Hunger

At times I wonder if I, if all of us, are anything more than our hunger. I sometimes worry that underneath our pleasantries, cultures, virtues, faith, and even love there is simply our ambition to fill ourselves. Some appetites may appear more nobel than others, but is there fundamentally a difference? Is there anything beyond our desire to be, and not only exist but also be affirmed in that existence by others?

This worry comes from watching the people in the public eye of my country, from seeing beyond the words of those around me, and from feeling the currents beneath the surface of my own heart. I had a friend once tell me she felt like I was double-minded. Her comment troubled me for a while because I could sense that she was right. But I’ve come to believe that we’re all double-minded. Continue reading

How We Make Joy

About a week ago I had the opportunity to talk about joy with a group of Korean middle and high school students. Everything had to be translated into Korean, so for the sake of brevity and clarity—and because of my young audience—I tried to keep it really simple. Neither of those factors are present here, so here’s the long version.

I chose this topic because Korea has the second highest suicide rate in the world and suicide is the number one cause of death among people aged 10 to 39 in Korea. I think suicide is very high in Korea because many people feel stressed, isolated, and disappointed by the current structures they are told to find meaning within. Many people work hard in school or at their job because they are told success and achievement will bring them joy and make others accept them, but that’s not how joy works. This is not an issue specific to Korea, but I think it has a high tendency to make individuals in Korea feel trapped because of firm social patterns in which young people feel unable to escape or challenge the expectations of climbing the social ladder. Of course, I’ve met several Koreans who don’t fit into this generalization, but I believe they are an exceptional minority, and that this generalization is still true for many young people in Korea. Continue reading

Why I’m a Feminist

The thoughts that make up this post have been on my mind for roughly the past year. They grew out of questions, stories, lectures, and events I have encountered while in Seattle. I hesitated to write this post because I felt that a post about semantics would be of little value, and I was not completely settled in my own thoughts well enough to share them. I no longer believe this is simply a conversation about the definition of a word, and I’ve come to a place where my thoughts have been able to settle. Continue reading

Rambutan

One year ago from today I arrived back in Seattle from a four-week trip to Indonesia. The time I spent there continues to be incredibly influential in shaping the Christian disciple I am becoming. One interaction I was reflecting on today caused me to chuckle in remembrance.

During one of the muggy, sweaty afternoons our hosts offered to take us on a walk to the other side of the island to see another village, and of course we accepted. As we began our walk we quickly acquired a giggling mob of small smiling faces following behind us. Our group began to spread out into smaller clusters, shuffling at various paces as we journeyed along the dirt road. My group consisted of a couple of my teammates and a few boys I had become acquainted with.9 Continue reading

The Noah Movie

I saw the movie Noah a week or two ago and had considered throwing my thoughts in the ring back then, but never got around to doing it. Since then I’ve read a few reviews and seen a number of people commenting on it so I just couldn’t refrain from spewing my thoughts on the film as well.

First, here are a couple of sources that I thought offered valuable (not necessarily agreeable) perspective on Noah. Relevant Magazine Review, Huffington Post on racial diversity in the film, Christianity Today Review, Guide Review of the film, and a video of Jon Stewart doing what he does. Continue reading

A Theology of Baptism

Tomorrow I get to be baptized. It’s something I decided a little more than a month ago and I have been thinking a lot about these past few weeks as it has approached, especially this week. This past week has been a heavy week. Week four of the quarter, midterms next week, work, friends, and thoughts of the future have all caused me to have a heavy and tired heart this week. In the midst of that I have been thinking about what my baptism means. Baptism has been with the Church since the beginning; blood has been shed through the ages for it, individuals have forfeited land and life for it, communities have split over it, creeds have been structured around it and bodies have been burned for it. All of this being said, it is still one of the most foundational qualities that is shared by churches across cultures, borders, languages, ethnicities, liturgies, theologies, economies, and histories. This is what I am stepping into at baptism. I feel that my baptism is a promise to identify with Jesus’ death and resurrection. I see my baptism as promise to depend on Jesus as my teacher and companion. I understand baptism to be a promise to be a part the weighty history of the Church. I know my baptism is a promise to live out my theology.

I have experienced what happens when the promise of baptism is not upheld. It results in pastors who wound their communities, mentors who burn hearts, friends who cannot see beyond their own greed, and lives that are thrown out of balance. I do not believe that baptism creates faithful pastors, reliable mentors, honest friends or stable lives, anymore than I believe marriage vows create good spouses. However, I do believe that baptism is a statement of willingness to allow the Spirit of God and the community of Christ to shape me into a faithful disciple as I try to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God.

Through the fatigue of this week my weaknesses have felt prominent, but the Lord has provided grace. I have been impatient, but Living Water has provided me with patience. I have been disrespectful and rude, but Yahweh has allowed me to be honoring and respectful. I have been timid, but my Helper has enabled me to stand confidently. I have been selfish, but the Bread of Life caused me to be a friend. I have been arrogant, but the Ancient of Days has made me second. This baptism is an outward declaration of these inward changes that my God continues to make. This sacrament is my choice to continue to rely of my God for this grace.

A Little Christ

While I was on my way home from church today a friend asked me what the word Christ means. I replied that it’s the Greek version of the Hebrew word messiah. They both mean “anointed one”. The conversation went on a little bit more and then changed to something else, but that question was still in the back of my mind. What does Christ mean? As Christians we’re suppose to be striving to be “little Christs”, so it seems important to understand what exactly we’re striving to be. If Christ means anointed one, then what’s that? From what I understand, anointed ones in the Old Testament were mostly the Judges (think more leader, less robe and gavel) and Kings of Israel. They were the people God had appointed to lead his people. Another important thing I under these “anointed ones” to have done was save/liberate the people of Israel from the captivity, oppression, or other unfavorable circumstance they may have been in (usually self-inflicted because they disobeyed God’s “no other God’s” command).

Fast forward to the beginning of the first century and you have the Jewish people under the rule of Rome. This is where Jesus comes in and starts making claims to be an anointed one of God. I think the way a lot of Jews would have heard this was that Jesus is a messiah for the Jews, come to kick Rome’s butt and lead the people of God into political freedom (maybe a little fire from heaven, or separating of the sea like Old Testament heroes). The religious leaders didn’t like that idea because they knew Rome was tough and if a Jew starts saying he’s King over the Jewish people and going to set them free, Caesar would likely retaliate against the Jewish people to oppress a political upheaval that might attempt to challenge the empire of Rome. It seems to me that both Jesus’ opponents as well as many of his followers expected Jesus to reestablish the reign of Israel through political or military power, which is probably why his disciples were so distraught when Jesus told them he would be killed. Death at the hands of Rome was the mark of a failed “messiah”. If you read the Gospels (especially Mark) you’ll see the disciples continuously don’t get what Jesus is saying. They thought Jesus was going to work by the conventional power of the world, when he really works by the unconventional power of God. They thought Jesus had come to reestablish the kingdom of Israel for the Jews, when he has really come to establish the Kingdom of God for the world. They thought he had come to liberate them from the oppression of Rome, when he has really come to liberate the world from the power of sin and death. So, what does Christ mean? What claim am I making about my life when I embrace the title Christian? I am saying that I follow and imitate Jesus. I am saying that I devote my life to establishing the Kingdom of God on Earth like it is in Heaven, through the power of the Holy Spirit. I am saying that with the gifts and Spirit God has given me, I will be a blessing to those around me as I try to help liberate them from sin, injustice and pain. Jesus said that those who believe in him will do greater works than he did. That means we must continue the work Jesus was doing. A christ or messiah is someone who sets their people free, so to intimate the Christ or be a “little Christ” means promoting freedom to the glory of God, healing injustice in the name of our Lord, enduring suffering for the sake of bringing peace to the oppressed by the power of the Spirit. This is what I understand it to mean to be a Christian.

A Muslim Christian and a Man Named Gandhi

I’m halfway through  a book about the life of Mahatma Gandhi. The book is written by a Methodist missionary who lived in India during Gandhi’s lifetime and became good friends with him. It’s obvious that this author loved the man that Gandhi was. At one point in the book the author says, “I bow to Mahatma Gandhi, but I kneel at the feet of Christ and give him my full and final allegiance. And yet a little man, who fought a system in the framework of which I stand, has taught me more of the spirit of Christ than perhaps any other man in East or West.” Before reading this book I read a book about a man who has been beaten, imprisoned, attacked, betrayed, and all around persecuted for proclaiming and following Christ in the Arab world, this man self identifies as a Muslim. A missionary learned about the Spirit of Christ from a Hindu named Gandhi, and a man who calls himself a Muslim is persecuted for telling fellow Arab people about Christ’s love, this definitely made me stop and think. What is a Christian? I’ve come to think that there are two types of Christians, or that the word Christian has two definitions.

Now you must know that this idea is something that I am still trying to understand.

There are Christians who obey Christian customs and traditions. I will call these cultural Christians. Christianity has become heavily identified with the West*, which has caused some blending of Christianity and the culture of Western countries. For example, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ won’t sound as appealing to someone who is not from an individualistic culture, Jesus came to save communities not individuals anyways. Jesus was an Arab man, so I assume the shift of Christianity to being a “Western religion” was set in motion by Roman emperor Constantine. I think the culture that is embodied in most forms of Christianity seems to have very little to do with Jesus the Christ. Some people fit perfectly into this mold of dressing up on Sunday to go sing 3 songs, listen to 30-45 minutes of preaching, 2 more songs, lobby handshakes, Bible devotions and small group during the week, and the Jesus Facebook statues. These are not necessarily bad things, but all of these can be done apart from following Christ.  Don’t get me wrong, I have faith in Jesus as Lord and Messiah. But the thing is I’m coming to understand more and more that it is in Christ alone. I have heard “in Christ alone” before, but I’m not sure we’ve meant it. It’s Christ alone, not Wesley, not Luther, not Calvin, not Edwards, not even the apostle Paul. It’s Jesus alone who has authority, deserves loyalty, provides grace, and saves people. I fear that the Church I love may be developing eyes that are too small to see the entire world.

I understand a lot of people I’m associated with (myself included) are cultural Christians. I think some people are only cultural Christians, but a lot of us do have deep affection for our Lord. A Christian who truly seeks to submit to the Father by following Jesus by the guidance of the Holy Spirit is what I will call a Christ follower. I think a number of cultural Christians I know are also Christ followers. So, if there are people who are only cultural Christians, people who are cultural Christians & followers of Christ, then can there be people who are not cultural Christians but are still followers of Christ? This is what I have been trying to understand. I think the answer is yes.

“A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’  And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?”

Even if a person does not call themselves Christian, yet they sincerely follow Christ, are they not doing his will?

I think this is difficult because we don’t think of these two as separate things a lot of the time, unless we’re calling someone a nominal Christian. But what if there is such a thing as a nominal-less Christian, someone who is Christ-like in all ways except name. I think if we come to understand this better it will open doors into places that are blocked because of one misunderstood word, Christian.

I do not know if Gandhi was a follower of Christ, I never met him. There are a lot of things that make me think he might have been, he said he was attracted to the person of Jesus, he lived in a self-sacrificial way, and he loved in ways very few humans ever have. However, there are things that make me think that the Mahatma may have only been a distant admirer of the Christ.

 

 

 

*I don’t really know why North America, Western Europe, and countries where “civilized” white people live is called “the West”. If you change the orientation of a map, then those countries would be the East. I don’t like the term “the West”, but it communicates the point I’m trying to make.