Archives For August 2018

Rembrandt_1633 Christ in the storm on the sea of GalileeAlthough I’ve browsed through ‘City of God’ and ‘On Christian Doctrine’, my main interaction with Augustine’s work centres on his ‘Confessions’.  (A phenomenal read if you ever get the chance to dig into it.)

I like many of the things Augustine says and wrestle with some of his more introspective reflections.

One of those is his statement:

‘The appearance of what we do is often different from the intention with which we do it, and the circumstances at the time may not be clear’[i]

Augustine seems to be saying that what we intend is not always what we do. Circumstances pending, what we do is sometimes only for the sake of what we want others to see and therefore say about us.

Avarice overrides responsible action as pride corrupts intention. Thus leading us onto a path where we turn ‘the loss of confessing self in order to be for others, into an all consuming self, an expressivist exhibition’[ii]

The divide between appearances and intentions, then, forms the basis of his point. This existential division creates an ethical-theological tension perpetuated by the sometimes fog of circumstances.

This is identified by Jean Bethke Elshtain in ‘Augustine and the limits of politics’:

 ‘Augustine lays the miseries of human life at the doorstep of sin, our division (within selves and between self and others), our enthrallment to cupiditas[iii] and our all-too-frequent abandonment of caritas[iv]. We are, in other words, ignorant but it is ignorance of a particular kind, not innocent naiveté but prideful cognitive amputation.[v]

What Elshtain means by ‘prideful cognitive amputation’ is ‘philosophical solipsism’ (extreme subjective idealism)[vi]; thoughtlessness (not to be confused with mindlessness), but understood as ‘the banality of evil.(Hannah Arendt’s controversial assessment of Adolf Eichmann) [vii]

Elshtain, a feminist, presents her analysis of Augustine as an attempt at rescue. Saving Augustine from the ritualistic frown passed on to our forebears by the hubris and suspicion of post 60’s modernity.

For her, Augustine is relevant and worthy of a second look:

‘He confesses what he knows and what he does not know. He does know that the world isn’t boundlessly subjectivist; it does not revolve around the “me, myself and I”[viii]

Augustine himself thunders the point home:

‘I flattered my pride to think that I incurred no guilt and, when I did wrong, not to confess it so that you might bring healing to a soul that had sinned against you. I preferred to excuse myself and blame this unknown thing which was in me but was not part of me. The truth, of course, was all my own self, and my own impiety had divided me against myself. My sin was all the more incurable because I did not think myself a sinner’[ix]

Elshtain brilliantly adds, ‘when we start to regard ourselves in our own light, our light dims’[x]

Reading this in the emerging light of advent we might be called back to Karl Barth’s assertion

‘To thank means to accept with confession,… to acknowledge the gift, the goodness and the kindness of the Giver’[xi]

God makes himself known in Jesus Christ, ‘the sign of all signs[xii]

In Augustine’s sigh we hear that the heart has ears. Before the beauty of Christmas this can only mean an awakening to an awareness of our own need for grace; an acknowledgement that we are carried, firmly, lovingly held above the abyss.

Confronted by such a grace we learn that God is God and we are not. Yet, by Divine decision; a fierce and free decree. In Jesus Christ, we are spoken to, spoken for and therefore not given up on.

In His example we see in part, the point of Christmas. That the ‘principle of charity requires nothing less than to make one’s best effort.’[xiii]

Jesus is Victor!


Source

[i] Augustine, St. Confessions Penguin Classics III/XIX 1961:67

[ii] Elshtain, J.B. 1995 ‘Augustine & The Limits of Politics’ p.6

[iii] Latin for desire, eagerness, enthusiasm; passion; lust; avarice; greed; ambition; partisanship (Source: Collins Latin Dictionary App)

[iv] Latin for charity, grace, dearness, high price; esteem, affection (Source: Collins Latin Dictionary App)

[v] Elshtain, J.B. 1995 ‘Augustine & The Limits of Politics’ p.37

[vi] Ibid, p.59

[vii] Ibid,

[viii] Ibid, p.5

[ix] Augustine, St. 1961 Confessions Penguin Classics V/X p.103

[x] Elshtain, ibid pp.11, 66 &62

[xi] Barth, K. 1940 The Limits of  the Knowledge of God C.D II/I Hendrickson Publishers p.198

[xii] Ibid, p.199

[xiii] Elshtain, ibid p.55

*I’ve borrowed the second part of the title to this blog post from Elshtain, who uses it on page xiii in her introduction.

Image: Rembrandt, 1633 ‘Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee’

Originally published 14th December 2014

Guest post by Heather Mertens

Changing words and ways over to a “reinterpreted” view, especially when done to fit an agenda, has certainly made its mark in this world by this new generation of “thinkers”. But how did they become so emboldened to change words to mean what they decide they should mean? A silent generation, that’s how.

It’s been proven throughout history that mass amounts of people will believe something, even something untrue, if they are told it enough times with loud enough voices.

The 1980’s ushered in the “I’m okay, you’re okay” worldview in the western world, which was birthed out of that silent generation’s children. But nothing lasts long these days. About 15 years or so ago, that all turned into “I’m okay because I’m going to do what I want and believe what I want. What you believe is irrelevant and unconcerning”.

Worse yet is what that mentality has turned into this past 5 years or so… the generation of “If I am okay that’s all that matters, and you HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

Now, I never speak in gross generalizations, and I loathe labeling for the sake of lumping people groups together.  So, I know not every person in each of these generations fell into those agendas. However, a movement of sorts came out of each that has shaken the modern world’s particulars to the core. At least, to a great degree of certainty and observation, we can say this all to be true about the United States, which has led the world in freedoms… some run amok.

As far removed as this newest generation would love to believe that they’ve taken themselves from the few generations that paved a way many now regret, the truth is obvious and painful. They are in complete chaos. They took the adamant desire to “not be silent” and ran so far in the other direction that they feel a misguided obligation to essentially shove their very agendas down the throats of everyone else.

From a whole generation 75 years ago that cherished and expected silence came this generation of chaos to never be silent again.

And that silent generation has birthed this chaos.

To the world and in the world they were silent…

They were silent about sex.

They were silent about sexuality.

They were silent about identity.

They were silent about politics.

They were silent about God.

They were silent about giving a reason for their faith.

They were silent on so many things. And now there is chaos.

It might not have happened overnight in the last 75 years, but it happened rather quickly. And the masses have changed drastically in the last decade. Why? Because inside chaos people don’t know what they are hearing; they can’t tell which end is up. So they look around for clues.

You have the most signs? You talk the loudest and most often? People will listen. And people will believe what you say. Why? Because nearly an entire generation has lost its ability to think for itself. And why is that? Because the generation that came years before them was silent.

Silence got us to a point that we didn’t fight for what we knew was worth fighting for in life. Like life. 

Silence got us abortion on demand … because they demand it … “you HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

Silence got us an identity crisis to exponential levels … because they demand it …  “you HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

Silence got us redefined concepts of family … because they demand it…  “you HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

Silence got us politics just shy of lunatics … because they demand it …  “you HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

And they were silent about God and His Truth in public places. They were silent about most of these things in churches, too. In this regard, silence got us redefined churches by the whole denomination and “reinterpreted” Scripture to fit this chaotic culture.

Liberal theology, which was already far enough removed from actual Biblical Truth in many areas, became dominated by progressive politics.

And they’ve changed the language and meaning of words. Love is being redefined. Faith is being redefined. Life is being redefined. God. God is being redefined.

But only to a generation unwilling to think for themselves… or worse yet, to the extent they actually believe they are thinking things through for themselves while clouded by the chaos around them.

But…

Truth is immutable. 

God is immutable. 

His Word is immutable. 

A new generation of forceful agenda driven people can’t change the immutability of God’s Truth.

Silence can’t change it.

They can talk differently. Sing differently. Congregate differently. They can change to fit the new ways…  “You HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

But they can’t change Truth.

Who is going to stand up for Truth? We must. But are we running out of time?


Heather Mertens has studied Scripture and Theology in various ways throughout the years, sharing much of what she has learned via her studies as well as her life experience. She has a Certificate in Apologetics-Core Module from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries Academy. She has also had the joy and blessing of learning Theology and Biblical Studies from her daughter, who is finishing up her 2nd Theology and Biblical Studies degree and has a Biblical Studies Certificate, all from Liberty University.

Heather shares her personal experience and writes in Apologetics-style at 40YearWanderer.wordpress.com as well as on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/HeatherMertens) and on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/thelifeofwhy/) where she shares Scriptural Truth for Life’s Biggest Questions in hopes that people can come together to know what the Bible actually says.

Her pure joy is raising her daughter to adulthood and now enjoys her freelance web design and marketing career of helping people find their unique web presence… and the beach!


Photo credit: Echo Grid on Unsplash

From the mind of Martin Luther, the desk of Karl Barth and the easel of Matthias Grünewald.

‘The model of the biblical witness in his unity form is John the Baptist, who stands so notably at midpoint between the Old Testament and the New, between the prophets and the apostles…In this connection one might recall John the Baptist in Grunewald’s Crucifixion especially his prodigious index finger’ (Barth , CD.1.1:112)

 

Grunewald, 16th Century Crucifixion scene

 

‘For we have John the Baptist’s Word and Spirit, and we parsons, preachers; Christians are in our time what John Baptist was in his time. We let John the Baptist’s finger point and his voice sound: ‘’BEHOLD, THE LAMB OF GOD THAT TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD’’

We deliver John’s sermon, point to Christ and say: ‘’this is the one true Saviour whom you should worship and to whom you should cleave. Such preaching must endure to the last day’

 (Luther cited by Barth, CD.1.1:102)

 

John the Baptist

.
John’s finger does not point in vain but really indicates when and where we are enabled by means of his word to see and hear what he saw and heard’ (Barth, CD.1.1:113)

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?’ (Hebrews 2:1-3)

‘Speaking stands in correlation to hearing, understanding and obeying…it is faith that hears, understands and obeys God’s speech’ (Barth, CD.1.1:135)

May. It.  Be. So.

Maranatha.


References:

Barth, K. 1936 Church Dogmatics: Vol 1: The Doctrine of the Word of God, Part 1 Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Massachusetts

Artworks: The Crucifixion. Detail. St. John the Baptist. 1510-1515. Oil on panel. (Karl Barth had Grunewald’s picture placed above his desk.)

Originally posted 13th September 2013

Guest post by Greg Hutana.

Recently, I watched a YouTube video on the Top 30 things to have prepared in case the Government or Financial systems that we have grown up with should come to an abrupt end.

The first on the list was to have some cold hard cash on hand, if indeed this should happen, while cash is still legal tender. The second was a real surprise. I was dumb struck to find, that according to this commentator’s reasoning, the second was to be debt free.

The person went on to explain that in a crisis like this most people assume that they get a free pass on their debts. In fact this is not the case. Instead the wealthy and those in power, turn to the function of a debtor’s gaol in order to continue having control and influence over people’s lives.

Now is this a fact or not? I couldn’t tell you for sure, but it might be worth investigating some of the small print in your mortgage contracts or credit card contracts to find out.

I realised after my first wife took the houses and left me with nothing, that in fact God had been generous with me in a roundabout way. Overnight I became free of my mortgage. I still had to work for five more years in a cleaning business to payoff my other debt’s, but today I’m debt free.

The Bible talks about not being in debt. Some may just see it as a story or a parable and not all that valid for today, but I believe it’s there to help us not be slaves to this world and its system. It’s very much valid for us today.

The Scriptures and this conversation are not meant to make you feel like crap or condemn you because you might be in debt to your eye balls, but rather to potentially help you to make new decisions around debt and the accumulation of more debt in the future.

People often say to me, “but Greg I have a house I can sell, or my kids must have the best schooling and health, so in fact I am not in debt, but instead, I’m sowing into equity for my kids future.”

The problem with this is that when you lose your job, fall ill or the housing market collapses, the people who loaned you the money, won’t want your brick house, your kids wonderful teeth or good education as payment. They will want the cold hard cash that you owe them, or something else far worse. The equity you thought you had will vanish.

If this teaching stirs up something in you then please don’t let it be condemnation. Let it be rather be a call to action.

One of the main reasons the modern church is so powerless is because the people of faith are as broke as everyone else around them, so how can you sow into your neighbour’s situation when your own is so dire?

Every month I’m able to be generous for no other reason then I have surplus. I have overflow. Will I ever own a house again? Maybe not, especially when I keep giving the savings for a deposit away, but God is big enough and he is more than able.

I’m fortunate, my ex-wife has a knack for milking the worlds systems for all their worth. My kids will never go without. Even though I don’t agree with everything she does, I thank God for her and her wisdom in this area. She has no idea that God has been able to give me confidence to be generous because of her skills.

God is big enough to care for my girls future, pretty awesome ha. God bless you and keep you in the faith. May you find the strength to be generous and work from abundance in regard to your neighbour, on your journey towards being debt free.

‘Keep yourselves free of the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” So we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?”‘ (Hebrews 13:5-6, ESV)

Greg is 47, and currently lives in New Zealand.

He is an elder at Beth Melek Jewish Community and a member of Maori Initiatives, helping indigenous people do better. Maori Initiatives runs a podcast, which can be listened and subscribed to via itunes.

He is the proud father of two daughters, and by his own admission is “a terrible example of Christ, who Christ still loves anyway!”

 

 


Image credit: Urfan Hasanov on Unsplash

Yesterday, reacting to the maiden speech by Katter’s Australia Party senator, Fraser Anning, who broadly (and in some areas of his speech, recklessly) called for a review of Australia’s immigration policies, Australian senator, Lucy Gichuhi, (who was born in Kenya) asked the question: “At what point do you become an Australian?”

Lucy’s answer was, “…when I get a citizenship paper! Full stop! Period! Finished!”

I follow Senator Gichuhi’s political posts. I supported Senator Bob Day, of the Family First party, passing his position over to her after his election win was declared invalid because of a candidacy conflict with the Constitution. I was encouraged when Senator Gichuhi was duly found by the High Court to have a legitimate election win. In addition to this I was thankful Senator Gichuhi had taken a  brave stand for healthy traditional family values in Australia, and I’m often interested in hearing her opinion on other subjects. However, the Senator’s answer to her own question yesterday was off the mark.

The answer to Senator Gichuhi’s question,  “At what point do you become an Australian?” isn’t as simple as obtaining a piece of paper that grants the right of citizenship. What comes with that right is also the responsibilities and commitments which are attached to citizenship. It’s discouraging to here a Senator in the Australian parliament claim that what makes a person an Australian is “…when they get a citizenship paper! Full stop! Period! Finished!”

Australian citizen doesn’t stop with a piece of paper. Citizenship papers signify not only the right to be recognised as a citizen, but also that the person who has chosen to become an Australian citizen, is willing to live out the responsibilities associated with the recognition of citizenship. For anyone not born in Australia, to both be and become an Australian goes hand in hand. The adoption has been made official, but it takes time to own membership in that family. Membership in that family is learned. Membership in that family cannot truly become membership if the adoption is rejected by the person being adopted.

Civics 101 talks about the reciprocal, mutually beneficial relationship between citizen, neighbour and state. Rights do not get to trump responsibility. Both collective and personal responsibility are vital elements of successful cohesion within a diverse society, and the oversight of small, good government.

The question “At what point do you become an Australian?” is easily answered as:

1.) A person who signs on to become a citizen or is born in Australia.

2.) A citizen who chooses to abide by English common law as set down in Australian law

3.) A citizen who has a respect for and knowledge of Australian history and civics – including a clear understanding of the importance of Judeo-Christian, and classical liberal values.

4.) Speaks English reasonably well, or is willing to learn it (for their own benefit as much as everyone else’s).

5.) Has a love, or at the very least a deep appreciation for all these things and what they’ve delivered.

6.) Is willing to defend (a) through (d) and respect our national holidays.

All these points line up with The Australian Citizenship Act of 2007:

‘The Parliament recognises that Australian citizenship represents full and formal membership of the community of the Commonwealth of Australia, and Australian citizenship is a common bond, involving reciprocal rights and obligations, uniting all Australians, while respecting their diversity.

                   The Parliament recognises that persons conferred Australian citizenship enjoy these rights and undertake to accept these obligations:

                     (a)  by pledging loyalty to Australia and its people; and

                     (b)  by sharing their democratic beliefs; and

                     (c)  by respecting their rights and liberties; and

                     (d)  by upholding and obeying the laws of Australia.’ (Source)

Citizenship is reciprocal and involves a daily commitment to the nation and its people as agreed to in the Pledge of Commitment:

“From this time forward, under God,
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose democratic beliefs I share,
whose rights and liberties I respect,
and whose laws I will uphold and obey.”  (Source)

The imperatives of citizenship are participation and contribution. These entail the right to be recognised and the responsibility to dignify that recognition, by honouring the agreed upon commitment made between both the nation and the individual.

Even though multi-ethnic communities form part of what it means to be Australian. Australian culture is not multiculturalism. Just as Australian citizenship is not defined by the colour of a person’s skin; Australian citizenship is not defined by a person’s ethnicity.

However, immigrants to Australia should be sensitive to what it means to be an Australian. This means knowing, adopting and respecting the fact that the mother tongue of Australian culture is English. That Australian culture, its civics, its theology and politics are built on a Judeo-Christian, classical liberal European and Indigenous Australian heritage.

As Senator Fraser Anning so clumsily tried to communicate, there are immigrants who have come to Australia, are granted citizenship, have accepted that citizenship, but have refused to become what it means to be Australian. Immigrants who do this, are not living up to their end of the citizenship agreement.

Unfortunately, if anyone raises concerns about this issue they’re immediately frowned upon with suspicion immediate accusations of racism or ethnocentricity. They’re branded as a white supremacist, or at the very least, a white nationalist sympathiser. In favour of logical fallacies,the argument, concerns and ideas put forward are pushed to the side, and the individual who sought to defend Australian culture, with the aim of preserving its diversity, and rich heritage, is demonised into silence.

Senator Fraser Anning wasn’t the only Australian senator to speak recklessly. Senator Gichuhi’s assertion was disappointing because it was too simple; suggesting either a lack of understanding about Australian civics and citizenship, or a deliberate denial of the obligations that are part of citizenship. Being an Australian citizen goes beyond just being given an official piece of paper and the rights that pertain to citizenship. It also means responsibility.

Rights and responsibilities are not separate from one another. Citizenship does not have a full stop after “…when I get a citizenship paper!” Citizenship is lived out. It grabs freedom, warms to adoption (through sensitivity to the culture) and responds with gratitude to those who make, and have made, that citizenship possible.


References are hyperlinked.

Photo credit: Joey Csunyo on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018

An article entitled Will the bombing bring peace?’ authored by Johann Christoph Arnold, appeared on the Plough publishing blog feed on the 11th of September 2014.

Not long after that, Tim Costello, Uniting Church minister and CEO of World Vision Australia, authored a piece headlined: ‘Going to war no time for joy

The general flow of both articles advocates a caveat that falls just short of a protest in favour of non-involvement in military action against the self-proclaimed and militaristic ‘Islamic State movement’.

I appreciated the authors caution and respect the underlying pacifism expressed by their concerns.

However, I found both articles disappointing to read.

Whilst written well, they seem reactionary, unnecessary and  out of touch with what the majority really think about this subject.

No healthy individual or civilised community wants war. At the same time, Christians don’t have to walk around blindly ignoring the true nature of a clear and determined enemy, all in the name of peace. Particularly an enemy, such as I.S (Islamic State) who has already proven their hostile intentions towards Christians, Jews and the West in general.

Costello and Arnold’s historical comparisons are fair. However, I’m yet to see the same euphoria that was exhibited prior to World War one, in responses to the West’s involvement in this war against I.S.

What is of immediate concern is the shock and disillusionment at the continued allegiance of the pulpit with what can only be called a resurgence of ‘positive Christianity’. (Seen in the alignment of the pulpit with excessive political correctness, supported by a Gospel that has been emptied of its true content.)[i] Where Costello is wrong is not only in his assumptions about people celebrating war, but also his inability to see the compromise and surrender of theology into the service of ideology.

People aren’t celebrating the West going to War against I.S. In fact the biggest enemy at the moment is complacency and indifference in the face of a determined enemy. An enemy determined to make an enemy of the West and destroy all who show any form of dissent or opposition.

Warnings against complacency and indifference come at us from different historical voices. One of the strongest comes from pacifist and evolutionary biologist, Vernon Kellogg. His observations of the Germans and their adherence to ideology during World War One, demonstrates the need to take action in the face of a socio-political ideology determined to make itself lord of all:

‘For their point of view does not permit of a live-and-let-live kind of carrying on. It is a point of view that justifies itself by a whole-hearted acceptance of the worst of Neo-Darwinism [social Darwinism], the Allmacht of natural selection applied rigorously to human life and society and Kultur…I was never convinced. That is, never convinced that for the good of the world the Germans should win this war, completely and terribly.And this conviction, thus gained, meant the conversion of a pacifist to an ardent supporter, not of War, but of this war; of fighting this war to a definitive end.’
(Headquarters Nights (1917:23).

When conflict is imposed on us, a good percentage of the time it will mean being drawn into a position where most just “push backs” are twisted. They are then used by aggressors, and spectators alike, as evidence of a ‘disproportionate’, ‘inappropriate’ and unethical response.

Enablers, enable abuse. They do so by their silence and discounting of the severity of evidence before their eyes. Enablers don’t want to get involved, because they either have something to gain or something to lose. Fear of retribution or loss of something personally profitable, trumps standing up for the truth.

Instances include Israel’s recent response to ideological belligerents in Gaza and the West. Israel had two fronts, Gaza and the internet. The Israeli defence force had to fight off a constant stream of misleading information that was circulating on social media.

In the case of Australia, our involvement, as the Prime Minister has made clear, is to assist in the defence and provision of humanitarian aid to innocent civilians. Australian involvement is not to make war for the sake of war.

In answer to Tim Costello and Johann Christoph Arnold: nobody wants a war outside those bringing war to us (and perhaps some extremist fringe dwellers that see this as an opportunity to further their own self interests).

An abysmal situation cannot be held back by passivity, apathy, a will-to-power, appeasement or a poorly informed soft diplomacy. 

Responsible action requires the restraint of faith in Christ, open communication, purpose, a unified team and the courage to dedicate a wide variety of resources to neutralise blatant threats to the innocent.

The old challenges of socialist-fascist imperialism, with its deification of men, society and sin, and the new masks it wears, must be answered. The end and actions must not be driven by an apathy, that thrives on the selective protests and permissions of the lords of neo-tolerance.

With regards to the crisis in Iraq and Syria, “just war” advocates do not have to dig very deep to make their case. The basics of which are expressed, in the often quoted statement made by Kennedy who said: Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

The atmosphere which surrounds us, illustrates the need for a firm, restrained response. I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that the world is seeing the resurgence of fascism. When we witness mass rallies and violence under flags with White script on Black fabric in the East, and rainbow flags that are paraded, in the name of pride down main streets in the West, what we are witnessing is the rise of fascism proper.

Under one there is war, gaol for dissidents and beheadings. Under the other, there is indoctrination, re-education classes, and law suits against anyone who dare to stand by valid opposing view.  

If, as Costello implies, there is any joy being taken in belligerency, we would do well to start our investigation there.

There is no doubt that the path ahead is treacherous. There is no room for belligerency from the pulpit, whether that be in support of Left or Right ideological platforms, but what cannot be forgotten is:

‘…personal safety should not excuse[s] timidity in the pulpit’ [or podium]. 
“It is not that I and all the rest of us have said too much in our sermons, but rather that we have said far too little.”
(Paul Schneider) [ii]

If we completely follow along in agreement with Costello and Arnold, or with those who demand allegiance to their views without question, we, the Church may get to the point where laments like Schieder’s are common place once again.

It’s not at all that surprising to see parallels between the past and present.

The Abyss is opposed to love. Yet the Abyss and it’s agents frame themselves as being the very epitome of love.

So we stand in agreement with Ezekiel, Clement of Rome and Ambrose of Milan:

‘As I live, says the Lord, I take not pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather [his correction]; that he should turn from his way and live’
(Ez.18:21-24)

But in doing so we also hear and act on the clear challenge of Clement:

‘Let us cleave, to those who cultivate peace with godliness, and not to those who hypocritically profess to desire it.’
(Clement, First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter XV)

References (not otherwise linked):

[i] I am paraphrasing a statement made by Dean Stroud in ‘Preaching in the Shadow of Hitler’ (2013, p.8).

[ii]Paul Schneider, the 1st Pastor to die in a Concentration camp, in a letter to his wife from his jail cell on Nov. 14, 1937 on Preaching in Nazi Germany’ – Stroud, D. 2013 Preaching in Hitler’s Shadow: Sermons of Resistance, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p.47

Photo credit: ‘Early 1960s. Before the construction of the Berlin Wall West German soldiers stare down the East after a young woman makes it across the line to the West.’ – Drive Thru History.

(Encore post. Originally posted Sep 21, 2014)

My daughter, who has been homeschooled for the majority of her education, is doing her higher school certificate this year and she’s starting to feel the pressure. In fact, we all are. In passing one day, I randomly encouraged her to “be like Maverick and engage.” Understanding the context of the reference, she smiled back.

As I am known to do from time to time, I started to think a bit deeper about the meaning of those words.

At the end of Top Gun (1986), Maverick sits waiting as back-up. He’s in an F-14, waiting as “ready-five” or ”ready-alert“, things don’t go well for the team and he’s then called into the fight. Once he gets there, he wavers. At this point in time he has a choice whether to engage or disengage. He chooses to engage.

Another example from 1986 comes from the film ‘Iron Eagle‘. When retired Air Force Colonel, Chappy Sinclair chooses to engage with the rescue of a friend, who is being held as a P.O.W. Sinclair chooses to help his friend’s son pilot an F-16 into a war zone. His most memorable words were:

“God doesn’t give people talents that he doesn’t want people to use. And he gave you The Touch. It’s a power inside of you, down there where you keep your guts boy! It’s all you need to blast your way in and get back what they took from you.” (I.E, 1986)

Although Maverick (Pete Mitchell – Tom Cruise) and Chappy (Louis Gossett Jr.) are fictional characters, there are sound examples throughout history of men and women, who were called into the fight.

One of those was Winston Churchill. At the age of 65, after many years of being dismissed for his warnings about the state of the world, he was called into the fight. He had the same choice as Maverick and Chappy. Engage or disengage. He chose to engage.

If you’re feeling the pressure today, and no doubt you will, because all of us do, remember these examples. Remember that God did not waver when He created you. He freely and decisively chose to engage in life with you, that you may freely and decisively engage in life with him.[i]

You have a God-given, grace enabled freedom, and you are called upon by God to live that out. Engage in life with Him through Jesus Christ, and engage in life with others. This freedom comes with responsibility; His grace confronts us with a choice. We choose daily, whether to invite God into our decisions, and be for others or for ourselves. That choice can be tough. Faith can be tough.

But we don’t put our faith in our circumstances. We don’t put our faith in faith. We put our faith in God, learning from that which He has given and anticipating where He will guide us, based on what He’s given and already done in the past for us. We have a history with God, even if we don’t want to acknowledge it. We are summoned to ‘trust in the Lord with all our heart, [to] lean not on our own understanding, [to] submit all things to Him, and he will make our paths straight.’ (Proverbs 3:5-6).

One of the other great historical examples comes from theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He reminds us of the choice to engage, while when in a Nazi prison, he wrote:

‘In me it is dark, but with you there is light.
I am lonely, but you do not abandon me.
I am faint-hearted, but from you comes my help.
I am restless, but with you is peace.
In me is bitterness, but with you is patience.
I do not understand your ways, but you know the right way for me.’ [ii]

 

So whatever we might meet in the coming day, be like Maverick and engage. Be like Churchill and engage. Be like Bonhoeffer and engage. Ultimately, be like Christ and engage. Stand with Christ and engage. They could have chosen differently, refused the fight, and disengaged entirely, but they chose not to. As a result, we are confronted by their example.

de Vivre Selon Dieu


References:

[i] In this statement, I’m drawing from Karl Barth.

[ii] Bonhoeffer, D. BDW:8, Letters & Papers From Prison, Fortress Press (p.195)

Image: Iron Eagle,  Sidney J. Furie, Tri-Star Pictures, 1986 (Use of this image is considered to be within the boundaries of fair use, given that the image is applied here, for the use of teaching, and comment in a not-for-profit context, and it contains clear credit and promotion of the film as a whole.)