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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Hang around with Joshua’s and Cornelius’s friends a short while and you’ll see the consequence of the ongoing struggle between good and evil.  Joshua is an awesome Christian evangelist. He displays a real heart for the marginalised, poorer and struggling communities. The small problem that only God can rectify is that he’s not actually a lover of Christ Jesus yet, but that’s between him and the Holy Spirit.

Most of his friends we meet come from broken homes. It’s usually the mums who are left to fend for themselves because their men have abandoned their commitments. They are struggling at home to provide for, teach and encourage their offspring, some who have different fathers, and it’s tough; much tougher than I give it credit. The ensuing tensions, and frustrations can be confusing and lead to controversy and argument. There are few men I know that would tolerate the circumstances that many of these women have been left with and it’s a glowing testimony to women’s strength, endurance, and most of all love.

My response to accusations of generalising is that in all but a few cases, that I have yet to encounter, it’s ‘generally’ true. We men prove to be the morally bankrupt cowards, who are without the courage and tenacity to stand by the promises.  They want to persuade women to give their bodies away on the cheap with no view of the lifetime commitment that a sexual liaison creates. What’s to be done? Reach out with the truth. When I explained to a 16 year old woman this morning over breakfast, that love is an action and commitment before it’s a feeling, she thought it sounded weird. What’s the lesson there? I submit that we are so caught up in the cultural narrative that says, it’s our feelings that matter most, that now it’s the truth that sounds bizarre?

Today I shall be wrestling with evil and suffering.  Here’s the question that popular culture seems to like to pose: If God is good but cannot prevent evil and suffering then He is not all powerful but if He is all powerful and chooses not to prevent evil and suffering then he cannot be good? Either way there is nothing attractive or helpful to those struggling to make sense of a life that seems short, lonely and bewildering.

We can wrestle together and I’ll come back to you with some ideas to kick around later.

I’m driving the bus and my passengers are asleep. We are navigating through majestic scenery, treacherous terrain, sometimes there are hostile forces at hand but we have to stick to the designated route. I want to wake them so that we can share in the experiences but they are having none of it. Their dreams are too enticing.

I like driving the bus, its my task. I may not be the best but I’m getting better. I am really hoping that eventually my conductor will wake up.  A helper to announce where we are and what’s coming up next would make such a difference.  It would help those who are blind to start benefiting from the journey, it would be an encouragement to me when I’m weary and be a valuable defence when we are threatened.  We’ve got to build relationships with the passengers so we can learn to communicate with them. To communicate I need faith.  With faith the urgency of the task, the loving nature of the message and the motivation to protect and provide will be accessible.  My passengers don’t want me leaving my driving post, I can’t stop the bus and the timetable doesn’t allow for a break in the journey, we have to press on.  No matter how crucial it is for the safety of the passengers to know what’s coming up, if I leave my task as driver I will jeopardize all our lives.

How can I wake them? I know that they will wake when we hit the tough stages. When the trials come there will be fear, bewilderment and confusion. They really will struggle to keep going.  So many before have abandoned the journey at this stage and left the bus not realising that there are no alternative routes. If only they would answer the call to wake up, pay attention, and start enjoying the journey.

I’ve been thinking about the purpose of blogging lately. It is a frightfully vain pursuit so I am keen to let each word count as confession, witness or experience.  Personally I mostly want to hear from affable, gifted, and wise raconteurs. Therefore I dare not assume anyone reading this is any different so and will keep my offer brief giving you time to devote to your favoured muse.  We each know that our lives are short, much shorter than we care to remember, so the escapism that stems from being entertained is essential for breaking the monotony of existence.

I have benefitted recently from reading two books by Adrian Plass: The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Aged 37 and three quarters and The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Christian Speaker Aged 45 and three quarters. I have read funny authors before, Bill Bryson, Stephan Fry or Leslie Thomas but nobody has caused me to laugh so consistently and painfully. Through both these two books, I have reached points where I’ve hesitated to turn the page in case I laugh so much that I have an accident. I have also reached the last few chapters of a charming autobiography by Bear Grylls. He’s more of an adventurer than a gifted writer however, offers some exciting anecdotes on SAS Reserves selection and climbing Mount Everest. At the end of the latest chapter (page 361) he offers this thought which is great:

“If I had to sum up what happened on that journey for me, from the hospital bed to the summit of the world, I tend to think of it as a stumbling journey. Of losing my confidence and my strength o then re-finding it. Of seeing my hope and my faith slip away – and then having them rekindled. Ultimately, if I had to pass on one message to my children it would be this: ‘fortune favours the brave’. Most of the time.”

In the shadows of the Hindu Kush there is a constant hum of generators, and manoeuvering aircraft. Back in Gloucestershire it is strikingly silent, with the peace only punctuated by occasional sounds of light aircraft.  Before I went away this quietness was taken for granted, it’s experiencing the alternative that has enabled me to appreciate what I have in a way I couldn’t before. Does this mean that we can only really learn experientially? It’s not that I didn’t recognise peace and quiet before, I have, in the past enjoyed and savoured tranquility but now my enjoyment is more profound, I can listen and enjoy silence in a way hitherto unknown.

There’s a lesson for us here about being immersed in culture and environment and rejecting from ignorance, authentic, regenerating, and illuminating alternatives.  A gentleman called Zac from Uganda identifies it as tribalism.  Because of our tribal perspective we cannot see those things that are plain to see.

This is helpful for understanding the claim, which culture rejects as nonsense, that only Christians  can love their wives, husbands and family.  Culture prefers the understanding of love provided through evolutionary theories of natural selection. These explain that the ability to love is genetically programmed for us to have the need to provide, protect and promote our species, tribe, or family. Love is bodily chemical reaction producing good feelings through opiates like endorphins.  For the non-Christians who have never tapped into the very source from which Love flows, their love experience seems perfectly satisfactory.  This satisfaction extends to the point where if you seek to explain to the non-Christian wife that she in fact doesn’t love her husband because she doesn’t even know love it is offensive, and I can understand why.  However, explain to the wife who has been abandoned with children, that in fact her husband never truly love her, that it was a fabricated love without depth, or real commitment and she’ll have a better insight to the Christian claim about the difference between authentic love and the counterfeit love.

For example, a few years ago I thought I loved my wife. Before we were married I even stood on the summit of Aphrodite’s Rock in Cyprus and told her that I loved her. The trouble was, being ignorant of what love is, having no relationship with the source of love, my love was manufactured culturally, a figment of my over active imagination and loins. It was fuelled by a cultural diet of movies, folklore and desire to persuade a young, ill-educated woman, to carry on sinning with me. It is that same counterfeit love that we both imported into our marriage and caused the years of struggle while we worked through our lives as young parents, as so many continue do, without any idea of what true love looks like.  Sadly for so many in our family, and many others, this artificial love results in abuse, neglect, broken promises and divorce.

There is so much from the culture we inhabit that will tell you with passion that I am wrong, and that what I am proposing is offensive and excluding.  But stop and think about it.  If what Christianity offers is true then whoever rejects it would naturally be offended. I know many men who believe and behave in a way that would seem they deeply love their wives. I know, for example, an elderly couple called Fred and Sue that believe they are deeply in love for me to suggest they are just using each other for comfort would be deeply offensive but nonetheless true.

You see if culture is right and I really did ‘fall in love’ with my wife after we met. If all those men who have broken their solemn marriage promises did really love their wives but they just “fell out of love”, or their “feelings”, changed, or their love expresses itself differently now, then love is not dependable, enduring, and trustworthy.  How can you love someone if you accept culture’s definitions? If your love is susceptible to the corruption that infects so many relationships today then your apprehension is justified.

I encourage you to at least explore the love that knows no boundaries, the love that has passed the test. It’s the offer of being rooted in the source of nourishing, life-giving love. Humans are flawed, fragile and vulnerable and we need something more than our failed ideas, religions and philosophies on which to build relationships.  We need a radical love, that surpasses human understanding, that exploded into human history 2000 years ago in the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that can provide the hope, purpose and encouragement our lives deserve.  This is your birthright, your inheritance, this is not some good idea it’s good news – just turn and take the gift from your Father today.