I am being converted -- day by day -- into someone who has more and more of an experience TODAY of all that our salvation is supposed to bring to us in our Eternity.
Last night I had a conversation with my second-born son Josh (an adult, a degreed and employed design engineer, and a Calvary-Chapel-style very-conservative-Christian) that revealed once again what sharp world-view differences there are between us at this point. I go to a church where I am being confronted often by the same reality of different views between me and many of the members – although perhaps the differences are not as profound between my worldview and that of the ordained staff. And on the other side of that, I am married to a man who has a very different sense of spirituality and faith than do most of the different classifications of Christians I could list off here (fundy, moderate Evangelical, reformed, Anabaptist, Liberal, Progressive, Emergent, Orthodox, even “seeker”.) On every side I find many more people with very different views of reality than mine than I find people who see it like I do.
In every case, conversation can be almost instantly shut down as we run into one of our surface differences – and to get past that would require layers of conversation about our views of so many other things. How can I talk to Josh about why I think it is a loving thing to spend my time building an IT business (his question to me) without addressing his assumptions about why women with children belong at home keeping the house clean and making a pleasant life for their family? This gets into his view of scriptural interpretation, his view of appropriate gender roles, and even his view of what a pleasant life for my family is and will be as they grow. It also gets into many deeper issues psychologically in his own story and his own conditioning – the very issues that lead me to such very different conclusions at 45 about how I can be most loving as a mother to my sons than the conclusions I operated under in his formative years!
The woman-I-was-in-earlier-decades would have sought to engage the people in my life in dialogue designed to convert them to my current point of view, or at least to defend my point of view and attempt to win their respect or understanding on some level, if not agreement. But the woman I am today understands that I have the task of sorting it out and LIVING IT OUT, and that THAT task is often at odds with actively trying to “convert” anyone else.
The fundamental call of the Triune God to me is to live in Truth and in Love, and the only way I can do that is by concentrating on my own “conversion” from ignorance to insight and from alienation to reconciliation. As I walk with the aid of the Father God, the Living Man Jesus Who Is Also God Incarnate, and the Holy Spirit Who Is Poured Out On God’s People . . . I take my own view of reality each day and allow it to be transformed to a different world-view today than I had yesterday, and I forgive myself for yesterday’s actions based on that old view of reality as I accept God’s forgiveness and as I forgive everyone else, and I walk forward changed and empowered with new motivation and hope. I become capable of offering love-in-action and respect to those around me who see things very differently than I now see them, and I become capable of making different choices than I could have made yesterday. I am being converted to a new faith daily, and I am being transformed.
What we believe matters. Our view of religion, philosophy, economics, appropriate social roles and actions for ourselves and others, and all the other disciplines of thought and vocation . . . they form the basis for our own choices daily, and for our expectation of the choices of others. But when we settle in on the ways we are separated from others in our beliefs and actions, we remove not only the bridge to reconciliation and relationship, but also to our own growth from yesterday to today to tomorrow.
Jesus’ call to love-in-action as the center to a life of obedience to Him was not just for the benefit of the people I impact each day, or for the benefit of all the people you impact. Jesus call to love-in-action is a center-point in a call to daily conversion to a deeper understanding of reality and to daily conversion to hope and peace and joy. In serving and respecting even those whom I believe to be deeply mistaken in the way they view the building blocks of life, I offer myself a practical daily way to experience real connection and real respect and real kindness – and in this reinforce the parts of my own world-view that hold up to the test of daily reality, and break down and replace the parts that just DON’T.
We cannot separate theology and praxis by allowing ourselves to be filled with pain and bewilderment at those who still “don’t get it”. We must forgive them daily in the honest place of solitude that we seek out deliberately, and we must then re-engage them in respect and love-in-action. Often that re-engagement cannot be in any attempt to reason with them, because the differences are just too huge to leap over with words. The re-engagement of an intuitive reality that is free from contempt, pain, anger, defensiveness, or pity will show itself in responses and actions that are truly kind and loving, and that kindness and respect may open the door to changes in the way they view things, bit by bit. Or it may not.
What daily lives that are marked by today’s best effort to live out this kind of kindness and respect and love-in-action WILL most definitely do is this: We can walk forward in our own daily conversion to a deeper walk with the Triune God and a deeper walk with others clearly on the same path and close enough to where we are to offer us “God’s love with skin on.” This daily conversion is the “from glory to glory” that Paul promised, and is the fruit that Jesus promised as we abide in Him and as His words abide in us.
May it be so in my life today.