By what authority do I speak, justify actions, or claim truth? I must look to the sure witness not majority opinion or personal preference. A profound difference exists between justifying my choices and preferences and my speech and actions reflecting the true witness. The witness of God comes bearing light, giving sight. Our witness is true only as it points to the witness who is eternal and divine.
Much of my story has been shaped by the circumstances of birth. Factors that form my story – health, religion, schooling, language, and environment – are due in large measure to where I was born and to whom I was born. Freedom, prosperity, diet, education, parents, and religious environment are contingencies that I did not choose but came to me. Yes, I made decisions along the way and these have determined the direction of life. And yet, the boundaries of my story have been set by birth. It is as if I was placed in a moving car, and my task has been to keep it out of the ditch and on the road.
On the other side of the globe, a male child is born into completely different possibilities and constraints, and thus, Mehmet lives into a story of another kind. Kinship, scarcity of food, agrarian labor, a polygamous household, and mosque are contingencies he did not choose but came to him. The decisions he makes are framed in a unique way by these factors and thus produce a particular storyline. It is as if he was placed in a raging river, and his task is to navigate the rocks and trees hidden beneath its current.
Given the well-defined contingencies of our births and the contexts in which we grew up, should Mehmet and I expect there to be coherence or shared purpose in our stories? Continue reading
The following are my words to graduates at the commencement exercise at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University on December 14, 2012.
Truett graduates, we congratulate you. You made it! Well done. We are extremely proud to call you our graduates, and we anticipate that God will accomplish much in and through you as you serve Christ and his church in the years ahead. Congratulations!
The teenage years can be hard. Believe or not, I was once a teenager – many, many years ago. And I raised several teenagers myself. Teens can be hard – hard on parents, hard on the furniture, and hard of hearing. As a teen, I remember being in turmoil – fighting with my brothers, resisting my parents, and pushing the boundaries. And yet, in those difficult teenage years, in the midst of my fighting and in my search for boundaries, words came to me that arrested and challenged me. I don’t remember who spoke them, or much of the context in which they were spoken. But I do recall what I felt as I heard them and remember being struck by them – so much so, that I have held them in my memory all these years. A speaker told the story of a French Huguenot evangelist, who was imprisoned for preaching his faith and then sentenced to be burned alive. Tied to a stake, officials gave him one last chance to recant before lighting the wood at his feet. He responded with these words – What I say with my lips, I seal with my life. Continue reading
I have been thinking the last couple of days about identity and purpose. I think both are tied up in what it means to be witnesses.