Posts tagged ‘Gospels’

February 11, 2010

[843 Acres] Blessed Are the Persecuted

by Mattie

Reflecting on a recent speech by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, Kathryn Jean Lopez warns that “Christianity will be history if we cut ourselves off from our roots” [“Losing Our Religion,” National Review Online].

While she frames this as a call for Christians to fight for the preservation of religious freedom, I think scripture gives us a different answer. Jesus warned that anyone who follows him “will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death” not to mention “hated by all nations”  (Matthew 24:9, NIV).  A couple decades later, Paul reminded his pal Timothy, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12, NIV).

The world always has and always will hate the message of Jesus, for the gospel is inherently subversive and counter-cultural. Ms. Lopez seems to think that political animosity towards the church is a novel phenomenon, yet thousands of martyrs – ancient and modern – prove that the Church not only persists but even thrives when threatened.

Perhaps Christians should welcome a “secular” West; a little heat might do us lukewarm Christians some good.

February 1, 2010

[843 Acres] Does God Cause Earthquakes?

by Mattie

James Wood’s op-ed is shallow and insulting; invoking statements by Robertson and Obama on Haiti, the author of The Book Against God insists

… either God is punitive and interventionist (the Robertson view), or as capricious as nature and so absent as to be effectively nonexistent (the Obama view). Unfortunately, the Bible, which frequently uses God’s power over earth and seas as the sign of his majesty and intervening power, supports the first view; and the history of humanity’s lonely suffering decisively suggests the second [Between God and a Hard PlaceNew York Times].

Wood is wrong; the Bible’s theodicy is much more nuanced. When Jesus’ disciples encounter a blind man, they assume he (or his parents) must have done something evil to deserve this fate. Jesus refutes this:

Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. [John 9:3-4, NAB]

The Greek is the aorist passive – Jesus says the blindness is, but does not ascribe agency. In the 4th century, St. John Chrysostom explained that Jesus is not saying the man is sinless, but that his sin did not cause his illness [Homily 56]. I believe that God does not cause natural disasters or diseases, they are the sad reality of an imperfect world. Fortunately, God’s love and mercy can transform tragedy into triumph.

January 31, 2010

[843 Acres] Awe and the iPad

by Mattie

The net chatter has been getting louder for weeks about the anticipated release of the Apple Tablet (which we now know is called the iPad). Every major news outlet has buzz on it (I like David Pogue’s thoughts; or watch the promo vid), and I find myself wanting one. Bad. Then I’m reminded of Jesus’ admonition:

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” [Luke 12:15, NIV]

Yet, I’d like to think that my attraction to the iPad is less about greed and more about an expression of the wonder and awe with which humanity has been blessed. My fascination with remarkable new technology reminds me of the delight the Psalmist takes in God’s creation:

Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy. [Psalm 65:8, NLT]

Being drawn to beauty, function, and form is a gift from God. Do I need an iPad? Certainly not. Can I see God’s incredible design in this magnificent new technology? Certainly.

January 11, 2010

[843 Acres] Mortgage Morality

by Mattie

In this week’s New York Times Magazine, Roger Lowenstein seems to encourage homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth to default on their loans and abandon their properties (Walk Away From Your Mortgage!). Mr. Lowenstein, a director at the Sequoia Fund, argues that mortgage default is a “calculated” decision of economic self-interest void of moral implications.

Jesus seems to hold Christians to a higher standard, where decisions (financial and otherwise) are based not primarily on self-serving desires, but on responsible stewardship of what has been given. In Christ’s “Parable of the Talents,” the master (arguably God) applauds the servant who invests his money wisely and returns to the master more than he was given. The master says, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21, NIV).

Could the one who defaults on his mortgage be like this faithful servant? If she owes more than her house is worth, shouldn’t she walk away and find a better way to invest her money? Or is the one who relinquishes his financial responsibilities more like the “wicked and lazy” servant in the parable who is rebuked and rejected by the master for burying the money?

October 29, 2009

[Morning Walk] The “Withness” of God: 1 Kings 10 & 2 Timothy 1

by Joy

Today’s Readings: 1 Kings 10, 2 Timothy 1

Stories of the opulence and genius of Solomon wound their way into the Queen of Sheba’s court. So, she set out to see for herself by testing Solomon with hard questions and examining his worth. What she found in Solomon and his palace had no rival:

She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard” (10: 6-7, NIV).

She continued,

How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness” (10:8-10, NIV).

At first blush, it seems that the takeaway of this passage is that our prosperity will lead others to God (not great news for those of us without lucrative jobs!). But Jesus’ view of Solomon’s wealth takes a different turn.

Jesus refers to Solomon in his instructions on not worrying:

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor and spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was not dressed like one of these” (Matthew 6:28-9, NIV).

What becomes apparent from these passages is that God is deeply involved the reality of these stories. Solomon is king because God made him king – even the Queen of Sheba acknowledged this truth. It is God’s “withness” that is the ultimate reality. God’s “withness” and his care are our reality.

God has not changed and will not change. It is “because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel” and “because of his own purpose and grace” that he is with us (2 Timothy 1:8-9). And not only with us but also in control to make us beautiful reflections of His provision and glory.


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