Lord’s Day 3 (Q/A 6-8): OUR COMMON LOT

6  Q. Did God create people
so wicked and perverse?

A. No.^1
God created them good and in his own image,^2
that is, in true righteousness and holiness,
so that they might
truly know God their creator,
love him with all their heart,
and live with God in eternal happiness,
to praise and glorify him.^3

^1 Gen. 1:31
^2 Gen. 1:26-27
^3 2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24

7 Q. Then where does this corrupt human nature come from?

A. The fall and disobedience of our first parents,
Adam and Eve, in Paradise.^1
This fall has so poisoned our nature
that we are all conceived and born
in a sinful condition.^2

^1 Gen. 3; Rom. 5:12, 18-19
^2 Ps. 51:5; Gen. 5:3

8 Q. But are we so corrupt
that we are totally unable to do any good
and inclined
toward all evil?

A. Yes,^1  unless we are born again
by the Spirit of God.^2

^1 John 3:6;Gen. 6:5; Job 14:4;15:16, [35]; Isa. 53:6
^2 John 3:5

“Our Common Lot”

Last week was busy with laws in legislative halls and the U.S. Supreme Court. Historic immigration reform legislation was being debated in Congress. The Texas State Senate was embroiled in procedural gymnastics (complete with a 13-hour filibuster) that made any parliamentarian heart’s delight as a bill regarding abortion headed for a showdown. The U.S. Supreme Court handed down rulings related to the Voting Rights Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the status of same-gender marriage in the state of California.  My Facebook and Twitter feeds were buzzing, several folks describing the week as a “roller-coaster,” no doubt as each of these legislative and judicial moves were celebrated by many and bemoaned by many, depending on one’s perspective.

Last week’s events confirm the insights of sociologist James Davison Hunter of the University of Virginia in his To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (OUP, 2010) where he describes how both political conservatives and political progressives in the United States have sought to advance and advocate their particular vision and agenda for the country – albeit divergent views—but both have followed the same methods.  Hunter persuasively argues that both sides have sought and prayed for control over the levers of power and authority – the White House, the U.S. Congress, the Supreme Court, state houses and governorships – in order to enact legislation or increase the likelihood of judicial rulings that advance a particular vision.  In both cases, Hunter believes that neither side’s vision and agenda has won the day. Why? Because hearts and minds are not changed by legislation, resolution, or judicial pronouncements. Hunter doesn’t advocate for the discarding of laws nor giving up on the legislative and judicial processes; each and all have their proper place in our common life together as a country and as a society. What he does call for is something simple, but radically different: “faithful presence.”   Faithful presence is being in solidarity with your neighbor, intentionally listening, engaging in face-to-face/heart-to-heart conversation, serving one another.

Faithful presence requires an intentionality that is more durable and enduring than the outcome of the next election or the ruling of a 9-member majority court, or even what a General Assembly might or might not do.  Faithful presence is about being in solidarity with one another.  It’s a far more excellent way, and it is much more difficult because it’s often not public, the results are not immediate, there’s little speech-making or voting, and it requires the investment of your time, energy, and prayer.  But more importantly, faithful presence requires the very work of God upon our lives to prompt, prod, and renovate our heart and mind so that we regard both God and our neighbor as the very gifts that make our hearts and souls delight with gratitude and joy.

Q/A 6-8 is a Lord’s Day section focused on being in solidarity with our common lot. Q/A 6 speaks to us about God’s intention in bringing us into the world, in creating the world in the first place. Every part of creation, including you and I, are here to glorify God, to reflect the image of God, to enjoy God.  The common lot which we all share with one another as human beings and which we all share with the entire created order is in recognizing the Lord God Almighty as our Creator, and in doing so, enjoying God and offering our lives in deep gratitude for life itself; but more so, in giving thanks to God simply because God…is God.  Period.  Faithful presence is being in solidarity with one another and with creation in recognizing our common calling, our common purpose and common lot in belonging to this God who has revealed Himself to be the holy, righteous, good and gracious, all-wise, all-loving God who brought us and everything into being.

Q/A 7 speaks to us of our common lot with Adam and Eve and with one another.  This is not so much about an inheritance of a seed that was in Adam and Eve, nor is this so much about the origin of sin.  Eberhard Busch astutely observes, “Sin comes from sin.”  In observing a murderer, our nature wants to inflict vengeance. Busch says of a recognition of our common lot in sin:  “But if I know what basic sin is, I will say, in a shaking voice: the roots that in him/her have borne such terrible fruit lie also in me.” (emphasis not mine)  Being faithfully present to one another, to God, and to ourselves is a truth-telling of what lies in the heart of all of us.  None of us has the moral high ground fully and consistently 100% of the time. What we’re all guilty of in small and large measures is that we have used God and one another for our own particular purposes and concerns, which is what Adam and Eve did. Rather than enjoying God and God’s gifts just because, we use, abuse, misuse, or neglect God, one another, and ourselves in the process.

That is why Q/A 8 is a necessary rejoinder. We need God. Our common lot is, we need God. We need the Spirit of God to bring new life to us, to breathe new life, to claim us as children, to cause new hearts – or more accurately—reborn hearts and renewed minds. By intruding, intervening, and downright re-birthing us to become what we were created to always be from the start, the Spirit of God powerfully demonstrates what it means to be faithfully present, and in Jesus Christ, what it means to join with our common lot.