David (www.daviddraper.org), one of the most inspired and inspiring people I have had the privilege of becoming friends with, posted a tweet about a blog Peter Rollins wrote “The Rapture”. The ironic (?) thing is that I have been thinking along these lines the whole week. So, while reading the post, many things went through my mind. And, though the comments on his site flooded in, and there still is much more to be said on the subject – theological and otherwise – it made what I wanted to say even clearer…and so here goes…follow me…
I am reminded of a story I heard whilst studying…a story of a boy and a horse. While the boy was spending time with his horse one afternoon a moment happened…a moment of connection between man and beast, a moment where the boy saw the horse for who he was…another living soul, made by God with the same love, grace and care as he himself was…he recognised that he was not just interacting with an “it”, but with “another”. Whether this story be truth or legend, it led to one man – Martin Buber – beginning to speak differently about God and our relationship with Him and with what He created. And it started a revolution in the theological world, which led to the beginning of dialogical theology – where theologians like Karl Barth come in. It could never again be about man “over” the world, “looking down” on the world…it had to be about man being aware of the world, “looking into” its many different eyes, and truly seeing the soul residing there. “One who truly meets the world goes out also to God.” – Martin Buber
Why am I thinking, and writing, about this now? What does this have to do with anything? Everything! For we as believers keep ourselves busy with many things that, in the end, are all about the business of maintaining and running the faith: Who is in and who is out? How does one get in? Can you ever fall out again? How do you look once you’re in? How do you behave towards those that are “out” – the others, the sinners, the world…whatever you prefer to call them? How do you ensure that they do not contaminate you? Are they deserving of being saved? So many questions, so much time and argument and paper and living passionately thrown into it. All to get closer to answering the question: “What would Jesus do?” and how do I ensure that I am doing enough to not be left behind. Because I am certain that all of us, the faithful, DO want to live lives that satisfy God…maybe even change the world…AND YET, despite all our passionate talking and argueing and writing and living, the world is ever-more broken by the second. And we comment regularly on its shattering…especially when the effects thereof come close to our hearts and our homes…BUT that’s where it stays…we remain bystanders…eyewitnesses ready to tell the story, but not ready to get involved…watching as creation around us goes to hell…And all of this made me think of Karl Barth and of the way he thought and wrote about the world; it made me return to his work; it made me seek inspiration there. This is what I have so far…
“This much is certain, that we have no theological right to set any sort of limits to the loving-kindness of God which has appeared in Jesus Christ. Our theological duty is to see and understand it as being still greater than we had seen before.” – Karl Barth (The Humanity of God)
“Faith is not an art. Faith is not an achievement. Faith is not a good work of which some may boast while others can excuse themselves with a shrug of the shoulders for not being capable of it. It is a decisive insight of faith itself that all of us are incapable of faith in ourselves, whether we think of its preparation, beginning, continuation, or completion. In this respect believers understand unbelievers, skeptics, and atheists better than they understand themselves. Unlike unbelievers, they regard the impossibility of faith as necessary, not accidental …” – Karl Barth (Karl Barth Reader)
“Jesus does not give recipes that show the way to God as other teachers of religion do. He is Himself the way…no one can be saved – in virtue of what he can do. Everyone can be saved – in virtue of what God can do…religion is the possibility of the removal of every ground of confidence except confidence in God alone…to clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world…laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God…joy is the simplest form of gratitude…The best theology would need no advocates; it would prove itself…” – Karl Barth
Faith is, first and foremost, about being…in yourself, with the people around you, in the world. And this being requires your full attention, you’re giving everything of yourself, your becoming involved, your looking into the eyes of the world – wherever and with whatever you may find yourself. Now the “other”, the “sinner”, the “world” is no longer an abstract concept to be debated about and decided on…now they have become part of you…and your life and your efforts cannot, no WILL not, remain the same.
Engaging the heart and soul of the world
“If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better? “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.” – Matthew 7:9-12
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults-unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbour.” – Matthew 7:1-5
“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth. ‘Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, gift-wrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy’. ‘I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best-the sun to warm and the rain to nourish-to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” – Matthew 5:38-48
“The zeal for God’s honor is also a dangerous passion, that the Christian must bring with him the courage to swim against the tide instead of with it… accept a good deal of loneliness, will perhaps be nowhere so clear and palpable as in the church, where he would so much like things to be different. Yet he cannot and he will not refuse to take this risk and pay this price… he belongs where the reformation of the church is underway or will again be underway.” – Karl Barth
What would Jesus do? Start looking around you…start interacting and opening up…the answer WILL come!