Archive for April, 2020

The Forgiveness Choice

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Other people can hurt us, but only we choose how to react. Each of us has the choice to forgive or not to forgive, and no one can force us to do either. If I want to forgive someone, no one can stop me, no matter how poorly the offender may have acted. This choice of whether or not to forgive is an example of the power we have to heal the wounds in our life and move on.

Because we can choose to forgive, we have a choice also about whether or not to take offense in the first place. My understanding of forgiveness suggests the radical notion that life would improve if we rarely or never used the power of choice to take offense. Since we have choice, wouldn’t it make sense to limit the amount of times we are hurt or offended?

When you have practiced forgiveness on a couple of hurtful situations, you soon find that you have become a more forgiving person. You may notice you are less inclined to get angry or that you feel more patient with people. Forgiveness — the ability to live life without taking offense, without giving blame when hurt, and by telling stories that reflect peace and understanding — is a choice that can be practiced in a host of situations. Forgiveness, while not the only choice, is a skillful way to deal with the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 178-179

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, April 7, 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

Learning Stories

Friday, April 10th, 2020

I found curiosity a much more loving posture than judgment. I also came to understand that when I am curious about someone, they often feel valued. It is easy to care about people after you know their story and hard to judge them.

I think that is what Jesus had in mind for us. Knowing people’s stories ignites the caring God desires for us to extend. An easy way to love others is to start with a question. Listen to their story. Don’t rush in with solutions or advice or offer up your latest big idea. Be inquisitive and attend to what people offer you. Rome was not built in a day and trust is not built in a minute.

–Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 105-106

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, April 2, 2020

Exclusion Excluded

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

The truly one, holy, catholic and undivided church has not existed for a thousand years now, with many tragic results. We are ready to reclaim it again, but this time around we must concentrate on including — as Jesus clearly did — instead of excluding — which he never did. The only people that Jesus seemed to exclude were precisely those who refused to know they were ordinary sinners like everyone else. The only thing he excluded was exclusion itself. Do check me out on that, and you might see that I am correct.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 34

Photo: Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Virginia, April 6, 2020

Rich Diversity

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

Our distinctions of race, gender, orientation, and place of origin all shape how easy or difficult it has been for us to claim the same inherent needs we have to be seen and heard and respected, and they craft the specific lens through which we filter the world. The very specific intersection of our various differences alters how we individually have experienced life, and so we need to bring these all to bear as we build community, each being informed by one another. The color of someone’s skin, their inclination to love, their gender identity, the culture of their upbringing, and every other facet of their humanity matter, because these all work in concert to compose the once-in-history expression of life they manifest. These things are the unique lines of their original stories.

And as a person of faith, these distinctions all reveal the unlimited beauty of One who is the source of each of us, so this rich diversity is the very holy ground where God speaks. Bigotry doesn’t happen when we notice other people’s differences. It happens when we believe or act as if those differences make another less worthy of love or opportunity or compassion or respect. We need to learn to dance together.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 94

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, April 7, 2020

God’s Glory Shines

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

As Gregory [of Nyssa] argues in On the Making of Humanity, evil is inherently finite — in fact, in a sense, is pure finitude, pure limit — and so builds only toward an ending; evil is a tale that can have only an immanent conclusion; and, in the light of God’s infinity, its proper end will be shown to be nothing but its own disappearance. Once it has been exhausted, when every shadow of wickedness — all chaos, duplicity, and violence — has been outstripped by the infinity of God’s splendor, beauty, radiance, and delight, God’s glory will shine in each creature like the sun in an immaculate mirror, and each soul — born into the freedom of God’s image — will turn of its own nature toward divine love. There is no other place, no other liberty; at the last, to the inevitable God humanity is bound by its freedom. And each person, as God elects him or her from before the ages, is indispensable, for the humanity God eternally wills could never come to fruition in the absence of any member of that body, any facet of that beauty. Apart from the one who is lost, humanity as God wills it could never be complete, nor even exist as the creature fashioned after the divine image; the loss of even one would leave the body of the Logos incomplete, and God’s purpose in creation unaccomplished.

— David Bentley Hart, That All Should Be Saved, p. 143-144

Photo: Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Virginia, April 6, 2020

Demanded by Us

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

While the Gospels clearly and consistently reveal that the death of Jesus was at the hands of men to please and appease religious and political rulers and satisfy an angry mob, many religious leaders today see the death of Jesus on the cross as a sacrifice which pleased and satisfied God. But this interpretation sides with the religious and political leaders who called for the death of Jesus. Many religious leaders then and now believed that God wanted Jesus to die, and that peace would come only through His death. The more modern Christian theologians who argue for this view teach that while the blood of bulls and goats could only temporarily cover our sin, the death of Jesus was the ultimate and perfect sacrifice which God needed and demanded as the complete payment for sin. This way of thinking about the sacrifice of Jesus does not undermine the sacrificial system, but supports and buttresses it as never before.

The best way (and the most ancient way) of understanding the death of Jesus on the cross, however, is to see it not as something demanded or required by God in order to extend forgiveness of sins to humanity, but instead as something demanded and required by humans as a way to reinforce the great lie which we have lived beneath since the beginning of the world. The great lie is that God is angry at us because of sin, and when bad things happen in life, it is because God is angry at us, and so the best way to deal with sin and an angry God is to find the “sinner” in our community and kill him or her in the name of God. Then God will be pleased that we have taken care of sin and will bless us once again.

Jesus was viewed by the people of His day as a sinner and blasphemer who needed to be condemned, accused, and executed in accordance with the will of God. But it was not God’s will. No execution or sacred violence is ever God’s will. How do we know? The death of Jesus revealed this truth to us. The death of Jesus did not reveal that God wants death, but that we want it. His death reveals our vile hearts and violent ways, while at the same time revealing the heart of God as always forgiving and only loving. The death of Jesus called us to the one thing God has always wanted for us, which is to live as He lives, with nothing but love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness extended toward others.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 150-151

Direction Comes with Joy.

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

Joy is one of the ways the Lord confirms His Word to us. He may tell us to do something difficult, but because His direction comes with joy, we believe Him and are motivated to obey. If we forget the joy He gave, we’ll lose the power to carry out His commands.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 160

Photo: Keukenhof, Holland, April 1999

Kinship

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

For Jesus, the self that needs to die is the one that wants to be separate. This is the self that recoils from kinship with others and balks at union at every turn. It is the self that wants it all to remain private and thinks it prefers isolation to connection. We know that the early Christians believed that “one Christian is no Christian.” This larger sense of belonging to each other acknowledges that many are the things that connect us, and those things that divide are few and no match for our kinship.

— Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir, p. 195

Photo: Bull Run Regional Park, Virginia, April 8, 2019