When God Redefines The Possible
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We have faith because we believe in something.
This understanding is quite common. We hear of the many stories of soldiers at war, and hear about the faith that keeps them engaged in that battle. We are reminded about this reality in almost every presidential speech. In Africa it is unfortunately all-to-regular to hear about the faith of a particular politician or public official and yet hear of ways in which he or she have been involved in government corruption, state sanctioned violence, and, in some cases, atrocities of the worst kind.
This is the understanding of faith, for example, that depicts Rwanda as being more than 90 percent Christian at the time of the genocide.
Interrogating and Redefining Power - A theological consultation
These examples demonstrate a separation between faith and the way in which we live. In other words, this way of understanding faith does not speak into or affect the way in which we live. The example of Rwanda can be, as Emmanuel Katongole has put it, a mirror to the church and, I would add, a mirror as to how we understanding faith in general. The book of James challenges this understanding of faith. The book of James reminds us about the interconnectivity between faith and works; the one requiring the other; an interconnectivity that is difficult to embrace, even leading Martin Luther, for example, to describe James as the epistle of straw!
Lately, however, I have been wrestling with this interconnectivity found in James between faith and works. Often, I suspect, these verses and this book continues to be read with the assumption that faith and works are two separate and distinct things; things that should be together, but two things nonetheless. I have begun to wonder whether this is, in fact, what the writer of James intended.
I wonder whether James was reminding people to bring these two pieces of the puzzle together, or whether the one piece — faith — is in fact indistinguishable without works? Let me explain the nuance. If this leads to action, that is wonderful. Yet we still assume it is possible to speak about faith even if there is no action. We will within the same breath say we love our children and that we also love pizza.
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Love is a word that gets tossed around so much that is has largely lost meaning. For someone love might mean a sacrifice, for another it may mean freedom, for others it may mean restrictions and boundaries, for others it may be an emotion or feeling. Whatever our personal understanding of love, we tend to reduce love to fit our own personal wants and wishes.
To make understanding the doctrine of the love of God even more difficult, we fail to recognize how much our cultural presuppositions influence the way we think about love.
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Just as one drop of food coloring can transform the whole color of a bowl full of icing, so does our culture comprehensively influence all our thinking. To be ignorant of the cultural influences that pressure us and surround us will always result in a convoluted mess. Although we cannot remove all our cultural influences from our thinking, we must seek to remove the cloudy lens of our present day to see the Scriptures clearly.
One of the great challenges is defining terms. Since love is such a junk drawer term, is it even possible to come up with a definition? Can there be an objective definition of what love is or is it a fluid word that simply adapts to our wishes? Well to give up the possibility of objective definitions is to simply dive into the chaotic emptiness of the postmodern predicament — meaninglessness. Yet, though we may be confused about love, we know that love is a meaningful word. It is an important word.
We should not give it up simply because it is complicated to disentangle bad definitions or to correct grievous misunderstandings. Who defines love? Or perhaps the better question is this, who is the authority that establishes a definition of love?
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It is essential to his being. So to provide a definition of love we must not look to our culture, but rather to the very character of God.
Yet, what we will find is that the love of God is actually offensive to our modern times. The love of God, both at the same time, condemns us and redeems us. It is a love that both forgives us and sanctifies us.
So what is love? What does the Scripture say about how God loves us and thus how we should love one another? It is a holy love, an offensive love.
However, it is easy to read these Scriptures and thinks that God merely just wipes the slate clean. He merely just looks over our sin and just attaches salvation to us. From our perspective this is what seems to happen, but from the perspective of God something much bigger and better is happening. In order for God to love us, he must make us holy. God cannot love sinners as they are an offense to his holiness.
So how does God solve this problem?
Well enter Jesus. The son enters into the world and buys our salvation, absorbing the penalty for sin on the cross. This way sin is not only paid for, but we receive the righteousness of Christ. This is why it is a black theocracy being espoused and not just a plain theocracy. The argument presented has its basis in the black suffering that has occurred historically and presently as a result of that fear. But the fear is here recognised as double-sided. The black race has also developed a fear of blackness. That is not to say we fear our own people as such, though there are obviously those that do, but to say many blacks, particularly in the black bourgeoisie, are facing a psychological dilemma: how can they be pleasing to the white world system and avoid the negative feelings of racial inferiority.
This book is therefore an instigator to inspire black people to no longer fear their potential but to work towards improving their personal situations. This book is therefore an action plan written with the confident hope that once the black people of today know themselves and their potential they will be willing to put the work in to make their lives, and the lives of other black people, far more effective in the world.
There is no doubt that large sections of the black community are underprivileged, it is up to them now to lay hold of that privilege.