When Sex ≠ Knowing

Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark, 87-88:

Our society is filled with people for whom the sexual relationship is one where body meets body but where person fails to meet person; where the immediate need for sexual gratification is satisfied but where the deeper need for companionship and understanding is left untouched. The result is that the relationship leads not to fulfillment but to a half-conscious sense of incompleteness, of inner loneliness, which is so much the sickness of our time.

Forming a Theology of Ecology

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Today is Blog Action Day 2009, an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day. The aim of the organizers, including Change.org, is to raise awareness of said issue, and in so doing, to trigger a global discussion. This year’s issue: Climate Change.

So here’s my take on the story of environmental stewardship, according to the Bible:

God created the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

God created human beings. (Genesis 1:26)

God told human beings to look after the earth. (Genesis 1:28)

Human beings screwed up. (A large portion of the rest of the Bible.)

And that’s that.

Or at least, that’s the (over-)simplified précis.

A theology of ecology, a theology of creation care, is part of—and is consistent with—a grander biblical theology, woven through with themes that can be found throughout Scripture:

It’s about stewardship, about being respectful and responsible with the resources and the gifts that God has given us in his creation. It’s about sharing in God’s appreciation for the world which he called “very good” (Genesis 1:31), and recognizing, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48).

It’s about the poor, those who have not are often the hardest hit by the excesses of those who have. The writer of Proverbs said, “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker” (14:31), and even if we’re not directly treating them badly, such an injunction should at least make us think twice about how we live.

It’s about relationship and community, about a harmonious and healthy interaction not only with the people around us but with the world around us, realizing that what we do with the latter will always impact the former at some level. Jesus said that loving one’s neighbor was akin to loving God (Matthew 22:36-40), so if we love God as we claim to, we will love those with whom we share in the gift of God’s creation.

It’s about children, those to whom Jesus said the kingdom of God belonged (Mark 10:14). I have two nieces and three nephews, aged between 18 months and 13 years, and the world they will inherit depends on what we do with it. To quote a Native American proverb (yes, I know it’s not in the Bible!), “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” Put more bluntly, those that follow us have to deal with our mess. Jesus values children; if I love Jesus, I will also value children, and I will care about what I leave to them.

It’s about justice, about recognizing that when a small proportion of the earth’s population exhaust its resources and the rest have to face the brunt of the consequences, that isn’t right. And when the God you worship, serve and follow, is described as a God of justice,* and when you’re encouraged to “do justice” (Micah 6:8) … well, it should probably make a difference on how we live, shouldn’t it?

Because, on the most encompassing level of all, it’s about God: the one who made the earth and everything in it (Psalm 24:1). Wendell Berry wrote, “our destruction of nature is not just bad stewardship, or stupid economics, or a betrayal of family responsibility; it is the most horrid blasphemy” (Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community, 98). Whatever we do with what God has made or given—human or otherwise—is a reflection on what we think of God, the Maker and Giver.

I think the world might look very different if we lived like we knew that.

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth … God saw all that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.

(Genesis 1:1, 31)

* I’m not going to post all the references to God’s justice, because that would take up too much space (which says something in itself), but here are a few: Deuteronomy 10:17-19; Leviticus 25; Psalm 37:28, 103:6; Amos 5:23-24; Jeremiah 22:16; Isaiah 58:6-10. You can read more on God as a God of justice here.

A Higher Calling

N.T. Wright:

Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our fully human role, as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning. That, quite simply is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us.

(Simply Christian, 237)

Wanting someone else, part 3: the finale

Welcome to the final part of this unintentional trilogy, in which I will, hopefully, tie up some loose ends.

After the first two parts, I got various comments and questions about whether I might be putting too much weight on the romantic relationship. The answer is probably yes; and the reason is probably because I’m writing from a certain context, which I’ll mention briefly at the end. Suffice it to say, I don’t think that a romantic relationship is the be-all and end-all of human life, by any means; there’s only one relationship that is, and it’s the one that will (or at least, ought to) count the most in every aspect of life—the relationship with Jesus Christ.

Moreover, there are other relationships that are very important to life, and in which God can be—and is—revealed: good relationships where one is loved and supported, counseled and guided, taught and prepared, made to know that he or she is safe within a community. And these can come in various forms. To name a few: friendships, family, church, and work. (There are more, I’m sure; but I can’t think of any more right now.)

And so, to my context. Obviously, everyone writes from a certain perspective, and I’m writing from mine. Even when I try to write a generally-applicable blog, it comes out in the way that I write, the things that I mention, etc. Contrary to the impression that some may have gotten from the first two parts of this blog, I’m actually really happy being single. I’m in a great community of friends (students and profs) here at Fuller, part of a church I love, close to and able to see family when available, well-cared for and well-loved. On the other hand, I’m a couple months clear of the skein of an almost-relationship that began with all of the promise of the Mariners’ “AL West championship run season” and imploded with just as much unexpected bewilderment; and I think this frustration comes out a little when I write. Still, I’m out of it, able to see the good that God did through those difficult few months, and back to being happy (finally!).

In conclusion, my intention in beginning this series (which actually didn’t begin as a series but developed through dialog) was not to extol the romantic relationship—our culture does that enough for us—but merely to touch upon one aspect of life that I continue to hold in tension, and something that I don’t think the church in general addresses well enough or often enough. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinions, helping me hammer out some thoughts on a difficult topic. Feel free to continue inputting; I’d say that there’s a 99% chance that I’ll write about relationships again. 🙂