on time travel: Romans 11

read Romans 11.  After seeing the new Star Trek movie, how can one NOT rewatch its predecessor on demand.  Both J.J. Abrams versions are about the youthful Spock, Kirk and other Starship Enterprise heroes.  There is something so satisfying about seeing them reveal their characters even at a young age.  Kirk is already rash.  Spock is coldly logical.  Bones is full of fear.  Scotty is full of ideas.  Watching them is a form of time travel in itself.  Because for those of us who watched the t.v. show as children, our subconscious was busy imagining how a young Kirk would have played off of a young Spock. Our subconscious imaginations get realized in the two newest movies.

“I would cite regulation, but I know YOU would simply ignore it,” a young Spock tells a young Jim Kirk in the first new J.J. Abrams movie (called Star Trek 9).

“See.  We ARE getting to know each other.”  The young Kirk whops the young Spock on the chest.  Spock stares impassively ahead, which is Vulcan for an eye roll.

The exchange makes us smile, because the two men will spend the next 125 years re-enacting the same dynamic.

At the end of the first new Star Trek movie (don’t worry, not the one on the big screen), the young Spock meets his future self.  Spock realizes that his future self had conspired with Kirk earlier in the movie without his knowledge, and asks why:

“Then why did you send Kirk when you alone could have explained everything?” the present Spock asks his future self.

“I could not deprive you of the knowledge of what you could accomplish together.  Of a friendship that would define you both,” the future Spock says.

Okay.  I’ll be honest.  It made me cry.  Yes, I know.  It’s just Star Trek.  But honestly. I grew up on that show.  I have three brothers and we had one t.v.  So guess which gender choice won out?

The thing is, every human being is different than every other human being.  God knows that our selfish tendencies make us want to hunker down into our character issues and fight the people whose character issues jut up against our own.  But just think what we could all accomplish together if we allowed our character flaws to be softened on the sharp edges of friendships.  Just think what would happen if we allowed our friendships to define us.  What would it look like to love even the unlovable?

It would look like a too merciful world, wouldn’t it?  It would look like a world that was too easy on people.  It would look like a world full of push-overs.  We’d be wimps.  We’d be doormats.  Wouldn’t we?

Or do we have it wrong?

What is true strength?  What is true dignity?  Isn’t it to be kind to people without needing anything from them?  Isn’t it to give without expecting anything back?  Eleanor Roosevelt said no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.  Right.  Got it.  But how do we do that?  Is it even POSSIBLE for us humans to be nice to people without expecting anything in return?  Can we really be abused and not have it harm us at all?

I don’t think so.  We’re just not made that way.  If we’re nice to someone who hits us in return, it DOES rob us of dignity.  We do feel dumb.  If someone tries to take something precious from us, and we open our arms and say, “here.  Take everything else I have, too.  It’s yours,” we feel like we’ve failed.  If I know that my next door neighbor is a drug addict, I should lock my door.  Right?  Otherwise, if he slips into my home in the dead of night, steals my jewelry, and oh whoops, shoots me in the eyeball when I stumble out of bed and discover him in the act, it’s my fault for unlocking my door.  Isn’t it?

Yes.  Of course.  Jesus told his disciples to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16.  So how do we walk the line between not giving people the opportunity to sin against us, and yet turning the other cheek?  How are we to be wise?  How do we know when to lock our doors and when to swing them wide open?

I have no idea.  But I know the one who does.

Jesus is wisdom.  He is kind and yet has self-control.  He is strong and yet gentle.  What’s His secret?  Okay, so I happen to believe Jesus is God.  That helps.  But then let’s go further.  Even if you don’t yet believe in God, do a thought experiment.  If the God of the Bible existed, how could God be strong and yet gentle?  Why isn’t He all thunderbolts?    How can God give to us even before we love Him back?  How could God have given up His life for us, even though we are so selfish and stubborn we’re the ones who killed Him?

I think God’s secret is that God can give because God doesn’t need anything from us.

Why?  Because God IS love.  Love, real love, doesn’t need anything.  It’s complete in itself.

It’s not that giving to abusers is free, even for God.  The Bible is clear that it costs God to give.  Our rebellion “grieves” Him; it breaks His heart.  Ephesians 4:30.  We need only look at Jesus weeping and shaking in the Garden of Gethsemane to know that.  When the sky weeps in Mel Gibson’s movie version of the Passion, we feel sure Gibson got it right.  The sun went dark and the earth shook when Jesus died.  Matthew 27:45-53.  Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died, just as we sense God wept when His Son died.  Jesus’ entire body was jolted through with spiritual darkness when God turned His back on Him on the cross.  Jesus groaned in agony: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani on the cross.  Or as we put it in King James English: MY GOD MY GOD WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME??  Matthew 27:46.  Jesus suffered hell for us in that moment.  He was separated from God.

Love hurts.  Even for God.  Especially for God, as He IS love.

So if love cost God everything, why can He still give without needing anything in return?

I don’t know.  I can’t say I really understand that kind of love.  I’m not sure any of us can.  But here’s the thing.  Love works.  It’s the only thing that works.  Love is stronger than hate.  It’s stronger than enmity.  It breaks down walls.  It melts resistance.  Often we can’t even see how love is working.  Often we can’t see it work in our lifetime.  But love is never wasted.  How do we know that?

Because anytime we have ever really loved we know all the way down that it’s the best way.  We also know it’s better than anything we’ve felt before.  We know we want it all the time, but we don’t know how.  So here’s how.  Ready?  We just have to love God back and trust Him to do the rest.  When others hurt us, we trust God to restore us.  In other words, we just have to love love.

Love is the ultimate time traveler.  Love is outside of time.  Love created time, after all.  And love sees all that ever was and ever will be.  Love sees that He defeated evil on the cross, and He sees the working out of that salvation in the future.  Satan’s days are numbered.   Ours are infinite.  We just need to start trusting in the things we can’t see.  We need to acknowledge our character flaws – our impetuous tendencies, our coldness, our conspiracy theories, our crazy ways – and offer them up to God to be softened down by relationship.  We need to be in relationship with God, and by being tenderized by his grace – his “undeserved kindness” – allow Him to start restoring our relationships with others.  Romans 11:5.

We need to time travel into the future, where there will be a new heaven and a new earth.  We need to time travel into our past, and talk to God about our hurts and allow Him to heal them.  We need to forgive and let God be God.

There’s this wild wonderful way about God.  He can turn rejection on its head.  He says that when those who reject Him finally accept, it “will be even more wonderful.”  Romans 11:15.

That’s God’s secret.  He doesn’t hold rejection against us.  He will accept all of us.  He holds out his arms and only rejoices when His people finally come to Him.  That’s love. It’s not our way, so our only hope of living that way is to embrace the one who IS that way.  By embracing Him, we discover we have embraced ourselves.

It’s impossible for us to understand God’s ways.  We can’t give him advice.  We can’t give God enough that He needs to pay us back.  We can just give Him thanks and glory.  Romans 11:33-36.

And when we can’t do that?  Well, luckily God knows all our character flaws and loves us just as we are…

Please, Captain.  Not in front of the Klingons.

posted by Caroline Coleman in A Chapter a Day