Thursday, 23 September 2010

Loving the world

Barclay's (1976) commentary (I John 2:15-17) talks initially about how the physical world was understood as an opposing force to God. He does conclude by talking about the Christian being different. Christians aren't rejecting the physical world. What they are rejecting are the man created principles that go against Christian principles.

My favourite point of contrast is the financial system. The emphasis around us is to take more regardless of the impact on those around us. It is a personal gain scenario. The Christian instead should be looking at giving to help others live comfortably. The problem is that self preservation has been seen as a Christian virtue but we are simply not seeing as God wants us to see. We need to focus on the needs of others and not on our own interests.

The thing that I see us struggling with are human created thought systems that lead us into conflict with others. It is very visible in the students where they are supposed to be doing team work but they are fighting each other and destroying each others' work. It is also there in the performance measures for research and those that are talked about for teaching.

The destruction of the world comes through lack of relationship caused by competition. We breed problems by the continual desire to be better than others and to have more.

Reference:

Barclay, W. (1976). The letters of John and Jude (revised ed.). Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press.

In the power of Jesus' name

Barclay (1976) talks of the name of a person “not simply that by which a person is called, it stands for the whole character of a person” (I John 2:12-14, p 53). To invoke the name of God or of Jesus is to invoke his character and his power.

When we hear a person's name, we immediately have a picture of that person. That will invoke thoughts of warmth or loathing or … depending on our knowledge of the person. If we have little knowledge of the person, the name will mean nothing and it has little impact on us.

Those who in the name of Jesus call for healing or to drive out evil can only do so if they know Christ and to some extent if the person that they seek to heal knows Christ. It is the knowledge of the character of Jesus that brings power and not simply invoking his name.

The evangelist and healer, therefore, must start with the revealing of the nature and character of God. To do this means starting with walking with him and getting to know him. Barclay talks of how John would have been “thinking of his own experience” (p 54). John had walked with Jesus and grown to love him. He had a vast knowledge and experience of him. It is from this position of knowledge that he uses the name of God as he shares with people.

May we develop the same depth of knowledge of God.

Reference:

Barclay, W. (1976). The letters of John and Jude (revised ed.). Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Love and Discipline

In reading 1 John 2:7-8 recently, I was challenged to think of the relationship between love and discipline. God loves but he also seeks justice an disciplines us.

There is the same contrast involved in fostering learning and yet having to assess what the students have learnt. At times, we have students who are progressing in passing the assessments and yet are really failing on the learning. Occasionally, you discover that one of these students is getting assistance to complete the assessed exercises and is not able to pass written tests. In effect, the assignments haven't encouraged learning and for many actually place a limit on learning.

As a teacher, I need to assess or at least make a judgement on the learning that is or has occurred. This measure helps me plan the next stage of learning. Assessing is a necessary part of encouraging learning.

In the same way discipline is a necessary part of showing love. We are not left to do as we please but God through his love shows us the error of our ways so that we may repent and be redeemed. Through this process we are reconciled to him and all creation (shalom).

In attending a Workshop session on peace and power, we revisited the theme of shalom. It occurred to me that shalom is both peace and confrontation. When we wish somebody shalom, we are not simply saying peace be with you but we are challenging the hearer to confronted with God's truth. Even our own walk in shalom confronts us with the need to live out that shalom seeking the reconciliation of all creation.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Knowledge, Emotional Experience, and/or Moral Action

How do we gain knowledge of God? Barclay describes how the Greeks sought to find God through the intellectual pursuit of knowledge or through an emotional experience (I John 2:3-6, pp 40-43). I have been involved in intellectual discussions on God's existence. These usually revolve around proving God's existence. The argument would go if you can't prove God exists to the listener then there can not be a God. But the reality is that you can't prove a universal negative. Only existence can be proven through experience. Existence is not dependent on our awareness.

To prove that God does not exist means proving the universal negative for all phenomenon, the phenomenon is not God. So to prove God does not exist a person needs to have universal knowledge or experience. That is something that we don't have. To know God simply means that we have knowledge or experience of Him. There is one complication and that is what a person means or understands God to be. If a person expects a physical manifestation of God then they may never find Him.

As well as the intellectual debate, there are also the emotional experiences of Him through the charismatic movement. God floods the emotions and on occasions causes people to fall over. Yes, sometimes the falling over is because that is the expectation but not always. A focus on emotional experience can led to dissatisfaction.

Ultimately belief in God must have it roots beyond experience or claimed knowledge. As Barclay emphasises, it is our actions or what we do as a result of the relationship that matters. This doesn't do away with the intellectual understanding or the experiences of His presence but our faith moves us to act in a way that shows His love and compassion to the world. In living out the relationship, the presence of God becomes so much more real.

Reference:

Barclay, W. (1976). The letters of John and Jude (revised ed.). Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press.