Sunday, October 7, 2012

Who is my Neighbour?

We live in a strange time. The communities we develop are no longer delimited by geographical space. They expand across provinces, countries, and continents. This has some really interesting impacts on how churches work and how people interact with each other, but in order to understand why, I have to talk about something else first.

I got introduced to biblical conflict resolution while working at a camp. One day somebody got up and said "If you are offering your gift at the altar..." which is from Matthew 5. They went on to talk about the principle of going to your brother and dealing with the situation quickly. This approach (along with further teaching about conflict resolution from Matthew 18) led me to discover the elegant simplicity and the surprising effectiveness of biblical conflict resolution and biblical principles for community living.

Matthew 18 in particular talks about what to do if your brother in the church sins. The method works extremely well (you would be surprised at how much more smoothly conflict is resolved when the first person you talk to is the person you are in conflict with) but it deals with people in your church. As I just finished saying, our communities are spread out across vast geographical spaces. We are part of a church, but we are also part of any number of other communities and we are also part of "The Church" at large.

This makes people wonder "when does Matthew 18 apply, and when do I resort to alternative methods of conflict resolution?" I think this question represents a misunderstanding of the concept though. You're asking "who is my brother". If Jesus' story about the good Samaritan gives us any indication, we may find that God invites us into a much larger definition of "brother" or "sister" and "church" then we might first believe.

It may seem weird to begin resolving conflict with people who we don't consider to be part of our community, but aren't we all believers? Doesn't that already mean that we're going to be spending the rest of eternity together? Shouldn't we start working on how to live together instead of sticking with the spaces were we are comfortable or familiar?

As always, the size of God's plans do not match our expectations or our desires.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Achievement Get!

I wish that real life had achievements. This might not make sense to you...let me explain.

In the old days of video games, there were some games called role-playing games where you would possess a set of statistics that dictated your skill in certain areas. You had an attack statistic, a defence statistic, a magic statistic (early games had a pretty narrow focus...) and these would tell the average observer how successful you would be at attacking, defending, and magic within the context of the game. It's a brilliantly simple system for describing skills. However, it really only applied to Role-playing games. Sports games, driving games, and shooters had no way of describing how good you were in these kinds of simple terms.

Then Microsoft popularized "achievements". I don't know if they were the first ones to come up with this idea, but when their inclusion of them in most early Xbox 360 games definitely popularized the idea. Achievements were a brilliant extension of the "skill statistics" concept from early role playing games. You can't easily use statistics to describe a given person's skill at a shooter, but you can provide them with goals of varying difficulties for them to attain. For example, completing a certain level or performing some arbitrary but difficult task (finishing the game in an hour for example). Once completed, you would earn an achievement which is permanently displayed in your profile. Now anyone who looks at your profile can get a sense of how good you are by how many achievements you have completed and which achievements you have completed. It provides a very objective measure of a person's performance.

What does all this have to do with real life? In North America we sort of have achievements. It's called post-secondary education and it attaches letters to the end of your name to signify your achievements. This works well enough because it does standardize some forms of learning but what about all the stuff that happens outside of university. How do you explain to an employer or a writer's guild that you've written fifty screenplays and have learned a lot about the process of writing a screenplay? Or how do you describe your skill with bicycle repair in an objective and easily understandable way? It's difficult. There are certainly ways, but they take time and employers seem increasingly unwilling to take an interest in assessing the non-certified skills of an employee.

Thus I propose we develop achievements for real life. Learned to make pastry crust? Achievement! Preached fifty sermons for your youth group? Achievement! Learned to play "Stairway to Heaven" note for note? Achievement! Suddenly people's hobbies become potentially useful employable skills that people can easily recognize. Think of the possibilities.

So there's my hope. That the world starts to include some achievements. It sure would make my current job search easier.