Looking for Loyalty in a Culture of “just interested.”

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“Interested” is now viral. I see it everyday. It shows up on my Facebook feed as “so and so is interested” in an event near you. My friend’s interest is meant to spark my interest and now I too can join the search for applause by marking my interest. Its tempting to just cast dispersion on the interest button with “Really? Are we really going to reduce the levels of our engagement in life to ‘she was interested?’”

The INTERESTED button is a bid.

Now the ironic part of the interested wave is that sometimes that expression of interest does get turned into action, especially if there are other folks “interested.” Thus, I see the “interest” button as an expression of our search for loyalty. The button expresses our longing for deeper friendships with whom we might share life. My suspicion is that when my friends are pushing the “interested” button they are actually putting a bid out there for someone to reach back to them  and say, “Hey I’m interested in that too, lets do it together.”

The problem.

The problem here is that most of us were really “just interested” when we clicked the button. The button exists because we think its ok, to be just interested. There is no intent. There is no adjustment. There is no commitment. Just interest. So we don’t show up. But we got credit for being interested. I think this is a problem. As Saint Bernard of Clairvaux observes, “Hell is full of good intentions.”

When we settle for just interest we are settling for a life without loyalties. Loyalty in relationships is a reciprocating experience. And loyalty as part of my character is built on making commitments known and then making the adjustments required to fulfill them. This is not to suggest that loyal people never miss the mark on their words. Rather, when loyal people do miss the mark, they acknowledge the fact, and will give an account for their absence.

Loyalty as Steadfast Love

The Scripture captures loyalty in the phrase “steadfast love.” Its part of the nature of God. Its meant to be part of the lives of those who know him. The friendship of King David in the Old Testament and Jonathon, son of King Saul, is marked by “steadfast love.” When we read of their friendship in 1 Samuel 20 we must see it through the lens of the Law, covenant making and God’s steadfast-love. Under the strain of King Saul’s murderous intentions, Jonathan and David are at a cross-roads in their friendship. The reader is confronted with the tensions created by loyalties to family, to friends, and even to God. In the text below, David is already convinced of Saul’s intentions but Jonathan is not.

12And Jonathan said to David, “The Lord, the God of Israel, be witness! When I have sounded out my father, about this time tomorrow, or the third day, behold, if he is well disposed toward David, shall I not then send and disclose it to you? 13But should it please my father to do you harm, the Lord do so to Jonathan and more also if I do not disclose it to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. May the Lord be with you, as he has been with my father. 14If I am still alive, show me the steadfast love of the Lord, that I may not die; 15and do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the Lord cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” 16And Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord take vengeance on David’s enemies.” 17And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul.  1 Samuel 20:12-16

Loyalty that resists evil and seeks the godly benefit of another is steadfast love. Both Jonathan and David understood the quality as one rooted in the character of their covenant-making God. Throughout the Scripture the steadfast love of God is celebrated and commended to us as what we need and as what we long for in relationships.

Meditation

Take some time to meditate on the following:

Lamentations 3:17-26
17 My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is;
18 so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.”
19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

 

2 Thessalonians 3:5
May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

 

1 Corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

 

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Following Jesus into science

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I’ve been reading through Walter R. Hearn’s book, Being a Christian in Science. He spent twenty years as a researcher and professor of biochemistry. Below are some of his thoughts on science as a “calling.” Perhaps his thoughts will generate some consideration and appreciation of a scientist or a budding scientist close to you. At UBC I have been getting to know several students who aspire to the research scientist lifeform. Most feel the tension between the lab and the draw of other possible loves. Christian faith enters right into this tension with them but learning how to navigate it does seem to require wrestling with what we call “calling” and the ability to hold onto several ideas at the same time.

Dr. Hearn writes:

It is not improper to speak of having a gift for science. To test that gift, take all the mathematics and science courses you can, and work hard at mastering them. Think of your studies as mind-building, the way athletes and bodybuilders benefit from physical exercise at a gym. For most of us, the challenge of mastering science courses in school will either develop our interest or reveal that God has another direction for us. Good grades in math and science courses serve as reasonably good indicators of our attitude toward science as well as our aptitude for it.

As a rule of thumb we can expect God to call us into a life’s work that we will enjoy. Scientists generally work extremely hard, partly because it is expected but also because they tend to enjoy what they do. Any scientist needs emotional resilience, determination and self-discipline to keep going through long periods when joy is hard to come by. Sometimes theoretical calculations just will not come out right. The most carefully planned experiments can keep going haywire. The atmosphere in a lab can be discouraging because we may be surrounded by colleagues with similar frustrations.

Few Christians in science would expect to solve problems in the lab without putting in the same amount of effort as anyone else. Yet many testify that at least on occasion they have experienced God’s special present in the laboratory. Sometimes that means seeing the breakup of a mental logjam that has held back progress. More often it means being sustained by hope when things are not going well.

 

The apostle Paul referred to faith, hope and love as the “greater gifts,” with love being the greatest of all. Any individual able to exercise those gifts can make an outstanding contribution to a scientific laboratory. A Christian who demonstrates resilient hope biased on an abiding faith, and who can lovingly pass a spirit of hope on to coworkers, can have a salutary effect on the morale of a whole research group.

 

Flexibility is another important characteristic. Studies of psychological profiles indicate that successful scientists have a strong desire to find solutions, but can tolerate a lot of ambiguity and delayed gratification along the way. The most creative scientists can carry around in their heads a dozen competing hypotheses, seriously considering ideas that may turn out to be false or even ridiculous. Scientists must able to play with ideas even when they know that not everyone of them can be correct.

 

Thoughtful Christians often display that same kind of intellectual flexibility. Anyone who has grappled seriously with apparent theological paradoxes comes to realize that each extreme position may hold some partial truth but neither tells the whole story.

 

Scientists are trained to withhold judgement, to remain objective until all experimental results are in. Of course all possible results of all possible experiments are never in . Flexibility can harden into overarching scepticism, reluctance or inability to commit ourselves to any position. In practice, scientists will vigorously support an appealing hypothesis, the one they consider least likely to be falsified, because they believe in it.

 

In theory, at least, a scientists’ commitment to any hypothesis remains tentative. Yet no one gets to be a scientist without making a serious commitment of his or her life to the scientific community. Those who disparage religion caricature it as taking blind leaps of faith. Those who actually live by faith generally keep our eyes wide open — to see where we are going to land.

We are a new creation.

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15He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

16So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 18And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:15-18 (NLT)

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life ha begun!” Wow! Some translations put it this way: 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (ESV) Having received this gift of forgiveness of sin, this gift of Jesus, the new life through Him, you are a new creation. God is doing a new work in you. God has given you the new nature of Christ Jesus. God is working for you to know Him and to live according to calling you have received.

I pray for you that you will recall throughout this day, “I am a new creation of God in Christ Jesus my Lord!” Why? Because He died for you to bring you back to God!

We who are many form one body.

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4Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. Romans 12:4-5

The New Testament writers used many images to help followers of Jesus get the church. One of those images is the “Body of Christ.” Today we are the living representation of Jesus in and to the world. And you are a part of it. Paul writes here that you have a special function in the body of Jesus. You are a part of the body.

Here’s a challenging feature to our hyper-individualization as it comes to our idea of private spirituality and the church: we all belong together in Christ. Jesus has actually called us into relationship with each other. The cool feature is that as you grow and relate within the Body of Christ you will discover the special ways He has gifted you for the mission and ministry of the Church.  I’m glad to be in this family, His Body, and adventure of faith with you.

Never Separated!

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38And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

Belonging to Jesus means nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God. In Christ you are firmly in the grip of His love. And that is a reality yours by grace to never be changed by death, authorities, powers, fears for today or worries about the future. You are loved!