Friday, March 30, 2007

God and the Holiness Tradition

How have you seen disobeying one of God's commands or the power of sin fragment and destroy a person's life?

*And a follow-up question from my ever-heretical mind:

Are God's commands ever contextual? If so, how do we appropriate God's deepest truths to individual situations without falling into the trap of rationalization?


Lydia said...

How have you seen disobeying one of God's commands or the power of sin fragment and destroy a person's life?

One of my closest friends in high school was physically and emotionally abused by her father for years. Her mother didn't leave the marriage until my friend was a Junior in high school.

She struggled with depression throughout the rest of her high school career, but when she graduated things really started to fall apart in her life.

She ended up falling into at least one abusive relationship of her own. I don't know all of the details, only that her mom was scared to death for her for quite a while there.

The last time I saw her she was about six months pregnant and in her mid-20's...but her appearance was that of someone much older.

From what I hear, she has slowly improved these past few years. She now has two small children to raise. Alone.

Hopefully she'll break the cycle. I hate what it has done to her.

Are God's commands ever contextual?

Of which commands do you speak? The 10 Commandments in the Old Testament? The two Jesus spoke of in the New Testament?

Amy said...

My dad grew up in a pretty rough situation. His father was physically and emotionally abusive to my Grandma as well as all of his four sons. He was an alcoholic and spent all his money at the local bar, so much so that the rent and food money was gone.

My dad figured out at a young age this was not the life he wanted and walked away. He eventually became a Christ-follower. Unfortunately, along the way, he's held significant bitterness toward his father. As a result, his relationship with my brother was negatively impacted by this due to the fact that my brother has some personality characteristics similar to my grandpa's.

It's been interesting to me, although disheartening as well, to watch the decisions one person makes inadvertently spill into and destroy another area. In that way, not only does it destroy that person's life, but also that of the important people around them.

Even looking at my grandfather, it's so true. He committed suicide when I was twelve. Within a few years, two of my uncles also committed suicide, one after he killed his ex-wife. The legacy he left behind is horrendous.

Amy said...

Jemila, great question you pose!

Lydia, I liked your follow-up question. I think outside of those two sets of commands, my gut instict is that many commands are contextual. Although, even writing that down makes me feel very nervous.

We're watching "The Truth Project" video series by Focus on the Family at church right now and we recently watched the one on family and social order. The topic of women being subordinate to men because Jesus is subordinate to the Father thing was broached. I keep thinking that we're missing the point when we try to take a text and apply it through "simple" reading. I'm not so sure much of meat of the bible is easily accessed through this method.

So, my tentative answer is that we have to approach God's deepest truths so carefully, with reverance, open hearts, conversation with others searching after God and a willingness to really hear. For me, I think accepting I am stepping out in faith and may not ever have a definitive, unquestioning understand is really important.

Jemila Monroe said...

Lydia, I was referring to any and all of God's commands.

For example, Peter Rollins argues that hiding a jew from the nazis and lying about it to an ss guard is actually a beautiful thing rather than the lesser of two evils because it falls under the category of valuing a human being/love.

In terms of the Jesus' two biggies, the more of life I take in, the more I am both certain that these two commands really do sum it up AND that what it means to love self, other and God can look really different in different situations with their own set of variables. So I am more convinced of the truth of the commandments and less sure that there is a blanket interpretation of how to apply them.

Reading both of your comments and my own experiences, it seems to that the very definition of sin must include something that hurts oneself and others. Family legacies are so tragic, because it when people try to break free, there is usually profound scarring. Sometimes we are able to transform theses scars into scars of grace; other times they are thorns in our flesh that we offer to God as our way of saying, "I love you even in my suffering."

Sometimes the things that set a chain of pain in motion are not such huge things, either. My great grandmother was quite wealthy and very religious and southern. My grandma reacted by marrying a guy from the other side of the tracts when she was young. She had three kids with him, several affairs, followed by several additional marriages and one more child. Where her mother was too strict, she rebelled; her parenting style of very lax and one of her husbands sexually abused the three girls, of whom my mom was the oldest.

Needless to say, she grew up fragmented.

Most of my ancestors on my dad's side were wiped out by the holocaust. My grandfather fought at Normandy and watched all his best friends go down. He became very bitter and angry and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. He and his wife lived nearly their entire lives in survival mode. Nothing my dad did was ever good enough; they were critical and negative and my dad grew up to be extremely paranoid, anxious and paralized to make his dreams happen, so he's spent most of his married life living off my mom's trust fund and being simultaneously deep and emotionally toxic.

I fight a battle everyday in my own life to participate in an ongoing healing process with God and myself from the fallout that my biochemistry has taken from growing up in a volatile, toxic family constantly on the verge of divorce, where the other shoe was always about to drop and it didn't matter how hard I tried; I was always the scapegoat.

The first time around I married a really dysfunctional man who turned out to be abusive to me because the only way I could imagine getting away from the codependence and guilt trips of my enmeshed family was to jump into a family of my own, and while I thought this guy was as different from my fam of origin as apples from eggplant, not surprisingly, because I was so unhealed at the time, I selected someone who would not be able to treat me with kindness.

I am happy to say my now husband is a true gem; not perfect, but really a remarkable human being and a true partner who loves me.

I think I have been pretty successful at making life very different for my children; they are happy, well-adjusted kids by any standard and our problems are all normal. But I struggle in MY relationships and connection with them because I am so afraid of being toxic to them. I take tiny rejections too personally, and I strugle with anxiety, which means there are times when I just have to take my own timeout to breathe rather than being a "fun mom" for my high-energy daughter.

The journey is a blessing and my relationship with my own mom has experienced some major healing recently. There is hope. But there are still consequences that reverberate, even as the reverberations echo more and more in a concert of grace.

Nancy said...

I think what I went through with my ex-husband (I'm choosing to spare the details given the public forum here) is a good example of how disobedience and sin lead to all sorts of destruction...physical, emotional, and familial, the rending of trust relationally. More pain and torment than I could have imagined both for him, who chose to lie and hide and deceive but also for the "victims" of his choices. I don't see any of it as punishment for sin...I see this all as the consequences OF our disconnect from God. We are broken because of this disconnect and along the lines of what Dallas Willard has written, this brokeness is more than woundedness. It is a spiritual condition in our hearts, something that drives us toward self versus other, self over God. And the consequences of our lack of attention to this state of brokeness only leads to more struggle, more stumbling and suffering.

Lydia said...

Lydia, I was referring to any and all of God's commands.

Good to know.

I have to agree with the rest of you - they're contextual.

Although I also tend to believe that God really isn't concerned about sin in an abstract "here's a long list of rules you'd better follow" sort of way.

A rule can easily be followed to the letter while at the same time crushing the spirit of the rule.

The God that I'm getting to know is much more concerned with the spirit of the law than s/he is with the letter.

Amy said...

But there are still consequences that reverberate, even as the reverberations echo more and more in a concert of grace.

Beautifully put, Jemila. What a wonderful way to express the process of healing.

We've been going through the Truth Project video series at church and in one of the videos, the speaker, Del Tacket, talks about the descritpion of God as a Jealous God (El Kannah). He described his inability to fathom this jealous God with the God of love the Bible talks about. After research, he found that the jealousy was a type of protection of the covenant relationship with God's people. God becomes jealous when that relationship is broken and acts in such a way to protect that relationship.

To me, this has been a powerful image of how God views sin. Sin causes a break in the relationship between a loving Creator and the created. God doesn't want that distance and longs to draw us back into relationship and away from that which causes chaos and pain.