UNITY AND RECONCILIATION
First, I would like to say, I love everything I have read, seen, or heard you do! You are one of my favorites. A little about me. I devour books and blogs, love to read and write. I am almost 65 years old. Ten years ago my husband and I were backpacking around Ireland for our honeymoon. Today, I find myself in a wheelchair and using a walker as I recover from my traumatic lower leg fractures which incapacitated my knee. I am a year out from my injury and probably a year from “full” recovery. I am largely a shut in. Wow! The changes of aging. But, I thrive on opportunities to write! Thank you for opening up this discussion.
THE “R” WORD
This topic stirs it all up! Where to begin? I am convicted it starts here with me, my heart. My views: the way I see it, the god of this world devises endless ways to promote hatred, strife, and division. These ways permeate ALL the cultures, nations, religions, governments, peoples, families. The prince of darkness is afoot. He it is who divides and accuses, the prosecutor. It is he who turns us to his will to hate and harm and become divided within our very selves. He is the one who steals, kills, destroys. It all began in the garden in the beginning and spins out of control till this day.
Abuse and shame damage and perpetuate guilt and self hatred over the life span. I am close to 65 now, and all these things have been woven through my experience much of my life. I find myself quite brittle and sensitive now. Trusting God and others is a real issue. I am on airport security mode.
Hurt people hurt people.
But, I am not alone. In my experience I have found, we all are the walking wounded to one degree or another. Blind, numb, and distracted, we move like zombies in a war zone caught between the forces of heaven and hell. Years ago I read a book, “Getting the Love You Want” by Harville Hendrix. He wrote about the reptilian brain, those centers where emotions assess, in lightning speed, our relational environments in 3 basic ways. Is this person a safe nurturer, a hostile, or someone to have sex with? I think there is some truth to this. I have found myself stereotyping others based on my past experiences. For example some time ago in a group setting, I met a beautiful, young, Barbi doll appearing girl who triggered painful teenage memories of “the blonde cheerleaders,” the ultimate “it girls.” As I got to know this young woman, I discovered that she was tenderhearted with a passionate heart for Jesus and the suffering. We are now dear to each other. I believe that in our lives there are myriads of these and other more painful experiences that potentially result in misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and ostracization.
GOD SEES OUR HEARTS
“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
Oh, to have those eyes! It is really hard, first, to know God loves me, really resounding love in the deepest part of my being. But this is the key on which all else hinges.
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
So, to see His Transformative LOVE, the resurrection power making all things new in us, to enter into this place. It has to begin here, the knowing that we are His beloved. And OH! the ways He loves us: purely, powerfully, freely, wildly, passionately, tenderly, sacrificially, selflessly, jealously, exquisitely, perfectly, justly, infinitely. Here is the womb space, the supernatural birthplace of love, receiving from Him, abiding in Him. All other attempts to “love” become contrived and ineffectual. I believe we love others when we, the beloved, are full of His love and wisdom and overflow to see the essence of the hearts of others with tenderhearted soft throbbing grace and compassion. No matter the outward appearance, or culture, or religion, or smell, or negative emotional state. God sees beneath, at our core, the place where we hide often unbeknownst to ourselves. We all long for love. It is the alpha and omega of us, the place to find ourselves and others.
SEX MONEY POWER
15Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John: 16, 17
The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life: Satan rules in these realms as we give them place in us. Here arises the divisiveness of ME FIRST, the pursuit of MINE. And we see the endless stratification of economies, wealth distribution, fame, renown, power, position, beauty, youth worship, ability versus disability, dogmas, doctrines. And on it goes: cults, sects, denominations. Divide, divide, divide. And then there are subcultures in churches promoting homogeneity, exclusiveness, and cliches.
I have been in an abusive mind controlling “Christian” cult and have also worked for state government, hospitals, and health care settings. I have seen a common thread running through all these environments. The survival of the organization is primary, people are secondary. The bottom line rules. Individuals are dispensable. I have also experienced this in a non denominational church setting as well. The dynamic being more subtle here as the church cultural norms promote a “pouring out” of congregation members. Yes, a perceived using of the person. This for me resulted in feelings of low value, feelings of being unconnected, unseen, or unheard. It was a lonely place, a sad place, and I was not alone in this. I saw other sad and lonely people there. In my experience there, I tried to make friends only to find that, for the most part, those doors were not open. Attend, serve, and give. Homes and lives were not open. I believe, here exists a state of pharisaical blindness. The perpetuation and survival of the institution are primary. Love has little chance here. It was as Jesus said,
“by their fruit you will recognize them.”
15″Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:15-20
Wait! What? I admit, it gets more than a little tricky here. Good upstanding church people are not necessarily false prophets. Though perhaps it may be a case of congregation members following the ways of what has “always” been and how that has played out over time with the development of social mores and norms, the creation of a familiar culture and traditions. The words of Jesus stir up questions and cause me to look harder, more circumspectly at my plight. What are you experiencing? What do you see is the nature, the essence of the relatedness of those with whom you are interacting in the households of faith? Is this essence true? Is it love? Is it inclusive, warm, accepting and welcoming? Does it look like 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8?
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.
Does it reflect God’s personality? Do we? I believe the exhortation and warning from Jesus stands as a beacon. Be awake! See the fruit. Notice, observe, consider, ponder, test the fruit. Be wise and discerning. Don’t get stuck. In my case, the time had come to fly, to spread my wings and slough off the remaining grave cloths of legalism, to come away from the teachings and traditions of man. It was time for me to be free to pioneer the MORE that was the bigger, the all inclusive body of Christ. It was time to seize the freedom to seek the heart and essence of God.
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Ah! This! These words shine powerfully in me like a mantra, like a lighthouse guiding to safe shores. I ponder them and turn them over and over as if studying the brilliant facets of a jewel, awestruck by the purity, beauty and wonder of it all…peaceful, humble, abounding in mercy, fruit bearing sown in peace, gentle willingness to yield, offering life, making peace. The peacemakers are defined here, those who are blessed, the children of God, as Jesus said in the beatitudes. Here I find the call, the cry that begs us to engage in the shedding off of partiality and hypocrisy. How may I shed my own partiality and hypocrisy? We all have it. But God is not a respecter of persons, neither should we be.
It is as Peter and Paul so plainly stated and James clearly explains: Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, James 2:1-4. Moreover, God makes this point apparent found over and over in the Old Testament books as well: Deuteronomy 10:17, Deuteronomy 16:19, Proverbs 24:23, Job 34:19. (Whew!) To name a few! So, how can we be made new to not follow those habits, cultures, and traditions that are not just, wise, humble, peaceful, and loving? This narrow path, the one less traveled, that leads to life is worth the search, worth the trek. Eyes are looking for it, longing for it. The world scans, watches, waits to see the evidence of the image of God, the Christ, in people.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
I have come to see the “God Sense” in our contemporary culture. The more I see it, the more I discover it. It threads through story lines in movies, TV shows, late night comedies, satire, news, music, books, and more. This God Sense, our innate existence as image bearers of God, pours out of us, whether we know it or not, whether we know Him or not. It weaves through the warp and woof of our human expression, through our awareness of life on terra firma.
19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead,
Ah yes, in spite of all the dark, it threads as luminescent skeins of glimmering beams of hope, of cries for justice, beauty, authenticity, compassion, raw truth, rescue. It beckons from us and to us. It weaves and leaps through the dense dark tapestry that has become our existence in enemy occupied territory where the god of this world holds sway. The God Sense declares, protests, we are meant for more than this! How else is it that we have a deep birth sense of what is just and unjust, of heroism, selflessness, humility, and kindness? How else, as a collective, do we have such keen radar for the fake, the contrived, the hypocritical, the exploitive, the manipulative, the cruel, the arrogant and indulgent?
Ecclesiastes 3:11 declares, “He has put eternity in their hearts”
We come from eternity and we yearn for home. And so, the religious, the pharisaical pursuits, the playing church, these are no substitutes for the REAL. The world, the unbelieving intuits this and has no qualms about calling it out. Our culture recognizes it, smells it. The fear, the hatred, the divisiveness, the homophobia, bigotry, prejudice, greed, exclusivity, domination, the legalistic dogma, the people are not fooled by these. Because they are waiting for this!
35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.“
This is LOVE, GOD MANIFEST in his children. WHO HE IS.
23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
Even so, Come Lord Jesus!