Sin Turned on Its Head

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

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

Wiser and Stronger Each Day

As you choose your path and how you will use your time in the present, you are actively creating an increasingly more satisfying future. You are also dissolving the imprint and impact of any verbal abuse you’ve heard. Any negative definition of who you are by anyone in any time or place has no meaning or reality. While you may have been the target, like a drive-by shooting, the comments were not your fault.

You are infinitely more deserving of love and care than any negative comments would say. They are simply little synapses that flew out of someone’s mind. They are less meaningful than the chirping of a bird. Knowing this you are wiser and stronger each day. Knowing this you can choose to do what is best and right for your highest self this week and in the weeks to come.

— Patricia Evans, Victory Over Verbal Abuse, p. 176

Why Jesus Came

Love is what God is,
love is why Jesus came,
and love is why he continues to come
year after year to person after person. . . .

May you experience this vast,
expansive, infinite, indestructible love
that has been yours all along.
May you discover that this love is as wide
as the sky and as small as the cracks in
your heart no one else knows about.
And may you know,
deep in your bones,
that love wins.

— Rob Bell, Love Wins, p. 197-198

Learning to Recover From Falling

We are not helping our chldren by always preventing them from what might be necessary falling, because you learn how to recover from falling by falling! It is precisely by falling off the bike many times that you eventually learn what the balance feels like. The skater pushing both right and left eventually goes where he or she wants to go. People who have never allowed themselves to fall are actually off balance, while not realizing it at all. That is why they are so hard to live with. Please think about that for a while.

— Richard Rohr, Falling Upward, p. 28

Reconciliation

When our goal has been the recruitment of others to our way of thinking, we have often lost our way, valuing recruitment above reconciliation.

Our passion for recruitment lies in our desire to have others make the same religious choices we have made, thereby confirming our wisdom and good sense. In that sense, recruitment is a self-centered activity, valuing others primarily for their willingness and ability to confirm our decisions. But a church centered on reconciliation, not recruitment, begins with the assumption that others are our equal partners in loving work, not targets for our evangelism. When that is the case, we will no longer view those outside the church as mistaken, confused, spiritually lost, or damned. Instead, we will see in them the very potential and promise Jesus saw in those he encountered.

— Philip Gulley, The Evolution of Faith, p. 188-189

Meaning from Suffering

But there’s another possible meaning for that word “reason,” a meaning that together with the word why can liberate us from a determined, mechanistic universe. Instead of saying, “What plan in the past predetermined this suffering and therefore explains it in the present?” we could ask a very different question: “What possible good in the future can be brought out of this tragic suffering in the present?” This question makes no assumption that the present moment is inevitable or intentional. But it also makes no assumption that the present moment is meaningless. It holds open the possibility that some future meaning, some future value, some future good could be wrested from this present tragedy and loss. Ultimately, this is what we all need when we suffer — not explanations or reasons, but meaning.

— Brian McLaren, Naked Spirituality, p. 182

Joyous Participation

This is why Christians who talk the most about going to heaven while everybody else goes to hell don’t throw very good parties.

When the gospel is understood primarily in terms of entrance rather than joyous participation, it can actually serve to cut people off from the explosive, liberating experience of the God who is an endless giving circle of joy and creativity.

Life has never been just about “getting in.” It’s about thriving in God’s good world. It’s stillness, peace, and that feeling of your soul being at rest, while at the same time it’s about asking things, learning things, creating things, and sharing it all with others who are finding the same kind of joy in the same good world.

Jesus calls disciples to keep entering into this shared life of peace and joy as it transforms our hearts, until it’s the most natural way to live that we can imagine. Until it’s second nature. Until we naturally embody and practice the kind of attitudes and actions that will go on in the age to come. A discussion about how to “just get into heaven” has no place in the life of a disciple of Jesus, because it’s missing the point of it all.

— Rob Bell, Love Wins, p. 179

Widening the Scope

People come to Jesus in all sorts of ways.

Sometimes people bump into Jesus,
they trip on the mystery,
they stumble past the word,
they drink from the rock,
without knowing what or who it was.
This happened in the Exodus,
and it happens today.
The last thing we should do is discourage or disregard an honest, authentic encounter with the living Christ. He is the rock, and there is water for the thirsty there, wherever there is.

We are not threatened by this,
surprised by this,
or offended by this.

Sometimes people use his name;
other times they don’t.

Some people have so much baggage with regard to the name “Jesus” that when they encounter the mystery present in all of creation — grace, peace, love, acceptance, healing, forgiveness — the last thing they are inclined to name it is “Jesus.”…

What we see Jesus doing again and again — in the midst of constant reminders about the seriousness of following him, living like him, and trusting him — is widening the scope and expanse of his saving work….

Whatever categories have been created, whatever biases are hanging like a mist in the air, whatever labels and assumptions have gone unchecked and untested, he continually defies, destroys, and disregards.

— Rob Bell, Love Wins, p. 158-160

The Work of Jesus

Jesus would not give himself to only a portion of his Father’s will, but to all of it. He would not pluck the spreading branches of the tree; he would lay the axe to its root. He would not deal with the mere effect of sin; he would destroy sin altogether. It would take time, but the tree would be dead at last — dead, and cast into the lake of fire. It would take time, but his Father had time enough and to spare. It would take courage and strength and self-denial and endurance; but his Father could give him all. It would cost pain of body and mind, agony and torture, but those he was ready to take on himself. It would cost him the vision of many sad and, to all but him, hopeless sights. He would have to see tears without wiping them, hear sighs without changing them into laughter, see the dead lie, and let them lie. He would have to see Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted. He must look on his brothers and sisters crying as children over their broken toys, and must not mend them. He must go on to the grave, and none of these know that thus he was setting all things right for them. His work must be one with and completing God’s creation and God’s history.

— George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, p. 283