This week I have met in my reading an individual who has been challenging me in new and unique ways. Rosaria Butterfield was an English professor at Syracuse University. She was a stalwart feminist and defender of gay and lesbian rights. Rosaria met Jesus in the life and witness of a pastor who was willing to sit and discuss her worldview with her. The book is a fascinating read and very well written. There is so much in it that is challenging me, and so much that could be discussed. But perhaps the biggest thing that stands out to me as I work my way through the first half of the book is her discussion of her entrance into the christian world, and the complexities that this process caused.
Its interesting how the consistent perception within the world around us is that the christian faith (and all religion for that matter) are an escape from reality. We always get this sense that people of faith are coming into their religious experiences as a way of getting away from the challenges and pressures of life in the real world. I can’t speak definitively on other religions, but this is profoundly untrue about the actual christian message. One of it’s central tenets is that God is invading reality. It is a message of the fact that one of our greatest needs is not escape from but reconciliation to the actual world.
This perhaps sounds like an odd question. What do you mean? Doesn’t it just exist? One of the most difficult concepts for us Westerners to understand is the fact that much of the world is not like us. Though we boast in our pluralism, it actually seems to backfire on us and gets in the way of our ability to truly grasp the core differences that shape our world. One such difference is the presence and nature of true liberty.
It is a most interesting fact that many who continually denounce christianity and christians nevertheless seem to continue to quote and side with Jesus himself. The reasons behind this fact can take us into a twisted network of rabbit trail discussions, many of which are most unhelpful. In my conversations with friends and coworkers, both in and outside the christian community, I have often fallen into the trap of trying to reconcile the two seemingly opposing halves of this situation. And yet lately, instead of just eagerly lunging at the bone of argument, I have seen it as a doorway into more meaningful conversation.
In a previous post the following question was raised up: “What is the path to true faith?” The basic point made there was that if there really is a God, logical arguments and “proofs” will never suffice to lead us to real faith in him. Ultimately, if there really is a God, the only way you will be truly convinced of his existence is if you meet him. Just as with any relationships, we must taste of his personal reality in order to live in a deep conviction that he is real and that he loves us.
The idea of the resurrection of has been criticized and mocked from the very earliest days of christianity. Jesus debated with the Sadducees – a group of Jewish scholars who generally dismissed the possibly of the miraculous or supernatural. When Paul spoke with the Greeks in Athens, they listened to his argument, up until he got to the fact that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Then they just mocked and dismissed him.
“For He claims all, because He is love and must bless. He cannot bless us unless He has us. When we try to keep within us an area that is our own, we try to keep an area of death. Therefore, in love, He claims all. There’s no bargaining with Him.”¹
Our greatest good is all that we really ever care about. Its the only reason we do anything. Its the fundamental reason in everything we do – we believe it will bring us good. Its the main reason we get up for work early in the morning when we would rather sleep. Its the main reason we take out the garbage. It’s the main reason we bend over backwards for difficult people and situations in life – because we believe that, at the end of the day, doing it will bring us more good than not doing it.
What is the pathway to real faith? This is one of the questions I have been mulling over in my mind as I have read and studied this past couple of years. This is a question asked by both people of faith and people who consider themselves not religious. Perhaps you are at a place where you are seeking God. You have seen a real living faith in some of the people around you and you are trying to find out how to get it yourself. Perhaps you are already a christian and you are trying to understand how you can most effectively share your faith with the people in your life. From many different angles, many different people ask this question quite often.
One of the great issues that troubles christians today is the loss of youth interest in the faith. As many young people are growing up and going off to college and university, their faith in the biblical stories in which they were raised seems to shrivel up and die. Although this is not exactly the case in all christian contexts throughout the US, the concern seems to linger everywhere. Where are our youth going? Why? Different churches respond in different ways. Some churches try to wall themselves off from any “worldly” influence and education. Others try to amp up the “cool factor” of their youth ministries by trying to mimic the current ideas of what is attractive to young people. And yet, no matter how much action is taken, it will in the end be futile, unless the heart of the issue is seen first.
What do you see when you look into the future? I’m not talking about magically predicting what is to come. No, I am asking you to look beneath the surface of your daily thoughts and challenges and see what you are looking forward to. Perhaps you’ve never consciously stopped to do that. But we all look forward to something. We all have a longing, an urge, an expectation that keeps us moving through the daily humdrum of life. We all have a sketch in our hearts of how things may perhaps turn out, and how it will make our daily life meaningful. Continue reading “Looking to a Better Future”