God’s Holy, Perfect Compassion

April 7th, 2018

Luke makes it even clearer that Jesus defines God’s holy “perfection,” not as vindictive anger towards sinners, but as compassionate love toward all people: “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:35-36). God’s perfection is not in tension with God’s compassion. According to Jesus, God’s perfection is defined precisely by God’s compassion. We must be careful to not import our own ideas of what divine perfection must be into the biblical text, as has so often it has been done. It is hard to take Jesus seriously and still come away with the assumption that God’s holy perfection requires the infinite punishment of sinners, especially when Jesus defines this perfection in the completely opposite direction. Those from the traditional view have quite a task before them in explaining how God can be said to be “kind to the wicked,” as Jesus affirms, and yet still inflict maximal suffering and torment on them.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 19

[Photo: South Riding, Virginia, April 6, 2018]

Embrace the Suffering

April 6th, 2018

You recognize the situation and help yourself not be overwhelmed by the negative feeling like fear or anxiety. You are still yourself. It’s like a mother: When the baby is crying, she picks up the baby and she holds the baby tenderly in her arms. Your pain, your anxiety is your baby. You have to take care of it. You have to go back to yourself, recognize the suffering in you, embrace the suffering, and you get relief.

— Thich Nhat Hanh, quoted in The Wisdom of Sundays, by Oprah Winfrey

What I’m Meant to Do

April 5th, 2018

A life of joy rests upon the discovery of what I, and I alone, am meant to do and then doing it with all my heart.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 59

[Photo: South Riding, Virginia, September 21, 2014]

Saving the World

April 4th, 2018

You can save the world in a very simple way. Value everyone you see, connect your most humane values to theirs, and then let the principles of modeling, mimicry, emotional display, contagion, and reciprocity do their stuff. You don’t even have to make eye contact; it will work if you only do it in your head. Just regard everyone you see as a person of value. This creates a very subtle, mostly unconscious approach motivation, to which most people are likely to respond in kind, with subtle positive regard of the people they subsequently pass on the street. Many of the people you value on the street will take that unconscious, low-grade valuing state with them. They’re more likely to be nicer to their children and more pleasant to the people they see at work. And so will you.

Value every driver you see, even those who behave badly, and you’ll do a great deal to protect the safety of each child and adult with whom you share the road.

This new torrent of transmitting value along the Web of Emotion need not change your overt behavior at all. It will require next to no investment of time and energy. In fact, it will generate energy and give a sense of purpose to your time that might otherwise be empty or wasted. It will help you appreciate a fact that we easily ignore in our rushed and highly structured society; each person you pass on the street is as valuable as anyone in the world.

— Steven Stosny, Soar Above, p. 207-208

[Photo: Keukenhof, Holland, April 17, 2004]

Punished By Our Sins

April 3rd, 2018

This view of sin and punishment is perhaps not as commonly held now as it was in previous generations, so I’m not sure how many people believe that God is holding a big grudge against them for being bad. Sure, some still believe that in heaven there is a list of good behaviors and bad behaviors and therefore to know that God forgives your sin is to know that God has erased the red marks against you and therefore is no longer mad, which means he won’t punish you.

But honestly, I’m much more tortured by my secrets, which eat away at me, than I am concerned about God being mad at me. I’m more haunted by how what I’ve said and the things I’ve done have caused harm to myself and others than I am worried that God will punish me for being bad. Because in the end, we aren’t punished for our sins as much as we are punished by our sins.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints, p. 130

[Photo: Sunrise, South Riding, Virginia, March 16, 2015]

At-one-ment

April 2nd, 2018

With all my heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, I believe in the atonement (all it the a-tone-ment, or the at-one-ment, as you please). I believe that Jesus Christ is our atonement, that through him we are reconciled to, made one with God. There is not one word in the New Testament about reconciling God to us; it is we that have to be reconciled to God.

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

[Photo: Keukenhof, Holland, April 17, 2004]

He Is Risen!

April 1st, 2018

Verse for Easter:

[Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 31, 2018]

Transcending Revenge

March 30th, 2018

While many Christians from the traditional view would say that the holiness of God consists primarily in moral purity and revulsion against sinners, the prophet Hosea defines God’s holiness in terms of God’s unrelenting mercy towards sinners. The Lord says through the prophet, “My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath” (Hos 11:8-9). It is highly significant that the reason God gives for his compassion and refusal to come in wrath is precisely because he is “the Holy One” who is far different from mere mortals. Far from God’s holiness requiring that God punish people eternally, Hosea affirms that God’s holiness is actually what compels God to refrain from wrath and to have mercy. What makes God holy, or different from human beings, is that God has the capacity to transcend revenge and offer mercy.

Similarly, Jesus defined God’s holy perfection, not in terms of vengeful and retributive justice against sinners, but in terms of all-inclusive compassion and love. It is often overlooked that when Jesus tells his followers to be “perfect” as God is perfect, this statement comes right on the heels of Jesus’s command for his followers to love enemies because this is what God does.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 18

[Photo: Oregon Coast, November 10, 2015]

Making Them Sparkle

March 30th, 2018

Verse for the day:

[Photo: Keukenhof, Holland, April 17, 2004]

The Power of Story

March 29th, 2018

But it’s the stories that have always drawn me. When I was a child (as now) there were stories I found difficult, such as that of the workers in the vineyard, where those who had worked only an hour were paid as much as those who had worked all day in the heat of the sun. It wasn’t fair! Like most children, I wanted things to be fair, even though life had already taught me that unfairness abounds. I think many of us still feel like the child stamping and crying out, “It’s not fair!” Those who have worked all day long should certainly be paid more than those who came in at the last minute! But Jesus is constantly trying to make us understand that God’s ways are not our ways, and that God’s love is far less selective and far greater than ours. “Is thine eye evil because I am good?” God asks in Matthew’s Gospel after he has finished paying all the workers the same wage. When God blesses those we deem unworthy, does our jealousy make our eye become evil? Are we, like the elder brother, like Jonah, upset at God’s forgiveness? Daily I need a deep and penitent awareness of how much greater God’s love is than my own.

— Madeleine L’Engle, The Rock That Is Higher, p. 128, quoted in Madeleine L’Engle, Herself, compiled by Carole F. Chase, p. 133

[Photo: Burnside Gardens, Virginia, April 22, 2016]