Grace Emerges

Monday, June 4, 2012

Week of Mutuality

by Brad Duncan

I'm writing this post as part of Rachel Held Evan's synchroblog: One In Christ - A Week of Mutuality.  It is about equality of women in the church.

This topic is dear and near to my heart, and I would like to write about it more often anyway, so in this post I would like to address the idea of progress in Christianity.  I am inspired and blessed by the women in my life, and at the same time heart-broken about the many ways those very women have been disenfranchised by the church system, at times in a scary oppressive way, and at other times in a subtle "social norms" type of way.  Clearly equality is not yet achieved, until there is no more oppression, no more pressure to submit unequally to men.  So, equality would be progress for our faith.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Perspective-Driven Life: Breath of Fresh Air

by Brad Duncan

I've been looking for an alternative to the Purpose-Driven Life and Performance-Driven Life as a description of the Christian lifestyle.  I call it the Perspective-Driven Life.  Here's a short exercise in contrasting the old and the new:

The Purpose-Driven Life is a:

  • Performance-Driven Life
  • Pressure-Driven Life
  • Praise-Driven Life
  • Pleasing-Driven Life
  • Prescription-Driven Life
  • Pride-Driven Life
  • Power-Driven Life
The Perspective-Driven Life, by contrast is a:
  • Progress-Driven Life
  • Passion-Driven Life
  • Priority-Driven Life
  • People-Driven Life
  • Peace-Driven Life
  • Present-Driven Life
  • Partnership-Driven Life
Why call it "Perspective-Driven"?  If we open our eyes to see the world the way that God does, and conversely to see God as Jesus demonstrated and revealed God's nature, then we are driven to lives of peace, caring about others, and living in the present.  

Whereas the old modern definition of Christianity is a call to a high level of achievement in our relationship with God, the new progressive definition of Christianity is a call to a high level of awareness of the present and of the needs of other people, more as a partnership with God than as a fulfillment of a prescribed purpose.  

As God is passionate and creative in dealings with humanity, so we should also be, always searching for ways to bring God's goodness, peace and grace into reality in the present world we live in.  Understood this way, righteousness is not sinlessness or achievement of good behavior or good favor with our God, instead righteousness is an authentic, real, relationship of integrity with our creator.  It is our perspective that comes from spiritual awareness that helps us overcome our selfish nature and vanquish evil and darkness in the world.

With this mindset, being a Christian is progress!  It's a breath of fresh air!  It's good news for the world and for the church alike.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Performance-Driven Life: Praying for a Cure

by Brad Duncan

I'm researching a cure for the Performance-Driven Life. Christians everywhere succumb to this addictive and contagious, but exhausting, way of life.  There is treatment available, and there is hope for a long-term cure.

Symptom #1: Worship that Pleases God and Earns Favor
Because of an ambitious work ethic and performance-driven culture we are driven to curry God's favor with passionate expressions of praise and flattery.  We feel that more earnest or intense expressions will please God, meeting God's need for human attention, and resulting in our satisfaction in a job well done.

However this pleasing behavior is known to have risks and side-effects, the main one being that God's pleasure cannot be generated using this method.  God does not seek human glory or fame, nor emotional fervor or intense expressions of devotion.  These are just words to a God that knows our hearts before we speak.  Rather, God requests our participation and relational authenticity.  Listen more.  Say less, and when we do speak, then speak with integrity and not with flattery.  Don't spam God with your prayers or praises.

The main cure for God-pleasing pathology is to:

  • ask God what type of connection with humans is actually pleasant and healthy
  • consider how you would want to be treated by your own friends and relatives, and try to cultivate a similarly healthy relationship with God
  • practice good communication skills, like active listening, mirroring back what you think you are hearing, communicating what you really feel and think using appropriate feeling words and ownership of your own ideas. 
  • resist toxic and unhealthy communication patterns, by learning about how these patterns of communication are harmful to others and reduce relational quality
  • look to Jesus who showed us the path to authentic relationship with God.  Imitate his methods of seeking God and following God's guidance.  Listen to Jesus' teachings about true worship and honest prayer.  Recall that following the teachings of Jesus is like building our house on the rock -- it builds a firm and healthy foundation for our spiritual life.  Did Jesus flatter God with flowery words?

Other symptoms are also under research:
#2: Build the Church System
#3. Become like Christ-ians
#4. Serving God as Servants (or Slaves)
#5. Become a World-Class Christian with a Mission
See the post: The Performance Driven Life: What on Earth am I Here For?

Together, we can find a cure.  It's time to care.  It's time to fight the Performance-Driven Life.