Are We Doers or Thinkers? What the Modern Church Gets Wrong About Human Nature

Back when I was in college, I was a part of a Christian student group on the University of Utah campus called Utenited. Every Tuesday night, we would meet together in the Chase N. Peterson Heritage Center for a forty-five-minute study break that entailed exceptional worship and a five- to seven-minute Bible-based message to encourage and give life to everyone gathered, whether or not they believed in the doctrines of Christianity.

As powerful as these nights were, though, they were not the essence of our mission. Our mission was to be the group that serves, and throughout the school year, we would engage in various activities both on and around the University of Utah campus to serve the University of Utah, its students and their groups, and the broader community in which it exists.

We tore down tables and chairs at PlazaFest, long after most of the other student groups had left. We rearranged an entire ballroom from theater seating to a dining room in record time and left the University’s Orientation Office perplexed at how we did it so quickly and with such joy and enthusiasm.

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Our Ministry of Reconciliation What It Is, and Why It's So Important to the Christian Life

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Christian practice of reconciliation, and the truth is that I don’t like it. It’s so much easier to just write off those who’ve hurt me and have no interest in owning their behavior than it is to do the hard (and often painful) work of fighting for reconciliation with them, but last night, I was writing a reflection paper on the practice of reconciliation, and as I reread the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5, I came to realize just how important our “ministry of reconciliation” really is.

Reconciliation is the Christian practice of renewing our broken world by not playing fair. Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive, offering a generous seven times. Jesus responds by telling him it’s seventy times seven. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek when someone hits us, to go the extra mile, and to give also our cloak to the man who sues us only for our tunic. In laying out the ministry of reconciliation, Jesus is telling us, “Don’t play fair.” It wasn’t fair when the Man who had done no wrong was crushed for our iniquities, but in so doing, he began a ministry of reconciliation. To what end? According to Paul: the new creation.

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What Is a Covenant? How an Understanding of Biblical Covenant Elucidates God's Faithfulness

It’s his faithfulness that’s producing this ache in my heart, the way a sore muscle cries out as it’s stretched so that it may heal. I’m having to stare in the face lies that I’ve believed for twelve years of my life and see his faithfulness shining brightly through them all.

I wrote those words in my journal two days ago, then collapsed on the table at which I sat and began to sob. But contrary to bringing sorrow to my soul, those tears brought a smile and a laugh. In a single 24-hour period, everything I’d been learning and experiencing came together to deepen my understanding of a word that is central to the biblical story: covenant. But what is a covenant, exactly?

When it comes to understanding my relationship with God, I’ve fallen into one of two camps for almost half of my life. Either God let good (or bad) things happen to me because of my behavior (we’ll call this the “punishment view“), or, because I couldn’t possibly do anything to put God in my debt, I was supposed to follow the do’s and don’t’s of the Bible based in a knowledge that God loves me without being able to expect anything from God (we’ll call this the “unbalanced vulnerability view“). Both of these views, as I’ve recently discovered, fall short of how the Bible speaks of our relationship with God.

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