From Rage to Rage or Age to Age the Same

 

It seems that for much of the Evangelical Christian world today, the driving narrative concerns getting people saved from hell and then setting them on the path of a fundamentalist political narrative. The right people must be elected by the right people to protect the rights of the right people. For heaven’s sake.

It also seems that for the Progressive Christian world today, the driving narrative concerns saving folks from material concerns and then discipling them to be a fellow traveler in the Long March toward cultural hegemony where individuated rights reign supreme. For social justice’s sake.

Are the two narratives ascribed above oversimplifications? Judging by their social media content I would say they are not. And though there are narrative differences, both groups do let their narrative identify them politically. Both groups wrangle for power over the other to gain narrative advantage. Both group’s worldview is refracted by their narrative window. Both groups tend toward stream of consciousness narratives: reacting to events as they go along and providing their own context. And yet, as I read Scripture, I find that the Christian world has already been defined by the all-encompassing Kingdom of God narrative handed down to us.

As there is one God, there is one narrative. From the beginning Word (John 1), God gave His people the storyline. His people, for the most part, were and still are the characters in that storyline. His people have and still must walk in that narrative because they and us are held accountable for what we do with that imperishable narrative. So that there was no doubt as to what narrative eclipses all others, Jesus told his disciples, “Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never, ever disappear”. The Kingdom of God people narrative was not going away with a vote or a change in government or with new laws passed.

 

What is that narrative handed down to the Kingdom of God people to walk in? The account was written down by several of God’s chosen people. Israel was to be the personification of the narrative, as the creation and covenant people, a people holy and separated unto God and for His glory. What characterizes the Kingdom of God people and their narrative? There are several aspects.

They are monotheistic. The Shema is the central prayer in the Jewish prayer book and usually the first scripture a Jewish child learns: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is one.” Israel was strictly warned by God to not make idols of false gods or to make any image of God.

The Kingdom of God people come to understand that God is both personal and transcendent. The narrative they pass onto to their children is that not only is God the Creator but that He is also personally involved with his creation. The Kingdom of God narrative does not include deism.

God’s Kingdom people are temple-centered people. The temple is where the personal-infinite God dwells with man. The temple is where heaven and earth come together.

God’s people rely on God’s covenant faithfulness, God’s righteousness. God made promises to Abraham and to David. His people expect those promises to be fulfilled within the same narrative.

God’s Kingdom people are Exodus people. They know what God had done for their ancestors. They expect God to take them out from under the rulers of this world.

God’s Kingdom people are the Messiah people. They expect a Savior to take his place over the rulers of this world and bring ultimate justice. The Messiah – God’s faithfulness to His covenant or God’s righteousness – is their hope (Gal. 5:5).

God’s Kingdom people are eschatological people. They believe that God would ultimately put the world right and restore His creation, and dwell with man in His temple forever.

God’s Kingdom people are Holy God people. They were given the Commandments and Laws of a Holy God. And though Wisdom tells us (Eccl. 1:9) that “there is nothing new under the sun”, ‘Enlightened’ Post-modernist Progressives seek to rewrite God’s moral laws to fit an Epicurean culture. But, the Kingdom of God narrative of a holy God has never changed.

 

In previous posts I have given you accounts of how the Kingdom of God people narrative has played out in some character’s lives. The accounts of Joseph, Esther and Daniel provide us, the Kingdom of God people, with an understanding of how to live in this world but not like this world. In other words, how to live out the Kingdom of God narrative. Their stories relate confrontations between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. 

Because Joseph and Esther and Daniel embraced the Kingdom of God narrative as their own, they held fast to their separate-from-the-world ways. Each character knew that God was not off somewhere and uninvolved in their situation. From the accounts of their ancestors, each understood God to be a personal and yet transcendent God. Their desire for God’s dwelling place with man is at the center of their lives, even in exile. And, each knew that God would ultimately put things right. As such, none of the three wavered into other narratives to secure power or a safe space or to receive praise from men.

Esther points out the evil.

Their accounts relate how the Kingdom of God people can live in the most adverse circumstances and yet live out the Kingdom of God people narrative. Each faced life and death choices. Each came through the fire to be found faithful. So, they were rewarded in a way that gave God the glory.

In each of their stories, Joseph, Esther and Daniel, were chosen out from their lowly and displaced estate and placed into exalted positions. They were chosen based on their wisdom, insight and character qualities in line with the Kingdom of God people narrative. 

 

The only narrative that matters is the Kingdom of God narrative. All other narratives will pass away. Those who call Jesus “Lord” will walk in the Kingdom of God narrative. It is their storyline. If they don’t, they will likely receive a written message from the First and Last Narrator:

 

“Now write what you see, both the things that already are, and also the things that are going to happen afterward.” The Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:19

Joseph, Esther and Daniel:

The Gift That Keeps on Forgiving

Haman and Hate (and Hamas by Proxy?) Meet the Hangman, Part One

Haman and Hate (and Hamas by Proxy?) meet the Hangman, Part Two

Haman and Hate (and Hamas by Proxy?) meet the Hangman, Part Three

Haman and Hate (and Hamas by Proxy?) meet the Hangman, Part Four, Conclusion

All the Difference in the World

Fairness is God’s Prerogative and Man’s Tug of War

I do not have to tell you that life isn’t fair… but I will say it anyway: “Life isn’t fair!”

“It’s not fair!”

In one way or another each of hear this plaint on a daily basis: “Why did they get the promotion?” “Why did they raise the price?” Why was my son taken from me? ”Why, after all I have done for her, is my daughter rebelling?” “Why can’t I find suitable work?” “Why now?” “Why him?” “Why me?”

The fairness ‘question’ typically begins with “Why” and often ends with “This sucks!”

The Scriptures talk a lot about fairness. In fact, fairness is front and center in many accounts, both in the Old and the New Testament. The book of Leviticus delineates what God considers to be appropriate boundaries for his priests and for the common Israelite. These instructions included just and fair weights for measuring grain and for all commercial activity. Boundaries and fairness, man’s negotiating with another man, are bound together within the scrolls of all Scripture. What is also revealed in Scripture is God’s ‘fairness’-better defined as God’s sovereignty, his prerogatives, his grace.

Consider the oldest book of the Bible, the book of Job. Humans will ask “Did Job get a fair shake from God?” At the end of the narrative you may think Job did. A seven-fold return on Job’s weaker-by-the-moment faithfulness investment yielded Job great benefits-a new family and many material gains. More importantly, though, Job received an understanding of the Almighty via great depths of sorrow from the many losses he incurred beforehand. Job’s bowl of humanity had been scooped out by great sorrow only to be refilled with God’s greater joy. Maybe fairness needs God’s wristwatch and his 20/20 perfect vision to be understood.

Job’s wife wanted Job to “curse God and die” because (implying)…“You know, God-isn’t fair. Job abstained and basically said to her, “Get behind me Satan.”

Now, let’s consider the account of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph, the 11th of Jacob’s 12 sons and Rachel’s firstborn, received a beautiful garment from his father-a token of a father’s love, of multi-colored grace. Perhaps the gift was a thanksgiving offering given towards the Abrahamic covenant’s fulfillment-our sacrificial Lamb of God yet to be conceived.

Though the older brothers all anticipated some fraction of a vast inheritance once their father Jacob passed they became envious of Joseph and the immediate: “Why did Joseph, that little punk, get that gift from dad? “I never got anything like that from dad. Everyday we take care of father’s land and flocks (one day theirs) and Joseph is lying about at home or sitting on dad’s knee. “We have to eat sheep jerky and stale bread. Joseph gets fresh bread, kabobs and dates…yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.

Let’s go another layer deeper into the envy of Joseph.

Jacob had every right to give Joseph whatever he so desired. Pop psychology will tell you that a father should be across the board fair with his kids. This is where we now talk about fairness and boundaries. Fairness is to be equal in its application of justice.  Boundaries are to be agreed upon by all parties involved.

A father should set even-handed rules for his kids-Leviticus fashion. Each of the kids should know the father’s rules.  The punishment for rule infractions should be known-the boundaries set. Kids need to bump up against a strong barrier. This is fairness and good psychology.

Beyond the fair ground ‘rules’ a father can do whatever he wants to love his children. Again, popular psychology gets paid to listen to people chirping during a fifty minute session about unfair parents.

A father can give his child whatever his heart desires. It’s his prerogative. And, Joseph’s brothers should have rejoiced for their brother.  Instead, they let envy take its course.

Envy is bound by “It’s not fair!”, and then some. Love is not bound by fairness, except in God given universality-“God So Loved the World…”

Fast forward: today’s liturgical reading from Matthew 20:1-16

“So you see,” Jesus continued, “the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed with the workers to give them a dinar a day, and sent them off to his vineyard.

He went out again in the middle of the morning, and saw some others standing in the marketplace with nothing to do.

“You too can go to the vineyard, “ he said, “ and I’ll give what’s right. So off they went.

He went out again about midday, and in the middle of the afternoon, and did the same. Then, with only an hour of the day left, he went out and found people standing there.

“Why are you standing here all day with nothing to do? He asked them.

“Because no one has hired us, they replied.

“Well”, he said, “you too can go into the vineyard.”

When evening came, the vineyard-owner said to his servant, “Call the workers and give them their pay. Start with last, and go on to the first.”

“So the ones who had worked for one hour came, and each of them received a dinar. When the first ones came, they thought they would get something more; but they, too, each received a dinar.

“When they had been given it, they grumbled against the land owner. “This lot who came in last, “ they said, “have only worked for one hour-and they’ve been put on a level with us! And we did all the hard work, all day, and in the heat as well!”

“My friend,” he said to one of them, I’m not doing you wrong. You agreed with me on one dinar, didn’t you? Take it! It’s yours! And be on your way. I want to give this fellow who came at the end the same as you. Or, are you suggesting that I’m not allowed to do what I like with my own money? Or are you giving me the evil eye because I’m good?”

“So those at the back will be front, and the front ones at the back.”

Jesus has given us his father’s perspective about what is fair, the parable not unlike Joseph’s gift or God’s eternal covenants with Abraham and David-with you and me. Fairness in this life requires God’s eternal perspective. Right now we see through dark glass.

If everything in life is to be fair from man’s temporal perspective ala equal outcomes and social justice’s “egalitarianism” (a fancy sounding word for Communism), then how do you know when you are loved?. And, the gift of grace, will you know it when it comes knocking at your front door or when it prepares a lavish feast just for you (see the movie Babette’s Feast)?

What about the pull and tug of romance? Equal outcomes like vampires suck the life blood out romance. Everyone should get a ‘fair’ chance at ‘life’. Right?  Romance is far and away more about the struggle of life itself than about the dynamics between a man and a woman. You get that.

Fair enough. Let this sink in. Take the dinar for a half-hour of listening and we’ll talk later