Friend or Flow

15 03 2012

Do you obey the speed limit? We see speed limits more like guidelines. We prefer to just follow the flow of traffic. If someone goes faster than us they are dangerous and if someone actually obeys the speed limit they are crazy (of course this is after we look to see if a police officer is nearby). We all agree speed limits are important. They set boundaries. While we are frustrated when we get a speeding ticket, we assumed the risk when we decided to violate the law.

Think about obeying the speed limit and apply it to other areas of your life. At work if there is a rule or regulation but it is not strongly enforced what happens? People will go with the flow and get frustrated at the person who goes overboard or the person who actually obeys the rule. If binge drinking is glamorized in your circle of friends the laws on drinking age or drinking and driving become fuzzy. When there are black and white laws and rules but I don’t follow them I am making a statement. I am demonstrating how much I actually respect the law and ultimately the one who made the law.

We see this when we look at times we are willing to submit. If we have a personal connection or passion about a certain area it is easy for us to follow the rules. For example, if I have been personally affected by drunk driving, I will submit to the law and look for the people around me to submit. If we have a passion for equal rights we willingly submit to the laws and regulations ensuring them.

We also follow the rules when there is a personal relationship. If we know the person responsible for the rule or regulation we follow it out of respect for the person. This makes sense. Not too many of us know who drafted the speed limit law. Therefore, we are casual about it.

This gives us insight into what we really think about God. If God is distant and abstract then we will go with the flow. If God is personal then I am more willing to submit. There is an interesting dynamic. God has established boundaries. People tend to live within those boundaries because of one of two reasons. First, they have a personal connection or passion because they have been hurt by someone going outside of God’s boundaries. Second, they have a personal relationship with God that is growing. (I am ignoring the legalist because they are not following God. They have created their own rules and boundaries apart from God.)

Please take a look at this statement by Jesus: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:12-15)

There is an expectation of mutual respect. Jesus sets a standard for his followers. It is the same standard he sets for himself. He also offers transparency. There are no secrets in the relationship. What you see is what you get. He invites us to be friends with an understanding that we would honor that friendship by respecting him and following his commands.

Imagine if the President of the United States was your friend. He (or, one day, she) would hang out with you. He would share the struggles of the office and talk about his family. If you were truly his friend you would honor that friendship. You would also have a deeper appreciation for your country and the role your friend played in the world.

I encourage you to really look at your relationship with God as a friendship. The natural consequence will be a desire to obey his commands. Why? As you get to know him your respect will grow. As you begin to grasp the depth of his love you will want to honor him by living within the boundaries he set. You won’t just go with the flow of traffic. You will be a good friend.





You look like someone I know

8 03 2012

There seems to be a breakdown in how people treat each other.  In politics it gets downright ugly.  Once a person is seen as being on the other side of the issue, there are no limits to how much we can bash them.  The attacks are often personal and frankly mean.  Meanwhile, the images portrayed as normal make people worry about how they look.  The idea of beauty has become an airbrushed fantasy.  It is heartbreaking.  Does Christian theology have a response to this?  I believe it has a very powerful response.

First, you may be surprised that I used the word theology.  However, theology is why we do the things we do.  Theology is simply how we understand God.  So if your theological view is there is no God you will live your life accordingly.  If you view God as judgmental waiting to punish you then that will shape how you live.  Some believe God is present in everything…the bottom line is how we understand God and the things of God ripple into all the other areas of our life either consciously or unconsciously.

What is the Christian theology on self-image and how we treat others?  You may have heard the term Imago Dei.  It means the image of God.  Christians believe we are made in God’s image.  This has huge repercussions.

First, we have value and worth regardless of any external factor.  Society may or may not find you attractive.  However, you have inherent attractiveness because of whose image you are made in.  Many would agree that we need to have an internal sense of value and worth.  However, I would argue that value needs to be anchored in something larger than ourselves.  If we don’t anchor it the result is a tendency to earn our worth or look for worth in other people.  If I try and earn my worth I will never feel I have arrived.  I will burn myself out.  If our worth comes from another person we set ourselves up.  All of us are human.  We make mistakes and don’t always appreciate the people around us.  The Christian view is to anchor our value and worth in God.  God does not need our actions (one of the benefits of being God) and is able to be a steady rock in the midst of our human relationships.

Second, we are an image of God and not God.  This puts boundaries on me.  I need to be respectful and acknowledge there is one who is greater than me.  When I disrespect another person, I am not showing respect for the one whose image that person carries.  This means I see everyone has having value and worth not because of what they do even if they have hurt me or because of who they are.  I show them value and worth because they are made in the image of God.

Imagine if we treated everyone with respect and dignity.  Yes, even the person who we do not like or the person who has hurt us.  At the extreme we see this in how we treat prisoners.  Even though they may have done horrible things, we insure they are treated with dignity.  To do anything else opens the door for interpretation for how others are treated.  (I hope you can see the idea of people deciding to treat people differently because of the color of their skin or their political views.)  This takes Jesus commandments to love our neighbor as ourselves and to love our enemies to a whole new level.

If I see I have value and worth because I am made in the image of God then I will have self-esteem.  If I see you have value and worth because you are made in the image of God then I will treat you with dignity and respect.  That should happen regardless if I agree with you, if you look a certain way or if you do something I think is wrong.

Confession as a Christian leader:  The Church has not always gotten this right.  The Church is made up of humans who sin.  This only reinforces my point about being anchored in God and not other people.  However, the Church’s theology is clear.  We need to allow this theology to ripple into the other areas of our lives.  You are in the image of God and so is every other person you encounter.  I pledge to act like it.  Will you?