Game Change

Okay, a brief post to give the intro and overview to the posts to come:

I need to be in harmony (reconciled, in loving relationship, in the relationship I was created to be in) with God, with the person God created me to be, with the people who live around me and with me in my time and place (and place is the entire planet in this particular point in time), and with the natural world that I inhabit.

Sin is those things I do (or, more correctly, that part of me that causes me to do them) that breaks that harmony and throws me into chaos where I am not even at peace with myself, let alone with God or others or nature.

The "kingdom of God" in Scripture was always the goal of the redemptive process. The terms "the Garden of Eden", "Heaven", "Paradise", "the New Jerusalem", "the New Heavens and New Earth", and many other terms in Scripture point us toward that place of proper harmony.

In the covenant with Abraham and in the law of Moses, God provided for a move toward the fullness of the Kingdom with God's Own Presence, provision, and law. The ceremonial law pointed toward a time of full mending of the brokenness, when God would pour the Spirit of God out on God's people and they would walk in God's ways. Meanwhile, the law pointed toward God's ways and a means of restoring harmony (salvation, healing, reconciliation.)

Then Jesus came and declared "the Kingdom of Heaven is here", and in His teaching and ministry and life and death and resurrection gave us that GAME CHANGE. We dropped the old game with its old rules and old skills and old goals, and picked up a new game that He taught and then He poured His Spirit out on us after His Ascension that we might live in the Kingdom -- now, and forever after.

He said that you can't pour new wine into old wineskins, or they will burst. He said that we could abide in Him, and allow His Spirit to abide in us, and we would fulfill the law and the prophets. He said that we were not His disciples unless we obeyed Him, and that His command was that we authentically love and serve each other, and the stranger, and even our enemy. He said that the law and prophets were fulfilled in that authentic love of God as expressed in an authentic love of our neighbor. He modeled that love, and in His resurrected body commanded that we go and live that love and teach it to the whole world, that they would also be His disciples.

The apostles continued this teaching. When non-Jews were baptised in the Holy Spirit, they saw no reason to withhold the baptism with water that marked full inclusion into the community of faith. When the church council in Jerusalem was pressed as to what part of the law the non-Jews must be told to follow, the rules they selected were cultural and ethical rules shared by that wider culture, rather than anything rooted in the Torah. Paul later went on to argue against one of those rules, and another one of those rules is blatantly and easily ignored by all of us now. This does not teach us that we are to ignore shared rules, but rather that we are to discern together the rules that we should share in our new situation, and be prepared to change as our understandings and situations change, even as we now morally reject slavery of any kind (while it was yet affirmed by the early church and its leaders.)

The center of the ethics that surrounded the new Kingdom of God is the same center as the ethics that filled the law and the prophets in the Old Testament: Loving God and one's neighbor, with one's neighbor defined as anyone one actually encounters or impacts, even one's enemy. The way to fulfill this ethic was in abiding in Christ, in walking in the Spirit, in honoring the faith that had propelled all the saints of the Old Testament and of the early church. The goal was the same goal that had always propelled an ethic that worked: restoration of harmony with God, ones' own self, nature, and others.

The heresies of all time have either erred in saying that we could have the Kingdom without living according to the ethic of the Kingdom (as if we could have harmony while continuing to injure harmony daily) or that the only way to have the Kingdom was to religiously follow a new set of rules designed to be a shortcut to harmony and do away with the agony of real transformation to being people who authentically live in harmony with the world God created, the God who created it, the Others whom God created, and this person "me" that God created.

Jesus declared that both of these heresies would not give us the Kingdom, as did Peter and John and Paul and the writer of the book of Hebrews. You don't get to "Heaven" by following a new set of rules anymore than you got there by following an old one. You also certainly don't get to "Heaven" by settling for chaos, broken relationships, and pain.

The game change is from following the law - or any law - to following Jesus and letting Him teach us how life works, and letting Him teach us to live in harmony with that reality ... about God, nature, others, and me.

Gender, human sexuality, societal structure, economics, religion, politics, academics . . . everything yields to Jesus. As do we.

We can fight to look good and feel good by saying the Kingdom is all about controlling sexual impulses in favor of a culture of "Good Christian Families", but it is a distortion. Or we could fight to say that sexuality and the needs of a culture for a consistent ethic of marriage and family didn't matter, and say the Kingdom is just "all about freedom to do what feels right". There's a hint of truth both directions, but both miss out on the truth that can heal and save us.

Jesus made us. He knows how we work -- sexually, in marriage, in singleness, in passion that is unfulfilled, in passion that is pursued . . . He knows what drives us. He knows how the world works.

The law of the past was a tutor to point us toward reality. The ethic of the Risen and Ascended Christ is an ethic of reality and harmony and restoration of focus on what really satisfies.

You are not called to fight against "sin" and live your life in that battle. You are called to walk after Christ and enter into His new life, and be an agent of that new life for all who encounter you. You are free!

So "go and sin no more": change your focus from what you thought would satisfy you or make you holy, and focus instead on Jesus. Learn the life He will give you each day as His Spirit causes you to walk in ways that work and desire things that satisfy.

And embrace in fellowship all those who's "fruit" shows them to be those people too: people being healed of pursuing things that hurt the harmony of people with God and nature and each other and themselves, as they also walk intimately and daily with Jesus through this real life.

If God has poured the Holy Spirit on them and in them, and if God has declared that nothing can separate them from God's love, it is time to let them be in full fellowship as we all together pursue the things that authentically satisfy.

May we have eyes to see reality from God's viewpoint.