IBC Lecture notes / From Rod Smith

April 5, 2006

Levels of the Self

Filed under: DAY 1 — kona @ 7:03 am

Please refer to illustration on chalkbaord while reading this subsection.

Level 1: At a superficial level, there are aspects that are obvious and not personal about each of us. I am a certain height, and, unless I am somewhat troubled, your recognition of my height is not something I usually find overly personal. The same is true of my ethnicity, the language I speak and the (changing) color of my hair. Over the course of a lifetime, thousands of people will see and notice these things about me and, unless we move to something more meaningful, our association will end at this superficial level. While relationships are “surface” and “shallow” (we even have terms for such a relationship in our language) a person knowing us in this manner may never go beyond being an acquaintance. In western culture, it is unlikely we’d go to the wedding or the funeral of someone we “know” by sight alone.

Level 2: If I allow you (notice who does the choosing) to enter at the next level of my life it will be into an area of my life that is personal, but not private. At this “depth” you will learn facts and figures about me, things not necessarily obvious to the naked eye. Nothing too personal goes on here. I do not feel violated if you care to ask me questions within this parameter of our relationship. All that is required is a little effort and time and no great divulgences from me. Healthy people might talk at this level to strangers on a bus or a train. Unhealthy people on a bus, train or plane will either avoid others with unnecessary intensity (“all strangers are dangerous and must be avoided”) or “tell all” (“all strangers are lonely people, dying to hear about my life”) to some unsuspecting stranger. We might go the funeral of a person we knew at this level but, in western culture, it is unlikely we will be invited to their wedding.

Level 3: Then, after I have known you for a time and some trust has been established, I might allow you to the next level, which is private and personal. Over the course of a lifetime I might allow access to this part of me to a few selected people. This is few when compared with the two former levels that are quite public. Here reside my ambitions, dreams, and longings. Here you will get a glimpse at my disappointments, unhealed hurts, and you might even touch some of my anger and resentments. This is where you might begin to see how complicated I am and, if you are sufficiently reflective, insightful, and honest, you might see that I am almost as complicated as are you. This relationship gets you a wedding invitation!

Level 4: If we “click” and spend time together I might trust myself enough to allow you in to a place within me that is very sacred. This is the huge area that marks the beginning of my intimate territory. Here, you stand at the edge of the forest, no a continent, of discovery. This is where I am intimate without being sexual. This is where best friends are hosted, this is where the connection is mutually beneficial and each of us is enhanced. We are each “fed” by the connection. Here you are treading, at my invitation, on my “holy ground” and you begin to see me as I really am. Here you might see the modifications I have made to the superficial (the upper levels) in my attempts to show the world something about me that is not authentic. At this level I cannot hide what I am really like and you join a handful of people who have seen me in the course of a lifetime. It is at this level that I have really started to trust myself to you (consider carefully my choice of words), and so I might feel exposed or “naked” when you might appear to handle this sacred territory with anything less than respect. Will you be my best man? This is pallbearer stuff!

Level 5: After close association, lasting some time, the next level of my life is reserved for more than best friends. It is reserved, sometimes for lovers, but uniquely for a spouse. It is the area of intimacy and sex . This is an exceedingly tough place to know and understand for me as much as it will be for you. Your presence here is probably going to present me with some challenges because, over time, you will see me for who and what I am. Here, hopefully, we will both see and experience that sex is a very limited experience indeed, when reduced to something people do with each other’s bodies. I hope we will both tread very carefully when we reach this level, not because I am necessarily overly sensitive, but because you (we) are entering a profoundly private area of my life and I (and you) might be scared, excited and uncomfortable all at the same time.

There might be times when you are as afraid to see me, as I am to show you who I am. When I know you in this manner, I might be afraid that you will see me, and then I might be afraid that you will not. At this level of deep and lasting commitment, there are often huge payoffs and benefits for both people. These joys usually come in conjunction with unexpected complications. (The truth is very simple: people are complicated and knowing others very well seldom comes without unexpected baggage and great blessing). Note that I have said nothing of the reciprocal nature of sharing this part of our lives. One, of course, would hope that two people entering each other’s lives at this profound level would do so in a completely reciprocal manner.

Level 6: Then, if we are both blessed and patient and ready for the real adventure, I might be able to know my self, my “inner being,” the deepest possible recess of who I am, and even “let you in.” I might be able to let my best friends, spouse and my children, see the person who I really am. Discovery (“self-discovery) at this level takes many years (about 50 years) and is an ongoing process. This is where people are often the most hurt, and this is where they will feel the hurt most powerfully, if they still allow themselves to feel.

This is the part of you (and me) that God perfectly knows and the part a person might spend a lifetime trying to “get in touch with.” This is the part that people go (to Europe, to Alaska or wherever!) to “find themselves” without realizing that, in reality, they do not really have to go anywhere, because it is not “out there.” Self-discovery must first occur within, and the self is waiting to be discovered by every courageous person. Here, in this holy place, I am an “undiscovered continent,” a mystery, even to those who have known me for years. To use Freudian terminology, this is where my Id, my Ego and the Super-ego do their unique dance. This is the engine room of the “I Am” called “me” and it is the place from which all my worship, my talk and humor and passion really comes.

The Self

Filed under: DAY 1 — kona @ 7:02 am

The Self and Its Protection

One failure of the so-called dysfunctional family is a family’s inability to protect the emerging self (the sense of self, soul, spirit, inner being, heart) of persons in the family.

Characteristics of the self:
1. It is beautiful (created by God as the unique expression of who you are to the world). Even the “worst” person has hidden beneath it all, a beautiful self.
2. It is relational (naturally wants to relate and engage). Every act is an act of relationship.
3. It is sexual (naturally wants to procreate, build and nurture something larger than itself). Nothing can be done to escape our gender; it is inextricably woven deeply within and finds expression in everything we do.
4. It naturally desires to engage in worship (naturally wants to ascribe greatness).
5. It is enduring (it doesn’t change much in a lifetime). Parents say things like, “From the day he could walk he’s been a determined person.”
6. It is regenerative (naturally seeks to mend and heal). Like the body is always in a state of regeneration, so is the self.
7. It is resilient (can tolerate and survive enormous pain and suffering). Humans have endured untold horror when it has been inflicted upon them.
8. It is creative (naturally thinks outside itself) and resourceful. It is the powerhouse within every person.
9. It can be fed, trained, encouraged (one person can take better care of a self than another) and can grow.
10. Unfortunately, it can be starved, neglected (can wilt away without nurturing) and can give up the fight.
11. It is the place from within which people are able to want, to express desire; it is the center of desire within us.

Although the self within us all usually has a huge repertoire of protection mechanisms, when and if it is damaged, it is usually slow in healing. While the self is difficult to damage, considering its incredible resilience, it can be damaged.

A damaged self displays the impacts of hurt and trauma most vividly in relational difficulties, in matters of closeness and intimacy. The effects of damage and trauma to a self can apparently leave a person quite unaffected regarding distant or impersonal encounters.

It is in intimacy, in close friendship, that the damage most vividly reveals its presence. When in relationship, a person with a damaged self will find himself unable to “be himself.”

The self can be damaged by:

1. Continual belittling: mocking, laughing at, mimicking, and being enduringly ignored by persons the victim considers significant.
2. Enduring cruelty: comparing, expressing disdain toward, ignoring needs and wants, breaking promises, leaving for extended periods without explanation, scornful attitudes and behavior. In the book of Proverbs it says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”
3. Abandonment: leaving (literally or emotionally) for a long period of time without explanation.
4. A variety of abuses (emotional, physical, sexual).

Sexual Problems

Sexual behavior provides a unique insight into a person’s life:

1. Sexual problems are never distinct from the global whole of who we are. To say “this is just a sexual problem” is a hopeful myth. Sexual problems are relationship problems. Dividing people and their problems into “this is a sexual problem” as if it is unrelated to our overall functioning is to misunderstand the importance of integration in out lives.
2. Sexuality is profoundly human, an intricate indicator of what and who we are as humans. It is essential to the core of what makes us human; deeply rooted within our personalities, and expressed in everything we do.
3. Sexual problems are unique to an individual against the individual’s backdrop of background, history and experiences. For this reason it is seldom possible to hear only a little from a person, and understand a lot. Like all things human, it is usually more complex than it appears, and quite unique to the individual concerned.
4. The individual sexual activity of a person is not as important as the broader motivations regarding sexual activity. In other words, people are more likely to seek power (that can accompany their sexual behavior) than the sexual act itself.

Systems

Filed under: DAY 1 — kona @ 7:01 am

Can you drive a car? If you can, then you are a “systems thinker” and an advanced one at that. You are thinking systemically at many levels every time you get behind the wheel. There is the internal system (you and everything you are thinking, feeling apart from the car); next, there’s you and the car (all the intricate requirements of driving a car would be an impressive printout if it could be tabulated) and then, there’s the relationship between you, the car and all other traffic and the road.

Here’s the crux of systems thinking: all the components influence each other and all the influences influence each other. (Just as Paul said in 1 Cor. 12)

Back to our question about driving a car: the car “creates” you . (Don’t believe me? Follow me when I rent a sports car and I am riding with the top down!) You “create” the car (it is a pile of steel without a driver), and together you are something that you are not, when apart!

Then, your role in the traffic determines something of the mood and the pace of the traffic (try driving at 30 on the outside lane of a four lane highway!) and the mood of the traffic, in turn, influences how you drive and how you feel and it can even ruin your entire day!

Understanding that everything influences everything and the influence that results in turn influences everything is the essence of understanding things from a systems perspective.

Walking, cooking a meal, playing sport, riding a horse are all examples of ways in which most people naturally apply systems thinking to their everyday world.

Here are some things to think about regarding complex and less complex systems. In almost every case living systems are engaged with inanimate systems:
Airports, airlines, passengers and schedules
Two children and a seesaw
A boy bouncing a ball
Two children throwing a ball to each other
International trade
The military
The operating theater and the conducting of heart surgery
Getting permission to use the kitchen (for cooking) at your church

Systemic Thinking is so much a part of our modus operandi that it is always surprising to me that people, who do it so naturally when it comes to so many other features of their lives, so very easily engage in Linear Thinking (compartmentalized, sequential) about their own families and lives.

Here are some typical ways people engage in linear thinking:

1. Johnny won’t go to school: What is wrong with Johnny? What is wrong with the school?
2. Jane tells her husband Jack she is angry with him. He immediately sends her flowers. He is surprised that sending her flowers doesn’t work. Jack asks, “What is wrong with Jane?” He is looking for the quick fix rather than for the source of the issue, which lives systemically, somewhere in the space between Jack and Jane.
3. The congregation is unhappy: What is wrong with the pastor? What is wrong with the congregation? It must be that people are refusing to tithe.

Goal for the week

Filed under: DAY 1 — kona @ 6:59 am

Gain a view of FAMILY SYSTEMS and therefore see a manner of looking at life, families, relationships — through a SYSTEMS PERSPECTIVE

DAY 1 Scripture

Filed under: DAY 1 — kona @ 6:58 am

! Cor. 12:12 – 27

12: The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

14Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

DAY 2: Wednesday

Filed under: DAY 2 — kona @ 6:55 am

Linear Thinking vs Systemic Thinking

Morality is about space and not about knowledge

Non-anxious presence

Self Differentiation

Triangles

Stem, Lymbic, Neocortex

Reptillian Behavior

Genograms

Generational transmission

Homeostasis

John 8: 1 – 11

Jesus, Herds, Traingles and a Woman

Filed under: DAY 2 — kona @ 6:32 am

When Jesus, the teachers of the law, the Pharisees and the “woman caught in adultery,” (this is how she is immortalized) meet for the well-known exchange as recorded in John 8, the interaction illustrates many fundamental concepts, or tools, of Family Therapy and principles that arise within that discipline. More than this, the interaction shows a healthy leadership response to a tragic, ominous set-up, the attempts to trap leaders in theological minefields, the pitfalls faced in religious and family hierarchies, and the flawed expressions of human “righteousness.”

Like many events recorded in the Bible, this one illustrates critical building blocks of Family Therapy. Particularly, this scenario shows Triangles, Fusion or Enmeshment, while most profoundly offering a view or a “window” into the concept Murray Bowen, one founder of Family Therapy, named Self- Differentiation.

“But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.” 5”In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.”

This is the beginning of the consummate, and multi-complex triangle. The ferocious and determined Pharisees are fired up, fused with each other, and on the warpath propelled by their sureness, the certainty of their righteousness. Their captive object lesson is a woman (Oooooh, keep your distance!), and she is wrong (Oooooh, she’s unclean!), caught in a sin punishable by death. Jesus is pushed, accosted might be a better word, for an opinion by a herding pack of righteous men coming his way.

In response, Jesus demonstrates clear, well-defined boundaries, acute self-awareness and a tenacious understanding of humanity, the very hallmarks of self-differentiation, and the essentials of a healthy personality.

Jesus is taken by surprise with the arrival of the group of men who bring with them the adulterous woman. He just sat down to teach. He is not expecting to be thrust into a theological or moral trap. The Pharisees are theological and social bullies. They barge in on Jesus and expect a hearing.

The men must have scouted the territory and gone out of their way to find her. They must have bullied and humiliated her into Jesus presence. To the Pharisees she is little more than a trump card, a means to exposing Jesus as harsh and law-abiding as they themselves are, or as one whose understanding of the law is compromised and flawed. Their camaraderie, their “blood-sport-togetherness” or locker-room-bravado is further fired by their “rightness” which blinds them to any possible surprises from Jesus.

(Beware of ill-defined, herding, pack-mentality people who believe and are convinced they are right. Such people are often very harsh toward “lesser moral” beings because even their “rightness” has no boundaries. These persons often come in the guise of “prophets.” Being right and being invasive reveals little or no distinction with such people. Invasive, indiscriminate zealotry is dangerous. Zealous self-righteousness is blinding, uncaring and usually dangerously wrong. They “fix” others by trying to force others into the shape of their own misguided zeal. Clearly not all people with the gift of prophecy are this way but let the reader beware!)

The Pharisees focus on the woman’s sin, not because they want to bring her to correction or to Godliness. They have no care for her. They use her to win something over on Jesus. The have no interest in her salvation or in her well being. Their interest in her begins and ends with their attempts at trapping Jesus. (Methinks, rather naughtily of those righteous Pharisees that they sound just a little like the man who got her into this predicament in the first place! What is the difference between using a woman for sex or using a woman as bait? Both show no interest in her welfare and neither party respects her as a person.)

This behavior demonstrates their poor boundaries, their fusion, and lack of differentiation. The sin of the woman is the focus of the Pharisees, not because they ache for her redemption, not because they want to fight for righteousness, not because adultery alienates spouses from each other and ruins, wounds and challenges the social order.

People with sound boundaries, self-defined people, do not need the weaknesses or the wrongness of others to underscore their own goodness. They are sensitive to the vulnerable, compassionate with the weak, and they can demonstrate such caring without losing themselves, without drowning in empathy or sorrow.

They went looking for her in order to trap her in her immorality. Now, with similar energy, they come looking for Jesus to lay for him a theological trap. Boundary violators have no way to self-govern and they are on a roll to show they are good and that she and Jesus are not good. There is no stopping the tirade at this point by anyone with equally poor boundaries. Confused people cannot “un-confuse” confused people. It takes solid, healthy boundaries to stop the invasive power of righteous confusion. Persons attempting such an intervention, from an equally unhealthy state, will merely escalate the conflict into greater polarity, avoidance or estrangement.

The Pharisees lack self-definition and insight (if they had either they would not be in this situation). Remember, they travel and attack in packs, hurt the weak and they attempt to fuse with the strong. They need her (they cannot vouch for themselves) to validate who they are, to swing their claims. Ill-defined people cannot vouch for themselves or be their own object lesson. They have to triangle someone or something in order to display their worth. One-on-one confrontations are not attractive for ill-defined people, they simply do not have the self for it, thus their tendency to triangle others in order meet their goals.

“7But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.”

Notice that like all well-defined people, Jesus gets to decide how he will behave. He knows that he gets to make the rules for his own behavior. The seriousness of the hour, the gravity of her sin, the rightness of the Pharisees and the pressure of all who are watching to see what he will do and how he will respond, are not adequately motivating forces for him to decide something in the heat of the moment. The pressure of the moment, or even any sense of compassion or feelings of pity for the woman, do not drive him or dictate his behavior. He is sufficiently self-defined, grounded, integrated, to know what he believes and to demonstrate what he believes before he falls prey to their evil attempts at trapping him.

“When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.””

Jesus does not disagree with their assessment of the spiritual condition of the woman. He does not defend her. He is sufficiently self-assured and self-aware, and insightful not to take sides even at a time it might appear easy to do so. He suggests that the very people who have found her guilty meter out the appropriate punishment. He simply asks those metering out the punishment be morally positioned to do so.

Notice that in his magnificent expression of differentiation he gets them each to “think alone” and not as a group. By suggesting that they respond to her sin according to their degree of individual perfection, each has to begin self-contemplation. They arrive together (“unified”) but he talks to them as individuals. They depart as individuals (they become unglued). He unglues the glue. His capacity to differentiate un-fuses the fusion.

If he had said, “Do whatever you all think is the right thing to do,” he’d have played into their pack mentality and they might have immediately stoned her. After all, they are right, she is wrong – but being only right does not always resonate with compassion, empathy, acceptance and challenge. Being right, being kind, and being moral are not always the same thing. Some people are so “right” that the zeal, the power, the attitude behind their rightness makes them dead wrong.

“8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11″No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.””

Many writers have conjectured about why Jesus stooped down and about what he wrote. I believe such details are irrelevant. The point is that Jesus took the time to “steel himself” for the moment. He takes the time to be present for himself, to allow himself room to think and to contemplate. Perhaps he is shifting gears from what he was about to teach a group of people before he was so rudely interrupted.

These are the marks of a non-anxious presence. He is not delaying or avoiding, nor is he confused. He is not “conflict-avoidant” or “conflict-averse” (remember there’s a cross in his future!).

He is enduring and embracing the emotionally charged moment, and, with his own “non-anxious-presence” he is discharging the charge, he is deflating the emotional balloon, bringing it all “down to size” without becoming infected by the surrounding anxieties. Jesus is allowing everyone an opportunity to face each other as equals rather than continue in their polarity as alleged law-breaker and law-keepers. Notice how easy it is to judge when the criminal is faceless, nameless and how putting a person in the dock can change the attitude of the jury.

Jesus makes the Pharisees see her face. Their intent was to embarrass her and to trap him. Instead Jesus gives her a face, an identity. He demands they look at her as a woman, a person, an equal, for the first time.

He does what all great leaders do when faced with manipulators, with toxic triangles, with trauma and human evil that parades as righteousness: he brings a calm by being calm, he acts as a thermostat to the volcanic emotions surrounding him, but, does not himself become “emotional” or reactive. He does not lash out in the manner that they have lashed out at him.

Jesus talks to a woman. He talks with an unclean woman! This would be considered scandalous for a man, a religious man, and even more scandalous for a Rabbi. Jesus knows who he is and therefore is able to engage the woman with the full understanding of what the conversation “looks like” to others. If he were a person with blurred boundaries or one who was lacking in self-awareness, he’d have removed himself from her and either hidden himself among the Pharisees or gotten himself away from the Pharisees and the woman all together. When people are “triangled” (trapped, cornered) they have few options other than to be a victim – or run, attack or rescue. Jesus does none of these and he stays.

He remains non-anxious and present (a non-anxious presence) in the light of the confronting, attacking behavior of the Pharisees. He remains present for the woman in her humiliation. If he were a poorly defined man, an anxious man, he might have wanted to impress the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, or impress the onlookers with his “love” and compassion by running to the rescue of the woman. His behavior comes from within; it is internally processed, not externally dictated.

A less defined Jesus might have said, “You are most certainly correct,” in response to the Pharisees, if he’d wanted to side with them. “Not only do you accurately assess that I am one who knows the law, you know the law well enough to assess that she is breaking it.”

In this manner his response would have blurred the lines between who he was, and who they were. He would have removed any differences between them, fused with them. He’d have given up his beliefs and his behavior for theirs. This would have gotten the Pharisees “off his case” and they would certainly have made him their poster child.

It is important to note that Jesus and the Pharisees agree the woman is a sinner but are polarized in the way they see her. They see the Law, He sees a woman. The Pharisees dehumanize and use her while Jesus sees and responds to a troubled woman. Ironically, I believe Jesus regards the Pharisees in the same manner the Pharisees regard the woman: as a sinner. He is kinder than they are when it comes to acting on these perceptions.

If he had been unsure of himself, seeking his identity in the acceptance of others, then siding with the Pharisees would not only have been right (according to the law) it would have given him “love” and “acceptance” enough to compensate for whatever he felt he was lacking at the time. When people need to use of the “badness” of others to show their goodness, something is usually awry.

On the other hand, if Jesus had expressed a lack of differentiation by siding with the woman, the interaction might have gone something like this:

“Yes. She is in the wrong, but where is your compassion?” he says, standing between the woman and the Pharisees, inviting her to hide behind him.

“Where is the man with whom she has sinned?” (He might have attempted to triangle the woman even more by bringing in her fellow adulterer). “She is more sinned against than sinning,” he might have said, “Get lost you evil men who want to trap a woman in her sin.”

If this had been his approach he would not only have demonstrated a lack of understanding of the law, he would have incurred their further wrath. Such a move might have managed to get a lot of sinners on his side and he might even have felt quite messianic in doing so, but still he would have been reacting (giving away his power) to the emotional environment, as opposed to responding (keeping the power).

By taking sides with no one in this unfortunate scenario, by remaining within, yet apart from it, and by not rescuing the woman, she gets to face herself and not hide behind Jesus. Because he does not attack the Pharisees they, unexpectedly, get to examine themselves. He masterfully steps out of the fray, clears the ground between them and “forces” them into self-examination, and, into seeing the woman in ways they had heretofore not had the eyes to see.

His response is good for everyone. It encourages her self-respect and it takes the Pharisees sufficiently by surprise. They have no option but to consider their own moral condition. His response shifts the focus off the woman and onto their own behavior and they take the only option they can, which is to leave the messy scene of their own creation with their self-righteous tails tucked between their equally self-righteous legs.

To hide behind Jesus (in our sin) does none of us any good (this is an attempt to “fuse” with Jesus). As each of us must do, she faces herself. She faces Jesus and she faces her accusers. The Pharisees are compelled to see her, not as a thing, as a sinner, as a means to their malevolent ends, but as a woman and an equal. They have to see her for themselves, rather than as men who somehow managed to get God on their side against her. (Perhaps you have noticed that when people think they have God on their side it is easy to avoid seeing people as real people?)

(Are you having trouble thinking of examples? Recall how many governments have, in God’s name, allowed gross infringements of human rights and the dehumanization of people. Apartheid is a good place to start. The architects of Apartheid repeatedly claimed God’s guidance, protection and authority in developing political policies that protected the interests and the political power of Caucasians at the expense of all other races in South Africa. If this example is too big, or too distant for you, think of the church you read about (of course it’s not the church where you attend) where someone was publicly “blackballed” by leadership that was doing God a favor helping God keep the church pure.)

Jesus lets no one off the hook, including himself. He could legitimately judge her and his judgments would be accurate. He could condemn her. He’d be correct if he did this too. Instead of these options he speaks the truth without allowing anyone else, or any emotional pressure, to define the truth for him. He is able to offer her grace because it is an expression of who and what he is, and not because the teachers of the law or the Pharisees are pressuring him to do so.

Jesus is, in this exchange and in every encounter, himself. He demonstrates integrity to his very essence and, subsequently, everyone, the Pharisees and the woman, get to self-examine afresh. Potentially everyone is better situated for growth, for greater authenticity, deeper Godliness, and the same is likely to be true when anyone learns the wisdom of growing less Pharisaical (legalistic) and becoming more self-differentiated. To the woman, Jesus says, “Go and sin no more.” To the Pharisees and teachers of the law he effectively says, “Go and stone no more.” Everyone in this encounter has the potential to be freer than they were prior to the encounter, which remains, to this day, a hallmark of encountering Jesus.

Peacekeeping / Peacemaking — there is a difference

Filed under: DAY 2 — kona @ 6:19 am

There is a big difference between keeping peace (peacekeeping) and making peace (peacemaking). In a troubled emotional environment peacekeeping takes a lot of work, saps energy, and is usually a never-ending task.

Peacemaking lays groundwork for authentic peace to rule.

Peacekeepers work hard to keep the tensions from rising. They work hard at pretending that nothing is wrong and nothing is bothering them.

Jesus was a peacemaker (the cross is one evidence that he did not avoid conflict) and he calls his followers to be peacemakers. (See The Beatitudes, Matthew 5). Peacemakers allow tensions to surface, even encourage tensions to be aired. They might even precipitate conflict.

Peacekeepers avoid conflict at any cost. Their reward is the semblance of peace and tranquility and the slow demise of their integrity.

Peacemakers invite necessary conflict because they know there is no other pathway to increasing of understanding between warring people and groups.

Peacekeepers can endure fake peace for decades while the tensions erode at their well being and it often leads to feelings of being called or anointed. Peacekeepers often have high levels of martyrdom. How else would they rationalize the stress that accompanies the effort of trying to hide the proverbial elephant in the room? Peacekeepers are often portrayed a deeply spiritual because they can endure so much without “saying anything.” They often see their suffering, not as an expression of being misguided, but as a product of faithfulness to being “Christian.”

Peacemakers value authentic peace more than its distorted parody. The peace that exists between people with the courage to endure conflict, for the sake of lasting peace, is like gold when compared with its counterfeit cousin. In your family, at your work place, at your place of worship, move toward lasting peace with courage. Assume your legitimate role as a peacemaker rather than avoid conflict in order to keep a semblance of peace that is not worth having.

April 3, 2006

DAY 1: Tuesday

Filed under: DAY 1 — kona @ 8:04 am

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Dueling, God-given Desires

Boundaries, Self and Sexuality

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