Being Human means….
Yesterday I met with Matt, who leads a sister community to Communitas, here in New Orléans. Matt is a good guy, grounded in the reality of mission, grittiness of life and the world we’ve given ourselves to. There is not a lot of pie-in-the-sky perspective. Matt has also spent the past couple of years working to know God, understand His Word, and see life through God’s perspective. How he’s approached this is working to shed and not presume the western presuppositions, world view, pre-digested views on life, God’s Word, and even what it is to be human – hence this blog entry. Matt is going back and challenging what “we’ve been taught for years” and asking, not challenging (a huge issue of deconstruction versus mature reflection and critical thinking), if we’ve presumed, been lazy in our understanding.
God incarnated as Jesus – a Jew – in Israel (Jewish) and communicated Himself through Jesus and those humblest of people, the Hebrews, sons of Abraham. He communicated to us His heart, His plan, His worldview, His direction, His story through a Jewish lens… Yet as Paul brought the hope of Christ to the Roman Empire (Very Greek – helenized from Greece’s cultural influence…think Plato, Sacrates, etc), the cultures began understanding God through a Greek lens… The Greek lens digests logically and often linear. Yet a Hebrew world view is much more a web (think right brained people and left brained people). Have you ever spoken and gotten to know a person from Asia? Africa? Middle East? An aboriginal in the North Ameriscas (or Central and South America for that matter) or from Australasia? They think “eastern”. Hebrew is an eastern culture and God tells us WHO He is, what He’s doing and how we join in through an Eastern lens. Therefore, we often mis-interpret God because we start with a Greek/Western worldview… we need to back up and reflect here.
I’ve said this for years – we must stop and first read and understand God’s Word (how He explains Himself to us …first & preeminent) through some good principles: Who was saying it and what did He/She mean when it was said? To whom is it said? What did he/she hear? Why was it said like that? What other contextual & circumstantial factors mitigate what was being said? Therefore, how do we then understand it, obey it, apply it, and respond?
For any student of Exegesis (understanding something written, unpacking it to understand), you obviously are saying right now, “Duh…. Exegesis 101.” Yet, we usually do not do this. No, we don’t – go with me a moment. We go to the pre-digested sermons, lessons, and words of celebrities… We go with the culturally accepted view of passages. We go to comfortable also! No? Then why and how is it understood by almost every western Christian that to be/become a Christian is a simple prayer (understanding four principles)? Scripture does not support this heretical teaching at all. Rather, it speaks of a life re-ordered, obedient, not simple mental ascent and agreement, a one-off intellectual decision – but rather a decision proven true by a life re-oriented towards the Kingdom; seen in a set of values and more-over behaviors. Does Jesus spend the VAST majority of His teaching on “knowing” the right information/theology or more on our behavior? Test it out… Yet, what is the focus of our teaching? What does our behaviors reflect? I’m not referring to sin management, but the character of Christ… far more socialist than capitalist by-the-way where one’s success is about stewardship for the King, not wealth management for ourselves. We don’t like that, it goes against what we’ve been taught… so we ignore it and say “he’s gone liberal”.
I have a challenge though, living in the most violent city in America, the most broken poor neighborhoods in the civilized western societies. As Matt and I spoke, he said something like this, “To not know and live in who God made a person to be, making the contribution (purpose-vocation) He destined, is to be human. To not know and live this reduces one to a homo sapien, but not human.” In other words, in context, the troubles we see in social break down – violence, debauchery, immorality, 2 Timothy 3 criteria of the end times, is all reflections, proof of what happens when people do not know God and WHO He created them to be TO DO good works…contribution within the Kingdom… In other words, our social ills are due to our failing to know Him and know life in the Kingdom… that is a Jewish concept far bigger than the “how-to” (Greek) approach to Scripture we so presumptuously use! Where it impacts Christians is that we also in many ways stop being human (according to Matt’s definition) and become focused on the same “type” obsessions as people who do not follow Christ… we get focused and distracted by wealth, fame, celebrity, cultural addictions (materialism, consumption, success, greedy, entertainment, comfort, security)…. if you will, animal preoccupations and we (secular people here I refer to) therefore see us as part of the creation (animals) rather than the crown of creation, made in His image….
So, are you human? Do you know Him, really know Him? Are you walking with Him as a Jew would or as a Greek who will dissect and chart Him, but not relate – a time constrained experience?