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What people think matters; how people see us matters. We anchor ourselves to the opinions and values of others. Men and women latch their value to the people we see as giving us value. Our worth is then neatly packaged into the confined space of that other person’s thoughts and whims. This is all okay up to a point. Humans were built for community, we need good government and organisation; men and women, living in fellowship, not in isolation, are human together.[i]

That people tether themselves to the thoughts of others without caution is, however, a potential disaster. For example, when we get down to bottom line of Social Media, unless a person is selling something, the heartbeat of those platforms is either genuine sharing or sharing because of a fear of loneliness and isolation. What makes these platforms thrive is the role they play in anchoring one person to a community, whereby that person gains some form of self-worth, validation and completeness as a human. If none of this were true, there would be no rhyme of reason for social media.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not the foundation of that self-worth, validation and completeness is at its core faulty and dysfunctional.  If a person gets the feeling that they are accepted and wanted, that’s all that matters. Questions like, “What if that anchor isn’t locked in the right place? What if that anchor only has the appearance of providing safety and isn’t actually safe?” aren’t considered.

What doesn’t seem to matter is whether or not the opinions and values of others are valid, just or holy. These factors seem to be rarely considered. Questioning those who cross-examine us in such a way, is something very few are brave enough to do.

Few want to be a source of healthy conflict. Few want to cut loose an anchor for fear of getting tossed on to rocks and being carried away by violent seas.  Even when deep down they know that the anchor is dragging them down into the abyss, most don’t see it, or want to see it, for fear of losing the very thing that they think grounds them to a sense of worth, purpose, community and inclusion. Oblivious to the false security the unsecured anchor provides, when the storm hits, the ship goes down or gets carried away regardless of how they or others feel.

The reality is that people set standards and draw opinions about us behind our backs. People talk. We are looked at, measured, weighed, judged and then valued. Our position in any community is just as good as our appearance, and our last great performance.  Our worth in those communities is just as good as our silence, compliance and applause for those in positions of power. Sometimes this is done willingly because we want to appease those in power because they have the ability to thrust us into power.

The reality is this: the ambitious, conform. The covetous, charm. The selfish, betray. The prideful play power games; the greedy, lie, and the jealous, manipulate in order to gain. Social media platforms can be just another tool for anyone like this to gain superiority over others. If you can be used as a pawn in this process, you will be.

As stated by Jeremiah, the “weeping” prophet, who had a firsthand experience with rejection and abuse from within his community, the heart is deceitful above all things…who can understand it?’ (Jer. 17:9)

In a recent post to their Facebook wall, Sanctuary International Matrix posted the question:

“Dear Pastor Bob: I’m tired of trying to be a good Christian. As hard as I try, I still get criticized for what I do wrong. My Christian friends keep reminding me that I’m not a very good example. I’m considering leaving the faith. I’m just too miserable.”

I agree with Beeman’s response:

“Sometimes the best examples to me, have been the people who fight the hardest. That fall down the most and get up every time. Because I identify with them, and I want the hope that they have. That’s what the Bible says: First Peter 3:15, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

It’s worth stopping to think about what anchors us. It’s worth asking what our anchor is secured to; investigating to see whether or not our anchor is secure, or if our anchor only has the appearance of being secured. [ii] If it doesn’t, pull the anchor up and relocate it.

If I measured, or tethered my membership criteria in the Church by the standards of others, and not by what God had set for us all, in Jesus Christ, I’d have quit a long, long time ago.

The struggles are real, but keep both eyes on the prize because inhaled grace ignites.[iii]

‘…Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.’ (Hebrews 6:18-19)


References:

[i] ‘With the creation of woman God expected man to confirm and maintain his true humanity by the exclusion of every other possibility [of a partner].’ (Karl Barth CD. 3:1 p.294)

[ii] “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Jesus Christ, Matthew 6:21, ESV)

[iii] ‘there is no more intimate friend of sound human understanding than the Holy Spirit’
(Karl Barth C.D. IV.4:28).

Photo credit:  Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

The Stamp Is Real

August 31, 2014 — 8 Comments

IMG_20140831_110903When my daughter brought this stamp to me earlier today, I couldn’t shake these four words.

The. Stamp. Is. Real.

Yesterday she was blessed with a collection of stamps from my step-father, who is himself an avid stamp collector. He seemed pretty keen to pass down some decent stamps to her from his own collection.

I’d never seen this stamp before and so I was curious about it.

Despite the obvious absence of the word ‘created’, the theological statement printed on it still speaks volumes. I also think that the absence of the word ‘created’ only intensifies the inference of meaning that the image projects.

It doesn’t point to some idea of a  ‘moral’ golden era; or an epoch of ignorance and anxiety about scientific contributions to how we understand the world around us. With the exemption of the unity (not necessarily a unity free of conflict) and freedom that Christianity has undergirded in the West for centuries, it’s debatable about whether any such eras existed anyway.

The statement on the stamp is simple.

Whether we consider creation to be word-instant or evolution-distant, it doesn’t dampen the significance of ‘In the beginning God…’ 

It may be too bold to suggest it, but there is a possible interchange, although not without some degree of caution, between Darwin’s  ‘Power of Selection’ and the ‘Power of the Holy Spirit’, which would potentially still allow room for Darwin’s original observations, whilst not endorsing natural theology {more my Pentecostal tendencies perhaps…? Either way, don’t shoot me on this, it’s a work in progress. I’ll let you know where I land}.

What the image does do is stamp onto us a point of reference outside ourselves; a point of being where we are raised beyond our ability to raise ourselves. Freely raised by God towards the goal (telos) of fellowship with Him.

When we say ‘the stamp is real’ we are saying in a round about way that something like righteousness or goodness cannot easily be dismissed as a social construct.

For this reason:goodness resides outside humanity and is only present in humanity because of God’s merciful “yes” and just “no” to us. The change in our being presupposes the power to change our being and it rests on a dynamic summons to genuine freedom. It is sealed on our hearts, in our minds and upon our souls by the Holy Spirit (Eph.4:30).

It’s not, but it might seem like a cheap pun to say that this stamp reminds us of God’s stamp-of-approval; his “Yes” in Christ as the ‘beginning’ of restoration for all creation. His words breathing life into dust – whispering purpose to us. His love grounding you and me in the person of Jesus Christ, worked out in our lives through the promise and power of the Holy Spirit (2. Peter.1:3-7).

For:

‘In Christ you were chosen before the foundation of the world.
In him you have redemption.
In him you have forgiveness.
In him you have wisdom and insight.
In him we are united.
In him we have obtained an inheritance.
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance..’
(Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV)

The stamp is real folks.

August 22_2014 NASA Instagram

August 22_2014 NASA Instagram