We often hear about the "Christian Right," or "Conservative Christians." Yet, if you think about it, Jesus was the original liberal.  He cared about motives more than the deeds themselves (Matthew 23:5 & Mark 12:41-43) and more about compassion than adhering to rules (Luke 6:1-11 & Luke 13:10-17). This blog will reflect liberal Christian values of compassion, tolerance, mercy, charity, a thirst for knowledge & understanding, and, above all, love.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

God Is Love

"So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. ~ 1 John 4:16 ESV

The quote from 1 John came to me in my verse of the day newsletter this week.  I usually read the verse in the morning, think about it for a moment, and then move on to something else.  But, this one was different.  I kept thinking about this one through out the day.

I realized it was a concept I'd always known, and accepted, but never really thought about.  I mean, God is love sounds good.  It sounds right.  But, what does it mean?  Love is an emotion.  If God is God, then how can he be an emotion?

Once I started picking it apart, it stopped making sense.  Did it mean that God is just something that we feel, but not really there.  I wasn't going to accept that.  I believe there is a there there.  So, if God is real, if he's (I'm using "him" for the sake of convenience to keep my mind from exploding as I write this) "there," then how can he be love?

Assuming that the idea is more than just what some people say as they hand out flowers at the airport, there had to be an answer.  I decided a good starting point would be to first understand what love is.

According to the Bible, "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV

While I don't necessarily think God believes all things, and I think He does insist on His own way, the rest of the quotation works.  God is patient and kind; God does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. He is not irritable or resentful; He does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  God bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Perhaps instead of love being God, it's more accurate to say that love possesses the same characteristics as God.  If so, then when we act in ways that are motivated by love we're doing as God would have us do.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Heaven May Be What We Make It

I just finished watching the memorial service for Senator John McCain.  He was truly a unifying force in a time of divisiveness.  As I watched men from across the political spectrum pay homage to the Senator, I couldn't help but think about the afterlife.

Subject: The 3 Roads to Eternity | Date: 1825 | Artist: Georgin Fran├žois |This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less.

A few weeks ago my pastor gave a sermon on our conception of Heaven and Hell. Apparently the Judeo Christian tradition didn't have a concept of Heaven and Hell until it adopted the idea from Zoroastrianism.  I won't regurgitate his entire lesson regarding the kingdom of God being here, on Earth, rather than some heavenly realm.

I grew up Mormon, and the LDS Church has the afterlife pretty much mapped out.  They have things divided into kingdoms with different tiers for each kingdom.  It felt great knowing that if I remained a faithful Mormon that I could earn my way to the Celestial Kingdom (the highest level of Heaven).  It was a secure feeling to KNOW what was waiting for me on the other side.

Of course when I left the church I left that map behind.  Yet, there was still the feeling that no matter how much I suffered in this life, I had Heaven to look forward to.  I didn't want to let go of that perceived promise.  The idea of being able to earn a place in Heaven, and avoid a trip to Hell, by asking Jesus into my heart and living a good life was as much a part of my psyche as my identity as a man and my political affiliation.

Being a computer nerd, I looked it up online.  Sure enough, captive Jews most likely picked up the concept from their Persian captors in Babylonia.  When they were liberated in 539 BCE they took the idea back to Jerusalem where it was integrated into Judaism.

If this is so, and Jesus was teaching people how to live as a complete person while on Earth, I was forced to wonder how this information would change my outlook.  I still believe in an afterlife.  I believe that a spirit, such as McCain's, simply doesn't cease to exist.  Heck, I believe I'll always exist in some form.  Perhaps, the only thing I need to let go of is the idea that we can understand the structure of the afterlife.

I DO believe that we will take our memories and feelings with us.  If that's the case, then maybe "Heaven" is simply eternity with a clear conscience.  On the flip side, perhaps "Hell" is having to spend eternity under the weight of our own guilt.  I have no idea if I'm right, but for now I think it's a healthy way to think of life after death.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Ambassadors Of Christ

Those who know me know I'm a comic book nut.  I always have been.  When you grow up unable to walk, reading about characters who can do anything provides a kind of balance.  In any event, I grew up between the pages of Superman, Batman, and alike.

Someone told me that X-Men was a great title to collect.  I picked up that year's annual, which is typically a good jumping in point for a comic book.  This issue featured a story about an X-Man drowning his sorrows in a bar, and a story about a mobbed up version of the Hulk shaking down gamblers.  I was not impressed, and didn't pick up another X-Men book for twenty years.  As a result, I missed out on some of the best comic book stories ever written.

I have a friend who is missing out on a relationship with God for much the same reason.  She's known, seemingly devout, Christians who have called her a bad parent and evil for being a single parent.  Now she sees Christians, as a whole, as judgmental hypocrites.  I keep telling her that many of us aren't like that, but that initial negative encounter has her convinced that good Christians are the exception rather than the rule.

It occurs to me that Christians are more than merely followers of Jesus Christ.  We're ambassadors people.  Like it or lump it, we set the example.  Non-Christians who have their noses pressed against the proverbial glass will see us first.  If they don't like what they see, they won't stick around long enough to examine the Bible or church doctrine.  They'll take their spiritual needs to the agnostics down the street.

It's not fair, but our actions and attitudes do effect others.  I don't know if we'll be held accountable for turning people off who may have otherwise come to know God, but I know I don't want to risk it.  I don't want to have to meet God on Judgement Day and answer for my neighbor not having a personal relationship with God.