Atonement – nothing to be flippant about
Re “Rich content, too little time mark study conference on Christology” (P&E, December). Thank you for the excellent write-up of the study conference. However, I have one small concern with how my words were presented on the bottom of page 23. What I intended to suggest was that my first loyalty is not to a particular mode of understanding the atonement, but to the significance of the cross itself.
I need to be clear that I see the atonement as a critical issue that emphatically needs to be discussed. What I was suggesting at this session was that the starting point of the discussion should not be the desire to make some kind of declaration on what we think about penal substitution. The questions that penal substitution attempts to address are profoundly significant. I wanted to argue that we should begin with re-examining how the Bible talks about Jesus’ death before getting to the models that we construct in order to make sense of it.
A foot in two worlds
Re “An invitation to listen” (Editorial, November). Thank you for your article and for the theme on Aboriginal neighbours in March. I was impressed by the cover and also the fact that you spent time on the topic. I’m a member of an MB church and [although my name] would make you think that I’m Mennonite in origin, I actually am First Nation. I have always thought of myself as having a foot in two worlds. My father was a Mennonite and my mother First Nation. It has been interesting, to say the least, growing up in the Mennonite church and community, attending a Mennonite high school, but also having a grandfather who was a chief, followed by my uncle, and now my cousin.
I have for many years looked at our Mennonite culture and marvelled at all the missionary support that has gone overseas but has not really connected with the First Nation people. My brother felt so strongly about this that he has become a missionary all on his own serving a nearby reserve. He has gone before his church many times asking for help. He finally has a pastor in his church that prays for him and recognizes him as a missionary, but so far no one has been willing to volunteer alongside him.
Over the years we have been questioned about our origin and many times we have not had the courage to admit our First Nation background. The discrimination we have felt has been severe. It is my prayer that the churches of Canada will recognize the opportunity to reach out to the First Nation people. I think they are a field ready for harvest. Thank you so much for bringing attention to this need.
What happened to communication?
November’s question of the month (How do I respond when my neighbour offends me?) lists 5 possible responses. Communication is not one of them. What does this say about our unwillingness to speak to those who offend us? Are we looking for the easy way out?
Believing that prayer should be a constant in all areas of our lives, it is troubling that communication with God is a choice on the list, but communication with our neighbour is left off. Why? Communication can be difficult, possibly revealing, and might require taking responsibility for the offence. It’s difficult, but it is the only way to reconcile with others. We need to deal with sin, repentance, and forgiveness in our lives and relationships because this is our gospel message.
St. Catharines, Ont.
All of the above
Re “Question of the month” (November). How do I respond when my neighbour offends me? I experienced an incident that illustrates the spectrum of possible reactions. We operate a small, family-run forestry business. I recently noticed, in a neighbour’s farmyard, a thousand-gallon water tank on an old army surplus trailer that looked suspiciously like the one we have for fire-fighting reserves in our logging blocks. “My son found it abandoned in the bush,” replied my neighbour. I spoke with the son and lashed out in anger. I told him he was a thief, a liar, and a scoundrel, and gave him until noon the next day to return it.
That night I plotted the perfect revenge, but didn’t sleep well. The next morning, I asked my family what they thought I should do. I wanted justice! They counselled with a higher form of justice, i.e. forgiveness. That wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
The next day, I drove into the woodlot and met the lad as he finished parking the tank and trailer. Standing in the pouring rain, I tore a strip off him. His only defense was that he had made a bad choice. When I was finished spewing, I told him I forgave him and would not report it.
Later, when I had cooled off a bit, I felt bad. While I had forgiven him, I didn’t do it in a spirit of love or reconciliation. So I picked up a pen and paper and wrote him an apology, a “gift basket” if you will. I told him of my frustration, and how he was the unfortunate recipient of my rage.
He’s a good kid and made a mistake. As did I.
Black Creek, B.C.