Reminders on Life at JPUSA: Another P12 Outreach journal entry…
Posted by Jon on April 9, 2007
I belatedly came across a March 19 journal entry done on our Project 12 outreach which, though with some repetition from other journal pages, also had a different slant on things enough that I’ll post it.
March 19 2007 Project 12 Journal
Living as we are with thirty to forty hard-core drug addicts [we were staying at the Hebron camp for men dealing w/ drug addictions] has really reminded me of some things that historically make JPUSA special, and in my life are good things to re-emphasize.
1. Christianity isn’t about being “good.” In fact, goodness is usually about self. Christianity is about discovering that deep down, we are not good, as in not whole human beings. We are needy, broken people capable of hurting, even breaking others.
2. Christianity is about facing ourselves yet not hating ourselves. The old JPUSA way of saying this was “conviction” (a positive good, meaning we become aware of sin and immediately begin an active set of steps to make it right). The bad flip side to conviction was “condemnation,” a strange form of short circuiting the Holy Spirit’s conviction through one’s own harsh self-judgement. But the psychological “reward” for such a wrong judgement is that the self-condemned person has no motive to do right, no motive to repent. He (or she) can wallow in self-pity while continuing in sin. It is a vicious circle — only cleansing conviction from the Holy Spirit, receieved by the person who has failed, can break that circle.
3. God is love. And love motivates us, quickens our hearts in glad recognition of the Beloved, causes us to rush toward the Beloved to be swept up in the Parental Arms. The addict who repents and continues walking in that repentance discovers over and over again his need to be loved, and God’s capacity to do that loving. Nothing less than this will empower a community to do good works, both among those of the community and among the neighbors of the community. Works coming from love are not as works coming from condemnation or legalism. They are in and of themselves cleansing and healing.
4. Transparency is the coin of the Church. Or, to be more accurate, it should be. None of us are held guiltless who refuse to admit to our own sins or refuse to confront (in love) the sins of a brother with whom we are in real relationship. Transparency is sometimes painful, sometimes liberating, but always required before a building filled with people who are hiding their true selves becomes a building filled with a local form of the living Body of Christ.
5. We never become “good” or “whole” in any ultimate sense while on this earth. Yet our natural assumption is that we will one day achieve such a goal. Reality is that sin is exactly one act of disobedience away. An addict who has been clean for fifteen years can, with one drink or snort, be back into his addiction as though he’d never left. Likewise, we older members of JPUSA who think we are beyond sins of our youth must not be presumptuous. Reality says, “Let no man think he stands lest he fall.”
This myth of our goodness must die; we are not good, God is good. We are loved. We are forgiven. We are cherished. We are being made into His likeness, and there is goodness in that, but the goodness remains incomplete while we are here, to be finished only in that moment after we meet him face to face at last.
6. American Christianity assumes it is moral. And in fact, that is right, it is. But because it is, it is also no longer truly Christianity.
Moralities belong to all cultures, not just American culture. So do hypocrisies. But Christ didn’t come to make us moral. He came to rescue us from being dead in sin. Dead people are not moral. Born again people are being made into the image of God, in Christ, who is far more than moral in in the most powerful sense beyond normal human categories of “morality,” much as God’s mind is beyond normal senses of the word “intelligence.”
Much better we remain humble and simply say, “God is working in me.”
Well, this ranged far afield from what else happened today. I guess the stories will have to wait.
Did I mention the phrase Alan told us yesterday, the entry he made in his diary right before attempting suicide? “I am the corruptor.” He had begun prostituting himself for drugs, living under bridges in Indianapolis, eating from dumpsters. And when he wrote “I am the corrupter,” he meant simply that every time someone met him, he corrupted them. Maybe for some people, there were at least times they were not corrupters of others. But Alan had reached the point, as he looked back at his life, of realizing he was in fact the corrupting influence in every life he saw intersect with his.
Another guy spoke to me today, and he too sold himself for drugs. “The first time I had sex with a man, it was for $150. The second time, it was $75. And after a while, there was a time it was for $17 and a pack of cigarettes.”
A third man told me of his terrible addiction, and he too sold himself for drugs. He ripped off his wife and his roommate for drugs. He used the same needles his brother did, who was gay and very involved in promiscuous sex.
His brother died of AIDS, though he (surprisingly) did not get it…
The stories are terrible. But also full of hope. Because they are here, they are doing what we have been trying to do all these years. To follow Jesus, and to be conformed to His Image. Which is very, very different from merely trying to be good. Trying to be good, after all, is only another form of addiction…
Jon March 19 Project 12