Simplicity

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to have a simple faith. I know this is fairly ironic, considering that I’m currently attending a program designed to make me theologically precise and articulate. But really, the more I read about theology, the more I’m convinced I should be living out a simple faith.

What do I mean by simple faith? I mean one that is dominated by one commitment, to love as strongly and deeply as you can. In a world where Christians are increasingly gaining reputations for hypocrisy, judgementalism, and a whole host of other negative adjectives, every once in a while you hear something truly heartening. For example, the young Christian lesbian who came out to her very conservative parents who, while disagreeing, welcomed her and her girlfriend into their home. This friend of mine recounted to me that one day, her deeply conservative father looked at her and said that since sin is a thing characterized by bad or damaging fruits, and since her relationship seemed to be building her faith and building her character, he would stop preaching her sin to her when she came home. Her mom and dad decided to let the judgment be between her and God, and to continue loving her in all ways.

That, to me, exemplifies the heart of simple faith. When it comes down to it, my biggest aspiration is to know on my death bed that I have loved as violently as I can. I’m not so great at that right now. I’m judgmental and grouchy and really not all that interested in being kind to strangers. Every once in a while, I get a pang of conscience that I should look at someone and really see them, but those moments are few and far between. But I aspire to be someone better.

I think theology is important. I think it informs the kind of life you lead, because it informs your understanding of the way the world works. But at the end of the day, I would prefer to put aside the intellectually based faith I so often fall into when studying theology, and instead take up a faith that is lived daily, simply, and without ostentation.

Simplicity is, after all, a Christian virtue. But we so often interpret that as a call away from physical goods and to a life of austerity. What if that external simplicity is just a physical posture to represent the way our souls work? What if the call of simplicity is also a call to simple love, to acts of service, to a faith that informs not just the way you worship but also the way you ultimately make day-by-day decisions?

When I talk about this thought with some of my friends here at school, they frequently remind me of the adulteress whom Christ forgives, and then tells to “go and sin no more.”  Isn’t it the Christian’s duty to love and to convict as well? Aren’t we to speak the truth with love into lives clearly in need of salvation? I think those are valid points, but I also think that Christ’s example should be looked at with the clear understanding that He is a unique happening in history. Christ was, well, Christ. God-Incarnate. Human and divine. And I have this feeling that Christ actually knew how to balance and convey both truth and love in His words, an area that I myself am sorely lacking in. I can’t do things perfectly. I can’t even do them half-well. So if I’m going to make an error, I would prefer to err on the side of too much love. If you speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have no love in conveying your message, then of what use are you to the good news?

I’m not sure I’ve articulated much of anything here. I want to be the sort of person who can say truthfully that the love of God compels me to love.

By Their Fruits

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

A few years ago, I went to a Discipleship Training School with YWAM. It’s six-month-long program aimed at missions work and spiritual formation specifically out of a more charismatic stream of Christianity. One of their biggest teachings was from John 10:10, teaching that you can always recognize the work of the Devil by his fruits – the works of the Devil steal, kill, and destroy, and the fruits of Christ is life. Like, not just spiritual life, but literal life as well. The DTS equipped me well, and the things I learned (and continue to learn) from their teachings are invaluable. They didn’t quite serve their purpose though – during the trip, I learned that I don’t have a specific call to missions, and certainly do have a call to the university I currently attend.

However, this teaching about fruit – that Satan steals, kills, and destroys, and that Christ restores, revives, and protects – has stuck with me as the most accurate barometer for understanding Christian ministry.  And today I have a question for my fellow evangelical Christians.

What is the fruit of our teaching and positions on LGBT issues?

I’m not a theologian. I’m not qualified to discuss the correct hermeneutic paradigm for interpreting so-called “clobber passages” in the Bible specifically denouncing homosexual sexual activity. Funny that I’m saying that, since as an honors student, you’d expect me to be more proud about it. But let’s be honest. I’m an undergraduate student whose emphasis is nowhere near theology.

I’m not a theologian, but I do know that a good tree cannot bear bad fruits, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruits. And currently, the fruits of the common stances about homosexuality and other LGBT+ issues is not life, and life abundantly. It is condemnation, it is death, it is pain and suffering.

It’s time for us as Christians to get our heads out of the sand. However much we might declare “love the sin, hate the sinner;” we have never listened to the people we claim to “love.” We do not credit their stories of emotional abuse, abandonment, familial rejection, bullying, physical assault (the list could go on) as having anything to do with what we teach as a church to a nation with a 78% Christian population. Oh no, that’s just the result of loving the sinner and hating the sin.

This is not life. This does not bear the marks that we know, as Christians, show up when the things we do are from truth, from love, from God.

I can’t say what the right teaching in. But I do know that we are doing things horribly, horribly wrong. And unless the evangelical church as a whole recognizes this, we will continue to sin against our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as all Image-Bearers in our words, thoughts, and deeds concerning these issues.

The first step is to admit you have a problem.

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

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A Brief (Re)Introduction

It is almost exactly 365 days since I last put fingers to keyboard in an attempt to blog. The more I learn about myself, the more I realize that blogging is, for me, an essentially selfish act in which I chronicle thoughts I would not normally share in an attempt to remove them from my mind. A glorified type of journal, if you will. I’ve always found old-fashioned journals to be rather pointless: Why would I write down my thoughts if only I will ever read them? Do I really need to remind myself of the thoughts that simply won’t go away? It’s a redundant form of excising my thoughts, which is where a hypothetical audience comes in. If I frame this record in terms of an imaginary audience, I can justify lancing the abscess of my thoughts in an uncomfortably public medium.

However, as I’ve contemplated posting on my previous blog, I came to the realization that it no longer accurately represented where I am at now. After all, I first started that record in 2008, at the cusp of a rather dark time. Teenage turmoil is deserving of expression and respect, but I’ve come to realize that while I still live in a state of turmoil, it is of a more mature nature. I do not feel like my current struggles should be juxtaposed with my previous ones, and for that reason I have elected to move this fresh start to a new home on the internet.

Now that we’ve placed that explanation, I’d like to introduce myself (or reacquaint myself with previous followers). My name is Sarabeth, and I’m a 21-year-old autodidactic polymath. I’m currently in university, studying music composition to eventually enter a field relating to acoustical architecture or AV design. If there is a hard way to do something, chances are I will find it and then do it because I have a trick of making things unnecessarily difficult for myself. I was home-schooled in high school, and I’m still in the process of figuring out what things I learned, be it from my immediate family or from the community, are worthy of believing, and what things are truly harmful and should be ignored. Truth is very important to me, and as a result, I’ve also pursued a great-books program instead of the normal general education requirements. If you think I’m a hipster and pretentious because of this, that’s probably correct. My only defense is that I am extremely concerned with what it means to be human, and how to be good at being human. I figure I have a better chance of succeeding if I read the thoughts of people who have forgotten more philosophy than I’ve learned, than of finding it in the shallow, narcissistic society of my country. In addition to the Bachelor of Music I’m working on and the honors program, I also work as a TA for one of my professors and an audio technician. I can sleep when I’m dead.

In terms of personal life, I have a wonderful significant other who challenges me and supports me daily, even when I’m difficult. My family and my heart is in Seattle, as is my cat. I’ve traveled to Australia, Southeast Asia, and as of this last January, Rome. I’ll likely blog about Rome once I get my feet under me. I play violin and I’m beginning to re-explore my love of writing. I’m still in the process of figuring out who I am, really. All I know for certain is that I have occasionally felt a peace that overwhelms my ability to understand, and I am in desperate pursuit of that peace. I love peace, I love respect, I love wisdom, and I love the company of good friends, good tea, good conversations, and good music. Also, a cat.

If you feel inclined, please join me in this ramble. I’m trying to find my blind spots and my prejudices, and I don’t always succeed. But if you’ll bear with me, I’ll keep writing.