“What if our world doesn’t have to be so scary?” How Guy’s speech in Free Guy is good news.

The 2021 Shawn Levy film, Free Guy, starring Ryan Reynolds, is a great show even if you are not a video game person. Spoilers follow.

The story follows Guy, an NPC in a popular video game, who “discovers he is actually a background player in an open-world video game, and decides to become the hero of his own story. Now, in a world where there are no limits, he is determined to be the guy who saves his world his way before it’s too late.” An NPC, or non player character, is a character in a game that isn’t controlled by the player. They provide background colour that makes the game more realistic. Guy goes through much of the movie clueless that he is actually an NPC living inside a video game.

There’s a great scene at the turning point of the movie, where Guy lets his fellow NPCs know the truth.

GUY: Everyone! Gather around! Thank you for coming. Now, you know me, I’m Guy.
NPCS: Hi, Guy.
GUY: Hi. What I’m about to say may be hard to understand. Really hard to understand. But, are you sick of living in the background?
(NPCS AGREEING)
GUY: Aren’t you sick of being shot at?
NPCS: Enough.
GUY: Taken hostage?
NPCS: No more.
GUY: Run over?
NPCS: We done with that.
GUY: Robbed? Stabbed? Used as a human shield?
BUDDY: (EXCITEDLY) We are tired of being stabbed!
GUY: Buddy!
BUDDY: Sorry. What are you trying to say, Guy?
GUY: I’m tryin’ to say that things in this city don’t have to be this way. Things can be different.
HOSTAGE: Different how?
GUY: For starters, you can put your arms down.
HOSTAGE: Yeah. (GRUNTING)
GUY: There you go. You got it. Yeah. Keep pushing. There you go.
HOSTAGE: (CONTINUES GRUNTING)
GUY: Breathe through it. There you go.
BANK MANAGER: Do it. Do it. Do it.
HOSTAGE: No, not gonna happen. Nope. That feels unnatural. I mean, what about when someone runs in with a gun? Having my arms up is just a real time saver.
GUY: Except, what if the guy with the gun doesn’t come?
OFFICER JOHNNY: What?
OFFICER 2: What?
NPCS: There’s always a guy with a gun. So many guys with guns.
GUY: People, what if our world doesn’t have to be so scary? What if we can change it?

[Transcript courtesy of Scraps from the Loft.]

The scene is very much reminiscent of Jesus presenting the good news of the kingdom to the people of Galilee and Judea. Jesus’ intent was to open the door to a world run, not by sin and evil, but by God Himself. This kingdom that he spoke of was so unique that many people couldn’t grasp it at first. As Guy says, “What if the guy with the gun doesn’t come” and the other NPCs can’t even understand that.

It is a struggle to grasp, sometimes, just like the Hostage in the above scene found out when he tried to lower his arms. He had been so used to having his arms in the air that anything else seemed unnatural.

This is why the Gospel — or Good News — is more than simply “Jesus died to save you from your sins.” It extends beyond merely something that happens after we die to something that encompasses the entire universe. God’s reign makes everything better in the here and now just as much as it does in the hereafter!

Why do I say this?

Isaiah paints a picture of the impact of the good news on the world when he writes, “Every valley will be raised. Every mountain and hill will be lowered. Steep places will be made level. Rough places will be made smooth. Then the Lord’s glory will be revealed and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:4-5‬).

That’s why Jesus went around trying to get people to understand the Kingdom. By healing the sick he was saying, “What if our world doesn’t have to be so scary?” By making the blind see he was saying, “What if our world doesn’t have to be so scary?” By confronting the religious leaders of his community he was saying, “What if our world doesn’t have to be so scary?” By dying on the cross and being raised from the dead he was saying, “What if our world doesn’t have to be so scary?”

This certainly sounds like good news to me. “What if our world doesn’t have to be so scary?”

What are your thoughts? What makes the good news good for you?

I really would like to hear your voice. That’s why comments are enabled below.

Remember sharing is what friends do!

Image ©2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Sa pakikipag-usap sa katotohanan at pagguhit ng mga linya sa buhangin: Kailangan bang mag-alala sa akin ang katotohanan na ang lahat ng katotohanan ay pinag-uusapan?

Read in English.

Lumilitaw na nabubuhay tayo sa isang panahon kung saan ang katotohanan ay nakataya. Ang postmodernism ay madalas na sinisisi para dito higit sa lahat dahil ipinapalagay ng mga tao na ang postmodernism ay katumbas ng post-truth. Sa katunayan, wala nang hihigit pa sa katotohanan. Hindi talaga itinatanggi ng postmodernism ang realidad ng Ganap na Katotohanan ngunit sa halip ay isang kritika na nalaman ng sinuman ang Ganap na Katotohanan. Ito ay isang panawagan na muling bisitahin ang mga katotohanang alam natin na may layuning dalhin ang mga ito sa mas malapit na pagkakahanay sa Katotohanan.

Nagsasalita ang Bibliya, sa pamamagitan ng pagtukoy sa misteryo, tungkol sa kahirapan ng paglapit sa Ganap na Katotohanan. Ang pahayag ni Pablo sa 1 Corinto 13:12 ng “Sa ngayon, para tayong nakatingin sa malabong salamin. Ngunit darating ang araw na magiging malinaw ang lahat sa atin. Bahagya lamang ang ating nalalaman sa ngayon; ngunit darating ang araw na malalaman natin ang lahat, tulad ng pagkakaalam ng Dios sa atin” inilalarawan ang problemang ito para sa atin sa napaka-unawang paraan.

Ang problema kapag pinag-uusapan ang katotohanan ay madalas nating nalilito ang ating sariling mga katotohanan sa Ganap na Katotohanan kung sa katunayan ang isang pag-angkin laban sa aking katotohanan at isang pag-angkin laban sa Ganap na Katotohanan ay dalawang magkaibang bagay. Ang pag-aangkin laban sa aking katotohanan ay talagang isang pahayag na nagsasabing wala pa akong Ganap na Katotohanan at higit pang trabaho ang kailangang gawin sa paglapit dito.

Huwag mo sana akong intindihin. Naniniwala ako sa Ganap na Katotohanan. Naniniwala ako na ang Diyos ng Bibliya ay ang Pinaka Realidad. Naniniwala ako na ang kuwentong nakapaloob sa Bibliya ay ibinigay sa atin upang magkaroon tayo ng access sa Ganap na Katotohanang ito. Ipinapahayag ko na si Hesus ay PANGINOON. Ang hindi ko pinaniniwalaan ay nalaman ko na ang lahat (kahit na ayaw kong magkamali!). Ang napagtanto ko ay ang lahat ng katotohanang pinanghahawakan at minamahal natin ay mga katotohanang pinag-usapan.

Pakikipag-ayos ng Katotohanan.

Halimbawa ang iba’t ibang konseho ng simbahan na naganap simula sa Jerusalem gaya ng inilarawan sa Gawa 15. Ang mga konsehong ito ay nagtampok ng malaking bilang ng mga pinuno ng simbahan na nagtipon upang talakayin, at makipag-ayos, kung ano ang hitsura ng kinikilala na Kristiyanismo. Ang kanilang mga desisyon ay patuloy na nakakaapekto sa mga simbahang Kristiyano hanggang ngayon. Ang kagiliw-giliw na tandaan ay kahit na ang konseho ay humantong sa isang pagkakahati, ang parehong partido ay naninindigan na ang katotohanan ay nasa kanilang panig kumpara sa kabilang panig. Ang resulta ay isang simbahan na mayroong 5 pangunahing sangay — Orthodox, Romano Katoliko, Evangelical, Mainline, at Pentecostal/Charismatic — ngunit ang mahalagang tandaan ay ang bawat sangay na ito ay nananatiling bahagi ng simbahan.

Ang mga denominasyon ay isa pang paraan ng pakikipag-usap sa katotohanan. Ang bawat denominasyon ay may sariling pahayag o pagpapatibay ng pananampalataya na nagtatakda ng alinman sa mga hangganan o pokus para sa bawat grupo.

Ang hapag-kainan pagkatapos magsimba tuwing Linggo ay isa pang tradisyonal na lokasyon para sa pakikipag-usap sa katotohanan habang ang pastor at ang kanilang sermon ay pinaghiwa-hiwalay. Ang katotohanan na ang mga katulad na negosasyon ay nagaganap sa maraming mga hapag-kainan ay ginagawang mas kumplikado ang pagtuklas ng katotohanan!

Ang isa pang halimbawa ay sa mundo ng agham kung saan nagaganap ang negosasyon sa pamamagitan ng peer review at mga Q&A na bahagi ng mga presentasyon sa papel, na humahantong sa mga rebisyon bago ang paglalathala.

Minsan nangyayari ang mga pagbabago ng paradigm na binabaligtad ang mga kasalukuyang pag-unawa sa katotohanan pabor sa isang ganap na bagong paraan ng pag-iisip. Isang magandang halimbawa nito ay ang paglipat mula sa paniniwala na ang mundo ay nasa sentro ng sanlibutan patungo sa paniniwala na ang araw ay nasa centro ng sanlibutan.

Nakikipag-ayos tayo Upang Gumuhit ng mga Linya.

Bakit tayo nakikipag-ayos? Dahil gusto nating malaman kung saan iguguhit ang linya sa buhangin! Sa isang tiyak na punto ang negosasyon ay magtatapos at ang mga linya ay iguguhit na. Sa simbahan gumuguhit tayo ng mga linya batay sa teolohiya. Ang nakatutuwa ay iniisip ng bawat isa na ang ating teolohiya ang tama at ang lahat ng iba ay mali.

Ang lahat ng ito ay nagpapahirap na malaman kung saan dapat iguhit ang linya. Siyempre, gusto nating iguhit ang linya sa pagitan ng katotohanan at kasinungalingan ngunit paano kung ang linyang iyon ay palipat-lipat pa? O paano kung ang mga pagkakaiba ay kulay abo?

Sa aking nakaraan, nakapagguhit ako ng maraming linya. Ang isa na namumukod-tangi ay na sa aking mga kabataang taon ay tinanggap ko ang katotohanan ng 5-point Calvinism, na may espesyal na diin sa dobleng predestinasyon. Ang ibig sabihin ng dobleng predestination ay hindi lamang itinalaga ng Diyos ang mga tao na maligtas niya, itinalaga rin niya ang iba sa kapahamakan sa Impiyerno. Ito ay humantong sa akin minsan na ituro sa publiko na ang mga sanggol na namamatay ay hindi kinakailangang mapupunta sa langit dahil sino ang nakakaalam kung sila ay pinili o hindi pinila? Yup ginawa ko talaga yun. Sa kabutihang palad, ako ay sinaway at itinuwid (sa pag-ibig) ng aking tagapagturo at higit na mabuti na nakita ko kung paanong ang mga bagay ay hindi lubos na nasusukat laban sa banal na kasulatan.

Mga Susi sa Pagguhit ng mga Linya.

Iniisip ko kung posible bang gumuhit ng mga linya – kung ang pagguhit ng mga linya ay talagang kailangan nating gawin – batay kay Jesus? Isang susi ay ang pagsasagawa ng WWJD? (Ibig sabihin, What Would Jesus Do? o Ano ba kaya Ang Gagawin ni Jesus?). Ang isang tawag sa personal na kabanalan batay sa pangunahan na ang pamamuhay tulad ng ipinamuhay ni Jesus habang nasa lupa siya ay isang magandang bagay. Syempre itinataas nito ang tanong kung sino si Jesus para sa atin? Ngunit iyon ang paksa para sa ibang panahon!

Ang isa pang susi ay ang pag-uusap. Ang pag-uusap ay nangangahulugan ng pakikinig sa lahat ng boses. Ang isang halimbawa ay kapag tayo ay mga bata, lahat ay nagsasalita tulad ng ng ating pagsasalita — hanggang sa unang beses na marinig natin ang taong na may accent. Bigla nating napagtanto na hindi lahat ng tao ay nagsasalita sa parehong paraan na ginagawa natin. Minsan gusto pa nating gayahin ang ibang accent. Mas matagal bago natin mapagtanto na mayroon din tayong accent at ang realization na ito ay humahantong sa atin na magtanong kung ano ang iba pang mga bagay na maaaring hindi natin lubos na maunawaan.

Ang ikatlong susi ay ang paglipat mula sa katotohanan na tinukoy bilang isang hanay na may hangganan (bounded set) patungo sa katotohanan na tinukoy bilang isang hanay na may sentro (centred set). Tinutukoy ng hanay na may hangganan, sa pamamagitan ng mga palatandaan, kung sino ang mga nasa loob at sino ang mga nasa labas. Ang isang hanay na may sentro sa kabilang banda ay kinikilala ang isang direksyon ng paggalaw patungo sa isang karaniwang layunin.

Kung saan Gumuhit ng Linya ang Bibliya.

Gumuhit ng isang linya ang Bibliya. Nakita natin ito sa buong Bagong Tipan (Gawa 8:16; 19:5, at 1Cor 6:11; at 1Cor 12:3). Matatagpuan ang isang lugar sa Filipos 2:9-11 kung saan mababasa natin, “Kaya naman itinaas siyang lubos ng Dios at binigyan ng titulong higit sa lahat ng titulo, upang ang lahat ng nasa langit at lupa, at nasa ilalim ng lupa ay luluhod sa pagsamba sa kanya. At kikilalanin ng lahat na si Jesu-Cristo ang Panginoon, sa ikapupuri ng Dios Ama.” Ang ideyang ito ay inulit sa Roma 10:9 na nagsasabing, “kung ipapahayag mo na si Jesus ay Panginoon at sasampalataya ka nang buong puso na muli siyang binuhay ng Dios, maliligtas ka.” Ang nakatutuwa ay ito ay isang linya na hindi iginuhit sa paligid ni Jesus ngunit sa kanya!

Paano ako magsisikap sa pagguhit ng mga linya patungo kay Jesus ngayon?

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Ang mga sipi ng Banal na Kasulatan ay kinuha mula sa Ang Salita Ng Dios Biblia. Karapatang magpalathala © 2009, 2011, 2014, 2015 ng Biblica, Inc.® Ginamit nang may pahintulot.

On negotiating truth and drawing lines in the sand: Does the fact that all truth is negotiated need to worry me?

Basahin mo sa wikang Tagalog.

Apparently we live in an era where truth is at stake. Postmodernism is often blamed for this largely because people assume postmodernism is the equivalent to post-truth. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Postmodernism doesn’t actually deny the reality of Absolute Truth but is rather a critique that anyone has Absolute Truth figured out. It is a call to revisit the truths that we know with the goal of bringing them into closer alignment with the Truth.

The Bible talks about the difficulty of approaching Absolute Truth by referring to the mystery. Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 13:12 of “Now we see a blurred image in a mirror. Then we will see very clearly. Now my knowledge is incomplete. Then I will have complete knowledge as God has complete knowledge of me” illustrates this problem for us in very understandable way.

The problem when talking about truth is that we often confuse our own truths with Absolute Truth when in fact a claim against my truth and one against Absolute Truth are two different things. A claim against my truth is really a statement saying that I don’t have Absolute Truth figured out just yet and more work needs to be done in approaching it.

Don’t get me wrong. I do believe in the reality of absolute truth. I do believe that the God of the Bible is Ultimate Reality. I believe that the story contained in the Bible is given to us so that we can have access to this Absolute Truth. I do declare that Jesus is LORD. What I don’t believe is that I have it all figured out (even if I don’t like to be wrong!). What I have come to realise is that all the truths that we hold near and dear are negotiated truths.

Negotiating Truth.

Take for example the various church councils that took place starting with the one in Jerusalem as described in Acts 15. These councils featured large numbers of church leaders who gathered to discuss, and negotiate, what orthodox Christianity looked like. Their decisions continue to impact Christian churches to this day. What is interesting to note is that even if the council led to a schism, both parties maintain that the truth lies with their side as opposed to the other side. The end result is a church that has 5 main branches — Orthodox, Roman catholic, Evangelical, Mainline, and Pentecostal/Charismatic — but what is important to remember is that each of these branches remains a part of the church.

Denominations are another way that truth is negotiated. Each denomination has its own statement or affirmation of faith that sets either the boundaries or the focus for each group.

The dinner table after church on Sundays is another traditional location for negotiating truth as the pastor and their sermon is dissected. The fact that similar negotiations take place at multiple dinner tables makes the discovery of truth all that much more complex!

Another example is in the world of science where negotiation takes place through peer review and Q&A portions of paper presentations, that lead to revisions before publication.

Sometimes paradigm shifts occur that turn current understandings of truth on their head in favour of a completely new way of thinking. The shift from earth-centric to heliocentric understandings of cosmology is a great example of this.

We Negotiate in Order to Draw Lines.

Why are we negotiating? Because we want to know where to draw the line in the sand! At a certain point negotiation ends and lines are drawn. In the church we tend to draw lines based on theology. What is interesting is that we each think that our theology is the correct one and that all others are wrong.

All of this makes it hard to know where to draw the line. Of course, we want to draw the line between truth and falsehood but what if that line keeps moving? Or what if the differences are grey?

I have drawn many lines in the past. One that stands out is that in my younger years I embraced the truth of 5-point Calvinism, with special emphasis on double predestination. Double predestination means that not only did God predestine people to be saved, he also predestined others to damnation in Hell. It even led me one time to teach publicly that babies who die don’t necessarily go to heaven because who knows if they are elect or not? Yup really I did that. Thankfully I was rebuked and corrected in love by my mentor and even more thankfully I have since seen how things don’t entirely measure up against scripture.

Keys to drawing lines.

I wonder if it’s possible to draw lines — if drawing lines is indeed what we need to do — based on Jesus? One possibility is the practice of WWJD? A call to personal holiness based upon the premise that to live like Jesus lived while on earth is a good thing. Of course that raises the whole question of who is Jesus for us? But that is the subject for another post!

Another key is dialogue. Dialogue means hearing all the voices. One example is when we are kids everyone talks the same as we do — until we hear our first person with an accent. All of a sudden we realise that not everyone talks the same way we do. Sometimes we even want to imitate other accents. What takes us longer to realise is that we have an accent too and this realisation leads us to question what other things we may not completely understand.

A third key would be to move from truth defined as a bounded set towards truth defined as a centred set. A bounded set identifies, through a series of markers, those who are in and those who are out. A centred set on the other hand identifies a direction of movement towards a common goal.

Where the Bible Draws the Line.

The Bible draws a line. We see it several places in the New Testament (Acts 8:16; 19:5, and 1 Cor 6:11; and 1 Corinthians 12:3). One place is found in Philippians 2:9-11 where we read, “This is why God has given him an exceptional honor— the name honored above all other names— so that at the name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, and in the world below will kneel and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” This idea is reiterated in Romans 10:9 that says, “If you declare that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God brought him back to life, you will be saved.“ What is interesting is that this is a line not drawn around Jesus but toward him!

How can I work at drawing lines toward Jesus today?

I love hearing your voice so please let me know your thoughts on this post in the comments below.

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Scripture is taken from GOD’S WORD®.
© 1995, 2003, 2013, 2014, 2019, 2020 by God’s Word to the Nations Mission Society. 
Used by permission.

Alam mo ba ang tagubilin ng Matthew 18 na “puntahan mo siya at kausapin nang sarilinan” ay hindi lamang ang tanging paraan upang harapin ang hindi pagkakasundo ng mga Kristiyano?

Read in English

Tanungin ang sinumang Kristiyano kung paano makitungo sa tunggalian at huhugot nila ang Mateo 18 sapagkat inilalabas nito kung ano ang nakikita ng marami bilang TANGING PARAAN para makitungo ang mga Kristiyano sa kasalanan ng interpersonal. Sa loob ng maraming taon ay inilatag ng simbahan ang proseso ng pakikipag-usap sa tao nang paisa-isa, kung kung walang resolusyon magdala ng isang tao bilang saksi. Kung wala pa ring resolusyon, dalhin ang tao sa harap ng simbahan at kung wala pa ring resolusyon ay paalisin ang tao mula sa simbahan. Ito ang pamantayan ngunit paano kung sinabi ko sa iyo na hindi lamang ito ang biblikal na paraan na harapin ng pamilya ng Diyos ang kasalanan? Mayroong talagang hindi mabilang na mga halimbawa ng iba pang mga paraan ng paggawa ng parehong bagay na maaaring mas may kaugnayan sa iba pang mga konteksto ng kultura.

Sapagkat ang magkakaibang kultura ay mayroong magkakaibang paraan ng pagharap sa hidwaan. Ang di-tuwirang komunikasyon, sa pamamagitan ng mga konsepto tulad ng pahiwatig at pakikiramdam, ay pangunahing batayan ng komunikasyon at hidwaan ng ilang mga mamamayang Pilipino at mga Sinaunang Tao [First Nations] sa Hilagang Amerika. Ang Lupon Tagapamayapa ay isang mahalagang bahagi ng lipunang Pilipino at isang mabisang paraan upang mapanatili ang kapayapaan sa ating mga pamayanan.

Ang aklat ni Duane Elmer noong 1993 na Cross-Cultural Conflict: Building Relationships for effective ministry ay isang mahusay na teolohiya ng bibliya ng paglutas ng kontrahan na hindi nililimitahan ang sarili sa Mateo 18:15-20.

Para kay Elmer, ang diskarte sa Mateo 18 ay lalong kapaki-pakinabang sa tinaguriang mga lipunan sa Kanluranin kung saan ang paghaharap at pagiging prangka ay mga pagpapahalagang pangkultura. Tulad ng sinabi ni Elmer, kahit na “ang pagiging diretso, komprontasyon, pagiging lantad at lantad na pagsasalita ay pinahahalagahan at inaasahan sa kultura ng Kanluranin, sa karamihan ng mundo ang kaparehong mga halagang ito, kahit na ipinakita nang may paggalang, ay itinuturing na masungit, walang pino, masamang asal, masungit at nakakainsulto” (p. 62). Ang diskarte na ito ay hindi gaanong kapaki-pakinabang sa iba pang mga setting ng kultura kung saan ang komprontasyon at pagiging prangka ay talagang lumilikha ng mas maraming hidwaan. Idadagdag ko na ang pagtuon lamang sa Mateo 18 ay nagbibigay ng mga dahilan para sa mga nahuhuli sa kasalanan kasi ginamit ito paminsan-minsan bilang isang dahilan upang tanggihan ang anumang proseso ng pagkakasundo.

Hinahati ni Elmer ang kanyang diskarte sa apat na kategorya. Magbibigay ako ng isang maikling balangkas ng argumento ni Elmer kasama ang kahulugan at mga halimbawa mula sa bibliya sa bawat kategorya. Ang aklat ni Elmer ay higit na lumalagpas dito sa pagbibigay ng mga halimbawa mula sa tunay na mundo kung paano naging epektibo ang paggana ng iba’t ibang mga pamamaraan sa mga setting na cross-cultural subalit dapat kong ipahiwatig na lumalapit si Elmer sa karamihan ng mga sitwasyong ito bilang isang taong nasa labas ng kultura. Gayunpaman, hindi ito nakakaapekto sa teolohiya sa Bibliya na binuo niya sa libro.

Pamamagitan at ang Tagapamagitan [Mediation and the Mediator]. Ang isang hanay ng mga talata sa bibliya ay nagsasalita tungkol sa kung paano minsan nalulutas ang salungatan sa pamamagitan ng paggamit ng isang tagapamagitan. Ang pamamagitan ay sa katunayan isang malaking tema sa lahat ng banal na kasulatan, tulad ng nakikita natin sa ibaba.

Malinaw na sinabi ng 1 Timoteo 2:5-6 – “Sapagkat iisa lang ang Dios at iisa lang ang tagapamagitan sa Dios at sa mga tao. Itoʼy walang iba kundi ang taong si Cristo Jesus. Ibinigay niya ang buhay niya bilang pantubos sa lahat ng tao. Ito ang nagpapatunay na nais ng Dios na maligtas ang lahat ng tao , at inihayag niya ito sa takdang panahon.” Ang tungkulin ni Jesus bilang tagapamagitan ay pinalawak sa Juan 3:17, Roma 5:10-11, at Mga Hebreyo 78.

Si Moises ay tagapamagitan sa paghahatid ng batas, tulad ng pagbanggit ni Pablo sa Galacia 3:19-20, at tulad ng nakabalangkas sa Exodo 32:30-32 at Bilang 12:6-8.

Nais ni Job ang isang tagapamagitan upang tulungan siya sa kanyang kaso sa Job 9:33 – “Mayroon sanang mamagitan sa amin para pagkasunduin kaming dalawa ….”

Nagtayo si Joab ng isang tagapamagitan sa pagitan ni David at ng kanyang anak na si Absalom sa 2 Samuel 14:1-4 sa pagsisikap na makamit ang kapayapaan.

Ang mga Propeta (Deuteronomio 18:18-23) at mga Pari (Exodo 28:1; Levitico 9:7; 16:6; Hebreo 5:1-4) ay nagsilbi ring bilang tagapamagitan sa pagitan ng Diyos at ng mga tao.

Sinabi ni Elmer na ang isang tagapamagitan ay isang “iginagalang, walang kinikilingan, at layunin” at kumikilos bilang isang tulay sa pagitan ng dalawang partido na may salungatan na may layunin na makamit ang isang win-win solution. Ayon kay Elmer, ang paggamit ng isang tagapamagitan kapag naghahanap ng pagkakasundo ay normal sa maraming mga kultura. Tulad ng sinabi ni Elmer, “maraming mga kultura ng mundo ang mas gusto ang mga hindi direktang pamamaraan para sa paghawak ng salungatan at mga potensyal na salungatan. Ang isa sa mga pinaka-karaniwang hindi direktang pamamaraan ay ang paggamit ng isang tagapamagitan. Ni ang pagkakaroon ng isang tagapamagitan o ang mga pagpapaandar ng isang tagapamagitan ay dayuhan sa account sa banal na kasulatan. Habang ang lipunan ay maaaring nahawahan ang papel ng tagapamagitan o ginamit ito para sa makasarili, kahit sa mga masasamang hangarin, ito ay isang lehitimong papel na kailangang maunawaan at naaangkop na gamitin ng mga Kristiyano.”

Ang posisyon ng isang-baba at kahinaan [The one-down position and vulnerability]. Ang isa pang hanay ng mga sipi ng Bibliya ay nagsasalita tungkol sa kung paano nagaganap ang resolusyon kung kailan inilalagay ng isa o pareho ng mga partido ang kanilang mga sarili sa alinman sa mahina o mas mababang posisyon. Halimbawa, kapag ang mga pastol nina Abram at Lot ay nagkasalungatan sa mga karapatan sa pag-gamit ng pastulan sa Genesis 13:8, kinuha ni Abram ang isang-pababang posisyon sa paghingi ng resolusyon sa pamamagitan ng pag-aalok na ilipat sa ibang lugar.

Mamaya si Lot ay nasa posisyon na isang-pababa dahil siya ay nakuha ng ilang mga namamayagpag na hari sa Genesis 14:5-12. Si Abram ay dumating upang iligtas si Lot mula sa posisyon na ito sa Genesis 14:13-20.

Si David, sa kanyang pagkakasalungatan kay Absalom, ay nagpapalagay din sa posisyon na one-down. Sa 2 Samuel 14:1-4 sinenyasan ni Joab ang babae na sabihin, “Tulungan nʼyo po ako, Mahal na Hari!” sapagkat mailalagay nito ang babae sa isang pababang posisyon sa hari, na may obligasyong tulungan siya.

Sinabi ni Elmer, “Ang pagkuha ng one-down na posisyon ay nangangahulugang gawing mahina ang iyong sarili sa ibang tao o ipahiwatig na wala ang kanilang tulong ikaw ay nasa panganib na mapahiya o mawalan ng mukha.” “Mahalaga para sa iyo na huwag maging sanhi upang mawala ang mukha o mapahiya ng ibang tao, ngunit kung may panganib na mangyari sa iyo, maaari kang tumawag sa iba upang protektahan ka mula sa pagkawala ng mukha. Sa katunayan maaari ka ring tumawag sa sarili nitong nagbabanta sa iyong karangalan upang iligtas ka mula sa parehong kahihiyang maaaring dumating sa iyo. ”(p. 80) Binigyan ni Elmer ang pakikitungo ng Diyos kina Abram at David bilang mga halimbawa.

Pagkukuwento at salawikain [Story-telling and proverbs]. Ang pangatlong hanay ng mga sipi ng Bibliya ay nagbibigay diin sa mga kwento bilang mga tool sa paglutas ng hidwaan.

Marahil ang pinakamahusay na halimbawa nito sa Bibliya ay nang harapin ng propetang si Nathan si Haring David dahil sa kanyang kasalanan kay Batsheba (2 Samuel 12:1-9). Si Nathan ay nagsasabi ng isang detalyadong kuwento ng isang mayamang tao na nagnanakaw ng minamahal na tupa ng isang mahirap na tao. Kapag nagalit si David, pinapagal siya ni Nathan sa pagsasabing, “Ikaw ang taong iyon!” Ang resulta ay ang pagsisisi ni David.

Ginamit din ito ni Jesus nang maraming beses nang sinabi niya sa mga talinghaga na magturo ng mga pagpapahalagang nais niyang ituro. Kumbaga, maaari siyang direktang maglibot at hamunin ang mga tao tungkol sa kanilang kasalanan at masabing, “Magsisi kayo!” Sa halip ay pinili niya ang pagkukuwento bilang kanyang pangunahing anyo ng pakikipag-ugnayan.

Mayroong maraming mga halimbawa ng pagsasabi ni Jesus ng mga talinghaga, ngunit ang ilang mga makabuluhang halimbawa ay kasama ang Lucas 18:10-14, nang ikinuwento ni Jesus ang tungkol sa Fariseo at sa Maniningil ng Buwis sa isang pagsisikap na parehong maipakita ang pag-asa sa mga maniningil ng buwis at hikayatin ang pagsisisi ng mga Pariseo.

Ginagamit din ni Jesus ang pamamaraang ito nang harapin ng mga pinuno sa Mateo 21:23-27. Nang tanungin, “Ano ang awtoridad mong gumawa ng mga bagay na ginagawa mo? Sino ang nagbigay sa iyo ng awtoridad na iyan?” sumagot si Hesus sa pamamagitan ng paglalagay ng palaisipan na nagpapahintulot sa kanya na maiwasan ang isang direktang paghaharap.

Ang bisa ng pamamaraang ito ay ipinakita sa paglaon sa Mateo 21:33-46 nang ikuwento ni Jesus ang tungkol sa taong umarkila ng kanyang ubasan. Ang kanyang mga tagapaglingkod, na ipinadala upang kolektahin ang kanyang bahagi ng ani, ay pinapintasan at ang kanyang anak ay pinatay. Kapag natapos na ang kuwento nalaman natin na ang Punong mga Pari at Pariseo ay alam na pinag-uusapan sila ni Jesus – ibig sabihin ay hindi direktang naihatid ni Jesus ang kanyang mensahe.

Elmer muli: “Ang pagkukuwento sa ganitong pang-unawa ay hindi simpleng paggamit ng mga kwento ngunit… ang pagtuturo, pagwawasto at nuanced na paggamit ng mga salita …. upang makisalamuha ang mga mas batang kasapi ng isang lipunan sa mga pamantayan at halaga ng lipunang iyon. Gayunpaman ang parehong mga tool na ito ay madaling gawin sa mga tugon sa mga sitwasyon ng kontrahan.”

Tandaan din ang pag-unlad na kasama sa pagpipiliang ito: Ang isa ay pinapayagan na maging mas direkta kung ang mga inilaan na target ng kuwento ay hindi masyadong makakonekta sa kanilang sarili.

Hindi pagkilos, maling direksyon, katahimikan, at mga taong walang katiyakan [Inaction, misdirection, silence, and indefinite persons]. Ang huling hanay ng mga sipi ng Bibliya ay titingnan natin ang mga pag-uusap tungkol sa kung paano nalulutas kung minsan ang pagkakasalungatan gamit ang hindi direktang paraan. Ang ilang mga kultura ay binibigyang diin ang higit na hindi tuwirang mga paraan ng pakikipag-ugnayan at humantong ito sa isa pang uri ng pamamahala ng salungatan na binibigyang diin ang kawalang-derekta.

Dalawang Hebreong komadrona sina Shifrah at Pua na tinalakay sa Exodo 1:8-19. Matapos mag-utos ng Paraon “Kung magpapaanak kayo ng mga babaeng Hebreo, patayin ninyo kung lalaki ang anak, pero kung babae, huwag nʼyo nang patayin” tumugon ang mga kumadrona sa hiling ng Paraon sa maraming paraan: katahimikan dahil walang direktang sagot mula sa kanila sa utos ng Paraon; hindi pagkilos (v17) sa “hindi nila sinunod ang iniutos ng hari”; at maling direksyon (v19) sa kung saan sinisi nila ang kalusugan ng mga babaeng Hebrew bilang dahilan kung bakit hindi sila maaaring sumunod. Ang kwentong ito ay maaaring mukhang kakaiba, hindi bababa sa mula sa isang pananaw sa Kanluran na maaaring bigyang kahulugan ang mga komadrona bilang hindi matapat. Gayunpaman, ang katotohanang “kaya pinagpala ng Diyos ang mga komadrona” ay nagsasabi sa atin na inaprubahan niya ang kanilang mga pamamaraan.

Nakita rin natin ang mga prinsipyong ito sa mga kwento ni Haring Saul (1 Samuel 10:27) at sa Esther.

Sa Marcos 9:33-37 mababasa natin na ang mga alagad ni Jesus ay “hindi sumagot.” Ito ay dahil nais nilang iligtas ang kanilang mga sarili mula sa kahihiyang pagkakaroon ng pagtatapat sa kanilang tinatalakay sa kalsada. Hindi sila hinarap ni Jesus tungkol dito ngunit sa halip ay gumagamit sya ng isang hindi direktang object lesson upang matulungan silang mas maunawaan ang mismong tanong na pinagtatalunan nila.

Si Hesus mismo ay gumagamit ng katahimikan nang subukang pilitin siya ng mga Pariseo na kondenahin ang babaeng nahuli sa pangangalunya sa Juan 8:1-11. Gumamit siya ng maling direksyon upang ibalik ang tanong sa mga akusado nang sabihin niya na, “Kung sino sa inyo ang walang kasalanan ay siya ang maunang bumato sa kanya.”

At syempre si Jesus ay nanatiling tahimik din sa Mateo 27:14 nang tinanong sya ni Pilato.

Sa pakikipag-usap sa katahimikan sinabi ni Elmer, “ang katahimikan ay hindi nangangahulugang naayos na ang isyu o naabot na ang kasunduan. Karaniwan nang nangangahulugan ito ng pagkaantala hanggang sa maaaring magamit ang ibang naaangkop na diskarte …. Mayroong oras para sa katahimikan at oras para sa pagiging maingay. Tila ang grabidad ng isyu ay isang tagapagpahiwatig para sa pagpili, tulad ng pagiging maagap.”

Ang ilang mga huling pangungusap. Napagtatanto na wala sa mga pagpipiliang ito ang eksklusibo ay ang susi sa pag-unawa sa iba pang mga anyo ng paglutas ng salungatan sa Bibliya. Sa halip maaari nating paikutin ang iba’t ibang mga paraan ng mga pamamaraang ito na may layunin na makarating sa isang sitwasyon na win-win sa huli. Mahalagang tandaan din na kailangan nating gamitin ang mga porma ng paglutas ng tunggalian na angkop sa kultura , na may hangarin ng aktwal na resolusyon. Hindi lamang natin nais na pumili ng pamamaraan na pinakamahusay na susuporta sa aming panig ng isyu. Kailangan nating piliin ang diskarte na pinakamahusay na hahantong sa resolusyon.

Ito ay maaaring isang pagkakataon na pumunta sa palengke upang mamili lamang ng gusto natin pag dating sa conflict resolution at piliin ang pinakamahusay na magsisilbi sa aming panig ng hidwaan. Hindi iyon ang punto ng ehersisyo na ito. Ipinapakita sa atin na paminsan-minsan ang ating paggamit ng Mateo 18 ay nagpapatibay sa hidwaan kaysa sa paglutas nito sapagkat nilalayon itong magamit sa isang partikular na setting ng kultura. Ang pagpili ng isa sa iba pang mga pagpipilian ay maaaring humantong sa mas mahusay na mga resulta sa iba pang mga konteksto.

Ito rin ay isang magandang lugar upang banggitin na ang tinatawag na mga Western theology ay hegemonic. Nangangahulugan ito na mayroon sila, ayon sa dami ng isinulat ng mga taga-kanluranin, kinuha ang pamamayani at ginamit na kapangyarihan sa Iba. Kailangan itong magbago habang ang ibang mga kultura ay pumasok sa pag-uusap kasama ang kanilang sariling mga konteksto at system. Ang resulta ay magiging isang teolohiya na mas mayaman sa huli.

Ano ang palagay mo sa mga iginigiit ni Elmer? Sa palagay mo ba ay nagbibigay ito sa simbahan ng ilang mga mas mahusay na pagpipilian para sa pagharap at paglutas ng hidwaan? Mayroon bang mga hindi nalutas na isyu na mayroon ka sa isang tao na maaayos kung sumunod ka sa ibang proseso?

Gusto kong marinig ang boses mo. Kaya palaging malugod na tinatanggap ang feedback.

Pagbabahagi ang ginagawa ng mga kaibigan.

Larawan ni Charl Folscher sa Unsplash.

Ang mga sipi ng Banal na Kasulatan ay kinuha mula sa Ang Salita Ng Dios Biblia. Karapatang magpalathala © 2009, 2011, 2014, 2015 ng Biblica, Inc.® Ginamit nang may pahintulot.

How can the church partner with the world while maintaining its identity? By imitating Jesus’ Changing Water into Wine. Lessons from Thomas Aquinas.

“All truth is God’s truth.”

I can’t tell you how many times I heard this while I was in seminary. And that was a good thing because I needed to hear it. I had spent the years leading up to seminary developing my understanding of truth that was pretty much limited to what the Bible (or at least my interpretation of the Bible) had to say. Any claims to truth outside of the Bible were suspect for me.

I even remember a time in a class I took at USask on Religious Perspectives on Death and Dying when I had to comment (in a test) on the validity of the fictional Death of Ivan Illich to my understanding of death and dying. My reply was that since it was fiction it wasn’t true! Wise Professor Robert Kennedy pointed out that truth can be found in a variety of areas of life including fictional accounts.

And it appears this debate isn’t all that new. The other day I took a look at Mitchell Atencio’s interview Why Nathan Cartagena Teaches Critical Race Theory to Evangelicals with Nathan Cartagena on Sojourners and saw a great idea from Thomas Aquinas.

In 1261, a few years before I went to seminary, Thomas Aquinas wrote a commentary on Boethius’ On The Trinity. Apparently some agreed with my early ideas — that blending God’s Truth with rational truths somehow muddies the mixture. Article 3 of Super Boethium De Trinitate by Thomas Aquinas answers this question in a very interesting way:

“5. It may be said: No conclusive argument can be drawn from figurative speech, as the Master (Peter Lombard) says. Dionysius also says in his letter to Titus that symbolic theology has no weight of proof, especially when such interprets no authority. Nevertheless it can be said that When one of two things passes into the nature of another, the product is not considered a mixture except when the nature of both is altered. Wherefore those who use philosophical doctrines in sacred Scripture in such a way as to subject them to the service of faith, do not mix water with wine, but change water into wine.”

Part of the problem that I faced in the early years of my theological formation was that I somehow believed that the world was divided into two parts: Sacred and Secular. As as young Christian I was warned about the dangers of the world — the danger that I would become worldly. This came out in many areas, including concepts like Christian music, Christian schools and colleges, and Christian bookstores. There was also the idea that people needed to leave the world and join the church. Interestingly there was never an idea that through my influence the world would become holy.

How can we apply Aquinas’ concepts of changing water to wine to the whole sacred-secular debate? The sacred-secular debate keeps the two worlds apart because of fear of contamination — but a contamination that always goes from good to bad. Aquinas says that in order for two ideas to mix that they both need to change. When it comes to God’s truth however, the end result is not a mixture of good and bad but a transformation of the bad into good, much in the same way that Jesus changed water into wine.

So, that brings us to current issues where this can be applied. I can think of three examples. When I was younger the bad guy was psychotherapy. Psychotherapy was bad for reasons that I can’t remember. Fortunately today I have personally benefitted from people who have been successful in blending the truths of God that can be found in psychotherapy with the truths of God found in scripture and have applied those truths into my life.

Christians have also had a love-hate relationship with science throughout the years. Some have suggested that vaccine hesitancy among some Christians is a direct result of the religion-science debate. The argument seems to go along the lines of, “Science promotes evolution that directly goes against the creation accounts of the Bible. If then scientists tell us that vaccines are ok that must mean that they aren’t ok.” What we as Christians often forget, though, is that the early scientists were in fact men and women of faith who desired to know more about God’s creation and started an in-depth study of it.

There has been a lot of talk of late in the church about Critical Race Theory. And that is in fact with the Nathan Cartagena interview is about. The main objection appears to be something like, “CRT is bad because it is Marxism.” Once again the fear of the world influencing the church rather than the church influencing the world rears its ugly head. What we often forget is that justice is one of the key aspects of the Kingdom of God but since it has been neglected so much by the church we need the expertise of those who have thought about justice issues in depth.

Of course I am not advocating an uncritical approach to these issues. As Aquinas himself tells us to “subject [rational philosophies] to the service of faith.” But what I am advocating is that Christians tap every resource available as we seek to turn the water of the world into the wine of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, establishing the values of the kingdom of God, serving God and neighbour, and testifying to God’s truth.

After all, Jesus promises that “the gates of hell will not prevail” against the church. Why should we act as if it already has?

Feedback is always welcome.

Sharing is what friends do.

Image by Klara Kulikova on Unsplash.

Shepherds, work, and the interruption of burning bushes.

I have it on good authority that farmers work hard and I’m sure shepherds are no different, which is what makes Moses’ story all the more interesting. Some say bushes that spontaneously burn aren’t all that rare in the Sinai area, although that appears to be debunked here. Regardless, the fact that another bush was burning was perhaps more of a distraction than an attraction for Moses.

I have limited experience with sheep. The farm where Eva and I are currently living has three sheep and last week, while the family was away on vacation, we had to take care of said sheep. It isn’t all that hard — we had to take them out to the pasture in the morning, move them around during the day, and return them to their pen at night. It sounds simple but it was a little more involved than that. We had to make sure the sheep made it to their mobile pen in the pasture, a process that involves dragging them past much more appealing foliage to the foliage that we had chosen for them. It also sometimes involves chasing and catching said sheep to make sure they go where we wanted them to go. We also had to carry a 5 gallon bucket of water out to them and make sure that they stayed watered. When the grass in their moveable pen was consumed we needed to move them to a new location, sometimes ensuring that they had some shade. Daniel usually brought them in at night and his technique was running as fast as possible beside them so that they remained focussed on the destination rather than all the sweet grasses along the way.

I also recently watched Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon Prime. In the show, Jeremy Clarkson takes over his farm when his previous manager retired. The show follows him along as he learns the ropes on what it takes to run a farm in Britain. One aspect to Clarkson’s farm is sheep and there are several episodes devoted to what it means to farm sheep, including being up at all hours to birth them, making sure that the mothers and lambs are all caring for each other while in the pasture, and moving them to a new pasture without them getting into the neighbour’s fields.

It is a lot of work for those of us caring for just a few sheep. How much more a traditional shepherd with a full-size herd that she needs to keep track of? [Just as an aside, did you know that Rachel is one of the few named shepherds in the Bible? Check out her story in Genesis 29]

Which leads us to the question, “Why would a busy guy like Moses take the time to go see the burning bush?” What made him realise that it wasn’t merely a distraction and was something work making him take time out of his busy schedule? The Bible doesn’t say a lot about Moses’ thought process other than to say, “I must go over there and see this strange sight.” There was something strange that attracted his attention.

Moses’ situation reminds me to ask myself if I pay attention to “strange sights” in my day-to-day life that may be God’s attempts to get my attention. [Note that God will always eventually get my attention, as I have written about here.] In what ways does my busyness keep me from opportunities to encounter God? How do I distinguish distraction from a God-encounter? Are distractions in fact invitations from God?

I guess one type of distraction is internet use. But while some of the things that we encounter on the internet may be strange, this type of distraction can’t be labelled a “strange sight” in the way Moses labelled the burning bush. The burning bush got Moses’ attention while he was doing other things that he normally did. It pulled him away from the usual into the unusual. So sorry, we can’t use Moses as an excuse for always being on the internet.

Another type of distraction is escapist fiction. Who doesn’t love a great story that takes you away from your present life and allows you to live in a virtual world of adventure, excitement, and love? I am currently enjoying Burrough’s John Carter series. But yet again, this is a type of distraction that we bring upon ourselves and is not the type of distraction that God introduces into our loves for his purposes.

I suspect the kinds of distractions that God tries are things that distract us from our distractions. Some distractions are actually a call back to the real world. They interrupt our escapes and bring us back to reality. That’s what the burning bush did for Moses after all.

Once, many years ago, while I was talking to a friend, my daughter came up to me because she wanted to show me her new dress. Did I look at her new dress? No. I saw what she was doing as a distraction from what I was doing. If I had it to do over again I would say, Excuse me, to my friend and take a look at Emily’s new dress. Perhaps God was saying, “Pay attention to your family.”

What I my response when someone talks to me while I am watching a TV show? Do I see it as an interruption or a call to engage with someone in real life? What is my response when I and deeply thinking about the solution to a problem and my wife approaches me with a solution? Am I reminded that we are a team and can work things out together, or do I feel interrupted? What about when someone offers me constructive criticism? Do I see it as a change to improve or as a challenge to my abilities? I must confess that I often get these kinds of things wrong.

So what types of distractions have turned into God encounters for you?

Feedback is always welcome.

Sharing is what friends do.

Image Sandeep Kr Yadev on Unsplash.

“Why are you kicking against the goads?”: How do I know when God is trying to get me to change?

A few weeks ago we needed to vaccinate some calves against black leg. It was quite the process. First we had to round up the cows and calves in the pasture and gather them in a temporary corral. Then we had to move them through the farm yard and across the road into another corral — this one with three sections. We then had to separate the cows from the calves. The final step was to run the calves through a chute four at a time (a process that involved a lot of shoving). At the end of the chute they were locked into a smaller space so that they could be vaccinated. Eventually they were all released into another pasture to continue on with their lives.

None of this would have been possible without a goad.

I actually had to take a look at my Oxford Thesaurus of English to get an equivalent modern word for “goad.” Here are a few: Stimulus, incentive, encouragement, stimulant, stimulation, inducement, fillip, impetus, impulse, spur, prod, prompt; incitement; motive, motivation.

Basically, a goad is a tool used to get cows to move.

We had a variety of goads. Some were long thin whip-like instruments made of fibreglass. Others were old hockey sticks with the blades broken off. The most scary of the bunch, for the cows that is, was a plastic shaker that made noise when moved. All of these tools are used to make sure the cows go where you want them to go.

Jesus used the word “goad” in his encounter with Paul on the Damascus Road when he asked, “Why are you kicking against the goads?” (Acts 26:14). It was him saying, “I have been trying to get your attention for so long. Why are you not listening?” The way the question is asked implies that God had been trying to get Paul’s attention for quite some time.

What were the goads that Jesus used to convince Paul? While the list is not explicit in scripture, I could think of these possibilities:

  1. Paul knew the scriptures and the scriptures point to Christ — road to Emmaus. yet Paul didn’t see this yet. 
  2. Paul heard Stephen’s testimony about Jesus, but still approved of his death. 
  3. Paul knew the teachings of the Jesus followers, which is why he persecuted them. 
  4. Now Jesus takes matters into his own hands and personally appears to Paul in a very dramatic way!

We can be grateful that Paul finally yielded to the goads and chose to follow Jesus but the real question is, “What goads am I kicking against?” And perhaps, “How do I know when God is trying to convince me of something?”

[I thought about including a list here but then that might be goads you are kicking against and not ones that I am kicking against!]

Feedback is always welcome!

Image by Ekrulila on Pexels.

3 Types of Evil

The years leading up to the pandemic have exposed a variety of bad things in the world — things that perhaps in the past were not as noticed by people not directly affected. These issues include the #metoo movement, racism including Black Lives Matter, Critical Race Theory, Asian Hate, and Residential Schools, and violence such as the militarisation of the police.

One area of dispute is the extent of evil in the world. Some people simply say things like, “I am not racist so racism isn’t real” or “I have an indigenous/black/person of colour friend who hasn’t experienced racism so it isn’t really an issue” or the kicker “Once people accept Jesus they are no longer sinners so things like the mistreatment of others will just disappear.”

These various approaches view evil as being something personal and so provide personal solutions to it. And this isn’t all that surprising given that the default message of the evangelical church over the years has been, “Invite Jesus into your heart and your sins will be forgiven.”

Evil, however, is much more complex than simply being personal. In fact there are three types of evil, or sin, that are discussed in the Bible: Personal evil, natural evil, and structural evil.

In this post we will take an introductory look at each of these types of evil with the hope that a renewed understanding of these will lead to justice and change in society.

Personal Evil.

Personal evil has been the central way that people in recent times have understood evil. There are three ways to approach how the Bible understands personal evil, each one from a different cultural perspective.

Guilt to Innocence is the most common understanding of personal evil, largely due to the predominance of western Bible interpretations. It uses a courtroom as its motif. This understanding has led to popular gospel presentations such as the Four Spiritual Laws, Evangelism Explosion, and the Roman Road to salvation. The emphasis to this approach is that all are guilty of sin and are thus in need of righteousness. This perspective is common among individualistic societies.

Shame to Honour is another perspective on personal evil. In recent years, students of culture have seen that many peoples on the earth do not see things in light of guilt and innocence. Some people better understand a proper relationship with God through concepts of honour and shame.[1] Shame to Honour emphasises relationships and how they can be restored. This perspective is common in communal societies.

A third approach to understanding personal evil is Fear to Power. In recent years, students of culture have seen that many peoples on the earth do not see things in light of guilt and innocence. Some people better understand a proper relationship with God through concepts of Power and Fear. Jesus overcame the power of Satan and death on the cross and gives power to those who are afraid.

Natural Evil.

Natural evil includes things like famine, drought, disease, wild animals, floods, storms, and disease.

Floods: God brought “a flood of waters on the earth” (Genesis 6:17).

Thunder, hail, lightning: God “sent thunder and hail, and fire came down” (Exodus 9:23).

Destructive Wind: God sent a “great wind” that destroyed Job’s house and killed his family (Job 1:19). Earthquake: By the Lord “the earth will be shaken” (Isaiah 13:13).

Drought and Famine: God will shut off rains, so neither land nor trees yield produce (Leviticus 26:19–20).

Forest fires: God says, “Say to the southern forest, ‘I will kindle a fire in you, and it shall devour every green tree in you and every dry tree’” (Ezekiel 20:47).

These events affect people all over the world and the results are often not good. A super typhoon went through the Philippines a number of years ago. In a small coastal town many lives were lost as logs from the mountains were washed through the town. Those logs were seen as a curse. About a week later, a small island community was awakened by cries of, “Thanks be to God. He has provided these logs for us. Now I can build a house/boat/business.” Those same logs cursed a week earlier in another place were now seen as a blessing.

It’s important to point out that these natural evils started with the curse in the garden of Eden, where, because of Adam’s sin, the ground was also cursed. It is this curse that leads to the examples listed above.

Structural Evil.

Structural evil is a system or pattern of beliefs or activities in an organization or culture that hinders or opposes the advance of God’s kingdom in this world. There are structured evils rooted in society’s prevailing religious, social, economic or political systems. The key element of structural evil is that it is organizational, a pattern or network that opposes the Kingdom.

Examples of structural evil include things like tax evasion, caste systems, dowry, sexual mutilation, slavery, racism and apartheid, colonialism, and bribery or governmental corruption.

Key elements of structural evil include the existence of a wicked power or spirit. Structural evil is also corporate, either organizational or institutional. It is systemic, with patterns, networks of activities or parts. It has a multiple nature including laws, law enforcements, culture, taboos, attitudes, beliefs, lack of alternatives, and repressive rule. It can be social, political, economic, or religious. It aims to create chaos, division, injustice, human suffering or natural damage. It opposes advance of Kingdom of God.

The good news for structural evil is that at the cross Christ defeated sin, death, and Satan. These now have no hold on believers. All authority is given to Christ … He is far above all and every other name. The Church as His Body shares this authority over Satan & evil spirits. In Christ the believer is given the authority to disciple nations.

Conclusion.

The church needs to further develop its theologies of evil so that we can both acknowledge the extent of evil in the world, and also find better ways to deal with it. Emphasis needs to continue, of course, on repentance from personal evil, but we also need to incorporate ways to repent from both societal and natural evils.

What do you think of this 3-part framework?

Feedback is always welcome!

Notes:

1 Other great sources of Honour-Shame based theologies include works by Jackson Wu, Jayson Georges, and Werner Mischke.

Image by Paulette Vautour on Unsplash.

What should be my place in the church’s pecking order?

My wife and I have spent the past week on a farm and one incident reminded me of the common saying, “Pecking order.” There were a bunch of eggs in the incubator waiting to be hatched and our arrival at the farm was the due date. One by one the little chicks pecked their way out of their shells and began the next phase of their lives. Which is when we noticed an interesting occurrence. Those chicks who hatched first began to peck at the chicks born later. This is the famous pecking order that determines who gets to peck whom?

It’s the most basic form of relationship and while I can’t begin to try to understand the way a chick’s mind works it does illustrate the way some relationships are oriented around power and domination.

Sometimes the same thing happens when people come to faith. Those who come to faith first set the rules for the next who come to faith. There are countless examples in the Bible, perhaps the most famous being the Pharisees and the prodigal son’s older brother.

Acts 15 is a great example of how the pecking order was challenged and a new way of relationship was hatched. Apparently some of the early Jesus followers decided that non-Jews also needed Jesus and so they began to proclaim Jesus to others. The first stage was Peter’s encounter with Cornelius, who was a Jewish proselyte. Others, however, went further and began to talk about Jesus with people with an entirely different worldview. This of course created turmoil in the early church as people accused both Peter and these other Jesus followers — now called “Christians” — of violating God’s laws.

Peter’s rebuttal is simple: The same Holy Spirit that guides us also guides these new Jesus followers.

The result was the order issued by the early church leaders that is recorded in Acts 15 that outlines how these new Jesus followers could be folded into the church.

This was a reversal of the pecking order concept where the old timers get to set the rules. Now the newcomers could create their own rules. In fact, it was the very rules themselves that lost their ability to shape culture. Rather, the Holy Spirit would somehow intervene in the lives of these others and help them to reshape their own cultures for Jesus.

Jesus says, “Be the one who gets pecked. It’s ok to be pecked because I have been pecked, too.”

So what other pecking orders exist within the church? What does the Bible have to say about these pecking orders?

Intergenerational pecking orders. But Jesus said in Matthew 19, “Don’t stop children from coming to me!” and also a few verses earlier in Matthew 18, “I can guarantee this truth: Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a child like this in my name welcomes me.” What does this mean? Sometimes people whose faith is fresher have a better approach to faith.

Favourite Bible Translation pecking orders. It is interesting that most of these debates are about English translations of the Bible, even though English is not one of the original languages. It doesn’t make sense if we are happy accepting other language translations but are only happy with one English one. What is important is that God says in Isaiah 55, “My word … will not come back to me without results.” What does this mean? God’s word works.

Favourite preacher pecking orders. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3 — “some of you say, ‘I follow Paul’ and others say, ‘I follow Apollos,'” — talks about the teamwork involved in church ministry. What does this mean? Be a team player when it comes to church. Listen to a variety of voices. Engage in conversations rather than monologues.

Theological pecking orders. People love to fight about theology. I can remember to this day some of the theological arguments that I had more than 30 years ago — and I loved debating because I knew that I was right! That is the problem with theological debates because the goal is to find out who is right and who is wrong. The bible advises us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). What does this mean? Be prepared for the reality that you may not always be right!

Hermeneutical pecking orders. Hermeneutics is the study of interpretation and for many years one hermeneutical system has reigned supreme: the grammatical-historical method. The problem is that this isn’t necessarily the default hermeneutical system used either in the Bible (eg. take a look at how Peter interprets scripture in at the end of 1 Peter 3) nor in various parts of the world. What does this mean? Sometimes other people know how to make sense of things too. It’s best to dialogue with them rather than condemn them.

Where is your place in the pecking order? How can I embrace being pecked rather than pecking others?

Note: A few days later I happened to see all the chicks huddled together because it was cold. I guess a common problem is more important than pecking each other! Is that why persecution sometimes makes the church stronger?

Is it ok to call my Pastor “Pas”?

Tagalog

Have you seen the post making rounds on FB? It says,

“Don’t call your pastor “Pas.” 1. It’s Unbiblical and 2. It’s Unprofessional.”

Really?

Pastor is a socially and culturally constructed word that means something different today than it did in the Bible times. In no place in the Bible are we commanded to call someone a “pastor.” In no place in the Bible in the role of pastor a professional role. (And while we’re at it let’s get rid of the notion that “the pastor is the highest calling.”)

Grammatically, “Pas” is a diminutive that is a term of endearment. It is actually more meaningful than the term “Pastor” (when used as a title). It implies a close relationship between the person and the pastor, a relationship where a spiritual leader has the ability to speak into the life of the parishioner. 

Calling is much more complex than “some are pastors and the rest are not.” The Bible tells us that all walks of life, all activities, and all people are able to minister to the glory of God. 

So if you are a pastor and someone calls you “Pas” accept it as the sign of love that it is — and be sure to love that person back!

Ok ba kung tawagang ko ang Pastor ko ng “Pas”?

Nakita mo na ba ang nashare na FB post ng ganito?

“Don’t call your pastor “Pas.” 1. It’s Unbiblical and 2. It’s Unprofessional.”

Talaga ba? 

1. Wala kang makitang talata sa Bible kung saan may utos na dapat tawagan nating mga pastor na “pastor.”

2. Wala ka ring makitang talata sa Bible kung saan may sinabi na ang mga pastor ay “professional.” 

Saan kaya galing ang mga ideya nito? Sa tingin ko ito’y nagmula sa kasabihang “The pastor is the highest calling.” Ang problema ay wala din ito sa Bibliya. Sa totoo lang, malalim ang konsepto ng pag-tawag o “calling” sa Bibliya. Ayon sa Bibliya, mahalaga sa paniningin ng Diyos ang lahat ng uri ng trabaho, lahat ng bahagi ng buhay, at lahat ng tao. Lahat ito’y pwedeng gamitin sa papupuri sa Panginoon. 

Bukod dito, ang paggamit ng salitang “Pas” ay isang term ng pagmamahal na ginagamit ito upang ipakita na may pagmamamahal ang isang tao sa kanyang espiritwal na lider. 

Kaya’t kung ikaw ay pastor at may tumawag sa iyo na “Pas” tanggapin mo na lang ito bilang tanda ng pag-ibig nila sa yo – at siguraduhing mong mahalin ang taong iyon!

Image by Ben White on Unsplash.