Demolition & Remodeling
“Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”
(God, speaking to Jeremiah)
Is it not a sad commentary on our times that “builders’ grade” materials are the cheapest available? Everything in your shiny new suburban home, from appliances to carpets to roof to electrical systems, will need to be replaced in the first ten years. Planned obsolescence. Whether you’re replacing carpets or remodeling the kitchen, some demolition will need to occur before you can start installing the new. Pluck up, break down, destroy, overthrow – then, build and plant.
The proud nation of Israel had to be destroyed before it could be rebuilt into something better. It had relied on its economic and military strength. Its people thought God preferred them above others. They shut their hearts against the poor, against foreigners, and against refugees. The idols of militarism, consumerism, and nationalism had to come down. Then, and only then, could Israel be transformed into a diverse universal community of Messiah-followers bringing God’s love to the world.
Every empire, from Egypt to America, must be humbled before it can hear the Good News. Every empire has (or had) foundational sins. A more perfect union can only emerge when those foundational sins are the objects of focused repentance. Our national original sins are obvious – the genocide of native peoples, the theft of their land, chattel slavery, and on-going systemic racism and injustice.
It is not only the unrepented sins of the past that pose a barrier – it is also the presumptions, premises, and beliefs of today. They too must be demolished. The myths of a Christian nation, of European Christendom, of national exceptionalism, manifest destiny, white supremacy, redemptive violence, just war, and capitalism need to crumble so that a garden of grace can grow.
So it is with individuals. What in my life needs to be demolished, deconstructed, torn down, and overthrown in order that God might conform my heart and mind to divine cruciform love?
A gift, an act of pure grace, occurs when God allows our lives to be shaken. Strong trees withstand the hurricane.
I speak only for myself. So far, demolition has been needed theologically, sociologically, vocationally, psychologically, relationally, and intellectually. I’m sure there is more to come – after all, I’m only 69.
Theologically, God’s loving Spirit has cornered me into rethinking scriptural violence, eternal judgment, eschatology, inerrancy, and atonement theory.
Sociologically, old views of humanity needed to give way to a deeper more compassionate understanding of homelessness, addictions, mental illness, poverty, racism, and unjust systems.
Vocationally, I hear the quiet whisper of the Spirit directing me to serve and love rather than accomplish and impress.
Psychologically, I am learning (with the help of therapy and spiritual direction) to love, accept, and forgive others and myself.
Relationally, I’m learning to be sensitive to the needs of others, receive people respectfully, express admiration and support, show affection, and offer freedom rather than control.
Intellectually, I’m just beginning to explore new areas like particle physics, invertebrate zoology, anthropology, and Latin.
When the wrecking crew first showed up in my life, I was frightened. I was afraid of discovering that everything I believed in was a lie. I was afraid I’d wind up an atheistic existentialist bleakly staring into meaninglessness. I was fearful because I forgot that Truth couldn’t be shaken. Yes, there were things I thought were Truth and weren’t, and they needed to crumble. Yes, my tidy white middleclass suburban fundamentalist evangelical Republican world collapsed. Nothing could have been more of a blessing.
But nothing of substance was hurt. In fact, once the wreckage was cleared away, the True shined forth.
At our local nature center, periodic controlled burns clear away the non-native and invasive species, and out of the blackened vegetation, native wildflowers proliferate and pollinators flourish.
Jesus is the Truth. We need not fear that anything can shake that. God is in essence Love. The Bible infallibly points us to Jesus. Jesus, God incarnate, died and rose again to redeem the entire cosmos. The foundation remains secure.
I watched wide-eyed and trembling as my nationalism, militarism, understanding of history, ingrained homophobia, belief in a vengeful god, acceptance of special creationism (and rejection of evolution), conservative political views, biblical literalism, and understanding of God’s calling crumbled under God’s wrecking ball of love. I was afraid I’d be left with nothing but ruins.
Instead, I am discovering a deepening love for every culture and a widening affection for all of creation. I love God more deeply, know God more intimately, and follow God more closely.
Now I see the wildflowers and the butterflies.
Posted on August 2, 2020, in anabaptist, Bible, Bible Teaching, bodily resurrection, Christianity, creation, Jesus, Justice, Kingdom Life, kingdom of God, parables, Peace Shalom Hesed, Poetry, Prayer, Prophecy, Spirituality, The Cross, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.
Me too (without the hashtag).