Prayer Like Marriage

The idea that one can say a sinner’s prayer and in so doing become a Christian is a lot like the idea that one can get married and in so doing initiate a solid a relationship. Marriage changes everything…and nothing all at once; just like a momentary prayer of repentance or commitment changes everything and nothing. In reality, there is nothing so practical, simple, or concrete that you can do to ensure a strong relationship. To assume such a transactional result is to assume that relationship is based on control rather than trust. Requiring trust may seem to place faith on shaky ground, but that requirement is also fundamental to the way life, love, and relationship work. In reality, the more we imply that certainty is possible because of some simple prayer or act, the more anxiety we produce. Experiencing the certainty of love comes first and leads to action, never the other way around.

 

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Sin is a secondary concept. That we try to name and respond to sin without a clear conception of the kind of community that sin breaks is a result of the radical individualism of the modern world and a source of our punitive response to brokenness. That we have no concept of the community sin breaks is the main cause of our collective inability to have coherent conversations regarding appropriate contextualization of scriptural morality, the shape and purpose of Godly living, or the meaning of law in scripture or church history.

Moral Ambiguity in Decisions

Objective moral judgments are impossible because there are always more factors than you can account for; to ask one to choose to act on the basis of the given facts is to ask one to choose in a situation that does not and cannot exist. The human life is never disjointed to the extent that you can isolate individual choices or circumstances in which a choice is made; you can only develop the type of character that will render decisions over the course of a life in a way that reflects the nature of God more or less fully, but never approaches some ‘objective’ standard of right or wrong. To make this claim is no less scary than it is true – but while people fear the inability to say definitively that something is right or wrong, the black and white definitions we seek are simply a way for us to deny the need for God’s grace and to control our own lives without the need for a force of judgment and transformation that is more than we can ever create.

 

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To whatever extent it is fair to differentiate between “masculine” and “feminine” ways of being in the world, it is almost always the traditionally feminine (cf – nurture, emotional connection, vulnerability) that is far more capable of embodying the kind of discipleship to which Jesus call us. Moreover, the traditionally masculine (cf – authority in leadership, theological/doctrinal writing, dispassionate detachment) is only capable of reflecting or creating Christ like disciples to the extent that the culture in which those words and forces operate is already deeply shaped by and grounded in the community of love and acceptance made possible by the feminine contribution.

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I’m confident one of the greatest growing edges of Christian life and practice is learning how to actually love one another. Basic relationship skills take a backseat to pristine statements about things like God, love, sin, or holiness. If the church is to truly be the place where love is found and healing takes place, far more emphasis is needed on understanding how people actually live and relate to one another. If we are to value the contributions of more than those who write down the words, we have to embody the primacy of relationship and community more than the failed project of modern rationality.