stories that wrote us – which means that any coherence or truth that comes from theological thought is at least as much a function of the time, place, and especially people that gave shape to the life that produced the thought that may in some part correspond to the truth of who God is.
“Nail in the head theology” seems like a more accessible and memorable way to make the same point. Human mortality/sin/brokenness/limitation/finitude affecting a relationally created rationality/language/meaning/life/being is like saying that we can only ever think through the perspective of someone with a nail in the forehead. Most prominent, historically male, mainline/evangelical Christian theology employs words that function analogously to the guy in the video. Defining the nail or strategizing to relieve the pain aren’t bad goals, but, as long as we are not God, doing so can never remove the nail – we can never fix ourselves.
The caricature of feminine relational focus is, almost by default, discounted in search of ‘true’ theological knowledge. But the most important function of Christian faith and life is not to get the words right, but to experience/know/share/witness to the love that God is. If this claim is true, then no amount of words/logic/thought can ever be sufficient for the formation of the god-words that theology seeks to convey. Emotional connection is not secondary to truth; emotional connection the only soil in which words can ever be planted and spring up toward truth.
The deepest call of Christian theology is to find new ways to stare into the reality that we are not good enough, strong enough, smart enough, faithful enough, and whatever-else-it-would-take enough to fix ourselves and remove the nail. But in those moments when we finally learn to give up control and stop thinking we can fix it all, the voice of God utters words of hope and grace – I am yours, you are mine.
Emotion is the filter through which we experience the world. Sometimes that filter sharpens, like the lens of a microscope. Other times it obscures, like looking in a tarnished mirror. Emotions are not hindrances to logical and objective assessments of the world; emotions are the raw materials upon which logic operates to construct a portrait of the world around.
Faith is the cognitive rut that determines the emotional filter through which we experience the world at a particular moment in time. Words are the means by which we attempt to convey the shape of our faith. Truth and falsity do not reside in words, but in the correspondence between our emotional experience and the relationship that God is and for which God created us.