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Archive for September, 2013

Embracing An Imperfect Jesus

Mr. Hanna makes some great points here on his blog site, ‘Of Dust and Kings’, “In the Christian paradigm, perfection is defined by love.” Grace and Peace

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Baptism Part 2: Death of the Messiah, Resurrection for Humanity

Baptism is a beautiful and colorful action wherein the people of God are united with Jesus and with the new world he has created. In this second installment for Grace Church’s blog we explore baptism as it relates to the death and resurrection of Jesus and his people, with special focus given to Romans 6. Grace and Peace.

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Whenever forgiveness comes up there are usually reasons put forth as to why one should practice forgiveness. I hear it said that one should forgive so they can be free from bitterness and so they can find healing. I believe forgiveness does these things, brings personal and internal healing as well as a freedom from resentment and therefore stress and anger. As a Christian however, I believe Jesus put forth reasons to forgive beyond those of our own personal benefit. Forgiveness authenticates discipleship and defeats evil.

Jesus tells his disciples that if they are to be authentic in their discipleship then they are to follow him to suffering and death. He was going to a very real and literal Golgotha and was going to hang and die on a very real and gruesome cross, the penalty for sedition against Rome and the Emperor. Jesus says and accomplishes much by his death and in the hours leading to his final breath. One of these is his forgiveness of his killers. His prayer, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” is a statement that teaches much about forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the acknowledgment that the ones who are hammering the nails and whipping the prisoners back to the texture of raw hamburger meat are not the actual enemies. It acknowledges that the humans who are abusing and oppressing are mere vessels and themselves victims of something far worse: Evil itself. Evil is real and it has an agenda. The Bible tells of Evil as that which is contrary to God in every way. It is an invader, unwelcome in God’s created world. The entire story of the Bible can be summed up as what God has done in history and is doing to eventually destroy Evil forever, delivering the universe from its terrible and abusive reign (see Genesis 3, Romans 5-8, Matthew 5).

Jesus prays for the forgiveness of his enemies out of a deep conviction that God is against Evil, and that his own death was in some way involved in what God was doing about it. To be a disciple of this man is to forgive like him, while dying like him. Forgiveness is where the Gospel becomes real and discipleship is authenticated. Those who claim to be a follower of Jesus, yet fail in forgiveness, are members of a popular religion that boast big ideas, yet is only just man made hot air and has NOTHING to do with the teachings, example or work of Jesus. How can they follow Jesus when they refuse to go where he leads or do what he says? Those who sit in church and never actually do forgiveness will never know forgiveness themselves, will never see victory over the sin in their life or the evil in their hearts and communities. Forgiveness is how the Kingdom of God moves into this miserable and broken one. It is the way the people of God obey a great commission to make disciples and be the means through which healing and restoration comes to the Cosmos.

To Jesus, and many who have followed after him, forgiveness is the most powerful thing a person can do in the struggle against Evil. During one of the first ever press conferences, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed the nation regarding the disappearance of three young male college students in Mississippi who were there participating in the Freedom Rides. Dr. King and other organizers were certain that the students were dead, murdered by those who desired to see Jim Crow law maintained in the South. Dr. King said, “Its not about who killed these men. We know what killed them”. Dr. King believed that Evil was bigger than the hands it used to do its bidding and he was focused on Evil as the true enemy to be fought at all cost. This meant not operating according to the rules of a world ruled and infected with Evil. His dedication to non-violence was a strategy: defeat Evil with peace and love. Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount reveals this strategy  as well, “Do not resist evil with evil”.

Forgiveness is for the retaking of the Earth and humanity from the clutches of Evil. Forgiveness is how the people of God empowered by His Spirit, resist and defeat Evil. There are many benefits to living a life of forgiveness, but luxury and ease are not included in these. A life of forgiveness is only possible when one is dedicated to the Mission of God to see the world put back to rights. It can only be a reality for us when we believe that we are called to die. We must die to ourselves and to the principles of this word that say smart bombs and violent action are effective in making this world better. We must die to a religion that would sing praises to Yahweh, remember the Messiah at the table, join his movement through Baptism, yet refuse to live the new life is represents. When we hold grudges and refuse to forgive we are refusing to be a disciple of Jesus. “Forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us.” “Your Kingdom come…on Earth as in Heaven”.

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