Friday, December 22, 2006

Dave's Thoughts

My friend Dave recently wrote a article on "What is a Christian." Here is what he thinks:

As other writers have already noted, it's a little odd to ask people what Christianity is to them, as if the label was just an empty shell that we're given the opportunity to fill with whatever we think would make a good "Christianity." Such a man-made religion is simply a philosophy and has little ultimate bearing on questions of our life now, and our life after death. But Christianity is a faith founded by Jesus Christ and a life lived in prayer with him.

And again, as been already pointed out, the most obvious thing to do is to study Jesus's teaching in order to find out what is Christianity. And by the way, those who are so easily inclined to insist that the Scriptures were written by the apostles in order to "hold power and instill fear" need to consider for a time why these same writers looked so bad in their own writing, and how it was that they happily suffered hardship through the last years of their lives.

During this Christmas season, Christian rejoice – an activity all too lacking in our culture – because we believe God has entered into human history as one of us, and poured out his life for us, so that we can share in his life in this life and the next.

Read the "Our Father" prayer offered by Jesus in Matthew chapter 6 to find out what Christianity is like. Worship of God and knowledge of him as not just Master but as our Father, trust of a child in him for our life's needs, acknowledgement of real sin, seeking of pardon connected to our pardon of others, (and not denying the reality of sin in either case,) and prayer for deliverance from real evil.

Saying "This is what I think Christianity is" is as misguided an effort as going to McDonalds and saying, "This is what I think a cheeseburger is." The thing already is what it is before you arrived. Go ahead and study it or reject it, but don't presume that you can sort of fill in the blanks with you own ideas and then claim, "I'm kind of a Christian."

And yes there are hypocrites in Christianity. That's perfectly reasonable to expect, isn't it – that some people would try to obtain the benefits of a particular faith without having to actually go through the conversion of life that that same faith might ask for. And there are hypocrite atheists, too – but since they don't exactly represent anything substantial they don't end up embarrassing or failing anyone when they offend their own sensibilities; and no one reports on their personal downfall as indicative of an entire people-group.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Free Will

Why does the Lord give me free will? Sometimes I would rather not have a free will so that I would not choose against God, but most of the time I am very glad I have free will.

I have been recently reflecting on why God gave me free will, what it really means, and how I should respond to this generous gift. Why God would make creatures that could chose something other than Himself, I don't have a clue. Better yet, why would a creature of this marvelous creator want to choose something other than Him? Why would God create pride? In theory, before God created, He was. All was God and God was all. When God created, all was part of God and God was part of all. There was nothing outside God. So why would He make creatures that could conceive of something outside of Himself? In reality there is nothing outside of Himself (except for the lack of God, which is not anything existential).

Regardless of His reasons, He made it this way. From this choice of His, He created free will. We can choose God or lack of God. But it never seems like that is the choice before me. When I choose to eat fries instead of salad, how am I choosing God or lack of God? It seems more obvious with the commandments, but free will is more than the commandments or the beatitudes. ALL our choices are either for God or not for God in some small way.

Life is good when *my will* falls in line with God's will. When our wills diverge, I may think life is good, but it is dreadfully not. I usually don't figure that out for a while, but thankfully I usually figure it out eventually.

Now on to another dear topic. The free will of others. If God gives us ALL free will, that means that the person who leads the "not-so-ideal" lifestyle has free will AND GOD RESPECTS IT!!! Sooooo, should we respect it? (Yes) But how do we go about bringing the love of God to people who choose not God? Well... maybe we can't. At least not right now, or perhaps not directly. (This is why praying for the conversion of people is REALLY important). If we respect their free will and love them in ways that they can receive, perhaps they will slowly become open to the love of God in other more direct ways.

In Scriptures, love is described in a number of ways, one of them being patient. When it comes to the conversion of our loved ones (and all people for that fact), we must respect their free will and be patient and live in the Hope that God will touch their hearts and draw them near. God was patient with me and respected my free will, and I believe that I should follow his example.

The BIG picture

What do the little things we choose throughout our day matter in the BIG picture?

Very much actually... If one was to view life as one long test, with each individual choice as an opportunity for choosing right or wrong, for or against, then all of the little choices do matter. But how much? Does the last question on the test mean more than the rest of it? (since we are talking about life here...)

I don't know. I can't know. But we have a pretty good guess. Yes, and ... yes. Sort of. From a christian perspective, if getting into heaven is the BIG deal, then it means a lot to get in. But as Catholics, we believe there is more than merely "getting in."

I once heard an analogy that goes like this: We are like containers capable of holding the love of the Lord. While the Lord desires to fill all of us up (and He does just that in heaven) not all of us can hold the same amount. Some of us have bigger containers than others. Does that make some people better then others? No. Simply different. In heaven we will not experience jealousy or hatred. We will not compare ourselves with each other like we do so often here. We will be fully content on being filled to overflowing with God's love. But nonetheless, some are like thimbles and some like lakes.

So do you want to be a thimble or a lake? Perhaps I should be concerned about merely getting in, regardless of how much I can hold...

Perhaps getting in is weighed a little heavy on the last question on the test, but the size our capacity for God's love will most likely be determined by all the little choices we made throughout our days of the living. Don't be content to simply get in, shoot for the stars and perhaps you'll reach the moon.