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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Let's imagine a creative future with God and each other together. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Death, Violence, the Cross, and Love

As the prophet Ezekiel is exhorting the folks of Israel, he writes of God, "I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live." Now, if we take that "anyone" to include anything as well, we hit upon the paradox that is life. In order for something to live something must die. Borrowing from its Jewish roots, Christianity hits that paradox straight on...not that the paradox is solved in Christianity, rather, options are opened for living in that paradox.
First, some people and things don't mind death. The paradox loses most of its power as a paradox if death is seen as inevitable, glorious, or the way to win the game. At some point you have to love living and fear death in order for the paradox to have any power in your life, and the way you live. Christianity is for those people...people who don't fear death don't have much need for a God who dies...
So, if you are one of those people who love living and fear dying, Christianity may be the religion for you...and here's the point...are you going to resort to violence in order to love living and fear dying? (Most of us do, my favorite being the TV show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," where it is always about blood because, as a vampire says, "It carries life.") So we inflict violence on others in order to live, or even ourselves in order to die well...and the violence is death magnified, but all death is violent, even if graceful or peaceful...We are awash in "blood violence" these days, as if talking to your enemy is weak, compromise is failure, and only strength, death to enemies, war, and torture allow us to keep breathing...or at least keep the fear of death somewhat submerged...But the cross of Christ does have something to say here...
It says violence is real, but God's love is more real. Violence says "No!" and the cross of Christ says "Yes!" to loving to live. Violence is a part of everything, but the cross reminds us violence is not "the final solution." You see, for Christians the cross is not the end of the story of Jesus Christ, but rather its beginning...loving life without violence, without death, without another cross...As a paradox dying to live and living to die is not meant to be solved, probably not meant to be enjoyed either...maybe endured, maybe fighting against it, maybe loving what you can...maybe trusting a God?...Who once upon a time died to give life...paradoxical as it may be.

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