Dion's random ramblings

Thursday, October 08, 2009

If you only love those who love you...

It has been another busy week, and I am only about half way through it.  I travelled to George on Tuesday for the city's day of prayer - it was a special event.  As a theologian so much of my time and energy is spent in checking orthodoxy (what is 'true', 'correct', and Biblical).  Naturally such an approach to faith must be somewhat critical (in the questioning sense). I frequently encounter wonderful people who do great things and have to work out what motivates their action, informs their belief and makes them do what they do.  Of course there are also some persons that I encounter who have impure motives, misguided beliefs and who do things that divide and break down the body of Christ.

I try to approach all people and events with the same openness of heart, and to question those with whose theology I agree as rigorously as those with whom I may hold points of difference.

I have faced a great deal of innner conflict, and reprimand, from friends on both sides of the 'theological divide' - it would seem that none of us is very tolerant of persons who hold a view different from our own.  Often my more liberal friends have chastised me for keeping company with conservatives, and my conservative friends have chastised me for my inclusive theological views.  I am not without fault!  Sometimes I lack the courage to challenge what I can see is not correct, and sometimes I am simply not clear enough of what is right in a particular instance.  The following scripture passage has been a source of great inspiration and encouragement.  I do try to be fully inclusive in my faith!

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return Luke 6:32-35

Well, the George event was wonderful - every now and then I can simply 'be' a Christian person among other Christians.

It was wonderful to see close to 15 000 persons gathering in their city's stadium for prayer.  In the liberal spiritual tradition we place a great deal of emphasis on actions of justice and mercy as an expression of God's will and love, yet we attempt to hold that in tension with the reality that all true Christian action must flow a deep lived encounter with God in Christ (frequently this stems from spiritual disciplines such as daily prayer, the rhythm of an age old liturgy, living together in community, intensive spiritual retreats).

I sensed that the majority of the persons at this prayer event were simply together because they have a great concern for their city and region, and they long to bring this concern before God in corporate worship and prayer.  I left there encouraged.  In the crowd were women, men, young people, older people, black South Africans and white South Africans, conservatives and liberals.  It was a glimpse of the body of Christ.

From there I came Johannesburg where we did the Gauteng launch for Graham Power's book "Not by might nor by Power" - you can read about it here http://www.spirituality.org.za/2009/07/acts-29-story-not-by-might-nor-by-power.html

I had some meetings in Johannesburg during the day and then the book launch in the evening.  It was a great event, and there too I was reminded of the diversity, yet unity, of the body of Christ.

Now I am flying back to Cape Town for a meeting at one of the Universities, and then the remainder of this week and next week will be spent with the central committee of the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization that are in Cape Town as part of the preparations for the October 2010 congress in our City.

I found this little quote very inspiring when it came to me this morning:

To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name. Thomas Merton, (from A Book of Hours)
Have a blessed day!  Please spare a prayer for my family and I.  We have been struggling with our son Liam's health for the past four weeks. He is such a precious little guy and he has been through a great deal of physical hardship in his short little life.  His ill health places a great deal of emotional strain on us!  Not to mention that it has implications on our ability to sleep, and of course financial ramifications...  We appreciate the care!

Here are some images taken at the George prayer event:

Graham Power addressing the gathering.

Rev Alfred Gcalitsha, a friend from Eagle's Rising a social upliftment and transformation ministry we work with in Somerset West addressing the young people.

Rev Brian Evans from the Global Day of Prayer praying for some young people.

Two Angus' having a laugh (yup, my second name is Angus).  Here uncle Angus was giving me some advice about caring for Graham.


  • Yes we must never let side line doctrinal issues ( that are not central to salvation) stand in the way of fellowship.
    Blessings Simon

    By Blogger Reformed and Renewed, at 1:57 PM  

  • Thanks for the comment Simon! Always great to hear from you.

    I agree with what you say above - but of course it is always difficult to agree on what is a central issue and what is a sideline issue.

    Yesterday I faced this conflict again in a Lausanne meeting - the emphasis of the meeting is on reaching the whole world, with the whole Gospel of Christ. For me the whole Gospel means both personal salvation and societal transformation, for some others it means 'counting the number of converts', and for yet another person it meant pressing a particular theological perspective (in this case the person was concerned with using the platform to address the issues of abortion and same sex unions).

    Clearly we saw the 'whole Gospel' in quite different ways.

    This is not the first time that I have encountered this cognitive difference among Christians. Some years ago when I was doing quite a lot of work on inter-religious dialogue I found the same thing - we would want to state our point of view, our Hindu, Muslim, and Jewish sisters and brother would want to state their point of view, and none of us was willing to concede a single point (simply because we thought that what we believed was somehow 'more true' than what the other parties believed).

    We dealt with this in two ways. First, we began by moving from dialogue to experience. Words are too clumsy and restrained to fully contain 'truth'. They are like a map in relation to the real terrain. So, we tried to encounter one another with respect.

    Second, we differentiated between revelation and salvation. Revelation of God's power and will is something that is evident in all of creation (all of the sacred texts agree on this, so we could each start from our perspective acknowledging that truth). For us Christians it was Romans 1 - we asked the question 'What could we learn from one another?' rather than 'what can we teach one another?'. I learned a great deal about discipline from Muslim friends, and intimacy with God from the Hindu mystics, and purity and community from our Jewish friends. Indeed, we discovered that God revealed a lot about ourselves, and others, when we encountered them with humility and respect.

    However, when it came to salvific efficacy we had to agree that there would be some fundamental differences around which we would not be able to move with words and concepts. So, what we did was to adopt an understanding of value and respect - instead of making negative statements about each others faith (e.g., Muslims saying that Christians lack spiritual discipline and our scriptures are fractured and full of errors...) we decided to simply make enough space for us all to make positive statements about what is truly valuable about our own faith perspective (i.e., to witness to how God is working for salvation in and through our faith communities).

    But, it is a complex matter to decide what is "central to salvation" and what is not! Even among Christians we cannot agree. Perhaps what we need is to adopt a notion of 'revelation' (learning from God through each other), facilitated through encounter and community, whilst still holding firmly and positively to what we believe is the work of God in our own tradition or context.

    I have a sense that this is the way of Jesus (Phil 2:1-5).

    Rich blessing,


    By Blogger digitaldion (Dion Forster), at 7:20 AM  

  • very interesting approach. I hold mainly just to these five points.
    1. The Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1; John 20:28; Hebrews 1:8-9).
    2. The Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:27).
    3. The Blood Atonement (Acts 20:28; Romans 3:25, 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:12-14).
    4. The Bodily Resurrection (Luke 24:36-46; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 15:14-15).
    5. The inerrancy of the scriptures themselves (Psalms 12:6-7; Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20).

    Regards to you and your family...
    Hope the your little one is better.

    By Blogger Reformed and Renewed, at 2:55 PM  

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