‘If God is Love’ #4

Our study of If God Is Love continues, although I missed the meeting on Sunday because of the trip. I’ve gotten a little behind on reading due to my hectic schedule over the last few weeks, but am working on getting caught up.

In our last meeting, Karen shared something that she had learned about how we should interact with others. I thought it was rather profound and will be trying to adopt it in my future conversations.

Before we say something, we should ask ourselves the following questions:
Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?

If we all practiced that, it would literally change the world.

A couple of my favorite lines from this reading:

No one can discern the truth, let alone fully and freely embrace it, while under the threat of hell.

What happens after death is a mystery. Every belief is speculation.

Here are the questions from the last meeting that I attended:

On page 117, the authors make this statement: “We don’t need to accept Jesus into our hearts; we need to have the same heart as Jesus.” Name three or four implications of believing this to be true. For you, what makes this a challenging proposition?

I believe this type of “salvation” would make for a more spiritual, better person, but I’m not convinced that it is biblical. I’m not sure that the writers are concerned with how scripturally-sound their arguments are, but are searching for a deeper truth that sweeps away all the imperfections and contradictions of modern Christianity.

I understand that the directive to be “born again” could refer to a life-long process instead of an instant transformation, but that certainly becomes a stumbling block for those that believe in heaven/hell, as those young and ignorant of Jesus’ teachings who die would not have had the time to complete the process of redemption.

Also, the Bible makes it clear that God’s grace bestowed upon us by our faith, not our works, is what brings about salvation. The interpretation in this book puts too much emphasis on becoming perfect, or like Christ, and while that is certainly a beautiful thing to strive for, I do not think is possible for most people.

While most of Christianity worships Christ as a god-man, believes he was literally resurrected, and that believing in him causes an instant spiritual transformation, the authors seem to view him more as a man who discovered the truth and tried to enlighten those around him. As someone who likes proof of the unexplained, I find the latter description more believable, but, again, unbiblical.

The authors briefly relate a story: the sphere containing the fullness of God’s truth slips out of an angel’s hands and shatters into bits. This explains how it is that religion has partial truth but not complete truth. Can you think of one or two sacred truths from other traditions that you find compelling?

I believe in karma, which is found in the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. Jesus’ command to “Do unto others…” certainly coincides with belief in cause and effect. There are several other elements of Buddhism that I am also attracted to and many of them do not conflict with Christianity in any way.

In your reading of this section, where do you hear God speaking most clearly to you? What might God be asking of you as you digest these particular pages?

I certainly felt a pang of guilt when the authors discussed the way we are trained to judge the religions of others. I really liked the statements: “If God loves every person as much as God loves me, God is working in and through others as much as God is at work in and through me.” and “The moment their members cease striving for justice and love we will know that their religion is not the one God gave the world.
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The following Hindu prayer was printed in the book and I was struck by its beauty and its truth.

O Lord, forgive three sins that are due to my human limitations:
Thou art everywhere, but I worship you here;
Thou art without form, but I worship you in these forms;
Thou needest no praise, yet I offer these prayers and salutations.
Lord, forgive three sins that are due to my human limitations.

Author: Brian

Blogger. Bookworm. Michael Jackson fanatic. Lives in Kentucky with partner of 11 years and three fabulous felines.

5 thoughts on “‘If God is Love’ #4”

  1. The authors’ point of view is not unbiblical so much as it is unfamiliar to many. Scholars like Marcus Borg, Walter Wink, and John Dear offer us very compelling–and scripturally sound–explorations of who Jesus was and what he was striving to teach. Their writings are worth exploring and praying over.

    One of the things I think that makes being a Christian in the United States so very difficult is that we have a hard time hearing and seeing Jesus because he’s so much a part of our common culture. I understood Jesus quite differently when I was in the religious minority on the Navajo Reservation. Profoundly spiritual men like Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, for instance, are helpful in this task of coming to fresh truths about Jesus; they view him not through the lens of American culture and religious tradition but through their own cultural and religious lenses which pick up important facets we miss.

  2. Brian,

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts–I love that you are so honest and transparent. I feel like I’m taking the class with you, to some extent.

    “THE AUTHORS MAKE THIS STATEMENT: ” WE DON’T NEED TO ACCEPT JESUS INTO OUR HEARTS; WE NEED TO HAVE THE SAME HEART AS JESUS.”

    I agree with Karen that some of the things that sound unbiblical are just unfamiliar. I don’t know of any place in the Bible where it says, “take Jesus into your heart”, although I think we need to do that before we can begin to “have the same heart as Jesus.” I think we have to believe He was who He claimed to be and that what He taught is truth before we can really begin to live out His teachings and love people the way He did.

    “I UNDERSTAND THAT THE DIRECTIVE TO BE “BORN AGAIN” COULD REFER TO A LIFE-LONG PROCESS INSTEAD OF AN INSTANT TRANSFORMATION, BUT THAT CERTAINLY BECOMES A STUMBLING BLOCK FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN HEAVEN/HELL…”

    Jesus said we “must be born again (or “born from above”) in order to “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). People often think that “kingdom” is heaven when one dies. I think Jesus meant a way of life here and now–living under God’s rule, or leadership. I think that being “born again” is like physical birth in that it both process and event. With physical birth there is a nine month gestation period and then the big event, and then a lifetime of growing and learning.

    Some christian group focus only on the event of salvation, a point in time; while others see it as a process–I think it’s important to focus on both; a birth, be it physical or spiritual, is both process and event. There is a point in time where the baby was not yet born, but now it is; but even that event is just part of a process.

    Thanks for letting me share my musings. You rock. Welcome home!

    I recommend a book entitiled “The Secret Message of Jesus” by Brian Mclaren for a look at the kingdom of God being in the here and now, not just the hereafter.

    JimT

  3. “People often think that “kingdom” is heaven when one dies. I think Jesus meant a way of life here and now–living under God’s rule, or leadership. I think that being “born again” is like physical birth in that it both process and event. With physical birth there is a nine month gestation period and then the big event, and then a lifetime of growing and learning.”

    Please forgive me, but that reminds me of two things,
    (1) In the movie, “Black Snake Moan”, R-rated, the preacher told the girl something close to that, He asked her “What is your heaven?”

    (2) A friend, Jerry, and I use to joke that actually we were “in hell” here on earth. That we were doom to repeat life on earth until we got it right. (that explains dejavu (?) )

    Although in some ways, it can be comforting to think in those terms, I also find it more discouraging to think that this life may be all that we have? What would be the reason to live? Or is that it? THAT we should live everyday as though it is our last, because IT may actually be.

    Brian, as always, very interesting post!!!

  4. It would definitely be discouraging if this life were all we had. There is more! I was trying to make the point that while many Christians think of the Kingdom of God as something we experience only after we die (which the biggest part of it is); it is also something we don’t have to wait for death to experience.

    We can start experiencing the Kingdom here and now, as we enjoy intentional relationship with out Creator, as well as in the hereafter. I believe there is definitely more to this life than meets the eye–the best is yet to come!

    JimT

  5. JimT,

    I think your explanation makes a lot of sense and I appreciate you sharing your insights. It is true that some of these things seem foreign to me, but that’s probably because I’ve always heard the Bible interpreted within a certain line of thinking.

    I am trying to read with an open mind, but it is difficult to throw everything I already “know” out the window.

    Studying this book reminds me of the eloquent ramblings of Ronald Dumsfeld (yes, I did that on purpose):

    As we know,
    There are known knowns.
    There are things we know we know.
    We also know
    There are known unknowns.
    That is to say
    We know there are some things
    We do not know.
    But there are also unknown unknowns,
    The ones we don’t know
    We don’t know.

    As crazy as it sounds, there’s actually some truth buried in there. I’m still searching for those “unknown unknowns”. :lol:

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