Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

Restorative Justice

Monday, September 7th, 2020

It’s time for Christianity to rediscover the deeper biblical theme of restorative justice, which focuses on rehabilitation and reconciliation and not punishment. (Read Ezekiel 16 for a supreme example of this.) We could call Jesus’ story line the “myth of redemptive suffering” — not as in “paying a price” but as in offering the self for the other. Or “at-one-ment” instead of atonement!

Restorative justice, of course, comes to its full demonstration in the constant healing ministry of Jesus. Jesus represents the real and deeper level of teaching of the Jewish Prophets. Jesus never punished anybody! Yes, he challenged people, but always for the sake of insight, healing, and restoration of people and situations to their divine origin and source. Once a person recognizes that Jesus’s mission (obvious in all four Gospels) was to heal people, not punish them, the dominant theories of retributive justice begin to lose their appeal and their authority.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 142

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, September 7, 2020

The Blood of Jesus

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

The blood of Jesus does not purchase forgiveness for us, pay the penalty for sin, or appease the wrath of God. God didn’t need the blood of Jesus as any sort of payment or appeasement. God does not desire blood and death. The blood of Jesus has nothing to do with any of those things.

No, the blood of Jesus is the solution to the problem of human sin because it both exposes the true nature of our sin to us, and then calls us to no longer participate in these practices. The blood of Jesus calls us away from scapegoating and violence, toward love and forgiveness. In this way, the blood of Jesus truly does save the world from sin. It saves us, not because it buys redemption and reconciliation from God, but because it reveals to us the truth about our sin and calls us to live toward others as God has always lived toward us: with nothing but love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. When we live this way, all the world will know that we have been saved from sin.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 259-260

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 30, 2020

One Caring Foot

Friday, August 28th, 2020

The Spirit seems to work best underground. When aboveground, humans start fighting about it.

You can call this grace, the indwelling Holy Spirit, or just evolution toward union (which we call “love”). God is not in competition with anybody, but only in deep-time cooperation with everybody who loves (Romans 8:28). Whenever we place one caring foot forward, God uses it, sustains it, and blesses it. Our impulse does not need to wear the name of religion at all.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 100

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 23, 2020

All People Were Always Welcome.

Friday, August 21st, 2020

The violent death of Jesus on the cross revealed the truth about the great problem of human sin and violence. The truth is that such violence comes from us; not God. When we see this in how we killed Jesus, His violent death on the cross reveals that God never wanted or needed blood sacrifice or sacred violence of any kind in order for people to draw near to Him. All people were always welcome. We can draw near to God simply because we have no reason to stay away from Him. He has always loved us, and always forgiven us. One group is not more or less sinful than anyone else. All are invited in. All are welcome. The blood of Jesus has brought everyone near, by proving that no one was ever kept at a distance. All divisions of men are nothing more than man-made divisions, and now Jesus has torn them all down, giving us all equal access to God and equal standing before Him.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 246

Photo: View from Stirling Castle, Scotland, July 2003

Perfect Love

Thursday, August 20th, 2020

Abba‘s hand is love through and through, even in his most severe mercy. Paul, like Hosea before him, was convinced that it’s “the kindness of God that leads to repentance.” More to the point, Christ demonstrated and taught that perfect holiness — for God and for us — consists only in perfect love. Righteousness is not mere taboo avoidance, but the genuine faith of unselfish (cruciform) love.

— Bradley Jersak, A More Christlike Way, p. 73

Photo: Burg Lahneck, Germany, August 22, 2004

Silencing the Voice of the Accuser

Saturday, July 18th, 2020

What God claims to love, do not deem unworthy of that love.

What God has called good, do not call anything other than good.

What God has animated with God’s own breath and endowed with a soul and God’s own image, do not treat with anything less than dignity.

When that accusing voice is on repeat in your head, know that it is not the voice of God. God’s voice is found in the warm singsong of a mother to her newborn, the one who says, “You are beloved.” God’s voice declares us clean, justified, forgiven, and new. It imparts to us a worthiness that has nothing to do with our efforts or our accomplishments or our becoming some imagined ideal.

This is the use of Christian community, as I see it. We help each other silence the Accuser. We tend each other’s wounds, show each other our scars, see and forgive each other’s shortcomings, let each other cry, make each other laugh, and are absolutely adamant about grace for everyone. We insist on freeing each other from the grip of the accusing voice, and we amplify the voice of God.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shameless, p. 181-182

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, July 12, 2020

Worthy

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

We are worthy of being loved
not because of what we do well
but because we are precious living beings.
Even if you don’t achieve
the perfection the world demands,
your existence already has value
and is worthy of love.

— Haemin Sunim, Love for Imperfect Things, p. 18

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, June 29, 2020

Proximity

Saturday, June 27th, 2020

The kind of intimacy Jesus shares with people, the kind that was and is transformational, only comes with close proximity. It is not possible screamed from across the road or shouted from a pulpit or laid out in a carefully researched dissertation. It cannot be gleaned from a clever meme or a spirited Twitter exchange or a hermeneutic debate. It only comes through the redemptive relationship forged when we are willing to sit across from people who believe differently than we believe, willing to get close enough and stay long enough to see both their unique humanity and their inherent divinity. This is how we love people well; it is how we put flesh on our faith; and it is how we follow so close behind the rabbi Jesus that we are covered in his dust. The only way the table can really expand is when we, like Christ, are willing to take our place across from those who appear to be or even desire to be our adversaries. Jesus’ call to embrace love as theology isn’t merely a surface, sugary platitude. It’s the most difficult, radical, time-consuming work of reflecting Christ to the world around us. In the end, the thing that glorifies God isn’t our belief system, but how we treat those who don’t share that belief system. We can be people of deep conviction without needing to pick up a bullhorn.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 121

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, June 25, 2020

Beloved

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

We must see this clearly, or we will miss the point of our life in Christ. Christ’s followers today receive the same calling and commission. If we miss this, it will have consequences. Rather than be witnesses to Christ in the way we love God, others, and ourselves, we will begin to think that Jesus came to make us nicer or a little more thoughtful, the kind of people who remember birthdays and select more personal Christmas gifts. Rather than tell others about God’s grace or offer mercy, we will believe that living a Christian life is about feeling forgiven of our sins. Rather than telling others about the habit-changing, bondage-breaking, turnaround-making power Jesus can have in our lives, we will cultivate a relationship with Christ that is so personal that we never share it with anyone else. Rather than speaking out and working for justice with those who hold position and power in our community and society, we will spend our time telling the already convinced how much better the world would be if it were not exactly as it is. Rather than offering acts of solace to those who grieve, comfort to the sick, or kindness of conversation with prisoners or returning citizens, we will simply offer thanks that we are not in such predicaments ourselves.

Jesus takes us on a journey so that he can deploy us on a mission. He offers his love to us so that we will share it with the world. He does this because he loves us. The first disciples knew they were beloved, not only because of what Jesus did for them, but because Jesus believed in them when he called them to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. He knew what they could do for him. Jesus believed in them more than they believed in themselves. He saw more potential in them than they ever thought possible in their lives. He forgave them for what they were not, just as he celebrated all that they were. All of this is what is at the heart of being beloved by another. When we are beloved, we gain the confidence another has in us and make it our own. That confidence transforms how we think of ourselves. It guides the journey that, in the end, leads to who we become. Such love, once extended, is what stirs up a new sense of possibility in our lives.

This is the love God has for you, and the belief God holds in you. We must have faith that God believes in us, in our ability to love our neighbor, to treat ourselves properly in this life, and to worship the Lord with our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 136-137

Photo: Rhein River from Burg Rheinstein, Germany, July 1997

Always Merciful

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

Scripture testifies that the cross did not begin the outpouring of divine mercy to the world. It has been present from the beginning and endures forever. No one threw a switch to turn off its flow, though one might think so, given the way preaching and teaching have labeled the cross as the event that triggered divine forgiveness. Gracious and compassionate, God has always been acting mercifully.

The cross of Christ brings this infinitely merciful love into a different kind of personal intimacy with the pain and death of creatures. In view of Jesus’ death the words of divine solidarity at the burning bush, “I know well what they are suffering,” can be announced with unexpected resonance. Together with the resurrection from which it cannot be separated, the cross anchors divine saving love historically in the flesh of the world’s evolving life. In its light we see that saving mercy accompanies all creatures in the world’s beautiful, terrible journey through time to final fulfillment. The grace of this presence empowers life to emerge anew, rebuilds broken relationships, forgives wretched human sin, and embraces all the dead into their future, promised but unknown.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 223-224

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 22, 2020