Dialogical Desire

There are a small number of people in my life that send me emails or texts from time to time asking for input about questions that they are wrestling with. I cannot overstate the joy I have when I get such questions. I think the main source of the joy for me is knowing others that think. I don't mean this as an insult or slight against anyone else but I find such pleasure in finding others that also seem to be in in the grip of wonder. Those that are so caught up in this wonder that they ask and read and seek and write. This is really the very heart behind my writing a blog at all. I long for and believe that philosophy and theology can only really be done in relationships and dialogue. Our best thinking is not so much the result of thorough dialectics but dialogues.  I long to have dialogical thought and development and that is why I am overjoyed when I find those that are down for such dialogue. In case it has not been clear before, this blog exists as something of an outlet to me but it is also an invitation to you. Dialogue with me. 

With that said I thought I would just share a recent email I received (slightly edited for anonymity sake) as well as my response.  Welcome to the dialogue.    

Initial email:

I was just thinking, why is it that no one ever really knows how they are going to behave in a certain situation until it comes to that situation? Whether they are going to flake out or stand up to the challenge? People have all sorts of ideas (and express them all the time) about what they WOULD do if they had the money, time, resources etc. Like in Mark 14, Peter believed he would never disown Jesus, but he did 3 times.
And then sometimes you think you will absolutely not be able to handle grief, or trauma, or blood and guts but it turns out that you are made of more than you think. 
What is this inconsistency in us?

My response:

Is it an inconsistency? It seems to be consistently true that we do not know ourselves. We are out of touch with our own darkness. We are actually surprised when we fail morally and similarly, like you said, sometimes we are made of more than we think and we rise to the occasion when strength is needed. This truth about ourselves is a way to better know ourselves.

I cannot even count how many times I have failed or had a friend fail in some major way only to backtrack to some decision that was made out of an attitude of 'I'm strong enough'. Someone relapses on drugs and if you track that decision back three smaller decisions you find them allowing for a small bad decision which put them in a compromised situation that they really thought they could handle. I know so many couples that end up being sexual with each other, though trying not to, because of similar small bad decisions. What I mean by small bad decisions is the 'not yet moral failures' that are made in the spirit of being strong. People tell themselves 'I'm strong enough to sit in this car together alone late at night', 'I'm strong enough to lay on this couch together and watch this movie', I'm strong enough to go on this trip together and be good'.... whatever you get the point. If we are wise enough to see that we don't really know ourselves then we might actually become wise enough to stop trusting ourselves. 

And then I think the same thing applies to the heroic. How often do we not love enemies, share the good news of God's kingdom, feed the hungry, spend time with the sick and so on because we 'don't think we have what it takes'. Think about this real hard. We are strong when we wanna put ourselves in compromising situations (out of selfish motivation) but are not strong when the needs of others or this world asks us to put ourselves in insecure situations (in acts of selfless love). 

In the sermon yesterday at the Underground's crucible, Brian said "show me an area where you struggle with sin and I will show you an area where you are struggling to love." Love is the force in this world that is uniting and reconciling what has been alienated and divided by sin. Love will always be selfless and sacrificial. Love is scary and we don't think we are strong enough to actually love. 
Sin is what alienates us further from ourselves, each other and God and we spend all of our lives in its grips. This is what the gospel itself offers us freedom from. You can be set free from this grip of sin and death by accepting Gods unconditional and unrelenting love  that was made concrete in Jesus. He made love real and possible in this fallen world. 

You are actually strong enough to love, strong enough to sacrifice, strong enough to lay down your life for this world. You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. (phil 4:13)
You are not strong enough to prevent yourself from sinning. You are not strong enough to 'trust yourself' and you are in absolute need of the fathers love and forgiveness. 

God, who sees all of your darkest and ugliest thoughts, secrets and private sins loves you more than you can possibly imagine. His love can turn your sin into glory through His grace and transforming love. That is what is happening in you as you are being made new through conversion, transformation, redemption etc. You will be surprised by what you are capable of forever because he is making you more whole every day. This should be a humbling revelation. We are made strong by Jesus and not by our own efforts. We are dependent on the work of Gods grace in us for everything. The minute we let pride creep in we begin to think 'I am strong enough' and God in his infinite wisdom and love will allow us to fall again so that we may remember, He is the one that is strong. 


  1. You're going to become the "Ask Abby" of theological ponderings. Ask Jon D.

    I love it. I love being included in the conversation. Even if I didn't ask the question because sometimes I'm experiencing the same thing but don't know what questions to ask. I have struggled with sinning out of courage or hating out of fear, but didn't know why. It actually takes more courage to recognize you are sinful and resist sinful situations and it requires more fear (of the Lord) to love fully. So eloquently put, Jon. Thank you!

  2. So what you are saying is... We are mostly weak and sinful (which explains our failure), but with the love, strength, and reliance on God we are capable of greatness? I can get down with that.
    Also, I agree with Sarah's comment. Fear of the lord will lead you to the right decisions. Fear of anything else (man, poverty...) will debase humanity. Realized that when watching a documentary about the Hutus and Tutsis last week!

  3. I would say that we were created for greatness but have been born into a fallen world and ourselves fallen. Existence in this world is now quite different from anything one might call mans 'essential' or created goodness. We were created in his image but have fallen from anything that could be considered His likeness. So yes we are totally (not mostly) fallen but in Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God, we have a place to hide and be restored to His likeness, which is greatness.
    'Whoever would be great among you must be the servant of all'


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