Reading oneself and the Bible: follow-up 3

My last blog post was the second of a three-part reply to a recent comment, by “Listener.” In this last part I want to address two of Listener’s points. Here is the first:

“Some things must be felt with the heart because the intellect cannot adequately hold the entire mystery of God.” I agree that our emotional responses provide important information, and that some things may be more immediately accessible to the emotions than, say, the intellect. Yet as I wrote last post about the need to become skilled ‘readers of ourselves’, so I would argue that it is not either the intellect or the emotions. It must, to my way of thinking, always be both.  And not just these two.

In other words, human understanding necessarily incorporates the entirety of what and who we are as human beings. What does this entail? At base, it means learning how to invigorate and then interweave our faculties (intellect, emotions, memory, sense perception, imagination, experience) judiciously yet artfully, such that our way of seeing and our way of being are individually and mutually informing (and so able both to corroborate and critique one another). This, in essence, is the meaning (and result) of being a competent ‘reader’ of oneself.

Concerning the “mystery of God,” I think that we must be careful in what we view as “mysterious” about God, and what we do not.  For instance, whether an event represents God expressing love to me in some rather direct way may be mysterious in that we cannot be definitive about such conclusions, but the fact that God loves us is not.  Much more could be said, but I will leave it there for now.

This leads me to Listener’s second point: “What I have found in my spiritual journey is that people often measure my experiences of God against their own, rather than anything else. In other words, if they do not experience God in the same way, then they will dismiss what I have experienced. This seems to driven (at least in part) either by ego or envy. People can become envious that they have not heard from God in the same way. The fact is that God interacts personally and uniquely with each individual according to the grace given them and to their specific purpose.”

I resonate with this situation. Yet I also think that matters are not so straightforward. First, I believe that scepticism and suspicion must be overcome, not avoided, which is actually best achieved by encouraging my listeners to assume these perspectives: encouraging them to be sceptical and suspicious. And I do so not only by appreciating their questions but by having already applied these perspectives to myself: having my own sceptical and suspicious perspectives “ready at hand” concerning the very experiences that I proclaim, as true, to others.

In fact, I feel comforted when my audience is sceptical or suspicious because then I know that they share with me an important goal: truth-seeking. And my audience will likely be reassured when they understand that I, too, have taken a rigorous approach by applying scepticism to any event to which I attach such large claims, and to myself as the claimant.

Thus for the events in my life that I believe represent “exceptional experiences” of God, I hope that people will judge them. I hope that they will do so by applying scepticism and suspicion to how I present these events and to what I have “made of” the situations upon which they are based. For by so doing my audience inevitably spends more time and pays more attention to these events and, should they view me as credible, may develop greater trust in my accounts (or testimony).

So my job is not to try to avoid their scepticism and suspicion, but to encourage it. Further, by having a better understanding both of human being and the Christian God, my job is both to assist listeners to assess my experiences, whether by anticipating objections (and thus including partial responses when presenting my experiences) or by educating listeners towards the most applicable lines of questioning in order, thereby, to validate my experiences as true.

Lastly, what I’m proposing is time consuming. Yet this is not a problem but to be expected, for my goal is not explaining my experience so much as offering possibilities, through presenting my experience, of relationship between my audience and God. And this means two things.

On the one hand, my experience is not incidental to this “furthering” but essential to it, because I am proposing relationship between my audience and this God, the God that I have encountered and am describing to you. On the other hand, then, I believe that this process of presenting my experience and jointly validating it will both take time to unfold and will itself be part of that larger relationship that I am hope will develop.

In this way, as I engage with the other I both “remain myself” and become part of this person’s relationship with God: I become a partial embodiment of what it means for God to be present to another person, to meet that person’s needs, etc.

Grace and Truth or Love and Truth?

I take my sense of the word “grace” mostly from the New Testament (the word “charis” in Greek), though the English word grace is also found in Jeremiah 31, a crucial chapter relative to the “new covenant.”  Now there are some 155 uses of “charis” in the the NT (115 or so being translated as “grace”) and all of them bear examination.  For the sake of space I am focusing here on Romans 4:16.1

I have chosen this example because it offers a terse but ready contextualization for the use of grace (“charis”) in what I believe to be its correct context: in connection with both promise and covenant.

Romans 4:16  “For this reason it [the promise to Abraham] depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those that share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of us all . . .”  Grace in this sense means “a beneficent disposition towards someone” in the sense of “that which one grants to another / the action of one who volunteers to do something not otherwise obligatory.”  (From the Bauer-Danke Greek / English lexicon).

Two points appear important:

On the one hand, Romans 4:1-25 is considered to be a logical unit and the use of grace in Rom 4:16 in contextualized by its use in Rom 4:4, where “charis” is translated as “gift.”  Particularly, grace is the mode or manner of the action—the ‘how’, if you like.  So we have the close association between grace and gift: that which is given freely and without being earned.

On the other hand, Rom 4:16 is a wonderful encapsulation of grace within its actual context: the extraordinary reality that a) God committed to a promise before entering into the covenant (in Gen 12) and b) God “made good” on this promise by “making good” on the covenant, through the life and death of Jesus the Christ (see Rom 3:21-26, much of Rom 5, etc.).

In other words, grace (“charis”) is how God both a) began his main dealings with humankind through Israel and b) completed those dealing to the inclusion of all peoples, through Jesus.  But note that if grace is how God acted, it is not why.

Why did God choose to freely give both full relationship (via the covenant) and the means for that relationship to be accomplished (via the life and death of Jesus)?  While I would like to go much deeper with my argument here, the most basic answer is that God acted / chose to act according to God’s character.  And against those who focus on sovereignty to the exclusion of all else, the Bible clearly characterizes God as both sovereign and father / parent.

So with such clear biblical indications as “God is love” (1 John 4) and “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believed in him should may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3), I attribute the ‘Why’ of God’s action to God’s passionate love (in general and for humanity specifically), such that God enacted God’s love toward us for the purpose of furthering relationship with us and for establishing God’s kingdom with and through us.

God does require certain things of us as our sovereign, but the gift—the grace—of God comes to us as a matter of God’s love and specifically as an expression of God’s fatherly and parental love. In other words, grace is that mode of expression by which God most truly expresses God-self: grace shows God’s love in its truest and fullest light.

In this sense, while I deeply value grace as God’s “mode of engagement” that makes my relationship with God possible (i.e., how the relationship has been made possible) love, along with truth, is the overarching orientation both from God to me and from me to God.

Love is the reason why God offered grace in the first place (and God could legitimately do so because God is truly sovereign and truly father / parent).  Likewise, being loved by God and truly known by God are the reasons why I am nowhere more content and more myself than in my relationship with God (and why I both am passionately in love with God and seek to proclaim God’s existence and character as being truly true).

Didacticism and Christianity (or, Why not pornography too?)

 

Pornography substitutes objectification for relationship—someone’s sexuality becomes a means to another’s arousal and pleasure rather than an aspect of selfhood that is mutually shared and fostered.  And as sexuality becomes a consumable this interaction objectifies both the purveyor and the consumer: porn ultimately debases both parties to “it” status.  By using other human beings, we become objects ourselves.

Q: So what is didacticism, and what has it got to do with Christianity (and pornography)?

A: It is an ideology that Christianity should embrace about as readily as it embraces pornography.

Describing something as didactic means that it is about teaching, or that teaching is its ulterior (or less visible) motive.  Further, calling a teaching method “didactic” can imply that the method is overly basic—more instructive than explanatory.

Didacticism, on the other hand, is an ideological position that essentially turns on the following assumptions:

a)      The learner may not be particularly competent and / or trustworthy;
b)      The material in question has very few right answers (or more typically, one right answer) and it is crucial to get that answer right.

Strange assumptions?  Well, some would insist that Christianity teaches that people are sinful and non-Christians won’t make wise choices about God, and also that making the wrong choice about God means going to hell.  So we need didacticism, right?

I disagree, and I think you should too.  Let’s look a little deeper.

Didacticism maintains that acquiring knowledge is not a matter of learning how to think (or even the result of thoughtful investigation) but of being directed to the right answer.  Didacticism puts no faith in the learner and instead relies solely on the instructor, valuing only the learner’s assent to the answer’s validity.

So on the one hand, didacticism is concerned solely with getting the right answer.  Yet on the other hand a didactic ideology functions to inculcate a certain self understanding and way of being: it ensures that people embrace certain beliefs so that they act and think in certain ways (and not others).

Didacticism = control of outcomes at the cost of respecting people and ideas.

In fact, didactic ideology can even be seen in teaching material written by Christians for Christians.  In such cases it seems that even spirit-filled Christians cannot be counted on competently to work through the Bible and understand God well.

But here again, by keeping the learner’s motives or (in)abilities “out of the way” the truth can be more easily presented and accepted, and its implications better lived out, right?  What’s the problem?

The problem is that instead of disdaining human motives or abilities the Bible, while being cautious and even critical of how people use them, urges readers to employ both in order to find out who God is!  Further, we are held responsible for our choices in this regard because God created us with the capacity to know God through these very abilities and motives!

Indeed, didactic ideologies view our journey to know God more like an unfortunate obstacle than a process crucial to the success of the very Christian formation that they seek to guarantee!  Moreover, they ignore the pivotal importance of the skills and virtues developed when, during this journey, we work through for ourselves:

i)                   what the questions are,
ii)                  why they matter,
iii)                 how we should go about considering them,
iv)                 what might represent possible answers,
v)                  why some answers might be better than others,
vi)                 and what we do once we’ve decided how we will best answer the question(s).

Didactic ideologies misunderstand what it is to be human because they disregard both the need for ownership of key decisions in one’s own life and for integration of one’s whole self therein.  Yet Didactic ideologies also misunderstand both Christianity and the Christian God, because they reduce Christianity to a formula to be memorized rather than entities (father, son, and spirit) to be known, loved, and engaged with in right relationship.

Like pornography, didacticism debases relationship and objectifies the parties involved (people, the Bible and, by extension, God).

And like pornography, didacticism has no place in Christianity.

Stress, pain, and “surrendering all” to God…

 

What are we to do with the things that burden us?  Typically Christians respond that we should “surrender all” to God.

The idea, I think, is to give over my desire to control situations and outcomes, as well as my negative feelings about them, to God.  This way I can be at peace with the matter (and also with God and with others—even those who have hurt me).  And the sooner I do this, the better.

Great goals.

But I don’t think that immediately “surrendering all” to God will achieve them.  Let me explain:

My experience is that God responds to my pleas for help in a variety of ways, based on: a) who I am and understand myself to be, b) what the situation is / how I understand it, and c) the nature of my relationship with God (and who I conceive God to be).  In other words, God’s response always considers “who I am” and “where I’m at.”

And God’s response is always—always—conditioned by God’s greatest desire for me: that I be in right relationship with God (and thereby, in right relationship with myself, others, and the created world).  The core of this “right relationship” is spelled out clearly in the gospels: love God entirely, love yourself rightly (so that you may) love your neighbour likewise.

And this God whom I am to love entirely is one who knows me intimately and loves me adoringly.  So, strange as it may sound, my wager is that being in right relationship with this God means not letting go of our issues but embracing them.  More to the point, perhaps God’s response is not so much to take away our burdens but to be clear (and demonstratively so) that God knows us truly and yet loves us deeply even as we are burdened.

Knowing us truly, God distinguishes between hurts that wound us and our own orientations / filters that create worry, stress, or pain out of situations where they should not.  Both require healing, one because we are wounded by them and the other because we wound ourselves (and likely others) by them.

Loving us deeply, God determines how (and how much) I can understand the difference between the two and God is patient—patient enough to allow me to blunder through this the wrong way.  But God’s love always aims at returning me to right relationship with God.

So in this context “being in right relationship with God” might require such things as me releasing my fears, trusting God, experiencing God’s love, etc.  Yet doing so involves going through the fear, anxiety, or worry that impede this releasing, trusting, experiencing.  It involves literally “sitting in them;” living with the tension they evoke.

And while the Christian life is not to be marked by worry, stress, and negative emotions, I wonder if Christians are too eager to “surrender” what is uncomfortable… to their detriment.  My belief is that we are to rely on God by collaboratively “going through the issues,” understanding that resolution involves many stages.  This sometimes requires me doing (or not doing) certain things, sometimes God.  Sometimes both of us, and sometimes neither—just waiting.

So promptly “surrendering all” needs to be replaced with prudent, reliant stewardship.

As Christians we are to exercise prudent stewardship in the context of right relationship with (and so reliance on) God, even stewardship over things we don’t like.  Yes, I will be victimized—I will suffer rejection, mistreatment, and dismissal.  But, in addition to feeling pain, working through such situations has stimulated my intellect, developed my relational abilities, and cultivated my talents and imagination.

Yes, I may take seasons, years, or even decades to forgive.  But I accept the time because it is only through the full process that forgiveness becomes what it is meant to be: an embodied response capable of reconciling despite great betrayals, and fully able to point back to relationship where I am truly known yet most deeply loved.

Without Jesus, apparently, we all “Suck”

What?!

But, on second thought, maybe I should not be too surprised:

In Kyle Idleman’s popular not a fan he states “that the reason that we were put on this planet is to answer this one question,” that being, “What if there really is a heaven and a hell, and where I spend eternity comes down to this one question?”  (p. 21, italics his).

For Kyle, Christianity is about reward and punishment.  Either we will accept Jesus and believe (and so receive the reward of heaven) or we reject Jesus and disbelieve (and so suffer the punishment of hell).  Further, throughout the book Kyle is at pains to emphasize how Christianity “costs” a great deal, such as how Christians should hate everyone else by comparison to how much they love God and how, as a Christian, I should “empty myself of me” to make space for the Holy Spirit. (pp 65 & 95).

So where Christianity is about gaining reward and avoiding punishment, and where loving God means (practically) hating others and effacing myself, it’s not surprising to find something like www.withoutjesusisuck.com (WJIS).  Both exemplify a key notion in evangelical Christianity: at best you’re a problem; at worst you’re worthless.

But this should raise a few questions:

Why would God create something that “sucks”?  Why, indeed, would God love something that “sucks”?  And why would God purportedly die for something that “sucks”?

Now many evangelicals would be quick to interject: “No!  God created us as wonderful, and then we messed it up by sinning.  While we sin we can do nothing right.  And the fact that God loves us so much that God gave up his only son to die for us and take away our sin, that is the wonder and mystery of God’s love that we can never comprehend.”

Yet the upshot of an incomprehensible situation, obviously, is that we can’t figure it out.  So we have only two options: either believe or don’t.  In fact, we are right back with Kyle Idleman’s two choices.  And really, if you can actually believe that God is real, then practically there is no choice: no sane or moral person would choose not to be a Christian.  Pretty nifty how that works, huh?

Not really.  I think it’s crap (and I’m not even Scottish).

First, the idea that God’s love for us is incomprehensible is both bogus and unbiblical.  Bogus because if God’s “love” were completely unrelated to human love then it would be impossible to experience it as love—it would not be “love” in any sense that we know it.  Unbiblical because the Bible is totally clear on this point: in order to be in right relationship with God we can and must experience God’s love, we must “taste and see” God’s goodness 1.  And this experience must, at minimum, be comprehensible and “square with” our general understandings of love.

Second, God loves us now, as we are.  For as I’ve tried to argue elsewhere, sin is not the problem but its symptom.  The problem?  Not being in right relationship with God, and a major part of the solution (along with having better, truer understandings of who God is, who humans are, and how the two should relate) is that we experience God’s love and understand it as such.

Third, it is clear that I can and do act, think, etc., in ways that are good.  Not “good” in some sort of absolute, modernist way—no one is arguing for that.  No, in the same way that Postmodernism never means “absolutely anything goes” (outside of advertisements for pizza toppings), so “doing right things” is not a claim to absolute goodness that challenges either God’s holiness or the necessity of Jesus dying in fulfillment of the covenant.

So you don’t suck, and neither do I.

God loves you, and God loves me. God loves us now, as we really are, and also as we best could be, as seen through the lens of God’s love and God’s truth.

And that’s the T-shirt we need.

Sin, Part Deux

 

Formulate, express, reformulate, clarify.

One of the best things about this writing process is the opportunity to interact with thoughtful people and, from that, to reformulate and clarify my thoughts.

In a recent conversation someone remarked that if Jesus came to take away our sin then isn’t being without sin what it means to be in right relationship with God?

In a nutshell, No.

For sin is not so much “stuff we do wrong against God” as anything that takes out of right relationship with ourselves, others, our world, and particularly God.

Perhaps a comparison will help.  Take Steve Brown’s book, Three Free Sins: God’s Not Mad at You.  For Brown we have “3 free sins” because nothing—nothing—Christians do can separate us from God (and God’s love) because of Christ’s death on the cross.  But I am saying that nothing can separate anyone—anyone, Christian or no—from the love of God because of who God is.

Putting it another way, not acting, thinking, or being of a disposition that distances us from God is not the same thing as being in right relationship with God, just as knowing about God’s love is not the same thing as being in love with God, and having all of one’s orientations informed and directed by one’s love.  Right acting—obedience—is essential for right relationship between humans and the Christian God but is not the relationship itself.

For example, the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15) did all the “right things” and yet was not in right relationship with his father, his brother, or even himself.

Why?

Because he lacked love.  He was completely obedient—he had done everything right—yet he was not rightly disposed towards his father, his brother, or himself.  And this was made clear by his response at his brother’s homecoming.

The error here is that there are two categories that are integral to God and essential to Christianity: love and truth.  In my experience, evangelical Christians typically set truth over love while liberal Christians set love over truth.  Neither works (though we’ll put that discussion on hold for now).

So I would say that we have “no free sins,” because every act, disposition, thought, etc. that puts me into improper relationship with myself, my fellows, my world, and with God is moving me further from my goal and not closer to it.  For what is the goal of one who is in love?  It is to be with the beloved, to be close to that one, engaged with that one.

So it is not a question of “what will be held against us” or of God loving us less on account of our wrongdoing.  Rather, it is a question of who we are and where we are versus who and where we long to be as those beloved of (and in love with) God.  In this context sin is not something that counts against us but that which, to whatever degree, keeps the lover from the beloved.

The pivotal point is this:

It is not only that God loves me but that I love God, because the fitting response to love—by one who in truth knows me more truly that I know myself and who, in love, loves me more deeply than I love myself—is love.

So sin is important, but the primary focus is that God loves us, God desires us, and longs to hear our voices.  And when I sin, I cannot love / relate to / be with God as I long to.

In this sense, then, we come full circle in that we fulfill a command (“Love the lord your God”) that is our greatest command and yet which is our greatest joy to fulfill.  And indeed, how much more could the “law be written within my heart” (Jer 31:33) than that it is my greatest joy to fulfill my greatest command? (NRSV)

Is Sin real?

 

Sin is not the problem with humanity.

Whew!  Nice to get that bit of “heresy” out the way!  But of course, sin must be the problem with humanity.  That’s what the Bible tells us: sin is the problem, and Jesus is the answer, right?

Wrong.

Think about it this way: if sin is the wrong way to be, then sin’s opposite would be the right way to be, which is holy.  So if sin is the problem, and Jesus is the answer, then Jesus came and died to make us holy, right?  But while the New Testament speaks of Christ’s death as removing sin, that is not the goal.  If it were, the matter would be left there.

But it’s not.

Rather, the goal is plainly stated: as part of inaugurating the kingdom of God—that is, claiming all of existence for God and as God’s—Jesus came to renew right relationship between God and all things.  Dealing with sin is part of solving the problem, but it is not the problem.  The problem is that all things (foremost among them, perhaps, human beings) are not in right relationship with God.

Or better, that God loves us and longs for us, but our relationship with God is sundered and needs fixing.

If this is so, then God never see us simply as “sinners” in need of grace but as Gregg, John, Sally, and Matt, whom God loves with wild abandon and whom God longs to embrace as God’s own, beautiful and beloved children.  God does not so much seek to make us right as to hold us tight—not so much to right our behaviours as to right our hearts (and to write God’s law within our hearts, as Jer 33:31), and then our behaviours will follow.

Now I am not, for all of that, suggesting that the notion of sin is nonsensical, oppressive or outdated.  Nor am I implying that the rightness of our thoughts, words, and actions are unimportant—both to ourselves and to God.  Perhaps I could say it this way: God’s love (and truth) are focal, but sin matters.

God’s love being focal means that Christianity is not about rules.  It means that as a Christian I never get to the point where I am “a hopeless case,” “unforgivable,” or “worthless.”

In short, for me the deep reality of God’s loves and God’s truth means that when people ask why I am a Christian I give them this reason: because I have been convinced by God’s truth and fallen in love with God, who loves and heals me.  Because I have felt the deep, deep desire of God for me and, like Augustine says, “the satiation of God’s love is insatiable.”

So what about sin: what is it and why is it important?

To my mind, “sin” is things we do or maintain (acts, thoughts, or dispositions commissive or omissive–conscious, pre-conscious, or unconscious), that thwart our proper relationship with ourselves, our fellows, our world, and ultimately God.  Fleshing this out in terms of life’s daily activities is an important task, but it’s beyond the scope of this post.

Instead, I’d like to offer my main reasons for not jettisoning a concrete notion of sin.  First, because evil is real.  Second, because evil is real.  Third—need I go on?

The reality of evil is the reality that people suffer and die.  In that sense, insisting on evil’s reality is  an insistence that people matter.  So against the idea that sin burdens us with unnecessary guilt, maintaining the seriousness of evil and wrongdoing does not straightjacket our freedom but rather deeply affirms our worth.  As such, it is the crucial correlate to the biblical claim that God loves us.

The flipside of evil being real (and wrong) is that justice is necessary.  And this is one of the central claims of Jesus as Messiah: he came to deal with sin and death—with evil in all its various forms.  But the reality is, God’s justice is limited.

What… more heresy…?

I think not.  But you’ll have to wait until next post to decide.

Truth-seeking & outsiders

 

I don’t believe Jesus came to save us from our sins.”

In a room full of Evangelicals, you could imagine the reaction!  How could the leader of a Christian study centre possibly say that?  What could his strange words mean?

“Strange” words can indicate that someone is an outsider—a stranger to our way of thinking and viewing the world.  For evangelical Christians, strangers come in two general types: those who have different belief sets (non-Christians) and those who call themselves Christians but who read (and understand) the Bible in very different ways from Evangelicals.

Recently I discussed how, in a small town, belief sets play a key role in defining group membership—they are more about facilitating bonding between people than getting ideas “right.”  By corollary, in these contexts conformity is prized over diversity and intellectual complacency (rather than critical investigation) is the norm.

In such a context divergent beliefs or openness to questioning status quo beliefs—being unwilling to “check your brain at the door”—creates discomfort and suspicion.  To be accepted in such churches one must either share a bounded set of common beliefs or be willing to acquire them.  Otherwise, one is different: an outsider.  And at best, outsiders don’t belong.

The irony, of course, is that welcoming strangers is a Biblical norm, and Jesus self-identifies with the stranger (Matt 25:40).

Now Evangelicals may object: surely they accommodate many who are different.

They accommodate physical differences, for example, by creating special access and seating for wheel chairs.  Likewise they accommodate intellectually differences (e.g., developmental challenges), perhaps by special classes and teaching.

However, for evangelical Christians to “accommodate” those who are ideologically different (non-Christians) or methodologically different (like liberal Christians, who read and understand the Bible differently from Evangelicals) would amount betraying their Christian beliefs, which Christians cannot do.

The error in such thinking is failing to see that accommodating a viewpoint need not mean accepting it.  For if Evangelicals agree with Augustine that “all truth is God’s truth” then they need not fear truth, wherever it may be found.  Last and most importantly, as those called to love their neighbour “as themselves,” this includes respecting (if not always adopting) her ideas and texts as much as our own.

So how does this work?

Just as Evangelicals have empathy for physical differences and compassion for intellectual differences, so they need openness for ideological or methodological differences.  So “accommodation” for such differences amounts to dialogue which, unlike dispute, does not seek for the weaknesses in what is said, but for its real strength.

True dialogue is thus truth-seeking, and the openness that it requires is self-awareness: understanding that I know in part, but not in full.  Thus dialogue requires both: an openness to listen, a willingness to critique.

If my assessment is accurate it’s easy to see why most Evangelicals have no real interaction with ideologically or methodologically outsiders.

For where churches prize acceptance there is no real dialogue, for dialogue on contentious issues promotes conflict.  The result is that when it comes to ideas the church is not a place of reciprocity and openness, but of receiving and conforming.

Rejecting dialogue causes two misfortunes.

First, it forces newcomers to divest themselves of their identity in order to acquire some supposed, uniform Christian identity (as though being “in Christ” [Gal 3] is about personality as opposed to being about character and relationship).  Second, it serves to reinforce the church’s insularity as a “tribe”—keeping existing tribesmen untainted and unthreatened by anything that from outside.

 

Jesus didn’t come to save us from our sins.”

No, he didn’t.

Matt 3:2 and 4:17, Mk 1:14-15, and Lk 4:43 all prove it.  Jesus came to inaugurate the Kingdom of God, which includes me (and my need to be delivered from the harmful patterns and negative consequences of so many of my orientations—my need to be in right relationship with God) but is neither mine nor primarily about me.  The difference is subtle, but the impact is crucial.  Thankfully for those that heard this comment, a healthy dialogue ensued.