Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Only Way to Live

Lent is like a walk in a cemetery in the springtime.  There is a peace in the acceptance of death.  There is a validation of life in the honoring of its passing.  One gives way to the other, who gives back again.  When we say, "There is death.  It matters." we also say, "There is life and it matters; it is significant."

And so, during Lent, we take the time to remember the death in our lives.  We acknowledge our own fragility.  We remember our need for new life, for a savior.  And we remember the death that our savior embraced in order that we might live.

I do not mean to neglect this last piece in my meditations here.  No, it's just that our cultural expression of Christianity seems to use the Gospel in an attempt to forget - forget our frailty, forget our need, forget or drown out our past, our slavery, our stories.  But it is in our stories of frailty and need that we find Christ, that he comes to be with us.  It is through these same stories that we join in his death and resurrection from the dead.  The Gospel doesn't drown out our stories, it redeems them.

Last night a couple shared their testimonies at church and I was disturbed by something they said - or rather, something they didn't say.  The husband, a life-long Christian, confessed to affairs and a pornography addiction that had permeated his life as far back as he could remember.  (His wife cried as he spoke.)  He went on to describe an experience of someone in his small group confronting him over his lack of sobriety (faithfulness).  Only then, after years  of being "in recovery," did he finally commit to being sober.  And only when he made that commitment could he actually work his steps.  The couple shared that he now had 3 years clean and they were working to help other couples dealing with similar issues.

Yay!  Clearly sobriety in that man's life is a miracle!  In fact, many sexual addicts never find sobriety.  It could have been such a redemptive story, a humanizing experience in the sharing ... except ... well, except that it was disturbing how this young man used Christianity for so long to keep sinning (hurting himself and others) ... and he talked about that tragedy as if were the most normal thing in the world, as if it were okay.  He talked about it as if the whole scenario weren't somehow tragic and completely heart-breaking, as if his wife weren't sobbing beside him in grief and loss.  He showed very little if any remorse for or recognition of the damage that he had done and the hurt that he had caused.  I make no presuppositions about his heart, but I left feeling grieved by the message of their testimonies.  Is this the Gospel we present in church, that Jesus just makes everything all right?  As if we don't live with the consequences of our choices?  As if those two young people would not have to recover from those things for the rest of their lives?  As if God is somehow okay with exploitation as long as it all works out in the end?

Jesus just makes everything all right - so we don't have to look at our depravity, we don't have to bare the hurt, we get to escape?

Jesus didn't say that we would escape.  No, we must lose our lives to gain them.  We must die with Christ to share in his resurrection.  In fact, he didn't say that we would escape really much of anything.  He offers freedom ... through suffering, through the taking up of our crosses, through hardship with purpose and hope.  Jesus is not an escape. And when we attempt to use God this way we do not accomplish the things of God.

If we diminish sin and death, if we minimize our slavery, we diminish, too, new life.  We diminish God's very salvation.  And we diminish the God who saves.

If that man's slavery was not truly tragic, then is it a big deal that he has found any kind of freedom?

Lent is the season in which we, as the Kingdom of God, confess to the world that sin matters.  Death matters.  We do not ignore tragedy, exploitation, and brokenness.  We do not minimize it.  We call it what it is and we repent.  We live in a manner worthy of repentance, because that is the only way to live.

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