9/22/2011 10:00:00 AM WORD OF FAITH Changing our values system
BY REV. ROGER KARBAN
FROM A READING FOR SEPT. 25, 26TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR 'Look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus....' - Phil 2:4-5
Conversion is at the heart of biblical faith.
Many of us were formed in a catechism environment in which knowledge was highly valued. Teachers expected us to know more this year about our faith than we knew last year; after all, this year's catechism was always thicker than last year's.
Our sacred authors never put down intellectual knowledge, but when they speak about "knowing" anyone or anything, they presume we have much more than just book-knowledge. They took for granted that you only truly know what you've experienced - so when they speak about knowing God, they frequently bring up conversion.
To know anyone implies you understand his or her value system. Though you may not buy into it, you can appreciate how it explains that individual's actions and personality.
How to follow
Our sacred authors presume we should make God's value system part of our own personality - that ongoing conversion must be an essential element in following God.
More than 500 years before Jesus' birth, Yahweh demands that Ezekiel (Ez 18:25-28) be committed to the possibility of conversion in those exiled Israelites to whom he prophesied.
Though they, like some of us, are comfortable locking people into certain behavior patterns, there's always opportunity to change, even if we judge God unfair for providing that opportunity. In this passage, Yahweh even permits someone to change in either direction: to become more or less like God.
In perhaps the best-known passage in all of Scripture, Paul (Philippians 2:1-11) insists his community in Philippi acquire "the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus." He's concerned that his recent converts will fall into the trap of "solipsism."
The Apostle is worried they'll begin to make their needs and desires the norm instead of acknowledging and caring for the needs and desires of others.
As other Christs, Paul expects the Philippians to be "of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, looking out not for your own interests, but also for those of others."
For example, Jesus
The person who best exemplifies such a self-giving value system is Jesus. His lifestyle was the exact opposite of solipsism. Instead of making Himself the norm, Jesus "emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave. He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." That's the value system of Christ.
The Gospel Jesus (Matthew 21:28-32) presumes the conversion to that frame of mind doesn't happen instantly or without relapses. He has no problem associating with sinners; they seem to be most willing to change.
Like the first son in the Gospel passage, they think over their original refusal to do the father's will. Jesus holds out hope that they will convert enough to enter "the kingdom of God:" to experience God working in everything they do.
Perhaps our religion teachers should have given the best grades not to those who knew a lot, but to those who changed their value systems a lot.