Sunday, September 23, 2007

For Each Other

The thing that is most frustrating to me concerning the recent message from Mark Driscoll is that prevailing stereotypes and fears concerning the emerging church are being perpetuated.

For those who choose to see emerging-friendly believers in a negative light, this is just more ammo that they can use to solidify their arguments and generalizations. To be honest, I don't think that I will ever understand this stance among believers.

Whatever happened to the idea that we are for each other?

As a mom, sibling rivalry is an issue that I have dealt with a few times. Perhaps selfishness and competition are just human nature. Compassion, empathy, and sharing don't usually seem to come naturally.

I've tried to teach my kids this - when we insist on getting the first, the best, and the most, who is it that we are taking it from? How do we feel about elevating ourselves at our brother or sister's expense?

Of course, our self-interest doesn't end in childhood. So often we see this in couples who are struggling in their marriage. Why are they not for each other? When did they stop being for each other?

If we take an "I'll show him" attitude, we have lost sight of the idea that we should be for each other. In a desire to be right and win, spouses are often willing to cause extreme damage to their relationship and to the person who is supposed to be their lover, friend, partner, and team mate. That is pretty self-defeating in the end, isn't it? What have we won?

But what about when people are against us, when they say things about us or our friends that may not be true?

When it becomes obvious that someone is entrenched in a false opinion about you, it is best to walk away. The energy spent defending yourself against false accusation does not produce good fruit in yourself or anyone else.

I have found this to be true concerning the issue of women in ministry also. It is a frustrating waste of time to argue with someone who is set in their views. The discussions with the anti-emergent crowd appear to be similarly pointless.

In my early months of blogging, I wrote a post called You Can Only Be What You Are. The post is about walking in your gifts without waiting for the permission of others in order to serve.

This was also my mantra when faced with the reality of false accusations and a damaged reputation. What are you going to do? The best strategy is to prove the naysayers wrong with a life well-lived - be what you are.

Kester Brewin did a 5-part series on Game Theory last April. I have referred back to it many times and always planned on linking to it here. I linked to Part 3 since that is where most of the quote is from, however you can page back and forward to read the entire series at his blog. It isn't very long and well worth the read.

I believe these thoughts are appropriate here. He describes the problem of game theory:

" turns out that our best strategy is not to trust one another. If we want to win, we need to be selfish."

He then goes on to describe how Christ subverted the game:

"...what Christ is doing when he stays silent at his trial is refusing to even enter the game that the strategists plotting against him have set up. It is as if he deliberately loses, because by losing he is totally subverting the very idea of the game.

On the cross the religious leaders taunted Jesus - if he's so powerful, why doesn't he save himself? This was the final temptation Jesus faced, the same one the devil ended with in the desert: take part in the power play. Jesus emptied himself of all that power, emptied himself of strategies, because he had to be emptied of the Self - the Self that pretends that it is powerful and influential. The Self that pushes the ego forward, rather than looking to the Other.

To give oneself for 'the other' is to lose. It is to be engaged in transformative relationships, rather than tactical change. It is to love. To know grace. And grace and love have no strategy."

Many of us know what it is like to intentionally lose. Perhaps in a game of Candyland or Chutes & Ladders we have lost on purpose, but in the end, we win when we see our child's joy. We have a bigger picture in mind than the game.

I am going to try to remember the bigger picture. We don't have to enter the competition. We can have a strategy to not participate in the power play, a strategy to not defend ourselves, and a strategy to prove our faith with a life that demonstrates the love and grace of Jesus.


Anonymous said...

Well, that's nice if truth is not an issue for you.

Mike Croghan said...

Really, really good thoughts, Grace. Very wise, and not so very easy to practice. We get into this "game" mode all too easily even (God, I hope not "especially") in the Church - when we're threatened, hurt, or angry. To defend our own sense of self and safety, we want those who hurt or threaten us to lose. I've felt this way.

Jesus calls us to a different way, but it's not easy to follow him on that path.

Thanks for these thoughts.

Steve K. said...

Hey Grace, I agree with Mike, not Anonymous. ;-)

I see a lot of truth in what you've written here. Truth and wisdom. Thanks for sharing it!

Steve K.

Rob Witham said...

Great thoughts! I like your use of the term "emerging-friendly believers" - I would consider myself in that camp. I have been simply amazed at the nastiness that certain people direct at others - even, or perhaps especially, within the Christian community. I have also been amazed by how many argue and fight back. I agree with you that the best approach is often just to be silent and walk away from the argument. Arguing is seldom likely to help... I do like your reflections on game theory. I had not heard that before.

grace said...

I believe that self-protection is a common motivation for slipping into game mode. To set aside our rights doesn't come naturally.

Thanks Steve!

It gets tricky trying to figure out what to call ourselves. :)
I think sometimes we get engrossed in the game before we realize that it's a lose/lose situation.