Monday, March 28, 2011

Creation and the Children of God

You never know what will spark a hopefully meaningful thought. I was driving home from a consult with my college adviser when I turned on the radio and heard yet another round in the ongoing debate going on these days over the ways human beings treat the environment.

In this corner, weighing in with over four thousand years of western progress based on conservative Biblical interpretation, the Dominator. His opponent, weighing in with science that exposes climate change caused by five hundred years of industrialized pollution, the Conservator.

There is an often overlooked passage Bible passage that reads, "The creation (i.e. nature) waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed." (Romans 8:19) The Christian concept of salvation is not concerned with only human beings. God created all the universe, including the flora and (non-human) fauna on planet Earth. It is a Christian belief that the present world is not as God intended. It needs salvation and re-creation. For human beings, death will be no more. For the environment, there will be a day when all weather and geologic forces will cooperate for the ultimate good of all and to God's praise.

But what about the passage quoted above? Does this refer only to the moment when reality will be changed in the end? I am thinking that there is something essential that can happen here and now. Everyone agrees that creation/nature is in trouble. The debate is over how much can be laid at the feet of human beings. People are uniquely made in the Divine image, but those image-bearers are not to lord that fact over other living things. I'd like to think that it is also "children of God" that will bring about the renewal of nature. "Children of God" are those who have been empowered, authorized, and equipped to change things for the better. They are the representatives of the One who started it all in motion in the first place. When human beings take their cues from their Maker, creation will notice and respond.

I believe that these cues are best exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ, the Son (i.e. first child) of God. He restored what was broken and called life out of death. Miracles flowed from his hands as he demonstrated what he called The Kingdom (one of several ways of describing the new world).

Then he said an amazing thing: "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these." (John 14:12) What safer place for creation to be than in the hands of those who know the heart and mind of Christ?

Whether it is a commitment to recycle, use low energy bulbs, build efficient (and eventually economical) electric cars, or simply pick up after oneself -- let us see God as the motivator, the inspiration, and the promise of our success. His redemption of human beings is not the cause of our planet's problems, but rather the solution.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Changing the World for Good

Imagine that the leader you have followed for three years was arrested, wrongfully condemned, and executed by the authorities. Since then you've been living on the lamb -- hiding out until things cooled off and you could return to your old job. But then the unimaginable happens: he shows up alive again!

Yes, I'm talking about Jesus. His one solitary life changed the world.

But you and I are not Jesus. Maybe that's what those first followers thought as they heard Jesus talk about the kingdom of God coming to pass at long last. It was hard enough for them to believe that Jesus was alive again. Now they hear that they are to take everything about Jesus to the world and that would change everything.

There are so many other powerful stories already at work. Political, cultural, ethnic, positive, negative. All entrenched for good or ill. Matthew puts it well: "Some doubted." (28:17) What makes these fishermen and tax collectors so special? Why does Jesus entrust everything to them? I think one answer is in Luke 24:44-49.

If we're going to change the world for good we need a message that is connected to everything that has come before. Jesus does this for his first followers: "Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he [Jesus] began to explain to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:27). The gospel is the most recent chapter in the story God has told since Genesis 1.

If we're going to change the world for good we need to have personally experienced what we're talking about. You cannot be like I was one summer between my sophomore and junior college years when I sold memberships in a grocery buying service for my uncle's company. On one of my calls the customer asked, "Are you a member of this?" I had to say "no." I tried to explain that I was just a college student and it wasn't practical (or affordable) for me. No sale.

Christ's followers had lived with him for three years. "You are witnesses of these things." (Luke 24:48) If we want to convince someone of the power, love, or presence of God, we had better have experienced it.

If we're going to change the world for good, we probably need to wait. So many of us run off half-cocked with what we think is the best idea since the Internet. It sounds unfaithful or negligent to not act right away. Waiting can mean bouncing the thought off some trusted people or bathing it in a season of prayer. Someone told me recently that before she buys anything online she lets the item sit in her cart for three days. If the need is still there by then, she gets out her credit card.

"I am going to send you what my Father has promised. Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49) Since God has created the world it makes sense to me that real world change only happens when Divine power is at its core.

They say that change is good. God-inspired, recruited, and empowered change is best.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Slumdogged Again

On my way home from work I saw that the Greenfield Blockbuster store is going out of business. I had been wanting a copy of Slumdog Millionaire -- the movie produced in India that won the Academy Award for best picture in 2009. I saw it in the theater two days before I went to India on a mission trip with people from my hospital.

Little did I know but destiny was at work.

I found the film for $9.99 and was prepared to buy it when a salesperson told me that if I signed up for a trial online subscription (at no cost to me) I could have the movie for free. What did you do the last time life made you an offer like that? Me too.

Spoiler Alert! Do not read any further if you haven't seen the movie.


I'm about to reveal something.

Last chance.

OK, here goes.

I like the movie, not just for its happy ending, but for how Jamal's life had prepared him for he crucial moment when all things changed. Experience gave him the clues that served him well when life leveled its questions on him.

But he needed more.

He developed and honest and caring character that kept him from taking what looked like an easy path, but was actually a deception set to ruin him.

But he needed more.

He had a brother who sacrificed himself so he could live in peace.

But he needed more.

In his moment of utter helplessness he got lucky or God blessed or it became his destiny.

I wonder if a successful life comes down to paying attention, making the right friends, doing the right thing, and believing that Someone who knows us and loves us will never be late.

Jamal made no plans to make a great person of himself. His brother chose that path, but in the end he needed redemption (and found it).

Destiny -- it's what you make of it and its what life makes of you.