I am being formed. It is a process which started at birth and, well, I am not convinced it will ever end. I was born in the church—not literally—but I have known nothing else. I cut my teeth on the Biblical stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, and Joseph. I studied at the feet of Fundamentalism. Evangelicalism courted me with its song. Liturgy has befriended me. I have played in the playground of the various theological schools. In each I found new toys and equipment to dissect God and faith. And in each playground, I found festering landfills hidden in the shadows. I have been enticed by the counter American Christian culture which mimics the world and slaps Jesus on it—making it better. I have fallen into the rut that the conversion experience is a must and is the apex of our Christianity. These are some of the things which have shaped me—for good and for bad. I do not seek answers like, “why does the church create divisions” or “why is the church which is to be a place for people to experience the healing and redemptive love of God instead often a place where we wound and destroy each other?” I do wish to remember my past, well—forgiving where forgiveness is needed, speaking the truth as I have experienced it at all times, and blessing it all. If I believe God is in the redemption business, I need to believe that he redeems all of my past. Those things which I have wrongly done or left undone and those things which have been done to me wrongly—I need to believe all can be redeemed and something glorious can come from it.
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If you were to ask me what Christianity is about, I would probably go Merton and Mulholland on you. Dr. Mulholland read Thomas Merton as devotionals before his classes when I attended seminary. We were created in God’s Image. All of Creation was formed to be God-centered. When we chose to go our own way, we became self-centered. Christianity is the story of God rescuing us from our imploding, false-self. Christianity is the journey to let our self-centered false self die and be restored to the God-centered self we were created to be. Christianity is more about being than about doing. If our being is being transformed into the image of Christ, then our doing will flow from the being. When Paul states that all things are permissible, but not all things are profitable—we realize that it is not the action which is the key to this verse. It is about my being and other’s beings. If someone will be hurt or will stumble, the action is not profitable. Christian being is to center on God for the peace of all people.
For a long time, I focused on doing Christian things—not drinking, not swearing, reading the Bible, praying. As a Christian doing, I became frustrated. I was busy trying to change me. As a Christian being, I have found peace. Yes, I still have a part to play in my transformation into a God-centered being. I need to submit to God—place myself on the center of the Potter’s wheel. But there is a freedom in letting my actions flow from my being instead of trying to live up to the standard of Christ. If my being is going to be changed from a self centered being to a God-centered being, I need the grace of God. But that is the point, our being and centered-ness is what needs to be changed, not just our actions. When we narrow down Christianity to our actions, we limit the transformation. We are able to justify ourselves by what we do and do not do while remaining selfish. But it is hard to measure “our being”. It is much easier to measure our actions and habits. And so we struggle in the Romans 7 narrative—I do what I do not want to do and I do not do what I want….without ever experiencing Romans 8.