Giving Advice 2006

This year, Christmas feels different.

Maybe, just maybe, I’m learning to break down the walls of my episodic life and somehow lay golden thread in the different arenas that I live and work in.

Stephen Mansfield once said something that I have internalized and processed that is to the effect of this: Our destinies in Christ cannot be fulfilled in a vacuum. They unfold in our commitment to partake in the destinies of others.

Instead of a simple wrestling with my faith and working out my salvation with fear and trembling as solely an individual process, this sense of destiny that is somehow counter to this Western culture appeals to my Asian sensibility of community and solidarity. My destiny, who Christ made me to be, will only be fully expressed by my investment in the destinies of others around me. Perhaps this is numbingly elementary for others, but how many hours I spent in my adolescence and 20s worrying about who I am to be and what I am to become, only to realize that the answer was all the while, very much around me.

And this Christmas, I am moved by others who are exercising out their destiny, giving with a purpose, helping immigrant children, and other remarkable stories of giving.

But after a great lunch today with this friend, I realize the challenge of this season is that generosity and giving must not be a “seasonal” thing. It must be incorporated into our very lifestyles, our internal and external cultures, if you will. As my friend Melvin so eloquently put it over lunch, “We need systems, not [just] generosity. Your generosity won’t solve the problem of poverty, we’ll always have poverty. What we need is a re-distribution of power.”

Wow, now how’s that for a Christmas card line? — “Happy Holidays — Re-distribute your wealth! And don’t forget the power!”

What we need to be (notice I didn’t say “do”) is a people that is willing to not only internally re-evaluate the economics that drive us and compel us to consume, purchase, work, reside, and play, but to externally commit to living the life of Christ that reflects a different set of values than the ones imposed on us. Here’s a clue, that life involves investing in the destiny of others in a re-distribution of wealth and power that reflects the shalom of Jesus, the Anointed, the Messiah, the King, the One who was and is, and is to come.

As Asian Americans, one of the wealthiest demographics in the country then, we are called not only to give at this time of year, we are called to become outspoken in the face of injustice. We are called more than to be generous on occasion, but to be concerned for people all around as a preoccupation — and that preoccupation should inform what we choose and how we pursue our occupations. We are not to give, we are called to become givers. Indeed, we are “more than conquerors,” we are bearers of a new kingdom.

So here are some things that I’ve been checking out as part of growing into my new skin.

Aristotle made the statement that if you keep stealing, you’ll one day find that you are a thief. The evangelion is not that at all — you are already made new, and we must imitate the one who was the harbinger and the fulfiller of the good news. He whose destiny was found by laying his life down for others.

Merry Christmas everyone…and Happy New Year! Thanks for reading and your comments!

Re-distribute the Power in 2007!!!

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Comments

  1. elderj says:

    you are blowing my mind as usual

  2. John Lamb says:

    From the Tennessean today: “The Rev. Dr. James H. Cone, Briggs Distinguished Professor of systematic theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York, insists that we see in the birth of Christ God’s preferential treatment of the poor and the most vulnerable members of the human family. Jesus’ birth, in a stable on a pile of straw possibly with the pungent odor of livestock and manure, rather than in a five-star hotel demonstrates God’s partiality toward the ‘least of these.’ Eternity invades times to redefine it in the most unexpected place utilizing one of the least expected vessels to communicate God’s love. Cone posits that each Advent season reminds us that the Incarnation necessitates that we remove the systemic, economic, political and even religious barriers that prevent anyone from actualizing the eternal potential that God graciously gives to him in Christ.” – link

  3. Jin-young says:

    Hi David,

    You posted a comment on my blog, and I’m getting back to you after nearly three weeks….

    I’m surprised and really dismayed to hear of another person who has been denied admission to seminary….

    Personally, I’ve never been the “take it lying down” type…never been the “toe the line” type…. I’ve always been a loner, always been somewhat of a self-proclaimed outcast…. I’ve always been suspicious of “the system” and have always been “anti-Establishment.” I guess those personality traits/quirks didn’t help me…I didn’t react very well to my denial of admission…didn’t react very well at all….

    I finally met a wonderful woman and will get married before I find my “calling” in life…before I find a steady job and/or career (I’ve spent the past three years teaching English in Korea)….

    Anyway…while I’m really dismayed that you were denied admission to seminary, I’m encouraged because you don’t seem to have any hang-ups about it like I do…. From what I’ve read of your blog, you haven’t let it affect your sense of self-worth….

    You may not know it, but you’ve encouraged me and helped to give me a sense of hope…that being denied admission to seminary is not the end of the world…. Thanks

  4. David Park says:

    Congratulations on engagement Jin-young and thanks for reading the blog.

    I’d be lying if I told you that getting my application rejected for seminary three years ago didn’t phase me at all. While the reason given was my outstanding debt, it still gave me a chance to think about what is really the point of seminary and a lot of the issues you brought up.

    But I’m applying to seminary again now and I’m really grateful that I’ve spent the last three years doing the things that I’ve been doing. I trust that time will make me a more grateful student anyway. Don’t give up Jin-young, your time is not wasted. There is no coincidence that there is often a huge time differential between the time of the calling and its full expression, see: Joseph, David, Moses, Abraham, and Jesus himself. There’s no way that the 3 years of seminary are near enough, regardless of whether it’s now or whenever, besides like my father has told me, “theology doesn’t equal faith.” So be faithful…as our Father in Heaven is faithful. Peace to you…from a fellow traveler.

  5. elderj says:

    I too will be applying for seminary shortly…yay!!!

  6. David Park says:

    What is this?! ElderJ, do tell…when did you get off the fence?

  7. elderj says:

    hahahaha — one word —- URBANA

  8. David Park says:

    It’s about time! I am calling you tonight. Gyah!~ What you couldn’t have called me when you make a decision like this!? Dang~ so where are we going?

  9. pscrah says:

    More of you need to apply to North Park Theological Seminary. (shill, shill, shill). If my school rejected an Asian-American, I’d be all over the admissions department like white on rice. (just kidding, don’t quote me on this).

  10. Joseon says:

    pscrah, why North Park? I’m thinking of seminary, also…

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