Exodus 3:14-- God said to Moses, "I AM who I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
Wow, what a powerful passage that speaks to the depths of who we are in Christ and the nature of God.
Last week we talked about the language of Christianity and how we refer to others. Our conversation often creates a polarizing "us" verses "them" relationship with those we deem different from us, even though God has proclaimed "them" to be quite the same. This mindset becomes a problem not only because it's hurtful, but also because, on a much deeper, theological level, it undermines the truth of God we say we're standing upon.
The postmodernist movement insists (and that word is ironic, isn't it, considering the movement's rejection of truth) that there is no such thing as absolute truth. There is no such thing as God or reliable morality, really, outside of the ever-shifting perspective of the people in this world. That might sound convenient for avoiding hurting people's feelings, but the reality is, this is very scary. And not just from a Christian perspective. It's scary when you need solid footing for any kind of moral or humanitarian or environmental claim. It's scary if you're a woman in an abusive marriage, if you're a slave to human trafficking, if you're Buddist under the threat of terrorist bombings, or if you're just a Pit Bull, forced every day into dog fighting.
Postmodernism might seem convenient, but the rejection of truth ultimately breaks down any kind of compassionate cause. After all, who are we to insist what is right, what is moral for another person, another country, another society? Either we are extremely egotistical to assert our own feeble notions of the world over everyone else, or we simply let these situations be and do nothing. Because, like it or not, outside of God, you have no ground to make any kind of humanitarian claim. Yes, you can certainly be moral. But it's always a shifting ground. What is socially acceptable one minute may be rejected the next. Hello, Hunger Games.
Therein, we run into a problem: Where do we locate the source of morality? From what source do we arm ourselves with the tools needed to fight against the evils of the world? Rhetoric and conversation? That's always changing. Our own consciences? But what of the discrepancies?
Ultimately, the only satisfying answer to what it means to be human and to preserve human dignity is a theological one. Perhaps not necessarily Christian (which is where faith comes in), but theological, nonetheless. Without absolute truth, we have nothing when it comes to true compassion. Nothing but hearts that are breaking over the state of the world--of the hurting--with no reason why.
There is a reason why.
There is a reason why you were born, why you have lived, why you are living.
There is something you can do to change the world. Right where you are.
When Moses asks God to identify himself, wondering how he will ever explain this sudden appearance of the pure presence of the Almighty to the Israelites, how does God answer? How could He? What phrase or name or definition or description could He possibly give that would help Moses understand the fullness of His presence?
The answer? I AM.
This verse has always bothered me. I felt like God was using a cop-out, honestly. I wanted more detailed answers. I wanted more explanation. But as I began to study postmodernist thought, I began to understand. God's answer to Moses was the most powerful thing.
Often, because we live in a postmodern moment, we make the assumption that everything we know exists as the opposite of something else. Some examples (and I used a few of these last week) are hot versus cold, dark verses light, ugly versus pretty, Christian verses sinner, gay verses straight, male verses female, liberal verses conservative, and the list goes on and on...
This kind of thinking has leaked into popular Christian teaching. We consistently hear Biblical (and unBiblical, for that matter) concepts crafted as negatives, rather than a positive motivation toward which we should be striving. What if we changed our way of thinking to how we might love God more, rather than worrying over boundaries? What if instead of fearing the law, we feared the One who overcame it?
Do not have sex before you're married.
Do not commit adultery.
Do not gossip.
Do not steal, or cheat.
Do not watch or read anything compromising.
But what about...
Wait patiently and honor God, your spouse, and yourself. Live a life of purity.
Be faithful to the vows you have made.
Encourage one another as God has encouraged you.
In everything, live your life as unto the One who gave life to you.
Fill your mind with good things, for out of your heart comes your very being.
The problem here is that we begin to believe evil actually has some power over our lives and our identities. We believe the lie that our faith is just another thing that exists within a binary, but in this case, it's good versus evil. Even if "good" comes out on top of the equation, we still have a problem. A big one. Within this structure lies the assumption that evil has a pure presence that can in some way compete with God, with holiness. But this perspective is inconsistent with Biblical Christianity. Remember the verse from Exodus?
God is. He is pure presence. He is truth. He is living.
Evil is not.
There is truth, and there is the perversion of truth. There is no such entity as non-truth.
Next Wednesday, I'll get into more specifics about how this concept can shape the way we think about God-- and ourselves-- on a more personal, practical level. So be sure to come back for the next part of the series.
Have you ever caught yourself thinking in this good versus evil mentality? How can this be harmful?