I want to start off by saying that If God Is Love has quickly become one of my favorite books. It has challenged me in several ways, and while it may not have drastically changed my belief system, it has certainly shared its enormous wealth of wisdom. I do believe that it has already affected my interactions with others and forced me to at least recognize that I need to be more gracious towards them.
This may be the most difficult of my writings about our study group, as I wasn’t able to attend the class meeting last week. I also didn’t get any questions to ponder and don’t feel inspired to come up with my own. Therefore, I will simply discuss some of my favorite quotes and elaborate on them.
We’re comfortable with Christian exclusivity unless we’re the ones left out.
This statement refers to a branch of Christianity that claims to have a monopoly on what it means to be a Christian and to be superior to other denominations. We have seen evidence of this line of thinking in a recent statement signed by Pope Benedict claiming that Catholicism is the only true church. Gracious Christianity rejects this type of discourse.
One of my critics asked, “If everyone is going to be saved, why bother with Jesus?” In a moment of rare spontaneous inspiration, I answered answered, “I’ve never considered Jesus a bother.”
The author goes on to explain that imitating Jesus is the same thing as imitating God, and it allows us to participate in God’s work in the world.
The inconsistencies in Jesus’s life aren’t reason to ignore him, but encouragement for taking him seriously.
The passages of scripture are recalled about Jesus being downright rude to the Pharisees, cursing and insulting them. While the author considers that this could have been a real possibility, since Jesus was human, there is much literary and historic evidence pointing towards the early church intentionally portraying the Pharisees as the enemies of Jesus.
The author states that he doesn’t “think Jesus acted this way towards his opponents because he taught me not to act that way toward mine… How we treat our enemies is the clearest indication of our theology.”
God changes his mind. This is a humble God, open to critique and input.
The story of the Israelis building a golden calf and triggering the anger of God is retold. God wants to destroy the people and start over, but Moses intercedes on their behalf and asks God to change His mind. He does.
Jesus referred to a Gentile woman as a “dog”, after she asked him to heal her daughter. His reply was both racist and exclusive, but the author says that we shouldn’t try to make excuses for him. He should be allowed to grow and learn. He was willing to listen to the woman and decided to heal her child after all.
Even if we believe God will welcome some to heaven and reject others, we have no excuse for excluding some here on earth.
Perhaps the most poignant line from this reading, it struck me in a profound and personal way. The author is specifically referring to homosexuals and compares the treatment of them to the way the church responded to issues like segragation and racism – using scripture to justify rejection of an entire group of people.
Church is a gathering of wounded and broken people relying on the grace of God as they struggle to heal and grow.
Another beautiful sentiment that I’ve personally found to be true. Look around any church gathering and you will find people damaged by life, searching for something to fill the void and restore their soul.
A gracious church is a place where people can come with questions, doubts, and struggles without fear of being condemned. Our focus is not on supplying quick and easy answers to difficult problems, but creating the space to think and explore.