Saturday, April 02, 2011

From wrath to apocalypse (4)

So what is the nature of Christian imagination? There can in our lives be a temptation to long for an apocalypse in the gnostic and dualist sense, i.e. to see all the bad people go to hell. It is rooted in a hatred of the present system and a desire for judgement.  It is a very human response that those who are suffering, or those who care about those who are suffering, long for God to act, for there to be same cataclysm and to say “destroy it because it is causing so much pain”.  That is the psychological root of the desire for apocalypse.  It is closely tied in to a sense of judgement and discrimination.  It doesn’t even have to be “I am innocent”, so much as “they are guilty, God destroy them, God damn them!”
This is not the Christian perspective. We are taught ever so clearly and directly that we are not to judge.  What this means isn’t just “I’m not going to blame someone for something”, it is a call for Christians to let go of the whole game and business of judging, of blaming, completely. That language and grammar is what drives apocalypse and we are to abandon that language and grammar. We are not called to let go of discrimination, of seeking to discern what the will of God is, but we are called to stop playing the game of “this lot are the righteous, we keep the rules, we keep the law, and that lot are not”.  It is to accept that everyone is in the same boat, that we are all sinners, we are all liable to judgement, and therefore giving up on judgement as a whole. So we do not just give up judgement of other people, but also of ourselves – and by doing this we are set free from “the curse of the law”. 
Jesus says we must be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect and He gives a wonderful image of what that perfection is, saying that the Father sends the rain on the just and the unjust. There is no judgement in the rain, it is not that the wicked have a dark cloud above them pouring down rain and thunder and lightning! There is something much more generous and open-hearted about the perfection which we are called to follow. This is the heart of the Christian way, that we let go of the process of judgement, of seeking to separate out the good and the evil. Think of what original sin is, when you bite the fruit you get the knowledge of good and evil, and what Jesus is doing is overcoming that original sin, He is taking away the consequences of that knowledge of good and evil and therefore “I’m good, you’re evil”, or even “I’m evil and you’re good” are both of them a long way from the Christian point of view.

We must let go of this process, and the spiritual root of that letting go is a settled acceptance of the Father’s will. This is the Gethsemane moment: “Not my will but thine be done” and allowing God to be in charge of all judgement. Obedience, therefore, is more central to what it means to be a Christian than “being good”. To be obedient is to have our imaginations shaped by who Christ is and what He shows, to follow in the steps that He has laid out for us. It is about how we hope.

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