Archive for the ‘Redemption’ Category

God Will Overcome.

Friday, December 30th, 2016

Evil is a hard thing, even for God to overcome. Yet thoroughly and altogether and triumphantly will he overcome it.

But not by crushing it underfoot — any god of man’s idea could do that — but by conquest of heart over heart, of life over life, of life over death, of love over all. Nothing shall be too hard for the God who fears not pain, but will deliver and make true and blessed at his own severest cost.

— George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, Third Series, “Justice,” quoted in Discovering the Character of God, edited by Michael Phillips, p. 247.

Maturity and Affliction

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Yes, our maturity certainly involves doing the things Jesus did. Healing and all. But that maturity also involves becoming like him in the transformation of our character. It involves holiness — loving God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. Being willing to suffer the loss of everything for him. Choosing him in the midst of suffering. Which is to say, having within us the character of Jesus. And how does God shape our character? We hate the answer, but we know it to be true: affliction.

— John Eldredge, Moving Mountains, p. 224

Forgiveness and Deliverance

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

There is an important misapprehension in the words of the messengers of the Gospel in the New Testament. It is wrongly thought that they threaten us with punishment because of sins we have committed, whereas in reality their message is of forgiveness, not of vengeance — of deliverance, not of evil to come.

No man shall be condemned for any or all of his sins that are past. He needs not dread remaining unforgiven even for the worst of them. The sin he dwells in, the sin he will not come out of — that is the sole ruin of a man. His present, his live, sins — those pervading his thoughts and ruling his conduct, the sins he keeps doing and will not give up, the sins he is called to abandon and clings to — these are they for which he is even at this moment condemned. “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

It is the indwelling badness, ready to produce bad actions — the indwelling sin which leads to sins — that we need to be delivered from. Against this sin, if a man will not strive, he is left to commit evil and reap the consequences. To be saved from these consequences would be no deliverance; it would be an immediate, ever deepening damnation. Jesus came to deliver us, not rescue us from needful consequences. It is the sin in our being — no essential part of it, thank God! — the miserable fact that we as a very child of God do not care for our Father and will not obey him, causing us to desire wrongly and act wrongly — this is what he came to deliver us from, not the things we have done, but the possibility of doing such things any more.

— George MacDonald, Hope of the Gospel, “Salvation from Sin,” quoted in Discovering the Character of God, edited by Michael Phillips, p. 40-41.

True Deliverance

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

It is true that Jesus came, in delivering us from our sins, to deliver us also from the painful consequences of our sins. But these consequences exist by the one law of the universe, the true will of God. When that will is broken, suffering is inevitable.

But in the perfection of God’s creation, the result of that suffering is curative. The pain works toward the healing of the breach.

The Lord never came to deliver men from the consequences of their sins while those sins yet remained. That would be to cast out the window the medicine of cure while still the man lay sick. Yet, feeling nothing of the dread hatefulness of their sin, men have constantly taken this word that the Lord came to deliver us from our sins to mean that he came to save them from the punishment of their sins.

This idea has terribly corrupted the preaching of the Gospel. The message of the Good News has not been truly communicated. Unable to believe in the forgiveness of their Father in heaven, imagining him not at liberty to forgive, or incapable of forgiving forthright; not really believing him God who is fully our Savior, but a God bound — either in his own nature or by a law above him and compulsory upon him — to exact some recompense or satisfaction for sin, a multitude of religious teachers have taught their fellow men that Jesus came to bear our punishment and save us from hell. But in that they have misrepresented his true mission.

The mission of Jesus was from the same source and with the same object as the punishment of our sins. He came to do more than take the punishment for our sins. He came as well to set us free from our sin.

No man is safe from hell until he is free from his sin. But a man to whom his sins are a burden, while he may indeed sometimes feel as if he were in hell, will soon have forgotten that he ever had any other hell to think of than that of his sinful condition. For to him his sin is hell. He would go to the other hell to be free of it. Free of his sin, hell itself would be endurable to him.

For hell is God’s and not the Devil’s. Hell is on the side of God and man, to free the child of God from the corruption of death. Not one soul will ever be redeemed from hell but by being saved from his sin, from the evil in him. If hell be needful to save him, hell will blaze, and the worm will writhe and bite, until he takes refuge in the will of the Father. “Salvation from hell” is salvation as conceived by such to whom hell, and not the evil of the sin, is the terror.

— George MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel, “Salvation From Sin,” quoted in Discovering the Character of God, edited by Michael Phillips, p. 39-40.

A Family of Sinners

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

Long enshrined traditions around communion aside, there are always folks who fancy themselves bouncers to the heavenly banquet, charged with keeping the wrong people away from the table and out of the church. Evangelicalism in particular has seen a resurgence in border patrol Christianity in recent years, as alliances and coalitions formed around shared theological distinctives elevate secondary issues to primary ones and declare anyone who fails to conform to their strict set of beliefs and behaviors unfit for Christian fellowship. Committed to purifying the church of every errant thought, difference of opinion, or variation in practice, these self-appointed gatekeepers tie up heavy loads of legalistic rules and place them on weary people’s shoulders. They strain out the gnats in everyone else’s theology while swallowing their own camel-sized inconsistencies. They slam the door of the kingdom in people’s faces and tell them to come back when they are sober, back on their feet, Republican, Reformed, doubtless, submissive, straight.

But the gospel doesn’t need a coalition devoted to keeping the wrong people out. It needs a family of sinners, saved by grace, committed to tearing down the walls, throwing open the doors, and shouting, “Welcome! There’s bread and wine. Come eat with us and talk.” This isn’t a kingdom for the worthy; it’s a kingdom for the hungry.

— Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday, p. 149

Battling Demons

Saturday, November 28th, 2015

Indeed, our sins — hate, fear, greed, jealousy, lust, materialism, pride — can at times take such distinct forms in our lives that we recognize them in the faces of the gargoyles and grotesques that guard our cathedral doors. And these sins join in a chorus — you might even say a legion — of voices locked in an ongoing battle with God to lay claim over our identity, to convince us we belong to them, that they have the right to name us. Where God calls the baptized beloved, demons call her addict, slut, sinner, failure, fat, worthless, faker, screwup. Where God calls her child, the demons beckon with rich, powerful, pretty, important, religious, esteemed, accomplished, right. It is no coincidence that when Satan tempted Jesus after his baptism, he began his entreaties with, “If you are the Son of God . . .” We all long for someone to tell us who we are. The great struggle of the Christian life is to take God’s name for us, to believe we are beloved and to believe that is enough.

— Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday, p. 19

Heralds of Hope

Monday, August 31st, 2015

The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: wherever we go, we are called as Christians to proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins committed is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life. The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness. It means following and imitating Jesus, who sought out the poor and sinners as a shepherd lovingly seeks his lost sheep.

— Pope Francis, The Spirit of Saint Francis, p. 131

What We Call Curses

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

I know that it seemed like God was being cruel that year…. But he was not. What I know now is that his kindness burns through even the deepest betrayals and invites life from death every chance we let him. There are things that explode into our lives and we call them curses, and then one day, a year later or ten years later, we realize that they are actually something else. They are the very most precious kinds of blessings.

— Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines, p. 176

Sin Turned on Its Head

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Sin and salvation are correlative terms. Salvation is not sin perfectly avoided, as the ego would prefer; but in fact, salvation is sin turned on its head and used in our favor. That is how transformative divine love is. If this is not the pattern, what hope is there for 99.9 percent of the world?

— Richard Rohr, Falling Upward, p. 60

The Scandal of the Particular

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Jesus had no trouble with the exceptions, whether they were prostitutes, drunkards, Samaritans, lepers, Gentiles, tax collectors, or wayward sheep. He ate with outsiders regularly, to the chagrin of the church stalwarts, who always love their version of order over any compassion toward the exceptions. Just the existence of a single mentally challenged or mentally ill person should make us change any of our theories about the necessity of correct thinking as the definition of “salvation.” . . .

Jesus did not seem to teach that one size fits all, but instead that his God adjusts to the vagaries and failures of the moment. This ability to adjust to human disorder and failure is named God’s providence or compassion. Every time God forgives us, God is saying that God’s own rules do not matter as much as the relationship that God wants to have with us. Just the Biblical notion of absolute forgiveness, once experienced, should be enough to make us trust and seek and love God.

But we humans have a hard time with the specific, the concrete, the individual, the anecdotal story, which hardly ever fits the universal mold. So we pretend. Maybe that is why we like and need humor, which invariably reveals these inconsistencies. In Franciscan thinking, this specific, individual, concrete thing is always God’s work and God’s continuing choice, precisely in its uniqueness, not in its uniformity. Duns Scotus called it “thisness.” Christians believe that “incarnation” showed itself in one unique specific person, Jesus. It becomes his pattern too, as he leaves the ninety-nine for the one lost sheep (Matthew 18:12-14). Some theologians have called this divine pattern of incarnation “the scandal of the particular.” Our mind, it seems, is more pleased with universals: never-broken, always-applicable rules and patterns that allow us to predict and control things. This is good for science, but lousy for religion.

— Richard Rohr, Falling Upward, p. 56-57