Friday, June 14, 2013

Yard Sales and Christian Maturity

Yard Sales and Maturity

The annual tradition in our development is a large yard sale on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Normally, my family does not participate. This year, however, I made an offer to my son.


The offer was this, “If you gather together some of your toys and books that you don’t use any more and put them out for sale, you can keep all the money you earn.”


All my son heard was, “Keep all the money.” Soon, he had a vision of raising hundreds of dollars. The work involved in the event was not part of his vision.


He soon discovered that he had to carry his items to the table in the driveway; staff the table for 3 hours, and carry the items he did not sell back into the house.


He learned that commitment and work are necessary.


We call this growth a move toward maturity.


As Christians, we grow in maturity of discipleship.



Faith and Doubt

The early church father, Hilary, believed that God's answer to Moses, at the burning bush, was the starting point for the conversation about the Holy Trinity. God answers, "I am who I am." God’s answer shows us that in seeking to know and understand God, we discover that God is "prior to our thinking." (Robert Louis Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought)


"A God prior to our own thinking is a God that stretches us. We must allow the reality of God to stretch our thoughts so that we become worthy of the God we seek, befitting God, rather than imposing on God arbitrary standards of our own making. " (Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought)


In Psalm 8, we hear, O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you have set in their courses, what are mere mortals that you should be mindful of them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet you have made them little less than divine; with glory and honor you crown them.


In expressing the wonder, power, and glory of God, we immediately create a problem for ourselves. God is mindful of humans. If so, then why did so many die during the tornadoes in Oklahoma?


In expressing the great capacity of humanity given them by God, we immediately create a problem for ourselves. Humans have the capacity to rule over the works of creation. If so, then why could they not keep themselves safe during the 250 mph winds of an E-4 tornado?


As soon as we assert our faith, we encounter a reason to doubt. "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief." (Mark 9:24)


In describing the poet R. S. Thomas, John McEllhenney writes that the poet had an "uneroding belief in the existence of God" and "ongoing doubts about the presence, justice, and goodness of God."


He continues, "For belief needs doubt to temper it, to make it more flexible, to enable it to bear up under Shakespeare's whips and scorns of time. Many believers deny their doubts, using noisy assertions of rock solid faith to drown out the insistent voices of uncertainty...For concealed doubts are like untreated diseases: They fester and sap strength until, when a major blow comes, the person has no spiritual resources left to withstand it." (John McEllhenney)


For some, faith is purely about obedience. While this can lead to believers that are confident, clear, and certain, there is a shadow side. M. Scott Peck, in People of the Lie, describes the problem of the shadow side.


The shadow side of obedience requires perfection. This is an impossibility. While those who are mature can acknowledge their imperfection, those less mature cannot. Thus, they must explain away their flaws by blaming others. (Peck, People of the Lie)


For some, faith is purely about love. While this can lead to believers that are compassionate, socially conscious, and helpful, there is a shadow side. Peck also describes the shadow side of faith thought solely as love.


He describes one of his patients named Charlene. She espoused the fundamental doctrine of the love of humankind and saw herself proceeding through the world spreading gifts and gentle kindness wherever she walked, but in that life of love, she excluded the reality of other people. She would resist challenge, Peck writes, "her demand was that I love her regardless of how she behaved. She did not want to be healed, she wanted to be loved." (Peck, People of the Lie)


A faith that is not tempered with doubt can be destructive. Doubt can lead to growth. Doubt can lead us to Christian maturity.


How do we become mature Christians?


Teddy Roosevelt. "If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit down for a month."


In the Gospel of John, the Holy Spirit takes center stage and prepares the disciples for life after Jesus ascends into heaven. One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to bring about the truth among the disciples.


The truth ends the "Yeah, but..." moments in our lives when we are challenged. It ends the self-justification. It ends the excuses. Truth makes life impossible, and truth sets life right.


J├╝rgen Moltmann, in In the End—the Beginning: the life of hope, writes, "...for Christian hope is the power of resurrection from life's failures and defeats.


It is the power of life's rebirth out of the shadows of death.


It is the power for the new beginning at the point where guilt has made life impossible.


The Christian hope is all these things because it is spirit from the Spirit of the resurrection of the betrayed, maltreated, and forsaken Christ.


Through his divine raising from the dead, Christ's hope-less end became his true beginning.


If we remember that, we shall not give ourselves up, but shall expect that in every end a new beginning lies hidden.


Yet we shall only become capable of new beginnings if we are prepared to let go of the things that torment us, and the things we lack.


Through Christ, that new beginning finds us.”


We grow in our Christian maturity through death and resurrection.



How Do I Recognize Maturity?


Jim Wallis recently stated, "The best conservative idea is personal responsibility. The best liberal idea is social responsibility. Both are needed for the common good."


C.S. Lewis develops this thought further, "If there were such a thing as a Christian society in existence and you or I visited it, I think we should come away with a curious impression. We should feel that its economic life was very socialistic and, in that sense 'advanced', but that its family life and its code of manners were rather old fashioned--perhaps even ceremonious and aristocratic. Each of us would like bits of it, but I am afraid very few of us would like the whole thing...You will find this again and again about anything that is rally Christian; everyone is attracted by bits of it and wants to pick out those bits and leave the rest." (Mere Christianity)


Maturity is the capacity to move in the direction of accepting all of Christ's teaching, not just the one's that serve our purpose.


M. Scott Peck, in A World Waiting To Be Born writes, “The more conscious you become,

the more healthy and ‘saved’ and civil you are, the more it will hurt.


You will become ever-more aware of the aging process inexorably working within you, more aware of your own sins and psychopathology.


You will also become more aware of the psychopathology of others and the games they play—as well as the sorrows and burdens they bear.


And finally you will become ever-more conscious of the sins and evils of society.


The good news is that simultaneously—paradoxically—you will experience more joy.


Families, churches, businesses, and governments become sick by refusing to face painful realities. If they allow themselves to become conscious of their painful issues, however, then they can work on organizational healing and grow into painful but joyful maturity.”