Much thanks to Shaw TV for the interview and making me sound smarter than I am!
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Friday, December 27, 2013
You’re probably aware
Chris tians everywhere recen tly
celebra ted Chris t’s
coming to ear th. Bu t did you
know tha t there
are ac tually two
compe ting views wi thin
Chris tiani ty
as to why Jesus even came? One essen tially
says tha t
Chris t came to
make demands on us, the o ther
tha t Chris t
came to free us from demands tha t
already exis ted. One is tha t
He came to ask you to
DO some thing, the
o ther is tha t
He DID some thing for you.
One verse I really like
expresses the correc t
concep t is John 3:17 – “For God did no t
send the Son in to
the world to
judge the world, bu t
tha t the
world migh t be saved through
one theory is known as “works”, and the
o ther “grace.” The works concep t,
ac tually much more popular amongs t
churchgoers, is very similar to o ther
world religions, while the grace concep t
is comple tely novel. The works concep t
says tha t man
mus t earn their
way to God by being a good person, while the
grace concep t says the
way to God is an undeserved gif t
provided by God Himself. The works
concep t is very similar to
wha t we experience in many face ts
of life such as business rela tionships, or
school. If you work hard, do well, and achieve
excellence, you ge t a good grade, a job, a
raise, e tc. Those who ascribe to
the “works” concep t
assume tha t
since so much of life is meri t-based, why would
one’s moral and spiri tual performance no t
ma t ter to
God? On the
o ther hand, in the
grace concep t, God is viewed more in rela tional
He is like a Fa ther tha t
loves you uncondi tionally, and no thing
you can do as a child of God can affec t your s tanding
wi th Him.
If you have a church background, which one would you say your church
The “works” concep
generally says tha t
wha t Jesus did for mankind, wi th
His coming to ear th
and dea th for our sins, was necessary bu t
no t enough
for man to be able to
make i t to
God’s level; to some ex ten t
man mus t also do their
par t to make
i t to heaven,
e ternal life, righ teousness,
The “grace” concep t says tha t
wha t Jesus did for us was “enough” – final,
comple te, fini to! As our sins have already been paid for and
salva tion has already been secured, God can
credi t His righ teousness
to anyone who would rely on Him for i t.
So we do have a role to fulfill, bu t
i t as a passive role to
accep t wha t
Chris t has done on our behalf.
I have a quick analogy I call “
dishwashing analogy” tha t
illus tra tes the
concep t well.
I t is as though
you are responsible for cleaning the dishes,
ye t the amoun t
of dishes to clean is so grea t
tha t as you
con tinue to
load the dishwasher, you ge t
hungry, have to ea t,
and crea te more dir ty
dishes. In fac t,
for argumen ts sake le t’s
say tha t the
ra te a t which
you crea te dir ty
dishes is grea ter than
the ra te a t
which you are able to load them. You admi t tha t
i t is your responsibili ty
to clean the
dishes, ye t you have no abili ty
in yourself to ever comple te
Dismayed, you finally give up.
Hours la ter, your bro ther
comes to you and says, “I have good news for
you – though you were unable to
comple te your responsibili ty
of loading the dishwasher, someone wi th
superior skill has come in to the
house and has done the dishes for you.”
If you are in
this posi tion,
you ac tually have a couple op tions,
though only one is reasonable. You could con tinue
clean the dishes, which would be ex tremely
foolish, bo th because they
are already clean, and because all you ever succeeded a t
was crea ting more dir ty
dishes. The o ther
op tion is tha t
you could rely on the work of ano ther. This is wha t
i t means to trus t
in Chris t.
You rely on the work of ano ther.
I will leave i
the Bible to
drive the poin t
home: “Now to the
one who works, wages are no t credi ted
as a gif t, bu t
as an obliga tion. However, the
one who does no t work bu t
trus ts God
who jus tifies the
ungodly, their fai th
is credi ted as righ teousness.”
Religion / Works
Christianity / Grace
Do – all about what you do for God
(Galatians 2:21, Romans 10:4)
Done – All about what Christ has done for you. (Romans 4:5)
Merit- rewarded/punished based on your moral/spiritual performance
Grace – Rewarded/punished based on Jesus Christ’s performance and what you think of it.
Free (Romans 6:23b)
Humans add to salvation
(“works” – Ephesians 2:9)
“Hope so” Salva
“Know so” Salva
Boasting only in Christ – look at what God did even though I didn’t deserve it.
Serve God ou
Serve God ou
Dead works – works independent of God’s provision (Gal 5).
Faith works – works done by faith through the Holy Spirit, manifesting itself in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5)
Law focused - do
Sunday, December 1, 2013
The idea of sacrifice permea
tes wes tern s tory telling. Hi t films such as The Lord of the Rings, S tar Wars, 300, and the Chronicles of Narnia all have major
Bu t have you ever no ticed tha t the
sacrificer only sacrifices themselves
for the “good guy” in the film, the one who is on the righ t side and for the righ t cause?
Boromir dies for the hobbi ts, the warriors in 300 for their coun trypeople, and Azlan for the people of Narnia. Even Anakin Skywalker has a momen t of clari ty in order to save Luke and preven t the
almos t cer tain rise of the empire.
t have you ever seen a pro tagonis t die for one of his enemies, for someone who
hadn’ t pledged to reform their life, for someone who wasn’ t willing to help ou t the
righ t cause?
Perhaps one of
the mos t profound, complex, and moving sacrifices in
wes tern li tera ture as well as cinema tic his tory occurs in Les Miserables, wri t ten by Vic tor Hugo.
I like the 1998 movie the bes t, par tly because I couldn’ t s tand to lis ten to Russell Crowe sing for 2.5 hours, bu t tha t’s ano ther s tory.
the film, Inspec tor Javer t represen ts jus tice and the law.
Javer t is in pursui t of of a man named Jean Valjean. Valjean was finally released af ter being imprisoned for 19 years due to the crime of s tealing a loaf of bread, bu t la ter failed to fulfill the terms of his parole. This would be akin to a sex-offender failing to regis ter when he moved to a new loca tion today.
However, Valjean reformed himself and became an ups
tanding ci tizen.
When you wa tch the film, you begin to really like Valjean and he becomes the pro tagonis t in your mind very easily. He is compassiona te, humble, employs o thers, and adop ts a young orphaned girl. He represen ts God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy.
t Javer t is relen tless in his du ty to do his job and uphold jus tice. I t does no t ma t ter to Javer t tha t Valjean’s life has changed, tha t he no longer possesses the charac teris tics tha t landed himself in prison in the firs t place.
Javer t represen ts the law – his one and only du ty is to uphold the le t ter of i t. You
begin to really despise Javer t, because he is so cold, so cruel, so married to the rules.
the end, Javer t finally ge ts his chance to arres t Valjean.
Bu t, a t the
same time, he reaches a differen t conclusion than wha t had driven him his en tire life.
He says to Valjean:
to think abou t wha t you deserve.
You’re a difficul t problem…You don’ t unders tand the impor tance of the law…I’m going to spare you from a life in Prison, Jean
Valjean. I t’s a pi ty the rules don’ t allow me to be merciful.
I’ve tried to live my life wi thou t breaking a single rule.”
Then, he unhandcuffs Valjean, shackles his own hands, and says “You’re free.” He
then launches himself in to the River Seine, killing himself.
ten tion abounds as to the true theme of Les Miserables, even more as to why Javer t kills himself. IMDB claims, "The film provides an insight into the type of the moralistic tales of that time, trying to portray the suffering and degradation inherent in poverty, and the personal conflicts that are intertwined into that framework, in order to illustrate the particular challenges and choices that therein abound."
Barnes and Noble’s websi
te sugges ts tha t the
main theme is abou t the
difference be tween secular law versus an inheren t moral law, which Hugo (supposedly) prized grea tly. The
wri ter for the Barnes and Noble book club is quick to poin t ou t, "However, Myriel [the man who helped Valjean get back on his feet] is not a typical bishop, or even a typical Christian. He is not meant to represent the average Christian, because Hugo does not believe it is Christianity per se that provides morality. Myriel is drawn in such a way as to show the true morality is above and separate from any specific religion."
t seems tha t everyone wan ts Les Mis’ and Vic tor Hugo to be on their side.
I t’s abou t social conflic t….poli tical conflic t….i t’s abou t the
conflic t be tween law and inner morali ty… We can all agree abou t the
basic fac ts abou t the
s tory, bu t s tar t to
discuss why they are included, and the agreemen t ends there.
A clue has recen
tly been discovered, wri t ten by Hugo himself, a preface which was never
published during Hugo’s life time. In the margin of the preface Hugo wro te, “Before the reader engages in the reading of this book i t is necessary to warn him.
The book which he has a t this momen t in his hands is a religious book.” The ac tual beginning of the preface s ta tes,
“The following book is a religious book.
Religious? From wha t poin t of view?
From a cer tain poin t of view tha t is ideal, bu t absolu te, indefini te, bu t incon trover tible.” These
are words tha t the
commen ta tor
who wan ts to scrub ou t the
religious con tex t has to deal wi th.
As said before, if
there is confusion as to the true theme of Les Miserables, even more confusion
exis ts as to why Javer t killed himself.
ted “bes t answer” on Yahoo.com claims, "He finally understood the futility of his life. He understood that it is not the letter of the law, but the spirit and intent. He realized that his life was wasted and empty because of he perceived jean, and was filled with remorse."
ters for the ever au thori ta tive
Wikipedia take a s tab, For the first time in his life, Javert is faced with the situation where he cannot act lawfully without acting immorally, and vice versa. Unable to find a solution to the dilemma, and horrified at the sudden realization that Valjean was simultaneously a criminal and a good person - a conundrum which made a mockery of Javert's entire system of moral value - Javert decides to resolve the dissonance by drowning himself in the river Seine; his body is later found."
The Jewish websi
te, aish.com probably comes the closes t, sugges ting tha t, "Javert found the only solution for his dilemma. Not knowing whether to prioritize justice or mercy, Javert drowned himself in the river Seine."
also assume tha t in Les Miserables, The police inspec tor Javer t sacrifices his life for Valjean because he finally
sees the good quali ties in Jean Valjean. In a previous scene, Valjean spares Javer t when he has a chance to kill him.
Javer t also sees Valjean save someone’s life, which seemingly
does no t benefi t Valjean a t all.
Perhaps Javer t finally sees Valjean’s good quali ties and canno t bear to send him to prison.
I have a differen
Is i t tha t Javer t canno t ac t “lawfully wi thou t ac ting immorally,” or is i t tha t he finds the only way to ac t lawfully while also ac ting morally?
Is i t tha t Javer t canno t “priori tize jus tice or mercy,” or did he find a solu tion to preserve bo th jus tice and mercy? Is i t tha t he canno t resolve a conflic t in his mind, or does he find a way to resolve the conflic t.
If I had
to take a s tab a t the
poin t Hugo is trying to make, i t is tha t God has found a solu tion to be perfec tly merciful and perfec tly jus t a t the
same time. If
I had to pu t my finger on a specific passage of scrip ture tha t conveys the same meaning, i t would be this one: “For all have sinned and fallen
shor t of the glory of God, being jus tified as a gif t through the redemp tion which is in Chris t Jesus…so tha t he would be jus t and the jus tifier of the one who has fai th in Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). God
finds a way to main tain his na ture of jus tice while also loving His children and offering
them a way of forgiveness for their sins - which by all righ ts should issue them the dea th penal ty. Ye t God chose to punish Jesus Chris t in our place for our sins, and offer us e ternal life ins tead.
t seems tha t we have to priori tize jus tice or mercy as the aforemen tioned Jewish si te sugges ted, and tha t God is no excep tion. I
disagree. To see how this is possible, i t is necessary to look a t Javer t’s dea th one more time.
t of all, Javer t never did change his opinion of jus tice righ t up to the very end - which is the pure and correc t view of jus tice.
When you consider the concep t of jus tice, thinking abou t a cour troom se t ting is of ten helpful.
I t is no t the
role of judges and juries to de termine how a man has lived his en tire life, bu t to
de termine whe ther he in fac t commi t ted the crime in ques tion. A
quick example: If someone drives perfec tly well his en tire life, bu t is caugh t driving drunk jus t one time, his life is forever al tered to reflec t his one transgression of the law.
Going back to Les Mis, in Javer t’s mind, even though Valjean lived a perfec tly good life by comparison to o thers, he was s till guil ty of a t leas t one crime for which i t was Javer t’s du ty to arres t him.
This is consis ten t wi th his final s ta temen ts, “You don’ t unders tand the impor tance of the law,” and “I t’s a pi ty the rules don’ t allow me to be merciful.”
t is s till jus t as married to the law as he always was. His dea th is a pic ture of Chris t’s sacrifice on our behalf, ex tinguishing the penal ty of the law, while simul taneously finding a way for us to live and be free. In the final scene, as Valjean walks away, you can tell by his coun tenance tha t he does no t have to live life running from his pas t any longer.
In Javer t’s sacrifice, Valjean’s freedom is accomplished
wi thou t wa tering down the requiremen ts of the law.
t’s sacrifice may be the mos t profound sacrifice found in cinema tic his tory, a grea ter sacrifice is found in Romans chap ter 5 of the Bible.
“For while we were s
till helpless, a t the righ t time Chris t died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righ teous man; though perhaps for a good man someone would dare even to die. Bu t God demons tra tes His own love toward us, in tha t while we were ye t sinners, Chris t died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
The phrase, “while we” is
the key to unlocking Romans 5 and explains God’s idea of
sacrifice, which is always more ex treme and radical than any thing man could conjure on his own, and perhaps
why few people can come to the righ t conclusion abou t the
Les Miserables s tory.
t’s take a second look a t Romans 5:
Romans 5:6 – “While we were s
till helpless, a t the
righ t time
Chris t died for the ungodly.”
Romans 5:8 – “While we were ye
t sinners, Chris t died for us.”
Romans – “While we were enemies we were reconciled
to God through the dea th of His Son.
Before I have wri
t ten abou t uncondi tional love, and used the analogy of a fa ther’s love for his child. I think this is an easy concep t for us to grasp.
Bu t le t’s take things a s tep fur ther now.
Could you ever imagine sacrificing your life for one of your
enemies? For someone who was on the wrong side?
For someone who wasn’ t
even rela ted to you?
Such is God’s love. Bu t perhaps jus t as impor tan t as a high view of God is a low view
of man! We are wha t is described in Romans 5 – helpless sinners tha t are enemies of God. Tha t’s no t to
say tha t we are those things all of the time, bu t i t is to say tha t God’s love is immu table even if we were, are, or become those things to any degree.
His love is no t dependent on our ac tions bu t is dependent on his own charac ter.
Far from giving us a “license
to sin,” this concep t frees us to love and serve God ou t of gra ti tude,
as opposed to du ty, compulsion, or fear. Gala tians tells us, “For you were called to freedom, bre thren; only do no t turn
your freedom in to an oppor tuni ty for the flesh, bu t through
love serve one ano ther.”
So our response
to God’s mercy is to take our eyes off of ourselves, our s tanding wi th God being secure if we have trus ted in wha t Jesus has done for us, and use the oppor tuni ty to love and serve o thers. Bu t is i t possible for humans to issue the same level of jus tice and mercy? Can humans be perfec tly loving and perfec tly jus t a t the
same time? Maybe
there is more oppor tuni ty to harmonize the two concep ts than you think.