Posted by: kennyt212 | July 10, 2010

Keeping Watch over the Gulf: True Freedom and Change we can Believe In (Part 2)

Hello again everyone!

I hope all is well! As promised, below is part two of my blog series. I actually ended up writing more than I anticipated and I need more time to fine tune my thoughts, so there will be a part three sometime within the next couple of days.  Enjoy this entry though and be sure to check back again later for the GRAND FINALE.  Thanks again for your support ((here’s a link to my previous entry in case you need a reference)):

As people of faith, each of us has gifts that we bring to the community.  We don’t have to be rocket scientists to do something great in society, we just have to be faithful to the gifts we’ve been given and act as stewards of God’s Creation.  Frequently though, we can be held back from using our gifts for reasons such as fear, lack of confidence, lack of encouragement or support, or a lack of desire or passion to act on these gifts (to name a few).  In addition, acting as stewards of Creation often requires us to make “sacrifices”- which we think will limit our freedom-and this can further reduce our motivation to respond.  Often times though, what is forgotten is that, contrary to what it seem, making “sacrifices” to take care of Creation actually leads us to greater freedom.  Why? Well, when we make “sacrifices,” we become more appreciative and more dependent on both each other and on our Creator.  As our dependency and appreciation of each other and of our Creator increases, we become less reliant on other worldly goals, our priorities become more genuine and focused, and the faith community becomes a really powerful instrument of influence in society.

While we all know that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has highlighted our need to reduce our dependence of oil, what is often overlooked is that it also highlights our need to become less dependent on ourselves in general.  As I mentioned earlier, the oil spill is just a small piece of a bigger puzzle, and it represents who we are more than anything.  This means that instead of debating too much about who is to blame for what happened, we can spend our time improving who we are and the values we represent.  Even though this oil spill has been looked at as the “worst US environmental disaster” (even though it actually isn’t), the label is misleading (in more ways than one).  This isn’t just an “environmental” disaster- it’s a disaster of character and attitude (among other things).

Looking at the oil “volcano” from an eco-justice perspective highlights how it is more than just an environmental disaster.  The principle of eco-justice, which is focused on creating a unity between humans and the environment to make sure that justice is provided for all of God’s Creation, is severely challenged by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The communities that are most directly impacted by the disaster are poorer and don’t necessarily have the resources and ability to adapt to the tragedy, especially since many of them have faced several devastating disasters in the past.  As people of faith, we are called to reach out to these communities to help rectify this sense of injustice.  Poverty and justice are important issues for us as Christians, especially in regards to climate change and energy, so it’s hard to discuss the Gulf oil spill without talking about them.

Often times, poverty and injustice seem very distant from us, and it’s easy to fall into that trap of feeling like we need to travel to another country in order to experience them.  In reality though, poverty and injustice are often times right in front of us, or, believe it or not, sometimes they are inside of us.  While it’s common to look at poverty and injustice from just a material perspective, I think the Deepwater Horizon oil highlights how it is also important to look at them from a spiritual perspective.  Often times, we think of poverty and injustice in terms of money or wealth, and forget that Scripture discusses both aspects these issues.  Luke 6:20 states that the “poor [in spirit] are blessed for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and James 2:5 states that “God has chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him.” While these are by all means not the only passages that touch on the issues of poverty and justice (and I encourage you to read them in context), I think they best illustrate my thoughts about how we as Christians can respond to the oil spill.

What I find interesting about these passages (and Scripture in general) is the contrast between spiritual wealth and material wealth (or, between spiritual poverty and material poverty).  While it’s not fair to say that the two are always in opposition to each other, I think that Scripture points out how there is a relationship between the two.  Notice how the James passages states that those who are poor in “the eyes of the world” (materially) are the ones who are “rich in faith” (spiritually).  Some other versions of Scripture like to refer to this as those whom are “poor in spirit” will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.  Interesting, eh? It kind of reminds of Matthew 19:23-24-and it made me think about what exactly it means to be “poor in spirit.”

I never really understood what “poor in spirit” meant, but after doing some studying and reflecting on it a bit, I have a better idea of what it means (and the oil spill has really opened my eyes, body, mind and spirit as to its significance).  “Poor in spirit” refers to the idea that we are completely dependent on God and we recognize and admit our need for him.  It’s an attitude, perspective, and lifestyle where we trust our Creator above anything else and are not afraid to display who we are, weaknesses and all.  It’s where we really understand that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and know that this “truth has set us free” (John 8:32).  To be put it plainly, being “poor in spirit” is the key to true freedom in Christ, and it’s not only the attitude that our Creator is drawn to, but it’s the attitude that He blesses.

The best way to understand what it means to be “poor in spirit” is to put yourself in the shoes of someone who is poor.  That’s what I think this oil spill is all about anyway-making the situation a personal experience that can change us and inspire us wherever we go and in whatever we are called to do.  I’m not saying you have to literally “sell all of your possessions” (though experiencing real poverty for a day might inspire you in many ways) but I do think our attitudes improve when we have a better understanding of what it must be like to be poor from the world’s perspective.  What is it like to have just enough money or food to live on?  What is it like to live day-to-day, hanging on the edge, hoping you’ll have the strength and support to make it through the day? What is it like to be completely dependent on our Creator and still be able live joyfully and full of faith? What happens when we become “poor in spirit”?

Ephesians 4:23: “You were taught to be made new in the attitude of your minds…”

PS: Do we have another 2005 (Katrina, Rita) in sight? Let’s hope not!

PPS: Check out this interesting display showing what the oil spill might look like in 9 months or so.

……………                               TO BE CONTINUED                             …….……

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