Translation woes…

A while back, hungry for some prayer and God-times the morning before I headed back to the spiritual desert that is Northern Ireland (and specifically my parents’ house), I sauntered along to the house of Peter and Rosamund, one of my favourite couples in the universe. They’re an elderly Pentecostal couple who hold the most bonkers prayer meetings in their house every morning at 7, and every time I go I feel strengthened, hopeful and loved. I got a gentle-yet-firm rebuking from them for not reading my Bible enough (as in, how do I expect to see what God’s up to, strengthen my prophetic abilities and grow in love for him if I don’t spend time learning what he’s all about?), so I bought a copy of the Good News translation at the departure lounge on the way home as it was the only one available and my NIV was too massive to bring in my suitcase from Canterbury. Now, NIV isn’t the best translation around, but it sure beats the Good News Bible; this one sucks. I’ve been working my way through 1 Corinthians today, and check this out by way of comparison:

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

That was the NIV translation of 1 Cor 13:3. Here’s the Good News version:

I may give away everything I have and even give up my body to be burnt – but I I have no love, this does me no good.

Yuck.

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Love too much…

A while back I asked Khad Young (one of my favourite bloggers) about a dilemma that I had been pondering (and still do from time to time) as I grow into certain leadership-type roles; namely, how do you present grace to people without mixing it up with permissiveness? I wrote:

I know they’re poles apart, but in reality I’m worried because I’m rubbish at confronting people and usually let my principles slide in order to people-please, for instance if I had someone who…called themselves a Christian but was having an affair or had issues with consumerism or something, I wouldn’t know how to handle the whole ‘should I confront them? should I leave it?’ thing. How have you dealt with this sorta thing?

He wrote a really great reply and then turned it into a blog post, which I’ll reprint here:

How does one show grace without antinomianism? My secret? I would rather show too much grace than not enough. That usually takes me pretty far.

If God calls you into ministry, it will be hard to escape the call. Part of any ministry is going to be doubt and temptation. In my opinion, the biggest temptation you will face if you have not already is to become legalistic. Fight this unto your death. Grace is all we have.

Metamorphosis is not a place for people to come and be “better people” in the sense of obeying the Law and subscribing to a certain morality. I want to have conversations with people, building relationships. That is the entire goal of Metamorphosis: loving and serving God by loving and serving those he has placed around us.

It’s the Father’s job to judge, it’s the Son’s job to save, it’s the Spirit’s job to convict.

It’s not my job to convert, convince, or otherwise cajole anyone into believing anything. I’m just called to love them. As soon as I start judging, the Father wants me to back off. When I think I am saving souls, Christ reminds me He has already done that. If I begin to convict someone’s conscience, I find the Holy Spirit already there doing what He does best.

We are by nature legalistic enough that even when we strive to focus exclusively on grace, the Law comes through on its own. If there ever is a moral dilemma in the group, my friends come and speak with me privately about it. We search the scriptures and pray about it. Did you catch that? They come to me. I don’t preach morality at them. Ever. Maybe that means I am a bad Christian, but it sure means I have a lot of friends who know that I love them and don’t ever doubt it because of my moralizing. I like what C. S. Lewis said:

“A cold self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.”

Live by grace and God will give you the wisdom to know when to confront. I find that most often people already know when they are sinning and merely need to know that God still loves them. There isn’t really any confronting to do if confronting is defined as “pointing out their shortcomings.” They know.

Love them.

“I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” (Galatians 2:21)

Be accused of loving too much today.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen: lend me your ears.

Earlier today I was watching a video by Tim Keller, a man I highly respect despite certain disagreements, and about 37 minutes in he gives this beautiful and rather spot-on  working definition of grace that I absolutely had to transcribe here.

Dear reader, particularly those of you that know me in person; please read this. I cannot stress how important this is. It is the axis upon which my entire life is based. If you think you know me and only know my personality, taste in music, homeland, family, circle of friends, politics, sexuality, sense of humour, school grades, fashion sense, what church I go to or even all of the above, but do not know the following, you do NOT know me. This is the hill on which I die. It is the narrative that has done and continues to transform my attitudes, words and deeds in humility and love. It implicates me in an ongoing process of stripping away my pride and judgementalness, and replacing them with selflessness. And if you read it and think “But Aideen’s a decent human being, she’s not a bad person or a sinner”, then you certainly do not know me.

There are two basic ways of thinking about your self-image. One is what I’m going to call a moral-performance narrative. A moral performance narrative is one which says “I’m okay, I’m a good person, I feel significant and I have worth because I’m achieving something.” So if you are a liberal person and you feel like “I’m a good person because I’m working for the poor and I’m working for human rights and I’m open-minded”, you can’t help – in a moral-performance narrative – you can’t help but look down your nose at bigots. You can’t help but feel superior.

On the other hand, what if you’re a traditional religious person and you go to church and read your Bible or you go to synagogue and read your Bible or you go to Mosque and read the Koran. And you’re working really hard to serve and love God etc. Now in that case you HAVE to look down your nose at people who don’t believe your religion and are not being as good as you are.

And maybe you’re just a secular person and you’re a hard-working, decent chap. You can’t help – if your self-image is based on the idea that you’re a hard-working, decent chap – but look down your nose at people you consider lazy.

But the Gospel is something different. The Gospel says: Jesus Christ comes and saves you. The Gospel says you’re a sinner. The Gospel says you don’t live up to your own standards. There’s no way you’re going to be able to live up to your own standards. The Gospel says that you have failed, that you are a moral failure and that salvation only belongs to those who admit their moral failings. And Jesus came in weakness and died on the cross and says “my salvation is only for weak people. It’s only for people who admit that they’re NOT better than anyone else and they just need mercy.”

If you have a grace narrative  – if you say the reason I can look myself in the mirror, the reason I know I have significance is Jesus died for me – you can’t feel superior to anybody. I’ve got a Hindu neighbour in my apartment building, and I think he’s wrong about the trinity, I think he’s wrong about a lot of things…but he’s probably a better father than me. He could be a much better man, why? “But aren’t you a Christian, he’s a Hindu, don’t you think he has the truth?” Yes but here’s the TRUTH! The truth is I’m a sinner, I’m saved by grace, so why in the world…? I’m not saved because I’m a better man, I’m saved because I’m a worse man, really!

And so what happens is the grace narrative takes away the superiority and removes that slippery slope that leads from superiority to separation to caricature to passive and then active oppression. It just takes it away.

Heads-up!

Just a quick heads-up that, regardless of my feelings on Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church has a really awesome podcast of worship music. Click here to get it on iTunes, make sure to check out in particular In the Shadow of the Glorious Cross by Rocket Minor,Tomorrow by Ashbourne, How Great Thou Art by Sackcloth & Ashes, You Have Opened My Mouth and Praise to the Lord by Ghost Ship, Nothing but the Blood and As Long as I Live by E-Pop, Man of Sorrows by Ex-Nihilo and Advent Song by Northern Conspiracy.

Quote time! Tim Keller edition

The Christian Gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to a deep humility and deep confidence at the same time…I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself or less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.

– Timothy Keller

House churches, virgin births and cancelling Christmas…

housechurch

This made me chuckle. Via TallSkinnyKiwi.

And I found this gem of a post by Jeremy at Hacking Christianity about the virgin birth. Jeremy claims the debate on whether Mary was really a virgin or not is irrelevant:

It is true that the Creedal writers were affirming the Virgin Birth by calling Mary the Virgin Mary. But their belief that it happened mattered much less than that it happened to one particular person. It’s identifying that Jesus was born of this Mary, this woman, Mary the Virgin.

In the gnostic Gospel of James, it reads that when Mary was in the manger, there was a bright flash of light, and Jesus appeared next to her. Really.

Why? These heretics couldn’t stand the idea that Jesus was born of a woman.
Birth, it’s a messy time. Blood and water, pain and joy.
The real messiness of human life begins in the messiness of birth.

Jesus must have just appeared, wrapped in white cloths next to Mary, already potty-trained and never woke up crying at 4am.

To which the Creed says otherwise….Jesus is found in the messiness of life.

And for the Gnostics, with their soul/body dualism, birth was too messy a way for a dignified son of God to come into the world.  There’s no way Jesus, son of God, could be born of a woman.

Finally, I recently rediscovered a great post by Feminary about churches skimping on Christmas celebrations:

According to the closing churches, they are giving people the “day off” to be with their families, where, and I swear I’m not making this up, the real celebration of Christmas takes place. Christmas, if you didn’t realize, is about being around a tree (opening gifts and stuffing our faces) with family and loved ones.

Oh, shit, I thought it was about God becoming human. I must be so confused. Is that Hannukah, then?

This is one more way the Evangelical subculture has supplanted Christianity with American values. How on earth can one believe that our faith is about spending time with family rather than with God?

This makes me think. For me, I usually pay lipservice to the fact that Christmas is about Jesus, but in reality it’s more about family, board games, presents and bad TV. I wonder what I can do within my own context to refocus the day?

[EDIT] PS: Go read this article by Nadia Boltz-Webber. Now

A prayer…

Hi there Jesus!

Here are some things I think are insanely cool:

– My family give me the warm fuzzies. I just love spending time with them. Eamonn makes me laugh more than anyone else I know.

Some of my favourite music sends shivers down my spine.

– Good electro, preferably French. I just have to dance.

– South Park – it’s so pee-your-pants funny, one episode is enough to put me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

– Well-written books engage me like nothing else.

– Cookie dough ice-cream is yummy, although you can have too much of a good thing…

– Being in love makes my insides go tingly, like I’m going to throw up, but in a good way.

– I have some really freakin amazing friends who I love spending time with.

– Funky coffee shops. Thanks for putting me in Canterbury, I have everything I need!

– Some films I just can’t get out of my head; and being able to study film rocks my socks off.

So, first of all, thanks! Thanks for putting all this good stuff in my life. I don’t deserve it. And thanks for giving me the wisdom to know it comes from you.

But, Jesus, I want to love you more than I love all of these things combined. I want to get more of a buzz out of you than any of these things.

I’ve felt what it’s like to love you, sort of, but I haven’t felt that achey, pining feeling you get when you’re hopelessly in love and want to spend every waking moment just wrapped in that person’s arms.

I’ve felt what it’s like to want to be in your presence but not the same way as I’m dying to hang out with a good friend or my little brother because they’re just so much fun to be around.

I’ve felt a smidgen of your joy, but not in the same way as a good comedy gives me visceral, tangible, side-splitting joy.

I’ve tasted your kingdom, but at the moment Ben & Jerry’s tastes better.

I know the importance of worship, but The Prodigy is more likely to make me wanna dance and sing and jump around.

You’re so real to me now, but i get bogged down in the more immediate “real” of the world. How can I take you for granted like this? Why does it take so much for me to seek your face? You’re all around me! Wake me up, Lord! Become the centre of my being in ways I can’t even imagine. Help me fall helplessly, devotedly, passionately in love with you.