Lent: Call to an Altared/Altered Life

Romans 12:1-2

12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.  (The Message)

Sixth Sunday in Lent

Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

What is this “culture” Paul warns about here? Misunderstanding and mischief follow not getting this right. “Culture” or “world” carries many meanings in scripture. Here it is counter-pointed by Paul’s insistence on fixing our attention on God and responding promptly to what he calls us to do. World, then means that constellation of forces, inducements, allures, and temptations that do their best to distance, distract, and dilute what Paul calls for.

-This is NOT the world as our physical habitat. God created it good, even very good, and even though it has been misused and damaged by sin, it remains good in God’s valuation.

-This is NOT a total understanding of the setting in which we live. The whole of the world, its ideas, artifacts, achievements, and hopes, are not uniformly evil and to be rejected. There are many things noble and worthwhile for Christians to value and share in in our culture. See Paul in Phil.4:8 for confirmation.

-This is NOT a call to abandon the evil world to its destruction. Paul says in 1 Cor.5:10 that it’s not even possible to avoid the evildoers of the world. Easter, with Christ’s resurrection in a more than physical (but not less) body means God’s eternal embrace of this world as the physical, material reality it is.

Were we to take any of these things our culture and our world are NOT seriously, we would fall into the immaturity Paul wants us to avoid. Rather he wants our “well-formed maturity.” Surely he means an approach to our lives in the world that cares for what is going on it and careful in discerning the places and ways we want to respond.

For my part, the recent calls for a boycott of the movie Beauty and the Beast seem rather undiscerning. In the first place, even if you are morally opposed to homosexuality, is this a place you want to fight? I confess, I missed the “gay” part of the movie and I was looking for it! Should that slight “offense” outweigh the overall excellence of the film and the number of opportunities it opened for reflection on biblical themes? Why not celebrate that? And are we wanting to suggest that minority sexuality persons should not be hired for roles in films?

Americans, perhaps because of the Puritan strain in our national DNA are prone to purity syndromes. It’s all of nothing if you’re on our side. If you don’t affirm a pro-life position (narrowly construed) you cannot be conservative or evangelical. If you’re not pro-gay you can’t really be progressive. No matter how else you share with those in the respective groups. You’re not pure. And can’t be really trusted.

And I wonder what Paul’s willingness to become all things to all people for Christ’s sake might have to say to this inability to discern more “maturely”?   

Lent, especially deep in Lent, we near Jesus’ cross.

-The cross which alone enables us to see people and things as God sees them.      -The cross, the criterion of all things Christian.                                                   -The cross, foolish in all ways except wisdom.                                                     -The cross, the unimaginable made visible.                                                           -The cross, where love trumps sin.                                                                    -The cross, the maturity of God well-formed in us.


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