We’ve covered a lot of ground here and I’m wondering if I can somehow summarize it all. A recap may be helpful to you; I know it would be helpful to me…
God is a loving, patient, passionate Father. The story of the Prodigal Son exemplifies the Father’s heart for his children (both the externally rebellious and the internally rebellious). He throws a party for the one who squandered his money and time on wild living. He invites to the party his resentful, self-righteous, judgmental son. The Father wants EVERYONE at the party.
Those who love both know God and are born of God. Period. And that’s not just me saying that – it’s a direct quote from 1 John 4:7. Too many religious people fail to love, thereby showing the lie that their religion is. We don’t need more knowledge – we need more LOVE. While the mythical Adam & Eve chose to eat from the tree of knowledge (which kills), we desire to eat from the tree of LIFE. Knowledge puffs up, it inflates out of proportion; love builds up – it constructs, reinforces, strengthens. It is the identifying mark of those who actually follow Jesus with their lives and not just their mouths.
The good news – the “gospel” – is that the kingdom of God is available to everyone right here and now. It is an economy that transcends all boundaries – social, gender, political, economic, religious, etc. It frees those held captive by their poor choices or by the evil will of stronger men. It heals those deeply wounded by life and violence. All who embrace this kingdom find they never lack what they need (whether or not they ever get all they had originally wanted out of life). Those captivated by the values and principles of this way of living reveal it by how they invest their lives (despite doing so imperfectly as humans do). This good news transforms and restores the world at the grassroots level, beginning with a single human heart and radiating outward. And those who enter into this society (NOT a religion) trust that when this short physical life is over somehow they will continue on in this kingdom forever but leave the details of that in the hands of God.
We make that vital connection with God through terrifying risk. This is faith. It is a leap into the unknown with the possibility for serious damage to ourselves if God does not somehow rescue us, assist us, come through on that which we believe God called us to. “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” wrote the author of Hebrews. The first time is of course the most difficult; later opportunities to exercise faith at least have the history of God’s power to refer back on. But each time, faith is a tremendous choice that in the end enables us to boast on how powerful and great God is (not ourselves) and to cultivate a comprehensive attitude of gratitude.But we still must do that which is within our power; it is a partnership with God, an apprenticeship with the Father who is guiding us into becoming more than we ever dreamed we could become.
We listen for God whenever, wherever, and however it occurs. We realize that interaction with the Divine is not reserved to a weekly club meeting for an hour or so, but that God is speaking to us far more often than we usually tend to realize in things both huge and miniscule. Our lives become saturated with expectancy and hope, and grand adventure where we play a unique role in the restoration of this planet and its inhabitants. We are open to finding truth anywhere, boldly considering everything and holding on to what we find good while not fretting over the bad. We realize much is uncertain – in fact, most is uncertain… and that’s okay. There is great freedom in not having to have all the answers, and great power in loving anyway.
We view ourselves as conduits of blessing, pipelines for God’s grace to be channeled to those who in need. It’s not about us. Instead, it’s about what God is up to – we get in sync with that and let the rest take care of itself. We value what Jesus valued – which if you review what he taught comes down to one main thing: relationships. That includes relationships with others, with God, with creation, and even with ourselves. We are not meant to live a groveling, self-abhorring life saying over and over to ourselves “We’re so unworthy…”. God has called us worthy – worthy of Divine love, mercy, grace, air, food, sunshine, beauty, hearts that pump blood and tongues that taste delightful things. God wants us to enjoy REAL living – life “exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ask or think.” That’s not to say there won’t be difficulties – how could you appreciate light without living in darkness? But the amazing thing is that this life manifests joy in spite of the circumstances.
Whether or not the entire Bible is the actual words of God, regardless of whether humankind was created or evolved, and whether the future is all predicted and understood by a select group of people who have their particular “rigtht” interpretation… we are to love. We are to forgive. We are to learn to let go of anger and condemnation and manipulation. We are to heal, to forbear, to hope for the best, and to resist thoughts of fear that are enemies to the spirit of God. We trust, we hope, we love because… well, because that’s what we were made to do.