Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Our view of others

Chapter 8 in Michael Frost's book 'Jesus the Fool: The Mission of the Unconventional Christ' is based off Luke 12:13-21 and is entitled "Jesus Reframes Our View of Others." This was another excellent chapter, with lots of stuff to share. The basis is: the foolish perspective of Jesus affects not only our relationship to God, but also the way we relate to other human beings.


"The baby Jesus, wrapped tightly and placed in a manger, represents innocence, peace, goodwill -- just as any tiny baby does. The issue, however, is that Jesus did not remain a baby all his life..."

"When we keep Christ in the manger we limit the impact the adult Jesus had on those he encountered. For it was as an adult that Jesus modeled for us the sweet, naive, innocent lifestyle of a man who steadfastly refused to be drawn into the conflict and divisions of his time. Not that he was oblivious to the culture of aggression that surrounded him. Time and again, Jesus was called upon to take sides, to endorse conflict, to champion one cause over another. And time and again, with a naivete that Luci Shaw says 'wielded peace like a sword,' he brought reconciliation. With the ingenue of the fool, he pointed to a higher ideal, to a better way of relating to one another. In this way he was able to reframe the perceptions of those who came spoiling for a fight and send them away aware of another alternative."

The famous John Donne quote:
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of they friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

Middle-Eastern vs. Western Communication:
"Now, it was common in Jesus' time for the leading men of a community to sit at a gate and to discuss at length any issue or concern that might be raised. Elders decided their course of action in community after hours of parry and thrust, to-ing and fro-ing.

Kenneth Bailey, a biblical scholar who has spent many years in the Middle East, says that there is a subtle pressure at these discussions not to introduce the information that will settle the question under discussion. The rationale seems to be, 'We have a satisfying debate going here, so don't spoil it.' Anyway, the point is that Middle Easterners prefer to make up their minds in a crowd, in community, after hours of discussion with their friends.

This may be so very different from the way we Westerners communicate. Essentially, we talk to each other for the sake of expediency. If there is an item on the agenda requiring a decision, we make it our goal to decide it with as little discussion as possible. In fact, we become frustrated if the talking drags on too long. Each member of the group only contributes in order to conclude the discussion. This is to our loss for, when communication is only valuable for the purposes of getting things done, the next step is to treat people the same way -- as valuable only to the degree that they help us to get things done. Imagine how different it is when each member contributes only to prolong the proceedings. In a sense, we communicate functionally; Middle Easterners communicate for the sake of communicating."

Reconciliation and Marriage
"Jesus steadfastly refuses to be drawn as an agent of division or separation. He is about bringing people together. His is a mission of reconciliation and, while he realizes that the radical lifestyle to which he calls his followers may sometimes result in division, he is most concerned about the healing of brokenness and the promotion of good will. And these concerns he shares with God. 

God is primarily committed to the process of putting people together. In fact, if you read the first few chapters of Genesis, in the story of God's creativity in this world you will find an interesting pattern emerging. Time and again, in the created order of things, God separates. He separates light and darkness. He separates the sky from the earth. He separates the land from the sea. He separates the creatures of the earth from the creatures of the ocean from the creatures of the air. But when it comes to human beings, what does he do? He puts them together. In Genesis 2:18 God says, 'It is not good for man to be alone.' He creates human beings to be together.

This is what the great illustration of marriage is all about. Two people commit themselves to become one, to be put together. We often make the mistake of thinking that married couples become 'one' on their wedding day, as if the magical words of the minister or the mystical experience of the marriage bed constitute this process. They do not. They only inaugurate the process. The process of being one is just that -- a process. A couple will spend the rest of their lives working towards it. But they are only a microcosm of that to which all human beings are called. This togetherness is best summed up by the term 'companionship.' We are called by God to be companions, which comes from the Latin cum panis ("with bread"). We are here to share bread with one another, to be at one."

"The parable of the rich fool, as it is called, is a cautionary tale reminding us that poverty results from self-interest and greed. If we feel called to follow Jesus, we must necessarily feel called to the enormous task of overcoming such self-interest and greed and embracing acceptance and love and generosity."

"The real disabilities in our culture, as in Christ's, are human isolation and a sense of rejection from one's environment."

A great story from Kenneth Bailey's book 'Through Peasant Eyes'...
There once were two brothers in Palestine, one of whom was very wealthy, the other desperately poor. The rich brother was alone for he had no children, while the poor brother had many sons and daughters. It seemed to others that this was dreadfully inequitable, for the rich brother had no one to share his wealth with and the poor brother had great difficulty feeding his large family. But in spite of this disparity, they were as close as brothers could be.

One day, their father called them together. He explained that he was very ill and did not expect to last until evening. He wanted them to be clear about the fact that they were to divide their inheritance equally. In fact, he told them, he had set a post in the center of his property to mark the division. It was his desire that there be no squabbles after he had gone. The post, he thought, would maintain the unity between his sons that he had so admired. Sure enough, that day he passed quietly from this world. The two brothers buried him respectfully before nightfall, as custom dictated.

That night, as the rich brother lay in bed, he could not sleep. 'What my father did was quite unfair,' he mused. 'I have more wealth than I know what to do with, while my brother works like a dog just to make ends meet. His children starve while I eat my fill. I know what I'll do. I'll give my brother a gift of the larger portion of the inheritance.' But he suspected that his brother was too proud to accept such a gift, so he determined to get up early, before sunrise, and move the post to ensure his brother the lion's share of the legacy.

That nigh, the poor brother tossed restlessly on his bed. 'What my father did was quite unfair,' he thought. 'I am surrounded by the love of my children, while my brother continually faces the shame of having no heirs to carry on his name, no daughters to care for him in his old age. To compensate him for his poverty, I will make him a gift of the greater share of our father's inheritance.' But he knew that his wealthy brother would never accept a gift like that from his poorer brother, so he set himself to rise early, while it was still dark, and move the post in order to ensure that his brother received the lion's share of the inheritance.

The next morning, while the air was crisp and the sky still black, when not a sound could be heard, two brothers met at the post and embraced each other with tears of love. It was said that on that site the city of Jerusalem was built."

Ah... what a great story. How I long for that kind of world. Good chapter.