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The logic of the gospel is grace and justification by faith while that of the world is the logic of social ambition, profit and the pursuit of power.
Life in Exile is a metaphor rooted, as we’ve been seeing, in the experience of the ancient Israelites taken as captives to the foreign empire of Babylon. It was a time of fear and anxiety, uncertainty and the loss of established points of reference. Had God abandoned the people? Did God no longer love them? Was there another god stronger than the God of the Hebrews: Yahweh? What would become of the people, their way of life in a changed and changing world?
It’s a metaphor used repeatedly when we talk about the loss of points of reference in a world changing either by dramatic forces of power, transformation or evolution. The Israelites came to understand the changing power structure of their world as God punishing them for their idolatry, their abuse of the poor and lowly, their worship of power and wealth. Later Martin Luther when he provoked what we now call the Protestant Reformation spoke of the corruption of the Church in the 16th century as a Babylonian Exile.
Today many speak of our dramatically changing time as another time of Exile. It’s a way to wrestle with the failing and flailing of our institutions, the radical diversification of our cultural cues and the technological disruption which characterizes our emerging new way of living. It’s a way to wrestle with the failing and flailing of the Church and the growing population of the Nones (who don’t identify with any religion) and the decreasing number of Christians. Is this God punishing us? Is this the world changing and us struggling to adapt to it? Is this an indicator that our “way” of believing needs to grow or change?
Today’s scriptures wrestle with the challenge of living in but not of the world, teasing out the line between accommodating to a new context and compromising on our values to fit in. Daniel finds a middle, or third-way between compromising the values of his faith around his identity and his diet which is neither refusing to adapt nor selling out. Paul in Romans writes this climactic section, inviting those who follow Jesus to trust in the grace, freely given, of Jesus as the bedrock of their identity, a faith in a God that the don’t possess, but rather towards whom they are moving, a God that is unknowable and who is slowly known through the renewal of our intelligence.
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation