Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Our Love for God is too Convenient

I woke up this morning thinking about the recent indignant responses to the cartoons that have been in the news lately, for which a certain element would behead the makers of them. I recoil at that violence, their lust for blood. I respond viscerally to how extreme they are. Yet this morning I realized how shamefully at the other end of the spectrum we are in regard to our God. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Someone comes along and blasphemes our God and what do we do? Maybe we notice. If we notice, maybe we even wince. The most daring of us will say something, but that's rather much. If we go to a movie and God's name is taken in vain, well, that's a clean movie if that's all there is. It makes me think that the passion the Muslim men show is at least heated, and therefore thought-provoking. Do I have so much passion for the God who saved me? Do I even pray for, or correct, the person who blasphemes God's holy name?
I think this subject must have come up in my sleep because last night I was discussing movies with a friend of mine. We were nodding together to the idea that if you didn't go to movies where God's name was taken in vain, well, you probably wouldn't go to movies at all. Well, I rarely enough find movies that aren't too objectionable to go to, but I haven't cut them out because of that one crime.
Crime? Is it a crime to take God's name in vain? No one will go to jail; most people don't even know it's an offense. I remember finding out myself that there was anything wrong with proclaiming His name as a mere exclamation! On finding out it took a while to clean it from my vocabulary, it was so ingrained as a habit. Yet it's listed right there in the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:7: "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain." We know, because God has commanded it and stressed that He will not leave him unpunished, that it is indeed a crime severe enough to send a person to hell for all eternity. That's got to be seen as severe in God's eyes. A severe crime and all we do is shrug. I can't be denied my movies, God wouldn't want that...would He? It goes right in line with that truth (where is it in the Bible anyway, it's got to be in there somewhere...) that God wants us all to be happy as much as possible. I love going to the movies...
There's also the example that the Mormons show, of going door to door for two years in spite of people slamming the door in their faces time after time after time...so they can come to you and tell you that you, too, can be a god. You have to admire their fortitude, their perseverance, their apparent love for their god. The JWs, too. It's not a happy time they're having, of going door to door. Probably not very rewarding, as few people as will even talk to them. But they are sure making a good display of living out Matthew 28:18-20, the Great Commission. It takes a passion, I would think, to go so long door to door with so little encouragement. That passion again--do I have so much of it?

I am thankful that I don't have to fear the ongoing wrath of God for the many times that I took His name in vain--even though He promised He would not leave the offender unpunished. It isn't that the crime is going unpunished, either. Jesus has taken my punishment for each and every time I spoke that holy Name in an unholy way--Jesus died on the cross for my carelessness.
How much do I love my God? I had better think about that a while. Matthew 24:12-13 says "Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved." In Revelation 3:15, Jesus declares, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth." How warm is my love for God? Could it be declared hot in any regard, let alone all of them? I only know I have a long way to go.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Wonder of Monopoly

I notice that this blog entry has been viewed by various family members. It is composed based on not just my own thinking but also some general stories that are part of our family history; I wouldn't have come up with the matter about Donald and the money in the bank because I was too young to be so analytical, but am trusting what I was told. That was something of a family anecdote. I think it's funny. I'm not sure what my family thinks. Still, this particular event made an impact on me.
My family was always very competitive about the game of Monopoly. It was one sure way to find everyone with bright red cheeks and one or two people having stomped off into their rooms. My brother Donald had a trusty habit of accidentally dropping his Monopoly money into the bank. It was uncanny, but he almost invariably won. Now he's a realtor, and he's also, financially speaking, the richest person I know.
I say he almost invariably won, because when I was about 11, my brothers helped a Japanese man named Seijun Kamegawa by pushing his car into the driveway on a snowy day. He was, strangely, the first Christian I remember having met. Strange because Japanese-born Christians are rare; but he wasn't your typical Japanese person. His name Seijun, I've gathered, isn't a typical Japanese name; in addition, his hair was kinky, more like a Fiji-islander. He was the kind of person the average person would clean up his act for--sort of like a nun wandering into a Mafia poker game. We might be fighting like cats and dogs, but when Seijun came over for his fairly frequent, unexpected visits, we'd sweep the teeth and hanks of hair under the rug and, for the time being, pretend we were nice.
We decided we would teach Seijun the glories of Monopoly. He had never played before. Now when we played Monopoly, one of the highlights of the game was to land on someone's property (especially an expensive one) and get off again without paying rent. I don't know whether that's a universal behavior in this game, but it was the only way known to play in our home. But when we taught Seijun, somehow that behavior didn't take. We couldn't seem to make clear to him the necessity of that behavior. I guess it was just the language difference, though he spoke English well enough. When he landed on our properties, he always told us he was there in case we didn't notice. We knew he could not win that way--we were experienced, and Monopoly was a dog-eat-dog world. I know we explained it until we were out of breath. Still he did it this way and we couldn't change it. The funny thing was, he won in spite of all the odds against him. That was proof to me that though I wasn't sure there was a God at the time, whatever there was, was definitely on Seijun's side.
I've lost contact with Seijun. Last time I saw him was at my brother's wedding about 10 years back, and I don't think I got to talk to him. He's married now--I remember him wrestling with the idea of obeying his father, who wanted to arrange a marriage for him. I guess that obedient aspect of Christianity was impressed upon him more than that of being equally yoked. Finally he obeyed, and his father found him a nice, Japanese non-Christian wife. Life's had its challenges for Seijun since then, but I am convinced, thanks to that Monopoly game many years back, that God is still watching over him.