My Journey of Becoming Love: Water and Keeping First Things First

I said “water,” expecting the word
Would satisfy my thirst!
Talking all about the second and third
When I haven’t understood the first.

Those are some lyrics written by Aaron Weiss of mewithoutyou (yes, it’s all one word). Now that I’ve read David G. Benner’s book Surrender to Love I get more out of those lyrics than I did 5 years ago – back when I thought mewithoutyou was the best band since Led Zeppelin.
20120809-mewithoutYou-2-6868-L

Whenever I hear these lyrics, I notice two truths that I think the writer meant to convey. The first is our human tendency to substitute empty words and theoretical knowledge for real experience. Believing in water, and even earnestly wanting water, are different from actually drinking it. When it comes to quenching thirst, there are no shortcuts and no substitutes to ingesting a refreshing mouthful of H2O.

In Surrender to Love, Benner relates that the love of God is something Christians often talk of, give mental assent to, and claim to believe in. But ask these same Christians about their personal experience with the love of God, says Benner, and they will have little to say beyond “Well, I know that I am forgiven because of the cross”. Church life, as well as the Christian life, are like a group of thirsty travelers gathered around a bubbling spring of fresh water. The catch in this analogy would be that nobody actually jumps in and soaks in the cool spring water. Some folks talk among themselves how wonderful it is to have water, while others simply ponder it so that they can write books and blogs and curricula about it. But nobody ever experiences the spring of water. The love of God, like water, is something you cannot truly know unless you have personal experience with it. No amount of study or reading or confession of faith or good work can make up for that.

The second truth I get from this bit of song lyric is that in our spiritual journey we are often quick to overstep our genuine understanding and forget the deepest, most important realities of our lives because we got too caught up in the minute and the superficial. We become fixated on the second and third when we haven’t even understood the first.

This reminds me of the words of Paul on the love of God in 1 Corinthians 13. Paul basically states in that well-known passage that to lack love is to forgo everything worthwhile about being Christ-followers. Acts of faith, sacrifice, miracles, and even martyrdom are worthless on their own. Everything must be done in love, for love. This love, of course, is not something our hearts can produce. Love is always from God, because “God is love”. It is where people and faith organizations lay aside love and become fixated on the good works, the ministry, the miracles, the doctrines, and all the other peripheral issues that life and community start to weaken and vision clouds.

So, if the love of God is so necessary for our spiritual growth, purpose, and knowledge of God, then we shouldn’t be satisfied just to stand around and talk about it or think about the idea of it. Without a life immersed in His love we are nothing. His love gives our lives direction and definition; divine love empowers our words and actions. In everything we do, let’s keep first things first, and realize that the deep flowing waters of God’s love surround us.

Newness knocks

English: Bee during Spring Season on a Plum tr...

 

We all wish we were more consistent. All of us could count on our fingers the benevolent habits and character-building duties and health regimens we secretly berate ourselves for not doing. When it comes to blogging – not to mention a myriad of other unrelated would-be habits – I am one of those “us”es. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged and I am just itching to write!

 

Fortunately for me, my trusty blog has been very patiently sitting here, waiting on my return all this time.

 

Meanwhile, my condescending readers have all together returned to their happy little lives quite unaffected by my absence in the blogosphere. But that’s just me projecting how I feel about my blog.

 

I’ll get to the point: another year of theological study is over for me, spring is here, and for the past few weeks I’ve wrung my hands, anticipating opportunities to hash out my thoughts and reflections on life and theology. In the multifaceted, crowded and confusing world of Christian ideas there is always something to write about. As a broke seminarian, I know that “the unexamined degree is not worth pursuing” (to borrow the Socratic mantra). For me, the best way to conceive understanding is to think in writing.

 

Whatever I will write about for the next few weeks is bound to interact with the theological ideas I’ve encountered over the past several months. These ideas pertain to what is the gospel, who is Jesus, and why does the North American church look and act and think the way it does – among a bunch of other topics.

 

I’m looking forward to this new season of warm weather and fresh content! I hope you’ll enjoy it with me.

 

Cheers,

 

Amy

 

10 Tips on How to Waste Your Year

If you’re like me, you think of your life as a series of years: each year represents its own significant unit of time to look back on and evaluate. Hence, I always take the time at the end of each summer to reflect on the previous 12 months and treat that previous year as a kind of microcosm of my life.

Having done this for the past few years, I’ve noticed in hindsight some behavioural trends and mental traps that have a way of messing up my focus on Christ and, as a result, produce a wasteful lifestyle. By “wasteful lifestyle” I mean those periods in my life that, when I look back on them, I think, Well, that time wasn’t so bad, and yet nothing much of value came out of it! These may be times of relative safety, comfort, and stability, but they may also be times of passivity, un-productivity, distraction, running around in circles, clinging to comfort and routine, or just plain time-wasting.

So without further ado, here are my top 10 year-wasting activities to fill you in on how you too can stay off-track!

1. Spend hours on the internet. Ah, the internet: that infinitely vast “place” you can “visit” without even stepping out your front door; that world of instant answers, instant gratification, instant entertainment, and other things that aren’t too good for us. When I think about my relationship with the internet, I realize that it is probably my biggest “destination” to escape bad feelings and life’s pressures. Useful as it is in my life, the internet also serves as a crutch. When the internet becomes a crutch, it becomes a huge time-waster.

2. Alleviate any feelings of depression or anxiety indirectly instead of actually facing the problem. Back in the summer of 2010 I was a fresh university graduate, living on my own, full of anxiety about the big scary future that awaited me, and I had no idea what to do with myself. So naturally, I made daily decisions to spend that summer doing a whole lot of nothing: I over-planned my future, unsuccessfully tried to micro-manage my finances, worried about things, listened to too many sermons that I didn’t even take the time to apply to my life in a concrete way, worried about my future, started a bunch of pet projects that I didn’t even want to finish by the end of the summer, and worried some more. Rather than turn within myself to such over-planning and over-thinking, I could have taken that time to get busy trying new things, volunteering, or building relationships. At least I learned a valuable lesson about time management that summer.

3. Never say ‘no’ to social calls and long-term commitments, unless you have a really good excuse that you know the person will understand. This habit can be a by-product of both/either people-pleasing and/or living without boundaries in your schedule and priorities. If you don’t take the time to figure out exactly what is important to you and how much time you’re willing to give to each area of your life, then you’ll be more likely to say ‘yes’ when deep down you’re not so sure you want to or should. If you’re like me, then you know many proactive, caring people who are doing many legitimate, important things, and are asking you to commit some time to helping their cause – but maybe there is something meant for you to do that you are neglecting because you are half-heartedly supporting someone else’s passion!

4. Tell yourself that you can only devote your time and energy to just one self-centred priority (e.g. making money, studying, raising a child) this year. The polar opposite of over-giving your time and energies to others is to cling to all that time and energy for yourself. This tends to happen with students who are constantly thinking about their grades and how much they paid to go to school: they end up sacrificing most other important things for the sake of their studies. The basis of this time-hoarding lifestyle is fear: fear that I won’t be able to juggle multiple priorities, fear of mediocre performance if I have to sacrifice too much of my study time, fear of stress. Funny how we actually waste time when we fearfully think we don’t have enough.

5. Always think about what will benefit, please, or impress other people (or another significant person in your life) when you make small decisions. Living to make others happy, when taken to the extreme, requires you to neglect your own legitimate desires, ambitions, and priorities. Any relationship – whether romantic, work-related, ministry-related, or dependent – can potentially suck the life out of you if you allow your daily life to become all about pleasing or helping that person. Every relationship needs Christ at the centre; if you care more about your relationship with another human being than you care about Christ, then you know you need to start making adjustments.

6. Wait for things to happen to you before taking any action. People like me often underestimate their own potential to be creative, proactive leaders. In fact, even as I type those words I’m thinking about how they don’t describe me at all! Okay, I may not be as creative as others, but I have as much potential to create something valuable based on my unique gifts and skill set. I may not be an entrepreneur, but I can still lead myself in a new venture. I may not feel comfortable in official or paid leadership positions, but I can still influence others with good character. Whenever I have tried something new, taken initiative on my own, started something – even something small – I have never regretted it.

7. Think more about the imperfections of things and people around you than how you can respond to potential needs. I love to think critically. I think most people who’ve been taught at a university do. It’s certainly a lot easier than actually making a change in ourselves so that the situation around us that we don’t like gets better. Lately, I’ve tried to adopt a habit of thinking of a concrete solution that I could initiate whenever I catch myself fault-finding and complaining about a person, system, or situation. When there’s no visible solution that I can see, I simply accept whatever it is that I can’t change. Hopefully, I am less bitter and disillusioned for it.

8. Watch Hollywood movies with your family as your “quality time” together. The more I grow up, the more potential I see in deepening my relationship with my parents and siblings. I still have so much to learn and so much love to receive from them – and they from me! But then when I thought back to what I normally do when I visit my family. There are so many opportunities to talk openly, be active together, or simply do things a bit differently – perhaps even minister to one another. This is not necessarily a popular thing to do, and family can be a touchy subject. But if all we do together is eat silently, watch TV, and talk about the news, we’re missing the mark.

9. Only set goals and make concrete plans that have to do with your finances, career, and health. Earlier I talked about over-thinking about life, which comes from worrying. But it is equally wasteful to not plan at all, or limit planning to your health and finances. When I don’t set goals and make concrete plans that I can review and renew from the beginning of the year to the end, nothing significant will happen – that goes for my commitment to God and to others, my relationships, and the overall balance of my weekly life. I’m learning to treat my time like money: unless I invest it in something wise and worthwhile, I’ll probably end up squandering it on silly things.

10. Hoard your life. Jesus taught his disciples to share their lives generously. More specifically, he wanted his followers to live before others in such as way that they could see the character and activity of God in their lives. In our culture of video, internet, virtual reality, excess stress, and obsession with privacy, it’s hard for us to tune out of our own lives so that we can tune in to others. Our culture constantly urges us to Escape and Get away from it all with some kind of product or service. Yet, Jesus urges us not to escape reality, but to immerse ourselves in Him so that we can purposefully immerse ourselves in the world. Are we heeding the voice of Jesus?

What are your biggest time-wasters/life-wasters? What tends to trip you up and sets you off course in life? You can leave a comment below.

Heresy and the Authority of the Church

For the past few months, I have been thinking a lot about heresy. For many of us, heresy sounds like an archaic term, and might even call to mind brutal execution scenes from the Reformation era. Admitedly, I have had a hard time understanding heresy in our day and age. I’ve often wondered how the Church should respond to “heretics”, or even identify them for that matter.

As a first post of many in this “mini-series” on heresy, I want to share some insights I’ve learned while reading about Christian history. If anything, they have served to underscore the importance of learning Church history in the first place.

1. Heretical sects uphold the authority of the Scriptures, while undermining the authority of the Church. Many sects of Christianity that have deviated from core Christians beliefs (e.g. the full deity and full humanity of Jesus) hold the Bible in the highest regard. For this reason, many Christians find themselves wondering, “If both of us love to study our Bibles, then why are our beliefs fundamentally different?” While many apologists point to flaws (or at least differences) of these sects’ translations of the Bible, I believe the difference comes down to according to whose authority we interpret the Bible and derive our system of doctrine.

Essentially, many heretical sects of Christianity still quote the Bible, but reject the Church’s teachings and authority by calling potential converts out of any Church meetings, practices and education they may be involved in. Jehovah’s Witnesses are a prime example of this. On top of trying to teach people “what the Bible really says”, they will also encourage the same people to attend their services and read their literature. One of many aims of JW literature is to encourage Christians and others to question the legitimacy of the Church and mainstream Christian interpretation of the Bible. Thus, a JWs aim is not to confront a Christian’s faith in God or the authority of the Bible, but rather to challenge their cooperation and association with the Church at large.

It’s important to realize that no single author in the New Testament actually spells out for us the entire body of Christian doctrine. Rather, each New Testament writing was prompted by a particular set of circumstances and addressed specific, concrete issues.* Due to this, along with emerging heretical beliefs (e.g. Gnosticism), leaders in the Early Church began to mark out the fundamental beliefs of Christianity and began to write on a broader, more systematic scale. Pastoral leaders like Irenaeus wrote to preserve the indisputable fundamentals of their faith by drawing from (or, in some cases, simply repeating) the teachings that were passed down to them from apostolic leaders. Presumably, the teachings of certain Early Church writers like Irenaeus preserved the teachings that stemmed from the original Apostles themselves, who of course were taught by Jesus Christ.

Thus the Early Christians passed down the teachings of the original apostles, thereby providing the doctrinal guidepost by which the Christian community could understand the Christian faith and interpret the Bible. The heretical ideas of that earlier time reflected genuine attempts to understand life, truth, and God in light of Jesus, but which deviated from the teachings of Jesus, the Apostles, and by extension the Church leaders, in fundamental ways. And the same is true with heresies today: they get their system of doctrine from the Bible, but reject traditional teachings that Christians believe are fundamental to understanding the truth.

2. Heretical sects claim “secret” knowledge or revelation of the truth based on non-traditional sources. Even today, one comes across religious people who speak about the truth as though it were a secret that only a few have discovered. I once came across a church leader who claimed to have special revelation from a dream and the book of Revelation that only those from a specific Christian tradition dating back to the Early Church are the “real Church” of Jesus Christ. Another individual insisted that a proper understanding of what the Bible teaches can only be attained when one reads it in Hebrew. Similarly, popular sects of Christianity like Mormonism are based on the witness or revelation of one human being.

This singular claim to true revelation was also evident in heretical sects in the Early Church. For example, Marcion claimed to have special access to Jesus’ true teachings and gospel, which he claimed was reflected in the Gospel of Luke and the writings of Paul, but nowhere else in Scripture. In the face of such claims, apostolic succession became important, for if Jesus entrusted his teachings to his twelve apostles, to whom he also entrusted the church, then it would follow that Jesus’ teachings would be accessible to the church at large through the apostles and successive leaders.

Furthermore, the Early Church affirmed four Gospels, not one, to demonstrate that despite minor contradictions between these four witnesses, Jesus had no intention of keeping his message a secret.

3. Heretical sects leave no room for diverse opinions. What I sense, although I cannot say definitively, is that heretical sects and “cults” that stem from Christianity deprive the individual believer of his/her authority to explore and interpret the Bible. Instead, because they base the authority of their teachings on an individual leader, or special revelation not available to everyone, they continually stress the importance of listening to this other authority. By contrast, the Christian tribe, while it does operate through certain structures of leaders and teachers and pastors, has always allowed for and even celebrated theological and philosophical exploration in addition to undeviating adherence to core beliefs that define Christianity. This “unity in diversity” is made possible through mutual love through the Spirit of God, though it often looks disunified….But that is another topic for another post!

To summarize, heretical sects have essentially come out from the authority of the Church, and in doing so seek alternate sources of authority – from subjective experiences, individual revelation, and pure reason applied to the Bible. It is therefore important for Christians to understand the authority they have and that they have come under as members of the Church.

* Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity Volume 1

My Rundown of the Sermon on the Mount

A little while ago, I created an outline of Matthew 5-7 for an online course. Outlines are a great Bible study tool – both reading and making them yourself!

Words to Build Your Life On:

An Outline of the Sermon on the Mount

 

1. The occasion of Jesus’ address (Matt. 5:1-2)

i.      When Jesus was at the height of his ministry, drawing huge crowds from various regions east of The Great Sea.

ii.      Jesus ascended a hillside, sat down, and addressed his disciples who were following him.

2. Conditions for surprising blessedness (Matt. 5:3-12)

A) How you view yourself (v. 3-5)

i.      You’re blessed when you come to the end of yourself; at that point you can have more of God.

ii.      You’re blessed when you feel lacking and inadequate in and of yourself; then you can embrace the One who wants to fill you.

iii.      You’re blessed when you know who you are and are content with that; then you will enter into what God wants for your life.

B) What drives you (v. 6)

i.      You’re blessed when you stay hungry for God; he will never fail to satisfy your appetite.

C) How you engage with the world (v. 7-9)

i.      You’re blessed when you give compassion; sure enough, you will receive the very same thing

ii.      You’re blessed when your inner life is right in God’s eyes; only then will you be able to see God with your own eyes.

iii.      You’re blessed when show people how to live peacefully with God and one another; in doing so, you will discover your true identity.

D) How the world responds to your right living (v. 10-12)

i.      You’re blessed when people persecute you because of your commitment to God; when that happens, you know you’re in the midst of God’s kingdom.

ii.      You’re blessed when people hurl insults and lies about you because you associate with me; be happy when this happens, because the world has always treated my close friends like that.

3. Embracing why we’re here (Matt. 5:13-16)

A) To be like salt (v. 13)

i.      Salt is used to bring out the best flavour in something.

ii.      If people cannot taste God when they’re around you, you’re of no use to God or to them.

B) To be like light (v. 14-16)

i.      Light that is hidden is of no use to anyone.

ii.      Let people see your life, so that in doing so they will see the God at work in your life.

4. Understanding why Jesus came here (Matt. 5:17-20)

A) To complete the Law and the Prophets (v. 17-18)

i.      Jesus comes to demonstrate his Messiah-ship.

ii.      Jesus declares that the Law is long-lasting, living and active.

B) To warn us to take God’s Law seriously (v. 19-20)

i.      People who make light of God’s Law will be made light of in God’s Kindgom.

ii.      Entering the Kingdom requires excelling in right living even more than the Pharisees.

5. Taking God’s law seriously (Matt. 5:21-48)

A) Murder (v. 21-26)

i.      Anger and murder come from the same spirit.

ii.      Anyone who demeans someone or their abilities is in danger of hellfire!

iii.      Make reconciliation with others a priority over “worship”.

iv.      You make the first move in making things right with the person holding a grudge against you.

B) Adultery and Divorce (v. 27-32)

i.      Lust and adultery come from the same spirit.

ii.      Swiftly “cut off” any part of your life that is causing you to sleep around in your heart.

iii.      Legal divorce cannot hide the spirit of treachery behind it.

iv.      Divorce makes adulteresses and adulterers out of people, unless they have already made themselves that by sleeping with someone other than their spouse.

C) Empty Promises (v. 33-37)

i.      Saying what you don’t really mean is lying and manipulating.

ii.      Don’t fluff up your language to make other people trust you more; just say ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and mean what you say.

D) Demanding Justice and Retaliating Against Enemies (v. 38-48)

i.      Don’t demand for justice when someone wrongs you or repay wrong for wrong.

ii.      Instead, repay their wrong with gracious words and actions.

iii.      Don’t show your best to your friends and loved ones, only to show your worst to your enemies.

iv.      Like God, you can and should be a generous blessing to everyone impartially.

6. Worshipping God secretly (Matt. 6:1-18)

A) Acts of compassion (v. 1-4)

 i.      God rewards people who are secretly “religious”

ii.      When you serve and give, make sure you do it so that nobody can see what you’re doing.

B) Prayer (v. 5-13)

i.      Don’t make a show of your prayers, like the hypocrites do.

ii.      When you pray, don’t worry about techniques or special phrases to repeat; just pray simply and your Father in heaven will hear you.

C) Forgiveness (v. 14-15)

i.      When you forgive others, you are showing heaven how you would like to be treated; do not expect forgiveness from God if you’re unwilling to forgive others.

D) Fasting (v. 16-18)

i.      When you fast to better focus on God, don’t make a show of it like the hypocrites do.

ii.      Instead, act like you normally would; God will still see what you’re doing.

7. Worshipping God totally (Matt. 6:19-34)

A) Your treasure stockpile (v. 19-21)

i.      Don’t spend your life stockpiling treasure on earth, where nothing lasts.

ii.      Wherever you place your treasure is where you’ll most want to be.

B) Your eyes (v. 22-23)

i.      Your eyes determine your vision, and your vision determines your direction.

ii.      If your eyes are open to let in the light of God, your whole life will be full of God; but bad or closed eyes only make everything dark and obscure.

C) God versus Money (v. 24)

 i.      You can’t devote your life to money and expect to be able to devote your life to God as well.

D) Hakuna Matata! (v. 25-34)

i.      Living a life of total devotion to God frees us from worldly worries.

ii.      Because we are valuable to God, we don’t need to stress about what food we’ll eat or what clothes we’ll wear.

iii.      God takes care of our daily material needs so that we can focus on his Kingdom.

8. Respecting God and loving people (Matt. 7:1-12)

A) Judging people (v. 1-5)

i.      Don’t be quick to point out people’s flaws and failures, unless you want the same treatment.

ii.      Instead of being holier-than-thou, work on your own flaws first.

B) Handling the sacred (v. 6)

i.      Don’t be shallow, insincere or nonchalant with holy matters; you’re only encouraging more profanity and sacrilege from others. 

C) Getting from God (v. 7-11)

i.      God doesn’t play games with us; if you need something, simply ask him for it.

ii.      What kind of a Father would God be if he tried to trick you or tease you when you asked him for something?

D) No. 1 rule for how to treat others (v. 12)

i.      “Treat people the way you’d like to be treated” is the golden rule that summarizes all the teachings in the Law and the Prophets.

9. Distinguishing truth from falsehood (Matt. 7:13-27)

A) Narrow and wide gates (v. 13-14)

i.      The wide gate boasts of an easy path to life, but actually leads to death!

ii.      The narrow gate is more difficult and less popular, but in the end it leads to life.

B) Good and bad trees (v. 15-20)

i.      False preachers seem sincere and gifted on the outside, but upon closer inspection, you’ll see that the tree of their character bears rotten fruit.

ii.      To recognize a good leader, pay attention to their character.

C) Intimates and Strangers to Jesus (v. 21-23)

i.      True obedience is what counts to me, not just speaking “Christianese” and doing some religious stuff.

ii.      Some people will be turned away on Judgment Day because they were all talk and no substance, or because they used me for their own selfish gain.

D) Wise and foolish builders (v. 24-27)

i.      If you want to be wise, build your life on my words like an expert builder building his house on a solid foundation; then your life will be solid enough to withstand any trial.

ii.      Those who don’t build their lives on my words after hearing them are like amateur builders trying to build on sand: their structure will tragically collapse.

10. The conclusion of Jesus’ address (Matt. 7:28-29)

i.      The crowds who heard Jesus’ address were astounded by his message, and the fact that Jesus exuded a confidence and authority that even their own religious teachers lacked.

The Hopeless Existence of Dylan Klebold

For some reason, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the massacre at Columbine. There is something uniquely disturbing about this tragedy: two friends on a shooting rampage, after months of planning and aquiring all the necessary weaponry, after years of bullying and pent up anger. Even more disturbing, I found, was the evolution of the boys’ worldviews in the years leading up to the massacre. It is still a profound mystery to me as to why a teenager would choose to end their life, get their hands on guns and explosives, and go shoot up their school in one cataclysmic “judgment day”.

After reading into the private journals of Dylan Klebold (which are now available online), I wanted to reflect on them and comment on the things that stood out to me – Dylan, because I found I could relate to him much more than the aggressive and antisocial Eric Harris. My thoughts here may not lead anywhere conclusive; this is simply an exercise in searching for meaning.

Dylan’s private journal begins at about 2 years prior to the massacre. From the very beginning, Dylan uses his journal to express despair and self-loathing. He has a rather poetic and philosophical way of thinking that only becomes more prominent in the entries leading up to his death. He talks about trying to find acceptance from others, longing for true love, feeling fundamentally different (yet in a way more advanced) than those around him, and finding hope in suicide. In his first entry he writes, “thinking of suicide gives me hope, that i’ll be in my place wherever I go after this life. that ill finally not be at war w. myself, the world, the universe” [sic].

As Dylan’s journal progresses, he refers to himself as a God (I use a capital ‘G’ because Dylan did) with increasing frequency. In one earlier entry, he calls himself a “God of sadness”. In a few of his last prose entries, he refers to himself as a God and not a human, yet calls the students at his high school “zombies” – probably a reference to their supposed shallowness and lack of awareness. In one of his final entries, he reflects:

“Its interesting, when im in my human form, knowing im going to die. Everything has a touch of triviality to it. like how none of this calculus shit matters. the way it shuldn’t. the truth. In 26.4 hours ill be dead, & in happiness. The little zombie human fags will know their errors, & be forever suffering & mournful, HAHAHA, of course i will miss things. not really” [sic].

What led Dylan to belief in his own transcendence and to a dehumanized view of everyone else? Essentially, that is what people do when they feel like outcasts with no hope of fitting in. The paradox is that they are counteracting deep-seated feelings of inferiority and self-hatred with an arrogant delusion that becomes their source of power and one-upsmanship. It is the result of misunderstanding self and others, and in turn, of hating self and others. Things like clothes, looks, masculinity, femininity, ethnicity, intelligence, and personality are all things by which we stereotype one another, accept or reject one another, and even grow to fear and hate one another – but they are all superficial, peripheral, categories. Sadly, few teenagers aim to “see to the core” of the people they interact with. In fact, many Christians fail to appreciate this ability in their Master, let alone the fact that in a diverse, polarized society we can successfully imitate him even in this way.

What led Dylan to actually act on murderous thoughts? I don’t know, but I have some ideas to share. As a preteen and throughout his high school years, Dylan was bullied more than most kids. Not many people knew who he was, but knew him only as a strange and unsocial person. Jocks would pick on him, call him a “fag” (I still remember when that schoolyard slur was common in the nineties), throw food, ketchup-coated tampons, and even on one occasion a cup full of feces at him.

In addition to bullying, Dylan experienced immense pressures from the high school culture around him – as I think many of us did when we were in high school. For example, boys typically gained self-worth plus social status (universal acceptance and respect) if they were athletic, rich, popular, and especially if they were sexually active and could attract girls. Conversely, being a virgin in high school means there’s something wrong with you, something very unmasculine and debasing. Dylan often vented about the unfairness of his life in his journal: he had only a few friends, no girlfriends, no ambitions, and therefore, no life. Aparently, even in his senior year of high school, he could not forsee his miserable situation changing once he graduated.

Cultural standards, which involve judging the acceptable-ness of people based on a set of superficial categories, only gave people reasons to hate Dylan, and in turn, gave Dylan clear justification for hating himself. In turn, this led Dylan to turn in hatred on – not just the people who were bullying him – but everyone he deemed to be part of this unfair “system” of hierarchies and standards and in-crowds. Any type of law, any type of standard, only serves to make human sinfulness more obvious, and can itself be a key factor in wrong-doing (See Romans 7:10 and the entire chapter. It may not “prove” my point, but it was a point of inspiration for my thinking).

To summarize my point using very “spiritual” language, I believe that the spirit of murder was at work all around Dylan Klebold. Murder, along with hopelessness and death, were hovering in the atmosphere.  Anger is the spirit of murder, and the act of murder requires a disregard of the value of human life. Others did not value Dylan, so that Dylan no longer valued Dylan, so that Dylan no longer valued others. And it comes down to that basic fact of human nature gravitating away from love; not guns, music, or video games.