Posts Tagged ‘theology’

The Giver | Is Love Worth It?

the giver

Warning: Spoiler alert for The Giver

I, gynecologist like probably every other student in the U.S., hepatitis read The Giver in middle school. I really wasn’t a fan, this possibly partly because I didn’t like my English teacher, and so when the movie came out earlier this year I wasn’t super enthused to see it. But when I did see it, I was absolutely blown away. The movie made the book come alive in a really special and beautiful day.

The Giver is set in a dystopian society that has gotten rid of all potential causes for conflict such as sickness, lying, violence, and race. But along with that they have also gotten rid of emotions, biological families, music, art, color, sexual attraction, and love. The Giver is the only one in the society who has memories of the past and through these memories he experiences all the pain that used to exist in the world, but also experiences true joy and love. Jonas is a young man who is chosen to be the Receiver, to receive all the memories that the Giver has. As Jonas receives these memories, he experiences both the pain and beauty that used to exist in the world, which the community he’s grown up in has eradicated. At the end of the movie he decides to escape from the community and travel through the world of “Elsewhere” to cross the boundary of memory so that all the memories will return to the people of the community. Jonas decides that even though returning the memories will mean that people will have to experience immense pain, suffering, disease, and war, it’s worth it because they will also experience the astounding beauty of love.

The movie brings up poignant theological questions. I believe that we, along with angels and demons, have been given free will by God. This has created a world in which people do terrible things–there is murder, cancer, abuse, and rape. So why has God given us free will?  LOVE.  A world with free will is the only world in which there can be true love. And so the question is this: Is love worth it? Is the incredible beauty of love worth the pain and suffering we go through?

Some people would say no. But I agree with Jonas–love is inexplicably worth it. The warm hug of a parent, the feeling of holding your baby for the first time, your wedding day, being overwhelmed by the majesty of the world around you, crying at a beautiful song, feeling enveloped by the love of God, the power of forgiveness and healed and redeemed lives…it’s worth it.

As we fall more in love with Jesus, the more our heart breaks for what breaks his and the harder we fight against the powers of darkness. Because one day heaven will come to earth and there will be no more tears or dying or suffering because the old order of things will pass away. And He who is seated on the throne will say, “I am making everything new!” And we, empowered by the Holy Spirit, have the privilege and responsibility of living every day fervently calling the Kingdom of God to Earth.

And if you still don’t think love is worth it, watch The Giver and maybe you’ll be convinced.

Dear Sponsored Child

Dear Sponsored Child- How do we respond to World Vision's announcements??

The past two days have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

Yesterday, health care World Vision, purchase a very well-known and well respected Christian organization that is “dedicated to working with children, epilepsy families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice,” announced that they would no longer discriminate against married same-sex couples during their hiring process.

The president of World Vision, Richard Stearns, said, “We’re not caving to some kind of pressure. We’re not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us. This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We’re an operational arm of the global church, we’re not a theological arm of the church. This is simply a decision about whether or not you are eligible for employment at World Vision U.S. based on this single issue, and nothing more.”

Many of you probably know that I am a big supporter of gay marriage and believe that there is a strong Biblical argument in support of gay relationships and marriages (I will be blogging in the near future about this issue, including reviews of the books Torn by Justin Lee and God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines, which is coming out in April). So for me, this announcement was really exciting. I knew that this announcement would be really hard for many evangelical Christians to handle and that many would be disappointed and upset. What I did not expect was that these Christians would stop sponsoring their children as a result of this announcement. World Vision reportedly lost at least 2,000 sponsors in one day. That means that 2,000 children are now left without financial support, leaving them without adequate food, clean water, health care, and education, and also without the emotional and spiritual support that the children gain from the relationship with their sponsor.

Evangelicals, you sent the message loud and clear. Your hatred for gay people triumphs over the command of Christ to serve the least of these. You will stop at nothing to continue this culture war over an issue that Jesus did not say one word about. You will not hesitate to tell your gay brothers and sisters in Christ that the idea of working alongside them to bring God’s kingdom to earth is despicable. To you, the very existence of gay people is enough to stop providing for a sweet child of God.

Many Christian leaders, such as Justin Taylor of the Gospel Coalition and Denny Burk, professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, made public statements against World Vision, announcing that they were ending their sponsorships. (Burk wrote a blog post talking about “The Collapse of Christianity at World Vision.” Seriously? The collapse?). The Assemblies of God denomination urged its members to drop financial support from World Vision.

And I sit here listening to Same Love by Macklemore.

“If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t annointed. That Holy water that you soak in has been poisoned.”

Today, World Vision decided to reverse their decision. 

There are many amazing people who decided to sponsor children yesterday in support of World Vision’s announcement and to cover the children who were being dropped. Many of these people are gay. Many aren’t even believers.

I am so touched and encouraged to see that many of the people who sponsored kids yesterday will continue to sponsor them because they know that these kids are real people. They matter. They have hopes and dreams. They have the potential to live full and vibrant lives, they just need a little support to help them get there. And don’t we all?

I don’t sponsor a child through World Vision (although I regularly donate to various causes they support) but I do sponsor a child through Compassion International. Her name is Fresiah. She is 19, just like me. She lives in a rural village in Kenya, a country where much of the population is infected by HIV/AIDS and few girls finish high school. She loves basketball, her favorite book of the Bible is Ruth, she writes her letters to me in almost perfect English, she prays for my family and tells me about her day-to-day life. I am waiting to hear the results of her final exams, but I’m confident she did great. She wants to be a policewoman after she finishes high school. She is so beautiful and smart. I am so blessed to be a small part of her life and the idea of her sponsorship ending when she graduates breaks my heart. She is my friend. And no theological disagreement could stop me from sponsoring her.

When did it become Christ-like to use children as pawns in political, social, and cultural wars?

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. -John 13:34-35

I can’t really put into words the depth of my sadness around this whole situation.

I want to honor Matthew Vines and his reaction to World Vision’s reversal. He shows a profound understanding of the love of Christ and God’s grace.

So I sit here with tears in my eyes and my hand over my tattoo. And I remember God’s promise.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Write these words down for they are trustworthy and true. -Revelation 21:5

Amen. They are trustworthy and true. God is making everything new. He will make everything new.

I pray for the release of His Kingdom on Earth.

I pray for the Holy Spirit to enter into the hearts of all followers of Christ.

I pray that the Church would be marked by love.

I repent of the anger and judgement in my heart and I pray, Holy Spirit, that you would help me love my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I pray for all the children around the world who are struggling to survive. I pray protection over them in the name of Jesus. I pray for provision for them, both emotionally and physically. Lord Jesus I pray they would known your unending love for them.

And Jesus, I pray that every single gay person who has been hurt by the Church, who has been hurt in the past few days, would know that You affirm them and love them.

Amen.

Many bloggers have written beautiful posts in the past few days. I encourage you to read them:

When Evangelicals Turn Against Children to Spite Me by Benjamin Moberg

I’ve been sitting in a swell of sad for a couple hours, because this is what I’m hearing: No, you aren’t even worthy to serve hungry children. You are so deeply unwanted that I will let a child die if it keeps you away from me. From us. From the body of Christ. I will spare no life if it keeps you far away.

These Are Real Kids, You Know by Nish Weiseth

I understand you may not agree with their employment standards as a Christian organization, but you know what? There’s a lot that we’re not all going to agree onBut, I think we can agree on one thing: Children should not have to suffer under the weight of poverty. And we can agree that World Vision is helping release kids from poverty through sponsorships. We can agree that your sponsorship dollars are doing an incredible amount of good in the life of a real, honest-to-goodness child. Someone’s baby is getting fed, educated and cared for because you have been generous in your sponsorship of that child. 
Please, I’m begging you, don’t make someone’s baby a pawn in the ongoing culture wars of American evangelicalism. Keep sponsoring. Keep praying for that kid. Keep giving.
Please, I’m begging you.
Choose love.

World Vision by Rachel Held Evans

When Christians declare that they would rather withhold aid from people who need it than serve alongside gay and lesbian people helping to provide that aid, something’s very, very wrong. It might not be hate, but it is a nefarious sort of stigmatizing, and it’s wrong.
Finally, all this overdramatic “farewelling” over non-essential issues is getting tiresome. It’s shutting the door of the Kingdom in people’s faces. It’s tying up heavy burdens and placing them on people’s backs. It’s straining gnats and swallowing camels. It’s playing the gatekeeper with smug, self-righteous pride when it is God who decides who comes to the table, God who makes the guest list, God who opens the doors the Kingdom.

World Vision Update by Rachel Held Evans

A comment on this post:
“I sponsored a child because of their original decision. His name is also Daniel and he lives in the Dem Rep of the Congo, which co-incidentally, I am planning on traveling to in November (though I have no plans to see him.)
As a gay man, I am once again disappointed by the actions of some evangelical Christians. I have learned not to expect much from conservative Christianity and tend to give conservative Christians a wide berth. I want to reconcile. I am a graduate of Azusa Pacific University and remain a committed, Episcopalian, Christian. But I often feel like Charlie Brown when he tries to kick Lucy’s football when engaging evangelical Christians and this is no exception.
However, none of this is the the fault of the child I sponsored. I’m not going to unsponsor because they reversed their decision. It’s ultimately about the child’s welfare.”

Where is God?

Where is God? Our response to suffering

It seems like this week has brought bad news to a lot of people. A few days ago, more about a well-loved Nashville photographer died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving behind his two young children. Another photographer I follow on facebook, a breast cancer survivor, is in the hospital right now waiting to have a biopsy to confirm what the scans are saying–that her cancer is back. Every day I feel like I see new facebook pages being created for kids in my town who have cancer. Or pages to support the families of those whose children didn’t make it. I get emails daily from activist groups asking me to sign petitions, often to support girls who have been raped and ignored, or young black men who have been murdered and their bodies forgotten.

As people of faith, it can be tempting to try to write off these tragedies with statements like, “God has a plan,” and “They’re in heaven now.” But somehow these sentences can’t meet the tremendous pain that we all feel in the face of tragedy. The only thing that truly brings me comfort in these times is the reality that God mourns with His children and that when we suffer, He suffers as well. He is the God of all compassion, a man of sorrow, familiar with pain (Isaiah 53:3). He promises that He will be victorious in the end, that He will defeat all death and pain and sorrow. And yet He still mourns with us now. Jesus, upon hearing of the death of Lazarus, says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” And yet He still wept at Lazarus’ tomb (John 11). Let us not forget to mourn with our brothers and sisters in times of immense sorrow–we are called to come along side them and weep, for that is what our Father is doing. For even though we know with our being that the Lord is victorious in the end, and we should hold firmly to this, the pain of this moment, of this world, deserves to be recognized. Elie Wiesel says it better than I ever could, so I’ll end with an excerpt from his book Night.

The SS hanged two Jewish men and a youth in front of the whole camp. The

men died quickly, but the death throes of the youth lasted for half an hour.

“Where is God? Where is he?” someone asked behind me. As the youth still

hung in torment in the noose after a long time, I heard the man call again,

“Where is God now?” And I heard a voice within myself answer, “Where is

he? He is here, he is hanging there on the gallows.” -Eli Wiesel, Night

How can we talk about theology & doctrine in a way that doesn’t destroy the church?

11.17.13

When Christians find themselves discussing different theological matters or life’s tragedies and miracles, page which naturally happens quite frequently, ailment a topic that’s bound to come up is the will of God. I feel like we are probably all guilty of talking and arguing about the will of God with a little too much confidence and ease- I know I am.

In the midst of our theorizing about what the living God of the universe desires and wills, find we probably all need to remember what He told Job after Job and his friends spent a good while saying what the will of God was.

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”
-Job 38:1, 4-7

Then Job replied to the Lord:
“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”
-Job 42:1-3

In this video, Timothy Keller was asked, “What are some current problems in the Western Church?”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGFUG1tzRAU

One of the top three problems, in Tim Keller’s opinion, is doctrine.

Does that surprise you? It doesn’t surprise me one bit. Doctrine and theology have a way of dividing people and typically ends up with people arguing and missing the entire point of the Gospel. So does that mean that we shouldn’t discuss scripture, shouldn’t talk about theology, shouldn’t touch on doctrine? Should the hermeneutical movement be stopped? In the book Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey addresses this issue, and this is what she says:

“Isn’t it prideful to decide what Paul, for instance, really meant? Not at all! I believe this movement is scripturally supported and that it continues the movement of the Holy Spirit as given to the Church in Acts. But it also requires a healthy dose of humility and submission to Christ. Because now, as we read the Bible, it places a demand of action and thoughtfulness on us as we continue to carry the story of God forward into the twenty-first century. American preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards aptly says, “The task of every generation is to discover in which direction the Sovereign Redeemer is moving, then move in that direction.” This requires us to prayerfully ask ourselves, Where is God moving? And how can I live out God’s shalom? – pg. 172, Jesus Feminist

All that to say, on this blog I’ll be writing quite a bit about theology, including things pertaining to the will of God, and I want to affirm the fact that I am talking about things that are far too wonderful for me to know. But I love talking about my Lord and theology, and I do think that these topics are important. So I pray that when I approach difficult topics on this blog, I will do so with a heart that honors God in a way that helps us all carry the story of God forward.