Posts Tagged ‘reality’

Genesis 34: 

1 Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. 2 When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her.

5 When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he did nothing about it until they came home. 6 Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob. 7 Meanwhile, Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious, because Shechem had done an outrageous thing in[a] Israel by sleeping with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done.

24 All the men who went out of the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male in the city was circumcised. 25 Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. 26 They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where[c] their sister had been defiled.

30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me obnoxious to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land.

31 But they replied, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?”

One of the things I treasure about the bible shows itself here, in this passage.  The bible is honest to a fault.  It doesn’t try to paint it’s heroes as anything but… well, messed up people who make awful decisions.  It doesn’t make anybody perfect except Jesus.  You might expect the heroes of a book of legend to be largely flawless.  You might expect moments of indiscretion to be left out of the record.  People with dicey reputations and spotty records might be left out altogether, just for the sake of preserving the better name of the greater good.  But that just doesn’t happen in the bible’s record.

The character of God is sometimes hidden though.  Not invisible.  Not absent.  Just a little harder to see.

In the beginning, God made people in his image.  This is a core tenet of Judeo-Christian society- God imparted something to the human race that is distinctly him.  It’s a mysterious gift- the biblical narrative never states emphatically what exactly that is- what the “it” is that makes humanity bear God’s image.  Does that mean God has eyes, and a nose, and ears?

The bible says that God is spirit, so I’m inclined to saying no-

The Genesis story says that God made Man (and by that, I mean to indicate all of the race of humans) “to rule over the earth” and to “care for it.”  I think that is a cornerstone to understanding what it means to bear God’s image.  We are to bear a sort of responsibility, on behalf of God, for and to His creation.  We are stewards.  And in that regard, he has gifted us with attitudes and characters that are like Him.

Justice.  Concern.  Compassion.  Creativity.  Conservation and Prudence.  Pleasure.  Management.  Service.  Culture and Community.  Glory!  Even glory.  We desire to be known, and to know.

The list could go on.  But we can learn about God, and about who he is by seeing what drives us because he built us to be like Him.

But with sin in the picture, those motives, originally good, can be twisted and deformed.  And that is what we see recorded here.

Jacob’s sons, after learning of Dinah’s tragic abuse at the hands of Shechem are infuriated.  They take on for themselves the injustice of rape.  The rape of their sister is a personal affront.

It is no different with God.  He is the ultimate empathizer.  When His creation is mangled, misused, or mismanaged, it is an affront to Him.  It is disregard for something He highly regards.

If you have been mishandled, misused, or hurt, whether it was at the hands of a Christian or not, God empathizes with you.  God takes your side.

Where the story goes off the rails is where Simeon and Levi decide to take matters into their own hands.  They trick Hamor and Shechem into getting circumcised by telling them it is required to take Dinah as a wife.  But then when they have been circumcised and are just beginning to heal, Jacob’s sons raid the town, taking advantage of their severe inability to defend themselves adequately, killing all of the men and plundering the town.

This is not God’s justice.  This is just another kind of rape.

When Jacob hears it, he’s furious.  He berates the boys, telling them what an awful decision it was.  They are not justified in doing this horrible thing by the horrible thing that had been done to them.

God is the one who brings justice.  God alone is judge.

He built in us a desire for justice.  But vengeance is the Lord’s.

It is a good thing, and a sign of his stamp on you when you either feel the sting of injustice, or the keen desire to see justice reign.  That is something in you that God designed and gives Him pleasure to see.

But justice in God’s Kingdom is delivered on the hands of forgiveness.  Retribution comes in the form of a cool glass of water.  For when we bless our enemies, we peel the veil back on God’s new kingdom, right where we are.  And the true enemies, Pride, Greed, Sin, and Death, are the ones who are chastised.

The Kingdom of God, and the Image of God don’t look all that different. Justice reigns.  Mercy drives.  Love and compassion are the fuel.  Violence and vengeance have no place in the Kingdom of heaven.  On one day, God will dispel all that mars the face of his kingdom.  Until then, it is forgiveness, empathy, and compassion.  When evil is committed, pursue justice.  By dousing the fire of fury with the cool water of mercy.  In the steam that rises, God’s image takes form.


Jesus gets a New Job

Posted: October 6, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Whenever an icon dies, a plethora of statements light up, like christmas lights buried in a dusting of snow.  I remember driving my ’79 Caprice Classic station wagon up Cornwall.  I had just passed Assumption on my right, and the First United Church of Christ on my left when the DJ on the radio announced that Kurt Cobain had died.  Well, he didn’t really die so much as he killed himself.  Small detail.

Anyway, yesterday Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died.  First the AP News alert buzzed in my pocket.  Then the little “Drudge Report” siren went of in my pocket, and I pulled my phone out to read the headline.  “Apple reports that Steve Jobs has died.”

I told my wife as I continued walking and she said “REALLY?!”  Like she didn’t believe me.  I don’t think it was the headline that surprised her nearly as much as the way I said it.  Like it wasn’t really a surprise- we all knew it was coming.  Sort of like when you get a wedding invitation in the mail.  Or a bill.  They are remarkable occasions- but not collapse-on-the-floor surprising.

I couldn’t help but wonder.  All the hype this week (at least in techno/gizmo world) was the annual confab in Cupertino.  All the pundits were speculating about what new wonder-of-the-world-to-be Apple would be unveiling.  Traditionally, this was one of Jobs niche areas.  The unveiling.  The pulling back of the curtain.  The old ipod in my pocket- OH NO WAIT!  It’s in my COIN-POCKET!  CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?!”

And the next day, Jobs is dead.  Just like that.

I’ve been 23 for a long, long time.  I’m not sure what’s so special about 23 for me.  When I first turned 23 I was a “recent college graduate.”  I had double majors- one in Philosophy, and the other in Theology.  I added that last one my senior year, around Christmas.  I was looking at my schedule and realized that I’d just about met the requirements for the degree without even being an inked member of the tribe.  So I went ahead and posse’d up.

In other words, I lived in a small apartment in a small town with a roommate and lived on a painter’s wages.  Single, limited prospects and slimming.

Yeah, no.  Not like Matisse or Picasso.  Like “Joe’s Housepainting.”  Or like “random-guy-in-a-spray-booth-with-mask-and-paintgun-in-average-American-factory” painter.

Since then, I’ve moved.  Bought several cars.  Bought two houses, gotten married, had 4 (seriously) kids, had a job, gave up a job, had a dream, given up a dream, changed a dream, stayed married, started homeschooling 1st of 4 (no, really) children, and my dad has died.  But in my head, sometimes, I still think I’m 23 with lots of life before me.  Plenty of time.  No real consequences.

Pipe smoke.  Not even a pipe dream.

Thing that I wonder at is that Steve Jobs was more handsome at 56 than he was at 36.  He was a more widely revered manager, innovator and designer than ever.  The older he got, the more iconic he became.  We’re not talking young, beautiful and reckless.  This isn’t rock-stardom.  It’s something bigger.  I don’t mean to be flippant, but maybe my kool-aide mustache is showing here.  His life had global impact.  His vision and persistence changed economies.  Not singular.  Plural.  And it was created.  He didn’t do it by killing, stealing, terrorizing or destroying.  He did it constructively.

And yet, yesterday, after all the hype, after all the people had gone home from the iFrenzy in Cupertino, Steve Jobs died.  And Apple goes on.  We go on.  The world still goes on.

The world will never be the same- not even close.  But spin it will.

We all face that dark corner in our rooms though, don’t we?  I remember looking at my newborn son’s hands.  I remember my dad telling me about how he used to hold my little hands, and wonder.  You have to think his dad might have done the same thing.  And that my sons will too.

And I will face that dark corner that we all must face.  I will lay down in my bed, sit down in my chair (I’m being optimistic here), and my brain will skip a note.  The God made union of spirit and clay will be broken, again, finally, for the last time until He mysteriously joins them in a new way.  A new indestructible way.

Here’s another thing though.  When this happens, when an entire generation turns a corner together in it’s corporate passing of time- at moments like those I gain even greater faith in my past.  Seems weird, I suppose.  But as Steve Jobs dies, and his life merges with rest of eternity, I realize, again, that just as his did, lives passed before that, and again before that.  Does reality now have any more validity than the realities of those previous to mine?  No.  Just as my reality is a reliable one, all of those that came before me are also reliable.  And it can then go back, back, back.

The men who left their families, their wives, their businesses, because Jesus persuaded them with a look- those men are no less real than I am.  Than we are.

Their lives are no less real.  And when those men faced their deaths, those were no less real either.  Only one of the 12 apostles that Jesus called had “peaceful” deaths.  One.  All eleven of those men faced something violent- something that challenged their conviction.  All of them had opportunities to trade their convictions in for something less painful.  Less horrid.  And yet they stayed.  They had seen something unbelievable, something that even seeing could not persuade for some.

The letters and books that make up what we call the bible have an aura of mystery about them.  When we talk about them being inspired by God they gain a mysticism, an elevation.  And they acquire the ability to be disbelieved.  To be considered unreliable.


They are all handwritten.  Yes, of course, our copies are typed copies, bought and sold.  Commodities.  But somebody set their hand to the purpose of writing them out.  And with that, the time.  This stuff was important.

Do you think the world will go on?  I mean really?  Like, can you imagine the world in a 100 years?  How about 500?  How about 2,000 years?  Honestly, with all the dire predictions, asteroids, economic collapse, world war, ethnic cleansing, Skynet and this Robo-dog, I struggle to imagine the world outliving me.  Can John Conner do it?

Did you know that the 4 Gospels in the Bible- the four narrative accounts of Jesus’ ministry, were about the last books actually written?

Does that make them less reliable?

The letters Paul, James, Peter wrote, the books that make up the rest of the New Testament, were written first.

Why?  Maybe because they didn’t expect the world to last long enough to need a written account.  Maybe it wasn’t until people started to think, started to notice they were actually dying!  We should write this crap down!  Somebody might need to know this stuff after… after I’m gone!

Our lives matter.  What we do draws the lines for the next generation to fill in.  No lines?  No fill.  No fill?  No drawing.  Period.

But that doesn’t mean that we are the end of time.  Time’s culmination.  Fascinating.

New International Version (©1984)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

New Living Translation (©2007)
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

English Standard Version (©2001)
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

I have a great friend and pastor who once dropped this one on me: Jesus, in his resurrected body, is the most real thing in the universe.


Rob Bell, in his book Velvet Elvis, writes that he is “simply trying to orient myself around living a particular kind of way, the kind of way that Jesus taught is possible.  And I think that the way of Jesus is the best possible way to live.”  Later, Bell writes that when you live the “way” Jesus taught, you begin to notice- to realize that you are living more in harmony with “ultimate reality.”


Yesterday, the pastor’s message had a brilliant line: “The degree to which you are obeying the law of God, you are real.”

(commence forceful popping).

So in your very best “Cheech” voice, ask yourself with me: “What is re-AL-ity, maaaan?”

What is “real” anyways?  Is “real” something you can see?  Something you can touch?  Does tangibility constitute being “real”?  What qualities do all “real” things share?

What qualities do “UN-real” things share?

The bible talks about principalities and powers, it talks about spirits of the air.  It talks about levels of Heaven, and the world of the grave (Sheol).  It talks about the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of Caesar.

Jesus say “my kingdom is not of this world.”  There’s angels and demons.

Or do we go with Neo?  There is NO spoon.  (remember to take the bag out when popping slows to 2 or 3 seconds between pops).

The question for me is this: if Jesus lived the perfect life, and has been resurrected- if Jesus’ resurrection is actually the firstborn of man to the life that God desires for all of us, if that is our goal, our destiny, our pursuit- to live into that life- is there anything now that can be called real?  Is there anything now worth doing?

Paul writes that the deeds of our lives will be tested- sort of like a product from a factory- “Does it meet x-y-z criterion?  Will it be what we are saying it will be”?  He says that when it is tested all that which was not of God and for God will be burned away, leaving only what is God pleasing to remain.  And that will represent our life to God.  This is not a scale.  We do not need to make weight to be received warmly by God.  We are received warmly by God.  Period.  But there is a noted difference between the things of our life now that are God’s and those which are not.

These things are real.  That which burns away- not so much.  They do not attach to our legacy.  God says those things are not real.

So what on earth are we left with?  Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven in the same breath as forgiveness.  As healing Luke 8:1-3.  As repentance (Mark 9:46-48).  In the same breath as mercy to the poor (Mark 10:21).  He talked about faith in the face of optimism (Matthew 8:9-11).  In the face of humility (Luke 7:28).  In the face of delayed gratification (Luke 22:16).

So I guess those are the things that are real.  Really, really real.  The degree to which my life looks like that, I am real.

What do I need to strip away to get down to the really real?  Where has my life taken on the qualities of unreality?