Tag Archives: The Jesus Paradigm

Unity and Other-centeredness

[04/14/2017] 7:56 AM Phil. 1:15-18a is a parenthesis. A what? A parenthesis in grammar is a remark or passage that departs from the main theme of the discourse. You can call it a digression if you like (though the latter term has a slightly different connotation). I just made a parenthetical remark, by the way. So, then, in Phil. 15-18a Paul offers his readers an aside. He says in passing that he rejoices that the Gospel is being proclaimed even by people who are opposing him out of personal animosity. Who cares? Ti gar! The only thing that matters is that Christ is being proclaimed, and in this I rejoice!

When you were young, did your parents ever tell you, “Watch the tone of your voice”? Sometimes it’s not what we say that’s wrong. It’s the way we say it. Paul’s is prison. He’s facing possible execution. What’s more, not everybody there likes him. He could have grumped, griped, complained, and made life miserable for himself and for all those around him. Instead, he looked at the bright side of everything. Even when he’s pointing out selfishness and impure motives (as he’s doing here), he does it with a tone of grace and kindness. It doesn’t mean it lessons the seriousness of the problem. It just means we don’t have to add to the problem by the way we speak.

By the way, in case you didn’t see the connection, Paul is again “telegraphing” to his readers (us included) that in this letter he is going to deal directly with the problem of disunity in the church (see 4:2-3). Disunity occurs when we “look out for our own interests rather than the interests of others” and when we “esteem ourselves as being more important than others” (2:2). The antidote for our self-centeredness is, of course, a good dose of tapeinophrosune — “lowliness of mind” (2:3). Today, I can choose to be other-centered. I can choose to forgive that relative who has hurt me. I can choose to be patient rather than fly off the handle. I can choose to pray more and wimp less. I can choose to be like Jesus: generous and loyal. Let’s pinky promise today — you and me — that we’re really going to make an effort to listen to the people in our lives. That we’ll be slow to speak and quick to hear. I pray that the Holy will invade our lives today, that we would see (as Paul did) where God is hiding in plain sight in our lives, that even when we feel taken advantage of we will remember that we are the chief of sinners.

The Gospel is more important than people’s motives. If our inner monologue is constantly negative toward those who don’t act and think the way we do, it’s time to move back to grace. Isn’t that what Paul is saying?

It’s true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they’ll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I’m out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better—they think—for them.

So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!

It will take me an entire year to fathom the depths of what Paul just said. I absolutely understand why we would criticize people who are hoping to take advantage of our misfortune. But it’s sadly possible to bend the universe too sharply toward our own feelings. I suspect that the real culprit is our failure to unpack the root motives behind our own actions. Love God and serve Him. Really, nothing else matters. If you are ever unsure how to treat other people, just remember how Jesus treated us. He loved us even when we despised Him. This gives me such comfort. It also reminds me that I never — never! — have to compare myself with anyone else. Play the “Gospel competition” game? You can have it!

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission.)

We Can Be the People Who Tell the Truth

5:18 PM Hello blogging friends,

I trust you’re doing well. I’m sitting here nursing a head cold and trying to grasp the significance of what our nation just experienced. But first of all I want to join President Obama and Secretary Clinton in congratulating Mr. Trump on his election victory. I also promise to pray for him as he begins his term of office. As President Obama put it today, “We’re all rooting for his success.”

As you can probably figure out, I’m pretty much a conscientious objector when it comes to the Left/Right political wars. I guess I’m a self-described “misfit.” I call myself neither a Republican nor a Democrat. Unlike some of my fellow evangelicals, I came out neither for nor against Mr. Trump. This kind of politicization within evangelicalism is nothing new. On the Right we hear that we are to vote for the platform and not the person. But on the Right we also hear that we are to vote on issues of personal morality and not merely on pragmatic ones. Hence the dichotomy: some evangelical Republicans were enthusiastically supportive of Trump, while others were adamantly opposed to him. Growing up, I was taught that Republican is always right and Democrat is always evil. That, to me, is a distinction without a difference. I think Russ Moore nails it when he says that, after yesterday’s election, we evangelicals are “to maintain a prophetic clarity that is willing to call to repentance everything that is unjust and anti-Christ, whether that is the abortion culture, the divorce culture, or the racism/nativism culture.” In other words, be an equal-opportunity offender. He adds:

We can be the people who tell the truth, whether it helps or hurts our so-called “allies” or our so-called “enemies.”

He’s right. How can we defend a so-called “Christian” America that is hypocritical, homophobic, anti-immigrant, sexist, and bigoted? We can’t. Nor can we invoke a social gospel that ignores the personal gospel of faith in Christ. I believe that Left or Right, there’s an awful lot of corruption in politics. And the best way of addressing these issues, as my colleague Chuck Lawless put it today in his essay 10 Reflections on Today’s Election, is to acknowledge:

I am to be a good citizen of the United States while recognizing that the U.S. is not my final home. I am to stand for righteousness today even as I await the return of the Son.

I’ll add this. As far as I can see, I don’t think that past political dichotomies such as “Left” and “Right” matter that much to the students I teach. Younger evangelicals find themselves operating more and more outside of the traditional evangelical apparatus. For instance, younger evangelicals are more likely to have a gay friend than their parents and therefore tend to be more sympathetic to the gay rights movement even as they reject homosexuality as a sin. Ditto for issues of creation care and economic justice. They’re willing to probe theological and cultural issues that tend to be unwelcome in more established and traditional churches. They’re watching movies like Hate Rising. This means that at times they feel out of touch with the evangelical establishment. As I see it, this is a positive development. What we are seeing is the development of ordinary, rag-tag radicals who fear that both the Christian Right and the Christian Left have been allowed to pervert the gospel message and are determined to speak up about it. “Vote for so-and-so because he believes in Jesus as his personal Savior and supports ‘our’ values” no longer cuts it for them. They view such language as overly-politicized. And they’re not the only ones. Our evangelical “elders” have also struggled to make sense of the current scene in American politics – witness Wayne Grudem’s initial support of Trump as a “morally good choice,” then his taking a 180 degree turn from that position, and then finally expressing his support for Trump’s policies.  This sense of uncertainty and ambivalence is dramatically reshaping the evangelical political agenda in the U.S. In such situations, the church may have an opportunity. To quote Moore again:

The most important lesson we should learn is that the church must stand against the way politics has become a religion, and religion has become politics. We can hear this idolatrous pull even in the apocalyptic language used by many in this election—as we have seen in every election in recent years—that this election is our “last chance.” And we can hear it in those who assume that the sort of global upending we see happening in the world—in Europe, in the Middle East, and now in the United States—mean a cataclysm before which we should panic.

Moore insists that such language “is not worthy of a church that is already triumphant in heaven….”

The church must be, as Martin Luther King Jr. taught us—the conscience of the state. But we do that from a place of gospel power, not a place of cowering fear. That means that we—all of us—should see this election as important for our country, but not ultimate for our cosmos.

I couldn’t have said it any better myself. The good news is that one day Jesus will win, not only all 50 states, but every tribe and nation. I for one am looking forward to that day. Meanwhile, having shattered the monopoly of the mainstream media and the political establishment in Washington, Donald Trump has revolutionized our entire view of evangelicalism. His “revolution” has shown that the old guard’s influence on the evangelical political agenda is still alive and well. This may well lead to new and profound changes in the way we American evangelicals conceptualize our role in society. I doubt, however, that younger evangelicals, the “ordinary radicals,” will be deterred in their efforts to develop a kinder, gentler form of evangelicalism. After all, they have begun traveling the downward path of Jesus. They’ve also begun reading their Bibles. And that is a very dangerous thing to do.

Staying centered in Jesus,

Dave

(From Dave Black Online. Used by Permission. David Alan Black is the author of a number of Energion titles, including The Jesus Paradigm, Christian Archy, and his most recent Running My Race. )

Opposing Government Bureaucracy, But What About the Church?

12:13 PM Steve Scott’s latest essay is a real winner: Evangelicalism: Government Programs vs. Church Programs. Steve points out the irony that those Christians who want smaller and smaller government are often the same Christians who want more and bureaucracy in the church. In my book The Jesus Paradigm I referred to this as the “FDR-ing of the church.” Steve writes:

Continue reading Opposing Government Bureaucracy, But What About the Church?

Life is Too Short to Live for Temporal Dreams

6:44 PM Lloyd Ogilvie, one-time chaplain to the U.S. Senate, once had a serious accident while on study leave in Scotland. One afternoon he was walking on the beach when he fell between some rocks and broke one of his leg bones. Almost fainting with pain, he managed to crawl for several miles until he found help. The break required many months of recuperation in a hospital in Scotland.

During that time Ogilvie confronted what he called the “seduction of the secondary.” Alone with his pain, and away from the strain of his work, he was reminded of the preeminent need to have a close walk with God, to live for the Gospel, and to find his identity solely in Christ and not in any other human being. Continue reading Life is Too Short to Live for Temporal Dreams

Violating Turf

Think about this. When Jesus went to the Samaritans (John 4) He had no business being there. Becky and I likewise violate turf rules by going to the Gujis. Guji territory is outside the Burji box. But just as Jesus wandered into enemy-controlled territory, so the Christian has the privilege of invading territory controlled by a rival religion. Interestingly, Jesus deliberately defiles Himself by asking for water from a vessel that an unclean woman has touched. I have to smile when I think that Jesus’ ministry to the Samaritans began with a drink. That’s exactly how my ministry among the Gujis began. This picture is no joke — I choked when I “drank” this coffee. (It was full of roasted coffee beans that one was expected to eat. It is a Guji tradition.)

Continue reading Violating Turf

Apologist Only for the Gospel

From Dave Black Online:

Life is too short to be an apologist for anything but the Gospel. That thought came to mind yesterday when I was asked to grant permission to someone to republish something I had once written on constitutional politics. My initial instinct was to give it. After all, the DBO byline reads, “Restoring our biblical AND constitutional foundations.” I have long been a keen student of American politics, its process of development, as well as its relationship with biblical Christianity. Indeed, not too long ago I would have considered myself an “apologist” for the Constitution Party. Anyone who reads this website site knows that I have written very little lately on this subject.Why?

The more I read the New Testament the more I see that it would have us hold tightly to Jesus Christ, to whom we must accord preeminence, and hold every other loyalty loosely, including our political affiliations. I have come to see that any political movement, perhaps especially one supported by Christians, is a part, not of Christianity, but of Christendom, which itself is a very complex mixture of truth and error. The tragedy is that this connection is not always acknowledged, and the resultant impoverishment has often made Christianity prone to syncretism and to an unwarranted and shameful triumphalism.

In order for the church to fulfill her glorious worldwide mission, its structure must be a global structure. This means that the church is essentially a trans-national body, centered in the Great Commission of her Lord and in the spiritual life and mission of its total priesthood of all believers, regardless of their political views or national loyalties. In this way our churches can be revolutionized by a partnership of grace in which every member has his or her own contribution to make and function to fulfill. No doubt when we begin to look at the Body of Christ universally we will find ourselves acting less and less like “apologists” for our own brand of national politics.

Truly, life is too short to be an apologist for anything but the Gospel.

(Dr. David Alan Black is author of Energion titles The Jesus Paradigm and Christian Archy as well as co-editor of the Areopagus Critical Christian Issues series.  His material is used by permission.)

New Review on A New Covenant

Lionel Woods concludes:

I highly recommend this work. Dave Black sets out to show us that Jesus’ Paradigm isn’t what the world deems valuable. For us Christians (disciples/followers) we have to sit down with our ledger and attempt to reconcile it with Jesus’ commands, wherever there is a variance we are to fix it. Much of what Dr. Black talks about will have to come through the grace of Jesus; however, Jesus himself says “whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you”. That is when we ask with His heartbeat, mostly I have asked with my own. Thanks Dave for a wonderful challenge.

About Patriarchy

From Dave Black Online:

Had a discussion recently with a student about patriarchy. I shared with him my concern that sometimes even biblically correct positions can be reduced to a dogmatic narrowness, formalism, and fundamentalism. And this of necessity leads to a kind of fascism. Sadly many Christians gravitate to such black-and-white thinking, glad to find someone who can tell them what to do, someone who will “protect” them from society. Patriarchy-ism is becoming a beacon of authority precisely because it speaks to our insecurities in a time of incoherence. But is that not a danger of any of our “movements,” including agrarianism? This, at least, is what I argue in my forthcoming Christian Archy.

David Alan Black is author of The Jesus Paradigm from Energion Publications.  Quotes from his blog are used here with his permission.