Temptations of a Heady Christian – Evil Stepmother

This was the scene today.  Bess and I were in the kitchen talking about something inane, like how we are going to spend our weekend?  (its all a formality, we are going to spend it tired, chasing children, and lamenting how quickly it is passing… such is parenthood).  Anyway, mid-conversation crying starts from the other room.  My sister-in-law Mercy says, “He bonked his head on the table,” and Ignatius comes trotting into the kitchen holding the back of his head crying.  I, the closer of the two parents, crouch down and open my arms.  Iggy, cuts hard to the left, jukes my attempts at comforting father and gets swept up in Bess’ motherly embrace.  Immediately, she is all, “It’s okay honey.  You are all right sweetheart.  I’m here snookums, sugar lips, etc, etc.”  Ok, maybe not the last one, but the whole scene got me thinking (note to self: the tendency to have theological musings as your child is in pain might be why he chooses mom).

tremaineSee, I think one of the temptations that heady Christian’s face is that we are bad at expressing the emotive motherly church that ‘loves on’ her children.  We’re really good at talking about love and defending that love sometimes need to be firm (which it does!).  However, as a heady Christian, I frequently skip the step my wife offered my son so well.
It is easy to be more like the evil stepmother than the loving mother.  Let me offer examples of one vs the other:

A child bonks his head playing under the table.
Comes to the evil-stepmother crying:  “Well I’ve always told you not to do that.  Guess you learned your lesson. I was only telling you no because I loved you.”
Comes to loving mother crying: After comforting the crying child by loving on him, she says, “Honey, I’m sorry you bonked your head, but this is why you aren’t supposed to play under there.”

Am I crazy in thinking this is analogous to the ways we, as the Church, can approach those hurt by their own sin?  Certainly there is the mother who doesn’t discipline or correct and we need to avoid that extreme, but that is hardly the heady Christian’s temptation.  No, we are more likely to fall into the trap of correcting before comforting and relying on our statement of love to suffice instead of consciously expressing love.  We are tempted to take a detached, “What did you think would happen?” attitude, instead of accepting that sometimes we don’t think, or at last not rationally.

The Church is a mother, and like any parent she needs to be able to correct and guide her children, but she also needs to know that sometimes they need to get through their tears before they’ll open their ears.

 

Temptations of a Heady Christian – When the Right Answer is Wrong

I was going to write on another temptation tonight, but it felt forced.  Instead, I’m going to go where my prayer has convicted me I need the most work.

49ra4p2ozdbbfgnc17irI pray the Litany of Humility regularly (not often enough.  Believe me!).  In that litany, there is a powerful line where the leader (or me if I’m praying by myself) says, “From the desire of being consulted.”  To which the response is “Deliver me, O Jesus” (I like the version that says ‘O,’ makes me think of Jesus saying the National Anthem at an Orioles Game).  I flinch the majority of times I pray those words.

Deliver me from being consulted?  What?  Why?  Wouldn’t it be so great for me to answer all the questions… ever.  Wanting to be consulted is like me wanting to evangelize.  Right?

Wrong, I need to be delivered from this desire.  Please understand, it is good to be consulted and it is good to be able to engage the person seeking counsel from you.  What happens, though, is in my desire to be consulted I don’t think about the person asking, but instead about myself as the person answering.  I want them to know me as the best darn question answerer this side of the Mississippi.  I want them to tell their friends, “Oh, you have a question.  You should ask Spencer.”  I wish I was kidding!  However, the people that know me the best can tell you that when someone comes to me and says, “I have a question for you” I light up like 2-year-old getting ice cream.  Yup, I need a little more humility in this area.  But, back to the point about neglecting the person asking.

In my desire to knock my answers out of the park I commit one of two heady Christian ‘venial’ sins and one major heady Christian ‘mortal’ sin.

The ‘venial’ sins:

  1. I assume I know the background behind a question and so answer based on my assumption, which often gives my answer a tone or direction that doesn’t help the inquirer.
  2. I try to preempt future questions and in turn give an answer that is akin to shoving an essay into a fill in the blank question.

The ‘mortal’ sin:

  1. I forget that truly good answers must simultaneously communicate Christ to the person.  Instead of offering Jesus, I find myself getting so caught up in the presentation of knowledge and the desire to craft the best answer I can that I neglect the invitation to relationship.  I pridefully forget that no answer I can ever offer is more substantial, radical, life-changing, peace-giving, revolutionary, or comforting than the Person of Jesus Christ.

 

From the desire of being consulted… Deliver me, O Jesus.

Temptations of a Heady Christian – Stalkership

As a heady Christian, I know what discipleship is.  I know that discipleship is essential to living the Christian life.  I know that I want to be a disciple.  But….  my headiness tempts me to be more stalker or biographer than a disciple.

Us heady Christians, we like to know things.  Things are simple.  We like to think that if I know things about someone, it is like knowing them.  So we know all about the Christological doctrines, we know lots of things that Christ said, miracles he performed, and scandals he caused.

We are like the teen that thinks they love someone because they know everything about them.  The problem is, that doesn’t mean they know them or are known by them.

The temptation of the heady Christian is to follow Christ around instead of actually following him as a disciple.  It is to learn about him, instead of learning from him.  It is to believe that knowledge of is equal to intimacy with.  It is to put the cart before the horse.  All of the things the heady Christian wants, knowledge, lessons, comprehension of doctrines, good theology, etc. are good!!!  But they can be obtained without intimacy or develop with intimacy.  However, intimacy can never be generated by having a stalker’s knowledge of someone.

To capture this heady Christian temptation, I want to rephrase a passage from the Gospels.  It is Matthew 7:21-23.  Here is its correct rendering:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.’

Here is how I want to adjust it a little:

Not everyone who knows to call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who lived with me as Lord.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, I know everything about you.  I’m your biggest fan.  I can tell you how all your apostles died, and even the alternate theories.  And your mom, I can tell you so much about your mom.  If you want I can recite the creed.  Or I can tell you what you said in the sermon on the mount.  Did I not memorize all the most important proof texts?  Did I not quote all the suffering verses when someone came to me seeking compassion?  Did I not learn how to define hypostatic union? Did you know I can prove your existence to you without even using the Bible?’ Then I will look at them sideways and say, ‘Dude, I’ve never met you before… you’re kind of creeping me out here.’

Obviously, I’m not saying we heady Christians aren’t actually Christians.  But I am saying, sometimes we are better at telling someone else the myriad of ways they can encounter Christ than we are at actually encountering Him, because we like to keep Him under our microscope.

Temptations of a Heady Christian – “What? I Evangelize.”

A great temptation for a heady Christian is to let apologetics supersede evangelization.  “Sure, I’m a good evangelist” I might tell myself, “I can answer most questions people throw at me.”  Hooray for me…  Heart Christians, you probably already see what is wrong with this.  Apologetics, while it might be one of the natural consequences of evangelization, is not evangelization.

Apologetics is the reasonable response to questions and challenges regarding the faith.  It is inherently reactionary.  Evangelization is inherently proactive.  It is the active and intentional sharing of the faith and its fruits.

Apologetics is the defense of something as good, true, or beautiful.  Evangelization is the invitation to meet the one who is goodness, truth, and beauty.

Apologetics is about what I know and can express and teach well.  Evangelization is about what I have — or rather who has me —  and just openly sharing that relationship with another.

With apologetics, you can try to fake it till you make it by reading enough books and speaking eloquently enough.  With evangelization, I can’t give what I don’t have and can’t introduce who I don’t know.

This isn’t to demean apologetics, it is great stuff, but it is secondary to evangelization.  See, as a heady Christian, I like to think that if I can just answer enough of someone else’s questions then they’ll suddenly be a believer.  But our questions never end and an overemphasis on answers demands no belief or faith.  Instead, joy, peace, contentment, love, and different living should raise the question “Are you crazy? Or do you really have something I don’t?”  Apologetics is the Christian’s way of saying, “I’m not crazy.”  But it is evangelization that says, “and let me introduce you to the one who gives me this joy, peace, contentment, love, and calls me to this lifestyle.”

Temptations of a Heady Christian (T.H.C.) – Intro

I’m going to start a new category of posts.  They are intended to be short, sweet, and too the point.  Each of them is going to capture one of the many temptations heady Christians face.  Theoretically, this could give you a few laughs, help you recognize your own temptations, or just help Christians that are all heart understand the rest of us a little better. Below you can find a list of each one that has been written thus far:

Temptations of a Heady Christian – “What? I Evangelize.”

Temptations of a Heady Christian – Stalkership