It was early in 2010 that I was introduced to the book, “The Undefended Life” by an Anglican priest – Simon Walker. Simon was loading chapters of his book over a period of time. I tend to think with a pen or pencil in my hand, and I made some extensive notes for my own benefit. It was after reading some challenging comments in August 2011 that I edited these notes to reflect some of what I now see as my own ‘undefended faith‘ – that faith that I don’t have to justify but which I am quite happy to share.
It would be difficult now to highlight specific passages from Simon’s book but he has asked that I include a link to his blog that had such a big impact on my thinking.
As I look through this first page I realise something of how many thoughts have been crammed into a relatively few words – but I do have an Anglican background and can empathise with so much that Simon has written. The subsequent pages are rather more concise.
We live in the world as if God is not reliable or trustworthy – there is so much emphasis within religious circles on shame and guilt – why do so many Christians struggle with a guilty conscience?
Why the emphasis on condemnation?
Guilt within society seems to be a way of formalising the status of a breakdown of friendly, trusting relationships, and the recognition that something needs to be done to put the breakdown ‘right’, before it leads to some form of violence.
Why is there so often, an inability to forgive?
Does this help to explain why we have developed so many sophisticated behavioural skills and the creation of many masks!
What place idolatry? Why do people idolise their favourite singers, actors, sports teams or individual performers? It could be seen as a form of escapism from the realities of life.
For some people religion seems to be an escape from reality – we need to beware of trying to control God!
How many of us recognise that God can be trusted and that the future has been secured (something that religion I suggest cannot do)?
Some would say that it is the presence of God that is the real antidote to fear – a covenant relationship as a result of trust.
I am tempted to suggest that only if God is with us (in us) will we be able to really move forward!
Repentance should perhaps be seen as a process of abandoning all of our own strategies to secure ourselves.
Are we really moving away from religion to security in faith?
What is the foundation of that assurance?
Fear describes the cause of our thinking and actions – guilt describes many of our actions of self-preservation.
Fear sees the alleged hostility of God as a threat.
Sin is I suggest, not something outside of us (like the white surrounding the yoke of a fried egg). We are the result of what life has thrown at us and how we have chosen to deal with it (which in many cases consists of just accepting things as they are).
We have all created different coping strategies – how do we abandon the fears that control us?
How many of us have experienced a lack of trust as children?
Emotional scars are not easily healed.
Is it really true that the resulting self-centredness is usually rebellion against God?
How can we really rebel against a God we don’t even know?
Where is the trust, security and freedom that comes from God?
The narrative of fear is complex:
It results in interweaving strands of behaviour as varied as greed, violence, self-harm, conscientiousness, moral duty, guilt, attention seeking, apparent ultruism, lust, anxiety, compliance, defiance and so on.
Where is the freedom from the need to defend ourselves?
Many seem to draw a distinction between our initial reconciliation and the reconciliation of our daily living – seeing redemption and sanctification as a two step process often involving our own efforts.
If we can see sin as our attempts to make ourselves safe, we can see that fear no longer needs to be a factor in our relationships.
We have a choice to see and embrace the world as God now gives it to us – as a gift.
Will we participate and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us?
This is so far from the idea of striving to live up to some high ideals and always falling short. Does it really make sense that we are slowly enabled to live more and more Christ-like lives?
Consider the parallel with a mixed sack of grain – if only some of the rotten grains are being replaced, the sack will remain mixed.
Do we really see sin as a kind of infection?
Do we recognise a freedom and liberation from the slavery of legalism?
For me this is all summed up in the difference between the Room of good intentions and the Room of GRACE – something that is very familiar to some of my friends.
I have separate pages for my notes on some of the subsequent chapters:
2. Living in the Spirit
3. Living Life as a Gift
4. Living in the Present
5. Relinquishing Control and taking Responsibility for our Lives
7. Power and Leadership