procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The gospel according to Colossians

We're going to start off nine weeks in Colossians, and going through it, it's been fascinating to see how many formulations of the gospel Paul presents.

1.13 - transfer of kingdoms
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,

1.14 - redemption
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 

1.22 - reconciliation
But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation

2.11-12 - death of sinful nature
Your sinful nature was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. 

2.13 - made alive
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.

2.13-14 - forgiving debt
He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

2.15 - triumph over evil powers
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

2.20 - dying to stoicheia
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world

3.1 - resurrection
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ

3.3 - life in Christ
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 

3.9-10 - old to new
since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self,

You could also talk about the gospel, among other things, as the mystery of God (1.26, 27; 2.2; 4.3), the hope stored up in heaven (1.5), and the reconciliation of all things to Christ (1.20). 

It's great to see the breadth of description, but a rebuke to our narrow, 2D descriptions. I'm looking forward to thinking through the implications of this gospel over the next few months.


Saturday, June 02, 2012

Getting Angry

Here's a short talk i did this week on anger.


Marcion is one of the earliest, and most interesting heretics.
he's the guy 1st/2nd Century who had two Gods - the jealous creator God of the OT, who is all about reciprocal justice, punishment - in sum, an angry God.
the other God was the one Jesus professed - characterised by love, benevolence, forgiveness, mercy.


And we can get where Marcion is coming from - the God we meet as we read through the OT is an angry God.
he is constantly provoked, and responds in anger. and yes, he is slow to anger, but he gets angry, and when he gets angry, Israel get exiled.


In contrast, the God of the NT says 'no' to anger:
  • 2 Cor 12.20 
  • Gal 5.20 
  • Eph 4.31 
  • Eph 6.4 
  • Col 3.8 
  • 1 Tim 2.8 
  • Jas 1.19-20 
these all say no to anger. anger is the antithesis of the new Christian life.
the one who is born again is no longer angry.
this is one of those things which the gospel tells us to put off.
Col 3 is a perfect example with a classic vice/virtue list.
Put to death and put away, among other things, Col 3.8 anger, wrath, malice, slander and obscene talk.
These are all part of the old self Col 3.9.
But Col 3.10 we've put on the new self, which is modelled after and renewed in Christ.


before we think about what this looks like, let's have a quick think about what anger is, what it looks like, and what it might mean to put it off.
so what is anger?
all the related words (anger, wrath, malice) are along some spectrum of displeasure.
they may be internalised, or realised in some way.
psychologically anger is a response to a threat - something important to us is threatened, and one response to that threat is anger.
now what is threatened might be a good thing to be worried about, but it also might not be.
it might be a loved one, a virtue, a value. but it may also be our own kingdom, our own plans. our own sense of worth.
sometimes it's hard to work out disentangle the reason - if someone lies to your face or about you - is it what's right and wrong, is it betrayal, or is it just that people won't think you're perfect any more?

personally, i am someone who historically has gotten angry a lot.
i used to get on detention a lot in primary school, not for ever starting a fight, but for retaliating, for hitting back, for not letting sleeping dogs lie.
And anger has continued to characterise my response to many many situations.
Living in Sydney's eastern suburbs, not being able to park anywhere - there was literally no spot to put my car - within a reasonable walk from my house, used to drive me absolutely mental. I used to curse the apartment blocks, the boats, the scooters, people taking up more than one spot, parking inspectors, fig trees, backpackers, abandoned cars; everything and everyone.

In Joined Up Life, Andrew Cameron describes his journey as an angry man. He writes that when anyone questioned the compatibility of his anger with his Christian faith, he received such criticism as questioning his very identity - that's just who he is.
But what he came to understand, and what I need to understand, and what we need to understand, is our own identity - not from our own perspective, but from Christ's perspective.
It's a question of identity.

for example] 

have a think about when you've been recently angry, whether it was with unreasonable demands from your family, with systems and structures, with sermon feedback, with tardiness or non-attendance.
How much of your response is tied up not with righteous anger, but with pride, on insisting on things you see as key to your identity?
do you get angry playing sport? with traffic? when your computer doesn't work?
have a think, what is being threatened?

The Bible teaches us that wrath is rightly left to God, for in him alone is anger orderly, pure and rightly expressed. Whereas mine isn't. God teaches us that our way of relating to him and to others is primarily in response not to his anger but to his mercy, as we understand it in Christ.

good anger] 

i chatted to someone who's just written a paper on Anger - and he describes a pathway of anger which is godly, and modelled after God. the key, for him, was seeing God describing himself as a jealous God.
Love-driven-jealousy expressed in anger is what is modelled by God in the OT, shown in Jesus, and evident in Paul where he confronts immorality and false teachers, as well as in Jude and 2 Peter in conflict with heretics.

now, this friend has done much more thinking and reading than me about the topic, and his pathway makes sense to me.
But I think the danger of thinking about righteous anger is that our intentions are so easily perverted by sin.
it's so easy.
sin is so pervasive that we can be angry at appropriate evils, but for the wrong reasons.
and even if we are angry for the right reasons, anger can so easily lead to things that aren't right - obscene speech, lack of self-control - even, as we see with Cain and many other crimes of passion, to violence and murder.

what we need to hear]

So the opportunity for righteous anger is not what I first need to hear.
I don't need to hear the two times some measured anger is permitted in the NT.
I need to hear the many other times anger is referred to as a wicked vice, that anger does not produce the righteousness of God.
ultimately, we treat others in response to God's treatment of us. less anger, more compassion, more mercy, more love, and more prayer, for it is hard to be angry at those you pray for in love.
and we need to keep reconsidering our own hearts and our identity.
are we angry at the same time as living out all the other virtues in the list?
or is anger another example that we haven't truly put on the new life, that the peace of Christ doesn't truly rule our hearts?

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