Tag Archives: Romans 12.2

Didn’t you promise?

See the source image“Cross my heart and hope to die. Stick a needle in my eye.”  Our promises use to mean something.  As children, we took our commitment– no matter how trivial or time- sensitive– seriously.  We meant what we said with our little mouths about a rumor we had heard or the score of last night’s game.  It was the difference between life and death for us to break a promise.  Our very life was staked on our fidelity.

But, words don’t mean much now.  We say words and take them back.  We say things that we later claim we didn’t mean.  We don’t think through the impact of our words and later maintain that we misspoke.  But, what of the promises that we have made to Christ?

Certainly, we meant it then but do we mean it now?  And going to church is no indication of our allegiance.  The story of the disciples removes our rose- colored glasses and any doubt that you can follow Christ and still deny him, that Jesus can call you by name and you still betray him.  Proximity is not an indication of one’s ability to keep a promise.  Friends and enemies share the same space.

So how do you or I know how committed you are until a time of testing?  How does God know that you are committed?  Would we know if our commitment changed?  Because betrayal is a slow backing away.  We take long breaks and then Sundays off before we leave the faith altogether.  It simply starts with our fellowship.

Consequently, confessing Christ as our personal Lord and Savior is not a one- time declaration.  Instead, we must confess Christ daily as there are continuous assaults on his position in our lives.  Everyday, the forces of our society, the traditions of our family, the tyranny of our workload threatens to unseat him.

And what of our commitment to Christian community?  What happens to our confession to love when the community does not reflect our culture, when the people “don’t look like us”, when it becomes apparent that we have created a version of Christianity that suits our people group and no one else’s?  Then, we realize that our promise was conditional and the challenge to “renew our minds” so that we become one in Christ is presented (cf. Romans 12.2,5).  Because we crossed our hearts and hoped to die to self and all its carnal desires, too.

Didn’t you promise?

 

Community Building

While I write on a variety of subjects and interests, recently, I have narrowed my theological focus to community.  I have been walking with several words and ideas for years now.  They have only had a place in my head though talking it out on paper has been my practice.  Honestly, I am waiting for persons of common belief and calling to join the conversation.   Some days, I wonder if they will come or if I will continue talking to myself.

But, I am also listening for what is really being said, waiting for the right words to come alongside me.  It’s not the right time—because this or that is not the right word.  And then came community.

Piecing together a path has slowed my pace.  I wanted to be farther along.  Signing books by now.  Speaking before crowds.  All of it is vanity.  The wind of the Spirit blows when it chooses.  I am not in charge of inspiration.

Finding my footing and my place in Christ’s ministry has received much of my attention, energy and time.  Community seems to capture the pressing conviction and the goal.  Now, I feel as if I am working towards something—not simply working on something.  The word seems simple enough but its actualization is complicated, which is to suggest that it is more elaborate in meaning than we could ever imagine.

Community is not a quick fix or an easy answer and yet, it is the fix and the answer.

The Greek word for community is koinonia.  Whatever your preference, whether English or Greek, it is not a place but a practice.  Community, communion, common.   Having all things in common, we are in fellowship.

But, fellowship is not a hall.  Fellowship is more than food and drinks, more than chatting and chewing.  Fellowship is a state of being, a kind of relationship.  Fellowship, community or communion, we share in common Christ’s body of which we are all members.

Fellowship is what was described in the Acts of the Apostles: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.  All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (2.42-47, NRSV).

And this fellowship, this community is what the church has been to me during my formative and adult years.  Not to be confused with a clique or faction, I am talking about a group of people that covenant together for a common cause and conviction.  For me, it has been transformation.  I want the witness and words of Christ to change me—not my clothing, not my bank statement or my mailing address but my mind.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, “Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God— what is good and acceptable and perfect” (12.2, NRSV).  George Bernard Shaw, playwright and critic, said many years later, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” Anything.  If there would be progress, then there must be change.  If we are to move closer to each other and to Christ, then we must change—not the other person, not Christ but ourselves.

Also, conformed to the world or a transformed community, it is the mind that enables us to know God’s will— not our socioeconomic class or cultural traditions.  We will not know the kingdom of God or what it means to build God’s kingdom on earth if we are not open to a change of mind.  But, it is God who changes our minds and for divine purposes.  It is God’s will that is good, acceptable and perfect.

I think that my mind is being renewed, transformed, changed and I am seeing the world in a new way.  I understand now that God’s kingdom is about community building—not a church building.  It’s about sharing those things we have in common, both in religious confession and social condition.  It’s not about committee meetings but meeting each other as we are with hands ready to give, receive and build each other up.  This is a much- needed change in our thinking and being in the world.

Community.  Communion.  Commune.  Fellowship.

Think About It

ThinkAboutIt_-_OpeningGraphic01thumbThe ministry of reconciliation is not one for which our hands go up easily or quickly. There seems always to be a shortage of willing participants.  We are not standing in line to talk about the hurts and wounds, to have hard conversations, to pick away at our stony hearts.  And finding leaders is just as difficult (I wonder what a job description of ministers of reconciliation might entail).

We don’t have an end in mind and even if we do, we don’t believe that it exists.  Despite the fact that we don’t know the direction, the distance or the landmarks, we figure that it is impossible for us to make it there.  We figure, “It will never happen” so we sit down and fold our hands.  Things will never change.

We surmise that people will remain the same so we decide that it is not worth the effort.  We confuse their willingness with our own.  But, people change one person at a time and there is no shortage of work for those who desire for us dwell together in unity (Ps. 133.1).

Still, I am afraid that we are not informed as to the vision for reconciliation.  We simply do not know what those relationships looks like.  Because we have not seen what authentic unity is– at least not long enough to take a picture or to take notes on it.

Too often, we give persons laws that they must follow: “Do this and I will forgive you” and not the love that we should all strive for.  We have a to- do list and frankly, it is one that we have not completed ourselves.

So, today, I challenge us to prepare for relationship, to not just talk about what needs to happen but to make it happen.  This starts not with our mouths as anyone can repeat what has been said.  We do not begin after they have satisfied our need for revenge.  To be sure, it is never an even exchange.

Instead, we must think about it.  Our minds must change.  It is where transformation begins (Romans 12.2).

We must begin to give our thoughts to new ideas, new words and circumstances.  We must start thinking about how our relationships look not if but when we come together.  We must push our minds to think beyond what has been and to imagine what could be or we are not thinking at all.

Think about it.  What what would happen if we were reconciled to each other?  What would it look like?  What could we accomplish?  What if you became a minister of reconciliation?

Think again and again

po5cl7uuos8j9u“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.  To make a deep physical path, we walk again an again.  To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

Persons often question my convictions concerning race and my commitment to the race-less life.  While they ask many different questions, they all boil down to the same question: “How do you believe?”  They really want to know how I do it.  The simple is with my mind.

Transformation starts in the mind.  There is more power in the mind than in arguments, armies and government administrations.  It is in the mind, where intellect and feeling reside, where the conscious and unconscious meet, that decisions are made.  This is the place of reason, the battleground, the real ruling authority.  And there is nothing more powerful than a made up mind.

Transformation done here cannot be undone or reversed.  It is a change that you won’t see in a mirror.  The results won’t be captured on a scale.  It is not a matter of rosy cheeks or wrinkles, inches or pounds.  No, the outward proof is a life better lived, carefully thought out.

The condition of our minds determines the condition of our lives. But, it takes practice, mental conditioning.  Change does not occur with the arrival of a single thought but the repetition of that truth.  While a single truth can defeat any number of lies, they are not overcome easily and must be stomped out, walked out, lived out.

Our transformation will require us to “set our minds on things above” (Colossians 3.2), to meditate on the truths of Christ.  If we desire to become new, we must think again… and again.

The Real ‘Big Brother’

“He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”

~ Colossians 1.15, NRSV

Named for the fictional character in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty- Four, the CBS reality television show “Big Brother” is now under surveillance after comments from cast members spark discussions on social media on white privilege and overt racism.  Despite the show’s purpose, according to a recent post by The New York Times, “race has become the dominant narrative.”  This story makes me wonder about the Christian reality in America as it seems that there are several story lines that are running alongside and in many cases, replacing the good news of Jesus Christ.  In a society that can update its status minute by minute, Christ’s unchanging status as the world’s Savior and the stability of his identity as the one who “is the same yesterday, today and forever” may appear outdated and irrelevant (Hebrews 13.8).  In a similar manner, in a society that prides itself on being accepting and tolerant, Christian believers may find themselves uncomfortable describing themselves and others as sinners.  But Christ’s story has not changed.  Paul says to Timothy, “The saying is sure and worthy of acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (First Timothy 2.15, NRSV).

Despite the words of Jesus, highlighted in red in most bibles and his model of compassion and forgiveness as recorded by the Gospels, the challenge to those who become his disciples to demonstrate his good news to others and represent the reality of one who is now a new creature in him proves difficult as race continues to be the dominant narrative (Second Corinthians 5.17).  We think and in turn, behave as if we have not repented, which simply means to change one’s mind.  We have not changed our minds when it comes to racism, prejudice and stereotypes despite the words of Paul to the believers in Rome: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God– what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12.2, NRSV).  Sadly, the doctrine of race and divine selection according to the social coloring of skin is our good news.  We believe that it is apart of God’s reality for humanity.  Heaven forbid.

Perhaps, this is why we can continue to ostracize and segregate and hate and murder.  We may not be concerned about the Big Brother in Orwell’s novel but the real Big brother is Jesus and he is watching us.