Monday, May 13, 2013

Greedy With Grace

When we speak of unconditional grace, one of the first objections is how it is unbelievably unfair. We begin thinking of all the people who couldn't possibly be recipients of the same grace we, ourselves have received.

It's somewhat of a simple concept, but I have to constantly remind myself that grace is indeed unmerited... I did absolutely nothing to receive it and there is nothing I could ever do to deserve it.

I can only accept it... And sometimes, that is the hard part.

I have to remind myself of this because sometimes I'm a little greedy with the grace that has been given to me. I like to hold on to it, guard it, act as if I've done something to obtain it.

Jesus tells several stories about what happens to people when they aren't generous with what they've been given.

In one story, a man dies because he builds buildings in which to hoard his extra belongings rather than sharing with his neighbors as they are dying in poverty.

Jesus tells another story of a man who ends up in hell because he refused to deliver a poor beggar from the hell in which he was already living.

And still, in another story we hear about "goats" who were condemned because they did not care for the less fortunate... all the while, the "sheep" were declared righteous for caring for "the least of these."

To follow Jesus means to be generous, and while we are obviously commanded to be generous with the physical possessions we have been given... we are also to be generous with the love, grace, and forgiveness we have been given.

Of course, this is not easy at times, but I sometimes find that the hardest part, what keeps us from extending grace to others, is that we either think we did something to deserve it, or we do not truly believe that we have it to begin with.

We are constantly being told that there is something that must be done in order to receive God's grace. We must believe something... Do something... Say something... Confess something... Abstain from something... or Invite a specific someone to live in our cardiovascular organ before God is allowed to act in our lives.

However, the scriptures do not tell us that God loves us because we first loved God, as is often portrayed to us. Instead, We are told just the opposite.

We love because God loved us first...

We forgive because God forgave us...

We show grace because God has shown us grace...

You are accepted.

You are loved.

You are forgiven.

You have been shown grace.

Now go and do likewise.

...

Go accept others... Go love others... Go forgive others... And go share with others the grace that you have been given.




Monday, April 22, 2013

Is God Love or Is God Just?



When I write about God, I can't help but to write about love... Unconditional, never ending, unfathomable, love. For after all, "God is loving love". 

It's also not uncommon on such posts about the love of God that someone, in one way or another, reminds me that God is ALSO "Just", as if love and God's justice somehow cancel one another out or work against each other or can't exist at the same time.

Especially over the past few days, there has been much talk about "Justice being served". The President has said it numerous times, the phrase is all over social media, and I've over heard it in many conversations.

But somehow I get the feeling that what President Obama is talking about when he says that those responsible will be brought to Justice, and what Jesus speaks of when he says such things as "...you have neglected the more important matters of the law, justice, mercy, and faithfulness..." are not necessarily the same understandings of Justice.

When we think of Justice, we usually view it through the lens of our judicial system... which says that justice is someone getting what they deserve... an eye for an eye so to speak. And Our current understanding of (retributive) justice usually doesn't leave much room for such things as “mercy”.

So could it be possible that Jesus... (the man who said, "you've heard it said an eye for an eye, but I tell you do not resist an evil person." And then goes into a rant about turning the other cheek, giving more than what is demanded of you, and walking the extra mile)... could be talking about something other than retribution when he talks about justice?

For if we apply our understanding of Justice... then justice was not served when Jesus forgave and set free the woman who was caught in the act of a crime deserving capital punishment. Justice was not served when Jesus invited himself over to Zacchaeus' house to share a meal with the known thief, and justice was definitely not served when Jesus, the one without sin, was killed on a cross in the place of convicted sinners. That's not at all how we have come to understand How justice works.

In fact, the cross goes against every bit of our culture's understanding of what Justice is all about.



So when we speak of God being “Just”, are we truly speaking of the Justice of God, the Justice seen displayed in the life of Jesus, or are we referring to the type of retributive Justice we want to see displayed within our own judicial system?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Rick Warren, Suffering, And The Incarnation

My wife and I were very saddened when we heard the news of the death of Pastor Rick Warren’s Son, Matthew. There is nothing to be said other than our prayers go out to him and his family. 



As a father, I can not imagine the pain they all must be feeling in this moment.

It’s circumstances such as these that things are put into perspective for me. I hurt for the Warren’s. Period. Such things as theological differences, church denominations, and social stances no longer seem to matter.

Those lines are, at the very least, blurred if not completely demolished.


Pain/Suffering seems to have that affect, doesn’t it?

Pain allows us to see and love people for who they truly are... human beings. 



Not a set of doctrinal beliefs... They are no longer defined by what they think about the bible, God, Jesus, marriage, or what percentage of the human race they believe will be in heaven, if such a place exists. 



Democrat, Republican, Conservative, Liberal, Progressive, Gay, Straight, Woman, Man, Baptist, Emergent... it no longer matters. 



Over the past 24 hours i have seen leaders from every side of the theological spectrum offer up their condolences and prayers to Rick and his family.



You see...



Pain.



Suffering.



Loss.



Heart ache...



Connect us as human beings.

It’s something we all have in common with one another.



This also helps me see what Jesus did on the cross in a different light. Pain and suffering are something we (humans) all experience... so what does God (non-human) do?



Takes on flesh and blood...



becomes human... 



and suffers.




God becomes forever connected to humanity by experiencing what we humans experience. 



God now knows what we go through... this experience we call pain.



And God sees and loves us for who we are... not a set of doctrinal beliefs... but human beings.