After decades of Biblical study, I continue to discover there is much deeper meaning than I had ever imagined.
Christ calls me to
-people I'd not expect;
-be politically active for justice;
-love without restriction;
-accept those from whom I would normally recoil;
-be a student of the Bible and also the society in which I live;
-see the economic, social, and spiritual struggles of others;
-be a prophetic voice for justice, mercy, compassion, grace, and love;
What about you?
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Samson, The Strong Man
We like strong men. We are enamored of power, strength, and violence, or at least the potential for violence. This is shown clearly in our fascination with Samson, one of the judges mentioned in the Old Testament. What we miss is that while the book of Judges grants Samson's story a lot of space, it does not paint him in a positive light.
Samson had everything necessary to have been a great man of God, a redeemer of Israel. What we find in his story, however, is that he abused God's gifts over and over for his personal gratification. It is true that he was responsible for killing many of Israel's enemies due to his great strength. All of his efforts, however, had no bearing on Ancient Israel's security. His feats of strength did not bring peace to the land. They did not grant Israel release from the oppression of the Midianites who attacked Israel to steal its agricultural bounty.
I think we are often enamored of strength because we feel if we only had more strength we could accomplish so much more. We believe that if we only had greater wealth, greater influence, greater resources, greater status our lives would be easier, simpler, and more productive. We would change the world for good.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty in that argument is that there are many with influence, power, and wealth who have not accomplished any significant positive transformation. The second is that all too often we use our lack of resources as an excuse for our inaction. If only we had more or greater resources, then we could act. Instead, we need to be determining what we can accomplish with the resources we already have.
Samson had great strength, but he used it throughout his life only for his personal gratification. If Israel had some benefit from that, he would not be upset about it. Redeeming Israel, however, was not his priority. His priority was himself. That was his only priority.
The people who have acted in history to truly transform the world were people with much more limited strength and resources. Sure, Bill and Melinda Gates have set aside 50 percent of their resources to address world issues. There is also a teenager in Malawi, John, who has used his ingenuity to created waterways for garden irrigation for the good of his community and others in the region. His only resources were sticks and rolls of black plastic. In proportion to his resources, John had already accomplished much more by his 16thbirthday than the whole of our billionaire class.
God is not limited by our lack of resources. God is more limited by our inaction. We don't need strongmen to solve the world's problems. We just need to address the issues in our own communities. We need to befriend the poor, tutor those who can't read, feed the hungry among our neighbors, and encourage those who need support. In so doing, we transform the world for those around us.
The victory may be to the strong, but it is more to those who are of strong character than those with great physical strength, political power, or financial resources. We need to let go of our obsession with strongmen and recognize that even the weak can be agents of world transformation in God’s hands.
constantly hear folks talking about how horrible socialism is. In the
USA, we have fashioned a definition of socialism that has little to
do with socialism and much to do with the vague ideological enemy of
the cold war era red scare.
of all, socialism is an economic system, not a political one. It is
on the continuum with capitalism. Communism lies on a different axis
with democracy, theocracy, autocracy, and such. While capitalism
elevates capital as the most important element in an economic system,
socialism elevates the public welfare as the most important and
valued element. This is often looked at as labor versus capital, but
my understanding is that it is more than labor. It is the social
sphere that includes labor as well as those who are unable to provide
labor in the economic system.
to theology, doctrine, and Biblical witness, however, we find those
attitudes cast against the nebulous enemies of the nation from our
Red Scare days greatly impacting our attitudes …
Almighty Gun, we worship you. It is in you we place our trust and hope for our security. Where fifty-eight or more lie dead, We pass legislation for more of your presence. We hope you will protect us from our fears, Our fear of the "Other," the immigrant, the stranger, the colored ones. We fear our lives might be taken by those marketing terror. All the while, we are the ones in terror. We are the ones who instill, promote, and extend our own terror. We live in fear. We pack heat to make us feel stronger, more virulent, more protected. We return to the world of make-believe, in which we are the heroes standing up to the enemies all around us. We pray you will provide the energy and the aim we need. We pray you will protect us from our fears of unknown enemies. Then one of us takes a last stand, firing rounds from automatic weapons. "No, the guns are not to blame!" If only there were more gun worshippers present to stop the hail of lead! If only there were one more gun to halt the a…
are hard-wired to feel compassion on an individual level. We see
needs around us and are moved to offer a meal, a pair of shoes, a
shirt, a pair of pants, a coat, or a sleeping bag and willingly offer
them to meet an individual's need. At least momentary needs within
our grasp are elements we readily and willingly address. In so doing
we often fail to address the larger issues that bring people to those
conditions from which they may seek escape and the comfort of our
band-aid compassion. The
Bible is an ethical document in many respects. It is a compilation of
ethical documents that are religious but advance very specific
ethical teachings. We can't say the Bible is always consistent, for
it includes various streams of thought which come from diverse
traditions within the bounds of a Yahwistic faith. What we find
ourselves having to do is read these various streams of doctrine,
ethics, and tradition to determine the higher standard among them and
so apply that to our lives. …