From a young age we are taught about ourselves, others and the world through dichotomy. Hot and cold, up or down right and wrong, form the basis of our logic and our humanity.
We cannot bypass this developmental structure but we must learn to live beyond it. Finding our way beyond, can only begin when we have learned to live in it well enough to come to the end of it. In other words, there are no short cuts, living deeply and thoroughly with the truth and light that God has gifted us with will bring us to a place beyond it.
As a youth worker, who has worked with society's most abused and disadvantaged, one of the key ingredients to bringing some life back into a person is teaching them to live within boundaries.
Strong boundaries that define right and wrong, consequences and rewards and pleasure and suffering is the beginning. Seeing how a young person handles these boundaries and working together with them to understand why they must be is probably the foundation of my job.
It is an art not a science so it boundaries can be very individual and unique to every person and situation. This does not mean that we live in a purely subjective and individualistic world of ethics. It is crucial to a person's humanity that they understand limits, boundaries and laws. There is no moral, emotional, psychological, social or spirituality development without coming to grips with this.
Having said that, I also live in the kingdom of God which as times, includes the church. Let me just qualify that I love the church, in all its diversity and even conflicts. I love when the church is in unity with the spirit of God and when she brings the truth and life of God in this world.
The church however is usually a battleground, so much more recently because of these factors. First the majority of people are educated and taught to think objectively more so than ever before.
Secondly our culture has the internet, giving people access not only to more information and experience, but also giving the rise of people's ability to express their opinion to wider audiences. Lastly our worlds intersect more than ever before, politics, the sciences, history, religion all intersect and intermingle like never before.
An example of this in modern times is the debate and subsequent vote on homosexual marriage. This debate took place in a very complex environment unlike which has never occurred before.
The results of this is we are living in a very diverse society, and the church reflects that. Our society is also very divided and the church reflects that as well. I must admit that I go down the rabbit hole of YouTube, and find myself listening to some controversial stuff, particularly when it comes to church and theology.
I find people are without fear when they label others as false teachers and apostates and churches as cults. When people do this, even with the best intentions, they reveal their own personal biases and limitations of their own understanding of God.
God is love and when he judges us, it's in order to save us, usually from ourselves. You see most of the evil that has happened in the world has been justified with good intentions. We cannot be naive and believe that we are not mired in the same mud we claim to see others mired in. I am not saying we do not judge at all, but that to understand what judgement is by passing through it and understanding it.
Passing through judgement is a very deep and personal thing that primarily feels painful and overwhelming. Once we pass through judgement we are not morally perfect but the mystery is we have a holy wound, a wound that prevents us from causing pain to others out of selfish motives.
Before this process we can pass judgement on others according to our own jealousy, arrogance or insecurities, no matter how justified we feel. This wound will help us understand the bible and the people of the bible a lot better. Saint Paul's writing gives some deep insight into this, especially his writing to the Corinthians.
The clearest example of this judgement process, which both hard and loving, is the narrative of the Old Testament. A brief summary of this is the Exodus of the Israelite's and their journey through the wilderness and into the promised land.
'Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.' (Deuteronomy 8:2)
This process brought the people out of Egypt, but then God had to bring Egypt of to his people. This process of purification or judgement, shows God's love (Deuteronomy chapter 8 verse 5), but also his relentless work to bring us back to our unfallen nature, the nature of Christ.
In this process God allows us to suffer, not unjustified suffering, but he opposes our desires. This forces us to face the forces that are at work within us. It's not pretty usually, when we face the dark forces within.
I just have to look at my 3 year old to see how human nature can turn ugly when it doesn't get what it want. The Israelite's would continually grumble against their situation and they would suffer, their suffering though was only to the extent that the pleasures and comforts of Egypt would tempt and entice them back. God wanted to change not only their, behaviour, but their very desires.
He wanted their nature to be transformed. This is the end purpose of the judgement process.
Mark Flippance is a Press Service International young writer from Adelaide.
Mark is a Press Service International young writer from Adelaide.
His previous articles can be read here: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-flippance.html