Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Holy Means Whole: According to Common Sense

Common sense is not as common as people wish. I don't mean this as a criticism of people in general. I also don't mean to sound as though it is an unreachable ideal. I rather mean that it is not as common, as most of us would like. If it were more common, I think the idea that holy means whole would also be more common.

I recently was on flights to Atlanta and Orlando. In the airports, I heard a lot of common sense and a lot of people complaining about the lack of it, when it came to airports and airlines. I witnessed its lack again the other day, when discussing rules for a track meet. Even the officials admitted the lack of common sense in rule making. What is happening?

It is intimidating, if people feel that "It is all Greek to me!" It is exhilarating, if people feel, "It is just common sense!" So how does a person find a way out of intimidation, when dealing with the Bible originally being written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek? Does it mean we all are left feeling intimidated by scholars? Or is there a way out?

I know from the Bible that there is a way out. I also learned a very valuable way out, while I was in the auto industry. One of my coaches taught me the way out by distinguishing between features and benefits. This greatly diminished the feeling of being intimidated and the danger of intimidating others.

When we were in training, very often our training focused on features like power windows, ABS brakes, rack'n’ pinion steering, etc. But when we were talking to our customers, we were supposed to focus on the benefits of those features, not on the features themselves. So we were to talk about convenience, the ability to brake and steer at the same time and quick handling on corners, etc. There were exceptions, like when a customer started asking technical questions. Sometimes, my job then switched to finding someone more technically educated, than I was. Yet our rule remained, start with benefits.

A more common sense example would be your first moving vehicle, usually propelled by another family member. It was your little red wagon. Admit it, you rode in one of these long before you owned a red Dodge Power Wagon. You became very aware of a smooth ride, when it was happening. It was definitely a benefit, when a rough ride got too rough. We may even have advanced to understanding that rough sidewalks or a damaged wheel meant a rough ride. Those features usually could be grasped by even a pretty young rider. I'm sure you were brilliant for someone your age.

Going back to our cars, most of us know that when we have a properly inflated tire, which is a feature, that it shows itself by a smoother ride, which is the benefit. As a person working in the auto industry I was living in a world beyond common sense and a world of common sense at the same time. You could say I was a middle man between the uncommon sense world of technical features and the common sense world of real benefits.

So what is the difference between a feature and a benefit? In a few words, it is the common sense difference between parts and the whole. You have the part called a round wheel and then you have the whole of the smooth ride. The experts on language say it in almost the same words; they call it the difference between feature and activity. Watch how this plays out in the common sense world of real benefits and see if the experts are right. In the end, you can then feel a lot less intimidated. Just use your common sense to advantage.

In Luke 10:25-37, life and love are connected to each other. Life is the big thing in the question asked and life is the big thing in the answer given, using common sense. On the city street or at the grassroots of the farm, life and death are everyday things. Most people’s common sense tells them that a person or an animal is dead when activity or life ceases. They get life and death. It is a little harder to get their hands around love, yet love is not absent from life.

Jesus makes it clear that without love, life will not be inherited. Both love and life are actions; the only question is what their roles are. From a common sense point of view, life is the more common sense thing, so it is likely the greater of the two. So life would be the benefit while love would be the feature.

To understand love you actually do have to get a little technical. Sorry. Love is a general word. Love relates to helping change another's tire, like furniture relates to chairs.

Yet love is very important, because it is the umbrella for the features needed for the activity of life. That makes common sense, since life is the main issue in the question and that indicates what is most central. Also without love for one's neighbor, Jesus makes pretty clear that there will be no inheritance of eternal life. So what does this mean for the meaning of holy? How can we use our common sense there? I think we can use it, like we used it for seeing the roles of life and love. The question is which role, whole or part is the role for holy?

We read in our Bibles many times that Yahweh is holy. We also see a difference between love and holy. We don’t read love, love, love; yet we do read “holy, holy, holy” is “Yahweh God Almighty.” Holy is not a feature like love, it is something greater as indicated by its repetition.

Its greatness is indicated by how many times we read that Yahweh is holy, but also by its connection to the name Yahweh. When I was growing up, I knew that nothing in church was more important than the name Jesus. It was common sense. I have known this and it matches with what I know from my grassroots and my street life. Names are important on the street and at the grassroots.

Experts tell it to us this way. They say that there is the integrating object or person and there are the components of that object or person. They are talking here about the whole and its parts.

Using common sense, either Jesus or Yahweh are the name for the integrating person. If you are not familiar with the name Yahweh, Jesus’ name means “Yahweh saves.” There is nothing greater in the Old Testament to integrate everything than the name Yahweh. I grew up knowing that there was nothing greater in the New Testament than that name Jesus.

So what then is the meaning of holy? I think holy is that word that indicates the components that make up the person of Yahweh and Jesus. It tells us the most important thing about the components. It tells us that the person’s components are whole. They lack no component in their personality.

On the city street or at the farm’s grassroots, you have to know that the people you are dealing with are whole. On the street, your survival depends on others being integrated people who are whole and healthy. You don’t want to hang out too long with people who are imbalanced and whose personalities are disintegrated, unless you are skilled to handle their issues. At the grassroots, your survival depends on others being integrated who are whole and healthy. You don’t go hunting with a partner who lacks an important part of his personality, like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, who needs a brain. You need whole persons.

I know in the business world, there were imbalanced personalities, who thought that just working hard is all you need to succeed. These imbalanced people were dangerous to one’s health. That is to say nothing about the fact that they were spewing nonsense.

It is common sense too that Jesus was not a person who saw his primary component as a person, as being separate. Isn’t this just common sense from his story? He didn’t become an Essene or join the community in Qumran. He walked the streets and the country grassroots restoring the wholeness of the broken-hearted.

In the end, I think common sense tells us that separation doesn’t make sense as a meaning for holy. An integrated person is the central object of the Bible. And His person is made up of not just one component, but many. His Name is Yahweh. He is one, He is Father, etc., He is living and He is God. He is also these things in general. He is holy, He is righteous, He is true, He is love and He is good.

So I think this makes it easier for us not to feel so intimidated about the technical parts. If we can first grasp the common sense whole, then we can accomplish a great deal. We do not need to feel so intimidated by the scholar, yet we don’t want to be too scornful either. The parts have their place, like love to life and like round wheels to a smooth ride. Yet common sense seems more comfortable with the whole. Common sense needs to come first, so that it rules rather than nonsense and intimidation. There is a way out.

In Jesus,

Pastor Jon