Waking Up

Religion, at its best, helps people to bring this foundational divine love into ever-increasing consciousness. In other words, it’s more about waking up than about cleaning up. Early-stage religion tends to focus on cleaning up, which is to say, determining who meets the requirements for moral behavior and religious belief. But Jesus threw a wrench into this whole machinery by refusing to enforce or even bother with what he considered secondary issues like the Sabbath, ritual laws, purity codes, membership requirements, debt codes, on and on. He saw they were only “human commandments,” which far too often took the place of love. (See especially Matthew 15:3, 6-9.) Or as he puts it in another place, “You hypocrites, you pay your tithes . . . and neglect the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and good faith” (Matthew 23:23). Cleaning up is a result of waking up, but most of us put the cart before the horse.

It’s no wonder his fellow Jews had to kill Jesus, just as many Catholics would love to eliminate Pope Francis today. Once you wake up, as Jesus and Pope Francis have, you know that cleaning up is a constant process that comes on different timetables for different people, around many different issues, and for very different motivations. This is why love and growth demand discernment, not enforcement. When it comes to actual soul work, most attempts at policing and conforming are largely useless. It took me most of my life as a confessor, counselor, and spiritual director to be honest and truly helpful with people about this. Mere obedience is far too often a detour around actual love. Obedience is usually about cleaning up, love is about waking up.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 72-73

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, June 6, 2020

Generous Love

The true point of the text is summarized in Hebrews 10:5-10. The truth is stated twice that God never wanted or desired sacrifices, nor did He take any pleasure in them. Instead, what God wanted was someone who would do His will. Jesus perfectly obeyed God’s will, which made Jesus the perfect living sacrifice. Yet Jesus did die. He died a sacrificial death. Through His death, He shed His blood for the sins of all mankind. The Bible clearly reveals this truth, as does the book of Hebrews. But the question is Why? Why did Jesus die? Why did Jesus shed His blood? Why did the shed blood of Jesus accomplish what bulls and goats never could?

The author of Hebrews has the answer. Jesus did not die because God required or needed sacrifice. He died to take away and bring an end to sacrifice. Jesus did this by revealing through His own sacrifice at the hands of men that God does not want sacrifice; we do. People sacrifice to God, even though God didn’t want such sacrifices. We sacrificed to God because we wanted sacrifice, and because sacrifice seemed to bring peace into our lives and communities. But when Jesus died and rose from the dead, He revealed that God does not want sacrifices, but instead wants people to live their lives in faithful obedience to Him, as He told Saul so long ago, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam 15:22). Living in a relationship with God is what God has always wanted (cf. Heb 10:16). The sacrifices of the Mosaic Law were given as a substitute for relationship, but now that we have seen from Scripture and through Jesus that God never wanted or desired sacrifices, but only wanted us to live in a loving relationship with Him and each other, we can put away all sacrifices and live as God desires. Best of all, this is the only true way to find the peace we all seek. When we generously love and freely forgive as God has done for us, we then find peace with God and with one another.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 153-154

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, April 6, 2020

True Faith

I think this will throw some light upon the words of our Lord, “If ye have faith and doubt not, if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.”

Good people, among them John Bunyan, have been tempted to tempt the Lord their God upon the strength of this saying, just as Satan sought to tempt our Lord on the strength of the passage he quoted from the Psalms. They think that as long as they have faith, and believe earnestly enough, it is possible to do and accomplish anything to which they might set their hand.

Happily for such, the assurance to which they would give the name of faith generally fails them in time. Faith is not the fervent setting of the mind on “believing” for such-and-such an outcome — more often than not a desire generated by the man’s own soul — as if we, and not God, were the orignators and initiators of faith by the strength of our passions, the fervor of our prayers, and the forcefulness of our mental processes. True faith, rather, is that which, knowing the Lord’s will, goes and does it, or, not knowing it, stands and waits, content in ignorance as in knowledge, because God wills. Faith neither presses into the hidden future, nor is careless of the knowledge that opens the path of action. It is faith’s noblest exercise to act with uncertainty of the result when the duty of obedience is certain, or even when a course seems with strong probability to be duty. Even if a man is mistaken in the honest effort to obey, though his work be burned, by that very fire he will be saved. Nothing saves a man more than the burning of his work, except the doing of work that can stand the fire.

But to put God to the question in any other way than by saying “What will you have me to do?” is an attempt to compel God to declare himself, or to hasten his work, or to imagine it his work what our own soul desires to accomplish.

— George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, p. 274-275

The Loving, Good Judge

Having [God] as my judge is good whether I be in the right or the wrong. I want him as my judge all the more when I am wrong, for then I most keenly need his wisdom. Would I have my mistakes overlooked? Not at all! Shall he not do right? And will he not set me right? I can think of nothing so wonderful!

— George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, p. 51 (from The Landlady’s Master)

Let Their Light Shine

The duty of Christians toward their fellow men and women is to let their light shine, not to force on them their interpretations of God’s designs.

If those who set themselves to explain the various theories of Christianity had set themselves instead to do the will of the Master, the one object for which the gospel was preached, how different would the world now be!…

Unhindered by Christians’ explanations of Christianity, undeterred by having their acceptance forced on them, but attracted instead by their behavior, men would be saying to each other, as Moses said to himself when he saw the bush that burned but was not consumed, “I will now turn aside to see this great sight!” All over the world, people would be drawing near to behold how these Christians loved one another and how just and fair they were to every one that came into contact with them. They would note that the goods Christians had to sell were the best, their weights and measures most dependable, their prices most reasonable, their word most certain, their smiles most genuine, their love most selfless!… They would see, in short, a people who lived by their principles of belief, not merely talked and disputed about them.

— George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, p. 43-44

Not About Past Sin

We may be sure of this, that no man or woman will be condemned for any sin that is past. If he be condemned, it will be because he or she would not come to the Light when the Light came to them, because they would not learn to do as the Light instructs, because they hid their unbelief in the garment of a false faith, and would not obey.

— George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, p. 42

Living by Faith

Instead of asking yourself whether you believe or not, ask yourself whether you have this day done one single thing because he said, “Do it,” or once abstained because he said, “Do not do it.” I do not say that you will not have, as a matter of course, done this or that good thing that fell into harmony with the words of Jesus. But have you done or not done any act, as a conscious decision made because he said to do it or not?

— George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, p. 30

Doing as Christ Tells You

We can never come to know Jesus as he is by believing any theory about him. What I would point people to is a faith in the living, loving, ruling, helping Christ. It is not faith that Christ did this, or that his work wrought that which will save us. Rather, it is faith in the man himself who did and is doing everything for us.

Do you ask, “What is faith in him?”

I answer, the leaving of your way, your objects, your self, and the taking of his and him; the leaving of your trust in men, in money, in opinion, in character, in religious doctrines and opinions, and then doing as Christ tells you.

I can find no words strong enough to serve for the weight of this necessity — this obedience.

— George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, p. 29