Friday, August 19, 2005

Affirmation or Transformation

The dodgeball tournament went very well. A lot of fun for everyone, even teams like mine that got put out in 90 seconds. This weekend is the monastery and then Donald Miller on Monday night.

As I mentioned last week, I heard a story on NPR, specifically about homosexuals within the Lutheran church. One of the supporters of homosexuality said that the two sides have different perspectives on the Gospel. One side views the Gospels as one of affirmation and the other side views it as one of transformation. This obviously becomes a very touchy subject, not just from the aspect of homosexuality, but overall from the aspect of sin. It begs the question of what sin actually is.

Traditionally, we’ve defined sin as anything that does not follow a certain specified group of commands or directives. Not lying, not killing, not committing adultery, that kind of thing. But I think those specifics were put in place as a representative of a breaking of covenant with God. God calls His people to be holy as He is holy.

The message of the Gospel seems to be a reconciling of that covenant. Jesus talks about how actions are good, but that it’s the heart that he is truly after. What does that mean about our actions? I think that there are actions that break covenant with God, that break the shalom that Jesus came to restore, both through his life and his sacrifice. And a change in our hearts will lead us to do those actions less and less.

So let’s go back to the original question of whether the Gospel is one of affirmation or transformation. I’m going to say that it is both. God accepts us where we are, but loves us too much to leave us there. I’m a better person than I was last year and I hope to be a better person next year than I am now.


Tony Arnold said...

I have to say Phil, it is about transformation. We have to be transformed to a willingness of bring the kingdom to fruition and willing to sacrifice ourselves to do it. I thing we naturally will get a good measure of affirmation from finding our true identity in Christ, but part of the transformation is no longer needing affirmation. Die to ourselves and our needs, and serve God's will.


Fajita said...

"This is my Son in whom I am well-pleased." God said this of Jesus. It is an affirmaiton. But since Jesus was sinless, was what God said Gospel? I mean, was it good news?

I have to say that God being pleased with His son is good news. I figure if Jesus needed some affirmation, I might need it too.

On the other hand, Jesus went out to be tempted 40 days. I am not all together sure why this was necessary for him, but it seeme like he needed to be transformed. It is hard to think about Jesus being transformed. I mean, from what to what? And if he was transformed, was it from something less to some thing more? And if He was ever less, then what the heck does that mean? Was there a time when he was not divine?

Anyway, I agree that it is both.

Malia said...

it's both

that's all, I'm too tired to expound

Malia said...

Okay, now I'm expounding.

First of all I don't think that affirmation and transformation can be mutually exclusive of each other. The gospel is neither only affirming nor only transforming; both are present and both are needed to fully accept Christ's message.

I look at the story about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well as a good example of how Christ's gospel is both affirming and transforming. Jesus first affirms the Samaritan woman by accepting her sin and all. As a Samaritan and as a woman she fully expects Jesus, a Jew and a man, to be condescending, patronizing, rude and possibly solicitous towards her. Instead Jesus treats her with respect and dignity and offers her living water even though she is not worthy of it. That's affirmation. That's Christ saying it doesn't matter who you are or what you've done you can partake of my salvation, my living water.

But does that Samaritan woman just say, "Great, I'm saved. Now I'm going back to my former life. Thanks and have nice day"? No, she transforms. She tells others. I know we don't have a definitive look at how she transforms. There are no sequels to these Bible stories, no "Woman at Well: My life after Christ". I don't think there needs to be because we are being told in these accounts that people were changed, transformed by Christ, no further explanation needed. It's up to us to write our own transformation story and live it out.

I think Paul gives us a good look at affirmation and transformation in his life. On the road to Damascus we see Paul affirmed for who he is and transformed into an apostle of Christ. We also see in Paul's life that he struggles with something, some sin. He references it in Romans when he talks about doing the thing he doesn't want to do and again in 2 Corinthians we talks about his thorn in his flesh. But does Paul use this as an excuse to not keep on pressing toward the goal? No, he listens to God who tells him that His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weakness. God loved Paul for Paul and Paul loved God enough to keep trying, to keep pressing on, to keep being transformed despite his weakness.

So in regards to sin and actions could it be that there are some sins that may never be reconciled here on earth? Could there be something that we will always struggle with and never get over? That's part of the affirmation, being accepted for who we are. But if that's the case are we not also compelled and even required to not wallow in that sin, not keep sinning so that grace will abound? Whatever our thorn or thorns are we should always live in transformed life. That means accepting our salvation but never settling, never being complacent with our sin even it's something that will always plague us.

Phil said...

So if it's about both, then what has to be transformed and what gets affirmed?

Is the affirmation the good in us? If so, then how do we determine what is good? Is a loving relationship between two homosexuals good because of the love or bad because of the homosexuality?

Is the transformation the bad in us? If so, then same question. Is an abusive marriage good because the man and woman are married or bad because the husband beats the wife or vice versa?

I know I'm picking some specific points here, but how do we determine good or bad? Is it objective based on an outside source or determined by society? Is there a clean cut answer?

Clarissa said...

Oh, ye logic-minded one ... it must indeed crush your spirit if I daresay that you have to allow God to determine what aspects of each person/family/situation must be transformed. As the ubiquitous [some call him] Tim is wont to say, our God is in the transforming business. It is his (God's, not Tim's) call, and not ours.

We pray, we study, we suggest, we self-examine before we dare dream of ever casting any stones. We love, we look out for beams in our own eyes before inspecting the eyes of others for specks of dust. If we see someone being blatantly harmed ... we prayerfully step in, I think, and with backup. But never forget the prayer cover. Though the working of prayer frustratingly defies logic, I know ... ah, sweet mystery.

And, in answer to the original query posed ... yes. Affirmation and transformation. Affirmation of the very identity of each person as a child of God, loved, valued, sought after. Transformation of that person ever closer into the likeness of God's son ... a slow, beautiful, sometimes painful process.

Malia said...

yes, Clarissa said it much better than I did, thanks C!

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