Thursday, December 16, 2004

Petit Four Ritalin

Have always wondered how people possibly enjoy repetitive activities like jogging (especially around the same track over and over again) and swimming laps. Hey, you're free go wherever you want and do whatever you want and you imprison and confine yourself to a small cramped area performing obsessive-compulsive actions? Non comprenda. If I were a hamster stuck in a tiny metal cage with that silly treadmill, I think I’d go mad and hurl myself against the bars of the cage to end it all. And practising endless scales on the piano or practising anything at all…why practise? Why not just go out and do it already?! Bring on the Ritalin.

Was experimenting with petit fours when my mind, numbed by the smallness of everything, took a hike and had a good think about before-and-after conversion changes. For some people, the change is dramatic: before, they were addicted to drink, drugs or drag-queens and after, they are cleaned-up clean-living disciplined and serious about their work, family and God. For others, the change is less dramatic: before, they had foul tempers or were selfish and after, they are more patient or loving. Of course it's all very dodgy if there is no change at all.

Nice New Convert
Some time ago, someone commented that newly-converted friend couldn't have had much problem becoming Christian and wouldn't have much problem with the Christian life because he was so nice and polite already. Was this right?

Assuming this new convert was
really a nice guy, the type who would give up his seat to pregnant mothers in the MRT, buy tissue from old ladies in hawker centres, build houses for orphans in Cambodia and was a filial son at home, was this statement correct in light of the Bible?

Nice New Convert: Was still going to hell?
We know that there are only 2 types of people in the world: those who live under God and so are part of his kingdom and his family, and those who live in rebellion against God and are God's enemies whom he will destroy. When a person is converted, through the blood of Christ, he crosses from the enemy-side and is welcomed into the very family of God. So nice new convert (NNC) however nice he was, was an enemy of God. And no matter how many old women he helped gently onto escalators or weeds he back-breakingly pulled for his mother, he would still have been shut out from God's presence and everything good and enjoyable at the final judgement.

Was NNC nearer to crossing the line between God's enemies and God's family than others though? There doesn't seem to be such a graduation in the Bible. There are the people who are evil, rebels, enemies, cursed, condemned, destined to be trampled and consumed by raging fire, living in fearful expectation of terrible judgement by God. Then, there are the people who are saved, living under the rule of God, safe from terrible judgement, secure in the blood of Christ, confident of their place in God's kingdom, members of the family of God, indwelt by God's Spirit, in fellowship with God's Son. So NNC is either in one or the other. It is impossible to be nearer one than the other. He has to be either an enemy or a friend. Thank God, he is now a friend.

Nice New Convert: Cruising post-conversion life?
Post-conversion however, we are to put off the old man with its evil sinful desires and put on the new man, living under God. Would NNC have an easier time of it then? Unlikely. The Christian life is actually about a relationship with God and with fellow believers, not a to-do list of goody-two-shoes traits to acquire. So while NNC may have many goody-two-shoes traits, that is not what makes him a Christian or a mature Christian. He has to grow in knowledge and love for God and his family and submit more and more of his life to God, including his niceness.

Problem of Rebaptism
In Christian circles, there has always been this blindspot of the rebaptism of pagan traits. If before we were converted, we were nice and patient, now we say we are godly and loving. If before we were critical about everything, now we claim we are discerning. If before we were stingy, now we reply we are thrifty unto God. If before we talked only about ourselves, now we pass it off as sharing. If before we were bochap and couldn't care less about anything, now we are happy we are pleasant people who live in peace with our neighbours. If before we were controlling, now we justify our actions as holding people accountable for their godliness...

When people rave about the godliness of someone who is undoubtedly gentlemanly, speaks well, is charismatic (not theologically lah) and able to give the right answers in bible study and request that he be made a leader, I ask these questions of him:
  1. How did you become Christian?
  2. How is your relationship with God?
  3. How have you grown in your relationship with God since you were converted?
  4. What were you like before you were converted?
  5. How have you changed after your conversion?
What we want is a leader who is growing in godliness because of God and for God. Not a goody-two-shoes no matter what a wonderful character he may have and how great he is with the group.

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