I watched a recent media firestorm on the internet, and news outlets with something of the horror of watching a car accident in slow motion. Every blogger, and believer with access to a computer almost seemed unable to remain silent. Pictures, opinions and ideas flew around like body parts in the midst of the aforementioned car wreck.
Sadly, in many ways our inability to remain silent at such a global level projects for all of us to see the current dilemma we (and by we I mean the world community of Believers in Jesus.) face. It is not that there is not a time to speak up, after all there is a time for everything, If I understand Ecclesiastes 3.
I am deeply concerned that at a global level we are having so many (and by so many, I mean a deafening cacophony) of the wrong conversations that every time we get stirred up, we (and by we, I mean all of us humans) simply dig the whole deeper, and sit back thinking smugly, “there, we showed them.”
God save us from wrong conversations.
As a family therapist I have both trained and practiced listening to conversations with a mindset for process, and how that process will ultimately affect outcomes. The process of internet debate, and proclaiming our “beliefs” in such broad and varied ways will definitely have an outcome. And my best analysis of the current process says that our outcomes will ultimately be more division, more vitriol, and global confusion. Shall we keep moving in that direction?
Let me suggest that our greatest problem in communicating the gospel to the world is that we separate Biblical ideas from a Biblical worldview. We don’t mean to, but it is the natural process that develops when we react out of our still-broken soul instead of letting God-in-us change the way we view reality in an ongoing way.
This trap may be a greater problem than any of us can currently recognize
Part of the power of this trap is that it disguises itself to our own soul. This trap disguises itself by telling us that we are actually helping God’s cause, because we are aggressively promoting His ideas. The trap though, is that we can aggressively promote His ideas, separate of His Ways, and actually be defaming His character.
So to begin this discussion, I want to briefly define the term “Biblical”. I’ve seen a number of bloggers, in particular Rachel Held Evans write about how we use this term as if we have the Ace of Spades. If we claim that what we are saying is “The Biblical…” stance, idea, or truth, we trump anyone else’s opinion or idea. Too often we use our interpretation of Truth from scripture as if it is also God’s interpretation.
The funny thing about this is that even in Scripture God is constantly having to change the way His people understand Him. So, in this case, it is Biblical to assume we are prone to misunderstand God’s ways.
I am going to use the term “Biblical” to describe the idea that each of us are trying as best as we know to adhere to a life and lifestyle as described in the Bible. I do not intend it as a literary trump card, or one-up. I simply want the word “Biblical” to indicate the attempt to attain the life God designed for us and for which He sent us the Bible.
That in mind, let me state again my concern. The reason we are not reaching the world with the gospel, (I’m pretty sure we are not even reaching each other with the Gospel…) is that we promote Biblical Ideas, separate of a Biblical Worldview.
Let me illustrate.
Imagine if, in marriage, we approach all of our expectations and desires for a marriage completely separate of a relational view of marriage. Marriage involves things like sharing goals, meeting needs, serving one another in multiple arenas.
If we approach these ideas with a relational mindset, the “relationship” becomes the thing we serve, share, and respond to. If we approach these same ideas from the perspective of two individuals living together, the same ideas can actually become points of contention instead of points of unity. Serve me. Here is my goal. Meet my need. These are all good ideas for marriage, but without a relational worldview these good marriage ideas erode…actual marriage.
Now apply the same framework to God’s design for humanity.
God gave us the Scriptures not so we might gather up all the right ideas and impose them on one another. God gave us the scriptures to reveal Himself, His plan, and His view of reality to us, that we might love Him, and discover not only intellectually but practically how He made us to live.
So in His scriptures we can read His description of broken reality, and somehow miss the way He thinks about restoring it. We can read about how broken souls act, and somehow apply our own broken-ness to recommending a range of inadequate or even harmful solutions. We can get Biblical ideas about what is right and wrong, and somehow miss the big picture of what God is doing about it and even more, how He is doing it.
Do you see? We have a lot of Biblical ideas. But minus a Biblical worldview these are merely fragments of truth and fragments can actually injure people.
The following are three aspects of a Biblical worldview that will give our ideas about one another a much more unifying context.
The Spiritual world is designed to operate in Integration with the Material World.
We see from Genesis through Revelation two key ideas. First is that God operates in both the spiritual and the material realm. Second is that when mankind only perceives and operates in the material realm, we immediately build destructive patterns of thought. The Spiritual realm is the home of God, and the source of the material realm. Earth needs the presence of Heaven to operate in the way it is designed to work. Mankind is a unique creature, made from dirt, but quickened by Heaven. Jesus re-introduced to us, how we can function when we re-claim the Breath of God as our source. The human opponent of His mission was not tax collectors and prostitutes, rather it was anyone who operated with their humanity as source instead of the breath of God.
The Human Soul is Broken and in Need of Repair:
The thing that Jesus came to fix was not human inability to abide by moral codes. Jesus came to rescue captives and heal the broken. He often made it clear that one of the worst ways to be broken was to be unaware that you are broken, or even worse, to proclaim that you are not in need of repair.
Both “good” and “bad” behavior can emanate from the brokenness of the human soul. When we perceive sin as primarily about behavior, we fall prey to the destructive trap of unconsciously trying to re-define the mission of Jesus.
It is a sure sign that our focus is wrong, when our discussions center on who is right and who is wrong about which behaviors are good and which behaviors are bad
When we understand that ALL behavior that comes from man-as-source is the fruit of our condition, we can focus on condition instead of behavior.
When we, the church, turn our focus to our sinful condition instead of sinful behaviors we will make two very key shifts.
The first is, we will find ourselves all on equal footing. Rather than compare whose behavior is better or worse, we will be able to approach the Lord recognizing that we are all in equal need of His repair. Regardless of the particular symptoms we display, we all suffer from the exact same condition. Self-as-source.
The second result of turning our focus to the human condition, instead of behavior, is that we will all begin to see the mission of the church as allowing God to work through us to restore the broken, and to heal captives. Without this view we become experts in diagnosis, with no treatment available.
Which brings us to the third shift that a Biblical worldview would suggest.
God’s Response is to lovingly Invite Broken Souls to Be Repaired by the Cross and the Resurrection
When God looked down at the human condition His love compelled Him to join us in our world, live life alongside of us, and offer a compassionate and powerful solution to the condition of our souls.
Moved by Divine Love, God did not stand outside of our lives and declare us failures and abominations. He left His rightful place of Divine distance, and took on the generous place of near-ness. He came near not only geographically, He drew near to our broken-ness by becoming like us.
He drew near, not with the intent of pointing out our flaws. But here is where we must pause in today’s culture.
He still pointed out our flaws.
He still had to declare our need for help.
One of the traps we find ourselves in, is that for so long we have been unable to offer real help, we are now considered judgmental if we suggest there is a need for help.
If we only offer a frank diagnosis without treatment, we will lose our right to offer a frank diagnosis. And this is where I believe we stand today. When we have the Biblical idea that we can offer help, but our worldview is still material and behavioral, we offer the world a frank description of bad behaviors. This will always, (and has always) be heard as judgment.
In order to earn again the right to tell people that they are in need of help, we must leave behind the stance that says, “your behavior is the problem, and your choices are the problem” and embrace instead the position that says. “We are all in need, and here is the loving and potent answer I have found that is truly working for me.”
When we have Biblical ideas, ideas of right and wrong, ideas of Holy standards, but we have earthly mindsets focused on behavior and the material realm, we will be an impotent and frustrated voice. When our Biblical ideas can grow in the soil of a Biblical worldview each of us can become a portal through which God Himself can enter into human reality.
When this happens, God Himself will begin to heal our souls and free our minds. The difficulty is, He wants to start with me.