About two weeks ago Molly had a post called “Standing in His Grace”. My wife responded to the post and this is part of what she wrote.
“I must admit, that our friends who does attend “church” do not really understand what we are doing, or how we can live from a perspective where right and wrong are both irrelevant as it is both borne from the tree of knowledge. Our explanation that we are living from the Tree of Life, in the Love and Grace of Jesus, doesn’t satisfy their need for rules. They seem to think that we are now going to live immorally and who knows what else!!!”
Some of the sentences may bother you. It did bother some of the of the people that commented.
One lady wrote “However, I did see a couple of things in the comments that worry me, and start me thinking thoughts about Satan making sins in pairs…..
“must admit, that our friends who does attend “church” do not really understand what we are doing, or how we can live from a perspective where right and wrong are both irrelevant”
I have to add myself to the people who don’t understand how a Christian can do that. Teenage Nietscheans and middle-aged NeoPagans, yes. (Well, sort of – they’re kidding themselves, but I understand how their position flows from their general principles.) I don’t understand a Christian taking this position. Particularly when this is followed a few sentences later with,
“They seem to think that we are now going to live immorally and who knows what else!!!” If a person is consciously rejecting right and wrong, it’s a logical inference. Morality all about the distinction between right and wrong.
Another lady wrote “I agree. I have seen many times where people are awakened from the fogs of authoritarianism and/or legalism, and have a backlash response by latching onto anything that appears the be the opposite of what they are trying to escape. Unfortunately, then you are just trading one set of problems for another one. There have to be some absolutes in life, and just because the absolutes you held (or some of them, at least, ) turn out to be very, very wrong, doesn’t necessarily mean everything pertaining to them was wrong. There’s a saying about babies and bathwater!”
Yet another lady wrote…”I saw that comment about not living by right and wrong, and it did worry me a little bit, but I wasn’t sure if I would have anything good to say if there really was a problem there. Surely the desire to always “have it right” or be all together is wrong and useless. But if by wrong and right one means wrong and right in the absolute terms, there is a problem. Can I just say that I think both bondage to rules and the Law, abuse from authorities, legalism, ect, AND living amorally are both horrible because they are not living by Love?.
These ladies responded with love and concern. They were careful not to offend and they acknowledged that they do not know the whole story behind my wife’s comments. I wish we had more people like them in the blogosphere. (Sometimes I shoot first and try to listen later.) You can of course make your own decision on what Anette said.
I am going to explain love as we understand it, perhaps it will relieve some of the fears people have with what Anette said.
First thing. God is love. If you want to know what He is like, go and read 1 Cor 13.
1Co 13:4 Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.
1Co 13:5 It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].
1Co 13:6 It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.
1Co 13:7 Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].
Read it again and again and again and again … and…again. If we choose God we choose Love. This Love does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness. There in no pride and arrogance in this Love. This Love is NOT self-seeking. Jesus is the example of how far this love will go. He gave Himself for people that ignore Him. For people that spits in His face. For people who think they can make it without Him. For humankind. It is not a passive love. It is a love that moves.
We often confuse unconditional love with unconditional approval. God loves us without conditions but does not approve of every human behavior. God doesn’t approve of betrayal, violence, hatred, suspicion, and all other expressions of evil, because they all contradict the love God wants to instill in the human heart. Evil is the absence of God’s love. Evil does not belong to God.
God’s unconditional love means that God continues to love us even when we say or think evil things. God continues to wait for us as a loving parent waits for the return of a lost child. It is important for us to hold on to the truth that God never gives up loving us even when God is saddened by what we do. That truth will help us to return to God’s ever-present love. – Henri Nouwen
Humankind basically has 2 curses. The first is the curse of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It is the source in all of us, out of which we live. It means we are a mixture of good and evil. We perceive ourselves and other people through this lens. We identify ourselves mostly as good or we are not too bad. I can compare myself to Hitler and decide that I am not too bad. Actually I am OK compared to him. This source out of which we live, can give us a lot of security. I may have good morals. I can say stuff like “Well, at least I am not as bad as those people.” or I can believe because I am a good person, God has a special place in His heart for me. I know what is right and what is wrong. God even gave us the law to help us live in this good/evil world. He gave it to protect us. If everybody followed the rules, we would be a very civilized society. We might even start to believe that if we follow the rules to the letter, we can save ourselves. Or we could save ourselves through our ability to reason like any good humanist will explain to us. We can do this because all of humankind, atheists and christians alike, have a pretty good idea on rightness and wrongness.
That brings me to the second curse. The devil looked at himself and his self-consciousness started all sin. The first thing Adam and Eve did after they sinned was to look at themselves. Each person is at the center of his/her own universe. We live only for ourselves and we are the source out of which we live. When I am nice to people, it is to feel the warmth of niceness. When I give, it is to be seen. It is how the smile I receive back, makes me feel. I join a group to belong. Life is about me. We integrate our first and second curse and use our first curse to cope with our second curse. Most christians live by these curses. Because we are all mini-legalists and God gave us rules, we assume in the christian religion, that if I keep to the rules, I will be saved. We do the stuff that pleases God. The bible becomes a manual that tells us how to live in order for God to be pleased with me. ME. We may believe that what we do is for God, but we do it for ourselves. Witnessing, the soup kitchen, preaching, visiting the sick in hospital, laying my life down, children’s ministry and all the other good stuff is mostly what we do for ourselves. Test yourself. What happens when you do a good thing and people do not notice it or even criticize you when you are doing it? Is the ego wounded? The good in us, is for ourselves. Not for God.
Furthermore, we can manipulate right and wrong and make it relative to suit us. Most of us call this freedom. I think this is where the friends that wrote in are worried. I can manipulate right and wrong to justify my actions. The truth is relative, right? It has to be. How will we explain all the denominations if truth is not relative? This manipulation of right and wrong brings a lot of confusion. Christians seldom agree on anything. People cannot do as they like, right? Stealing is still wrong, right? A christian has a certain standard for following the rules, right? A christian cannot do as we please, right? The bible gives us a code to live by, right? (Tell me this. Why did the law… that God gave… which is good….condemn Jesus?)
“When men are pure, laws are useless. – Benjamin Disraeli
What will happen with us when we are no longer living under those two curses? I believe two things. We will no longer live for ourselves and we will no longer use right and wrong to guide us. NOW I want to introduce you to Jesus. He said “I am The Way, I am the Life, I am the Truth.” Jesus, Himself, is the different Source out of which to live. (The other main Tree in the garden was the Tree of Life. Adam and Eve did not eat from that tree.) Paul says: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Jesus had the same kind of experience. John 5:19-20 “Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all He does.” Jesus, the Bread of Life, is the source. I can say that again if you want me to. (I bet you are still looking back to the right and wrong sentence 🙂 When we are in the True Vine, His “juice” will begin to flow through us. The first thing we will notice is the love of God. We will slowly start to live, not for ourselves (Joh 15:13 No one has greater love than to lay down his own life for his friends.), and will be guided by every word coming out of the mouth of God because He…is…actually…alive. (Not many christians know this.)
Jesus says in Joh 13:34. I give you a new commandment: that you should love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another. The love of God is a constant. If we hate Him, He loves us. If we love Him, He loves us. If we are miserable, He loves us. If we spit in His face and nail Him to a cross, He loves us. If we help people, He loves us. He keeps on loving even when we fail Him or reject Him. It is His nature to love. The love we know, is the love of return.
In conversion you are not attached primarily to an order, nor to an institution, nor a movement, nor a set of beliefs, nor a code of action — you are attached primarily to a Person, and secondarily to these other things… You are not called to get to heaven, to do good, or to be good — you are called to belong to Jesus Christ. The doing good, the being good, and the getting to heaven, are the by-products of that belonging. The center of conversion is the belonging of a person to a Person. E. Stanley Jones
Our question is not right and wrong anymore. It’s, where are you taking us Father? In our case God’s love is the kind of love that moves you to take people into your home when you do not have enough money to take care of your family. It’s the kind of love that when you take a certain person in your home, people stop visiting you. It’s the kind of love that allows people in your home even when they steal your stuff. (Or is my stuff God’s stuff?) It’s the kind of love that give money to send a selfish person on a holiday when you do not have enough money to buy your children christmas presents. It’s the kind of love that when you begin to feel it, really feel it, you break. Yes, we made the mistake to ask God that we want to see people through His eyes. It’s not fun. You cry a lot. We asked Him to stop it, but the effects linger on. You see people’s value. Broken people become living sermons. It’s the love that gives people rest. They come and lie on your couch for a weekend. You don’t have to talk to them, but when they leave they feel better. It’s the kind of love that do not speak a lot. Not a lot of advise-giving. More the listening kind.
What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. – St. Augustine
Our question is not right and wrong anymore. It’s more a choice between what’s easy and what is difficult. It’s the kind of love that moves the jock at school to make friends with the nerds and lays his life down for them. It’s the kind of love where the beautiful cheerleader makes friends with the discarded and gives them hope. It’s the kind of love that moves the gentle to take a stand. It’s the kind of love that give the lonely a voice and friends. It’s a love where the weak is honored. It’s the kind of love where you lay your life down for the person who do not like you. This love overshadows money. This love is sticky, insistent and unrelenting. This love can be frustrating. This love is unfair because it’s for everybody. This love is to be found in the ruins of a person’s life and it can even ruin a person’s life. This love is open to all. This love contradicts our sense of fairness. This love gives a place for those who have no place. This love keeps us off balance. This love flows through the incompetent, incomplete and the broken. This love can leave us frustratingly stuck, slow us down and take us to a place where we have to acknowledge that we are not needed. This love has a wildness and fury that cannot be contained.
Love is not finding someone to live with, It’s finding someone you can’t live without. – Rafael Ortiz
Do we really want right and wrong to guide us or do we want the adventure of God’s love? God is the absolute in this love and He impossible to cope with. Is there a higher than Him? Morality is about right and wrong and fairness. God’s love has no fairness. Think about it and be glad.
I want to dare you. Follow the rules. Do the right thing. Don’t do the wrong things. Be a good person. Help where you can. Or…ask God to experience His love and see where it will take you. If you chose the second option I have one sentence for you. “Be afraid, be very afraid” 🙂
To love is to be vulnerable. – Philip Yancey