The end of the year is for lists! Here's a bunch of random things I enjoyed in 2014.Read More
The idea of finding God "for yourself"--meaning, in ways you choose, at times and places meaningful or convenient to you, or in bits and pieces that reinforce your own personal narrative--means that any God you find will most likely not be the God who revealed himself in JesusRead More
I wrote this when I was one month away from being married. Christmas was the best analogy I came up with; I also talk about sex. Hopefully that makes the "Read More" link irresistibly clickable.Read More
"I am left feeling very tired and wondering how much longer any space will be held open on this subject for genuine nuance and dialogue, or if perhaps that space has closed and it is only now becoming apparent to me. I am left wondering if anyone who holds any position with respect to this situation and the underlying questions about the relationship between the LGBTQ community & the church is willing to practice the basic charity of seeking to understand their opponent's argument at its best, even if their opponent fails to articulate it that way (intentionally or not)."Read More
If you want to cling tightly to your freedom to believe something about other people, you're holding tightly to a form of enslavement, in captivity to the fiction that my own perspective is the best arbiter of truth about what are in reality complex and varied circumstances.Read More
"I Am Glad I Was Not There"
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Looking More CloselyAt this point, some nuance is in order. Jesus didn't cause Lazarus' death; the immediate cause was his sickness. It's also important to see that Jesus didn't actually say that Lazarus' death would bring him glory; a close reading shows that it is Lazarus' sickness that Jesus says is "for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it"; and the idea is probably not that the sickness itself is somehow God-glorifying, but that the whole situation represented by the sickness will cause the truth and glory of God--personified in Jesus, the incarnate Son of God--to be made known more clearly. That's what Jesus seems to mean when he tells his disciples that he's glad he wasn't there "so that you may believe."
The fact remains, however, that the following is true:
1. Jesus could have left immediately and prevented Lazarus from dying, but he didn't, because
2. Jesus was willing to allow sickness that he knew would lead to death to play a role in making his identity, and thus his and God's glory, more fully known, toward the goal of helping his disciples "believe."
Your reaction to these two points is probably dependent on your view of God. If you consider yourself a high Calvinist, this text fits easily with an overall biblical theology in which God's foreknowledge / causation of events that we might view as lamentable or evil is necessitated by your reading of God's sovereignty. If, on the other hand, you are a non-Calvinist, or you believe that Jesus isn't the sort of person who would turn down the opportunity to keep someone from dying for any reason--because if you found yourself in his situation you can't imagine letting someone die to make a theological point, no matter how important--then chances are you minimize a text like this, or attempt to mitigate its force.
The fact remains that Jesus let Lazarus die to make an important point about belief in himself to his disciples (and, presumably, to future generations of Christians).
Following Jesus Means Dying One Way Or AnotherBiblically faithful Christianity always includes the awareness that one's life, health, & death are no longer the most important things in the world. Jesus makes this point elsewhere repeatedly, most famously telling his disciples that following him means to "take up your cross" (Matthew 10, Luke 9, Mark 8)--in other words, prepare to be executed as outcasts because of me. Elsewhere in John Jesus says that a man's blindness was not on account of his or his parents' sin but rather "so that the works of God might be displayed in him" (John 9), which is basically the same thing he says later about Lazarus' sickness and death. Other New Testament writers make similar points all over the place. This helps decenter our ego and recenter us on the priorities of the kingdom, which often don't include things like safety, comfort, and not dying.
At this point you might be wondering: what's your big point? I hesitate to "bring it home" one way or another because my goal is more vague (and perhaps impossible). I just want people to be more interested in who Jesus actually is rather than who they might already think he is. If you want some takeaways, here are some:
- Your life and death do not take place in isolation; they are caught up in bigger purposes about God's glory and belief in Jesus. This calls not necessarily for understanding but rather for faith and joy.
- Jesus believed death and sickness could be used to make his glory more apparent. If your reaction to this is negative, on the one hand that's completely understandable; on the other it means you need to seek Jesus for who he is rather than who you think he is or want him to be. When you do this, you'll see the face of God, and that is always good for you, in the best and most eternal sense of the word "good."
- Grand, sweeping statements about who Jesus is, what God must or cannot be like, need to be passed through specific stories in the Bible like this one before you make them so cavalierly on blogs or twitters or Facebook or wherever.
- However, I don't believe we are biblically permitted to point to specific instances of death or suffering and claim that we understand how they fit into an overall plan. My favorite (short) book-length defense of this idea is still David Bentley Hart's The Doors of the Sea.
If you care about the Bible and believe that Jesus is in fact the resurrection and the life for anyone who believes, let's commit together to remembering that sometimes we don't know Jesus as well as we want to, and the process of knowing him better isn't meant to always be comfortable. Sometimes Jesus doesn't try to prevent people from dying. This doesn't mean he's not good; it means that our understanding of who he is needs to include all of him, even the parts that we don't understand or that make us uncomfortable.
After all, it is Jesus himself who offers new life, not the Jesus we create from our preferences.
I write songs because songs have written me.
I write songs because some parts of what it means to be alive are too complicated to express in any way other than through song.
I write songs because it's fun.
I write songs because to write a song is to take an experience and set it free for others to know.
I write songs because I am certain they would claw their way out somehow if I did not write them.
I write songs because sometimes I need to be cheered up.
I write songs because sometimes I need to be taken down a notch.
I write songs because often the things that I feel can't be articulated in any other medium.
I write songs because I want to leave behind as many beautiful things as I can when I die.
I write songs because I like the idea of giving gifts to people I may never meet.
I write songs because the world can always use more good music.
I write songs because of the times when you drive through western North Carolina in the summer with windows down.
I write songs because I don't understand the pain and suffering I see around us.
I write songs because I want to share hope.
I write songs because I can't always find enough ways to say thank you.
Six Thousand Summers, the 2013 album from Rory Tyer Band, is free to download. Rory Tyer Band has recently begun recording a new album; it will be available early 2014. They are playing at the Metro on Friday, November 15, with several other great bands.