Thursday, April 21, 2005

What keeps you up at night?

The IBJ emailed its subscribers yesterday... "What keeps you up at night?". They really wanted to know in order to do a feature on it. Immediately my mind went to... "Nothing. Nothing at all. I sleep like a baby."

The irony is, I'm now writing this at 4:00 in the morning, having been awake since 3am... awakened to ponder an animated conversation yesterday among some dear friends at a multicultural college.

With coffee and Bible in hand this morning, I paused to pray specifically this morning that the Holy Spirit would speak to the subject that was weighing heavily on my mind. And He did.

Subject: Culture & Humility. Culture… our own individual ‘heritage’ even. Wow -- how it can even tend to divide us from other Christ-followers. [For further reading, see Christianity Today's new April issue devoted to... "All Churches Should Be Multiracial"] Is our culture, our heritage… at times an idol? And if so, what should I, or anyone, do about it? How should I change? And even if I could adequately change personally, what should my expectations be of others?

So imagine then – it’s almost laughable -- here’s a piece of today’s Bible reading from Acts 4: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.”

The early Church's behavior -- love amidst diversity -- was as remarkable as other signs & wonders demonstrated by the apostles. Can you imagine? Not just 'sharing nicely', but sharing among a wide variety of cultures present in Jerusalem at the time. And during the greatest of paradigm shifts!

Clearly, that is the answer. Subject closed. Time to go back to sleep?

But I had recently bought a used book at the college… J.I.Packer’s “Knowing God”. As I read from it this morning, it couldn’t have been more appropriate to what I needed to hear next. Packer directed me right back to the Bible (I Cor. 8:1,2) – and interestingly, even in the context of addressing godliness amid cultural issues.

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.”

Hmmm. An interesting topic, especially in a college environment… a learning institution, no less. What Packer went on to say hit me dead-on.

"...stop and ask ourselves a very fundamental question – a question, indeed, that we always ought to put to ourselves whenever we embark on any line of study in God’s holy Book. The question concerns our own motives and intentions as students. We need to ask ourselves: what is my ultimate aim and object in occupying my mind with these things? What do I intend to do with my knowledge about God, once I have got it? For the fact that we have to face is this: that if we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject-matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians…”

Bingo. Not only 'bought the tshirt' -- I could make a nice living selling 'em on eBay.

Without going into the particular cultural issue under discussion (although please know I do agree with the CT article) the larger point is this… “What will we do with these or any other answers?” Will we simply cure a problem (if indeed we really could), and replace it with another problem… our pride in 'having all the answers'? Lord knows, the Church is well known for this propensity. Just look at the pride-and-divide, fractured Church today.

But beyond just spiritual pride, how about all the other forms of pride that come from seeming to ‘know all the answers’? Answers/solutions about the paradigm-shift, perhaps?


‘’ -- Is it about loving the new-paradigm concepts of ‘change’? Or is ‘loving’ a descriptor of how I should approach anything and everything… including change?

I’ve a ways to go, Lord. A long ways.

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”

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