A Heart As Big As God’s

An adequate life, like Spinoza’s definition of an adequate idea, might be described as a life which has grasped intuitively the whole nature of things, and has seen and felt and refocused itself to this whole.  An inadequate life is one that lacks this adjustment to the whole nature of things — hence its twisted perspective, its partiality, its confusion.  (A Testament of Devotion, Thomas R. Kelly, p.1)

 How does God view the creation?  Is there joy?  Is there regret?  Is there hope?  Is there shame?  Is there promise?  Is there disappointment?  Is there pride?  Is there anger?  I cannot help but believe the answer is simply “yes.”  All these things.  Humankind can scale the heights of glory and they can sink beneath the belly of the lowest demon — sometimes both in the blink of an eye.  Haiti is a good example — an outpouring of love from one source, an outpouring of bitter, bilious, hateful condemnation from another.  88% of Americans believe we should help Haiti; 31% of evangelical Christians believe Haiti has done something to deserve what has happened.  For myself — and this is a purely personal reflection — I cannot reconcile the concept of petty destruction and wanton violence with my understanding of a creative and loving energy that infuses and redeems all things.  What possible motivation could God have to hurt the children of the earth, unless God is as petty and ignorant and spiteful and selfish as human beings can be?  The God I believe in is better than that.

And the church I believe in is better than that.  In the “big picture” — the grand sweep of history into eternity — the micro-sins of an individual, a community, a tribe, or a state pale in comparison with the whole.  I truly believe that we humans must take responsibility for our own brokenness — God has much bigger fish to fry.  Just because we get our temporal panties in a twist over what goes on between people behind closed doors doesn’t mean the creator of all that is must be pacing the celestial floor, wringing cosmic hands, plotting ways to wipe out hundreds of thousands of people to make a narrow-minded point.  God must be bigger than that, right?

Jesus had this almost obsessive-compulsive fixation with “the kingdom of God.”  Apparently, he wanted us to care about it as much as he did, and he urged his followers not to wait for it to come from some far off future, but to live it in the now — to create the future that God wished for all creation.  This “kingdom” was not some oppressive monarchy or hegemonic oligarchy, but a benevolent dictatorship where grace trumps law, and the defining characteristics that apply to everyone are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, mercy, justice, humility, forgiveness, acceptance, respect, concern for dignity, compassion, healing and unbounded grace.  That is what Jesus called us to work on, to create, to pursue, and to provide.  The “blueprints,” if you will, are already drafted by God.  All we have to do is follow the plan.  Simple, huh?

But we can’t keep the end in sight.  We keep getting distracted.  We keep losing focus.  We keep worrying that everyone isn’t doing his or her part — of they’re doing it wrong, or they’re using the wrong tools, or they’re using their tools the wrong way, or we don’t like them, or we disapprove of them, or…  Well, we really aren’t sure we want them in OUR “kingdom,” is all I’m sayin’.  Their “sin-cooties” are ickier than our “sin-cooties.”  (Which aren’t really “sin-cooties” at all, because we’re good Christians — not like those people we disagree with, whose faith is obviously inferior and corrupt.  I mean, what THEY do is heinous and gross and obviously offends God.  All I do is engage in the wholesome and perfectly defensible spiritual practices of gossip and violent condemnation…….)  See?  See how easy it is to get distracted, and then expend an enormous amount of time justifying our fruitless, unhelpful, unproductive rationalization?

For me, the problem is simply this:  I am not God.  Not even close.  I am too limited in my knowledge, in my beliefs, in my understanding of all the variables and conditions.  I am not as smart as God, not as aware as God, don’t know the rules as well as God, and I am not anywhere near as forgiving and loving as God.  There is no way in a million years I can be the person I need to be to truly build a “kingdom of God.”  Now, pooling my limitations with the limitations of others helps — together we are “more” than we are on our own, but still — we’re a far cry from God.  I mean, even the BEST people of God/communities in Christ were still full of bickering, hostile, unforgiving, judgmental, short-sighted, petty people.  The BEST!  We are a people in formation — a constantly “becoming” body of Christ — in our infancy.  We are barely able to crawl, let alone walk or run.  This is why it is so wondrously breathtaking when we rise above our human limitations to shine for a brief moment.  We catch a glimpse of who we might grow up to be as God’s own children.

I guess I can’t impose this vision on other people.  All I can reasonably and responsibly do is to confess, I need to do better.  I need to acknowledge that, at best, “I see in a glass darkly,” — that my view is partial, inadequate, incomplete and twisted.  I need to reflect on the fact that my certainty and my clarity must look like confusion to God — because when I get it wrong, I generally get it completely wrong.  I need to stop over-thinking everything — looking for the one right answer, and seeking a one-size-fits-all morality that I can impose on others.  I need to love more, care more, share more, relax more, listen more, and stop contributing to the toxic flow of hate, hurt, ignorance, and selfishness that is poisoning God’s creation.  I am tired of “good” Christians hurting each other — and tarnishing the reputation and good name of God.  I need so much help to do this.  It’s why God sent Jesus, and why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, and why the Holy Spirit breathed life into the (real) Church.  We have everything we need — the blueprints, the tools, the Spirit, and the purpose.  Now, all we need is the heart.

6 replies

  1. Nope. You’re unlikely to become a bishop. Sadly, not many of our bishops are prophets. But you are, and can remain, a prophet: afflicting the comfortable, and comforting the afflicted. Stay the course. We need more prophets, not more bishops.

  2. That is exactly what we need, people who shake things up. Christ came into this world to change it. He did not come here to simply change the pew cushions.

  3. Why aren’t you a bishop? If you were a bishop I would feel so much better about the United Methodist church. You have such a great vision for what we could be, and you are so on target about the ways we are failing to be the church we should be. I can understand why people who want to keep the church like it was fifty years ago might not like what you say, but anyone who cares about what the church ought to be in the days to come should listen to you. We need some real leaders like you to lead us. Thank you for the blog and for your vision. Maybe someday you will be given the opportunity to bring us into the 21st century.

    • I don’t think there is any way on God’s green earth I will ever be a bishop in The United Methodist Church. I am too much of an irritant and an opponent to the status quo. Our church doesn’t much want change — I annoy way too many people. (But thanks for your kind support!)

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