Friday, February 28, 2014

Nineveh or Tarshish?

“But it [God’s mercy to Nineveh] greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to Yahweh and said, ‘Please Yahweh, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. Therefore now, O Yahweh, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life,” Jonah 4:1-3.

How can it be that someone who knows the True and Living God desires that harm come to others in lieu of repentance? How can it be that groups of such people desire harm to others to the point where they are blinded to the Spirit of Jesus?

Moses knew that God was gracious and compassionate, and when Israel sinned Moses prevailed on the character of God, on God’s grace and mercy and compassion, to intercede for Israel (Exodus 34:6-9; Numbers 14:17-19). Jonah also knows God’s lovingkindness and compassion, his words mirroring Yahweh’s words to Moses in Exodus 34 and Moses’ words back to Yahweh in Numbers 14; but whereas Moses interceded for others based on God’s Word, Jonah sought to avoid God’s Word and allow judgment to descend on Nineveh.

How can it be that we can be so caught up in vitriol and prejudice and dislike for others, as groups and individuals, that we would rather die, as Jonah wished, than to see them come to the Light of Life?

We flee from the presence of God (Jonah 1:3) rather than allow God to deal with our hard hearts. We flee into self-interest, into tribal mentalities and attitudes, into parochial fortresses, in order to stop our ears from hearing the Word of God. We would rather die under the banner of a political or economic or social or ethnic party than live beneath the Cross of Jesus Christ for the blessing of others…including the blessing of those opposed to us. How can this be?

Perhaps as a mere human Jonah could justify his attitude; Nineveh was hardly a friend to Israel either politically or religiously. In fact, Nineveh and the Assyrians were a growing threat to Israel and Judah – all the more reason to desire God’s judgment on Nineveh, all the more justification to flee from the presence of Yahweh so as not to be an agent of His mercy. Oh how we seek justification for departing from the Spirit of Jesus, as the Sons of Thunder in the Gospel we want to call the fire of judgment down on others – we forget the Spirit by whom we are born anew, we forget that the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost, we forget that His mission is our mission. We would rather play the role of the Older Brother (Luke 15) than identify with the Father running to embrace the Younger Son who has squandered his inheritance.

James ponders these dynamics when he writes (James 3:9-10), “With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”

We all have Ninevehs in our lives; those who our hearts are fleeing from are those whom we should be praying for and blessing. Jesus came for His enemies, which means He came for us (Romans 5:6-11), how can we do any less for those who do not yet know Him?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may show yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous…Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matthew 5:43, 44, 45, 48).  

What Ninevehs are we fleeing from today? Will we allow our Father and Lord Jesus to search our hearts? Will we lay down our lives in Jesus Christ for the salvation of others? Are we running away to Tarshish or are we loving Nineveh?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Listener to Sounds Mystical

In his first homily on the Gospel of John, John Chrysostom (c. 347 – 407 AD) writes, “Let us then show much silence and orderly behavior; not today only, nor during the day on which we are hearers [of this sermon], but during all our life, since it is at all times good to hear Him. For if we long to know what is going on in the palace [perhaps we could substitute “the White House” or “Hollywood” or “Wall Street], what, for instance the king has said, what he has done, what counsel he is taking concerning his subjects, though in truth these things are for the most part nothing to us; much more is it desirable to hear what God has said especially when all concerns us. And all this will this man [the Apostle John] tell us exactly, as being a friend of the King Himself, or rather, as having Him speaking within himself, and from Him hearing all things which He hears from the Father. ‘I have called you friends,’ He said, ‘for all things that I have heard of My Father, I have made known unto you.’ (John 15:15).”

We can’t listen to cacophony and to God’s Word simultaneously, we can’t live confused lives and expect to hear the clarity of His Word. The Psalmist speaks of the weaning of his soul, the quieting of his soul – weaned from that which is passing away and learning to seek God for life, for bread, for sustenance. This age which is passing away tries to convince us that we can’t live without it – we can’t live without the latest and greatest things, we can’t live without being in “the know” about entertainment, we can’t live without the newest toys – when the truth is that we can live very well without the things that are advertised, in fact we can live much better when we resist the seduction of consumption.

We can also live much better when we are weaned from artificially-inflamed economic, political, and social passions; we can live better when we realize that in the religious realm nothing is equal to the Gospel, nothing but Jesus and His Word serves as the Bread of Life.

Haddon Robinson once preached a message titled, as I recall, “How to Listen to a Sermon.” Chrysostom sets the stage for his eighty-eight homilies on the Gospel of John by addressing his listeners’ attitudes toward hearing the Gospel – what we bring into the church building, what we bring into our gatherings, influences what we hear and retain. If we bring disordered lives into our gatherings it is as if we are bringing buckets with holes to draw water from a well  - we will not carry the water with us into our families, our neighborhoods, our society.

If we are attracted by what goes on in the lives and homes of the rich and famous, in the boardrooms of business, in the corridors of political power – how much more should we be attentive to the Word that the Father gave the Son, the Word which the Son in turn gave His Apostles (John 17:7 – 8).

Chrysostom continues, “…let us preserve deep silence, both external and mental, but especially the latter; for what advantage is it that the mouth be hushed, if the soul is disturbed and full of tossing? I look for that calm which is of the mind, of the soul, since it is the hearing of the soul which I require…If a man cannot learn well a melody on pipe or harp, unless he in every way strain his attention; how shall one, who sits as a listener to sounds mystical, be able to hear with a careless soul?”   

What would he say today, looking out across congregations in which young and old fiddle with their smart phones as they are ostensibly gathered for worship? What would he say when confronted by Christian gatherings with little sustained attention to the Bible, little reading of Scripture, which often bear greater resemblance to an amusement park ride than a gathering of serious disciples of Jesus Christ?

We cannot quiet our minds, we cannot quiet the voices of this age, and so rather than insist that we wean our souls we cater to the cries of infants…stuffing pacifiers in mouths, constructing bright and shiny mobiles, ensuring that we’ll never be bored…and also ensuring that we’ll never really hear the call of Jesus to follow Him, worship Him, belong to Him.

Hearing the Word of God is not akin to changing radio stations, we can’t listen to the spirit of this age one minute and think that we can tune into God the next and truly hear Him – God calls us to a relationship of obedience, He is not our friendly DJ who plays music we want to hear, to hear His music we must repent, follow Jesus, and desire Him above all else – He is our Lord.

Chrysostom concludes his sermon thusly:

“Such is its power [God’s Word], that it can raise us at once to heaven, if only we approach it with a sober mind. For it is not possible that he who is continually under the influence of the words of God can remain in this present low condition, but he needs must presently take wing, and fly away to the land which is above, and light on the infinite treasures of good things; which may it be that we all attain to, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom and with whom be glory to the Father and the All-holy Spirit, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.”

Monday, February 17, 2014

An Invariable Corollary

“In the depth of his misery, Luther had grasped by faith the free and unconditional forgiveness of all his sins. That experience taught him that this grace had cost him his very life, and must continue to cost him the same price day by day. So far from dispensing him from discipleship, this grace only made him a more earnest disciple. When he spoke of grace, Luther always implied as a corollary that it cost him his own life. Only so could he speak of grace. Luther had said that grace alone can save; his followers took up his doctrine and repeated it word for word. But they left out its invariable corollary, the obligation of discipleship. There was no need for Luther always to mention that corollary explicitly for he always spoke as one who had been led by grace to the strictest following of Christ. Judged by the standard of Luther’s doctrine, that of his followers was unassailable, and yet their orthodoxy spelt the end and destruction of the Reformation as the revelation on earth of the costly grace of God. The justification of the sinner in the world degenerated into the justification of sin and the world. Costly grace was turned into cheap grace without discipleship.” [Page 53, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Macmillan, 1963 (paperback).]

All four Gospels contain Jesus’ teaching that, “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me…” Jesus lived in obedience to the Father; we are to live in obedience to Jesus. Keeping Jesus’ commandments is a major theme of the Upper Room Discourse – those who love Him are to obey Him. We are called to make disciples, not to dispense the commodity of cheap grace.

God’s grace enables obedience while justifying the sinner, this is costly grace; cheap grace excuses sin and enables nothing, or as Bonhoeffer says, cheap grace justifies sin. God’s grace enables us to deny ourselves and take up our cross, thus knowing the fellowship of the Cross; thus the grace that cost the Son His life enables us to know a measure of that cost in our own lives; it is Costly to God, it is costly (with a lower-case “c”) to us. God’s grace is not limited to a forensic understanding, it is actually transmitted to those who trust in Christ, bearing the fruit of obedience as the followers of Jesus abide in the Vine.

To give grace cost Jesus Christ His life, to live in grace costs us our lives as we once knew them, we are crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20).

Bonhoeffer writes, “But they left out its invariable corollary, the obligation of discipleship.” 

An irony is that cheap grace, grace without the obligation of obedience, leaves us powerless; while costly grace, grace that commands the obligation of obedience, drives us to total dependence upon Jesus Christ and ushers us into life in the Holy Spirit - overcoming life, victorious life, conquering life. We do not do people favors by dumbing down our preaching and teaching into the realm of cheap grace; we do them a disservice, we rob them of hope, we give them something other than the Gospel which cost Christ and the Apostles their lives.

Cheap grace requires endless diversions and activities in order to mask its anemia; we must entertain people in order to retain them – there is no substantive change, no transformation into the image of Jesus Christ, for cheap grace cannot empower – it can dull us, it can put us to sleep, it can mask the stench of the carnal – but it cannot empower for obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ. We may douse ourselves with bottle after bottle of fragrance, but it is not the lasting fragrance of the Holy Spirit but rather the ephemeral fragrance of the religious world.    

The invariable corollary to God’s grace is obedience, the invariable corollary to obedience is God’s grace. When we preach obedience without grace we have legalism and man’s attempt at righteousness; when we proffer grace without obedience we have man’s attempt to justify his sinful life – worse, we have man portraying God as justifying the sin and not the sinner, we have God throwing a blanket approval over disobedience. Christ died for our sins, He did not die so that we can deny the heinousness of our sins, nor the ingrained sin of our souls. Jesus died that we might be set free from sin and death and the devil and live lives of obedient freedom in intimacy with the Trinity and with one another.

Is discipleship, is obedience, the invariable corollary to grace in our lives?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Child’s Play

Bonhoeffer writes, “Luther’s return from the cloister to the world was the worst blow the world had suffered since the days of early Christianity. The renunciation he made when he became a monk was child’s play compared with that which he had to make when he returned to the world. Now came the frontal assault. The only way to follow Jesus was by living in the world. Hitherto the Christian life had been the achievement of a few choice spirits under the exceptionally favourable conditions of monasticism; now it is a duty laid on every Christian living in the world. The commandment of Jesus must be accorded perfect obedience in one’s daily vocation of life. The conflict between the life of the Christian and the life of the world was thus thrown into the sharpest possible relief. It was a hand-to-hand conflict between the Christian and the world.

“…for Luther the Christian’s worldly calling registers the final, radical protest against the world. Only in so far as the Christian’s secular calling is exercised in the following of Jesus does it receive from the gospel new sanction and justification.” [Pages 51 – 52, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Macmillan, 1963 (paperback).]

Sikhs seem to have no problem letting people know they are Sikhs, and Muslims appear to be open about their practice of Islam, and many Jews do not hide their devotion to Torah and tradition; and yet hordes of professing Christians who huddle on Sunday mornings, when dispersed on Monday – Friday go underground, incognito, abdicating their identities as followers of Jesus Christ. It is as if Christians have dual citizenship, dual passports; one passport we use only occasionally, mainly on Sunday mornings; the other passport, the “normal” passport, we use in virtually all other travels and transactions. If we are following Jesus this cannot be; we cannot do this and follow Jesus

I do not write, “How can we do this if we are followers of Jesus?” I write, “We cannot do this and follow Jesus.” Our actions either affirm our profession or they give the lie to our profession.

I have previously shared the story of a hospice worker, a nurse, who would not share Jesus with the dying because it was against company policy; thankfully at some point she changed her mind and actions – too late for some patients but hopefully not for others.

Recently I listened to a man talk about a colleague dying of cancer; they had worked together for decades. He did not know if she knew Jesus but he did not want to offend her by broaching the subject. How can these two things be? How can we work with someone for decades and never share Jesus? How can we hesitate to share Jesus with the dying?

But following Jesus in the workplace is not just about verbal witness as we normally think about witness. It is foundationally about following Jesus in all aspects of vocation; our actions, our words, our ethics, our morality, our love for others, our service to others – as a package this is explicit witness, it is anything but clandestine.

Protestants have adopted the cloister mentality that Bonhoeffer explores in the chapter on Costly Grace. While few Protestant groups may actually have monasteries or convents, we effectively treat vocational ministers as the equivalent of monks and everyone else as the equivalent of those living outside the cloister. Those in the cloister are expected to follow Jesus 24/7; those outside the cloister must live in the practical and real world and we all understand that following Jesus just isn’t possible – it might cost us something.

Bonhoeffer will have none of this, Luther will have none of this, and come to think of it – Jesus isn’t going to buy it either.

“Hand-to-hand combat” is Bonhoeffer’s image for us following Jesus in the world. There is no form of combat as personal as hand-to-hand, no form as exhausting, no form as unrelenting. We are not called to disappear as chameleons into the world around us, assuming its colors and shapes and emitting its sounds; on the contrary we are to be distinguished from our surroundings as we follow Jesus. Paul writes, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect,” Romans 12:2.     

Our minds cannot be renewed but by the Spirit of God and the Word of God; they certainly cannot be renewed via television or radio or the myriad images of this world; they cannot be renewed via the ethics and morals of this world – they can be crushed by these things of the world, they can be molded into the image of the world, but the world cannot renew us in the image of God in Christ. James warns his reads (James 4:4), “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

John warns those he loves (1 John 2:15 – 17), “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, in not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

Jesus prays to the Father (John 17:15 – 17), “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”

I don’t think the problem with Christian witnessing is so much that people don’t know what to say, they don’t know who they are. If they see themselves as belonging to the world then they will have no sense of discipleship, no sense of being broken bread and poured out wine for others, no sense of willingness to suffer for Jesus and for others. On the other hand, if Christians see themselves as disciples of Jesus, as being citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20), as being salt and light to others; if Christians desperately seek renewed minds and transformed hearts, if they see the world for what it is – then “witness” is not an isolated action, it is a way of life in Christ. We learn to bear witness to Jesus Christ just as Jesus Christ bore witness to the Father.

After all, it is Jesus who says, “As the Father sent Me, so I send you.”

The cloister is child’s play – isn’t it time we start living for Jesus Christ?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Grace – Costly or Cheap?

The first chapter of Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship is titled Costly Grace. As I reread this chapter it occurs to me that the terms costly grace and cheap grace have died the deaths of the familiar – that is, among those who are familiar with the terms the terms have lost their meaning, and among those who are not familiar with Bonhoeffer’s writing and who, upon hearing the terms, “think” they know what they mean…well they probably don’t, at least in the depth that Bonhoeffer used them. I confess that pondering this chapter causes me to wonder if, at times, I’ve peddled cheap grace – I can only leave that question to God and trust Him to redeem any such instances.

The chapter begins with, “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares.

“In such a Church [one that dispenses cheap grace] the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin.

“Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before.”

The Gospel begins with repentance; John the Baptist preached it, Jesus preached it, the Apostolic Church preached it. We live life moving away from grace, running from it, denying our need for it – it is only as we repent, only as we turn around and head in the opposite direction, that we find ourselves moving toward God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

Matthew writes concerning Jesus (Matthew 4:17), “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Mark writes (Mark 1:14 – 15), “…Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.”

Luke records these words of Jesus shortly before He ascends to the Father (Luke 24:46 – 47), “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations…” On the day of the Church’s birth (Acts 2:38) Peter proclaims, “Repent, and each of you be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins…”

Cheap grace requires no repentance, no change, nothing – the sinner is not justified. Costly grace is only accessed through repentance, through seeking forgiveness, through a desire for God in Christ to change a heart, a life, to mend a soul. I’m not sure that people know they need to repent; I seldom hear it, I seldom read it – it is as if preachers think people will catch repentance by osmosis – are we ashamed to proclaim “repentance for forgiveness of sins”?

Cheap grace justifies sin. That is, it gives us license to entertain and invite sin into our lives, we need not show it the door, we need not abhor it, we need not flee from it – after all, we have grace…but this grace is akin to fool’s gold…it may glitter but it is worthless.

Costly grace changes lives; costly grace results in new creations; costly grace is Cross-centered grace.

Bonhoeffer writes, “Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son...”

Jeremiah speaks of false prophets who say, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” This is the call of cheap grace – giving people a false assurance that without repentance they may experience the true grace of God, this is ambiguity, it is cruelty, it does not distinguish between the holy and the profane, between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God is near, repent.” Why repent? So we can enter God’s kingdom, so we can receive God’s forgiveness, so we can become new creations in Jesus Christ.

Cheap grace allows us to keep our lives, oh how we qualify Jesus’ words that “he who seeks to save his life will lose it.” Jesus doesn’t really mean that we should deny ourselves, so we’ll qualify it lest anyone should be offended by the Gospel, we’ll bring the Gospel down to the practical, to the reasonable…we’ll make it merchandisable – why we’ll even present it with a number of personalized options and designer colors – cheap grace does not embody the image of Jesus, it reflects our image of ourselves – how could we not love it, it looks just like us!

Costly grace is other than ourselves to the point of us seeing nothing of ourselves in it; it is all of Jesus and not of us – we see Jesus again and again and again – ever and always we see Jesus. Yes, costly grace will cost us our lives, but we have Jesus’ promise, “He who loses his life for My sake and the Gospels, the same will save it.”

Which grace is it that clothes us today? Which grace do we hunger after? Which grace to we breathe? Which grace is our heart’s delight? Is it costly or is it cheap?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Narcotic

Pascal writes, “…I have often felt that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his own room…

“The only good thing for man, therefore, is to be diverted so that he will stop thinking about his circumstance. Business will keep his mind off it. Perhaps there will be some novel and enjoyable pursuit which keeps him busy, such as gambling, hunting, or some show. In short, it will be what is called distraction.

“In busyness we have a narcotic to keep us from brooding and to take our mind off these things. That is why we prefer the hunt to the kill. [Emphasis added.]

“That is why men have tried to think of ways to make themselves happy. Those who philosophize about it maintain that people are unreasonable to spend all day chasing a hare they would never buy. But such have little understanding of our nature. For it’s not the hare that saves us from thinking about death…Hunting does this.” [Pages 96, 97; Mind on Fire, Edited by Dr. James M. Houston, Bethany House, 1997.]

Perpetual distraction so that we don’t think about death – this is the calling of consumerism. Diversion used to be the prerogative of the aristocracy, they could command and pay for entertainment – now it is accessible to virtually all in the West and to many in other parts of the globe. The entrance fee to this narcotic den is the price of a television, a radio, a smart phone. The hares we chase today are luxury cars and McMansions and exotic cruises and chic images and upscale cuisine and positions of power and influence…what can you add to the list?

We cannot remain quiet, we loathe stillness, we pity those who remain aloof from the materialistic fray, we look down upon those who have never been intoxicated by the elixir of power and position. King Solomon, who led a life of diversion, contemplated the futility of it all in Ecclesiastes and realized that…guess what…we are all going to die; rich and poor, king and slave, pretty and ugly, smart and dumb – we are all going to die and we are fools not to realize it.

Death is a good thing to think about, it reminds us of our mortality, and it should give us pause to consider the future. Those who deaden their senses today by diversion die early; those who ignore death are already in the grave; those who refuse to pay attention to their consciences and their a priori knowledge of transcendent truth do not cultivate their intellects – they dumb them down; they do not practice freedom of conscience or freedom of thought or freedom of speech – they become their own little police state lest the recesses of their heart and mind and soul attempt a prison break and shout, “I know there is more, I know there is more, I know that I and those I love are more than accidents of time plus matter plus chance!”
We are a nation of fools; who but fools would pay, and even go into debt, to have their eyes blinded and their hearts dulled by the narcotic of perpetual diversion? We are like children who refuse to get off the theme park ride – only death will stop the ride and we live as if it will never come.   

Perhaps if we saw these things as they really are we would cease being enamored of them? Perhaps we would be confident in walking away from them? Maybe we would not be defensive and frankly state that they hold no interest for us? Could it be that our souls could be weaned from this dance of diversion if we realized that the music we dance to is composed to destroy our souls?

God’s beauty is all around us, it is a beauty understood and heard and seen in stillness, in contemplation, in reflection. God’s beauty invites us to thoughtfulness; we consider Him, we consider ourselves, we consider one another, we consider His creation. He speaks to us of His love and His desire for us to know Him – He speaks…He does not entertain, He does not dole out candy, or positions of power and fame – He speaks…will we listen? Will we be quiet and listen to the voice of God in Scripture, in creation, in our hearts?

The theme park will close one day – where will we go then? What will we do when the narcotic of diversion runs out?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Something of a Treatise – Joy Davidman (Part 5)

On February 7, 1948, Davidman writes To Aaron Kramer, “Your letter relieved me inexpressibly; I’d been jittering ever since I sent mine as to how you’d take it. To be able to take criticism such as that in the spirit you’ve shown is itself a sign of tremendous ability; a person of little talent couldn’t have done it. By all means let’s wrestle on the points you don’t agree with; on many things I was probably over-severe…” [Page 72, Out of My Bone – The Letters of Joy Davidman, Don W. King editor, Eerdmans, 2009.]

I include this excerpt to glimpse how Kramer received Davidman’s criticism and to get a picture of how she willingly returned the conversational ball – the game continued. Giving people what they want is often risky – do they really want our opinion or are they asking so we’ll tell them how beautiful their stick-figure drawings are? Davidman took the time to explain the basis of her critique, writing “something of a treatise” and then using the small treatise as a framework for her direct analysis of Kramer’s work. Without her little treatise would she and Kramer have had a context for dialogue?

How many times have we been jittering after either asking for critique or providing critique? I think a case of jittering is a good thing to have when giving critique, after all, someone has invited us into their life, into their creativity, into the recesses of their soul – that’s a pretty special invitation and to not take it reverently is to profane the relationship.

To “wrestle on the points” does not mean to wrestle with each other; we miss that at times – when self-worth or self-image or self-esteem or whatever we choose to call it is at stake then it is difficult to wrestle on the points because the transaction is personal – it’s isn’t about the subject matter it is about people. Much of what I observe in the public arena today is about people as opposed to being about the points – no matter what the arena of ideas, be it political, theological, sociological, etc. People ask me what I think about a certain popular media preacher and I must tell them that I don’t know the person or watch or listen to the person – however, what I have read that the person has written gives me concern over whether his message is centered on the Christ of the Cross – they are often taken aback and wonder what I have against the man. I have nothing against the man per se, I don’t know the man…but I must wrestle with the points of the Gospel – is the Cross central to his message?

By the same measure people are often against social and economic equity and justice not because they have really wrestled with the points but rather because advocates of just causes are demonized and caricatured – people are attacked at the expense of wrestling with the issues. No one is perfect, every Achilles has his or her heel; if we make the rhetoric about the vulnerable personal heel we move the discussion away from substantive wrestling with the issues – we sell so many more newspapers that way, we garner higher viewer ratings, and we manipulate the crowds.

Davidman and Kramer portray a nice model of mentor – mentoree; risk, give and take, a willingness to examine oneself on both ends of the relationship, a commitment to the relationship.

Jittering now and then is a sign of health.