Spread the Care

Fight the urge to withdraw, to fold in on yourself, as if your pain is contagious and might infect someone else. We are here to take care of one another; the care is what’s catching, spreading person to person to person. So take — and give — care.

KEEP MOVING.

— Maggie Smith, Keep Moving, p. 71

Photo: Bluebell Trail, Bull Run Regional Park, Virginia, April 8, 2021

Is the Table Big Enough?

I wonder if you believe the table really is big enough for you, for those you love, for those you find difficult to love, for those who have little love for you. Because ultimately if you do, you have a decision to make: You’re either going to be a builder — or you’re not. You’re either going to deny yourself and take up the costly cross of sacrifice and keep seeking to come humbly, or you’re going to defiantly barricade yourself within your rightness and your righteousness and wait for the check to come. You’re either going to try to live as a selfless servant or look to die a spiteful martyr. I still do believe in the bigger table, but it’s more difficult than ever to keep that faith, probably because the resistance to it is so great. We have to be the resistance to that resistance. In the face of a loud hatred, we need to be a louder, more loving response. We have to become activists of goodness.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 173

Photo: Glendalough, Ireland, July 2001

Image-Bearers

When we are living in a spiritual community where radical hospitality, total authenticity, true diversity, and agenda-free relationships are the spiritual operating system, every question is not only manageable but welcome, because our default condition becomes hope and not fear. We don’t come burdened with shame, we don’t come fearful of expulsion, and we don’t spend our time waiting for the judgmental shoe to drop. When people come to the bigger table, they don’t need to earn acceptance — this is a given. When we gather at the table Jesus sets, none of us are misfits. By our very presence we fit, because we are full image bearers of God and beloved as we are, without alteration. The traditional Church tends to favor a clearly defined, very narrow inside and outside, and this is where many people part ways because they find their messy, gritty reality doesn’t feel compatible with such clear delineation. But when everyone is openly bringing everything, there’s real connection — when each person realizes they are not outsiders around the table.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 163-164

Photo: Alsenborn, Germany, December 2001

Soul Stuff

Real love is contagious. It is infectious. When something is purely of God, it can’t be contained within the walls we fashion for it. This kind of love always yields a fruit that can’t be managed or manufactured or scheduled. Jesus said this was the expectation-defying, unpredictable activity of the Spirit that would characterize his people (John 3:8). This was the movement of the early Church, a movement that grew exponentially in a way that modern churches all want to replicate but rarely can because we’re all trying to engineer man-made miracles. We craft baptism events, we schedule worship nights, we plan revivals. We so love to talk about following the Spirit’s leading, but in practice we really want to run the show and get God to work for us. One of the most freeing lessons I ever learned as a pastor is that I cannot do spiritual things; I can only do physical things. I can only respond in flesh and blood to what I believe God is saying, and then rest in the results. God is the only One who can do soul stuff. My most pressing job as a pastor is often to get out of the way — and it ain’t easy.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 153

Photo: Gundersweiler, Germany, December 1999

Dearly Loved By God

The more I’ve studied the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation, the more I’ve started to notice something about those who embrace the view: they tend to be more loving and accepting of those who are unlike them.

Maybe it’s because when you realize that everyone is equally loved by God and that God is really intending to bring everyone to repentance, and that, one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will gladly confess that jesus Christ is Lord, well, you kind of relax and enjoy being alive.

See, instead of seeing people as “saved” or “lost,” and grouping everyone you meet into the “Christian” or “non-Christian” category, you may start to see people as simply people.

Not only that, but you also begin to see them as God sees them. You slowly recognize that everyone you meet — regardless of their beliefs or spiritual condition — is someone who is dearly loved by God. You also start to understand that everyone you meet is indeed your brother or sister, and you realize that we all have the same Heavenly Father.

This really starts to change the way you treat other people. It starts to bear good fruit in your life. It even makes it easier to love others as Christ has loved you, without conditions or strings attached.

Eventually, you begin to recognize that God loves everyone much more than you could ever love them; even your own family members who may be far from faith in Christ as the moment. You start to realize that God has a grand design in motion to draw everyone to Himself, eventually. We get to take part in that, if we can learn to abide in Christ and collaborate with the Holy Spirit in the process. But, we can also enjoy a newfound sense of ease with this process. Because now we’re not fighting the clock or worried about closing the sale. Instead, we’re trusting in God’s ultimate victory which is inevitable and unstoppable.

— Keith Giles, Jesus Undefeated, p. 155-156

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 2, 2020

Visible Compassion

Christians are meant to be the visible compassion of God on earth more than “those who are going to heaven.” They are the leaven who agree to share the fate of God for the life of the world now, and thus keep the whole batch of dough from falling back on itself. A Christian is invited, not required to accept and live the cruciform shape of all reality. It is not a duty or even a requirement as much as a free vocation. Some people feel called and agree to not hide from the dark side of things or the rejected group, but in fact draw close to the pain of the world and allow it to radically change their perspective. They agree to embrace the imperfection and even the injustices of our world, allowing these situations to change themselves from the inside out, which is the only way things are changed anyway.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 148

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 7, 2020