Archive for November, 2018

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: Schloß Heidelberg, Germany, December 1996

Saying Yes to Life

Saturday, November 17th, 2018

Saying yes to life is enlivening and invigorating.

Saying yes to life frees up our energy to be present with whatever is happening.

Saying yes to life is the gateway to unimagined adventures and possibilities – as readily available to us in our living room as on a trek across India. It’s a matter of how we relate to our unfolding experiences.

— Sharon Salzberg, Real Love, p. 280

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 25, 2016.

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

Looking Good

Monday, November 12th, 2018

Happiness suits us well. Whatever our condition, when we’re happy we function better both physically and spiritually. We’re more alert, productive, and helpful to others. Joy looks good on us because we’re made for it. Put misery in your tank and see how far you get. Then try a little joy — laugh with friends, play with children, “sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19) — and feel the vigor of youth flow back into your bones.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 104

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, September 13, 2015.

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

The Blessing of Blessing

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

Whenever we wish someone the best or give someone love, we feel good. Every blessing we give is a blessing that we give to ourselves. Every time we help someone, the help we give them and the healing they reach gets added to our life.

Chuck Spezzano, If It Hurts, It Isn’t Love, p. 345

Photo: Devil’s Den State Park, Arkansas, July 1996

The Power of Examples

Friday, November 9th, 2018

Finally, you have the opportunity to use your healed memories to offer compassion and support to those in need. When you forgive you become a model for those still struggling. They benefit from seeing people who have healed. You can serve as an example of what is possible. You show people through your example that forgiveness is possible.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 74

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 30, 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

Wait for It.

Monday, November 5th, 2018

Teilhard de Chardin wrote that we must “trust in the slow work of God.”

Ours is a God who waits. Who are we not to? It takes what it takes for the great turnaround. Wait for it.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 113

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 4, 2018

Winning the Kingdom Without War

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

Finally, the last thing I know is this: If the God of the Bible is true, and if God became flesh and blood in the person of Jesus Christ, and if Jesus Christ is — as theologian Greg Boyd put it — “the revelation that culminates and supersedes all others,” then God would rather die by violence than commit it. The cross makes this plain. On the cross, Christ not only bore the brunt of human cruelty and bloodlust and fear, he remained faithful to the nonviolence he taught and modeled throughout his ministry. Boyd called it “the Crucifixion of the Warrior God,” and in a two-volume work by that name asserted that “on the cross, the diabolic violent warrior god we have all-too-frequently pledged allegiance to has been forever repudiated.” On the cross, Jesus chose to align himself with victims of suffering rather than the inflictors of it.

At the heart of the doctrine of the incarnation is the stunning claim that Jesus is what God is like. “No one has ever seen God,” declared John in his gospel, “but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:18, emphasis added). The New American Standard Bible says, “The only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (emphasis added). So to whatever extent God owes us an explanation for the Bible’s war stories, Jesus is that explanation. And Christ the King won his kingdom without war.

— Rachel Held Evans, Inspired, p. 76-77

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 4, 2018