Friday, February 09, 2007

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before

A story I like to tell about Elane and I involves a dinner we had early in our dating relationship. We were in LA, actually, visiting friends. We were having dinner at a nice restaurant, nicer perhaps because we were both in seminary and restaurant visits (along with time together) were not the norm. As the evening unfolded, we began what became a very heated discussion, on the topic of The Incarnation. Our views differed. Voices were elevated, cheeks were flushed, tears were shed, briefly. Hours later when we came to enough comfort with each other’s positions to leave reconciled if not in agreement, we left for the hotel with beautiful plates of cold, untouched pasta still on the table. I decided after that dinner that it would be wise for us to learn when and how to put some topics on hold. And I also decided that I didn’t want to spend my life with anyone who could not argue, cry and turn over an orderly dinner to wrestle with the unruly Gospel.


Last night it was Salvation. I don’t think either of us would claim to understand the mechanism of salvation – how or when exactly God pulls us into God’s Jesus-centered embrace, or what else God may be doing in the human story apart from pulling us close in that particular embrace. I think both of us believe salvation through Jesus to be real, tangible, and reliable (okay, at least I do). I think we both believe though you can recant, you can choose to intentionally step away from that embrace, you can’t sin your way out of it (at least I do). The heat of our discussion had more to do with the shades and emphases – how to describe salvation as both decision and lifelong practice. The tricky bit is in describing both/and – not either/or. If there is an either/or, we stand on opposite sides.


We’ve matured a little over the years. While there was heat, there were no tears, and we both ate well. And this morning I woke up with a new clarity. For me, the description of the both/and, decision and practice of salvation, boils down to what will get you there. In order to come to faith, I needed to be given a complete change in mindset – a reordering of priorities, of frameworks, of thought – and I needed to play with that in my mind and heart, trying it on, thinking about it, wrestling with it, talking about it. That’s the leading towards decision. I needed someone to try and describe for me what the new world looked like, in order to choose to step into it. Others need to experience little portions of the larger whole in order to take little steps forward towards it – to start by living a small thing new, then seeing how that is and moving a little closer. That’s practice. Some people need to begin to live like people of faith, in order to know deep in their souls that their faith is real.


Luckily, God creates for us a both/and world, full of people who might just have that missing word, or action, or tear, or laugh to lead you to embrace more fully the one embracing you. Just remember to eat first.


Pastor Bran



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