Paradigms, Parasites, & Paul
Welcome to my first guest article on Gospilled! My hope is that by sharing, others might glean something that enhances and empowers their walk with the Lord.
I met Andy in the Army 17 years ago. We met as brothers in arms, but he has remained my big brother in the faith ever since. I am by no means a writer, or a theologian. Much of what I will share comes from my what I've learned through my experiences as a common man working with common men.
I have met a lot of people are miserable and self loathing, disempowered, and robbed of the many joys of life by a poorly formed childhood paradigm. Many of these people are Christian, and that's heartbreaking.
What is a paradigm? Basically, it's the way we look at something. It's the model we use for making sense of the world around us. It's the framework we use to evaluate, judge, and respond to circumstances.
This poorly formed paradigm I am referring to can turn our world upside-down, and for the Christian, it affects how we relate to God! That is the area that I am most concerned with.
What is this guy talking about? Well, I'm glad you asked. And in the words of a great man “read on brothers!”
… and sisters :)
The genesis of a poor paradigm.
Children are dependent upon their families to meet their every need. Survival requires resources, and children require assistance attaining them. Pretty basic stuff, right?
At the earliest childhood stage, children see themselves at the center of the universe. Baby cries and mom feeds. Baby cries and mom changes their diaper. Baby cries and dad picks them up. They believe everything that happens, good or bad, is in reaction to them.
Each family has it's own set of rules, beliefs, and values. The same is true for our extended families, churches, and schools. We have different roles and rules in each, but we learn how to operate and cooperate within the boundaries set by the common culture. You could call it the carrot and the stick, reward and punishment, or honor and shame. No matter, children learn their behavior within the group is important to maintaining long term membership, which is the key to their survival.
Those who play by the rules and live up to expectations get their needs met. If you fail, you try to hide your failure for fear of being shamed, shunned, or in modern terms “cancelled.” Children are often ruled by fear. Fear is a great motivator.
That's when children develop the idea or paradigm that all relationships are transactional. Everything is a quid pro quo. It's tit for tat. Some even refer to The Law of Reciprocity.
But is this really a law?
Let's start with something Paul said.
1 Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
I believe that for children, it's pretty much true. But that's because they are not responsible for themselves. Their parents are and everyone has heard of house rules.
But what about men? Should we strive to seek the approval of men? Should we fear being abandoned or canceled? Is our fortune somehow tied to our works?
What happens when we come to God with that sort of paradigm? How does that work in the spiritual realm?
As a man, I have a new set of beliefs.
God is sovereign (not me)
My relationship is based on love and grace (not fear and debt) When Jesus said “tetelestai” he said “paid in full” and ended the transaction based relationship
My dependence is on my Heavenly Father, through Christ, not man.
My rest and peace is in the finished work of the cross.
I have a new paradigm. I am no longer a host to the parasites of shame. The shame who robbed my joy, feasted on my failure, and ruled over me with fear.
We all remember the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Don't we relate to him? Do you read the parable and remember your own failures? I always have. But I wish the Parable was titled the Parable of the Faithful Father. What happens when realize that's the real story? What happens when we focus on the faithfulness and love of the father?
Instead of loathing our failures and hanging our heads in shame, we glorify God and look up and raise our hands and praise Him! It affects our attitude and even changes our physiology. Why was the father so loving and gracious? Why didn't he read off a list of his son's failures and poor expenditures? Would you or I be so gracious?
It reminds me of a quote I once heard in a sermon. I don't know who originally said it but it went something like this “two men looked through bars, one saw mud, and the other saw stars.” Same view point, different perspective.
Changing our paradigm from one built on fear, failure, and scarcity to one built on love, grace, and abundance also changes how we deal with people. God is our example. Grace is our example. Christ is our example.
Imagine having to go to a kids birthday party. You'd really rather stay home and take a nap, but you feel obligated, because they came to your kids birthday party. You could go and be a grumpy sourpuss while focusing on what you've lost in going, or you could change your paradigm.
What if you asked “what gift do I have to offer everyone who shows up? How can I make this kid feral really special and loved? How can I show God's grace? Changing your paradigm changes you and changes everyone you deal with.
It's not about a transaction where you give to gain. It's about sewing and reaping. They are different. The difference is in who squares the deal. When you sew, it's the Lord who brings the increase and receives the Glory!
I hope this doesn't come across as prosperity gospel. I don't believe in that. I'm talking about allowing the perfect love of God to cast out all of the fear in our hearts whether put there by men or created by our own anxiety.
Finally, changing our paradigm just may change who you associate with. There are some congregations where men tell you how bad you suck and all you have to do to fit in. Here's how much you should give. This is how you have to dress. This is where you have to send your kids to school. This is the kind of music you have to listen to… and if you don't, you'll be on their prayer lists and the topic of their conversations till you comply.
Change your paradigm and you'll realize that while you were yet weak, while you were yet a sinner, Christ died for you. He loved you and accepted you and you no longer need approval from men to come boldly before the thrown! His perfect life and death made it possible for you too to become the son or daughter of the Most High God!
All you can do is love Him back and accept His grace. He paid for the meal and even left the tip. When someone starts telling you how you fall short and listing off your spiritual liabilities, remind them “tetelestai'“ PAID IN FULL!