Friday, October 24, 2008

mortal sins, venial sins...and virtual sins reported this great news story yesterday:
Woman Arrested After Killing Virtual Ex-Husband

A 43-year-old Japanese woman, angry over a sudden divorce in the virtual online game Maple Story, has been arrested on suspicion of hacking into the game where she killed her once-virtual husband, authorities said.

Authorities said the Miyazaki woman illegally accessed the game with a password she hijacked from a colleague. That made it appear as if her coworker committed the online murder. According to The Associated Press, the woman told police: "I was suddenly divorced, without a word of warning. That made me so angry."

The hacking allegation carries a maximum five-year prison term.
Okay, so it turns out she wasn’t really arrested for killing her virtual ex-husband, but for hacking into Maple Story with someone else’s password. But even still it’s a great story.

Think about it: it’s not really your husband. And it’s not really a murder. But you're really in trouble.

Here’s a theological conundrum: what if Jesus really meant it when he said, “You have heard that the Law of Moses says, ‘Do not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’? But I say, if you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the high council. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” (Matthew 5:21–22 NLT).

Contextually, many Biblical historians see the Law under Moses as a cultural moral advancement. When the Law said, “An eye for an eye”, it was actually a limitation on what an injured person could do to the one who victimized him. In other words, if some dude sucker punched you in the face and you lost your vision, you couldn’t kill him. The most that could be done was a reciprocal eye punch. Believe it or not, that was merciful in light of the historical moral context.

But Jesus takes this whole thing stratospheric—he invades our thought life. His point was: because God sees our hearts and intentions, this can’t simply be about behaviors. God is personally hurt by our thoughts when they are self-focused, vengeful, hateful, or arrogant. Why would He not be? How would you feel if your kids walked around perpetually feeling spiteful, angry and “me-first”? How would you respond if your second-grader swaggered around with his nose up in the air, rude to others and calling people moronic? Would you feel embarrassed? Angry?

Now what if you could hear your child’s thoughts?

What if virtual actions in a virtual world revealed our not-so-virtual and not-so-virtuous hearts? It’s just a game, eh? Or, in real life, it’s just our thoughts. Right? No one really got hurt, did they?

Maybe God isn’t virtual like Maple Story. Maybe this isn’t a game. And maybe we are actually responsible in a real way for our thoughts.

Maybe we need a savior because we’re virtually screwed up.

I do.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

“moneymoneymoneymoney…moooonnnnneeeeyyyy” ~Gamble & Huff

Man, am I late on this. Sorry.

How can you not hear constant buzz about the economy? Our country is on a `round-the-clock financial information binge. The only good news is we’re spared coverage of the latest Lohan family rehab news. Back in May we decided to do a series in October on money; who would have guessed at that time that the airwaves and zeroes-and-ones would be filled with terms like bailout, CDOs, Fannie Mae MBS?

The last time I spoke I showed the NYC national debt clock from six months ago.

It was originally designed to display up to $9,999,999,999,999. Two weeks ago it actually ran out of spaces—we hit a new high (or a new low): $10.2 trillion. They had to replace the dollar sign space with numbers; plans are in place to add two more spaces. How bizarre is that? We are in way over our heads.

These are the days when you hear preachers say:
• “Jesus spoke more about money than ______” (hell, heaven, salvation, whatever….)
• “Bla bla bla…time, talent, treasure…bla bla bla”
• “I’m no economist, but…”
• “Turn to Malachi 3…”

And, yeah, I’ve said them.

During financial uncertainty, you know what’s the real deal? —Trust.

But honest trust. That’s trickier than it reads. Think of all the things that have to be in place for real provisional trust to work: a good and true heart, healthy measures of self-awareness, child-like faith in a compassionate Father, no guile, a sense of scale, generosity, and a good work ethic. Then you can trust God deeply and honestly. “Provision” is heard differently depending on the “receptor”.

For instance, a message of trust in a Father who provides would probably be heard differently by Dorcas in Acts 9 than the Thessalonian slackers in 2 Thessalonians 3. Dorcas was known for working constantly to provide for the poor; some Thessalonian believers were sitting on their super-spiritual cans waiting for Jesus to come back. Paul laid his apostolic hammer down with this rule: “Whoever doesn’t work, doesn’t eat.” How do you think God would respond to either one who asked for needs to be met?

While it’s true the phrase “God helps those who helps themselves” isn't found in the Bible (credit Ben Franklin for that one), outside of our personal salvation, that’s a pretty pithy proverb. Coming from a “word of faith” background, I had dissed that thought. But the older I get, the more I can see our behaviors/words reflect what’s really in the heart.

And, in the Kingdom, we hear—and receive—with our heart.

You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat… (Isaiah 25:4a NIV)