Sunday, 19 February 2017

Love's danger.


Love is a dangerous thing. I would scarcely recommend it. It’s not in your best self-interest. It’s suicidal in fact. Love changes things. It never leaves things as they are. If you love things as they are, that is, love yourself as you are, then love is not for you.

Love transforms without forewarning and it transforms to the extreme. It doesn’t stop at your call. It only stops until it is done transforming. And it stretches you beyond what you are willing to be stretched.

Love is counterintuitive too. It just doesn’t render the results expected. Love’s rewards may be betrayal. Love’s payback may be a broken heart. Love’s harvest may be a dark season of hurts, pain and disappointments. With love, the seeds you sow may not always yield the fruit you reap – at least not in the way you would expect it. It shatters your expectations.

If you want the happiness that this world offers, avoid love. Avoid it at all costs. Love is practically self-sabotaging. There is just no self in love. Love compels you to move out of yourself. It forces you to put yourself last. It demands that you serve others first. It is just foolish in the eyes of the world – it makes no sense. Is enlightened self-interest the way to save the world?

There is no instant gratification with love. The sweat of your brows come from the silent pain in your heart with love. Earthly pleasure is the antithesis of love. Hedonism goes against the grain of love.

Love constrains. It restricts your heart’s desires. It is a freedom killer, the venom to Thy Will Be Done. You can’t do what you want to do with love. It holds you back. It forbids. It forestalls. It forebears. It does things to annoy and infuriate. Love rises like a sore thumb in an otherwise self-enriching world.

Love asks too much in return for receiving too little – in the tangible. It is never a self-profiting bargain with love. The quid pro quo is self-defeating. If love is applied in the marketplace, you might as well be prepared to sell and give away all you own. You are nothing but just a steward, not a capitalist baron. Now, that’s a deal-killer in the real world. That’s a price too high to pay. That's a road no market-driven capitalist looking for the next big buck will trek.

Love is a totalitarian too. It dictates. It makes the rules. It overthrows, overrules and overcomes. It is relentless with the discipline of self. With love, you are bound by compelling passions beyond your control. And it makes you do things you don’t fully understand, or even want to understand.

Love makes you soft. It makes you wonder. It makes you give pause. It makes you look inside yourself. It makes you give in, let go, let off. It makes you embrace the unembraceable, forgive the unforgiveable, and do the impossible. Love will conquer you.

For this reason, the world gives love many demeaning labels. They call it weak. They call it foolish. They call it mindless, even hopeless.

I guess that is why CS Lewis forewarned us about love in The Four Loves:-

“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of perturbations of love is Hell.”

The greatest example of love is Calvary. It is an enduring example, an unforgettable devotion. A man hanged there once. He hanged there with two others. He hanged there not because of guilt, but because of love. He had forsaken all for love. He was a both a slave to love and the master of it. Jesus is love.

Jesus demonstrated to the world how weak, foolish, mindless and hopeless love can be as he hanged there bloodied, ugly, dying, tormented, unrecognizable, and unapproachable. He was the sacrifice of love. The ultimate price for a lost humanity.

Jesus experienced the things that CS Lewis mentioned above about giving oneself to love. He became vulnerable, broken. He was betrayed by a kiss, sold out for 30 pieces of silver. He was persecuted, whipped and tortured. He was abandoned, alienated and left to die. His heart was wrung, torn, aggrieved, and his body eventually gave in when he exclaimed, “It’s finished.”

But before he heaved his last breath, Jesus embraced the unembraceable, forgave the unforgiveable, and did the impossible. He gave his life to all and redeemed all. His death was the price and life was his gift.

In love, he came. In love, he lived. And in love, he rose. As promised, he left the world transformed, forever.

So, love is indeed a dangerous thing. CS Lewis was right – “There is no safe investment” with love. You lose yourself in love. You pay the highest price for love. Love’s sacrifice takes everything from you. Love’s labor also changes everything in you.

Once you surrender to love, you surrender to all things impossible. All of a sudden, love does things you can’t recognize yourself doing them.
In a marriage, love endures to the end. It fights for what truly matters. It compels you to commit with a passion you didn’t even know you had in the first place. The days may turn to months and the months turn to years and the years to decades, and yet love is never tired. It never wavers. It persists on. It is a stubborn transforming force.

In all relationships, love makes the first sacrifice, and it is always a lasting one. Love transcends human ability and transforms human inability. Love makes things happen which wouldn’t have happened without love.

And to love is to deny self. For it is said that every summons of Christ leads to death. The death of self. This echoes Bonheoffer’s sentiments fittingly: “When Christ bids a man come, he bids him come and die.” For to die to self is to live for love. And to live for love is to overcome, eventually. Love frees when self bleeds. Jesus is love. And there is no greater freedom than to be in Him. Let love rule your heart. Let it change you. Let it make you more like Christ. Cheerz.

Brokenness.


Two news today shook me. It's about abuse. The first one is about a business development manager with a Master's degree, Mok. He is currently out on bail pending appeal of the sentence of 22 months for five charges of commercial sex with a minor and unlawfully stalking her between 2014 and last May.
The other news is about the cry of a daughter, then only 13, whose father had been sexually abusing her. She was there for the whole 6-day trial with her mother and was relieved that her father was finally convicted.
For Mok, he did not want to let go of the girl he met when she was 15. He paid her for sex and when she told him that she is in a serious relationship and "wanted to stop the sexual activities to focus on rebuilding her life, (Mok) would not let her by threatening to expose her."
When her boyfriend found out about her past, he broke up with her and told her to report Mok to the police. Fyi, Mok is married with a two-year-old child.
Returning to the daughter in the second news, her father, a stall assistant, abused her in his master bedroom. She would use the room to do her school project as it had a computer. He would then lock the room and did as he pleases with his own daughter.
In April 2014, she had enough and sent the following text message to her mother:-
"Dad always say he loves me... but Dad does things that are not right to me. I love Dad... but I hate Dad when he does that to me. I am confused. I do not know how to handle this anymore. Most of the time when Dad did those things I want to tell you but I am scared. I am very scared that you will quarrel with Dad... I SMS because I cannot face you if I tell you this thing... I do not want to see you cry because it will make me feel guilty throughout my life...I am afraid to go home... I am very afraid. I am also afraid you will not believe me... Why would I text you about this thing if it is not true? I do not want to go home... I feel afraid... I feel that I am dirty. Very very dirty."
After that message, her mother drove her husband out of the house, reported to the police and saw to his trial and conviction.
Lesson? Just one. I wonder, what is a broken life? What redemption awaits a broken life? Is a broken life one where she cannot escape from her past no matter how she struggles to free herself from it?
It is said that our heart should be broken by the same thing that breaks the heart of God.
I wonder, what breaks the heart of God? Is it the travails of a girl who longs to be loved, but cannot free herself from the hands that had promised to protect her, but at the same time, had abused her?
Or is it the pain of a wife who is utterly betrayed by a union she thought she could trust and tormented by the tears of her daughter who had suffered in silence for years in order to protect her (mother)?
Or is God's heart broken by a man who had lived a lie for years, enslaved by an appetite he could not control, and refusing to confront it until it is too late?
Is the redemption of healing, forgiveness and reform beyond some lives because the hurt, betrayal and regrets are just too deep?
Alas, brokenness comes in many forms. But the worst one is when we allow it to become a part of us, that is, to let it become our identity where our painful past merges with our present and leaves no room for healing, growth and forgiveness in the future.
(It may be easier said than done here, but at some point, both the victim and yes, the perpetrator will have to go beyond words to take that first empowered step in the present to redeem their future, and everything potentially good about it, from their past for the sake of their own sanity, integrity and humanity).
As I close, let me say that I do not pretend to understand how a broken life truly feels - the struggles, the pain and the grief. Each heart breaks in her own way, and heals in her own time. Some wounds heal. Some will find wholeness again. Others will live with the pain, guilt and shame, struggling to put it all together, one piece at a time, for possibly a lifetime.
Nevertheless, I earnestly wish them the best in their road to full, if not, some recovery. For a wound no doubt exposes you. It reminds you of the past and the pain. But as time goes by, a wound covers you too. It will no doubt leave a scar. But it becomes by then a reminder of a different sort. It is a reminder of how you have grown, overcome and become stronger. So what is painful about a wound at first also becomes your silent healer over time. Cheerz.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Who are we?


I was sitting in my living room, wondering and listening to the version of Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time sung by Boyce Avenue. Then, this thought came to me:-

What a world we live in! It's a world full of hate, envy and hostility.

You will find this raging animus both inside and outside of religion. In fact, the irony is that we are supposed to be set apart from the world. Yet, the distinction has always been blurred, always.

If you drop an alien from outer space into the two worlds (that is, the secular or the religious), the alien would be deeply confounded when asked, "Isn't it obvious? Can’t you tell the difference?" The problem is, you can't - not always.

What is even sadder is that at times, the secular world appears to abide more faithfully with the commandment to love our neighbors than the religious world, where disappointments abound.

In my living room, I wonder: Have we conveniently forgotten the two greatest commandments Jesus gave to his disciples – that is, love God and our neighbors with all our heart, soul and mind? Isn't that the summation and consummation of love and everything else is merely footnotes, commentaries, annotations and even discursions?

Have we then been chasing the form of religion and not the substance, that is, pursuing Calvary's wooden cross and not the person hung there?

Dietrich Bonheoffer once said: "Those who live their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial."

Are we then the victims of Christian ideals gone awry? Are we zombies for perfection who have forgotten to put on warm human flesh on the cold dry bones of religiosity? What has really changed then after our conversion - everything else except ourselves?

In the book "A Fellowship of Differents”, Professor Scott McKnight challenges us to meditate on these questions that he poses:-

"If the church is a mixed salad or fellowship of differents, then...

We should see different genders at church. Do we?
We should see different socioeconomic groups at church. Do we?
We should see different races at church. Do we?
We should see different cultures at church. Do we?
We should see different music styles at church. Do we?
We should see different artistic styles at church. Do we?
We should see different moral histories at church. Do we?
We should see different forms of communication at church. Do we?
We should see different ages involved at church. Do we?
We should see different marital statuses at church. Do we?

Even more, if the church is a mixed salad in a bowl...

We should understand the Christian life as a fellowship. Do we?
We should understand it as a social revolution. Do we?
We should understand it as a life together. Do we?
We should understand it as transcending difference. Do we?
We should understand it as honoring difference. Do we?
We should understand it as enjoying difference. Do we?
We should understand it as love, justice, and reconciliation. Do we?”

Benny Hinn once recounted that his own 11-year-old daughter had a difficult time figuring him out. In an interview, he said, "One day she asked me a question that absolutely blew me away - from my own child! "Daddy, who are you? That man up there (onstage), I don't know." He added, "If my own child is asking that, surely the whole world is asking that."

…I guess the whole world is also asking the same about us. Who are we?

Here is my own list of questions in McKnight's style for our pondering as I close... 

…when we preach love in church and demonstrate hate at home. Who are we?
When we give to the church and take from the weak? Who are we?
When we insist that our interpretation of scripture is right and everything else is heresy. Who are we?
When we pray with both hands clasped and cast stones with both hands at gays, lesbians, prostitutes, homeless teens, ex-convicts and people with tattoos. Who are we?
When we sing praises in church and spread lies about our colleagues, bosses and competitors. Who are we?
When we proclaim to others that the truth shall set them free and remain imprisoned in our own fortress of lust, greed and envy. Who are we?
When we rejoice when a soul walks down the aisle and repulse at a soul who is more successful than us. Who are we?
When we boast about keeping all the commandments and commit murder, adultery and covetousness in our heart. Who are we?
When we are able to quote scriptures at a snap of our fingers and then use them to oppress others by instilling fear, guilt anxiety and shame. Who are we?
When we declare to the church that we are a new creation in Christ and return home or to office acting as if the old man has never been crucified with Christ. Who are we?

…and when we kneel down with open hands to receive our communion elements and distance ourselves from the communion of souls outside the church who are crying out to be understood, encouraged and loved. Who are we?

No, seriously...who are we?


Ps: Have a blessed Sunday service, anyway. Cheerz.