Thursday, March 10, 2005
I am shamed by the beautiful simplicity of this man's commitment to and love for Jesus.
The Wrong Kind of Intimacy
As I mentioned yesterday, I was thunderstruck by the thoughts of Eugene Peterson in this article in Christianity Today. More to discuss today:
The Christian life is not a wonderful life - in the way we want it to be. Oh my goodness, that single comment right there, in my mind takes out about 1/2 of the stuff I see on the bookshelves in Christian Book stores (including this book, which merely by its title, gives me massive willies). Maybe that is why, when I seldom visit my local Christian book store, I get a feeling like I have been dipped in Sweet N' Low; all sugar, no calories, no protein, no carbs, no real nourishment for the soul. A kind of parroting of all the nice neat parts of American culture, without cuss words, and lots of Thomas Kinkade art.
We've got to disabuse people of these illusions of what the Christian life is. It's a wonderful life, but it's not wonderful in the way a lot of people want it to be.
If intimacy means being open and honest and authentic, so I don't have veils, or I don't have to be defensive or in denial of who I am, that's wonderful. But in our culture, intimacy usually has sexual connotations, with some kind of completion. So I want intimacy because I want more out of life. Very seldom does it have the sense of sacrifice or giving or being vulnerable. Those are two different ways of being intimate. And in our American vocabulary intimacy usually has to do with getting something from the other. That just screws the whole thing up. It's very dangerous to use the language of the culture to interpret the gospel. Our vocabulary has to be chastened and tested by revelation, by the Scriptures. We've got a pretty good vocabulary and syntax, and we'd better start paying attention to it because the way we grab words here and there to appeal to unbelievers is not very good.
Shame on us church folk for using the language of the culture to interpret the gospel. Eugene is so right, we need to use the the Scripture as the basis for our vocabulary. But this is hard. How do we communicate a gospel that has at its core these two competing ideas (among many others):
Matt 10:38 - "and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."
Matt 11:30 - "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Darn that Jesus. He is not self-actualized. Not listening to his inner child! How do we communicate this to a waiting world. This stuff is not easy. But our silly Christian culture makes out like it is.
One more quote from Eugene, that speaks for itself:
I've been a pastor most of my life, for some 45 years. I love doing this. But to tell you the truth, the people who give me the most distress are those who come asking, "Pastor, how can I be spiritual?" Forget about being spiritual. How about loving your husband? Now that's a good place to start. But that's not what they're interested in. How about learning to love your kids, accept them the way they are?
My name shouldn't even be connected with spirituality.
Eugene, your views on the "s word" are not so bad after all.
May I love my wife, my kids, my friends, my neighbors all in a most unusual way, and may that love be seen as something of value for the Kingdom. May it be so Lord.