Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

After writing about how the primary human predicament is often described through either a medical model (where the human problem is illness and what's prescribed is therapy and medicine) or a legal model (where our problem is lawlessness and crime and what's needed is punishment), Barbara Brown Taylor has these insightful words: "Contrary to the medical model, we are not entirely at the mercy of our maladies. Even within a fallen creation, we still have pockets of God-given freedom. However impoverished our circumstances, however badly we may have been used, we may still choose--for good or ill--how we will respond to what has happened to us. We may learn how to live with our tragedies or we may spend all of our time dying from them. We may decide to forgive our enemies or we may allow them to run our lives by continuing to hate them. In theological language, the choice to remain in wrecked relationship with God and other human beings is called sin. The choice to enter into the process of repair is called repentance, an often bitter medicine with the undisputed power to save lives. Contrary to the legal model, sin is not simply a set of behaviors to be avoided. Much more fundamentally, it is a way of life to be exposed and changed, and no one is innocent. But that fact need not paralyze anyone with fear, since the proper response to sin is not punishment but penance. . . . The essence of sin is not the violation of laws but the violation of relationships. Punishment is not paramount. Restoration of relationship is paramount, which means that the focus is not on paying debts but on recovering fullness of life. . . . Sin is our only hope, because the recognition that something is wrong is the first step toward setting it right again."


  • Two phrases jumped out at me:

    "the process of repair is called repentance, an often bitter medicine with the undisputed power to save lives."


    "the focus is not on paying debts but on recovering fullness of life."

    Am I the only one who, when dealing with sin, find myself focusing on the "death" that it brings with it?

    I found her conclusion that only by recognizing sin and repenting can one truly recover fullness of life to be right on target.

    May we all recover the fullness of life!

    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 4/12/2005 05:11:00 AM  

  • Amen!!

    By Blogger Donald Philip Simpson, at 4/12/2005 05:26:00 AM  

  • I'm wondering why we don't heed the book of James more and confess our sins to each other? We're all guilty of "playing church" even though we know many walk through the doors hurting.

    By Blogger KentF, at 4/12/2005 05:43:00 AM  

  • Amen, Joel and Kent!!

    The day anyone can walk into a group of believers/church, saying openly, "I have ______problem. Please help me" will be an answer to my ongoing prayer for church.

    That day can come about only when there is an atmosphere of open acceptance and love, bringing about the repairing Brown Taylor writes about.

    How can we change the image in our churches that all of us have "got it together" [as I've heard it called]? Until we find how to be more transparent about our sin, asking for and receiving that 'repair' we will continue to, imho, keep the hurting at arms length and without the tools for repentance and repair.

    Btw Mike, bless you, bless you for Sunday morning!!

    By Blogger Kathy, at 4/12/2005 06:43:00 AM  

  • This is the kind of stuff I read and gain strength from. I love it when I find a group of friends who truly understand this mindset. It runs counter to the world we live in where judgment and penalty run rampant.

    There is so much I have discovered about this topic and even experienced first-hand. Wish I had time to say more......but our TAKS test is next week. : )

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 4/12/2005 06:52:00 AM  

  • So, I wonder, who is going to be the person who goes and tells Barbara that she needs to sit down and not preach. *Shakes head*

    As always, her words touch my heart and soul. Thanks Mike.

    By Blogger Jared Cramer, at 4/12/2005 07:27:00 AM  

  • Mike, it is very evident that Barbara is one wise lady. Has she written more? Thanks so much for sharing these deep truths with us.


    By Blogger David U, at 4/12/2005 07:46:00 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Jack, at 4/12/2005 07:49:00 AM  

  • I'm all for this.

    The problem is, how do you sell the idea to governments, let alone any country's citizens?

    It's far too sensible to be taken seriously, in my opinion.

    After my girlfriend was raped, I found it extremely difficult to get to any other logical conclusion other than confronting and forgiving the rapist, which neither she nor I has been able to do. At the very core of dealing with crime is open communication, forgiveness and repentence, but do you honestly think we'll ever find politicians bright enough to bring such ideas to the table?

    Not in my lifetime, we won't

    By Blogger Jack, at 4/12/2005 07:52:00 AM  

  • Jack,

    My heart goes out to you and your precious girlfriend and all those who suffer this most intimate of violations.

    Your post leaves me wanting to hear more of what you have to say on this subject of confrontation and forgiveness.

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 4/12/2005 10:49:00 AM  

  • Jack I am so sorry you and your girlfriend have had this burden to carry.

    I can relate and say that forgiveness is a process and for me; not instantaeous. The pain of a broken marriage and emotional and mental abuse I endured takes time. It is hard to talk about in church because no one really understands unless you have been through it.

    I will pray for you, your girlfriend and ask that you do the same for me. The fullness of life awaits us.

    By Blogger Hoots Musings, at 4/12/2005 12:19:00 PM  

  • Because of the severity of what I'm facing today, I'm struck by her words that:

    "Contrary to the medical model, we are not entirely at the mercy of our maladies.. . . However impoverished our circumstances, however badly we may have been used, we may still choose--for good or ill--how we will respond to what has happened to us."

    I am reminded of Viktor Frankl's words:

    "In the concentration camp. . .All the familiar goals in life are snatched away. What alone remains is 'the last of human freedoms'--the ability to choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances."

    Barbara Brown Taylor is so right that our choice is to either "learn how to live with our tragedies" or to "spend all of our time dying from them."

    God, help me today to do the former. Dee Andrews

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/12/2005 01:54:00 PM  

  • The choice - "do you want to get well?" The choice - "choose this day whom you will serve." The choice - "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."

    By Blogger David Michael, at 4/12/2005 05:25:00 PM  

  • I'm probably way too late getting in on this, but this post really got my attention, because I'm wondering...

    Isn't it also true that medicine and the law will ultimately fail you? Medicine may preserve your life, and even make it better - for a time, but ultimately (gee, this sounds kind of Ecclesiastes-like, doesn't it?) the day WILL come where it can't prevent your death.

    Likewise, there are limits to what the law can accomplish. People come to the courthouse with high expectations, and - in the end - the system doesn't deliver what is expected. Most of the time, civil litigation leaves behind it a wake of embittered, angry parties, none of whom feel like they got a result that was "just."

    I think Jesus was well aware of the danger of overreliance on legal recourse. Consider Luke 12:13-14
    as an example.

    Not only do medicine and law fail to address the things that really matter in life. They just plain fail.

    By Blogger Matt, at 4/12/2005 07:34:00 PM  

  • Thanks for these comments -- and Jack, I'm with Serena: you and your girlfriend are people whom I'd love to hear talk about confrontation, forgiveness, suffering, and faith.

    David - remind me by e-mail and I'll send you my favorite BB Taylor titles. She's an incredibly insightful person. Her sermons reach down deep into my heart.

    Dee -- may God's peace and courage be upon you as you seek to do that!

    Jared -- I'm not telling her! I think that would be a good job for whoever came up with the idea. :)

    Matt R. -- I always love the way you think and teach, my brother.

    Now . . . some rest before the alarm goes off before too long.

    By Blogger Mike, at 4/13/2005 12:18:00 AM  

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