Friday, April 28, 2017

Easy and Stupid

      So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 
                                 -Matthew 10:26-31 (NIV) 

Used to be that when I met someone new and mentioned that I lived in Chicago, I’d get comments about Michael Jordan, or the Sears Tower, or how perennially bad the Cubs were, or deep-dish pizza. People used to talk about experiences they’ve had here, or the cold winters, or the wind. Lately, though, I get a different reaction.
     These days, when I tell someone that I’m a Chicagoan, I get the look. It’s pity, concern, and fear all rolled into one. 
     The difference, of course, is that the media these days portrays Chicago as a terrifying place to live.
     To hear some media outlets tell it — or even some movie directors or US Presidents — when you cross into the city limits, someone starts shooting at you. Chicago is described as out of control. People who don’t live here imagine gangs flashing signs on Michigan Avenue or crowding into our trains or buses, or Giordano’s for a slice of deep-dish. Some columnists from towns with their own serious crime problems write opinion pieces advocating sending in the Marines. (Interestingly, few of those pointing out the worst in my city care to note that things have gotten more serious since the city’s ban on handguns was declared un-Constitutional. Huh.) 
     No wonder people start looking for bullet holes when they find out where I make my home.
      Let me make three minor points, and then my main one.
     First minor point: Chicago has had a rough couple of years with violent crime. Close to 800 homicides happened in the city last year — up nearly 40 percent from 2015. That’s not good. No one thinks it is.
     Second minor point: When you take our population into account, the number looks less terrible. In 2016, Chicago had not quite 28 murders per 100,000 people. St. Louis, in comparison, had over 59. Baltimore, more than 51. Detroit and New Orleans, right around 45. In Cleveland, Newark, and Memphis, over 30 people per 100,000 were murdered in 2016. The town where I grew up, Chattanooga, Tennessee? They had 23 murders per 100,000 in 2015.
     Third minor point: in Chicago last year, 32 percent of the murders that occurred happened in 5 police districts that contain 8 percent of the city’s population. This is particularly interesting because it highlights the real problem in Chicago and many other cities: not keeping the majority of the population safe, but figuring out why a tiny fraction of the population is so much more likely than the rest to die violently.
     Or, more likely, figuring out how to do something about it.
      Which leads to my main point: acting out of fear is easy and stupid.
     It’s easy and stupid to send in the Marines. It looks like decisive action, but it doesn’t address the real problems. It’s easy and stupid to lock your doors and hide in your house, skittish at every noise. It preserves the illusion of safety without allowing you to be part of the solution.
     It’s easy and stupid to stereotype races and ethnicities as thugs and killers. It’s unfair and unjust and it strips away the humanity of large swaths of people who live and work and care for their families just like you do, and who have the same dreams and hopes as you have. It’s easy and stupid to locate the problem with immigrants. 
     And it’s easy and stupid to write the problem off as someone else’s.
     Wherever you live, there are things you could be afraid of. But, if you are, they will drive you to gated communities, locked doors, exclusive schools, homogenous churches. It drives some to gangs and terrorists who promise them power when they feel weak. When you’re afraid, you’ll barricade yourself behind political rhetoric, legislative quick-fixes that allow you to ignore real problems, and racial, ethnic, and economic discrimination. You’ll line up behind any demagogue who promises to quell your fears. You’ll do or approve things out of fear that you'd never think of doing or approving in your saner moments.
     Fear, in short, will keep you from being like Jesus. He told us, after all, not to be afraid of those who won’t listen to us, who hate us, who arrest us, who betray us, or even who kill us. Fear is an understandable feeling. It can even protect us in times of imminent danger. But as a philosophy of life, it’s stupid and shallow and faithless. It turns us into the little roly-poly bugs I used to play with as a kid: it makes us hide under rocks and roll up into a tight little ball any time our lives are disturbed in the slightest.
     The world we live in is beset with real problems, and as followers of Jesus we have some things to do and say that can make a real difference in solving those problems. He taught that the kingdom of God is crashing into the world and overturning the tyrants and powers that take and oppress and terrorize. He taught that the laws of God’s kingdom are love and grace. He teaches us how to live as citizens and ambassadors of that kingdom in our broken world. Our neighborhoods and cities need to hear that message and see us live it out. But if we live in fear, the only ones who hear and see are other believers, and we invariably turn that message toward our own self-interest.
     But we don’t need to live in fear, because the One Who took the worst that unreasoning fear and anger could do to him and conquered it is the One we follow. In the garden, he faced up to his own fear and found a path through it in prayer and in the faithfulness of his Father.
     So will we, if we face up to our own fears in the same way he did: by saying to God, “your will be done.” 
     May that be our prayer in the face of fear: “your will be done.” May our fears, whatever they are, be replaced by our faith in the power of God — the power that raised Jesus from the dead, and the power that continues to free those who live in terror of death’s power. And may it lead us out into our world as his agents, carrying with us the love and peace and service that conquer fear.
     May it be so in my city, and in yours.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


“It is written…”

    When I was a kid memorizing Bible verses in Sunday School, I had to memorize the King James Version. That’s right: to get my gold stars, I had to watch my thees and thous and forsooths like a Shakespeare scholar.
    Kids today with their New International Versions and English Standard Versions….
    OK, that kind of dates me. I think it was around 1978 when the NIV came out, but it wasn't until 1984 when I got my first one. But it was, of course, like a light came on. I think I rarely touched my old KJV after that. Reading the Bible became, if not always a pleasure, at least something that a teenaged guy was much more likely to do. I’ve been a fan of new Bible translations ever since.
    Good thing, too, because there have never been so many translations of the Bible in English. (Probably other languages, too, though I obviously don’t have direct knowledge there.) I have, let me count…36 on my bookshelves, a few of which even predate the KJV. (My copies are reprints…) But then, of course, I also have access online to all of them — and maybe a few others that I don’t have.
    Now and then, though, I’m reminded of a centuries-old Italian phrase: Traduttore, traditore. It originally had to do with translations of Dante into French, not the Bible into English, but the problem is the same. The phrase means, literally, “Translator, traitor.” And it is, of course, true, at least to some degree. To translate is to betray the original, because translation will never be an exact science.
    I’ve been reminded of it when someone insists that the translation they like is the best, the most accurate, the most literal, or whatever. Or that my choice is less so. As if the translators they like aren’t traitors too. Thankfully, that particular conflict is less likely to occur than it was 20 or 30 years ago or so.
    But I was also reminded of it recently in a class, when I noticed how my favorite translation, the NIV, doesn’t always handle well Mark’s repetition of the word immediately. It just glosses over it sometimes, as though it isn’t in the text. It does so, I’m sure, because the translators judged that it’s more readable in English, and that sometimes Mark’s use of immediately is more like punctuation. But, in effect, this choice slows down Mark’s breakneck pace. It does to Mark’s writing what some treatments do to some patients with mental illness: it flattens it out. It may be better English, but it does violence to the text. Traduttore, traditore.
    That’s the kind of thing that bothers me more than what a translation does with Isaiah 7:14 or one of the other hot-button texts that have often been used as a basis for evaluating a translation. But that’s the tension translators are dealing with. Bible publishing is, generally, a business — and a very profitable one at that. While translations are marketed for their accuracy, what sells them is their readability. It is certainly possible to create an English translation of the Bible that reproduces the syntax and grammar of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek more accurately than any translation available today. Problem is, no one would read it.
    Which, you  know, sort of defeats both purposes of Bible publishing: getting people to buy Bibles, and getting people to read them.
    Look, there’s little chance that your church is going to make Hebrew and Greek classes available to you. And little chance that, if they did, you’d have the time to spend learning those languages. And that’s why, for centuries, believers have risked arrest, imprisonment, and death to translate the Bible into the vernacular of their people. Or like my friend, Gene Arnold, to smuggle those translations across borders. Traduttore, traditore, indeed. But traitors for a noble cause. They believed, in the words of John Wycliffe, “Christ and his apostles taught the people in that tongue that was best known to them. Why should men not do so now?”
    People ask me sometimes what the best Bible translation is. Sometimes people give me more credit than I deserve. I don’t know what the best one is. It’s been said, and it’s probably more true today than ever before, that the best translation of the Bible is one you’ll read. That’s usually the way I try to answer.
    It isn’t all that hard to figure out, really. What you’re going for is some combination of readability and accuracy. If you’re an excellent reader, try some more literal translations. If you're a more average reader, then you should probably look at translations that smooth out the reading experience a little more. Don’t fall for the marketing, though, or for the well-intentioned (hopefully) person at your church who insists that the only trustworthy translation is the one he uses. The fact is, almost every well-known English translation available — there may be one or two exceptions — is juggling readability and accuracy. Almost every one that’s widely available is the product of an inter-denominational committee, to avoid bias. The translation process is not novel, or new. Every translator on every committee is dealing with the same texts and the same problems.
    Honestly, why settle for one translation anyway? If you’re serious about understanding the Bible, go with two or three. Compare them, contrast them, let them dialogue with each other and with you. The Bible is best understood in community: the more translators you have sitting at the table with you, the better. Come see me: I might be able to find one or two to share with you.
    But there are at least three that I won’t share with you. One is that King James Version. It was given to me the day I turned 8, by my grandmother. I know that because she wrote on the “Presented To” page. My mom later wrote in it the date I was baptized: August 19, 1979. It has in it one of my first attempts, probably, to write my name in cursive. There are stickers for Perfect Attendance at Sunday School on the inside facing page. (Seven of them. How ‘bout that?) It’s falling apart, but still usable.
    One is that NIV. It was a gift from my parents on Easter, 1984, just a couple of months before I turned 16. I know that, again, because Mom wrote in it. Its cover is creased, and the pages in the back are falling out. (The Old Testament still looks pretty good. No surprise there.)
    And the third is another KJV. It belonged to my grandfather. It was given to him on November 6, 1978, by the elders of Red Bank Church of Christ in Chattanooga, TN. That was the day he was baptized.
    If you, like I do, enjoy a heritage that values the Bible, thank God for it. It’s easy to take for granted. Don’t.
    And if that isn’t your heritage, then create it. Buy a Bible for your kids, your grandkids, your nephew or niece. Your friends’ kids. Encourage them to read it. Read it with them. Forty years later, they might still have that Bible you gave them. More importantly,  they’ll still have whatever God did in them through it.     

Friday, April 7, 2017


   So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.
-1 Corinthians 11:27-29 (NIV)

No one denies that it’s one of most distinctive marks of the Christian faith. It’s been practiced in the church since there was a church, since the church was a collection of disciples who didn’t yet know how they were going to turn the world upside down. When confused, broken followers of Jesus were keeping each other company on the road away from Jerusalem, away from the cross; when they were huddling together with the doors locked out of fear they’d be next; whenever they got together, they found their way to a table. And all their experiences of being around a table with Jesus came with them.
      They were all welcome, because Jesus welcomed all to his table — even the one who would betray him, the ones who would desert him, the one who would claim not to know him.
     Since then, the church’s most meaningful and universal symbol has been that table. 
     It’s been called the Eucharist, Communion, the Lord’s Supper. It’s been celebrated at actual dining tables, at ornate altars, or sitting in pews. It’s been celebrated standing, sitting, and kneeling. It’s been celebrated as part of an actual meal and as a symbolic meal of a morsel of bread and a sip of wine or grape juice. 
     Some churches have celebrated it as a highly ritualistic, almost mystic event where in some way Jesus’ body and blood are literally present. They’ve amassed centuries of tradition: words and music and actions in which they find meaning. Others are almost casual with it, thinking of it as simply a memorial — a marker to help us remember what Jesus has done for us.
     And, oh, the controversy! Centuries of it. Transubstantiation. Consubstantiation. One kind, or two? One cup, or many? Weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly? Ironically, one of the few things that has been characteristic of the church in almost every time and place has also been a source of its greatest division. My own fellowship, Churches of Christ, connects some of its historical dots to a young Irish Presbyterian who grappled with the idea of closed communion. He chose to leave the hard-earned token that admitted him to that year’s observance lying there on the table beside the cup and loaf, unused, as a protest.
     I’ve known people — friends, believers, folks who want to please God — for whom participating in communion involves a constant spiritual licking of the finger and testing of the wind. If things are going well that week they’ll share in it. If not — usually because they’ve lost some private battles with sin — they’ll pass. I understand why, too; doesn’t Paul say that we ought to examine ourselves, and that sharing in Communion “in an unworthy manner” makes us somehow guilty of sinning against “the body and blood” of Christ?
     So, it sounds right. But, wait: are any of us “worthy” in the sense that we have all our t’s crossed and i’s dotted? The best of us come to the table as recovering sinners, right? In fact, every believer who’s ever shared in Communion has done so because of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. It would seem strange to imagine that we’re all a lost temper or an inappropriate thought or a careless action away from being DQ’ed.    
     So maybe “in an unworthy manner” means something else. Some churches have taken it to mean that, in order to participate, we have to be correct on doctrine. This is where the idea of closed communion comes from: it’s not a desire to be exclusive as much as it is a concern for the spiritual health of folks for whom we can’t vouch doctrinally. Some churches have even made communion into an annual event, and there’s literally an examination in the time leading up to it. 
     Again, that attitude toward Communion comes, I’m sure, from the best possible motives. Who among us, though, would claim perfect understanding of God, his Word, his work in Christ, the movement of the Spirit, or all the mysteries of our faith? And how do we know that what a particular knot of believers in a particular time and place think is most important really is?  Besides which, Jesus didn’t invite his followers to his table because they understood. More often than not, it seems, they didn't. He invited them because he loved them, and they him.
     And that’s what Communion’s about, really: Jesus inviting us to his table. 
     We know how to be gracious guests. We don’t need theologians to tell us.
     We know what it’s like to come knowing we’re unworthy to take the places of honor, and hear him call us friends and ask us to come closer. We know what it’s like to come poor and lame and sick, and have him welcome us. We know what it is to be called away from our sins and, with our no-account friends, be invited to share the table with him.
     But not just us. When we take our places at the table, we’re immediately struck by all the faces around us. Faces that might surprise us, maybe even offend us, belonging to people who we might not sit down with left to our own devices. 
     That’s what Paul means when he talks about sharing Communion in a worthy manner. He says it explicitly: the only way to share Jesus’ table with him is to recognize that it isn't a private dinner. We are to recognize that we and the people who sit at the table with us make up the presence of Christ in the world, his body. We belong to each other like Christ’s two hands belong to each other. And there are a thousand ways we can disrupt that unity without even thinking. 
     So he says, “when you come together to eat, wait for each other.” To the church to whom he wrote those words, he meant it quite literally: some of them were wolfing down a meal that they called “the Lord’s,” leaving nothing for those who had to come later (probably because they were poorer and had to work). For them, the Supper was a source of judgment instead of spiritual nourishment. 
     But even if we don’t share Communion as part of a meal, and even if everyone is there when we share it, we still have to wait for each other sometimes. We have to wait for those who are struggling with sin. We have to wait for those who are doubting. We share the Lord’s table with folks who have a different political point of view, who read a bit of Scripture differently, who don’t see the world like we do. We have to wait for them, and they for us. We share the table with people who are struggling with addiction, whose marriages are crumbling, who are estranged from their children. We need to wait for them while they catch their breath.
     Those folks around the table with us are not an inconvenience. They are not to be ignored, or passed over, or disqualified. That’s not what we learn from Jesus. They are part of his body, and every bit as important to it as anyone else. And they are there for the same reason we are: they have been invited by the Lord, an invitation written in his blood.       

     May our celebration of Communion always reflect that we are the body of Christ.    

Friday, March 31, 2017

Tell Your Story

Let the redeemed  of the Lord tell their story—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, 
  those he gathered  from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.
-Psalm 107:2-3 (NIV)

My friend Bobby Ross is a Christian journalist. I don’t mean that he’s a journalist who happens to go to church. I mean that he’s a believer in Jesus who seeks truth and professionalism in his reporting, and who is guided by his faith in whatever he does. He’s been a religion editor for the Oklahoma City Oklahoman, a religion writer for the Associated Press, and is currently chief correspondent for The Christian Chronicle. He also writes for, a website that deals with the relationship of mainstream media and religion.
     Bobby just posted a story in the Chronicle that I think is a must-read for everyone who is attempting to follow Jesus in our world. It’s actually intended for the leaders of churches, schools, and ministries, but there are some points in it that are essential for every Christian who wants to take walking by faith and sharing their faith seriously.
     Bobby starts where the psalmist does: with story. Too often, I think, we try to live by other people’s stories. We look at ourselves through the eyes of the people in our world whose opinions we value most. We do our jobs according to the expectations of our superiors. We try to live a faith that’s been handed down to us by our parents, or shaped by whatever experiences of church we’ve had. None of that is bad, of course. But could it be that we don’t know our own stories? Could it be that we struggle in living and sharing our faith because we’re having a hard time figuring how a self-image derived from others’ opinions of us, a job that we do largely by standards imposed on us, and an inherited faith can be woven together into something coherent?
     The fact is, I have a story that is not yours. Our stories may be similar in some ways. We certainly should be aware of the many ways our stories affect others outside of ourselves. We may even have a common faith. But my story is my own. I have come from a place and lived a life that no one else has. I have a relationship with God that’s unique. It’s informed by the relationships others have had with him. It’s understood in categories largely shared with others. But the story of my life and my relationship with God through Jesus is mine. It’s not better or more normative than yours, nor is it inferior or less normative. It’s just mine, in the same way yours is yours.
     And so there’s no one more qualified to tell my story than me. I should be an expert on my story. Oh, I know, sometimes other people know us better than we know ourselves, but that just highlights my point. They know us better than we know ourselves because we don’t know ourselves. We haven’t learned our stories.
     We need to, though, because our stories need to be told, especially in those places where they intersect with God’s story. We’ve thought of sharing our faith, evangelizing, witnessing, whatever you prefer to call it, as convincing others to believe in some lifeless doctrine. We should have been telling our stories.
     “Let those redeemed by the LORD say so,” the psalmist more literally says. It’s true, of course, that God has redeemed all human beings through Jesus. Or, at least, all who believe, if you’d rather put it that way. But he has more particularly redeemed you. Maybe you can talk specifically about the addiction he’s helped you overcome. Maybe you can speak about how your temper is being tamed. Perhaps the Lord has redeemed you by teaching you a deeper and stronger faith in the midst of suffering. You might rather talk about how he has brought you from despair and grief to hope and purpose, or how he is using a particular talent or passion of yours to touch others, or how your job has been transformed into a ministry by his touch. The possibilities are endless, and that’s the point. It’s your story. The only similarity with mine is that we’ve both found redemption through Jesus. 
     Bobby’s column insists that we identify our audience. He doesn’t mean that we need to isolate an audience to whom we want to communicate, to the exclusion of others. He just means that we need to think about those to whom we have the opportunity to tell our stories. Who are they? What are they like? What are their experiences, their strengths, and their blind spots? In short, however well we may know our own stories, we need to know something about the stories of those to whom we would speak. Where do they come from? What do they value? What are their fears, and what are their hopes? We need to learn their stories so we’ll know how ours intersects with theirs, and how our experience of the Lord’s redemption might be most relevant to theirs.
     The rest of Bobby’s column leads us to consider how we tell our stories. He talks a lot about new media, and I’m reminded of how amazingly simple it is to tell our stories to large numbers of people. Through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, blogging, and numerous other outlets, we can creatively and efficiently get our stories told. We can use photos, videos, words, music, or any combination to get across the message we want to get across.
     Unfortunately, we don’t always put a lot of thought into what stories we’re telling. We post something or the other because we think some of our friends might like it — again making the mistake of playing into the expectations of others. We might not give a thought as to the story it might tell if we post this video or retweet that political story or favorite this blog post. We need to remember, perhaps, that the story we should be telling in every aspect of our lives is a coherent and consistent one. It’s ours, but it isn’t only ours. It has the imprint of God’s story all over it. And it’s now a vessel for the gospel of Jesus.
     The church has always used technology to communicate. Paul used Roman roads and the latest in sailing-ship technology. (Even if it failed on him now and then.) From architecture to the printing press, from radio to TV to the internet, there’s always been an impulse in the church to use technology to tell the story of the Lord’s redemption. That’s a good impulse, even if we sometimes get the how-to wrong. For all its pitfalls, social media, the internet, and other modern technology are wonderful tools we can use to tell our stories.
     So figure out what your story is. Consider the ways God has redeemed you, and is currently redeeming you, in Jesus. Then figure out how you can use the opportunities, settings, and tools God has given you to tell that story in a consistent and authentic way.
     I can’t wait to hear it.

Friday, March 24, 2017

New Maps

   The god  of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God…
…For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
-2 Corinthians 4:4, 6 (NIV)

Look at a map of the world, and you can easily note a few things. South America and Europe are very similar in size. So are Greenland and Africa. You’ll see that Alaska is larger than Mexico and Germany. You’ll notice how huge Antarctica is, if it’s on the map you’re looking at. You won’t need a ruler or scale to notice any of this; it’s obvious at a glance.
     Obvious, and also wrong.
     It’s hard to make a three-dimensional globe behave properly when you try to lay it on a sheet of flat paper. Gerardus Mercator, the Flemish cartographer who came up with the map we mostly still use in 1569, was mainly concerned with trade routes between Europe and its colonies. It was most important, then, for Europe to be at its proper scale. North America, at roughly the same latitudes, also got a pretty accurate representation. But when you go north and south, there is considerable distortion, both of scale and centricity. South America, in reality, is nearly twice the size of Europe. Africa is 14 times larger than Greenland. Alaska is much smaller in relation to Mexico and Germany. And Antarctica is not nearly as large as Mercator’s projection makes it look.
     So Boston public schools are getting new maps: the Gall-Peters Projection. This projection tends to squish everything laterally, but at least it gives a more accurate view of the relative sizes of land masses. It has some inaccuracies as well, but according to Hayden Frederick-Clarke, director of cultural proficiency for Boston Public Schools, it comes closer to accuracy. "Eighty-six percent of our students are students of color,”he says. "Maps that they are presented with generally classify the places that they're from as small and insignificant. It only seems right that we would present them with an accurate view of themselves." 
     So what we’re talking about here isn’t maps, really. It’s worldview. Colin Rose, a superintendent with BPS, puts it this way: “It's about a paradigm shift in our district. We've had a very fixed view that is very Eurocentric. How do we talk about other viewpoints? This is a great jump off point.” Worldview is the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual, group or culture watches, interprets and interacts with the world. It’s the set of lenses through which we see the world.
     Remember in Return of the Jedi, when Luke asks Obi-Wan’s “ghost”why he told him that Darth Vader killed his father, and not that he was his father? Obi-Wan’s answer sounds slippery: “Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” Truth, with respect to Obi-Wan, isn’t relative. But our perception of it almost certainly is. And it’s worldview that teaches us how to perceive it.
     So it might be worthwhile for us to ask sometimes what map of the world we’re using.

     For instance, if you’re a white man, don’t presume to “correct” a black woman on race relations. She has a worldview as well, but at that moment it isn’t about which “map” — yours or hers — is more precise. What matters is that you can see hers, and understand where she’s coming from. She’s quite possibly spent a lot of her life being told that a map like yours is the correct one. It will mean a lot if you can at least understand the differences between yours and hers. You’ll likely learn some real truth in the process — and how your map might distort it.  
     Worldview is what’s on Paul’s mind when he writes that whatever “this age” worships “blinds” its worshippers. It leaves us with a world map that doesn’t have room for the gospel, that inflates the importance of money and comfort and pleasure, that distorts sex and power, relativizes all religion, and does away with peace and community for the sake of radical individual freedom. It leaves us afraid of immediate death and suffering and marginalizes concepts like eternal glory as impractical fables. 
     This shouldn’t surprise us, though. Believers are not immune to being blinded by the worship of this world’s gods. In fact, our own maps are only different to the extent that God has made them so by making “his light shine in our hearts” so that we may come to know his glory through Jesus. It’s Jesus — his life, his teaching, his acts, his death, his resurrection — that redraws our maps. And, as you’ve probably discovered, even that is a process that’s still ongoing. We still make plenty of mistakes in the way we see the world. We still navigate by inaccurate charts, and sometimes even run aground. In Christ, however, his light grows brighter and our worldview is slowly (sometimes almost imperceptibly) but surely reorganized.
     Make no mistake, our maps are redrawn only by God, through Jesus. But don’t imagine it’s some mystical epiphany that happens in a desert hermitage or on a mountaintop. One of the ways we’re blinded to the work of God is by our constant longing for an experience. As a rule, our worldviews will change mostly through following Jesus: that is, trying to go where he goes and do what he does. So your attitude toward wealth will probably only change when you follow him in loving and serving the poor. Your need for the approval of the world will only be transformed when you follow him in receiving the insults and scorn of the world with humility and faithfulness. Your love of your own sins will only change when you follow him in dying to self and rising to live a new life of service to God.
     “We do not lose heart,” says Paul. Not when our new maps of the world remind us that inward renewal can accompany outward wasting, that the “light and momentary” troubles of this world are achieving for us a glory that never passes away. “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,” he tells us. That’s a stretch, isn't it? It’s a step of faith to navigate by maps that don’t look much like the landscape you can see. That's why Paul says “we” so often. A lot of the redrawing of our maps will take place together, in community, as we reassure each other that our new maps work, that this new worldview is accurate enough to live by. Don’t imagine you can do it alone. God didn’t intend for you to. That’s why he gave you the church.
     Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving recently told two of his teammates in a podcast that the earth is flat. His reasons all make sense, except that they’re based only on what he can see, his direct experience. 
     It’s so easy to fall back to the old maps. So inviting sometimes to go back to living by what we can see directly. Don’t make that mistake. God is redrawing our maps. May the trajectory of our lives witness to the brand new view of the world we’ve been given through Jesus.

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