Love the Sinner?

“Love the sinner.  Hate the sin!”  How often is this bandied about.  Problem is that most of us are unable to untangle these two pieces provided in this formula.  Human nature readily mingles these factors, one with the other, making it a serious challenge to actual promote this purported separation in good faith.

Taking time to honestly look over the actions of my life, it becomes obvious that those behaviors, so disliked in others, have to an extent, been regrettably demonstrated by my own behavior.  To me, this personal assessment of one’s own culpability is critical to arriving at any hope of realistically applying any meaning to this somewhat simplistic quip.

Well, how does one realistically love another who fails to consistently reflect one’s chosen moral standard?  Perhaps the first question should be, “is there really an interest in making such a distinction?”  If not, abandon the pretense, full stop!  If one passes the first hurdle, the second step is to abandon the concept of levels of guilt as if attempting to remove one’s own faults as being off the judgement table or less offensive.  This is not to say that there may not be some actions that are more egregious than others, the point is to remove this factor as an influence when attempting to derive the separation proposed by the statement under question.  Third, do some deep transformative meditation on the proverb “but for the grace of God go I!”  Until a sincere empathy for people, even those considered evil, can lodge in the heart (however psychically, geographically, genetically, circumstantially derived), there’s little hope of clearing the path for Grace to come alive.

This may be an over-simplification, but it’s a start in knowing that in essence we are all ultimately of the same stock and, whether a pleasant thought or not, we have a moral obligation to become vessels of healing in order to add to the welfare of our world rather than contribute further to the elements of hate.  Tough row to hoe?  No one ever said it was going to be easy, but as the Lorax said “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better.  It’s not!”  Love wins, even when it looks like it’s losing. We’re not responsible to change people, just loving them, change or no change.

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Humpty Dumpty

Who hasn’t heard of Humpty Dumpty?  Though there have been numerous attempts at discerning the original meaning of this rhyme, perhaps we can modernize it and use it as a metaphor applicable to the world today. 

Apparently Humpty Dumpty fell into a state of irreparability.  Seems like even the forces of government lacked an arsenal sufficient enough to fix him.  Don’t know of anyone who would consider Humpty’s dilemma to be a desirable state of affairs, and something that they could wish upon themselves.  Could there be any means by which the task of putting him back together again could be realistic?  The reality, Humpty, as a metaphor for the state of the world, presents at least one unrealistic factor.  Lacking is the  fact that, in the existence of mankind, there has never been a unified humanity.  Mankind seems to have a bent toward maintaining fragmented relationships.

Expanding upon the insurmountable reality of a fractured world, broken into numerous pieces, just wishing to put Humpty together seems like a pipe dream.  Perhaps rather than focusing on fixing Humpty as a whole, it would be more realistic if each piece focused on healing itself.  This suggests more than simple individualism since the substantial parts of our civilization are multi-faceted.  Sure, we each are responsible individually for our part in the division, but so is the tribe which we have attached ourselves to.  How might we become healers of our own divisiveness while at the same time contributing healing to our tribe.  To say it would take courage may be an understatement, but as another celebrity of a rhyme would say, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.” ~ Lorax  “Be the change” that your tribal affiliation needs.

Undoubtedly much of the division of this world arises from the belief and expectation that “our worldview is the appropriate one.”  Wars are fought, incivility is launched, demonization breaks out, and overall disdain (or even hate) for the presence or existence of any who differ with our perspective, designated as “the enemy,” overtakes our soul.  Well, whether or not it is palatable to our taste, creation originates from Oneness and each piece is part of a grander whole.  Maybe we can or maybe we cannot discern what is an acceptable platform to stand on, but in the end, if defense of a platforms becomes our reason for being rather than service to a greater good, then we have missed the genuine purpose for which we are here.  The purpose summoned up in all great faiths, “love your neighbor.”  And who is my neighbor? One who lives, believes and holds a very different worldview than you.

I’m not naïve regarding the odds against the healing of entrenched divisions.  There are many insurmountably appearing barriers to a permanent or lasting fix.  But one thing I’m certain of, unless we can grasp the message of the Lorax and the wisdom of the Creator, we are to be considered “individually unrepentant” and “out of harmony” with the intent of what is demanded of our souls and we, as fried egg on the ground, are not likely going to land sunnyside up.  As the adage goes, you are ultimately responsible for what you do, and not for what others do.

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If Only I Could Love You

Well, I cannot claim to be an expert on defining love, however there is one element, though not easily grasped, that was singled out two millennia ago. Whether one is a “believer” or not, this is a profound moral truth that can only be circumvented by a series of mental gymnastics or justifications.

Putting aside the limitations of the english language, an early greek term, “agape,” zoned in on a particular slice of what the english word “love” should encompass. Personally, I am persuaded that this is the glue that would hold together society, and in fact is foundational to the very existence of the cosmos.

Unfortunately, it is severely challenged by human ego, even among those who claim it as their banner, and it’s this failed challenge that is reason, for many, to discount a belief in God. A disbelief much influenced by the actions of those claiming to be “God followers.”

Allow me to share a point made millennia ago that gets a lot of press from a certain segment of the population but falls short in producing commensurate behavior:

“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love.” John 4:7, 8 (MSG)

None have risen to the point of a perfect reflection of this characteristic of love. We all fall short in one way or another, however, relationships require work and it is hoped that a reminder of one’s commitment might have a corrective influence.

Rather than complicate this reminder, let me point out one area that, to me, has gotten out of hand. Divisive demonization and reckless accusations of others who may not look or believe like we do. Confusion is sown regarding what our relationships socially, culturally, and politically are to be under the banner of “love.” Not seeing “eye-to-eye” is not a justification for discounting the value of another person nor slanderously demeaning their worth, in spite of the over-abundance of media distortions that tend to fuel this.

In the end we can get mad at how others may misrepresent what we consider to be the “right way”, and there may be some justification for such consideration, however care should be exercised in how we demonize or slander such. Also, callous disregard for the pain and suffering of purportedly “undeserving” low-status individuals is suspiciously unloving. Love (agape) confounds the mind in its depth and mysterious requirements, but keep in mind that progressing toward getting it right is an indicator that one’s claim to be God’s child rests upon accepting this as truth and reflects the actual nature of One who is beyond human comprehension.

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That Loving Feeling

The writings of the Bible offer many surprises for anyone paying attention. How did the “Song of Solomon” end up as part of the canon? Some theologians perceive it as representing the love that Christ has for the church, but I don’t recall any time when this sensuous writing was presented in children’s church. I guess the song “Jesus Loves Me” accommodated an age appropriate interpretation. Whatever explanation one settles on, it is what it is.

It’s a curious thing that the “Righteous Brothers” came up with a piece containing similar sentiments. Might not consider it as “inspired” in the same way, but seems to be a fitting message nonetheless for how the Christian faith is being represented today. Listening to it with spiritually sensitive ears might generate an echo in one’s heart as to the distance the church has travelled away from its roots.

If one considered the Beatitudes of Matthew 5, as some believe, to be the Magna Carta of the Christian faith, perhaps the Righteous Brothers have a message for Christian Nationalists and the church body, in general, for our time. Consider how upside down Jesus’ representation of His Kingdom is in comparison. Might be a good time to take a deep read and actually feed upon His words in Matthew 5 to uncover what God’s Nation looks like. 🤔

“I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts,” Isa 65:2

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How do you know?

What do you suppose is the point of God revealing Himself?  Is it so that mankind can have a proper theology about how to behave and what to believe and find the pathway to eternity?  I propose that any and all of that is not central to the purpose of revelation.  Sure, it’s helpful to have a road map on what is beneficial behavior, wisdom on a better way to manage our relationships with each other, and a sense of hope and purpose for getting out of bed each day.  To me, though those things are helpful in guiding one’s day-to-day management of living, it is not what Mary Magdalene understood to move her soul.  “…but few things are needed—or INDEED ONLY ONE. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:42  The personal face-to-face relationship was necessary to commend Mary’s comprehension of what revelation is all about.  Not doctrine, but relationship.  Not that doctrine is necessarily useless, but rather it is relegated to a non-essential component in comparison.

The challenge of multi-denominational warring theologies today is that while there is an intense feud going on of “what to believe”, the central point of revelation is not in “what one believes” but rather in “whom one believes.”  Unfortunately, our natural tendency is to be like Martha and miss the central point of how to “know God.”  Revelation, I submit, is to draw one’s attention to God, not to His word for the purpose of creating propositional statements about Him, but to enhance a personal relationship with Him.  I suspect if more effort was focused on seeking His face rather than organizing printed words, not only would our personal experience transform us measurably, but the reality of “God with us” would become evident to all who experience us as a person.

For Christians, it seems that some of the key passages of the Bible get short shrift while intense focus is placed upon “correct belief.”  One instance that could absorb a lifetime of contemplation is penned in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: THAT THEY KNOW YOU, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”  Not a call that everyone be able to quote Scripture, or even that everyone become a student of the Bible.  Now there are, I believe, any number of examples of those who know God and yet are lacking in knowledge of the Christian Bible.  How is that true? The reality of God is “written on their hearts.” Romans 2:14, 15  Consequently, the nature and character of God is evident in their life and manners.  These individuals are in pursuit of a “face-to-face” relationship and not necessarily intent upon generating a defined theology.  Such a relationship, I perceive, would be inclusive of also knowing Jesus Christ who “if you know me you also know the Father” and vice versa.  John 14:7-10

What might we conclude?  While many chase a “theology of God”, what is necessary is “that we know God.”  Christianity is, and always will be, ineffective as long as it remains a religion of propositional beliefs as a substitute for a genuine face-to-face relationship.  I suspect that God is not so much interested in what one believes about Him as in whether or not they are in fellowship with His Spirit.  You will know the difference by just how committed the believer is in reflecting in their life, attitude, and character, the Image of the Divine.  May be time to consider whether we reflect the image of the Divine or an idolatrous substitute.  Or as the NLT puts it, “Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.”  Matthew 15:9

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Abstract Thinking

Perhaps it appears to be somewhat semantic, but the way we view others is, I believe, critical to understanding how one can express love from a godly frame of reference. As an example, one might consider whether an individual is a “hypocrite” or whether that individual only “behaves hypocritically”.

The distinction, though nuanced from a human perspective, allows one to make a separation between the positive aspects of the individual and this slice of annoying behavior. It is less challenging to love someone who expresses some irritating faults, but who at the same time holds mutually shared critical values in other areas of their character.

Unless one is confronted with an abstract painting that is represented by a broad swath of a single color across a white canvas, most desirable paintings are composed of varying strokes of multiple colors. Too often the natural approach to those we disagree with is to paint them in a singular dimension, with one “broad brush” stroke, rather than to see them as a complex arrangement of unseen “back stories” of why they are who they are.

Let’s take a moment and learn some painting instructions from the Master painter. Rarely can a life be summed up or defined by a single designated title. Much has gone into the creation of each personality, whether good or bad. Eyes are made for seeing. Take time to study the subject. If there’s need for tweaking the colors on the canvas, accept the reality that we may lack the skill and the understanding to paint on someone else’s canvas and that we may be better equipped to paint on that one of our own.

If LOVE is the goal, then a discerning eye can help sort out distractions from substance. Train your “artist’s eye” to understand the totality of the composition and behold the complex integration of each soul who has breath. Not likely to approve of all the paintings, however, at the same time you can be freed from being the “critic” to becoming an “apprentice” in the Artist’s studio.

P.S. There are surely some people you do not wish to display over the mantle. Less jarring if we can keep them hidden in a closet! 😇

May be an illustration

1Catherine Hagan

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The Christian Fight Club

Indulge me in a theological hypothesis. It’s a natural gut reaction of humanity to be in a constant state of “judging others” and whether or not others live up to our standards or the standards God appears to demand. Herein lies one of the biggest traps that ensnares many who are “zealous for God.”

It’s quite easy for some to succumb to the “fight mode” in enforcing God’s purported will upon others. This is not God initiated but, rather, human initiated. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isa 55:8-9 Might be extremely beneficial for Bible literalists to pause and reflect on that declaration made through Isaiah.

Well, if one’s not called to “fight” on God’s behalf, what is the point of one’s devotion? This could be a very long discussion of any number of well memorized texts that have lost their influence upon the spirits of believers, however let’s summarize what I believe to be God’s calling upon any who profess devotion. Too often John 3:16 is quickly memorized, but also taken and used out of context. The follow-up verse concludes the thought: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17

Further analysis of what the “Good News” truly is, is not that God has accommodated a path back to fellowship with the Divine by punishing errant humanity, but counter-intuitive to human nature, by GRACE through LOVE. This does not appear to be an easy lesson to learn since it is much more “sensible” from a human perspective to “enforce” Divine morality on the errant of this world. This has been a stain on religious faith for millennia and a brief examination of faith will clarify the horrors of “enforcement” or “political theology”.

Well, if what the Divine desire is for “all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), how then is that to be accomplished? Certainly not by “armed” believers attempting to bring about the kingdom by force. It’s God’s plan that Divinity be presented in such a way that people are actually drawn through the magnetic power of unconditional LOVE. Hey, maybe not as efficient as threatening with a club, but nonetheless the method alone that can accomplish the task. Doesn’t make much human sense, but One wiser has declared it to be so.

In the end it seems that every believer can benefit from holding close to the heart the foundational commandment to all that “Good News” stands for: “LOVE” Luke 10:27. In spite of our zealotry in an attempt to defend God, it’s time to put away “human wisdom” and take it by faith that a better way has been revealed that has been true since the foundation of the world. The call to any who would like to serve Divine purpose is to “have the mind of Christ” in order to supplant one’s own ego with God’s LOVE. All need to pass this test through diligence and self-examination not through the examination or straightening of others.

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Step Aside!

An oft quoted partial Bible verse is found in Psalm 46:10; being the familiar “be still and know that I am God”. Like many verses removed from their context, the intent of this passage is not what has long been held by both preachers and church members.

The word translated “still” is a Hebrew word that means “to be weak, to let go, to release, be feeble”.

The intention is not to offer comfort to those who may be struggling as often used, but rather hints at a command to “STEP OUT OF THE WAY” and cease to play as though we were God ourselves! Recognize wherein the Power lies. A relevant command for Christian Nationalists to heed today.

This command, rightfully given to the church, is the charge to not usurp God’s power and, in essence, push the Divine off of the throne as is currently being politically forced upon society. But the challenge is rather to recognize one’s own limited capacity to horn in on those areas that God has reserved for the Divine and cease to meddle in areas that God alone has authority.

Sadly, “faith” has been so distorted in the minds of many Christians as for some to be unable to discern the church’s responsibility to be “lights” rather than enforcers of “assumed righteousness”. Such activity might serve the ego, but fails to be representative of genuine spiritual conversion. May be a good time to determine what the gift of humility means as opposed to attempting to force one’s human will upon others. 😮

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The Blind following the Blind!

No doubt this will be received by some as a controversial statement. But it is my conviction, based upon observation, that much of the evil experienced in our country can be laid at the feet of religious individuals. Doesn’t much matter what righteous claims are made by these groups, the fruit of turning a blind eye to the full spectrum of ungodlike and insensitive behavior in all of its manifestations is in itself an indicator of a seared conscience.

Beating the drum for one or two pet peeves of social iniquity without embodying the full magnitude of the evil around may provide a false sense of holiness. When one’s righteousness easily ignores a much broader representation of the character of the Divine it can be readily defined as clothing oneself with a robe that is a cover for dead men’s bones.

I believe the epistle to Timothy is addressed specifically to these religious souls who in effect support the corruption of devious leaders who essentially stand for nothing and build their influence by inflaming people’s emotions and a divisive appeal to the degenerate nature of humanity. Discern what the Spirit is saying: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” 1 Tim 4:12. Telling, is the lack of the ability for shame of the participants.

Faith is not defined simply as believing the right things. It has much to do with the transformation of the mind and the humility to recognize when there’s a need for and submission to repentance. Through repeated denial of the full spectrum of evil that goes beyond a few chosen “righteous causes” for rallying around, a person’s sense of right and wrong can become numb to the point that a person can no longer easily distinguish between good and evil (or even care about the distinction). This is what the unpardonable sin entails. Stubborn resistance to self-evaluation and full submission to practicing the nature of Christ.

And what is the end of such transgression against the Spirit?: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.” John 12:40. It might be a good idea to check to see what type of spirit is actually driving one’s emotive divisiveness and the character of the leaders that one prefers to represent them. Blindness is most disastrous when the blind are unable to recognize their own condition.

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Be reasonable!

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’.  1 Cor 3:19

Greek lesson for the day: “panourgia” = craftiness, cunning, a specious or false wisdom.  Paul uses this term in 1 Corinthians 3:19 to describe the category of mankind’s wisdom that is considered to be foolishness.  Herein lies much confusion in creating, for some, a false equivalency of Paul’s intent with the divinely endowed gift of human reason.  The outright rejection of human reasoning has caused all types of problems with members of the church. 

In reality identifying spiritual “truth” requires one’s ability to be able to utilize the divine gift of reason effectively.  The ironic outcome faced in society today is that many within the church have confused “truth” with “dogma” as a result of relying upon the “panourgia” of charismatic leaders.  The outcome has been disastrous and been instrumental in the inability of some to discern what is false from what is real.  Instead of calling upon personal spiritually guided reason, some have simply allowed others to do the thinking for them and end up with a secondhand religious knowledge fed to them.  

If one’s religion relies upon others to do their thinking, then it is not truly their own.“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere”.  James 3:17  In sincerely trying to be reasonable, a look at the strident militancy of some purported Christians in the political arena provides adequate justification for questioning whether they are guided by divine reason or by a corrupt dogma.  Perhaps it’s time to take to heart “’Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord….”  Isaiah 1:18 and reject the false belief that reason is somehow subservient to dogmatic doctrine. Don’t become a victim of blindly rejecting things as they really are in lieu of an unreasonable expectation of how one might like them to be.

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