Thursday, February 23, 2017

Dont RelationSLIP Out of Diversity

Mike Hosey, An Elder

If you take a moment to look around your environment and think about it, you will quickly see that you are surrounded by diversity – meaning that our world is not monochrome, monolithic, or mono-anything in its general physical composition. Consider animal life for a moment. There are many, many kinds of animal species, and within any given animal species, there are many, many different kinds of that particular animal.  This is true of plant life, bacterial life, or almost any kind of life on earth.  The planet itself is diverse.  There are rocky mountains, forested mountains, muddy rivers, clear rivers, deserts, rain forests, arctic tundra, swamps, plains, hills, meadows and just about any kind of environment you can imagine.  This is because the God who created it is a God of diversity.  If none of that is enough to convince you that God is a God of diversity, just contemplate on how he designed humanity’s reproductive process. Every time two people mate, the process takes genetic information from one person and combines it with the genetic information of the other person to produce a brand new unique individual who will then repeat that process when he or she comes of age.  This ensures that there is a never-ending and always changing supply of new people who are diverse in some respect from the people from whom they came!

God so much loves this diverse world of men that he created, that he redeemed it at the cost of his son Jesus, the only sinless and perfect man to make it off of the planet (John 3:16). For those who might be tempted to think that it is not true that he has a bias toward diversity, take a review of Revelation. Revelation 5:9 tell us that the blood of Jesus ransomed people from every tongue, tribe, and nation. And Revelation 7:9 depicts a great multitude of people from every tongue, tribe and nation clothed in white robes and standing before the throne! It’s a very good guess that Heaven will be a diverse place as well. 

But God is more than just a God of diversity. God is also a God of unity.  His intention was never that all of this diversity on earth, and in humanity be at odds with one another.  Instead, his intent was that everything be unified around him. When Adam and Eve fell after the original sin, that unity was broken.  But it is God’s desire that it return.  In Galatians, Paul tells us that in the church there should be neither male nor female, neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave or free.  Instead, Paul tells us we should all be one in Christ. In other words, you may have diversity of form, but you should not have diversity of spirit or allegiance. Jesus reinforces this by example in the profound and famous prayer that he makes for his followers (John 17:1-26). In the midst of that prayer, he asks that they be made one just as he and the father are one (John 17:11).

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The RelationSLIPS of Pride and Prejudice

Mike  Hosey, An Elder

You will not find a human nation, community, organization, or even individual human life that is not riddled with at least some level of prejudice.  Prejudice is age old.  As long as there have been people, there has likely been prejudice. 

But just what is prejudice?  Well, the term comes to us from the Latin word, Praejudicium. Prae means “in advance of,” and judicium means, you guessed it, “judgement.”  So prejudice means to prejudge.  It means to make a judgement before one has sufficient facts to effectively support a rational judgement. 

Usually, we think of prejudice in terms of negativity, and almost always in terms of race.  But prejudice is a mental state (and sometimes a spiritual one) that spans far more than just race.  Sometimes, it even provides us with a bit of good.  For instance, if a man is walking through the forest and brushes up against some poison ivy, and then later develops his first poison ivy rash, he is likely to be prejudiced against all kinds of three leafed plants. He will avoid them every time he walks through the forest.  His prejudice will protect him.  However, it will also severely limit what he can do on his forest hikes.   Until he gets the facts correct, and realizes that it’s only the three leafed plants that secrete a particular kind of oil, he will be protected, but chained and not free to roam.

Prejudice rears its ugly head with way more than just race.  In your last spousal kerfuffle, did you judge your spouse’s intent without knowing all the facts before you made your judgement against him or her?  Then you were prejudiced.   Did you think that person without an education didn’t have your level of sophistication before you had experienced a sophisticated discussion with them?  Then you were prejudiced.  Did you think that person with an education  higher than yours, and who writes well, speaks well, and dresses well wouldn’t give you the time of day, or be an outstanding friend, or be interested in the same things you are, or that he or she might be boring, or look down on your lack of education?  Then you were prejudiced.

Prejudice almost always comes from an unhealthy level of pride. We tend to judge others beforehand when we haven’t clearly examined our own lives.  Consider the prejudice in Matthew 7:1-5.  It’s there that Jesus commands us to judge others, but only after we have taken the time to judge ourselves.  It is only after we have taken the time to look at the beam in our own eye that we can see clearly enough to judge our neighbor effectively enough to remove the speck from his.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Leaving the Toothpaste Lid off and Your Underwear in the Floor

Mike Hosey, An Elder

We human beings are social creatures.  As such, we are designed to be in relationships. In fact, not only are we designed to be in relationships, we usually have a strong desire to be in them. To be sure, there are those of us, like myself, who are introverts – meaning that we have a strong inner life – and those who are extroverts – meaning that they have a strong external orientation. But, for the most part, both introverts and extroverts need and desire human relationships, even though it may not seem so from the outside, or feel like it from the inside. God has made us this way. His design for our lives, at its very least, is to be in relationship with him. But at its fullest, His design is for us to be in relationship with him and others.  Just consider the idea of the nuclear family, or the design of the church. Or consider His proclamation that it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). No man or woman, and certainly no Christian, was ever meant to walk through life alone.

Of course relationships are a challenge. They can be extremely difficult, full of pitfalls, dangers, road blocks, missteps, and slips. This is mostly because they require us to restrict ourselves, sacrifice for others, be patient, be kind, be committed, and be generally “other oriented” – even when we don’t want to be.  Often, it’s especially when we don’t want to be. In some ways, being in relationships means we have to be like Jesus. The marital union is one in which all of our relationship abilities are tested. This is because even the best marriage relationship is going to expose one to all of the flaws of one’s spouse. We get to see how they don’t replace the toothpaste lid, or how they leave their underwear in the floor, or how they are sometimes loose with the truth, or cowardly and insecure when they should be brave and bold, or how they fail over and over again in areas that we think they should have mastered long ago.  And we get to see this almost every day. But here’s the rub.  When our relationship gets a bit sour, we see these things in our spouse without ever considering our own flaws and problems. The Bible tells us that we should guard our own heart, because everything we do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23). Because our heart is deceptive and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), we need a regular appraisal of it by a force that can know all truth. The Holy Spirit is that force.  And regularly submitting to his leading, searching, and guidance will help you navigate the pitfalls and slips of relationships (Romans 8:27, Galatians 5:22-23).