10Q10Q -- faith, life, rethinking church, following Jesus...stuff

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Thursday, December 15, 2022

 Why I Believe in Love1

  Why I Believe in Love1

    Professor Richard Beck2 posited that justification (what sets us right with God)  is past oriented, what Christ has done, and judgement is future.   Intrigued by the distinction, I wondered if Beck’s use of justification was similar or addressing the same territory as John Wesley did with Prevenient Grace, God’s help before we even know need or ask for help.  Beck further speaks to judgement as a responsibility and accountability to live out love given that justified, God has given us a fresh start with Christ, and help in the Holy Spirit, allowing us the choice to live with love or not. (And ultimately be accountable for our how we do or don’t love.)

      Then, unrelated I was reading Michael Williams, Spoken Into Being3 and he suggests that God-truth (my term, not his) is bigger than any one story.  Williams sees the possibility that juxtaposed stories, even when appearing conflictual, can provide a fuller perspective on that God-truth.

      Now enter an unfolding conversation with a retired pastoral colleague at Cornwall Manor about the justice of Jesus' message as both important and perhaps more important than love alone thoughts are swirling in my head.  Fear not, I like to think out-loud.  I value honest, respectful conversation, even when its an opposing point of view, indeed, iron sharpens iron.4

      I wonder how God-truth is best expressed in varying contexts and circumstances with integrity.  Unsurprisingly, followers of Jesus, even preachers, speak only a fragment of the Good News when there is a pressing need, curiosity, transgression, or circumstance.  We intuitively know that waxing theological about salvation (soteriology) with someone freshly facing deep grief is not only inappropriate, but unfruitful, perhaps even damaging.  So, how do we faithfully make those distinctions?

     What if justice, love, judgment, justification, love, and more are all in the mix?  What if they are, as much, our momentary point of view as they are definitive theological concepts?  I know that my theology professors probably just cringed, shaking their heads about how they failed me as their student, but stick with me a moment...  philosophical level theological (all head with little heart) endeavors generally feel disconnected from experience for many of us.  Further, historical records tell a story of Christendom making theological sub-point litmus tests that later are understood as off the mark.  Even further, it is often the theologian with the effective life-connecting-story-line that gains the broadest hearing.  Maybe rightly so, because theology seeks to understand experience, and in that understanding consequently shape it.  Theology, our beliefs, don’t often come out of nothing, but rather experience reflected upon. 

      That all comes home for me, that when I focus on love then other things happen too.  Focused on love I am discontent to stay inactive and silent about injustice.  Focused on love I'm hungry to learn the nuances of theology, history, philosophy, sociology... you get the point.  Focused on love I'm passionate about communities of audacious love and thriving life--aka the Church (or at least the Church playing a central part). Focused on love the stack of theological points in my head and belief statements in my head take on hands and feet in very practical, God-truth ways.

      I remain open to learning, curiosity and all the places it may lead.  My own thinking about God  

has been and continues to develop, blossom, adapt, and grow as God works and as I get out of the way.   I confess I've become, in this season, a bit more focused on a loving orthopraxy (right and good practice) in contrast to an orthodoxy (right and good belief).  In short, whatever eternity looks like, I'd rather stand before the Creator of All having erred on the side of grace and love, than judgement, and rigidity.  How about you?  Let's keep learning together.

1-OK, caught!  I can’t tell you everything about “Why I Believe In Love” in this short article, but I’ve taken a run at a brief intro to that task.


3-Spoken Into Being: Divine Encounters Through Story, Michael E. Williams, 2017 Upper Room Books

4-Proverbs 27:17