this was the set-up on Sunday
One of my goals in writing of my experiences in South Dallas is to present a different way to see God.
I would also like to create safe space in which people can question God -- does he exist at all? Is there ever even a way to know God is real?
I believe that as we leave our cultures-of-origin and enter other people's culture, we encounter God in new ways.
We need not be threatened by conflicting ideas or beliefs about God, about sin, and about our world. As we enter other people's lives, we begin to see how God loves them, just like he loves us, and slowly our hearts can be opened to see God in new ways, with new eyes.
On Sunday I joined a group of agnostics/atheists in South Dallas to give out supplies to the homeless. I learned about their organization, Homeless Nexus, through an article on atheism's "do-gooder" work (or rather lack thereof) and decided to join them. It took me a few weeks to work up the courage to contact them.
Would they laugh at me for considering joining them? I wondered.
To my delight, they were extremely glad I reached out, and on Sunday they were incredibly welcoming. While we see some things very differently, we see many things the same.
One thing we see the same is a commitment to giving to those in need without strings attached. When we give them of our resources and our time, it is not given on the basis of their checking certain boxes in order to receive what we have to offer. Rather, we give for the sake of the giving, expecting nothing in return.
Second, my goal is to meet people where they are, not to bring them where I am. As we, the homeless and me, begin to live life alongside each other, we co-learn from each other. It is not me teaching them or them teaching me, but it is us both, together, learning new things and seeing the world in new ways.
So where is God in all of this? If God is real, then he is "known" like we know each other. He is not a set of beliefs, but rather a person. Understanding that living life with God is like our living, breathing relationships with other humans frees us and opens us up to the dynamic life I believe God wants to offer us through his son Jesus Christ. Indeed, Jesus did not say, "believe this set of things or follow this set of rules and then you get eternal life."
But rather, he said something quite counter-intuitive, and quite counter-cultural, even counter some of the Christian culture today. He said, "I, [the person, Jesus], am the way, the truth, and the life."
He is saying, "Enter relationship with me, come and be with me, like you would come and be with a friend or a spouse, and get to know me in fluid relationship. I, me, the Person Jesus, am myself the way, the truth, and the life. You get all of these things by getting me."
You see, it's not that we get the right set of beliefs and then Jesus follows. It's that we go to Jesus and he begins to give us new life, new ways, and new truth.
Come to him, like you would come to a friend, and begin to relate to him in a new way. Or perhaps open your heart to the possibility that he is there at all.