Being Ourselves

We need to relearn how to be "ourselves" and unlearn how to be anything else. In one of our church's Christmas services, our pastor read a poem which described Christmas as a time of generosity in which we could "be ourselves"--the presupposition being that "ourselves" really means people of generosity, people of compassion, cheerfully willing to offer our service at no charge to the people around us, and ready to give and to celebrate... just like it's Christmas. Perhaps that's our true identity. Just like Scrooge on Christmas morning.

Sometimes in church we talk as though "we" are naturally sinful (and of course I know that there are plenty of proof-texts to support that) and that being Christlike really means becoming something other than who we really are by nature. But think about sin for a moment. Can sin ever really be described as "natural"? not if you take the Imago Dei, our being created in God's image, seriously. When we read the first chapters of Genesis we discover that sin comes from the outside, Genesis 1 & 2 come first and then Genesis 3 brings sin. Sin is described as a curse and a curse is something placed upon or imposed externally. Our nature, who we really are, is what we find in Genesis 1 & 2--people created in the image of God, to reflect his image, in whom all creation is culminated and through whom all creation is blessed by God and identified as "very good." Our nature is blessing not curse. And God, throughout scripture and history, refuses to give up on us, refuses to concede our nature to sin, and continuously affirms in action that we are just who he created us to be (the description of which is found in the Torah). Christ, through death and resurrection, redeems us and restores our identity so that we may be free from the curse and free to be ourselves again.

There is curse everywhere and we need to let it know that it has been defeated by Christ. There are all sorts of external forces--some of which find their way into our hearts so as to become internal--forces which teach us to be that which we are not. Forces of need, of greed, of desire, and of fear teach us that our charity is to be anxiously protected through self-concern and that we must seek something in return for our generosity if ever we are to survive. Forces of scarcity, violence, and hatred teach us that compassion is impossible because "some people are just gonna have to starve to death" and we just have to worry about ourselves so we don't find ourselves in need. We worry and we fear and we are led through these forces of need and doubt to sin against brother, sister, and God. To all of this, Jesus says,
"...Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?...But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
In Christ we have the freedom of redemption--a freedom to be free--a freedom to be ourselves, to be generous, compassionate, loving, and even self-sacrificial amongst the forces which try to convince us that we are something else. Even in the midst of a market which says "you need this" and "you need that," even in the midst of a world economy which tells us that the only way to live is at the expense of the hungry poor around the world, and even in the midst of powers and principalities which coerce and oppress, we have the freedom to offer service freely, to give generously, to live simply, and to celebrate each other... just like Christmas... this is our true nature.