the death of ego

The book of Leviticus starts out talking about burnt offerings, not an extremely relevant topic these days.  The idea of the burnt offering was that the entire thing would be consumed so that no one would benefit.  That’s probably why it is called a sacrifice. Going the way of most pure tradition, this became corrupted over time.

We see in the book of 1 Samuel where one of Eli’s sons, “treat[s] the LORD’S offering with contempt.”[1] Further down the road the Psalmist writes “I have no need of a bull from your

stall or of goats from your pens, If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.”[2] God is asking, “Do you think I’m hungry?  Is that why you think I set up the sacrificial system?”

I was reading an author this week that talks about the real purpose behind the system.  He says that it is to project your ego onto the animal and thus to sacrifice your ego.[3] The whole idea was to admit that your ego needed to die.

This got me thinking.  What needs to die in me?  If I were a living sacrifice what would truly be different about me?  What would people notice?



[1] 1 Samuel 2:17

[2] Psalm 50:9;12

[3] Wink, Walter.  The Powers That Be.

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flagged content

I was reading an article today about content that people upload to the Internet. The article talked about the people whose job it is to review flagged content and remove it. People were thinking that this would be a pretty sweet job but when it came down to it, they were looking at disturbing images day after day. People began passing out at their desks. There were images so graphic that employees would vomit all over their work space.

It’s sad that the people who filter images and content on the internet have to go through so much mental trauma. These are pictures of dead bodies, sexually explicit images, excessive violence, child pornography and animal abuse.

Here is a quote from a former MySpace executive:

“You have 20-year-old kids who get hired to do content review, and who get excited because they think they are going to see adult porn,” said Hemanshu Nigam, the former chief security officer at MySpace. “They have no idea that some of the despicable and illegal images they will see can haunt them for the rest of their lives.”

This got me to think about the images we see every day that don’t make us vomit all over ourselves but are equally brutal. Images that show death or violence are so pervasive. Images that are sexually explicit creep in to the shows and movies that we watch. All of this is formative.

When I read this article I got to thinking that the people who take the jobs as screeners don’t last long because of the immense amount of trash they see on a daily basis, but we see it over a lifetime and probably a far greater amount. These graphic images seep into our conscientiousness as well.

I wonder if we are the ones who are sick and need counseling. Those who have taken jobs removing flagged content vomit, have terrible dreams, are in need of counseling, and arehaunted by these images for the rest of their lives. We go to extremely violent movies and say, “that was awesome!” We kill bad guys in video games and have the times of our lives.

So who’s sick?

Who needs counseling?

Maybe the only difference between those who remove flagged content is we are slowly conditioned to accept what is all around us. We gradually grow up with more and more violence; it gradually creeps into our minds that violence is the answer; pretty soon we can’t think of a way to resolve conflict without a violent act.

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vicious cycles

Tamar was one of the daughter’s of David.  David was the King of Israel and he had a big public moral failure.  He saw a beautiful woman named Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop and he had to have her.  He sent his servants to bring her to his palace for a romantic evening.

Only, she was already married and her husband was off to war.

David used his authority to have sex with her.  Saying “no, I’m married,” to a king doesn’t quite work.  Today we would call this rape.

The thing is, David had seen this girl grow up.  Her husband was one of David’s protectors as he was running from another king, Saul.  David knew this family well.

Guess who got pregnant?  So David called Bathsheba’s husband home from war (so they could have sex and make it look like the husband was the real father).  When this man, who was David’s really good friend, refused to go to his wife, David knew what he had to do.  Murder was his only option.

David had just murdered his good friend and raped his wife.

Which brings us back to beautiful Tamar, the daughter of David.  David had another son named Amnon.  He was fixated with his sister.  He was in love with her but she wouldn’t give up the goods.

Amnon devised a plan.  He pretended to be sick, and then he forced himself on her, raping his own sister.

Some time later another son of David’s becomes so enraged about Amnon’s actions that he murdered him.

Vicious cycles.

The example set by generations past.

There are some great cycles; sometimes you will hear about five generations of firefighters or doctors. But other times we see the vicious cycle of teenage pregnancies, prison or alcoholism.

Either way, decisions and lifestyles are passed down through the generations.

Tonight I witnesses four teenagers make a commitment to break vicious cycles in their life.  They made a declaration that when they are fathers, they will be married and stay that way. They made a declaration that they will be involved in the lives of their kids.  They said that addiction would not be aloud into their families.  Today is the day that these four teens decided that they would be men.

We are just going to call it 7.17.10.

Today is the day that these men decided to stop vicious cycles.  They said, “It ends with me.”

If four teenagers can stand up and be men in the face of cycles of evil that have plagued their families for years, I think you can too.

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enemy love

The absolute hardest and most rewarding thing that you will ever do is decided to love your enemies.  There are so many people throughout time who have made the revolutionary decision to show love to people who only hate them in return.

One of the General Superintendents of the Wesleyan Church, JoAnne Lyon tells a story of a trip to Sierra Leone, Africa.  She talks about a man whose arm was cut off at the elbow durring one of the revolutions there.  (Death squads would terrorize villages and cut off limbs just to show their dominance in the area)  She tells of meeting this man and the time the man came face to face with his attacker.  Years after his arm was cut off he simply hugged him and said, “I forgive you.”  Because of the love shown they are now friends.

Loving your enemies is powerful, It’s healing, and in the eyes of the world its stupid.  Politically, loving your enemies won’t sell.  Defense contractors provide too many jobs to let love win as a political position.  Also, we are a people who need revenge to feel like justice has been served.  Somehow justice has been perverted to mean revenge.

It seems so simple and yet so difficult. I don’t think any politician will ever get elected on a platform of loving the Talaban or sending baskets of flowers to Al Queda.  On the other hand, how effective has war been in bringing about change?  It seems to me like it just brings more war.

Love can be defined a billion different ways, but for the sake of this post, I am simply going to say that love is wanting good things to happen to others.  Think of the people you might wish harm upon.  Is it helpful?  Was it productive?  Do you feel better now?

Probably not.

I am naive enough to think there is a third way that is possible in this world.  A way that doesn’t include war but builds mutual trust.  A way that involves lobbing love overseas versus lobbing bombs.   And I’m not a hippie.

I think that people can show their governments what is possible when love becomes our primary concern.  We can look at the civil rights movement in the United States and see that this third way has been put into practice in an effective way.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a policy of active non-violent resistance to racist laws.  They boycotted busses, they risked death, they were thrown in prison and they were beaten to a pulp.  MLK’s response, “We will wear them out with our ability to suffer.”  They were clearly engaged in a different kind of battle with different kinds of tactics.  Their enemies very slowly turned to friends.

Jesus encouraged people to take the soldiers pack the extra mile.  I read a commentator who said that Jesus knew that if they would only get to know each other then they might not want to fight each other.   The idea of walking the pack an extra mile is to surprise the soldier with love and start a conversation.

All through the Bible there are examples of enemy love.  Elijah heals the widow’s son, Elisha healed Naaman the leper, God sends Jonah to warn Ninivah and Jesus just says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

I wonder if this is some sort of divine example.  As a people who have been ruined by sin are we the enemies of God?  Does God love us anyway?  Does God now call us friends?  Maybe God wants us to love our enemies because it is exactly what he is doing with us.

Some might remain enemies.  Some notice the act of love, begin a conversation and realize that they don’t really want a fight.  They realize that a friendship really is the best way to go.

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sacrifice

William Tyndale has got to be one of my heroes.  Here is a guy who is gifted with languages, a biblical scholar, a priest, and a complete radical. Tyndale was alive during a period known as the reformation in the 1500’s.

He wasn’t flashy.

He didn’t want much.

Tyndale was having a conversation with some of his colleagues.  He was talking about his God who he loved.  He was telling of the perfection and the unity of this collection of books.  He was amazed, in love with God’s revelation to humanity.

In response the other priests very mockingly said that they were better off with the law of the Pope rather than the law of God.

Tyndale very famously responded that, “If God spare me, before many years I will cause a boy that driveth a plough to know more of the Scriptures than you do.”

Then he did.  He smuggled Bibles.  He translated scripture so people could read it.  He had a deep sense of what was right.  He had a mission.

He was guided by his passion, his conviction of the scriptures and his ability to sacrifice.

Sacrifice is tough.  It takes time, money energy and sometimes your ability to stay sane.  If we look at the church reformers, if you look at any of the people who have done something amazing in their life, there usually is a story of sacrifice.

Tyndale sacrificed his life so the common man can have a Bible.  We take that for granted when we get find a Gideon Association Bible in our hotel room.

If you want to do something great in your life then you have to be willing to sacrifice for it.  You must be willing to give your entire self to the dream.  Because if there is anything that history tells us, it is that the people who sacrifice make the biggest change happen.

What will you sacrifice for?  What will you give yourself too?  What is important enough to take your time, your passion and your energy?

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