Have you ever been so sure of something that it didn’t matter how your certainty became your reality, as far as you were concerned, it would stand the test of time and you were willing to defend it to the death? As I have rolled this question around in my mind recently I am discovering that most, if not all of us, have such certainties that we want to hold and defend no matter what. I have had to ask myself additional questions, however, that in essence challenges my certainties. And I confess to you that my theological deconstruction journey is compelling me to ask, “where did these certainties originate from in the first place?”.
I suppose what is driving this particular reflection has to do with the struggle I have had as it relates to the reading and the understanding of various scripture passages. Allow me to give you an example. There is a running theme in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans that indicates mankind’s inclusion in the death of Jesus. Because of our inclusion in his death we are also included in his resurrection. As I write these words I am reminded that all of this inclusion stuff was and is God’s idea. In other words, its not about God turning a blind eye to humanity’s sin problem but rather God’s victorious act in Christ to cancel our guilt and to break sin’s spell and dominion over us. Believe me when I say, that was a task that mankind could never devise or complete.
When I was a college student I was introduced to a Bible tract entitled “The Roman Road to Salvation.” Someone had pulled certain scriptures out of Paul’s letter to the Romans creating a way of thinking that would present a step by step process for what they believed needed to be done in order for that person to be saved. I haven’t read that tract in a long time but I do recall Romans 10: 9-10 were present as a kind of apex to bring the one being presented this “plan of salvation” to a point of decision. The passage in the KJV reads like this, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For it is with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
It is interesting to me that just recently I have either heard or read various understandings of this particular passage as the quintessential ingredient for salvation to occur within a person. The word most talked about is “confession.” In other words unless someone confesses Christ they are out of luck! Because this is a reflection it is important that the reader understand that I am simply sharing the struggles I am encountering and perhaps within my struggles something will be presented that may shed light where no light may be shining. As I have pondered this particular passage it occurred to me that all of the passages within this “Roman Road to Salvation” tract were pulled out of context in order to drive home the writer’s point of view.
If you were to place these two verses back into the context with the eight verses that precede them it may surprise you. The word hermeneutics is a fancy word that describes things people should consider as they read scripture. One of those thoughts has to do with the audience for whom the Apostle Paul was writing. He was talking about his desire for his own countrymen to come to realize their salvation. Did you hear that? “Their salvation.” It was already theirs in Christ. Paul compares them to his own journey realizing that he too used to try to justify himself by doing the works of the law when the truth of the matter is they were already justified in Christ Jesus and so are we.
Salvation is an awakening to that which is already present within us! To confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus means that our awakening has already occurred and we are simply bearing witness to a reality that already exists. To take Romans 10:9-10 out of context is to say that we must confess the Lord Jesus in order to be saved. That puts salvation back into the realm of something we must do in order to realize its reality. Confessing Christ with our mouths will naturally occur once we awaken to the reality that already exists within each and everyone of us. We don’t confess Christ in order to obtain! We confess Christ when we realize that our lives are bathed in the reality of His resurrection.
My reflection today encompasses the idea of the contrast between night and day. When you think of night and day what thought comes to mind? I suppose there may be a number of various images that surface in our thinking. For example, one might picture a scene where the moon is shining brightly and the stars are twinkling in a calm and peaceful night sky. Or one may picture the brightness of a sunshiny day contrasted with a deep blue sky and fluffy white clouds drifting along by a gentle breeze. As one continues to allow their imagination to bring one image after another regarding night and day what I have discovered about myself is how my mind tends to create images that lends itself to peaceful scenes. There may be a reason for that. In a world that often seems plagued by a lack of peace perhaps the contrast between night and day may take on a different meaning altogether.
I have raised this thought in other entries where in scripture night or darkness relates to an inability to understand or to grasp the meaning of something. Day or light, on the other hand, presents the idea that understanding has opened the mind to grasp a meaning that was hidden and now exposed. This is also related to the idea of sight versus blindness. For example, in a portion of the famous sermon on the mount found in Mathew’s gospel chapter five and verses 14 -16 Jesus is recorded as saying,"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men (and women) in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” What strikes me about this passage, as I think about it now, relates to the awareness that had to occur within a person to see themselves in participation with being a light in the world.
As I reflect on this night and day awareness, whatever it is that all of a sudden is revealed, comes to light, becomes exposed or however you want to describe it is, in my experience, a transforming phenomena that completely floods darkness with overwhelming light. Or completely changes former understandings giving way to the possible embrace of new understandings. Evidently this idea of light and darkness must play a very big role for Jesus to raise the issue more than once within his famous sermon. He offers the following out of the Phillip’s Translation,“The lamp (or light) of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. If all the light you have is darkness, it is dark indeed!” How we view stuff or how we internalize things we experience has a lot to do with our understanding. Our eyes can view something and at the same time not understand what we are viewing.
This gets back to our reflective nature. In other words, if we decide to return evil for the evil we receive from others then our evil retaliations are reflected out of our darkness. When our reactions are sourced out of our lack of understanding then we reflect a darkness caused by our own blindness. We don’t know we are blind. We think we can see. We are told by well meaning people that we have to worship in a certain way or believe or act in a certain way in order to find the right keys to unlock the prison door we have tried to open for years.
Here’s a thought to ponder. What if the Door is already open? When we discover that the true Light already exists within each of us, our discovery of this Light Source not only changes what we see but it changes how we see it. It’s like the difference between night and day. You are Sourced in Light and the source of our Light is Jesus Christ himself. No wonder the psalmist said, “Joy comes in the morning!”
My reflection today in some sense is very simple yet in other ways is very difficult and complex. One of my early contributions to this fountain reflection blog highlighted what I called my "theological deconstruction." As I have tried to describe this deconstructive journey some have embraced it while others have chosen to dismiss my journey as heresy. As I have offered various explanations related to my experience one particular incident comes to mind of which I would like to share.
Some time ago, while working as a hospital chaplain in Mississippi, I began to experience a kind of awareness that seemed to open the door for additional theological and spiritual understanding. This newfound understanding was very simple yet overwhelming. As this new understanding began to take shape within me I became extremely excited to share it. Such was the case with an incident that occurred one morning.
I suppose the most telling aspect of this newfound awareness, that I have tried to share in other blog entries, is the fact that God the Trinity already resides within each and everyone of us and the mission of Jesus was to show us the Heavenly Father's heart of love toward each of us. Jesus the Christ is where God and man meet! This meeting did not take place because man did something to make it happen. As a matter of fact mankind resisted the Truth and chose to believe lies about God.
As my excitement continues to build concerning my newfound spiritual journey I took a chance to bring some enlightenment to one of my colleagues. To say the least, it didn't go very well. Rather than witnessing the kind of awareness that I was beginning to personally experience all I received was one frustration after another. As a matter of fact this person defended herself with Bible verses. She was doing the very thing I used to do myself. Finally I gave up and walked away.
A few weeks later I happened upon a couple of friends as they prepared to do patient rounds. We got into a discussion and all of a sudden they began to ask questions concerning God and Spirit and then I saw it by comparison. There was no resistance and as I shared my deconstructive journey with them their interest captivated the conversation and there was fellowship and love exchanged between us. As we parted company and as I walked away from them I heard a voice coming from within me ask the following question, "See how easy it is when we do it together?"
Now I confess to anyone reading this reflection that all too often I have sought to have a prearranged speech prepared for those crossing my path as though I needed to prove something when what I was trying to accomplish was my concept of "pleasing God." I no longer have to do that! I'm already pleasing to God because of Jesus and so are you. All that is required is simply to love the other. When loving the other takes priority the barriers fall away and fellowship ensues. I continue to hear the echo of those words, "... see how easy it is when we do it together?" I encourage you to find the freedom that is already within you and in doing so loving the other will cause you to know that what we do best we do together!