Package Deals

One thing I love about blogging is that it gives me a written record of the evolution of my thoughts and convictions.  For over five years, I’ve kept a family blog, the purpose of which is basically to show cute pictures of my kids and tell relatives what we are up to.  In between posts about first words and trips to the beach, however, spiritual thoughts would sometimes infiltrate what was supposed to simply be a digital scrapbook.  Although they didn’t fit with the purpose of the blog, I’m so thankful that I wrote them so that I can remember how I thought at different points in my life.  Below is a reprint of a post I wrote 2 1/2 years ago, on July 16, 2009.  That year was when I first took hold of the idea of the kingdom of God, and of the idea that Jesus might be calling Christians to a lifestyle more radical than most of us had been taught.  Looking back over these words, I see that while my thoughts are not 100% in the same place as they were then, the basic conviction has endured:

I had a conversation last week with a former youth grouper turned youth intern. She was talking about a Sunday school series she was teaching to the girls at her church on syncretism. The most recent lesson was on country music, a genre in which, to paraphrase her words, “God, church, drinking, America, and tractors” are all grouped together with a tidy bow. She was obviously highlighting the potential dangers of such philosophies which join Biblical concepts with unbiblical practices.

I have been thinking lately about the different things like that, but I haven’t been using the word syncretism (that’s a little too fancy, if you ask me:)). Instead, I’ve been thinking about things that are what I call “package deals,” things that have both good and bad in them, but you have to take the whole package. Take a movie, for example. A movie might have some amazing themes about life, love, and redemption that really make you think…and that same movie might have profanity, sex, and loads of violence. If you choose to watch it, you are taking a package deal. You have to take the good with the bad. Or take a political party. The two major ones each have their own package deals, called platforms. If you are going to vote for a viable candidate for office in this country, you must choose one or the other. And in doing so, you take the whole package of that party. I would love if I could pick and choose. I would love a party that was pro-life, pro-children, pro-education, pro-Christianity, pro-poor people, pro-environment, and anti-torture…but that party does not exist. That’s the problem with package deals. You have to compromise in order to choose them. And while compromise isn’t bad, per se, comprising one’s morals is always dangerous.

Christianity is a package deal, too. I think every sinful human would agree that there is stuff that is “good” and “bad” about Christianity, and by that, I mean there are elements that are either appealing or unappealing. God, peace, heaven, Jesus—appealing. Dying to self, turning the other cheek, giving everything to God—unappealing. But it’s a package deal. There is a point where you either believe and obey the Bible, or you don’t.

Here’s what gets me. I see the dangers of certain movies or certain political parties, but at different times in my life, I have chosen to compromise and watch them/align myself with them. But it is apparently a lot easier to compromise my morals than to compromise my nature. Because when I hear something that goes against my very nature (like the above “unappealing” aspects of Christianity), I am tempted to rationalize them away. Why is that?

I don’t think I am alone in that, which compounds my problem. Take turning the other cheek. I am beginning to think that the church is moving past the idea of turning the other cheek. More and more, the things I hear are not like, “Well, we should turn the other cheek, but our sinful nature makes it hard.” It’s more like, “Jesus apparently meant something else or was speaking hyperbolically, b/c turning the other cheek is completely impractical. I mean, how the heck are we supposed to fight wars if we turn the other cheek? Seriously, it makes no sense.” I hear indignation at the concept of turning the other cheek. I even read a Christian book in which the man advised his son (and readers, apparently) that if anyone ever bullied him, he was to hit them as hard as he could right in the face (cough, Wild at Heart, cough). I’m sure the feral nature in every man’s heart would leap at that chance. Unfortunately, I really do believe that the Bible would not approve knocking someone’s block off in order to defend yourself. I mean, what do you think dying to self means, if notdenying your very nature? Yeah, if someone hits me, I want to hit them back. No duh. And I’m not even a man. That’s what makes the whole “love your enemies” thing hard. And though I will entertain discussion on the use of violence to protect others (war might even fall into that category), to say that you should punch back the person who punches you, I believe, is biblically indefensible. Because according to our sinful nature, the Bible is hard. Christianity is hard. Dying on the cross was hard. And yet, Jesus tells us to be like him, to obey His words, to take up our cross, to die to ourselves. I mean, what did he mean by that?

I have similar thoughts regarding giving, but I think we’ve driven the bus far enough into Crazy Town for one blog, don’t you think? Just know that if you are reading these thoughts and feeling internal opposition, I’m right there with ya. Do you think I want to turn the other cheek? Do you think I want to die to myself? Do you think I want to give the way Jesus apparently called me to? No, no, and no.

But I do want to be with God. And I want to know God. I love Him, and I want to live for Him. I really do. And I am open to the idea that Christianity is radical, crazy, and completely impractical. Because Jesus was all those things.

Why am I writing all of this instead of showing you pictures of my cute kids? I don’t know. Frankly, it completely ruptures the thematic unity of my blog:). I just know that right now in my life, I really want to embrace the “package deal” of Christianity. I’m not even sure what that looks like, exactly, but I am trying to find out. I do know that the whole, entire purpose of my life is to know God and bring glory to Him, and to the extent that I don’t do that, I am wasting my life. Wasting it. And I don’t want to waste my life. I want to embrace my purpose, to be the person I was designed to be.

Even if that means taking the package deal.

 

 

What about Christianity makes it hard for you to take the package deal?

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6 responses to this post.

  1. I had a feeling a had already commented on this one, so I checked and I had. Yes, it is very interesting to be able to look back and to see how far we’ve come. (Of course, then there are ideas like these (turning the other cheek, etc.) that are STILL incredibly hard.) 🙂 I agree it is great to have this forum/outlet to be able to figure it all out with others.

    You may have seen my FB comment asking about John 14:12. Speaking of things in the Bible that we read but don’t seem actually to believe, I am wondering about the power the Spirit really has (or has the potential to have) in our lives. Sometimes I think doing some of the unpleasant things we are called to do (dying to self, sacrificing for others, etc.) are even easier than really, really believing in the hugeness of the gift(s) God has given us.

    Reply

    • Interesting last thought, Becky. And I’m glad that you brought up your facebook comment, because I did see it and was just thinking about it this morning. The thought I had was, “I fear God too much to let my interpretation of Scripture dictate what He ‘can’ and ‘can’t,’ ‘will,’ or ‘won’t,’ either in the past or the present.” I think sometimes we see a threat in those verses, because if we are NOT experiencing that power, then what does that say about us? And so the temptation is to explain why they must no longer apply.

      That said, I don’t believe I have ever worked a miracle. And also, I don’t believe that I have ever TRIED to work a miracle:). I don’t really know what to think about all that, but I do believe that our lack of faith limits us in ways we may never know…

      Reply

  2. What about Christianity makes it hard for you to take the package deal?

    Kim, that is a great question. I think the answer depends on what is meant by “the package deal”. My understanding of Scripture is that the Holy Spirit is the whole package for believers: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26.) In the Spirit there is no law to follow, but rather the Spirit lives in me always and completely: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2.)

    I’m not sure if this is making much sense, but because of my life in Christ and Christ in me the package deal is complete.

    Tim

    Reply

    • I love these thoughts about the Holy Spirit! I mostly tend to read Jesus’ commands APART from the promise of the Holy Spirit, and thus, I despair of ever “being able” to keep them. Of course I’m not able to keep them! How can I be “perfect” (Matt. 5:48)??? But when they are attached to the promises of God’s Spirit living in us, they start to make a little more sense. Of course, as Becky pointed out, our tendency seems to be to grossly limit God’s Spirit in our lives. Either that, or the Bible grossly overestimates the Spirit’s power. Of those two options, I lean toward #1!

      Reply

      • Be perfect in the Matthew 5:48 sense, Kim? Already done, according to 2 Corinthians 5:17 & 21 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! … God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” I think these verse say that since Jesus became sin for me and I am now a new creation because of his completed work, then because of him I am presently righteous. There isn’t a sin I can now commit that will change the fact that God loves me; my perfection is complete because of Christ’s sacrifice. Perfection is not only possible in Christ because he does it for us, it’s in actual reality a done deal.

        Sure we still sin, but I think Paul meant exactly what he said in Romans 7:20 – “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” Sin (the noun) is the one that sins (the verb), not the new creation of who we now are in Christ. It’s not a matter of seeking to become perfect. It’s a matter of the Holy Spirit who is perfect being the one who lives through us, isn’t it?

        Tim

        Reply

  3. I actually had an experience (I believe) with the Holy Spirit recently that is a little easier to stomach than working a for-real miracle. I think this is a good example of how the Spirit works (and maybe if we can get to believe in the Spirit with small things, we can build up enough faith for the big things):

    I know that I have issues with how I talk to people. Especially when I’m tired or in a bad mood, I have a real problem with “faking” being nice when I’m in a situation where I have to talk to people beyond “Hi, how are you?”/”Oh, I’m fine.” It has gotten to the point where I know that I usually say the wrong thing and so, in nervousness and anticipation of botching up conversations, I end up saying something worse than I would otherwise. Well, the other day I was expecting to run into a person who makes me particularly nervous sometimes. Before seeing them, I prayed specifically about the situation and that I would not be nervous so that I wouldn’t offend them. On my way to go where this person was going to be, I still felt nervous, and I had no idea what I was going to say to them. When I actually did see them, though, the comment that spontaneously rolled out of my mouth was completely sweet and endearing. It surprised me because it totally did not match my sentiments at the time (though my feelings started to change after I said it), and I know that I wasn’t purposely trying to make up something nice. In fact, I was nervous because I knew that I couldn’t bring myself to be dishonest and say something nice when I didn’t feel that way. It was totally a “Whoa, where did that come from?” moment, and I really believe that was the Spirit working in me to do something that I had already admitted I was incapable of doing myself.

    Reply

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