Entries tagged with “community” from Trans-cendental
This morning I got II Thessalonians 3:3: "3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one".
The footnote allows that "the evil one" may also be translated "evil".
Contemporary ideas about good and evil often boil down to "doing what is right" and "opposing what is right" (Axis of Evil) or pointless cruelty (in so many movies where evil is personified in a car, a man in dreams, or possession by a demon).
But this is a modern idea. Evil once meant harm (and its opposite, good, a benefit). So if we look at the scripture again, it might read:
3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against harm.Is this true?
I have often heard people - especially Christians - testify to how God has protected them. When bad things happen, the response is sometimes "God is testing me" or "God will turn this to good". Sometimes it's the more troubling "I didn't pray hard enough", "I didn't have enough faith", or "God is punishing me for what I did".
Why would God be testing us? (Psalms 17:3) Doesn't God know our hearts? (Psalms 44:21, 139:1-4; I Samuel 16:7; Luke 16:15) Some argue that we are tested so that we know our own hearts, and perhaps this is true - I know I have often learned what I really value in cases where I lost something trivial. But in cases where someone has lost a child to disease or violence, this argument is of little consolation.
Others suggest that such trials temper us as steel is tempered in heat, making us stronger. This, too, can be valid - I have learned to deal with some kinds of pain by repeated exposure. Yet we often see people struggling with hardship after hardship, without time to recover. Can a steady stream of trouble be God's way of strengthening us?
The last three responses I mentioned blame the sufferer. I find these the weakest of all responses, though they seem to strongly advocate for God's righteousness.
Most of us have heard the story of Job, who was beset by trouble as a test from God. We talk about the patience of Job, but a large portion of the book is taken up by three men - called friends - who rebuke Job for the sins he must have committed. A fourth person arrives later in the book to join in the accusation. Job protests his innocence, and God arrives late in the story to say Job was right and the other men wrong.
A large portion of the book of Ecclesiastes deals with the fact that wrongdoers often prosper and those who are righteous often suffer.
So how can we take this verse from Thessalonians seriously, knowing that God shines the sun and brings the rain on both those who do right and those who do wrong? (Matthew 5:45) Against what harm, against what evil are we protected?
One way is to say "well, it could be worse". We can imagine how much worse things would be without God's protection. But that makes God little more than a leaky umbrella - partial protection against the problems of life.
Another way is to have faith that, no matter what happens in this life, a better life in the future is safeguarded. Jesus spoke of treasure in heaven (Matthew 3:19-21; Luke 12:33, 18:22). The convenience of this viewpoint is that it is untestable in this lifetime, so no one can prove it wrong.
So how can we read this verse? How does God's protection work?
I have to admit, I have no easy answer to this one. All my answers seem either inadequate (God protects somewhat) or some form of rationalization - not much better than Job's friends.
Know that, in this life, whether you believe or not, whether you do right or not, you will have gains and you will have losses. You will have joy and you will have pain. Like the name of the tree in Eden (Genesis 3), you will know good and evil.
If you believe in the resurrection, however, you have hope for something better. And if you have a community of believers around you, you will have the support of people who love you. And, for me, that is what Christianity is about.
When we have a few extra dollars, we contribute to charity.
When we have extra food, we give some to the food bank (some of us offer the dented cans or things we don't want to eat).
Yet need does not wax and wane with availability. Homeless people don't disappear when there's a shortage of beds in shelters. People don't magically have enough winter clothing when there are no coats available. People aren't magically filled when there is no food available. And the needs of people for community don't disappear when churches decide they have no room for "people like that".
I don't even think there is an L community, a G community, a B community, or a T community. There are too many layers of class and empowerment in each group to consider any one of them a community.
There are homeless gay youth who turn tricks to survive. There are rich closeted men who pay them. Are they part of the same community?
There are "heterosexual crossdressers only" organizations. There are people taking black market hormones and getting silicone injections. Are they part of the same community?
I find it hard to believe in community when I read about, and hear, comments like:
- (by a gay man about transsexuals)Men in women's bathrooms.
- (by lesbians about mtf transsexuals)A man in a dress is not a lesbian.
- (by gay men)Women are taking over the HIV/AIDS organizations.
- (by crossdressers)I'm not confused like a transsexual.
- (about crossdressers) I'm not a man in a dress.
- (by heterosexual crossdressers)No homosexuals allowed
While we're saying "were the same as everyone else", we betray our real feelings by declaring ourselves different from each other.
It's not bad enough that there are a bunch of us locked outside the big tent that calls itself "normal". We have to divide ourselves up into smaller camps of "more normal than thou". And, by exploiting our divisions, those who control access to the big tent will continue to keep us out.