I have a new Facebook friend, named Jeremy whom I have come to really like a lot. He is a friend of a previous student of mine and he is willing to ask me – a stranger – questions about what I believe and think. Anyone who knows me knows that I love that. I love wrestling through ideas and beliefs, especially when they have anything to do with what I call Worldview or Christianity or Truth or Spiritual Things. So here goes Jeremy, my answer to your question:
A Sort of Answer to Jeremy from Jane
By Jane Tawel
February 2, 2017
Do not imagine, Jeremy, that I feel that what I am going to say is adequate or will answer your deep question, even though it is a very long and circular answer. I do circuitously and at length usually answer most everything, even when asked a simple, “How are you”– just ask anyone who is acquainted with me. If you don’t feel like reading all this I will understand and you can skip to the very last paragraph or two.
In his preface to “The Active Life”, Parker Palmer says something that speaks to how I am going to try to answer your question. About his own writing and knowledge, Parker says: (Jane’s side comments are bolded in parentheses): “It is a mistake to imagine that writers (dare I insert “Christians”?) are experts on the things they write about—at least, it is a mistake in my case! I write about things I am still wrestling with, things that are important to me but that I have not yet figured out. Once I master something (for me that is never — mastered that is– so far!), I put it behind me. I lose the passionate curiosity that writing a book requires. I write to explore vexing questions and real dilemmas, to take myself into territories I have never seen before in hopes of understanding myself and the world a bit better, (dare I say understanding Christ and His Kingdom better?).”
So, Jeremy, I write because I am an often afraid, worried, pretty inadequate, but passionately desiring –to- know human being. I say “dare”, because I am metaphorically the woman who pours perfume on Christ’s feet, having no or at least little idea of what I am doing and whether I am “right or not”– only knowing I want to find a way to know this Jesus better and to be able to someday be welcomed into His Kingdom. I pour out words like perfume, in a pathetic attempt to wrestle with God’s truth and seek God’s blessing, as Jacob did, and to pour out my love for the Savior who saved me and guides me.
So one thing you should know, Jeremy, before you go on, is that I guess the first pouring out of a perfume/idea is that I do not believe “praying the sinner’s prayer” makes you a disciple of Jesus. It is a very, very good start, but it is only a start. Being a disciple means studying and following –being born again, being twisted and molded into a whole new being. It means giving over everything to His Refiner’s fire – heart, soul and mind. It means less of me and more of Him. It means becoming the least of the least. (Matthew 11:11 and Matt. 20:16) But most of all being a disciple of Jesus means taking up Christ’s Cross. That is not “your cross”, that is His. (Matt. 16:24) The cross was a punishment for a criminal, it was literal death, and for a religious Hebrew, spiritual death. For Jesus, of course it was a misunderstood yet humiliating public spectacle; in Christ’s case for a man who was considered and condemned as a traitor to both his nation of Rome and the nation of Israel (the people of Jehovah). The cross was a humiliating event meant to shame in excruciating death while causing the most suffering, and for The Christ it was also a deep heart and Soul suffering—a suffering by God! for the people who had actually sinned against God – which ironically of course did not include the one man who took it up willingly, revealing Himself to be The Promised Son of Man, the Messiah.
None of us can take up The Cross – The One Way, Truth and Life as Jesus did because He did it once and for all for the whole world. And yet we are called to take His cross as we take Christ’s yoke, walking as best we can in tandem with Him as Jesus takes the burden once and for all. (Matt 11:30) This is the great mystery of The Cross. The important thing is, “my cross” is my “deep heart suffering” for a lost world, my willingness to give up all of “me” for the salvation of others.
All of that to say, when we call ourselves, “little Christs”, which is what Christian means, we do so with humility and trepidation and suffering and eyes trained completely on Jesus, the revelation to us of the Father’s heart and the modeled life lived as the one True God’s behavior. A behavior that comes from grief for His people, a willingness to listen and suffer with His people, and a desire for truth, justice, grace, mercy, and love combined in a way which we as sinners and temporal beings see only as if “through a foggy glass”. (I Corinthians 13:12) We suffer for and with others and the weird hard thing about the Jesus Way is that the others must be our enemies, the hardest people we could imagine to suffer for–if we are to go The Jesus Way. My problem is, we as Christians seem to be choosing power over love and choosing to suffer for the people it is easiest to suffer for, not the people it is hardest to suffer for. We have become the priests and rulers who see people in need, broken people and we cross to the other side of the road so we don’t have to spend time or money or thought or get our hands dirty by helping. We feel safer condemning the outsider while coddling our own, raising lukewarm baby Christians and hardening the hearts of those who don’t believe. So the Samaritan, which would be what we think of as today’s non-believer, or, unsettling thought for most Christians, the wayfarer who today is perhaps a Muslim, has to model a God we say we have the corner on. It is not up to us to choose whom to help but we “cross the road” and thereby leave up to others the opportunity to model a God they may not believe in but –in the image of God– they unknowingly serve Him by helping the needy. Of course there are lots of Christians giving up their lives and livelihood to help others, but … that wasn’t your question to me exactly so I am being as hard on myself as possible.
So, Jeremy, you asked me a question about what I believe about abortion and I thought I would try to answer you here because there is no way Facebook could handle this long- winded response. My caveat is that it is a response for only today with the sure knowledge that tomorrow – maybe even five minutes from now– I will need to find a new lens, a new glass, a new heart, a “renewed” mind (Ephesians 4:23, Romans 12: 1 & 2) in order to see even more clearly how the “narrow path” leads me (Matthew 7:14). As Augustine said, “I err, therefore I am” and perhaps the way Jane best errs is by writing.
Jeremy, I think my point to you in a previous post on this was not to argue one way of seeing a national policy in Christian or biblical terms. Rather it was to create an inner dialogue for myself and maybe someone else. My point is more to fellow seekers and believers and that is this: The Bible is a big, big, big book with many, many calls on a person’s life if that person wants to take it seriously as the only inspired Word of God. We take it “in parts” greatly to our peril. And we should only and ever use and wield God’s Word as the sword of God with humility and love. I love “conversing” with you because you are thinking, listening and digging in.
The Bible has many examples of people (see Paul and Peter) who vehemently disagreed on things, who had to talk and listen and be content that they would not reach a mutual agreement or conclusion. And yet we call them saints because they did not fall by the wayside; they did not veer from the path that their King, their Lord called them to walk. And because of Peter and Paul (and yes, several Marys) the Christ Way, or Kingdom Life was spread throughout the world. And with Paul and Peter, it was perhaps actually somewhat surprisingly because of the very fact they disagree on theology but still did not veer—because of their wrestling together through Christ’s words and life and calling –because of that — many were saved and brought to faith and a whole new life. So since you asked, and I appreciate that! — let me try to say a few things rolling around in my head about the current pro-choice, pro-life discussion.
Your question to me about pro-life/ pro-choice is difficult for me to answer because of my own digging in and life experience and desire to understand what it truly means to be a Yahweh follower. As I mentioned to you earlier, I believe the same questions about choice and life must be consistently and humbly asked about all lives – soldiers and war, refugees and political asylum, guns and citizens, poor and needy. You asked about war and as I said, I believe that usually any decision about taking a life, whether it is a war or self-defense or an abortion, comes from several previous bad mistakes or bad decisions—but not always the individual making the choice! And these decisions come from what you and I would call sin – personal sin yes, but what it is critical to understand is that they also come from the avalanche of fallen humans’ sins — the world as a whole’s sin, the systems of power and of nations and powers and greedy monsters’ Sins. And this is what leads a beloved human creation of God – a human soul that God loves more than anything — to make a lesser than God’s ideal choice. I have made so many lesser choices in my lifetime. And I have sinned quite, quite a lot and daily.
Any one I have personally ever met or read about, unless they have given themselves over to evil, feels heartbroken for taking a life, whether they believe in a God or not. But here is my big point, I guess –We “little Christs” are called as Christ was to “bind up the broken hearted”. We are not called to shame them nor legislate them. We are called to heal them and in so doing, to in great part through our own faith, to heal ourselves. (Psalm 147:3, Isaiah 61:1)
Taking a life is never a good choice. BUT – ever since Adam and Eve chose power over trust and rule over relationship, the one thing God wanted us to understand is that we would continue to have freedom to choose and that this would be a blessing as well as a curse. As a seeker, I also each day have freedom to choose to follow the Greatest Model of Humanity– or not. I can as Lewis says, choose to follow The One who calls, “Come, further up. Come further in!”
Now back to where we live now. The one thing America has seemed to get right in this great experiment is this idea of freedom with checks and balances for justice’s sake. Of course, a nation or “State” must combine freedom with good ways to protect and care for all citizens. This is good stewardship. God has proved Himself to be a God on the side of nations and people who care for the least, the lost, the needy, and the unable. God tried very, very hard to help His chosen people to have this kind of community on earth (as it is in His Heavens). But they really ended up just wanting what everyone else wanted – a king. And with great sorrow, knowing that the Israelites would eventually worship their nation more than they worshipped Yahweh, He gave them the freedom to institute an earthly king as an authority – to be like other nations. It was pretty much with a few exceptions, all downhill from there. I confess – I believe many American Christians are confused about what Kingdom we are supposed to be living in. And what authority we are supposed to honor and serve.
So, from Israel, fast forward to America –To be simplistic — I believe one of the great things America did is separate church and state. I see the problems Israel had when they did not want a separation from this world’s power and “stuff” and Yahweh’s Power and “Stuff”. Israel wanted a king not a God to rule them.
I also look at history — not only the history of America but the history of God’s people as storied in the Bible and the history of The Church, from its humble terrified persecuted but Holy Spirit-filled beginnings to when “the church” became powerful and greedy and condemning and self-justifying –instead of suffering with Christ’s cross leading. Instead of rejoicing! with Christ’s cross leading. Instead of loving! with Christ’s cross leading. I am not very smart when it comes to anything, including history but I look at the Church from Constantine to Pope Julius to Calvin etc. and I just don’t ever see good things happening when Christ’s Bride tries to rule as Government – not good things for the people under that government and not good things for Christ’s Church. **Side note – this is why so many people of all faiths, like and respect the current Pope Francis. He actually seems to try to be a servant and to influence His flock and the rulers of this world to turn from wickedness and toward love. And Pope Francis is trying to show the Jesus Way even in the great halls of power he has been elevated to. Sort of like Jesus! Philippians 2:5-11. The Pope is one of this world’s current authorities that many can get behind and pray for. That is we can pray for Him as a true Christ follower. It is in “the fruit”. (Matthew 7:16) Of course we can pray for any particular authority in church or state, like all souls, to find true salvation. And which of course if it happened, would change everything.
We have only to look at the Kings of Israel to see that it was with sorrow that God gave his people what they wanted — a government on earth to rule them in His stead. And then “in the fullness of time”, God came Himself as He promised He would – but in a way no one could imagine – with no power, ever– suffering, the least of the least, and with no claim on national influence anywhere not even to the nation of Israel. God slipped under the radar to establish His Kingdom on earth as it has always been in His world – Heaven). All of that to say, I know it is not a popular view, but I think if we claim Christ’s name, we need to see America as Babylon or Rome. If we want to see it as a new Israel, then we should definitely know the perilous thinking we have let ourselves in for. No, Jeremy, Our role is to “rebuild the temple” ie. the body of Christ, His Bride, and to care for the people — all people, perhaps especially those outside the walls of “that temple” — in Jehovah’s desire to bring all to Himself. Of course a lot of Hebrews preferred to remain in Babylon. Metaphor intended.
Just as when God’s people were in Babylon, and many decided they preferred the life of the nation, to the life of God’s temple people– So I fear The Church of America does today. And that means me too. And Jesus keeps begging us –standing at the door and knocking– that we who have been given so much knowledge, so much of Himself, so much grace, so much forgiveness, so much LIFE – He asks us, silly old, flawed, broken us –to “feed the sheep”, to BE His Temple.(John 21:17). He asks me, silly old me, to understand that to whom much is given much will be required. He asked me to leave behind daily that which makes me comfortable and to enter into His Kingdom.(Luke 12:48)
So I am struggling with this conviction that as a believer, I must start cleaning my own “inside of the cup” even as I try to address the dirt on the outside. (Matt. 23:26) Of course we must speak out against injustice—the dirt on the outside– as this is a primary requirement of following Yahweh. But we must be humble, humble, humble in doing so, with our eyes constantly searching the insides of our own cups– and we must know that it must come from a Christian worldview that is rooted in truth and love, not in an American worldview that is rooted in “Us First”. And this is a problem when so many Christians – myself included—have tied their bank accounts, bottom lines, and incomes along with their way of seeing Jesus and God — to their Christianity. We cannot serve two masters. (Matt. 6:24)
I– with sadness– and by convicting myself as the number one culprit, submit to you that the American Christian needs to understand that we are the world’s current Sadducees and Pharisees. (Matthew 23:13). We are the rich young rulers who go away sad and break Christ’s heart. (Mark 10:17 – 27). And by placing myself in those people’s places, not in the place of those disciples I wish I were like, by casting myself as the Pharisee, I am humbled. This paradigm shift in seeking directs my thinking. I have to meekly, foolishly come to Jesus daily—No– I must submit moment by moment.
My greatest yet nagging guide and struggle in the past years has been to meditate on these fearsome words Jesus speaks to Christians:“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7: 21-23.
Do I long with passion to know Jesus? It means His cross but it also means His power of the resurrection. (Philippians 3:10)
The rich and powerful have a difficult time entering The Kingdom, because they don’t want to.We don’t need to. And so we persuade ourselves that we are “doing many wonders in His name” – but we don’t know Him and therefore, He doesn’t know us. Thank God — Jesus assures us that nothing is impossible with God, praise the Lord. Even though it is harder for a rich man to “enter” His kingdom, God is able when we are not. God through Christ made The Way (Isaiah 43:16, Hebrews 10:20). But we get to choose. And we have to walk through a very narrow way to enter His Kingdom – We can not have one foot in some one else’s kingdom, lest we topple over. (Matt. 7:13 & 14)
I think especially as one raised in the Church and as an American -raised “Christian”, I have grown up with a giant tree trunk in my own eye and I need to be very, very careful about picking splinters out of others’ eyes, especially those from different lands, different “countries”, different belief systems. (Matt. 7:5). I fail at this knowing myself in the light of God on a daily basis. Hence my extreme need to understand what Christ means by hypocrisy and my agonizing need to have the hypocrisy in myself removed. It is sort of like choosing to get a root canal, but there it is.
Finally, Jeremy, if you are not comatose by now with my searching through many words and ideas — Since we mentioned Bonhoeffer, I struggle with the fact that I believe the “First World” Church as we might deem the Western World and hence, America, has tragically cheapened grace for “their own” –while it has offered very, very little grace to those outside its “walls”. If you read the Bible, you will see that Jesus did the exact opposite and that His stories radically turned upside down people’s understanding of who behaves justly in the image of God and who believes rightly– and who does not. Again, we must cast ourselves as the Pharisees, the eldest son, the ones who have been given much both in “stuff” and in knowledge – both in power and in forgiveness, in love and in truth. We have so, so much. And yet we still do not know the Father and how much He loves. We need only turn to The Rabbi Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal (Luke 15:11-32) and His parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) to have a view of Christ’ “crazy” Upside Down Kingdom.
Jeremy, I appreciate your hanging in there through all this (if you have managed ) I know I haven’t really answered your question. But then again, I find that the Jesus I read about in the Scriptures, doesn’t really answer people’s questions, including my own. And this is also much like The Father, Creator if you read the Old Testament. Jehovah doesn’t answer. He doesn’t answer Job or the Hebrews’ questions or frankly any one else’s really. God mostly says, “Be still and know that I Am.” And in that are all the answers. (Psalm 46:10).
When it comes to peoples’ questions, Jesus is mostly a Doer. Jesus isn’t really much of an Explainer. In fact, when asked to explain, The Messiah mostly tells stories about people who Do Stuff, not Talk Stuff. This is an irony, I agree, for me, a woman who has now spent pages “talking about this stuff” to you. Which is why I am really seeking God’s call on my life to “be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only, thereby deceiving myself” into thinking that I am living for God or Jesus. (James 1:22). God does not need little ole’ Jane to speak for Him and I must be very careful about doing so. We take God’s name in vain when we try to wield Him for our own misunderstood needs. There is a commandment against using God for the own misguided or dimly lit desires of my heart. (Exodus 20:7).
Christ, God’s only begotten Son does require much of me since He sent the Holy Spirit to work through my body until I meet Him at the gates of eternity. The Church is now Christ’s Body, and as He gave His own Body, we now join together communally in remembrance of Him, becoming His Body: His eyes, His hands, His feet. I am struggling to become so much as a pinky finger. I am striving just to hand out metaphoric cups of water and some real ones as well. As another Francis once said: “Preach the gospel, and if you must, use words.”
“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” Matt. 10:42 I Corinthians 12: 4-13 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
So, Jeremy, this has been a whole lot of “perfume” poured out, and not necessarily the designer expensive kind of scented words. I am glad that you as a young man are seeking to find the scented perfume of brilliant theologians and seekers of God. Hopefully you figured out if you don’t want to read this whole thing that you could scroll down here to the bottom for my answer.
And my answer is, “Yes.”
You told me you couldn’t figure out from what I was saying whether I am pro-choice or pro-life. I sort of think Jesus (not that I am comparing myself to Him at all) often had the same issue – people just could not figure Him out. He refused to give a direct answer, not because He didn’t know – unlike Jane who doesn’t usually know much of anything. Jesus didn’t answer because He did know – HE KNEW THEM. He knew their real hearts and He knew what it was like to be them – because He was fully human and fully God.
Jesus refused to cast stones even though He was the one person who could. But He also refused to cast pearls before the people who didn’t know what do with them because they were so, so hungry. And what can a hungry-souled woman do with a pearl? She can’t eat it, and she so desperately longs to be fed. “Feed my sheep.” The Christ kept eating with sinners and then doing miracles, healing even the unfaithful and ungrateful ones – because that is what God does. Confusing. I apologize Jeremy, I do get rather confused about how I am supposed to be like Jesus. But I’m going to keep living in the mystery and confusion and keep trying to step back onto the narrow Way when I fall off and seek with all of me to know All of Him and be known by Him.
I can’t thank you enough for helping me to try to find my way – no Jehovah’s way – further in and further up. Thank you for helping me by asking me your questions and thanks to you and to others who have forgiven my missteps.
I guess in answer to your question– Am I pro-choice or pro-life, the simple answer would be: YES!
With gratefulness for your journeying with me,