Category Archives: sin

Rambling (but not so random) reflections on the way things might be

Darkness is the absence of light.  Evil is the absence of good – or rather of God.

In giving his creatures love, creator God gave his creatures the choice of not-love.  In plucking that fruit from that tree, the creatures sought Me-ness which is, indeed, not-love.  In the way that love is light, not-love is the absence of that light and in the way that love leads to light, to the Light, not-love leads to darkness, to not-light.

Where there is light, there is no room for darkness; where there is love, there can ultimately be no not-love.

Creator God promises to one day reveal the fullness of Light to those who choose Love.  Not only will those who chose not-love not be able to support that Light, neither will that light be able to support its darkness – there will simply be no room.  Darkness is nothingness, light is fullness.  Where there is fullness there can be no nothingness, no not-fullness.

For those who live in Love, who live in Light, they will no longer know not-love or not-light.  Where there is fullness, there can be no nothingness, no not-fullness.  If not-love and not-light are allowed entry, there is not fullness – Love and Light are not full.

One day not-love, not-light and not-fullness will be put away and Love and Light will reign in all His fullness.  And we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

(Oh yeah, oh yeaaahhh)

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I’m not angry… Just disappointed.

Not many people know this, but I used to play the double bass.

Now, when I say I used to ‘play’ the double bass, really I mean I used to get lessons on the double bass.  These things are very different.  But seriously, give a nine year old an instrument twice their height and tell them rather than taking that instrument home to practice that they have to forgo their school breaktime to practice instead and you tell me how successful that will be…?

But that’s not the point.

The point is, I didn’t practice.  And when I didn’t practice it meant that the old lessons with Mrs Coleslaw didn’t go very well.  Then when I went to high school and took lessons with Mrs Basher, those didn’t go very well either.  Both ladies were grumpy and frowny and frankly terrifying.  To this day I’m not sure if it is a requirement for double bass teachers to be able to shout at ear-splitting levels and to wither your liver with one look…  Their shouting and looking – as terrifying as it was – weren’t the most dreaded response to my inability to match the notes on the score to finger-positioning and lack of practice.  The phrase I dreaded most in response to my eyes-down confession of 5 minutes practice a week was “I’m not angry… Just disappointed.”

EUGH.

Even now it sends shudders down my spine and plants anvils in my gut!

Undoubtedly you have your own experience of these kind of traumatic guilt-inducing childhood memories?  Or perhaps it was just me.  But anyway…

In the last couple of years in listening to Darrell Johnson teaching the gospel of John I have been interested in the concept of ‘zoe’ the Greek word for life of the spiritual kind rather than ‘bios’ as life in the biological kind of way.  C.S Lewis also talks about it in ‘Mere Christianity’.  I won’t try and explain it all here, but suffice to say that it made me think think along the lines of Jesus saying that he came that we might have ‘life (zoe) in all its fullness’ and that therefore all the things we turn to apart from him (ie sin) steals zoe from us.

For me, this perspective on sin helps me understand that it is not that God is some sort of cosmic spoilt child who, because he didn’t get his way, wreaks havoc in his judgement on our sin.  But that rather, God wants us to know and live the life he had always intended for us so sent Jesus to do the whole life-death-resurrection-ascension thing so we can be free from sin and death and hell.

SO… by trusting in Jesus I am sorted and that life (zoe) is mine.  Except… I’m not very good at practising.  I still muck around with my sin mud pies: holding on to grudges, serving myself over others, discontent and grumbling…

If I am talking to someone who says something similar of themselves, I feel that in that context the way forward is not to preach fear tactics; not to tell the person that those sins make God angry and that he punishes and disciplines them.  My tactics would be to point out that those things steal true life from us, that they ruin ‘shalom’ and why would we want anything to do with them? to encourage them that true life and beauty dwells in following the way God says to go. ‘Whoever lays down his life for me and for the gospel will find it!’  God wants so much more for us than that!

Except… Somewhere in all of this I suddenly got the feeling that the trajectory of all this could lead to that same feeling from my childhood neglect of the double bass.  I mean, can you imagine…? Standing before the judgement throne of the infinite creator of all things seen and unseen, realising in full the absolute and utter idiocy and ugliness and emptiness of all those things you mucked around with in your earthly life, clinging to and claiming the name of Jesus and the voice of the Almighty booms those dreaded words:

“I’m not angry… Just disappointed.”

I’m sure there are many smarter people out there who can punch holes all over that and who can identify what my issues and misunderstandings are.  To clarify – that’s not really how I believe God will react when we finally get to the point of hanging out forever, I’m more just trying to work out why I was reminded of the Mrs Coleslaw and Basher when thinking about this stuff the other day.  So please feel free to help!

But it also took me back to some pub theology about right and wrong as verbally-processed from this soapbox.  Does our obsession about right/wrong behaviour mean that we miss a bigger picture?  Does our measuring of our sinful/righteous responses to life’s circumstances mean that we’re trying to ‘keep a balance’ when life with God (zoe) isn’t anywhere near a set of scales?!?

Eugh… I just don’t know!  What do you think?

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…” Isaiah 30:15

Later…

Just read something this morning that is interesting in regards to this stuff.  The author pointed out that in leading someone in prayer to come to know Jesus, we only lead them in repenting of sin and not renouncing sin.  This reduces ‘sin’ to our thoughts and actions as opposed to an all-encompassing force which enslaves and destroys… Helpful perhaps?

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Tower of Babel

towerofbabelOnce upon a time in a land far, far away (unless you live there), a bunch of smart guys got together and discovered that if they baked bricks in the sun, they could build all sorts of useful things.  They take this know-how and decide to build a kick-ass tower to show everyone around how great they were and so that they felt secure against any sort of attack.  You can read the story for yourself here.  But basically, the outcome of these men’s scheming to make a name for themselves is that God confuses their language and scatters them around the earth – a further consequence of the Fall in alienating humans one from the other.

Now, as a linguist (dahling), I find this story a little weird because really I LOVE languages and therefore kind of benefit from this scenario in a way that, on reflection, doesn’t seem to go hand in hand with the idea that confused languages is baaad.  Off the top of my head, I reckon maybe my appreciation for languages has more to do with dechipering and understanding them, making sense of them than revelling the confusion or communication malfunctions they bring.  Maybe linguists are part of God’s plan to redeem those things…

But, anyway – this isn’t really about that aspect of languages.  Allow me to elaborate…

Although this story of the Tower happened geographically in a land far, far away (unless, as already conceded, you live there), we experience direct consequences of it every day – not even when we’re away from home in a country that speaks a language unknown to us, but in the sheer minefield that is communicating with one another, day to day, human to human.

There are the small things – the figurative language that, unless you’re a foreigner/thicko, you’ll tend to understand:

eg “I’m dying for the toilet” – Bit of a strange reason to invoke martyrdom.  Or “I’d kill for a cup of tea”  – Again, extreme reaction meriting 20 years or so in the slammer.

Then there are the medium things:

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Then there are the big things like when someone says one thing but their best friend hears something different and a whole pile of shizz ensues.  Or when a girlfriend says one thing but means something different and her boyfriend doesn’t get it and the excrement hits the air conditioning.

But the thing is, that communication – whilst arguably a large part of it is verbal, there’s a heck of a lot going on that has nothing to do with words.  What is left unsaid often communicates more than what is said, ‘actions speak louder than words’ they say.  There’s even a very definite form of communication that can be best described (I think) as how it smells!  Not a physical smell, you understand, but just a feeling an instinct that something smells a little… off.  And (she says, knowing that its grammatically incorrect to begin a sentance with ‘and’…) the thing is that all these things come together – verbal and non-verbal, explicit and implicit, past and present – in the large slippery mass that is communication.

In the story of Babel, the immediate consequence was that the people were alienated one from the other – they could no longer understand one another and then were physically scattered from each other.  The enduring consequences are devastating: immigrant people groups pigeon-holed, work life complicated, friendships broken, families separated…

Remember back in primary school?  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.”  Do me a favour and never teach your children such bullshit.  Words and their misuse or lack of use is, I believe, one of the single most harmful weapons humans can wield.

Soapbox ruminated a while ago about this sort of stuff (here), raising the question of our responsibility in communication – if we are misunderstood we cannot just assume that the problem is with the other person.  Rather we must be ready to apologise not just ‘if’ they misuderstood, but that we did not communicate well or ensure good understanding of our meaning or our true feeling.

So, what to do?  How do we deal with situations where bad communication has caused such damage that all subsequent interchange is tainted?  What do we do if we say something or do something that hurts another person?  How do we fix it?  What does it take to rebuild that trust?

Or what do we do if we are the one who gets hurt?  It may not have been intentional, but does that mean our hurt is invalid and we should just get over it?

How do grace and justice work together at Babel?

On Pentecost Sunday my church had asked Mr Preacher Man to follow church tradition and do a sermon on Acts 2.  (He did such a good job that my well-practiced ‘slain-in-the-spirit-shoulda-boughta-honda’ move wasn’t necessary.  Shame.)  He pointed out something I’d never really thought about before – linked the arrival of the Spirit in a miracle of languages to this story of the Babel confusion of languages.  The literal symbolic act of restoration an obvious link to Babel to the God-fearers present at the time…

God is at work restoring all things through Christ.  This includes the confusion caused by the story of Babel.

Holy Spirit, come.

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Second Rate: A year on

Its been a little over a year since I first blogged about my fear of being Second Rate and about 18 months since my heart first broke about the issues surrounding the role of women in the church.

Its been a long, slow journey which is far from being over, but one that I feel strangely content to be on.

The initial fear of not being what I should be and a resulting wavering in my confidence about the character of God still visit me from time to time.  The pain I feel over generations of gifted women being judged, excluded and made to doubt their worth continues to throb deep within me  and I’ve realised that that is regardless of which side of ‘the debate’ (or kerfuffle!) they reflect.

The pain, the tears, the conversations… I have been pushed to think through something which is a crucial issue to my life journey in more ways than I ever would have imagined.  The battle to walk alongside the high horse as opposed to climbing up on it or lying down under it is never far below the surface.  When I meet certain people, hear certain jokes, encounter certain issues, there is a struggle not to judge, exclude or hurt; a struggle to take each person as an individual whose ideas about one thing does not automatically mean they think the other, a person to know rather than a debate to avoid; a struggle to root myself in what God says rather than what others think of me.  I need constant reminders that the goal is to love, not to prove that I am right.  To love and serve Jesus, to glorify him – make the character of Yahweh known – in everything I am, just as He did.

As the journey goes on, I am more convinced that my footprints are not alone on this path.  I am more confident in the harmonies I’m singing in the great choir.  I am more concreted in the love my Father has for me…

But there’s still a long way to go.

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Feminism and Flat-pack Furniture

While she was building a flat-pack chair, my friend once commented “Does this mean I’m an Independent Woman now? I’m worried that means I don’t need a husband.”

Now, there are several things about that statement that worry me. Apologies to said friend if ever she should read this. It is not criticism of her nor her plight, but it was the perfect example with which to write a blog that has been brewing for a few days. PLUS it gave the perfect alliterative title!

These are only preliminary thoughts which I hope to develop over time. How many of them I publish here depends on my waxing and waning concerns over how I am perceived and judged by any readership that should stumble across my small corner.

Okay, here goes … in no particular order…

1. Inherent is a picture of a God who gives women certain skills so they can cope when he makes them live as old spinsters.

Women I know (in this context of the single variety) often think about whether or not God is ‘calling’ them to be single til the grave (I imagine men also think about this but with perhaps less urgency…). It’s a big thing. Perhaps it’s the bio-clock a-ticking (of which we’re aware in one way or another from a ridiculously young age), perhaps it’s the importance and honour which the media and culture place on couples/romance or perhaps – and I think that often – it is rooted in a tragic sense of ‘What if…?’ What if I’m not attractive enough? What if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t deserve it? What if God doesn’t love me enough to give me what I most desperately want? Relationship. Connection. Community. What if God is giving me practice at building flat-pack furniture so I can look after myself when all my friends get married and I’m alone?’

Is this really the provision of which ‘Jehovah-Jireh’ speaks?

2. Negative connotations of being independent – as if its not a feminine quality.

Now, I know Beyoncé and the girls coined this idea of an Independent Woman – and let’s face it, if we could wave a wand and be like Beyoncé I’m not too sure how many of us would decline the offer (the Spice Girls’ ‘Girl Power’ might be somewhat less tempting…) – but, actually in reality, culture (at least N.I Christian culture) seems to consider independence in a woman isn’t ‘all that’.

I’m in great danger here of stealing another blogger’s soapbox and start ranting, but I’ll curtail it for now as this, I hope, is just the introduction to a series of posts on these things.

Suffice to say (for now) that, whether explicitly or otherwise, culture says that ‘real’ women are pink and fluffy. Which leads to my third preliminary observation…

3. Desire to be seen as ‘feminine’ in ‘masculine’ eyes.

Again, the fear that we don’t match up to what we’re ‘supposed’ to be. Most women (we cannot be completely free from generalisations here…) are greatly concerned with relationships and connections with people – its what we love, its our frame of reference for our identity. It is both a blessing and a curse. The curse being that we want others to think well of us and thus the concern to be desirable to the opposite sex in the hope of finding that one relationship that will remain til death do us part. So we fuss about our hair, our weight, our clothes; as students we cook for the boys’ house down the road, we do their dishes to ‘serve’ them ‘like Jesus would’, we talk about relationships to show we’re interested,  but not too much in case we look desperate… We want to be the ‘feminine’ friends our ‘masculine’ friends feel safe with, always fearing that if we get it wrong we’ll soon be spinsters with nothing but feline friends to inhabit our flat-pack furniture filled flats… FOREVER.

Perhaps this all sounds very negative and pessimistic, but it is sometimes necessary to talk in extremes in order to illustrate the issues. My intention is NOT to enforce flat-pack furniture lessons and burping contests on girls from the age of three, neither is it to criticise nor diminish the incredibly important, demanding and beautiful work that mothers and homemakers do every day. Nor is my intention to incite hatred towards men – their struggles are as big as our own (I just don’t have the same kind of insight into them.) and we must learn to love each other well as people made in the image of God. Rather, my desire is to become, and help others become, who God has designed us to be rather than what society would tell us to be.

I also will NOT be burning any bras…

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The problem with sin.

The problem with sin is that it blinds us til all we can see is ourselves.  Even when we see that all we’re seeing is ourselves, we don’t care, because it is ourselves we’re worried about.

I say that all in ‘we’, but really I mean ‘me’.

I have no idea if anyone else feels the same.

But, perhaps others can identify when I say this: I am fed up with sin.  I am fed up with my selfishness, my pride, my critical nature and my self-pity.

The problem with being a Christian is that, because I’ve seen something of God, I (even when I hate to admit it) see more of my wrong-ness.  So, as much as I’d like to ignore it, I ultimately can’t.  Even more frustratingly, I can’t fix it.  I think I can (because, after all, its all about me…), or, I think I already have fixed it but then I realise at an even deeper level that my biggest concern is still me, myself and I.

This is why I need Jesus.

But the problem with sin is that it blinds us til all we can see is ourselves.

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