Archive for the ‘God’ Category

Away from Law, Into Love

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is providing a description of what life looks like for the person who will follow Him. Since the average Jewish person listening to Jesus attempted to allow their life to be guided by the Mosaic Law and Jewish tradition, Jesus frequently compares and contrasts His way of life with the way of life that comes from following the Law. When we approach the Sermon on the Mount with this in mind, we see that Jesus calls people away from actions of legalistic obedience to a set of laws and toward attitudes of love for all people.

The Sermon on the Mount is a call to love. It focuses on attitude, rather than activity. Following Jesus is not about going through the motions but about living in love that comes from the heart. Jesus is not adding to the law, but is showing that love is the fulfillment of the law. He shows, for example, that while the law says “Do not murder” and “Do not commit adultery,” such laws still allowed people to hate their brother or lust after women (Matt 5:21-30). In this way, it was possible to fulfill the letter of the law while completely ignoring its intent. But the person guided by love will neither hate nor lust, which fulfills both the letter and intent of the law. Jesus even goes so far as to call His followers to love their enemies (Matt 5:43-48), which is the ultimate representation of love and which no law could ever accomplish. The rest of the Sermon follows this same theme.

J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 98-99

Standing With

Saturday, August 17th, 2019

So we are encouraged to stand with the tax collector and the prostitute, the widow, orphan, and stranger, precisely because they are the judged, the scapegoated, the less-than, whose chances are taken away well before they are given. The principal cause of suffering for the leper is not an annoying, smelly, itchy skin disease but rather having to live outside the camp. So the call is to stand with them, so that the margins get erased and they are welcomed back inside. Jesus doesn’t think twice: he touches the lepers before he gets around to healing them.

— Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir, p. 166

Redeeming Love

Friday, August 16th, 2019

The idea of a God who redeems Israel and who therefore can be called the Redeemer became firmly fixed in Israel’s religious imagination well before the disastrous exile in Babylon. In the dynamic way that language works, the technical meaning of redeem broadened out over time to include connotations of God’s helping, rescuing, liberating, restoring, forgiving, showing steadfast love, comforting, taking away fear, and especially caring for the poor and defenseless. The language of redeeming also became associated with the act of saving. While in the same general family of meaning, the latter carries a distinct sense of healing from sickness and restoring to health, the opposite of which is perishing.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 45

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 4, 2019

Solidarity with Slaves

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

You actually abolish slavery by accompanying the slave. We don’t strategize our way out of slavery, we solidarize, if you will, our way toward its demise. We stand in solidarity with the slave, and by so doing, we diminish slavery’s ability to stand. By casting our lot with the gang member, we hasten the demise of demonizing. All Jesus asks is, “Where are you standing?” And after chilling defeat and soul-numbing failure, He asks again, “Are you still standing there?”

Can we stay faithful and persistent in our fidelity even when things seem not to succeed? I suppose Jesus could have chosen a strategy that worked better (evidence-based outcomes) — that didn’t end in the Cross — but he couldn’t find a strategy more soaked with fidelity than the one he embraced.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 173

Photo: Staffa Island, Scotland, July 13, 2003

Restorative Justice

Friday, August 9th, 2019

As long as we keep God imprisoned in a retributive frame instead of a restorative frame, we really have no substantial good news; it is neither good nor new, but the same old tired story line of history. We pull God down to our level.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 28-29

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 8, 2019

Outgrowing the Container

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

Jesus is telling his inquisitors and reminding us that responding to God will often push us to the boundaries of religion. It may cause tension. It may mean we outgrow the container we’ve been living in. If you feel like you don’t fit, that might be really good news. A greater faith and bigger table may well be ahead, though you may have to tap-dance through a minefield on the way. You may have to endure adversity that doesn’t feel at all worth it at the time.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 48

Photo: Eibsee, Germany, July 17, 2000

Not of Ourselves

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

I cannot pick up a New Testament and find anywhere in it the statement that it is “by faith you have been saved” or it is “by repentance you have been saved.” I find this to be a very confusing situation, as the message from many churches I have attended, and many Christians to whom I speak, is exactly that. I hear over and over again that there is something we must do to get ourselves saved. It might be faith, it might be repentance; some people even say baptism. Whatever it might be, whatever hoops you believe God demands you jump through; it is not what the Bible says. The Bible teaches us that God has gone out of the “hoop jumping” business for good.

— Peter Gray, Until They Are Found, p. 48

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, July 26, 2019

Righteous Anger

Friday, July 12th, 2019

The real issue, though, is how to understand divine anger in the context of overwhelming graciousness and mercy. The danger is that within a patriarchal, punitive setting, speaking of a wrathful God has been used to justify holy wars and torture, hostility to outsiders, and debilitating guilt in sensitive consciences. But righteous anger is a different breed of cat. It is profoundly ethical. It waxes hot in moral outrage because something good is being violated. Arising from love, it awakens energy to act to change the situation. Editing a powerful book of photographs of African American women, Barbara Summers was struck by the creative power of anger of even the most accomplished of these women: “A truly beautifying discovery for me was to find so much love in anger. It was a fist-up, death-defying love that challenged the unfair conditions of life and muscled in on injustice as it nursed both sides of a nation.” This is not anger with the spirit of murder in it, but fury that is creative of life. Much feminist in-depth analysis, such as Beverly Harrison’s influential essay “The Power of Anger in the Work of Love,” makes clear that far from being the opposite of love, righteous anger is a vivid, moral form of caring that empowers transformation.

In the context of God’s graciousness and mercy, divine anger functions for justice. It bespeaks a mode of caring response in the face of what harms beloved human beings or the created world itself. “The exploitation of the poor is to us a misdemeanor; to God it is a disaster,” writes Abraham Heschel. Divine wrath is a worthy response. True, it lasts but a moment; true, it is instrumental, aimed at change and conversion. But it stands as an antidote to sentimentality.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 39-40

Photo: Sky Meadows State Park, Virginia, July 3, 2017

God’s Business

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

Are you, in the end, successful? Naturally, I find myself heartened by Mother Teresa’s take: “We are not called to be successful, but faithful.” This distinction is helpful for me as I barricade myself against the daily dread of setback. You need protection from the ebb and flow of three steps forward, five steps backward. You trip over disappointment and recalcitrance every day, and it all becomes a muddle. God intends it to be, I think. For once you choose to hang out with folks who carry more burden than they can bear, all bets seem to be off. Salivating for success keeps you from being faithful, keeps you from truly seeing whoever’s sitting in front of you. Embracing a strategy and an approach you can believe in is sometimes the best you can do on any given day. If you surrender your need for results and outcomes, success becomes God’s business. I find it hard enough to just be faithful.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 167-168

Photo: Schloss Dhaun, Germany, July 2002

Err on the Side of Loving People

Friday, July 5th, 2019

I learned a long time ago that the most God-honoring, most Jesus-reflecting act is to err on the side of loving people. When you simply accept those around you in whatever condition they come to you, the table naturally expands and relationship happens and God does stuff that you couldn’t predict or control.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 43

Photo: Staffa Island, Scotland, July 13, 2003