Thursday, April 28, 2011

Less Than One

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

One of my boys has a problem with his brain. 
(Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it?)
What I mean is, he has a problem in his brain that actually affects his eyesight. Somewhere along the line with his development, his brain began to recognize that one eye was sending better images than the other. In response, his brain started ignoring the “bad” image, and only relying on images sent from one eye. 

Most infants’ brains use the images that come from both eyes. My son’s brain ended up using just the one. Because of this, the visual system that normally develops for both eyes only really developed for one, leaving the other mostly unused. So he has seen, really, out of just one eye for a while now.

When you see from only one eye, you end up lacking depth perception. 

(Sometimes, the metaphors... they just drop from the sky, don't they?)

Recently, I heard someone, a respected leader in their (not my) church and community, summarizing the point of John 4. They said that the story of the Samaritan woman is “…about Jesus’ calling out the woman on her sin.” 

Um, ok? 
Forgive me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there a lot more to it than this?
I guess I can admit that within a large commentary about this set of Scripture, you might find the words, “confrontation”, “woman”, “sin”, and “show”  and you might even find them within close proximity of one another… but sheesh.
This person’s take is like walking into the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant, grabbing a half-cooked chicken breast and a raw egg, eating them, and walking out and telling me that you just had chicken fried rice. Some ingredients are there, but not nearly all of them, and they’re not cooked. 
And honestly, whatever you ate just may in fact mess with your insides. 
I would only be touching the surface of the content and the angles here to tell you that I believe that Jesus bringing up the woman’s issues is less designed to confront this woman on her sin… but more to expose to her that she has, through seeking to find life in the love of men, has only been led to more brokenness… and that she has been trying for a very long time to fill an inner thirst… a thirst that only God can fill, and is filling through Jesus. Maybe I'm wrong. But I believe He is communicating that He sees her broken heart.

Good gravy, its about so much more than sin here. 
Place yourself in the position of a woman divorced back then. When your security was very closely associated with the man you were married to, and moreover, your ability to remain married to the man. Imagine the guilt and shame that comes with the raw & intimate knowledge of how each marriage fell apart. 
Another man that doesn’t want you. 
Maybe because of what you’ve done. 
Maybe because of what he has done. 
Maybe for no reason at all. 
And now, so desperate to be desired, that she ends up in the arms of someone she shouldn’t be with. 
Do we seriously think that Jesus needed to expose to her that her sin is sin in the eyes of a culture that was so deeply aware of the concepts of clean and unclean, right and wrong… especially with her being Samaritan, a group considered inferior to the Jews?
More so than her sin, I think she was on His mind. I think He saw her. What if His thoughts toward her were larger?

Don’t you know that you are loved more than you can possibly imagine, and that the love from this Lover is so much greater… it matters so much more, and is so life-giving, that you if you drink fully from the well of this love, that you will literally never need to run to another empty well again?
Don’t you see that I have come to save you from yourself?
I think we often have a problem with depth perception.
When the thing we first…
react to,
talk about,
point out,
proclaim from the rooftops,
complain about,
declare we are not about,
…is sin, sin, sin… then we’re likely painting a very skewed picture of God. Like He is some sort of crabby omnipotent pharmacist standing behind His really high counter, sorting the bad pills from the useable ones. Walking a lifetime with God cannot be boiled down to the two ideas of right and wrong. 
He is larger than we see Him, or paint Him to be. So is His story. So is His love. 

And yes, sin matters to God. It’s clear that He is calling us into a greater dependency on Him, which at its core, is submission to Him. And we cannot be redeemed unless there is something from which we’ve been redeemed. 

But let’s not see with one eye, or less than one eye, only focusing on one small portion of the story. 
I was recently told that my oft-felt frustration over the way Christians articulate things about God is really nothing more than a fixation on semantics. (Funny, how when you whip out the word, “semantics,” you’ve now de-valued whatever it is you’re talking about. “Well, this is just semantics, Jim.”) 
Ok, sure. It’s semantics. I just looked it up: “the study of meaning.” (Wikipedia 11 April 2011 at 07:03**) 
Yes. I’m frustrated over the meaning of what Christians say about God. 
There is an 800 lb. gorilla in the sanctuaries of our reputations as followers of Jesus. It is the fact that when we talk about God, we’re often communicating far more than the words on the surface. We’re also quietly (heck, maybe loudly) communicating a lot about ourselves, beliefs, and a lot about our churches. 
And sometimes, what we’re communicating isn’t so pretty. 

Sometimes we’re communicating that we lack depth perception.

That we could be seeing with one eye. 

Or less than one. 
Darn semantics.


Addendum: I'm writing this portion two days after my original post: my friend Amy asked a great question that helped me realize I wasn't done yet... 

Ok so where were we? Oh yeah... those darn semantics. 

When you go further into the non-scholarly but oh so handy wiki word study on semantics, you'll also find that it says this: "...It typically focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as wordsphrasessigns and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata..." (I gave the citation earlier in this post, so don't have a coronary. Ooh and don't you love the word denotata? I'm so using that word soon. I just made a wager with a friend he couldn't use the word "denouement" in one of his stellar sermons.)

Sorry. Semantics. Words. Phrases. Signs. Symbols. Relationships... denotata. 

This is when semantics really become a pain. 

Because now we're talking about ways that we communicate beyond the way we slice a bit of Scripture, or the songs we sing, or our church's "What We Believe" web page. 

Now we're talking about the things that we maybe take for granted. Like how we treat people.

Now we're talking about ways of doing that communicate all kinds of things that we really don't want to communicate (at least I don't think we want to):
  • "Blessed are the ones who were broken and then get fixed like we did." 
  • "You're not a real man unless you love God." 
  • "God created you to be lesser and subservient to others. I mean just look at you."
  • "We love sinners, but your kind of sin, well honestly that's just a little too, um, dirty...." 
  • "There is a time limit on the grace you will receive."
  • "My way or the highway." 
  • "If you really love Jesus, it shows in how together your life is."
  • "Leave the sensing, praying, thinking, deciding and choosing to us. We know what we're doing." 
  • "We hold the keys to Heaven and Hell."
  • "God can be broken down into a series of books, paragraphs, definitions and phrases."
  • "Salvation is a checklist."
Maybe if we saw with greater depth perception, we'd see that lost in the "semantics" that we tend to disregard are the manifold ways that we can tend to articulate things about God that are not of Him, but really more of us.

Some people, when you begin digging into the work of changing the way we do what we do as followers of Jesus, dismiss your language and say, "Well for Pete's sake, the Holy Spirit does the work... you sound like we want to replace God!" 

No, we don't. 
  • We sound like people who want to try to care about the lost and the found the way Jesus did. 
  • We sound like we people who want His love to flow into the places where we've not let it in the past... into the places that have caused us to wound others when we've not meant to. 
  • We sound like people who want to be marked by love, grace, mercy, openness, peace, kindness, gentleness, integrity, freedom, patience, authenticity... service; profound giving. 
  • We sound like people who are not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ... but who are tired of being ashamed of our reputation for control, reaction, fear and insecurity that precedes us. 
So yeah, let me wrap up a second time. 

I think we need to open both eyes wide to see the depth of meaning in all that we do. 

We work countless hours to nail down what we believe on websites and blogs, but we rarely spend time paying attention to the basics of fleshing it out, especially when we gather.

How we communicate with others. 
The things we assume about others. 
Our efforts to control through speech, relationship, program and the Bible. 
The way we preach to/at others. 
How we react to people who do what we don't understand. 
The way in which we open up and describe the John 4s. 
How wide we open our arms to our enemy. 
How we categorize people according to "class" in our minds.  
The way we strive to be authentic and to push past our fears in relating. 
The way we put to death our fierce lust for power, prestige, pleasure, control, and well, more
The way that we rely in real time on God's Holy Spirit for guidance. 

You see, these are the places where we bring life to all of the belief that we're so good at constructing, outlining and exegeting

It would be no bad thing to let the evidence of our belief precede us, once we can get the two of them together. 

But hey, I could be wrong.

After all, its just semantics. 

** Since Wikipedia is editable by the masses, please know that it is not considered a scholarly and credible reference source. This is because at any given time, information pirates, knowledge terrorists or mind gremlins could create an account, login, plant false information and lead you and I awry in our online quest for knowledge. So trust this definition at risk of your own intellectual risk.

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