Moral Responsibility

What is the moral responsibility of the progressive Christian whose theology boils down to “Love God. Love People.”?

I met a young man who is interning at a church in Denver last week. We discussed how the idea of simply loving God and loving people sounds good, but what does it look like to live that theology out as ministers?

The love of Christ is a liberal idea. It is copious and radical and limitless. I was raised that the love we are freely given by God has restrictions on it. I was taught there are things that I can do to lose levels of love in the eyes of God. Now that I am a mother, I have to say that seems like bullshit. I am an heir to the reign of God because I am adopted into the family of God.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:14-17) [SIDE NOTE: This text always makes me so excited to read that I end up throwing my hands in the air and waving my arms around with excitement. As I did this just now my wife, Jess, just looked at me and said, “Romans, again?”]

To love God as first priority is to accept the role of God in my life as an authority figure. I love God because I respect God. I accept God’s movement in and out of my life because I want to experience the best things God envisions for me. When I fail to allow the movement of God’s Spirit through my life and my decisions, I am setting myself up for a different path (although not necessarily a wrong path).

To love people is to see the Creator in every person. We are all made by the Creator with a passion and care that we could not imagine. I say “we” could not imagine because I am not the most creative person. I saw someone draw an entire portrait of another person with nothing more than a pencil. She was able to capture their face and characteristics with extreme clarity and vision. I imagine this is how God did it. God imagined something  beautiful and then there you appeared.

Our responsibility as siblings and co-heirs to the reign of God is to love one another. This does not always seem nearly as pretty or easy as we want it to be. Loving someone is hard work. Allowing ourselves to be loved by someone is hard work. It’s not about fuzzy feelings and endless positive affirmations from a another person. It is about living everyday with the mess that is our lives in the most authentic way possible. The most loving thing we can do for a sibling in Christ is to call them to a more authentic place. Not always fun, but always needed.

It is an honor to be a part of this family. Love comes with no restrictions, but it comes with responsibility.

Go out there. Love God. Love People. Living this idea out really can change the world!

 

 

God’s a badass.

Have you ever questioned why God would want you? Well, it’s because God is a badass. And even though you are a wimp, a doubter, a whatever – God wants you. God wants to use you. God wants to change the world with you and for you.

God’s a badass because God can use people like us to really make a difference. I speak for myself when say that I am a complete mess most of the time. I do not know what I am doing most days to make life happen. It just always seems to fall into place. That probably has quite a bit to do with my family being awesome, and always working so hard to keep life together. But it has a great deal more to do with God working in ways I cannot begin to fathom.

If I am a mess, then I have to figure I am not alone in my mess. How many times have you seen God make something beautiful out of something ugly?

26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 1)

My absolute favorite idea is that God does not just stumble upon your mess and decide to work with what you have. God actually picks you because of your mess. God weeds out all the useful, put-together assholes and finds you in the middle of life. And then God says, “Yup! I can work with this.”

Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the troops that were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was north of them, below the hill of Moreh, in the valley. The Lord said to Gideon, “The troops with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand. Israel would only take the credit away from me, saying, ‘My own hand has delivered me.’ Now therefore proclaim this in the hearing of the troops, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home.’” Thus Gideon sifted them out; twenty-two thousand returned, and ten thousand remained. Then the Lord said to Gideon, “The troops are still too many; take them down to the water and I will sift them out for you there. When I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go with you; and when I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.” So he brought the troops down to the water; and the Lord said to Gideon, “All those who lap the water with their tongues, as a dog laps, you shall put to one side; all those who kneel down to drink, putting their hands to their mouths, you shall put to the other side.” The number of those that lapped was three hundred; but all the rest of the troops knelt down to drink water. Then the Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred that lapped I will deliver you, and give the Midianites into your hand. Let all the others go to their homes.” (Judges 7)

You see, God doesn’t want the put-together asshole. God wants someone who is barely keeping it together. God weeds out the ones that think they know more or have enough. God wants the ones of us that are looking to know more, have more, be more. Where there is potential for more, God is room to move. When there is no room for improvement, we tend to be the ones who shut God out and say we can handle it on our own. I think it’s safe to say that there is plenty of room for improvement in our lives, in our communities, and in our world.

God wants you. God wants me. God wants us to want each other in this world. I guess that means I want you, too. I want all the people that God wants. And God has made it more than clear who God wants in this life with us. Orphans, widows, homeless, hungry, resident aliens, disenfranchised, hurting, abused, abandoned, forgotten…all of those that are a mess. Won’t you go with me, then? Let’s go to God and see what God can do with all of our mess because, in fact, God’s a badass.

Love God. Love People.

Skittles?

Copied from elsewhere:

“If I gave you a bowl of skittles and three of them were poison would you still eat them?”

“Are the other skittles human lives?”

“What?”

“Like. Is there a good chance. A really good chance. I would be saving someone from a war zone and probably their life if I ate a skittle?”

“Well sure. But the point-”

“I would eat the skittles.”

“Ok-well the point is-”

“I would GORGE myself on skittles. I would eat every single fucking skittle I could find. I would STUFF myself with skittles. And when I found the poison skittle and died I would make sure to leave behind a legacy of children and of friends who also ate skittle after skittle until there were no skittles to be eaten. And each person who found the poison skittle we would weep for. We would weep for their loss, for their sacrifice, and for the fact that they did not let themselves succumb to fear but made the world a better place by eating skittles.

Because your REAL question…the one you hid behind a shitty little inaccurate, insensitive, dehumanizing racist little candy metaphor is, IS MY LIFE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF MEN, WOMEN, AND TERRIFIED CHILDREN…

… and what kind of monster would think the answer to that question… is yes?”

Many thanks to Johana Shull St. Clair for putting this in front of us.

Love God. Love People.

Practicing our faith.

I am a new mom, so life around my house is a little chaotic (to say the least). However, I spend a great deal of time thinking about whether or not I practice my faith enough.
Recently, my small group at church has been working through Marcus Borg’s Heart of Christianity. I have read many books about our faith since becoming a seminary student, but none have given me such clarity and simplicity (even in the big ideas) about what it means to be a Christian quite like this one. Borg writes with an academic voice, but one that is still understandable to most readers. He passionately writes about the process of taking back our faith and reclaiming it in emerging terms that we can understand. In saying that what I mean is that he is taking terms (such as: sin, salvation, Kingdom of God, Born again, etc.) and showing us a new way to incorporate them into a livable and breathable faith. We are not restricted by a modern interpretation of that language when given an historical context and post-modern/emerging reworking of those ideals of the Christian faith.
I will probably write about some of the other chapter topics as my thoughts form more clearly, but for now the idea of “practicing our faith” is on my heart.
Doctors practice. Lawyers practice. However, ministers simply minister. The law and science are so much more concrete than faith and spirituality, but we allow those professions the spaciousness they need to call it “practicing.” Why are people of faith not given that same freedom to mess it up?
Some of my favorite books on spiritual practices are by people that admit freely that they are not that good at them. Last night, in my group, we discussed different kinds of prayer, journaling, meditation, and the like, but I love that we decided equally important were the non-traditional activities we enjoy that can be quite spiritual. For instance, we re-envisioned a faith where you could crochet, color, research, study, listen to podcasts, tweet (and many other activities) in order to tap into the Divine moving in the world.
There is power in knowing that God does not limit Godself to just the things we assume are, or have been taught are, spiritual practices. God is bigger. God is moving, and God is showing you things all the time if you open yourself up to seeing them.
My prayer for you is that you are able to open up your heart and mind to a new way of being in relationship with God today.
Share your ideas below on how you have in the past or want to in the future tap into that relationship.

Something to say.

If you are a Christian kid from the 90’s you know what I mean when I say: DC TALK FOR LIFE!!

Now that I have that off my chest. I want to welcome you to the revival of all of our faiths. You see, I say that because at the same time that I was jamming to my first CD’s by Carmen, Avalon, and Point of Grace, I was witness to pastors cheating on their wives and embezzling from their congregations.

We need a do over, and I believe it can start now. With you and me. Revival is possible. We can start now by reclaiming our faith as our own. Do not let the pastors and church leaders that failed you as a child define what your faith is (or isn’t) today. Start talking with me about what it looks like for you to reclaim what is rightfully yours. God is yours (even when you think God is the one that failed.)

Love God. Love People.