I came across this short piece from Richard Rohr today which I though well worth sharing:
Your image of God, your de facto, operative image of God, lives in a symbiotic relationship with your soul and creates what you become. Loving people, forgiving people have always encountered a loving and forgiving God. Cynical people are cynical about the very possibility of a coherent loving center to the universe. So why wouldn’t they become cynical themselves? Of course they do.
When you encounter a truly sacred text, the first questions are not: Did this literally happen just as it says? How can I be saved? What is the right thing for me to do? What is the dogmatic pronouncement here? Does my church agree with this? Who is right and who is wrong here? These are largely ego questions, I am afraid. They are questions that try to secure your position, not questions that make you go on a spiritual path of faith and trust. They constrict you, whereas the purpose of the Sacred is to expand you. I know they are the first ones that come to our mind because that is where we live, inside of our ego, and these are the questions we were also trained to ask (unfortunately!).
I would, however, offer you and invite you to ponder another question. Simply having read the text, ask: What is God doing here? Then ask yourself: What does this say about who God is? Then, what does it say about how I can also meet this same God?
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(Added 22/2/12): What is God doing in the Scripture reading? With that question in mind, I want to give you an operative principle that, I believe, had it been used the last 500 years, would have given us a much more exciting and positive Christian history. If you are meditating on a Bible text, Hebrew or Christian, and if you see God operating at a lesser level than the best person you know, then that text is not authentic revelation. “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and no person you meet could possibly be more loving than the Source of all love itself. It is as simple as that.
Haven’t you read texts like this, and not known what to think? Yahweh presumably tells the Israelites to kill every Canaanite in sight—men, women and children—and then has them impose a ban on every pagan town, telling the Israelites to enter, burn, and destroy everything (e.g., Joshua 6-7). Do you really think that is God talking? I don’t think so.
Well, you say, it is in the Bible and that makes it right, right? That is why we have to use a whole different lens for interpreting any authoritative text. How we deal with sacred texts is how we deal with reality in general. And how we deal with reality in general is how we deal with sacred texts. And both reality and all sacred texts are also fragmented and “imperfect” (1 Corinthians 13:12). It takes a certain level of human and spiritual maturity to interpret a Scripture. Vengeful and petty people find vengeful and hateful texts (and they are there), but even when they are not there! Loving and peaceful people will hold out until a text resounds deep within them (and there are plenty there!). In short, ONLY LOVE CAN HANDLE BIG TRUTH.
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(Added 23/2/12): The sacred texts of the Bible are filled with absolute breakthroughs, epiphanies, and manifestations of the highest level of encounter, conversion, transformation, and Spirit. The Bible also contains texts which are punitive, petty, tribal, and idiotic. A person can prove anything he or she wants from a single line of the Bible. To tell you the truth, the Bible says just about everything you might want to hear—somewhere! Maybe this sad and humiliating recognition can be your ashes today. Like a phoenix you can rise and rebuild your knowledge of Scripture in a prayerful, calm, skillful, and mature way. Then you can read with head and heart and Spirit working as one, and not just a search for quick answers.
Maybe one of the biggest mistakes in the history of Christianity is that we have separated spirituality from theology and scripture study. In other words, we put the Scriptures in the hands of very immature and unconverted people, even clergy. We put the Scriptures in the hands of people at entirely egocentric levels, who still think “It’s all about me,” and who use the Bible in a very willful way. It is all dualistic win or lose. The egocentric will still dominates: the need to be right, the need to be first, the need to think I am saved and other people are not. This is the lowest level of human consciousness, and God cannot be heard from that heady place. Perhaps it is not accidental that we place the ashes of Ash Wednesday precisely on the forehead.