Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why God is No Longer Top Priority

Let me start off by saying, I don't like the idea of God being my number one priority in life. In fact, God should not be a priority at all, as far as I'm concerned. I say this with strong conviction and without shame. I have said this publicly for years in spite of the fact that most audiences to whom I speak it believe strongly that God is, and always should be their number one priority. I pray my children come to understand this. God is not a priority. Anyone believing such nonsense should abandon their faith immediately. 

You see, if God is my number one priority, what is number two or three? What are numbers four through fifty? And when I am working on, and giving full attention to, say, priority number twelve, where is God then? Does God just take a back seat? Is God just another one of many competing priorities to be clumped together and sorted alongside others of my life's priorities?

There they all are - my family, my short iron game, reading, Dallas Cowboys football, my kid's swimming lessons, Qdoba burritos, ESPN and God. Really?

No!  God is not a priority in life!

God -------------------- is -------------------- life!

With God as our top priority, we can remain ceremonially Christian. We go to church, give some money (slightly less per year on average than we spend on dining out), offer some prayers, host a small group, do an annual service project and attend a Bible seminar.

This mask hides our inactivity when it comes to caring for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. It provides the cover we need to ignore our call to win the lost and set the oppressed free. We simply point to our religious activity. We tithe mint and dill and cumin, but ignore more important matters of justice and mercy and compassion. We strain a gnat and swallow a camel. Because we strain the gnat, we claim God as our top priority.

But without the God priority, we are exposed. If God is life - all of life - then God's priorities must become ours. This means that the time, money and energy spent on other pursuits has to be prioritized alongside caring for the poor, investing in the under-resourced, visiting those in prison, standing with the oppressed, caring for the sick and reaching out to the spiritually lost or confused.

Now, church is no longer a cover allowing me to make my short iron game a top five priority. Now, God's priorities must become mine. This is how I must live. This is the life I must teach to and model for my kids. I have been caught. There is no escape, Praise God! I am free!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Resurrection

During Holy Week, I posted a comment about the significance and veracity of the resurrection of Jesus - the central claim defining Christianity.  A couple of my friends - wonderful people, both - challenged my post with the same counter claim that the body of Jesus was most likely stolen by his disciples, and by implication, there was no physical resurrection at all.

This is not news to anyone who has studied the resurrection, even in a cursory way.  Scripture even acknowledges this counter claim (Mt 28:12-15).  So does this rumor of body snatching mean the resurrection is less likely to have occurred?  Not at all.  The folks of Jesus' day were not stupid.  They knew people did not rise from the dead.  So of course there would have been such rumors when the story of the resurrection began circulating.  If there were no rumors of this kind, I would think it more likely that the resurrection was a fairy tale. But the truth is, such rumors would have arisen whether the resurrection was true or a fabricated myth.  So the existence of the rumors adds nothing to the conversation other than to tell us that these stories actually did begin circulating after Jesus' death.

I also find it odd that the body snatcher theory is still in use.  If Jesus had not been raised, most scholars argue it is more likely that he was buried in a mass grave with other executed criminals than in a private tomb.

My intent is not to argue the truth of the resurrection.  The evidence for it is substantial enough to stand on its own, even if those desiring more left-brain satisfaction are not willing or able to make that leap of faith.  You believe what you believe.  My intent is to give those of us who trust in the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus as an historical event a reason not to be concerned about the challenge of the rumors of a stolen body.  Rumors could mean the body was stolen, or they could mean that people responded exactly as you would expect had Jesus actually risen as the Scriptures attest.  Given the witness of Scripture, tradition, reason and experience, our faith in the orthodox view is still on very solid ground.