Friday, February 19, 2010

Jesus is Pro-Life

1 Peter 3:8 tells us to live in harmony. But it doesn't stop there... Peter gets more specific so that we don't misunderstand what harmony means. Harmony means a lot more than just co-existing with people... it means being compassionate, loving, and humble. Don't seek revenge, don't do evil... but don't just not do those things... give blessing, do good, pursue peace instead. It's a high calling. It requires action, not just passivity. It's asking us to be CONNECTED to one another.

And asking us to be connected is not a simple request. If we're connected, that means that your life affects mine. To me, it means that I'm not alright if people in Ethiopia don't have clean water to drink or shoes to put on their feet. It means that when I want to choose the convenience of the 75% off rack at JCPenney or the cheaper coffee instead of the free trade, I have to really consider how my actions affect another. If I buy cheap coffee or support stores that do, I'm a part of the chain of oppression that doesn't allow for decent wages for a coffee bean farmer. I don't want to be a part of that. I want farmers to make enough money to support their families. 

But sometimes we get so lost in our causes. My friend Dana Beth wonders that if people are so against homosexuality, why aren't they willing to take in or mentor a girl who has been abused? Why wouldn't they want to directly address the factors that might cause someone to become gay? And I wonder why people advocate for pro-life and are very against abortion, but they don't take particular care for children who are orphans or in general, anyone who is poor, oppressed, and lost. Being pro-life should mean going out and spreading Jesus' love around so that those who are dead inside can know what life is. It's a bunch of baloney, really, that people can call themselves pro-life and choose to ignore the fact that slaves made their clothing. We misuse the environment, causing others to suffer because their water is contaminated or their resources are depleted. We get lost in our causes and forget the people and the calling.

But if I believe that my God is all about wanting the best life for everyone, that Jesus came here to give me life, and that we were called to live in harmony with one another... then I think we have to care about these things.

Jesus is most definitely pro-life. He heals people, frees them from their sin, feeds them, and loves the hell out of them. Jesus wouldn't hold a sign and picket the abortion clinic. And if Jesus wouldn't do it, then maybe we should ask ourselves why we do it. The calling is to live in harmony. The calling is to give blessing and do good. Be connected, be pro-life. And don't just be pro-life, DO pro-life. It's a high calling. But God wants the best life for us, so if this is what He's asking, then the calling must be worth it...

Monday, February 15, 2010

D is for Deforestation

God's intention was right relationships in the world between him and the people, between people and people, and between people and the earth. Original sin messed all that up; original sin marked the first time that man thought of himself before others. Eve didn't think of trusting and obeying God, and she didn't think about how her actions would affect Adam. That's kind of what sin boils down to, isn't it? Thinking of ourselves first, before obeying God, before how our actions might affect others. It was the beginning of disconnect, where Eve just had blinders on and saw only herself.

But God created this complex world where everything is connected. When I was in my environmental science class, I was just in awe to learn how intricately connected everything in nature is. For example, in any forest, you have the small plants and animals that are on the forest floor. If there aren't any trees in an area, the microclimate that usually exists for these smaller organisms changes drastically. So these small plants are sparse, which leaves the herbivores that usually eat those plants without food. They start dying out or moving to other areas, which leaves the bigger animals who feed on those small animals without food. In addition to a lack of food, the bigger animals that might make a tree their home are left without shelter. Any bodies of water around the area suffer because they derive a lot of nutrients from leaves that fall into the water. And I can't forget to mention the bacteria, which doesn't have anymore dead matter to feed on because we clear-cutted the forest. That doesn't seem important, BUT they are an important connector in the chain.

In God's design, everything is connected, and it's so beautiful... but there's one huge problem... we live in a fallen world where we are disconnected from creation. But here's the thing, if everything depends on everything else in nature, that must mean mankind is part of that, too. We depend on nature A LOT, but we're pretty disconnected from that. We don't hunt our own animals, grow our own vegetables, cut down our own trees to fashion our chairs. We don't have any idea where our stuff is coming from or what the impact is.

It's easy for us to be short-sighted and thinking that we don't make a difference as an individual. I sometimes even have to remind myself that one plastic bottle that I throw away doesn't make a difference, but it does... because that's just one more person to the millions who adds more waste to the world.

Forget the whole thing about climate change and what not... I get that people don't believe in global warming. Frankly, I don't think that's the root of the issue here. In the practical sense, we are using our resources at a rate that is much, much faster than they can be reproduced; sustainability should be on our minds because once we run out of stuff, then what are we going to do? I think if we were even a little more connected to where our stuff is coming from, we'd see that we do have an impact. There are landfills in third world countries, namely China, Nigeria, and India, where we dump all of our old electronics. Waste gives off chemicals that seep into our groundwater, which is bad for our country, BUT we have the money (aka your tax dollars) to make landfills more safe so that we aren't drinking toxic water. But what about third world countries? So workers in those countries have to disassemble our old electronics, and they are actually handling these chemicals. This is not safe, but what choice do they have? Then said chemicals get into their groundwater, which flows into their rivers, and they drink it. So if you care about the justice issue of clean water, it's not just about digging wells, but it's about creating less waste that pollutes their water in the first place.

And here's the thing, I don't even know if anyone bothered to read all of this. I don't know if anyone saw the word "deforestation" and was immediately put off. But I'd ask you why. Why are you disinterested in the environment? I think our sinful nature causes this disconnect that we don't actually think what we do could possibly affect someone across the world. God's restoration is all about connecting a disconnected world. That can happen as simply as making the choice to reuse bags instead of getting plastic ones at the store, recycling paper instead of throwing it away, and just reducing the amount of stuff that we have and use.

I think Jesus was totally a hippie, and if he were walking around today, he would be all about the environment. He would tell parables about our attitudes of wanting whatever is most convenient for us. I think Jesus would look at a forest that has been clear-cutted, and it would hurt him to see that disconnect. He'd be sad that His father created all this beautiful stuff, and we didn't care enough about it to take care of it.

God is all about us being different from the world. So what does our use of the resources in the environment say about how we feel about the God who created it all? I think He has a few things to say about this:

Monday, February 1, 2010


Speaking of restoration, I read on someone's facebook status that this is the year of re--... I have no idea what he or she meant by it, but it stuck out to me because our spring conferences for InterVarsity in our area are called Restore and Release. We just had our Restore conference this past weekend at Dickinson College. We were given an hour of silence time for personal reflection at the conference in which I really thought a lot about my own restoration. I wanted to pray for the Millersville students, my LVC friends, and other things, but I had to keep reminding myself that I needed to focus on my own restoration during this hour rather than others. I know it may sound selfish, but I thought of a quote of Thomas Drier that says, "You cannot add to the peace and good will of the world if you fail to create an atmosphere of harmony and love right where you live and work." After going to Urbana and getting all fired up about restoring God's kingdom around the world, it was very fitting to have a conference where we focused on our own restoration because that needs to happen first. It occurred to me that I cannot expect to go out and restore the world if I do not first let God restore me.

Betsy talked last night at our IV meeting about the Hebrew people being enslaved in Egypt before the exodus. They had been slaves there for 400 years so generations had not known what it was like to worship God. They had been in the Egyptian culture for so long, so when Moses asks them to trust God as He freed them, the Hebrew people don't really want to. Even after they're free and wandering in the desert, they're mad at Moses because they would rather have stayed slaves. That's all they knew. But how ridiculous to want to be slaves when God is offering freedom! Betsy compared this to the gods that we worship in our culture, such as image, success, or addictions. It's sick to think that we would experience Stockholm Syndrome to the culture that tries to enslave us and start thinking positively towards these captors when we could be free from these things in Christ. Why do we think it's easier to remain slaves?

When I reflected a few weeks ago about how I see God, the first thing I thought of was a friend of mine who had been enslaved by an eating disorder. She struggled for a long time with it, but one day, she was free. God set her free! I'm not saying it wasn't a process--that it's just easy. But she experienced freedom that only comes from God. And THAT is who my God is. My God gives FREEDOM! Jesus came that we might have life, that we could have a drink of living water that will satisfy us forever.

It isn't easy. You can create boundaries, rules, a 10 step plan... but ultimately, it has to come from God. In Exodus, God explains that He is going to harden Pharaoh's heart so that everyone will know that it is He who rescues the Hebrews from bondage. It wasn't Moses, and it wasn't Pharaoh being nice. God likes being the one who saves us. If our 10 step plan works to restore us, then it's ourselves and that plan that rescues us instead of God getting the glory for the rescue.

Restoration is a process as we struggle and try to hear what God is saying, but in the end, we can give God all the glory because He alone sets us free. I praise God that, actually, every year is the year of re--. But for me, this year in particular demands much needed restoration. In my life, in my family, on campus at Millersville. I crave it. God will never stop restoring what's been lost. That is the one thing I am sure of.