Sunday, November 8, 2009

Salonika 2 -- a new citizenship

Americans tend to be tone-deaf to the communitarian aspects of human life. Our cultural icon is the cowboy, riding alone, making up his own rules as he goes along. A High Plains Drifter, disconnected from family, from faith, from the larger universe of relationships. Other cultures, high-context cultures, create conflicts few Americans face. For example, Dietrich Boenhoffer was excecuted towards the end of WW II for participating in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. He lamented, "I am the citizen of a totalitarian country, and the subject of a totalitarian God." In his book The Cost of Discipleship, Boenhoffer wrote, "When Jesus bids a man 'Come and follow Me,' he bids him 'Come and die.'" 

When worlds collide. What do you do when your girlfriend from back home shows up on campus, and encounters your local girlfriend? How do you resolve the tug of competing and irreconcilable allegiances?

This is an old issue. People who catch crabs dump them in a basket without a lid. If one crab tries to escape, you see, the others pull it back down into the community. In certain inner-city American neighborhoods, a studious student is reviled and ostracized for "acting white." For aspiring to do more, to "be better" than, his peers. 

This form of group loyalty can be extremely toxic. Suppose your community, like Hitler's Germany, is on a collision course with an unpleasant destiny? Suppose your Soviet future depends upon your willingness to join the Young Pioneers, wearing the red scarf and proclaiming your atheism? 

Let's look at how Paul encouraged the new believers in Salonika, who were facing exactly this issue:

    1Th 2:14 Çünkü kardeşler, siz Tanrı'nın Yahudiye'de bulunan ve Mesih İsa'ya bağlı olan kiliselerini örnek aldınız. Onların Yahudiler'den çektiği sıkıntıların aynısını siz de kendi yurttaşlarınızdan çektiniz. 
    1Th 2:15-16 Rab İsa'yı ve peygamberleri öldüren, bize de zulmeden Yahudiler'dir. Öteki uluslardan olanlarla konuşmamızı ve böylece onların kurtulmasını engellemekle Tanrı'nın hoşnutsuzluğuna yol açıyor ve bütün insanlara karşı geliyorlar. Böylece durmadan günahlarına günah katıyorlar. Sonunda Tanrı'nın gazabına uğradılar. 

Talk about toxic! That old Antolian sage Aesop told the story of The Manger Dog. This foul brute lay down in the ox's manger, resting on straw it could not eat, and keeping the hungry ox from its dinner. The Jewish people not only discarded God's King, but worked overtime to keep the other nations from enjoying that which they disdained. 

Yet, even as Israel, and the Roman Empire, careened on their courses towards oblivion, a "third race," neither Jewish nor Gentile, although composed of folks from both communities, was quietly rising up. Some of the crabs were getting away from a date with the pot of boiling water. Even today, people are coming to shelter under the aegis of the Eternal King, Jesus, giving up their entire world, and finding a new home, a new family, a new community.

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