Faith and relevance in the 21st century

Category: Love (Page 4 of 7)

Breaking up is hard to do ended a long-term relationship yesterday.

We parted ways amicably, but it’s still painful. Like any relationship, we had our ups and downs. At times I wanted out. But through it all, my love for my other never wavered.

My relationship gave me joy and it gave me grief. We shared the best of times and we wept in times of seeming despair. But the important thing was we shared those times. We went through them together. After all, we are all wired for relationship.

As the years went by, our relationship started to develop some codependent traits; there were times when my attachment to my other became unhealthy. I would find myself wondering how on earth I would cope if our love affair ever ended.

Eventually though I started to see my unhealthy dependency more clearly. And as I did, I began to break free from the burden of needing the relationship for my sense of identity. That neediness was placing an unfair burden on both of us. It was a burden we couldn’t sustain. I had to realise I was just as much a person with or without the relationship.

Through that time of growth, my love for my other remained. In fact I started to reflect on the fact that I no longer felt resentful at times when my other let me down. I realised the obvious: that I let my other down at least just as much as I was let down, probably more. And I learned the power and freedom of forgiveness.

As a result I started to cope a lot better with life in general. That’s what healthy relationships do; you bring out the best in each other.

Eventually though, circumstances in the relationship came to a head. We would either find another way to move forward or we would have to part ways. It turned out we would part ways.

The pain at first was intense. When the decision was made, I cried. But I was determined to end this well. I had seen similar cases where bitterness remained and both sides walked away unhappy. I didn’t want to be another one of those people. Bitterness is too much of a burden to carry. My love for my other was deep and we wanted only the best for each other. I would do everything I could to make sure my other was treated well and was not shown in a bad light. My other did the same for me.

The following months were a time of both anxiety about where our lives would take us, and excitement about new possibilities. My other treated me well; I was given the freedom to look at how to pursue life post our love affair.

As we began to reflect on our time together over the previous years, our true feelings for each other came out more. I reflected on how enriched my life had been for being in this relationship, a relationship that in so many ways was meant to be.

In the end though the parting of our ways was painful. It is always is when it actually happens. You can talk about it forever but nothing prepares you for the reality. But although it was painful, it was also special. We hugged, we kissed, and we cried as we told each other how much we loved each other.

World Vision, you gave me some of the best years of my life. You have ensured that I will not forget you. I’m glad we remain not just on good terms, but good friends. Thanks so much for everything. And, who knows, maybe we’ll get back together one day.

Loneliness in the age of Facebook

This is a wonderful article on the realities and false security that social media can bring if we let it.

This issue has been discussed before but it’s always good to be reminded. This author raises some great points.

It reminds me of CS Lewis’ quote about love:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

You don’t get this on social media when you can hide behind your online persona. No technology will ever remove our need for relational intimacy.


Are grace and truth mutually exclusive?

Just watched this brilliant sermon by Josiah Conner from CityLife Church from a few weeks ago. He gives a fantastic explanation of how grace and truth come together in the person of Jesus. Josiah does this by using the illustration of the story of the woman caught in adultery.

Here are some gems from the sermon:

  • “Grace and truth are not competing ideologies, they are complementary parts of the full person of Jesus Christ.”
  • “If we realise that grace and truth are not ideas, but are manifest in a Person, then we’re open to transformation.”
  • “If grace doesn’t offend you, chances are you haven’t heard it right.”

Hope on earth

Joseph and Mary at the wallDriving home tonight listening to the ABC’s Newsradio, I heard about more fighting in South Sudan. In a country that is only two years old, tens of thousands of people are fleeing for their lives to get away from the conflict.

As I listened, first I felt somewhat numb. More bad news is nothing new, but at Christmas time it just hit me a bit more than it would normally. As I listened to the radio report, I recalled an image that is being spread around on Facebook of Joseph and Mary, pregnant with the Christ child, traveling to Bethlehem, but being blocked by the dividing wall that separates Israelis from Palestinians in that strife-torn land.

We live in such a world of conflict, hatred and self-centredness. Although official statistics say that the amount of conflicts in the world has dropped in recent years, there are still millions of people displaced, starving and being forced to do things against their will. And most of it is because of man’s inhumanity to man. Continue reading

Are the New Atheists the new outcasts?

outcastsThe New Atheists have been around for quite a few years now. They have been pilloried by Christians of many persuasions. Often the criticism has been justified because of the generally misinformed commentary they have made on issues of Christian faith.

For a long time though, many atheists have felt pilloried by society as well. They have felt left out and misunderstood by much of society. Atheists of a more mild persuasion – as many are – have been tarred with the same brush that has been applied to Richard Dawkins and other outspoken atheists like him.

How would Jesus respond to the New Atheists today? I certainly don’t think his first priority would be to organise a debate about whether or not God exists. As has been mentioned elsewhere, Jesus had no need of an apologetic. His apologetic was the “greatest of these”: love. How did Jesus love the pilloried ones? He ate and rank with them. He accepted them just for who they were. It goes without saying then that the approach of Jesus is the approach that we best take.

It is perhaps an indictment on the church in Australia that some atheists have started mimicking the church and organising their own meetings. When NT Wright was in Australia recently, he made the point that the church is possibly the only organised group in society that meets together regularly for the purpose of mutual edification and the promotion of the common good. In our individualised culture, such fellowship is sorely needed. I believe it is hugely enhanced when there is a sense of acknowledging a transcendant power that is greater than ourselves. That is not to take away though from the need for community generally. We are relational creatures, and it is in relationship that we find our true sense of self.

What would a Christlike response to the atheist movement look like? Well, it certainly wouldn’t criticise or mock them for copying the Christian church. It would love by welcoming without any ulterior agenda. It wouldn’t welcome solely for the purpose of trying to convert. It would welcome and show the love of Christ regardless of the response. And if one wanted to commit to the way of Jesus, then great.

The Jesus of the gospels is always our example, inspiration and empowerment when seeking what an appropriate act of love looks like. The atheist movement is possibly one of the equivalents in our society of tax collectors, publicans and sinners. A response of Christlikeness is the way to love them.

How love transforms pain

transforming loveYesterday’s post looked at sitting with pain. It discussed the fact that in an analgesic society we have lost the ability to live life on life’s terms. So instead we do all we can to make ourselves feel better.

Having said what I did yesterday, I want to make clear that it is ok to make ourselves feel better at times, if it is in an appropriate way. Going to the footy or grabbing a chocolate bar is fine if it doesn’t take away from your growth as a person. Of course we need to be sensible about this. If you have an addiction to something, then obviously it is not healthy to indulge in that to make yourself feel better. That is the point I was making yesterday.

The best thing we can do however if we want to make ourselves feel better is to remind ourselves that we are loved beyond measure by the God of the universe. In his book, Inside Out, Larry Crabb says that when we are struck by the confusion of life, it is healthy to remind ourselves of God’s infinite love for us. That’s why being still and meditating on these truths is so beneficial, especially in our 24/7 culture that needs constant stimulation. Here is some of what Crabb says:

Cling to what you know is true. There is a God, He loves you, He sent His Son to die for your sins, He’s promised to never leave you, and one day He’ll return to make everything right. Remind yourself of these truths. In moments of soul-wrenching confusion [and I would add, pain], ponder the importance of these unchanging truths until they become burning realities in your soul.

Love is the most powerful transformative force in the universe. Surrendering all of our lives to God allows us to become more loving people, transformed more and more into the image of Christ. To become more loving is our ultimate goal in life. It is the highest reach for which the human person can attain. That’s why it’s so wonderful to remind ourselves of God’s incredible love for us.

Continue reading

You’re too powerful – part 2

church-state-streetsThis is the second of a two-part post based on a recent Facebook discussion on the Christian and power:

As affluent Western Christians, we are people in power. We haven’t had a choice really; most of us just happened to be born in one of the richest countries in the world. This has affected our view of the world. Our view of the world is determined by where we stand. Simply because of where we live, we have power, whether we realise it or not. Our purchasing decisions can literally mean life or death for millions of people in the majority poor world.

Martin Luther King made the point that no matter where we live in the world, we are all linked. Our lifestyles all impact on each other. The clothes I buy either keep people in slavery somewhere in Asia, or they contribute in a small way to the betterment of their lives, depending on my purchasing choices.

I believe it is possible to be a Christian in power. Power gives you access to justice; it allows you to advocate. That’s why the first Christians, including Paul and others of his time, didn’t tackle the evil of slavery. It is a common criticism of Christian faith that Jesus and St Paul didn’t say anything about slavery. It’s because they didn’t have any power. That is one of the perks of having power.

Continue reading

You’re too powerful – part 1


This is the first of a two-part post based on a recent Facebook discussion on the Christian and power:

“When religion is too closely linked with power, the problem is not just that religion underwrites oppression, but that the gospel itself is lost. If Christ is just a baby or a dead body, I can keep on living and not allow Christ’s lordship to shed light on all dimensions of my life.” – Ruth Padilla DeBorst

For most of its existence, Christian faith has been aligned with power. Ever since Christianity became the State religion under Constantine in the 4th century, there has been a watering down of the radical social ethics that the Gospel of Jesus demands of us.

Anne Wilkinson-Hayes, of the Baptist Union of Victoria, talks about the impact of Christendom on the faith. They include a change in the way the Bible had to be read (more about that below); marginalising of the human Jesus with a focus on his heavenly character; and a sanctioning of warfare by the church. In short, the persecuted became the persecutors.

Recently I’ve been involved in a brief Facebook discussion based on the above quote from Ruth Padilla DeBorst. The question came up about whether or not we can be a Christian in power. A reference was made to Philippians 4:22 in which St Paul sends a greeting from those Christians in the emperor’s household.

One of the problems of being too closely aligned to power is that we lose our prophetic edge. We become numb to the demands of Jesus as we gradually go along with the allegiances of the State.

It takes huge courage to be close to power and still be prophetic. I think of Daniel who worked with the government of the day. He rose through the ranks but when he spoke out and said something that emperor didn’t like, he was thrown to the lion’s den. It was the same with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; when they refused to worship the golden statue that Nebuchadnezzar set up, they were thrown into the fiery furnace.

Continue reading

Everything is relational

Source: the last year or so I’ve been realising how everything in life is related to our relationships, whether we realise it or not. All of our interactions are either constructive or destructive for our relating. That’s why life is so difficult. I thought of saying during a sermon once that life is easy until you have to relate to someone!

It is for this reason that doing our best to get our relationships to work is the most important thing we can do with our lives. Now, getting our relationships to work doesn’t necessarily mean they will be easier, but it does mean we will be more at peace. There is not much we can control in our relationships, but we can control the way we come across, with the help of God’s Spirit within us and with the help of others who love us enough to speak lovingly into our lives.

What we can’t control is how others relate to us. We can try to manipulate our relationships to get people to be nice to us or like us, but when we do this we will always know, deep down, a sense of distance from those people. That distance will be because we are actually trying to use them to make ourselves feel better. Whenever we are doing this we are not loving, and whenever we are not loving, we are not living as God intended and therefore not joyful.

Continue reading

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2024 Soul Thoughts

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑