Freedom is Where We Start

I have been following The Hidalgo Grain Company‘s blog for a while now and, while I’m not sure of its current operation, it has long been an outspoken critic of the extreme Christian fundamentalist movement.

In a recent post entitled “Radical Truth,” the topic of Obedience is discussed and the setting is the centres of Independent Baptist fundamentalism which have this philosophy:

In order to be holy, a good witness and a “show window” for God, emphasis is placed on behavior. This highlighting of the behavioral aspects of conservative Christianity is reinforced in private Christian schools, home schooling literature and in institutions of higher learning. To many children and young adults, Christianity becomes a way to behave, a way to live, a lifestyle – clean, healthy, controlled, ordered, traditional – and we are all told that all things being equal, a Christian should excel above all others.. . .

. . . The truth is more radical. Happiness is not found “on the road to duty” or modifying our behavior or the behavior of others. Freedom is not found through obedience or happily keeping the rules. Freedom isn’t “found” at all – it is given.

Freedom is where we start.

It is The Love that gives you freedom, freedom leads to conviction, conviction to confession, confession to total forgiveness and total forgiveness to worship. When Christ said “my burden is light”, He meant it. We aren’t trading one set of shackles for another. When He said “you are free”, there was no legal disclaimer in small type stating that “free” doesn’t really mean “free”, and that there are a number of ifs, ands or buts.

Will embracing the gift of freedom make your life perfect? No. In spite of what you read on your friend’s Facebook page, there is no “perfect life.” Freedom entails risk. Risk of offense. Risk of failure. The difference is that we allow ourselves to fail. Failure is built-into the freedom we embrace. Fortunately, the forgiveness is total. (Read the full p0st here. The comments are worth a look too.)

God is Good

GodPlaneThis article appeared on CNN recently.

A light plane crashes into the house and a woman, inside the house at the time, survives and declares for all to hear, “God is good.”

The three people in the plane were killed.

I thought it was amazing how God would save the life of the woman in the house, yet allow those in the plane to die. “I’m blessed. Truly God was with me.” Too bad God wasn’t with the three who perished.

  • This kind of god weighs the value of you against the value of the others and decides you deserve more blessing than them. Why? Because you are one of the ‘chosen’ who call themselves ‘Christian?’
  • Celebrities stand on stage and say stuff like, ‘I want to thank God for blessing me with this award.’ And everyone who was nominated, but missed out, isn’t blessed?
  • After many months of hunting for the perfect house, the couple finally find one that ticks every box. “God is good. He’s blessed us with this house of our dreams.” Maybe their dream house is the house that the homeless people who “live” under the bridge just down the road really do dream of.

The psalmist writes that “God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” Elsewhere in Scripture we read that “God is no respecter of persons.”

Every day we read or hear or see reports of bombs going off, earthquakes, buildings collapsing, planes crashing, businesses going under, miscarriages, car accidents–are all those affected by these tragedies safely assumed to be “evil” or “undeserving”?

On the other hand, “good luck” or good fortune comes upon others in the form of business success, travel safety, high achievements, lottery wins, or health breakthroughs and miracles. Do we assume these folks are somewhat more righteous or holy than those in the above group?

Truth is, we often confuse God’s blessing with being plain lucky, fortunate, being born into a particular family, in a particular country, at a particular point in time.

One of my favourite writers (those who read this blog with any regularity know who that is) writes:

If we want to go to the mature, mystical, and non-dual levels of spirituality, we must first deal with the often faulty, inadequate, and even toxic images of God that most people are dealing with before they have authentic God experience. Both God as Trinity and Jesus as the “image of the invisible God” reveal a God quite different—and much better—than the Santa Claus god who is “making a list, checking it twice, going to find out who’s naughty or nice” or “I will torture you if you do not love me” god (worse than your worst enemy, I would think). We must be honest and admit that this is the god that most people are still praying to. Such images are an unworkable basis for any real spirituality. (Richard Rohr)

God is good. This much is true. But to credit your good fortune to God’s goodness is false. God is good to all.

How do we then view those passages that seem to display an angry, wrathful God?

The writers of Scripture have said that God has been revealed to us in the person of Jesus. Jesus shows us what God is like. Jesus reveals God’s character.

I would go so far as to say that if your picture of God looks different than Jesus, then you are looking at a false god–this god is not the God who is love, who is peace and who is rejoicing over creation and calling it “good.”

What is most amazing is that we see Jesus siding with the underdogs, the down-and-outers, the marginalised, the thieves and tax collectors, the unclean, the “sinners.”  If any group would deserve the fierceness of God’s wrath it would be many in this lot. Yet we see his harshest words and actions were reserved for those who thought they had it all worked out, those who thought they were doing the right things–those who were definitely in the “nice” category–those who thought they were the “blessed” ones.

In the end, you could say that this shows we really haven’t got God “figured out”–and possibly never will until the end of our days.

Meanwhile, let us choose, in moments of good fortune, when all seems to be going well, to be grateful for good times and bad times, understanding that we can have confidence in our God to be fully present and fully good all the time.

Emerging Christianity

RichardRohrAs many of your who read this blog will know by now, I really enjoy reading and hearing Richard Rohr. ( His Franciscan way of seeing the Church and the world (whilst never allowing himself to fall into a dualistic sense of either) somehow resonates with my own inner struggles and questioning.

The Jewish prophets had one foot in Israel and one foot outside and beyond. So must you have one foot in your historical faith community and one foot in the larger world; one foot rooted in a good tradition of accountability and another in your own world of service, volunteerism, occupation, a subgroup, or what I call “lifestyle Christianity” and some call “Emerging Church,” which desires to move beyond mere belief and worship systems to actual lifestyle choices and new accountability systems for giving your life away.

How else can we imitate the surrender of Jesus, who did exactly the same in relation to his own Jewish religion? He never left it, and yet in some ways he always left it when it did not heal or help real people. He formed his own little “parachurch” within and yet alongside the Jewish priestly system, which became, rightly or wrongly, its own separate religion which we now call Christianity.

As the 12th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous recognizes, we do not really appropriate things ourselves until we actively hand them on to others. We have to find the Love, and then give the Love away; and it is amazing how the two events do not always happen within the same group. I think they are both training grounds, one for the other. The first is our spring and our well (home base); the other is the channel away from home base that keeps our well from becoming brackish and stagnant water. (Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations #53)

One foot in, one foot out. Never leaving, but always left. This perspective on life within and without the Church walls, I believe, is not only the way I see Christianity heading (or ’emerging’) but also a very Christ-ian concept which we would do well to live out.