This morning at 6am I went to the local high school for See You At The Pole, a annual event where Christian students gather around the school flag pole and pray. I listened and watched and when it came time to pray in groups I found myself in a group with two youth pastors and one high school student.
When it was my turn to pray I I spoke aloud praying, "God give us your imagination--to see this school and this nation as you see it--and give us your eyes."
The students followed my prayer saying, "...as Wes said, 'give us your eyes' that when we look at the kids walking around this campus, we will see them with signs on them that say 'Hell Bound.'"
...Not what I had in mind when I was praying.
When she prayed that prayer, every memory I had from See You At The Pole, and other such events, when I was in school rushed to my memory. I suddenly saw myself in that girl, suddenly I was standing in her shoes. I could hear all the prayers I prayed when I was in high school and I could feel the panic that rushes through you when you walk the world thinking that everyone around you is going to hell. Perhaps, in that moment, God was answering my prayer, perhaps when I saw myself in that girl I was seeing with God's eyes.
Afterward I wondered if she really believed that. I wondered if she actually thought that when God looked at the people at her school all he saw, all he cared to see, was that they were "hell bound." I thought about how that would effect the way someone approached their neighbors and their world. There is a big difference between, for example, seeing "hell bound" as apposed to seeing "worthy to save." My hope is that when God sees people he sees them for who they are, all their amazing gifts and qualities. I prefer to think that God sees something precious in even our most corrupted state. I prefer to think that God sees beauty where we see corruption and condemnation. This is how I am learning to see people and I hope that God sees them this way. If He does not, then who is my teacher?
It is interesting how students take our statements and our questions and pull something out of it that they can understand from their context--even if what we said had nothing to do with what they are saying. It is indeed a difficult thing to teach people. This is what I'm finding at youth group as well. When I ask a leading question trying to get students to think about their beliefs, I have thrown back a me a recited or time-honored tradition that simply doesn't make sense to me anymore.
Did I really think all those things back then?
Excellent post! I think this articulates that how and why we seek someone out is as important as seeking them out.
The I’m OK you’re OK idea of “Christianity” has influenced us for half a century or more giving us a bad taste in our mouths when we hear the starkness of truth. Isaiah tells us that our sin was rolled upon Him speaking of the Cross event. No one looking at the Cross - not the stripped one but the one with the little man on it as I once heard a little child say - can truthfully say those not in Christ are OK because the out thereness of that man who became sin for us is in your face. Having eyes to see has two answered visions. One the seeing of the believer and the other the seeing of the non - believer. Followers of Yahweh look upon the Cross they see their sin there - rightly so He took it upon Himself. In turn the believer who then turns to the world seeing those not in Christ with eyes open to truth can not but see the sin upon those around them. Moreover what they see is the image of the Crucified walking around -destination Hell. If Jesus’ sacrifice reveals reality we can not look away we can not cover it up whitewash it because if we do the urgency is lost. The difficultness, the offence is not seeing hellbound all around but in teaching those who see, how to touch that one who bears their own sin and walks around in a state of crucifixion.
do you think I am saying that "I'm ok and you're ok." That's not at all my point here. I believe that God looks at people with the imagination that it takes to love the sinner WITH their sin, not whitewashing anything. I believe that God refuses to see us as merely "hell bound" but continuously insists, even to the point of death, that the world is "very good" (Genesis 1). I mean to give no commentary in this post as to who is in and who is out soteriologically.
That is not quite what I meant, I used that concept to express a pluralism that equates non - confrontation based upon an egalitarian view of spiritualitlty that has softened the idea that conversion is necessary without long explanation. The expression of that young lady to me is refreshing because the time I have spent with youth in recent times there is no concept that there is a hell let alone that someone might be headed there, even among Christian youth.
The falleness of man like the opening of our eyes at first light each day is the starting point without that the imagination needed to understand creation as good and man as Yahweh’s image contrasted by the state of the world and the people in it at this time can be over looked. Wedged between the unfallen past and the restored future eternity is time broken and starkly different from the original intent but still good all the same - I am not a Gnostic.(I know you did not say or imply that) To begin with an understanding that this is not right provides the urgency to find ways to turn around the hell bound because there is a cleft to fall over. I hope that clears things up a little.
I get what you are saying and I agree that there should be a sense of urgency but I disagree with much of what you are saying. Perhaps the hell in our own backyards should be the focus of that urgency and not the guilty-until-proven-innocent perspective which was reflected in that girls statement. If you knew the youth in my town you might have more clarity as to why I am cautious against such a condemnation driven perspective. I wish our perspectives were driven more by the good news that all people are accepted by God and called to live the eternal kind of life now. Perhaps I am just thinking of sin in less juridic terms.
Thanks for your thoughts on this.
Forgive them, Wes. They are just doing what they see their God doing. We all do what we see our God doing. Show me someone's view of their fellow man, and I'll show you their God.
And until they repent (change their mind) about "who God is", they will continue down the same path. But, it's OK. The work of the Cross of Christ brought redemption to them as well, and someday they will realize it and be saved from their illusions. We all will...
It's been a long time Bruced.
I hope you are right. I believe we have room to hope that all should be saved... though at the same time I believe we should have have a sense of urgency. God has called us to participate in his work in the world.
you’ve touched on why why i think ‘see you at the pole’ is an immense missed opportunity.
the girl at the pole, and others, ‘prayed’ in condemnation and judgement. to see everyone around you as hell bound is to make an immense judgement, a huge condemnation, without any thing to go on. we can’t help the initial judgements we feel, but we can respond as jesus would respond, by engaging in conversation and relationship, with connection for something further. imagine if you had dropped your hands, and said to the pole girl, ‘let’s you and i go talk with one of those hell bound, and engage them in conversation, and find out what their life is like,’ imagine what this says about engaging others in jesus. instead, the judgements and condemnations are left unchallenged, and worse, given the unchallenged sanction of prayer.
if ‘see you at the pole’ is about principle, and presence, either in-your-face or quiet, and it is not used as an opportunity to engage with others, then it is merely a plank in the eye of the pray-er. and prayer at the pole may be something, some kind of witness, but it is not prayer, and it is not rooted in engaged relationship, as jesus would call us to do. there is no need for ‘see you at the pole’ to be a missed opportunity like this.
We, I tend to see it a little differently. I think God calls us to "breathe"... breathe Him in, and breathe Him out. And in between breaths, be at peace.
But I'm just an old coot!
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