Only Half Human
It's fair to say some of my convictions have shifted in the last decade, but the bigger shift has come in the heart, or to be more Biblical, in my bowels, the seat of emotion, the actual place we feel heartache, frustration, or pure joy. I'm going to say something I may never say again, in this category, the Old King James outpaces all other translations, specifically in its usage in Colossians 3:12:
Put on therefore, as [the] elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering;
I was a child who searched for right answers. I've heard a lot of sermons during my summers as I navigated various 6+ ton, air conditioned, farm implements across Northwest fields. By the time harvest was in full swing, I was listening to 10 to 15 sermons a week, stuffing my brain with information, rigid unfeeling knowledge.
I used to be gnostic, a heresy as old as the New Testament, the notion that all that is physical is evil and worthy of destruction. The way to salvation was through a building of secret knowledge linked with denial of flesh and all that it represented, namely emotion. Gnostics believed Jesus came in the appearance of human flesh but never actually became physical, thus avoiding the evil of atoms glued together with hormones.
But Jesus was flesh, bowels plumb full of Jewish hutzpah and hummus. When He talked about the kingdom he didn't put it in theological jargon, he spoke of man fully alive, set free from all that kept him from being fully human. He told emotionally charged poetry, balled his eyes out over Jerusalem, balled again when his friend died, got angry at people who used religious power to thumb down exploitable individuals, and was according to the overly intellectual pharisees, the life of the party.
Or look at it this way, Jesus had sexuality. Of course we all get up in arms when someone tries to write a book that has Jesus married and sexually active, but if Jesus was both fully God and human, then He (like 99% of the human population) probably had a sexual identity, though I don't believe he ever acted on it. He took on the human experience, why would he go through all that in order to be 'with us' but then cut it short at sexuality?
He became all that we are because he came to redeem all that we are.
Rachel Evans, a few weeks after the Sandy Hook shooting, wrote a post called The Scandal of the Evangelical Heart. She wondered, as I did, why so many were so quick to respond with emotionally neutered/perfunctory theological statements.
And I suspect this explains why, in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, so many evangelical leaders responded like Job’s friends, eager to offer theological explanations for what happened instead of simply sitting down in the ashes and weeping with their brothers and sisters.
Rachel was speaking to my own emotional disfunction that I continue to work through, that God continues to redeem. I used to operate on the notion of love as an intellectual concept, as if simply declaring the motives of my actions loving (which I defined as simply telling the truth) made them loving. But the Bible doesn't speak of God's love in terms foreign to us, bowls of compassion means compassion that you feel in your gut.
The heart made new doesn't spit emotionally void or angry theology; it is unmistakably compassionate for all, including it's physical and ideological enemies. Jesus did after all say, even an emotional child would love those who love them already (My paraphrase of course).
If I have to explain to someone that I am actually compassionate, then I'm probably not all that compassionate. We don't do ourselves any favors by claiming to be something we aren't (in fact, any feigning of maturity that I put on only stunts real growth). Genuine love is not put on like a coat. Mother Theresa never had to explain to people that she was actually full of love and compassion, and yet she was able to publicly declare America a culture of death (both for it's love of abortion and warfare) without marring her compassionate reputation.
If all aspects of speaking the truth in love are vitally important, by my meager understanding of what unmistakeable love looks like, as a collective voice (which I have far too often added to in my short life) we're still only half human.
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Thirty seconds after posting this I came across a fantastic example of another man genuinely transformed and unmistakably compassionate.
One of the inmates then asked him why he had come to visit them. (Pope) Francis said it was to "help me to be humble, as a bishop should be." He said he wanted to come "from my heart. Things from the heart don't have an explanation."