Seeking the Manifold Wisdom of God on Indianapolis' Near-eastside


by csmith - September 28, 2007 - 7:56 am

[Jim Aldrich's thoughts on a recent Sunday night conversation]

Last Sunday night’s (9/16/07) topic/beginning assertion was: “it is at the level of our desires that we most need transformation.”           

The conversation turned pretty abruptly to a “God’s Will” discussion, as Melissa has an opportunity she would like to pursue but doesn’t know whether she ought. We could have stayed on the topic of desire—talking about her situation in terms of desire—but our folks are steeped in the language of God’s Will, and not that of desire.           

But we did talk some about both.           

Mike pointed out the bible word for desire is epithumia, having the prefix epi, which intensifies it. That word is often translated ‘lust’ in our bibles, a feature adding to our fundamental confusion. Our tradition holds that lust is a bad thing, having strong negative connotations, and we think of it in terms of wantonness, debauchery, addiction, sexual depravity. Desire, on the other hand, can be good or bad, and our own particular desires are probably fine since we are such good, devout, pure of heart people. Most of our epithumia get a free pass, never get considered under the heading “lust of the flesh”. Things like vacations, eating, careers, homes, vehicles, possessions, wealth and retirement are viewed by Christians as blessings from God and nobody else’s business. An even more acceptable area of desire for Christians is our desire to do something for God. In our theology this is understood as good, and any critique of the avenues this desire takes is unacceptable, as is the notion those desires might actually be destructive of the thing God himself is trying to do.  Our discussion turned to the (Eastern) thought that our goal should be to rid ourselves completely of all desire, an idea I expressed a preference for, but which was quickly explained to be Gnostic and silly. It may be both those, yet my intent is not to say all our desires are bad, worthless, evil, or any such thing, but that a more profitable venture would be for us to enter into the desires of God: our desires are suspect but his are not (I assume). Where our minds dwell is an important thing, and if they dwell on God’s desires rather than our own we would move more rapidly along the path to maturity.  But if we were to do that, we might not get that vacation we’re so looking forward to, or that fine dinner to celebrate the arrival of another weekend, or that new car we really deserve, or whatever. And to me this seems the pivot point of this discussion. We are comfortable with the world’s goods, and we like them so much, and they are just so good. Nothing wrong with any of them, yet in our desire for them we are subtly led from the way of denying self, taking up, following. So where do we go with this issue? Say, “Jim’s desires are really messed up but mine are OK”? Or actually talk about our desires, the fundamental ones, the ones that reveal our basic values and practices? Could we discuss something like eating and have a profitable dialog? The desire to eat seems like a simple thing, about which there can be little question, little to say. Yet in our

U.S. culture eating has become an enormous issue (and its practice has led to enormous practitioners).  Some questions:

·         Does our practice of eating reflect the wisdom of God; is it indicative of the coming kingdom of God?
·         When does a desire cross the line between being appropriate and being destructive? And does it even matter?
·         Is there more appropriate language than that of “good” and “evil” in such matter? Such as profitable or unprofitable, beneficial or destructive?
·         Profitable of beneficial for what, or in what way?
·         What do we reveal about ourselves if we eat in an unprofitable or destructive way?
·         What is our life about?
·         Is there really any distinction between “my life” and our life together?
·         It seems eating is one of the primary forms of entertainment for many Christians. Is that symptomatic of the Kingdom of God, or does it reveal some other core commitment?
·         Should we not enjoy eating? Shouldn’t it be a pleasant experience? 

How do we fit all the elements of our eating together in such a way that our eating is to the glory of God? Where do we even begin? Let me know.

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