Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Holy Detachment- part one

July 23, 2017

Sometimes a word or a phrase drops into my head showing up like an unexpected guest- Sometimes it’s a pleasant surprise. Sometimes not. Sometimes I don’t know what sort of guest they will be until we have spent some time together.

Recently the phrase “holy detachment” showed up. I was sitting in church and it dropped in without invitation and asked to stay for a while.

Detachment is an idea I have spent quite a bit of time trying to understand. * For a long time I confused detachment with abandonment or rejection. That I could disentangle my wants and needs and hopes from the actions and behaviors of another was difficult to imagine. Letting go, letting people be in charge of their own behaviors and the consequences of those behaviors seemed like abandonment to me. How can I stand by and watch what looks like unwise behavior?  What if something bad happened? Wouldn’t it be my fault if I didn’t intervene?

In some ways that thinking is quite self centered, actually and denies the personhood of the other person. How could they manage without my wise, loving involvement? I’m reasonably smart and I care so my input is important. Because I care, I must know what’s best.

Well maybe I do know what’s best, but then again, maybe I don’t. In either case it’s not my job to make others do the right thing. This doesn’t mean I don’t care about the people. This doesn’t mean I don’t care about the outcome.  This doesn’t mean I never offer advise or give suggestions. But I try to recognize where my responsibility ends and the other person’s begins. Figuring that out is often not very easy for me. One of the things Christians believe is that we are responsible for others. We are, in fact, our brother’s keeper.  But what does good “keeping” look like? Unfortunately for me, there doesn’t seem to be a firm, clear rule about that. Each situation, each relationship requires me to think this through anew.

I thought about what Holy detachment might be (as opposed to “regular” detachment). It would involve God. Prayer certainly. But I realized that stepping back and giving the other person space also and perhaps most importantly gives the Holy Spirit space to enter and move. Holy detachment lets the Holy One come in and do the mysterious work that only the Holy One can do. But I do need to get out of the way. No one of us can control the Spirit, but I think we can get in the Spirit’s way. Holy detachment invites the Spirit into my life and into the other person’s life. It invites the Spirit into our relationship and allows both of us to  change and grow as we need to.  When I loosen my pushing, pulling, tugging, grasping, and clinging; the Spirit has room to move in. I can then, sometimes, see where the Spirit is at work and if not assist, at least get out of the way.

Of course just because I’m willing to let the Spirit in, doesn’t mean the other person is. I don’t control that either. Maybe they are willing, maybe they aren’t. My responsibility is to let the Spirit have space to work with me. That is what I need to do. In the end, it is all I can do. Honestly, things work out better when I remember this.

As holy detachment was staying with me this week, I felt pretty good about what I discovered. As I was telling someone about this, they asked a harder question, “Does God ever practice holy detachment?”. And that, of course, is another post.

*An important disclaimer: I am neither a psychiatrist, psychologist nor therapist. My discussion of detachment reflects only my understanding on the concept. My use of the term may not be what trained professionals mean when they use the term.  In other words, don’t pay too much attention to what I say, I may be completely wrong!



What to do when someone is wrong!

July 19, 2017

This past week there was another tiny drama in the “Christian” world. Author and pastor Eugene Peterson , in an interview, seemed to state his acceptance of same sex marriage and then  promptly retracted it. What I found more interesting than Peterson’s actions, were the reactions of fellow Christians. In fact, I don’t want to talk about what Peterson believes or doesn’t believe. I want to spend some time thinking about how we treat each other when we disagree.

I was not particularly surprised to read that some people were reconsidering whether they should continue to read Peterson’s books and to consider him a faithful and trustworthy Christian author. Some wrote they would keep the books of his they had, but would not give his books to other people.  There was discussion by some wondering whether or not Peterson is a Christian.

We seem to have trouble with a nuanced view of each other.  For all of us it is much, much easier to see the world in absolutes. Someone is good or bad. Someone is for us or against us. Someone’s theology is correct or wrong. Someone’s politics are right or wrong.

Christians aren’t the only people to struggle with this, it is a human problem. This sort of binary thinking can make life simple but not rich and full. I know that I get some things right and some wrong. I do good things and not good things. I know I am a complex person. And I know that about people I know personally. My friends get some things right and some things wrong. We all do. Which should cause you and I to view all persons as complex and fallible beings.

Because Eugene Peterson got something “wrong” (whatever “wrong” is for you in this instance), doesn’t mean that everything Peterson has written is now wrong and worthless. Just because Rob Bell gotten something “wrong” doesn’t mean everything he has written and said is wrong. Just because Franklin Graham has gotten something “wrong” doesn’t mean everything he has written or said is wrong.

Tim Keller has written a terrific book on vocation, Every Good Endeavor. He is also part of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) a much more conservative denomination than the PC(USA) of which I am a member. I can’t imagine a situation in which I would join a PCA church, we have some significant theological differences. Does that mean Tim Keller’s book is worthless to me? Of course not. I like that book so much, I provided a link so you can buy it. Is everything Tim Keller says true and wonderful? No, of course not. But neither is everything he says wrong.

What all this means is that I don’t get to dismiss someone based on one (or even two or three) areas of disagreement. I am most definitely not pentecostal. But that doesn’t mean I can’t learn from my pentecostal siblings in Christ. And I can learn from them without needing to believe exactly as they do or requiring them to believe as I do.

What all this does mean is that I have to think about things, about ideas, and about people. And I can’t just do this just one time. I need to think again and again. When I read Tim Keller, or Rob Bell, or Eugene Peterson, or anyone else I need to read carefully and thoughtfully. I need to weigh what they say with what I believe. Perhaps I will change my mind, perhaps not. My world is improved and enlarged either way.

It is a complicated world. Let’s be complicated people! Let’s also be thoughtful and kind people. We can do both.

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