Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

Your Best Revenge

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who hurt you power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty, and kindness around you.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 211

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 23, 2020

Following Jesus’ Model

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

We have in Jesus the greatest model of compassion and kindness ever to walk the planet, and that needs to count for something. It needs to influence how we as followers of Christ interact with people we disagree with, or we end up simply being clanging cymbals, a loud, loveless noise in the ears of those around us, and feeling justified in doing so. We need to figure out how to live without the bullhorn and to find that quiet place of civility that Jesus finds so many times with so many different people. The idea of universal family or kinship is at the core of the Christian faith too, of all people made in the image of God, all creations of the same Creator, all equally flawed, all equally worthy of compassion. Our story is that every person is the neighbor we are called to love as ourselves.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 120

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 23, 2020

Hands and Heart of Love

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

Throughout the Bible, God calls people to do difficult things. Keeping the Great Commandment to love God fully and to love your neighbor as yourself may be one of the most difficult. While our innate tendencies to self-centered actions and responses are a part of the complexity, another part of our difficulty is found in the remarkable example of love expressed in Jesus’ life that we are called to follow. Jesus shows us the hands and heart of love. When you read the Gospels and picture Jesus as he lived and carried out his ministry, you can see his hands at work. He offers a hand up for the paralyzed man healed by his touch. He puts a hand out to the woman caught in adultery and puts her on her feet with an experience of mercy and new life based on her future decisions rather than her past mistakes. Jesus’ expressive hands move when he shares his wisdom with a crowd about life with God through a parable.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 114

Photo: Wildeshausen, Germany, May 2004

The Scapegoated God

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

The fact that the lamb is slain since the foundation of the world reveals that this is the way God has always been. He has always been an innocent Lamb who allows Himself to get slain for the sake of others. He is the premier scapegoat of humanity, but as a perfectly innocent scapegoat, it is best to describe Him as a Lamb. As the scapegoated God, Jesus identifies with all scapegoated, sacrificial victims since the foundation of the world. When we kill others in God’s name, Jesus is right there, with the sacrificial victim, being killed alongside the one we condemn, accuse, cast out, expel, dehumanize, and kill, all in the name of God. Through this revelation, we once again see that we can no longer scapegoat others in God’s name, for God is not a God who blames, accuses, and condemns, but is a God who loves, forgives, and accepts. And He calls us to do the same.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 206-207

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 16, 2020

God’s Amazing Love

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

The story of Jesus told as accompaniment makes clear that there is no master plan in the divine mind to engineer his death in order to garner satisfaction for everyone else’s sins. The cross was in no way necessary. Think about it. Wouldn’t such an idea be blasphemy? It would ascribe to God, gracious and merciful, an evil that was done in the course of human injustice. How contradictory can you get?

Not even remotely did Jesus’ death satisfy divine honor; it dragged that honor into the dust. Nor did Jesus’ crucifixion change God’s attitude from anger to being appeased, as more popular atonement theologies would have it. I dare say that if the will of the living God had been carried out that “good” Friday, Jesus would not have been crucified.

The double solidarity of Jesus with those who suffer and of God with Jesus structures a theology of accompaniment so that it brings the presence of God who saves to the fore. Keep in mind that we are talking here about the same God who sides with slaves against the might of Pharaoh, with exiles against their imperial captors, and now with a crucified prophet against the Roman empire; “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Ex 34:6-7). We are talking about the same gracious God, “your Savior and your Redeemer” (Isa 49:26), whom Jesus called father, whose compassion flashed out from the picturesque parables Jesus made up, and was tasted in the challenge and joy of his multiple interactions. Toward the end of the New Testament we read the bold statement that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). This is a pithy summary of all that has gone down in the history of revelation up to that point. God loves the world and, like any good lover, wants the beloved to flourish.

Given the negativity of the cross, the creative power of the loving God showed itself once again in an unexpected new way by (unimaginably) raising Jesus from the dead. But God neither needed nor wanted the cross. True, this evil was encompassed by providential action, by God writing straight with crooked lines. True, in an antagonistic world suffering borne in the loving struggle for the good of others can bear fruit. But in itself, violent death is not what God desires.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 108-109

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 17, 2020

Giving Up Control

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

Just because you do not have the right word for God does not mean you are not having the right experience. From the beginning, YHWH let the Jewish people know that no right word would ever contain God’s infinite mystery. The God of Israel’s message seems to be, “I am not going to give you any control over me, or else your need for control will soon extend to everything else.” Controlling people try to control people, and they do the same with God — but loving anything always means a certain giving up of control. You tend to create a God who is just like you — whereas it was supposed to be the other way around. Did it ever strike you that God gives up control more than anybody in the universe? God hardly ever holds on to control, if the truth be told. We do. And God allows this every day in every way. God is so free.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 51

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 12, 2020

Experience

Monday, May 11th, 2020

For me, going to the beach is always like meeting God. There’s that moment when you make your way down the path that cuts through the dunes. As you walk farther, the quiet noise in the distance gradually becomes a welcome roar. You crane your neck as if unsure it’s all still there. Your pace quickens as the sound rises and the wind grows, and suddenly you’re emptied out into the full, vivid majesty of it all. And you breathe. It never fails to level me. It is never commonplace. It is always holy ground. If you’ve been to the beach, you understand exactly what I mean. If you haven’t — well, you just won’t. That’s the thing about the ocean: until you experience it, no one can explain it to you, and once you have experienced it, no one needs to. The love of God is this way. For far too long, Christians have been content with telling people about the ocean and believing that is enough.

We’ve spoken endlessly of a God whose lavish, scandalous love is beyond measure, whose forgiveness reaches from the furthest places and into our deepest personal darkness. We’ve spun gorgeous, fanciful tales of a redeeming grace that is greater than the worst thing we’ve done and available to anyone who desires it. We’ve talked about a Church that welcomes the entire hurting world openly with the very arms of Jesus. We’ve talked and talked and talked — and much of the time we’ve been a clanging gong, our lives and shared testimony making a largely loveless noise in their ears. They receive our condemnation They know our protests. They experience our exclusion. They endure our judgment. They encounter our bigotry. And all of our flowery words ring hollow. It’s little wonder they eventually choose to walk away from the shore, the idea as delivered through our daily encounters with them not compelling enough to pursue for themselves. Our commitments to hospitality, authenticity, diversity, and community can be empty words, too, if we don’t put them into practice.

Church, the world doesn’t need more talking from us. It doesn’t need our sweet platitudes or our eloquent speeches or our passionate preaching or our brilliant exegesis. These are all just words about the ocean, and ultimately they fail to adequately describe it. The world needs the goodness of God incarnated in the flesh of the people who claim to know this good God. As they meet us, they need to come face-to-face with radical welcome, with unconditional love, with counterintuitive forgiveness. They need to experience all of this in our individual lives and in the Church, or they will decide that it is all no more than a beautiful but ultimately greatly exaggerated story about sand and waves and colors that cannot be described.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 105-106

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 10, 2020

Beyond Sameness

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

One look at the group Jesus first assembled as his followers tells us that something is lost when sameness is the defining characteristic of a church. Jesus’ example teaches us that something is wrong when we leave out people who differ from us and only feel at home when everyone is the same. His goal is not to make us more of what we are, but help us to become what we can be. That requires us to expand our understanding of what it means to love our neighbor. Christ shows us that the only way to learn the greatest commandment is to have people in our lives who we personally find so difficult to love that we have to get up every morning and pray to our Creator for a love we could not produce on our own. The first disciples had to ask God to expand their hearts so they could overlook the past sins of the tax collector, put up with the ideological torpedo the zealot launched at breakfast, ignore the angry brothers’ latest argument, or figure out if it was time to confront the group treasurer they were beginning to think was embezzling funds.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 43

Photo: Green heron, South Riding, Virginia, April 25, 2020

Lamb Power

Monday, April 13th, 2020

The slain Lamb’s victory through suffering love is the heart of the Revelation story. I want to say again that this theology, this counter-understanding of victory in the Lamb, is more relevant today than ever. In the face of terrorism and the glorification of war, we need the vision of “Lamb power” to remind us that true victory comes in our world not through military might but through self-giving love. Revelation’s conquering Messiah is the slain but standing Lamb, the very opposite of Rome’s victory image. In Revelation, Jesus conquers not by inflicting violence but by accepting the violence inflicted upon him in crucifixion.

— Barbara R. Rossing, The Rapture Exposed, p. 135

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, April 5, 2020

While We’re Still Sinners

Saturday, April 11th, 2020

Romans 5 says that God showed His love for us while we were still sinners and that we were reconciled to God while we were still His enemies. If He did this for you and me, why should He not do it for everybody? This passage says to me that God has already overcome His children’s evil with good, even if we haven’t had enough time to observe it yet. Luke 6:35, the one quoted above about loving your enemies in order to be sons of the Most High finishes by saying, “… for [God] Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”

If that’s true, then why would we who have been overcome by His mercy be considered any more worthy, special, or privileged than someone who hasn’t yet been overcome by it? Why do we believe that death magically makes God’s love and mercy disappear for most of His children, especially when Scripture teaches that Jesus defeated death for all, the evidence to be seen in due season? What would compel enemies of God to be lured by some kind of “unconditional love” offered until the moment they die, only to then turn into unquenchable hate?

— Julie Ferwerda, Raising Hell, p. 92

Photo: Paris, France, April 2001