Archive for the ‘God’ Category

The Spirit of Delight

Saturday, December 8th, 2018

We breathe in the spirit that delights in our being — the fragrance of it. And it works on us. Then we exhale (for that breath has to go somewhere) — to breathe into the world this same spirit of delight, confident that this is God’s only agenda.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 151

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 8, 2018

Holding Space

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

As therapists and caregivers explain, to “hold space” for someone is to simply sit with them in their pain, without judgment or solutions, and remain present and attentive no matter the outcome. The Psalms are, in a sense, God’s way of holding space for us. They invite us to rejoice, wrestle, cry, complain, offer thanks, and shout obscenities before our Maker without self-consciousness and without fear. Life is full of the sort of joys and sorrows that don’t resolve neatly in a major key. God knows that. The Bible knows that. Why don’t we?

— Rachel Held Evans, Inspired, p. 110-111

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 4, 2018

Original Blessing

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

But this distorted understanding of the cross gets worse. If we say that at the cross Jesus was being punished by God for our sins, it forces adherents of this theological system to say that what Jesus suffered in torture and crucifixion is what every person deserves. We’ve probably all heard preachers say that very thing. What Jesus suffered on the cross is what we all deserve! (I used to say it!) But is that true? Is it true that every person deserves to be tortured to death? Is it true that your grandmother deserves to be tortured to death? Is it theologically accurate to point to a six-year-old girl and say, “That little girl deserves to be tortured to death”? Is it true that God created humanity in such a way that every single man, woman, boy, and girl deserves to be beaten, scourged, and nailed to a tree? Of course it’s not true! You know it’s not true! No one deserves to be tortured to death! So where does this religious nonsense come from? It mostly comes from Calvin painting himself into a theological corner in order to maintain the logic of his system. (Once you’ve concocted a theological system that forces you to defend the idea that every person deserves to be tortured to death, it would be best to just scrap the whole system!) But to assert that every person deserves to be violently tortured to death is worse than theological nonsense; it’s a vicious assault upon divine goodness and human dignity. What sinners need (shall we say deserve? is love and healing, not torture and death. We are worthy of God’s love and healing not on the basis of personal merit but because of the image we bear: the very image of God. Original blessing is more original than original sin!

God did not kill Jesus, but Jesuus’s death was a sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed his life to show us the love of the Father. Jesus sacrificed his life to shame the ways and means of death. Jesus sacrificed his life to remain true to everything he taught in the Sermon on the Mount about love for our enemies. Jesus sacrificed his life to confirm a new covenant of love and mercy. Jesus sacrificed his life to Death in order to be swallowed by Death and destroy Death from the inside. The crucifixion of Jesus was a sacrifice in many ways. But it was not a ritual sacrifice to appease a wrathful deity or to provide payment for a penultimate god subordinate to justice.

— Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, p. 107-109

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 24, 2017

The Way

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

Jesus once told a story about three people who encountered a beaten and battered man on the side of the road (Luke 10:29-37). The first two had all the right religious beliefs, and indeed were official representatives of their biblical religion. The third man was a heretic, from the perspective of the first two men. The first two men passed by without helping. The third man went out of his way to help the stranger, and this is the man Jesus held up as the model for what God asks of us. It’s a haunting and powerful story that challenges the way in which we want to make being right with God about something as easy as believing the right creed or engaging in the right religious ritual, rather than accepting the challenge of letting divine compassion fill our hearts until they overflow with action. Jesus defined real heresy as hard-hearted living, not simply wrong-minded thinking.

Inclusivism strikes me as the theological option that is most open to making room for this central insight of Jesus. On this view, what matters most is actually walking the Way of Jesus; the Way of unlimited forgiveness, unbounded compassion, restorative justice, and nonjudgmental truth-telling. People from a variety of religious perspectives, or no particular religious perspective at all, can walk on this Way of life that Jesus incarnated. We can be assured that when we walk this Way, it will lead us directly into the heart of God (whether that is our goal or not). Perhaps, with this in mind, John 14:6 isn’t a harsh threat at all. What if Jesus meant it as an assuring promise? When we follow “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” that he fully embodied, we can be assured that we are walking the path to God.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 130

Photo: Schloss Dhaun, Germany, July 2002

Delight in Our Efforts

Saturday, December 1st, 2018

Some people say, “God is good, and God has a plan for you.” I believe that God is good but also that God is too busy loving me to have a plan for me. Like a caring parent, God receives our childlike painting of a tree — usually an unrecognizable mess — and delights in it. God doesn’t hand it back and say, “Come back when it looks more like a tree” or tell us how to improve it. God simply delights in us. Like the kid at probation camp after confession: “You mean you just sealed my record?” The God who always wants to clean the slate is hard to believe. Yet the truth about God is that God is too good to be true. And whenever human beings bump into something too good to be true, we decide it’s not true.

— Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir, p. 22

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 27, 2018

Restoration Mightier Than the Fall

Sunday, November 25th, 2018

I plead for the acceptance of the larger hope, as taught by so many in primitive days (a fact fully proved); a hope, that it has ever been the purpose of “our Father” to save all his human children. To believe or to hope for less than this would be, not alone to contradict Scripture, as I have tried to show, but to mistake its whole scope and purpose. For the Bible is the story of a restoration, wide; deep; mightier than the fall, and therefore bringing to every child of Adam salvation. It is not, as the popular creed teaches, the self-contradictory story of one almighty to save, and yet not, in fact, saving those for whom he died. It is the story of infinite love seeking “till it find”; a love that never fails, never, though heaven and earth pass away: a love that is, from its very nature, inextinguishable — being the love of a divine Father. It is the story of the unchanging purpose of the unchanging Lord God Omnipotent.

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 334

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, September 21, 2014

No Payment in Forgiveness

Monday, November 19th, 2018

God is not beholden to retributive justice. We are the ones who demand sacrificial victims, not God. We are the ones who insist upon a brutal logic that says God can’t just forgive. We are the ones who mindlessly say, “God can’t forgive; he has to satisfy justice.” But this is ridiculous. It’s a projection of our own pettiness upon the grandeur of God. Of course God can forgive! That’s what forgiveness is! Forgiveness is not receiving payment for a debt; forgiveness is the gracious cancellation of a debt. There is no payment in forgiveness. Forgiveness is grace. God’s justice is not reprisal. The justice of God is not an abstract concept where somehow sin can only be forgiven if an innocent victim suffers a severe enough penalty. In the final analysis punitive justice is not justice at all; it’s merely retribution. The only justice God will accept as justice is actually setting the world right! Justice is not the punishment of a surrogate whipping boy. That’s injustice!

In the parable of the prodigal son, the father doesn’t rush to the servants’ quarters to beat a whipping boy and vent his anger before he can forgive his son. Yet Calvin’s theory of the cross would require this ugly insertion into Jesus’s most beautiful parable. No, in the story of the prodigal son, the father bears the loss and forgives his son from his treasury of inexhaustible love. He just forgives. There is no payment. Justice as punishment is what the older brother called justice. The only wrath we find in the parable belongs to the Pharisee-like older brother, not the God-like father. Justice as the restoration of relationship is what the father called justice.

— Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, p. 102-103

Photo: SchloƟ Heidelberg, Germany, December 1996

Called to Be a Blessing

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

From the beginning of the biblical story of redemption, God reveals himself to be a God who is not concerned with only a small set of people in the world, but rather with all the people of the world. In fact, God’s particular election of the people of Abraham is for the universal purpose of drawing all people into the blessing of God (Gen 12:1-3). The Christian tradition has mostly missed this point in a huge way, and has instead talked about “election” as pertaining to the salvation of some instead of others. But in the biblical story, election is about a calling for the sake of others. Election is not a matter of God favoring some people over others. Election is a matter of God choosing some people to be instruments of blessings to the rest of the people. It is never about God choosing some individuals for redemptive privilege, but rather it is about God choosing a group of people for missional service. Throughout Israel’s history as it is told in the Old Testament, this point is consistently overlooked, as God’s people had a tendency to think of themselves as special or immune from judgment because of their “chosen” status. The prophets were a group of people that had to continually remind the people of Israel that they were called to be instruments of divine blessing, not recipients only, and that “their” God is really the God of all people.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 123-124

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 24, 2016

A Bigger God

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

God leans into us so that we will let go of the image of God as unreasonable parent, exacting teacher, or ruthless coach. God is not who we think God is. Our search for God is not a scavenger hunt; God is everywhere and in everything. Our sense of God always beckons us to grow, to reimagine something wildly more breathtaking than where our imagination generally takes us. We are nudged toward an increasingly wider view and image of God from our child consciousness to an adult consciousness. God leans into us so that we can find our way to this inner absorption of God. With any luck and some attention, we will keep landing on a better God, finally having grown comfortable in God’s tenderness.

— Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir, p. 15-16

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 10, 2018

Inexorable Love

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

A few words of earnest caution must be added here. I trust it has been made plain in these pages that in teaching universal salvation I have not for a moment made light of sin, or advocated the salvation of sinners while they continue such. I earnestly assert the certain punishment of sin (awful it may well be, in its duration and its nature for the hardened offender), but in all cases directed by love and justice to the final extirpation of evil. Nay, I have opposed the popular creed on this very ground, that it in fact teaches men to make light of sin, and that in two ways: first, because it sets forth a scheme of retribution so unjust as to make men secretly believe its penalties will never be inflicted; and second, because it in fact asserts that God either will not, or cannot, overcome and destroy evil and sin, but will bear with them for ever and ever.

I repeat that not one word has been written in these pages tending to represent God as a merely good-natured Being, who regards as a light matter the violation of his holy law. Such shallow theology, God forbid that I should teach. Infinite love is one thing; Infinite Good-nature a totally unlike thing. Love is never feeble, it is (while most tender) most inexorable. In the light of Calvary it is that we are bound to see the guilt of sin. But let us beware, lest, as we stand in thought by the cross, we virtually dishonour the atonement by limiting its power to save — by teaching men that Christ is after all vanquished; lest, while in words professing to honour Christ, we, in fact, make him a liar, for he has never said, “if I be lifted up, I will draw some men,” or even “most men,” but “I will draw all men to me.”

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 268

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 7, 2018