Nurturing Relationships

16_Creation_JPEG_1024

God created us for relationships. Three ‘things’: Soil, Breath of life, and the rib in the Genesis account of Creation highlight the connectedness with God, the world around us and with others. “Soil”, “Breath of life” and “rib” in the story are illustrative of the inter-relatedness we have with the World, God and with other humans. 

Soil: Adam was formed out of the dust of the earth. Adam is an “Earth-ling” or a “dirt-creature”. The Hebrew Bible employs the adam/adamah word play to indicate their inter-connectedness. In this sense, we are part of creation and belong to the earth.

True, we have the mandate to ‘rule’ the earth but that is not a ‘licence” to misuse, overuse and abuse the earth. We are ‘Earth-ling Rulers’. Our ‘rulership’ mandate is not to exploit its wealth, deplete its reserves, and pollute natural resources.

Rulership is Responsibility.  With great power comes greater responsibility.  We are to care for the world and nurture healthy relationship with the earth. Technology and our modern-day gadgets may give us a sense of ‘power’, ‘invincibility’ and ‘control’ over the earth but we can’t live our lives entirely in a ‘virtual’ world created with megabytes and megapixels entirely dis-engaged with the real world.

We are to recognise our inter-relatedness with the earth and nurture a healthy relationship with it.

The breath of life: After God formed Adam, God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (Gen 2:7) . We may be ‘earth-lings’ but we are ‘spiritual beings’. While we share our connectedness with the rest of creation, we also stand apart from the rest of creation. We have the capacity to ‘spiritually’ connect with God.

The Genesis account presents God walking in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8) in loving relationship with Adam and Eve. God’s passionate search for Adam: [“Where are you?” (Gen3:9)] reveals His love for humanity. Adam (and his wife) ‘hid’ themselves amongst the trees of the garden (Gen 3:8).

Adam and Eve ‘disconnected’ themselves from the presence of the Lord (Gen 3:8). We must nurture ‘spirituality’ and grow in our understanding of “who God is” and “what His will is for our lives”.

God’s love seeks us from the ‘spaces’ we run to, and run away from to hide from his presence. The Bible is God’s love story of reaching out to people who break the relationship with Him. The soul awakening ‘breath of life’ in us is a powerful reminder of our spiritual connections with God.   

Rib: We are made for community. We are not designed to be a group of ‘individuals’ but rather as a “persons-in-community”. The Genesis story presents God as one who seeks to find “a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:18) because “ it is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). God himself assumes responsibility for finding “a helper comparable to him” (Gen 2:18).

God takes one of Adam’s ribs, makes the woman and brings her to the man (Gen 2:22). Adam and Eve don’t just live together in the Garden but they share a “committed relationship” with each other. Eve is Adam’s wife. Adam is to “hold fast to his wife and “become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).

The Genesis story is about how Adam and Ever were both “each for the other” and “for God”. Love needs intimacy, passion and above all commitment (Sternberg’s triangular theory of love). Intimacy and passion remain ‘real’, ‘excellent’ and ’delightful’ only with commitment. Intimacy and passion become ‘gratification’, ‘demand’ and ‘self-seeking’ when taken out of the boundaries of marriage.

We are called to nurture a healthy relationships that is built on love, companionship and a sense of belonging. Adam and Eve’s ‘knowing’ brings the gift of Cain (Gen 4:1). 

Marriage is not merely for ‘love’ but also to nurture family. Intimacy comes with the responsibility to ‘birth’, ‘raise’ and ‘care’. The family becomes a microcosm of the community. We belong to each other. Our identity is ‘in-relation-to-the-other’.  The reference to the genealogical record “Adam fathered Seth who fathered, who fathered…” (Gen 4: 3f) is a reminder that ‘fathering’ provides ‘identity’ , ‘sense of belonging’ and ‘meaning’.

We are called to ‘recognise’, ‘relate’ and cherish relationships within family.  The family is to abound with love, care and commitment.   

I-Thou, I-thou, I-it relationships

We are related to God, the world around us and to each other.  We are called to nurture these relationships. The word pairs ‘I-It’ and ‘I-Thou’ proposed by Martin Buber are helpful in nurturing meaningful human relationships. ‘I-Thou’ describes the world of relations.

We enter into a I-thou relationship when the feeling or idea of relationship is the dominant mode of perception. However, we can reduce the ‘I-thou’ to ‘I-it’ if we lose the idea of relationship. Therefore, a relationship with a  thing (book, music and art) can become a ‘I-thou’ relationship while a relationship between two individuals can easily become a ‘I-it’ relationship.

It is the dominance of the idea/feeling of relationship that defines the nature and meaning of relationships. Buber reminds us that all relationships are spiritual because they ultimately bring us into relationship with God, who is the Eternal Thou. God, therefore, is the relation to all relations. 

We are called to meaningfully relate to God, the world around us and to each other. The ‘breath of life’ reminds us that we are capable of experiencing the ‘I-Thou’ relationship. Our connections with the soil (as ‘soil-man’) and our connections with the other ( bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh) reminds us that we are to nurture ‘ I-thou’ relationships.

We must nurture a ‘I-Thou’ which will in turn determine the I-thou relationship and redeem the ‘I-it’ relationships. This would enable is to live ‘fully’ and ‘meaningfully’ – Samuel Thambusamy

Picture Credits: FreeBibleimages.org.

Advertisements

To love and be loved

020-creation

Humanity is created for community. The longing for belonging is innate in all of us. Adam – the first human – was created with the longing for belonging. God recognises that it is not good that man should be alone (v18) and creates Eve – a helper comparable to him (v18 & 20).  

Adam  was created with a capacity to love and be loved.  We are truly persons-in-community and persons-for-community.  Adam was created for love and relationship and he finds fulfilment in the companionship, belonging and intimacy through Eve. How do we nurture relationships? The quib, “some people have not lived because they have never loved” is so true. We don’t live if we don’t love. I think, the converse is also true. Some people have not loved because they have never lived. We don’t love if we don’t live. Love and relationships are central to our human existence.

Friendships are important too! How do we nurture friendships? We long for friendships and yet we drift away from each other. Friends are merely either casual ‘acquaintances’ or ‘ familiar strangers. Friendship is a ‘service’ or a ‘transaction’. Worse, friends are those having common enemies. What keeps us together is the common ‘hate’ not mutual ‘love’. The popularity of across Social Media is a powerful indicator for the longing for belonging.

We aren’t meant to be alone. We are made to belong. Family, friendships and community provide satisfaction for the longing for belonging. It is through nurturing relationship that we live our lives ‘fully’ and ‘meaningfully’. 

The mandate to be creative

014-creation

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it (Gen 2:15).

God brought every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens to Adam to see what he would call them. Whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name ( Genesis 2:19).


We are made in the ‘image of God’ (Gen 1:27). God is a creator and we reflect this creative aspect of God. We create because God is a creator. In fact, we have the mandate to be ‘creative’ in our endeavours. Human ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’ is God-given. Therefore, we never surprise or shock God either with our ‘tools’ or ‘toys’. Our creativity is because of our identity as God’s Image-bearers.

In the Genesis account (Chapter 2), we see that God provides a ‘context’ for Adam to ‘create’. Gen 2:15 reads: The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it (Gen 2:15). The Garden was filled with goodness, beauty and truth. In fact, it was truly a garden of delight (Eden). God placed Adam in the Garden of delight. God wanted the goodness, beauty and truth of Creation to be sustained through human intervention. 

The ‘beauty’, ‘goodness’ and ‘truth’ of the garden needed to be ‘tended’ and ‘kept’. The Garden becomes the ‘work-space’ for Adam to make ‘tools’, if necessary, to increase its productivity, sustain growth and enhance the aesthetics. Adam’s role to ‘tend and keep’ does not limit his role (as a ‘care taker’) but rather ‘expands’ his role (as a co-creator). Adam is granted the privilege to enhance the delights of the Garden using his creativity and innovation. 

Secondly, we find that God gives Adam the ‘freedom’ to exercise his creativity. Gen. 2: 19 reads: God brought every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens to Adam to see what he would call them. While God creates the ‘animals and birds, Adam is granted ‘naming rights’. Here is Adam’s first ‘opportunity’ to be creative. Interestingly, the story presents the creator God looking forward to see what Adam would do with the opportunity to exercise ‘creativity’. God invites Adam to partner with him in his creative activity. Adam – as co-creator with God – gets a ‘role’, ‘voice’, and ‘status’. God expects Adam to be creative and we can safely assume that he was happy with Adam’s creativity because whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name (v19)

 Thirdly, God affirms Adam’s creativity. Adam gave names to all (v20) and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name (v19). God ‘agrees’, ‘accepts’ and ‘affirms’ Adam’s creativity. 

God invites humanity to be co-creators and work alongside him. God wants us – humans – to ‘tend’ and ‘keep’ his creation. God has given humanity – you and me – the mandate to develop ‘culture’, ‘tools’ and ‘ideas’ that will add ‘beauty’, ‘goodness’ and ‘truth’ to God’s creation. God has provided the ‘opportunity’, ‘freedom’ and ‘affirmation’ for human creativity. He waits to see what we would make of our ‘role’, ’voice’, and ‘status’ as God’s image-bearers.

How did Jesus learn Scripture?

old_testament_law2

The Gospels present Jesus as one who is familiar with Scripture. Jesus quotes or alludes to references from the Torah, Prophets and the Writings. The content of the Jewish Old Testament in Jesus’ day was previously uncertain due to the acceptance of the “three-stage canonisation” theory.  However, the three-stage canonisation has been widely critiqued and effectively demolished (1). Now, it is widely believed that Jesus may have used the Jewish Old Testament Scriptures ( in fact, the same Christian Old Testament we read today). Moreover, the discovery of the OT books (except Esther) at Qumran gives further credence to the assumption.

Jesus, as we find him in the Gospels, had no formal scribal learning (John 7:15) and yet those who heard him were  ‘amazed at his understanding and answers ’(Luke 2:47), “amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29). “astonished (at) the wisdom given to him” (Mark 6:2)

 

How did he learn the Scriptures?  Luke also records for us Jesus’ love for engaging in conversations about Scriptures, his listening to teachers and his spiritual inquiry even as a boy ( Luke 2: 41 – 47). The fact that “ all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:47) at the Jerusalem temple is a pointer to the extraordinary insights that the boy-Jesus brought with his questions and answers about Scripture. Jesus’ passage to adulthood is characterised by growth in wisdom, in stature and in favour of God and man” (Luke 2: 52).

Jesus’ familiarity with Scriptures was probably due to religious nurture at home, yearly pilgrimages to the Jerusalem temple (Luke 2:41), regular visits to the Synagogues (Luke 2:16) and conversations with religious teachers (Luke 2:46)

– Samuel Thambusamy


(1) For a detailed discussion on the Canon of the Old Testament cf E. E. Ellis, “The Old Testament Canon in the Early Church,” Compendia Rerum Judaicarum ad Novum Testamentum (edd. S. Safrai et al.; Assen and Phila- delphia 1974-, II i [1988]) 653-00. Cf. S. Z. Leiman, ed., The Canon and Masorah of the Hebrew Bible (New York 1974) 254-61 (J. P. Lewis); ibid., The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture (Hamden, CT 1976); R. T. Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids 1985).

(2) The Old Testament during Jesus’ time  was the same with the possible exception of the Book of Esther.

Did Jesus read Scripture?

004-jesus-nazareth

The Gospel accounts in the New Testament present Jesus as being familiar and well-versed with Scripture. Did Jesus read Scripture? And to what extent did this reading help him to familiarise and know Scripture?

Luke records Jesus’ public reading of the scroll of prophet Isaiah in a Synagogue during one of his visits to Nazareth (4: 17 – 21). We are informed that it was “his custom” to make synagogue visits on Sabbath day and that on this particular occasion the scroll of Isaiah was given to him and he stood up to read. Such public reading of Scripture by people other than priests and levites in the Synagogue was common in Israel at the time of Jesus.

There are interesting details that can be gleaned from this passage

  • One finds Jesus’ ability to
    • unroll the scroll of Isaiah,
    • choose a select passage for reading,
    • identify the select passage within the scroll,
    • read it aloud and
    • roll back the scroll before handing it over to an attendant.

This is remarkable considering Jesus’ lack of formal scribal learning and being Joseph’ son ( a carpenter’s son)

  • The fact that the scroll was given to Jesus, a visitor at this instance, seems to suggest at least some prior knowledge about Jesus’ ability to read as well as his availability for public reading of Scriptures.
  • There is even a subtle hint regarding Jesus’ exceptional oratory skills as we are told that “the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him” (Lk 4:20).

It is, then, reasonable to believe that Jesus regularly (or perhaps frequently) read Scripture at this Synagogue in Nazareth, where he was brought up (Lk 4:16). It is possible that much of his familiarity with Scripture (despite the lack of formal Scribal learning and being Joseph’s son) was due to this regular reading of Scripture at the Synagogue

PS:

[My primary focus has been on Jesus’ Scripture reading (practice) rather than on Jesus’ literacy (the ability to read and write). In any case, I have assumed that Jesus could read based on Luke’s testimony.  I am aware of the scholarly debate regarding Jesus’ ability to read and write. There are divergent views regarding Jesus’ literacy. While Chris Keith [Jesus’ Literacy: Scribal Culture and the Teacher from Galilee (T&T Clark, 2011)] argues that it is highly unlikely that Jesus was educated, Craig A. Evans [Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence (SPCK, 2013)] argues for the possibility of a literate Jesus. I find Craig A. Evans’ argument and conclusion in Jesus and His World compelling. He contends, “there is considerable contextual and circumstantial evidence that suggests that in all probability he was literate” (even if the passage in Luke is questionable)]

 

 

Notes on Amish Tripathi’s Immortal India

Reading Amish’s Immortal India: Young country. Timeless civilisation.
” Religious liberals can alleviate many of India’s social problems. And it’s easy for us since we are a vast majority in our country. Unfortunately, we have abdicated public discourse to both secular and religious extremists. We must rise. We must speak loudly. We must bring out the liberal interpretations of our respective religions. It is our patriotic duty” ( – Amish Tripathi p. 14)
Praying that… We Rise! We speak a bit louder! We creatively reflect on our own faith. And that this tribe will increase!

Here’s another interesting idea from Immortal India

” Our past offers us valid interpretations that can be powerfully used to end the historical and religious justifications for the ill treatment of women today. And those of us who are aware of them, have a moral duty to speak up. The best way to bring about change in human beings is to tap into the very beliefs that are central to their being, instead of attacking those beliefs. By respectfully showcasing an alternative perspective as to who we are, we allow for the flow of natural transformation. It is an organic, non-destructive evolution in which lies the gentle essence of life”.             ( Unbridled Shakti, Immortal India, p. 24)

And those of us who are aware of have a moral duty to speak up.

  • Can we speak up? and if not, who or What stops us?

The best way to bring about change in human beings is to tap into the very beliefs that are central to their being, instead of attacking those beliefs.

  • Have our reactive readings limited us from engaging in imaginative reading of the text?
  • Can we creatively engage with religious text to offer alternate readings/ meanings that would be life affirming and life enhancing rather than life demeaning and life extinguishing?

Just wondering… the wheels inside my head are spinning!

Amish has an interesting take on Caste and Religious conversions.

 

” In my heart I feel that it’s spiritually advisable to celebrate our own faith and also to seek reform, from within, any corruptions that have crept in; rather than wasting our time and our lives engaging in attempts to prove other religions wrong. For this will lead us away from spiritual growth” – ‘On Religious Conversions’, Immortal India, p.71

“Caste discrimination must be actively opposed and fought against by all Indians; this must be done for the soul of our nation. Annihilating birth-based caste system is a battle we must all engage in at a societal level. We will honour our ancient culture with this fight. More importantly, we will end something that is just plain wrong” – Bane of casteism, Immortal India, p. 83

Anybody interested in Indian politics, if not the ones who want to change it must read the chapter on  ‘ Corruption faultlines’. I loved it absolutely. I may not agree with it fully and I do have questions. But, it is a interesting perspective. Here’s a short summary for those who don’t have the time or inclination to read beyond a few minutes!

Urban India is in the throes of obsessively examining the corrupt nature of polity and governance in our country. The verdict is clear. We are inherently corrupt people with little hope of change but for a massive revolution. Hold on a moment. Are we really a corrupt Nation?

We are an ancient civilisation but a young nation. Post Independent India is predominantly rural. The western world urbanised a few centuries before us. The moral order in an agrarian society differs from the urban. The former is based on kinship , loyalty and honour based codes.

It is routine these days to malign our politicians and dismiss them as reprehensible. Keep in mind, though that India is probably the first country in the world that democratised before it urbanised/modernised. We live in a rural country and many ( even in our cities) possess the impulses and moral code of a tribal society.

We lie, help our own to get jobs, accept bribes because we are true to the higher moral law of loyalty to the clan. The ancient ethics of loyalty to your own outweighs laws that are designed by an abstract society in the making.

Our politicians emerge and survive in this eco-system. They are elected by their own and their own people expect to be looked after. It is hypocritical for intellectual elites to want democracy on one hand and on the other hand expect politicians to be blind to the expectation of the masses who vote them to power.

Urban societies are based on abstract laws and formal institutions. It aims to generate alternative loyalties, along with a different code of ethics that transcends kinship commitments.

We are at that stage in the evolution in our democracy. We have one foot firmly planted in an ancient kinship culture. The other foot is extending towards the modern world.

There are many faults in my land. And we have a long way to go. But, I am still damn proud to be an Indian.

Corruption Fault Lines, Immortal India pp. 84- 87

Makes a lot of sense! Is this why corruption along politicians has never been an issue in India?  Is this why rural voters and urban voters vote differently. Just wondering!

 

Ravaged – A Bible study on 2 Samuel 13

stop-rape-now-280_1449290a

Conversations (Questions prepared by Samuel Thambusamy)

1) What is this passage about?

2) Who are the characters mentioned in this passage? What do we know about them?

3) He (Amnon) was stronger than she (Tamar) and he raped her (v14). Rape is the forceful violation of another person’s body. Why do you think Amnon raped Tamar? What are the contemporary stories of rape in your context/s? Why do you think rape happens? Who are the victims?

4) Absalom said: “Be quiet my sister…Don’t take this to your heart”(v20). David was furious when he heard about what happened to Tamar. Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad (v21) Why do you think they did not do anything about this? Do you think victims of rape get justice? Why do you think rapists escape punishment? How do we contribute to the perpetuation of injustice?

5) The gang rape in Delhi was a horrific tale. How did you feel when you heard about the incident? What do you think needs to be done in order to get justice for the girl? What do you think about the spontaneous protests across the Nation? How can the Church connect with the voices of protest? What can we as a group do to bring justice?

6) What is God telling you through this passage? What are you going to do in response to God’s Word?

Reflections under the wisdomtree