Saturday, July 29, 2006

Thinking about Him (4)


"Is Jesus fully God and fully man?" This was one of the earliest questions that arose in the Christian community which resulted in endless debates. It was not until the 2nd Ecumenical Council at Constantinople that the Church affirmed that Jesus is fully God and fully man.

Yet, the next question arose. "How is Jesus fully God and fully man?" Many Christians have made genuine attempts in trying to explain the dynamics and the relationship between Jesus' deity and humanity. Along the way, some of these explanations resulted in major controversies in the Church, namely the Nestorian Controversy, the Eutychian Controversy and the Monothelite Controversy. These controversies were later labeled as heresies by the Church in the 3rd, 4th and 6th Ecumenical Council.

Until today, the Church has not been able to provide a clear and complete explanation in regards to the relationship between Jesus' deity and humanity. Perhaps the Church will never be able to proide a clear explanation after all. Yet, should we discard this claim about Jesus that we have inherited from the forefathers of our faith since no one has been able to provide a satisfying explanation?

It will be a tragedy to do so. We need to recognize our human limitation and realize that there are just some things about God that cannot be explained through logical and coherent statements. There are just things about God that is beyond our human comprehension. Perhaps these are the mysteries of God, mysteries that requires us to believe with our hearts even when our minds are unable to fully understand them.

Yet, when we are able to embrace these mysteries of God, we can be able to come before him and still possess this peace in our minds and our hearts even when we know that we do not have a complete understanding of who he is.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Who are we?

Christian A - Adherent of Christianity
Preoccupation: Latest car models, latest handphone models, latest fashion wear, the situation in the stock market, the best bargain for properties, job opportunities for bigger income etc.

Ultimate Goal: To create a comfortable and secure life for oneself.

Christian B - Director/Employee of a Company Named "Church"
Preoccupation: Evangelism, church programs, marketing strategies, statistics of converts, statistics of church attendance, fairness, efficiency, effectiveness, practicality etc.

Ultimate Goal: To see the company grow and increase in the number of employees.

Christian C - Follower of Christ
Preoccupation: Friendship, relationship, the way of the cross, Kingdom of God, love, grace, sacrifice, participation in God's dream, reconciliation, care for the marginalized, care for the animals etc.

Ultimate Goal: To see the Kingdom of God being fully realized in the present world.

Who are we? What is our preoccupation? What is the ultimate goal in our life that motivates our every speech, thought and action?


Sunday, July 23, 2006

But for Thoughts

We embrace Christianity, but reject the way of Christ.

We follow the religion (through religious duties and spiritual exercises), but reject the relationship with the Person.

We idolize the written word(Scripture), but care not of the Incarnate Word.

We desire width (busy in our doing), but despise depth (moulding of our being).


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Thinking about Him (3)


He once took on the form of a human being and the limitations that a human being possesses. He once spent about 30 years living in the world that you and I are living in. The fact that God came into this world and dwell among us for 30 years as a human being is significant to humanity. More than often, we only put our focus on his birth (for the purpose of celebrating Christmas), his crucifixion and his resurrection. How often do we really look into his earthly life?

He came to dwell among us in order to show us how to live the life of the Kingdom of God in the present kingdom. What kind of life did he live? His life was often controversial and offensive to many. While the rest of the Jewish community despised the Samaritans and had a very low view towards women, he took the initiative to engage in a conversation with a Samaritan woman. While others would do their very best to shun away from lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors, he went to them and offer them friendship, grace and hope. While others were busy minding their own business, he was busy minding the business of the marginalized, the poor and the needy.

Such was the life of Jesus, the perfect example of the life of the Kingdom of God, the life that followed an order that was radically different from the present order. Eventually, he paid the price for living such a radical life: being put to death. Now, he is calling out to his followers to imitate him and live the life of the Kingdom of God in this world, a life that is controversial and foolish in the eyes of the present kingdom.

Therefore, are his followers willing to respond to the call and attempt to live the life of the Kingdom of God in the present kingdom? Or have they long given up this ideal idea and choose to live the life of the present kingdom, choosing to live the life of the Kingdom of God only when the Kingdom of God is fully realized in the future?

The life of the Kingdom, anyone, now?


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Be Still

"Be still, and know that I am God."


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Thinking about Him (2)


"Hear O Israel, The Lord our God, The Lord is One..." As a Jew, from young, you have been reciting the Shema twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. All along, you have been taught to believe that there is only one true God, the One who created the Universe, the One who chose your race to be his people, and the One who brought your ancestors out of Egypt into the Promised Land.

Recently, from the mouth of your friends, you came to hear about this man named Jesus who has been going around preaching the message of the Kingdom of God, performing miracles of healing and deliverance and attracting many to follow him wherever he went. Yet, what really caught your attention was the bold claims that he made. On one acocunt, he said to the listeners that he and the Father (God) are one. On another account, he claimed that those who have seen him has seen the Father (God).

These claims sound so ridiculous! Firstly, how is it possible for an ordinary man to be of equal status as your God? Secondly, if Jesus' Father is God, and Jesus is also God, it means that "the Lord are two". This is totally contradictory to the Shema. It is simply impossible for you to believe in this man who claims that he is God!

After some time, news came to you that this man has died. Yet, there was also news that he was seen with his friends after his death. You struggle. How can an ordinary man be alive again after his death? Could he really be God?


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Why, God?

Why are we able to profess our faith freely while many of our fellow siblings in Christ are persecuted because of the same faith?

Why are we able to live in big and spacious houses while many others do not even have a shelter over their heads?

Why are we able to have no worries over our daily meals while many others go to bed every night with hungry stomachs?

Why are we able to speak with our mouths while many others are dumb from birth?

Why are we able to listen with our ears while many others are deaf from birth?

Why are we able to use our hands and feet while many others do not even have them from birth?

Same race, yet, different fate.

Why, God?


Friday, July 07, 2006

The Beauty of Sports

I like playing sports, especially group sports such as football and basketball. Yet, why does violence (e.g. quarrels and fightings) often find its way into the beautiful game of sports? If we observe the football matches that are being played during the World Cup campaign, it would not be difficult to notice players pushing, making mindless tackling and quarreling etc. The problem, I believe, lies in a person's attitude towards sports.

Let us face it, no one desires to be a loser! No one in his or her right mind would participate in a game with the intention of losing. Everyone wants to win the game. Yet, this competitive spirit within us can be detrimental towards the fulfillment of God's dream. (In short: God dreams of a world whereby humanity is reconciled to him, humanity reconciled with one another, and humanity reconciled with all of creation.)

For example, when a group of friends comes together to play a group sports, the leaders of both sides will take turn to choose the players that they want. Because no one wants to lose, each will pick the strongest player in the group to be on his team, and the weakest player would normally be the last to be picked. Imagine how would that last person would feel. Wouldn't he feel lousy about himself? Wouldn't his self-confidence suffer a serious blow?

Furthermore, I also notice that in group sports such as football or basketball, whenever the weaker players possess the ball, the stronger players will hurry the weaker players to pass the ball to them, in fear that they would be dispossessed. Again, imagine how would the weaker players feel? Perhaps after the game itself, they will feel even worse about themselves than ever before. Also, they may even feel resentful towards the stronger players for despising them.

Other than that, group sports often involves a lot of physical contact with the other team players. In football, for instance, when a player attempts to snatch the ball from the other player, he will be more concern about the ball than the other player's leg. Therefore, he may perform a hard tackle on the other person's leg in order to snatch the ball. As a result, the other player's leg may be injured and he may become resentful towards the tackler.

If we do not handle this competitive spirit with care, sports can easily become a platform for relationships to be fractured and destroyed. Yet, if we can possess a co-operative spirit in sports, sports can become a beautiful platform to fulfill the dream of God. When we play group sports, let us be conscious of the feelings of others, especially those who are the weaker ones. Let us offer grace and encouragement to them to help them to build up their self-confidence and self-belief. In the process, beautiful friendships can be developed and strengthened.

Furthermore, when we play group sports involving two sides, let us put the friendship of one another above the competition itself. Let us be more concern for the 'well-being' of the other person than the game. By doing so, sports can actually become a creative platform for intimate fellowship to take place. If we can see sports as a platform for friendships to be develop and not as a platform to win, sports can be beautiful and help in fulfilling the dream of God.

The old Chinese proverb rings true: "Friendship first, competition second."


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Committee or Community?

In every organization or institution, we will normally find a working committee or a group of leaders who takes the responsibility of planning and directing the whole course of the organization. Such is the case in most of the churches today. We often find a group of leaders forming the working committee, planning and directing the course of the church.

Yet, we often find members of the committee relating to one another purely at a functional level, whereby each sees the rest as co-workers rather than as friends. Often, this is reflected in the way the leader (chairperson) interacts with the other committee members. When he meets up with another committee member, he is often more preoccupied with the work progress of that person rather than the person's well-being.

When each person sees the rest functionally, each becomes task-oriented and not people-oriented. As a result, it is not surprising that heated arguments often take place in the meetings. Each person is more concern whether his/ her ideas or suggestions are accepted by the committee than be concern about the thoughts and feelings of the rest. Thus, from the outside, it seems that the church may be running smoothly and booming with activities and rallies; but on the inside, the relationship between the committee members may be in ruins.

The committee by itself must be a community. Fruitful and meaningful discussion can only take place when genuine and authentic relationships exist. When each person relates to the rest relationally and not functionally, each person will be considerate and sensitive towards the feelings of others even when discussions take place. Relationship must be the foundation of the community.

Perhaps when genuine relationships are developed, we do not even need to regulate our meetings, we may not even have to endure long hours of dull discussions. This is because as we relate with one another relationally, we will make time to enjoy fellowship with one another casually and naturally. I believe, during those moments, fruitful discussions will take place and crucial decisions will be made.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Thinking about Him (1)


The restaurant was crowded with people on that Saturday afternoon. Among the crowd was Adam, a software engineer who was having his meal with Darren, his former colleague who he had known for many years. While they were eating and chit-chatting, Darren brought up his questions and doubts regarding Christianity, the faith that Adam held on to…

Darren: Adam, you always tell me that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, but how do you know that Jesus really exists?

Adam: Because his life story is recorded in the Bible.

Darren: But how sure are you that the writers did not fabricate this story? Can’t it be a hoax?

Adam: Impossible! The bible is trustworthy because it is inspired by God.

Darren: Who told you that it is inspired by God?

Adam: One of the writers in the Bible said so.

Darren: You cannot use Bible as a source of reference to prove its trustworthiness. By doing so, you are already making an assumption that the bible is trustworthy.

Adam: [Thought for a while] Anyway, not everything can be explained logically. For things that cannot be understood, we can only believe by faith.

Darren: [Thinking in his heart] Always the same excuse! “By faith!” Does he really know what he believes in and why he believes in what he believes in? Or is he holding on to a blind faith?

More than often, many Christians are found guilty of not being able to give good and reasonable answers when non-Christians posed questions and doubts regarding Christianity. Like Adam in the fabricated story, we often use “by faith” as our shield when we are unable to provide a logical answer to our friends. Therefore, it is not surprising when we hear non-Christians accusing Christians of holding on to their faith blindly.

Why then, are many Christians found guilty of not being able to give a proper and reasonable defense for the faith that they hold on to? Perhaps it is because we tend to absorb the Christian doctrines and confessions of faith that have been passed down to us from the previous generations without much questioning or reflecting. As a result, we may know very well what we believe in (we may be able to memorize and recite the confessions of faith and creeds), yet we may not even know why we believe in what we believe. Our faith becomes an empty shell, hard on the outside but hollow in the inside.

In order to develop a faith that is deeply rooted, we need to adopt a critical approach towards the knowledge that is exposed to us. We need to learn to use the magic words “what”, “why”, “who”, “when”, “where”, and “how” generously. Only by doing so are we able to understand better what we believe in, thus strengthening our faith in God.

This approach also applies to our understanding of Jesus. As we desire to know Jesus in a deeper way, we cannot just rely on the concepts and ideas about Jesus that are formulated by the scholars of the past and the present, for Jesus is not an idea or a concept, but a living person. Therefore, not only should we examine the doctrines of Christ, not only should we look into the accounts of Jesus in the Bible, it is also crucial for us to look into the historical, political, social, religious and cultural background during the time of Jesus. By understanding the background during the time of Jesus, we will be able to better understand why he said or did something at a specific moment, thus helping us to better understand the person of Jesus.

By looking at Jesus from various perspectives, we will be able to see Jesus not as an abstract concept (which will happen if we purely rely on the doctrines of Christ), but as a living person, thus strengthening our relationship with the living Christ.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Thinking about Him (Introduction)

This is it! I guess I really have to start blogging on a regular basis from now on (after many unfulfilled promises and failed attempts). My Christian Theology lecturer (a.k.a. my good friend) came up with this 'brilliant' idea of asking every student to reflect upon the weekly Christology lectures and blog about it. I will name this series as "Thinking about Him".

Can I remain as a faithful blogger? Only time will tell.