Theological Insights from a Modern Perspective

Posts tagged ‘Love’

WWYD?

smiley-face-question-markI’ve seen bumper stickers with WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) but that’s not the real question, instead the question should be What Would You Do? Each person and each situation is different. Our concerns for others, for ourselves, for our loved ones, where we live, and our lifetime experience all come together to make each of us unique. What is the right answer for one might not be the right answer for another.

Several years ago a group of radical Muslims in Africa stopped a bus, boarded it, and demanded all of the Jews stand up. What happened next was unexpected. Everyone on the bus stood up: Jew, Christian, and Muslim. They stood together to protect each other, not knowing if they would all be killed. The terrorists left.

Several years ago terrorists captured a plane and turned it towards Washington DC with the intent of crashing it into the Capitol building. The passengers wouldn’t allow it and tried to take the plane back, we know how that ended.

Last year a friend of mine was driving home after work, it was nighttime. He saw a woman on the side of the road trying to change her tire, so he pulled over to help. Something seemed strange, the tire jack was on the bumper, but the car tire wasn’t off the ground. Just then a glint caught his eye on the other side of the car, he saw something flash off of the light from his headlights. Quickly he put the car in gear and drove off, in his rear view mirror he could see someone come out from the side of the car swinging what looked like a crowbar. He was lucky.

peters-denialWhat would you do in each of these instances: Would you stand up? Would you join in the attack? Would you stop to help? Every action we take comes with possible consequences. People say you should ask WWJD, but we are human. Peter had his doubts and chose to preserve his life when the crowd asked if he knew Jesus. We look at that and say we would do differently. But, if Peter had stood his ground then he might not have been around to lead The Way; Christianity might not be what it is today. It’s okay to not take the “high road” in every circumstance. You are not going to be judged if you don’t always “do the right thing.” Jesus didn’t judge Peter, he didn’t toss Peter out of the group, he understood, and so should we. We’re not always going to make the “right” choice; we’re not always going to do what Jesus would. But we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over it. Jesus would forgive us for being human, just as he forgave Peter.

Love doesn’t judge, it forgives.

Has someone sinned against you?

Sin is offending God, or going against His wishes/desires for us. When someone offends you or does something you don’t want then you could say that they have sinned against you, though we usually say that they have pissed us off. (more…)

To such belongs the kingdom of God

born_belivers_imageBabies are interesting teachers of theology, and they have a lot to teach us. They do not know hatred, bigotry, racism, sexism, all the baggage that we, as adults, carry with us (whether we see it in ourselves or not). (more…)

Zacchaeus

zacchaeus-2016The story of Zacchaeus is a familiar one, Jesus is coming to town and Zacchaeus wants to catch a glimpse, but he’s too short to see over the crowd and the people don’t move to let him in front, so he does the best he can: he climbs a tree to get above the crowd. We’re the same, when a dignitary comes to town everyone rushes down to watch the parade, if we don’t get a front-row seat then we do what we can to see. We put out kids on our shoulders; we shove our cellphones in the air to, hopefully, record the event; we try to get into a high rise and peek through a hall window. Anything to get a view of this remarkable person or event.

But, what about Zacchaeus’ status in the community? To be honest, this is going to be some conjecture using modern society when looking back, kind of the opposite of what I try to do here, but I think it bears scrutiny.

Luke’s gospel is the only place where Zacchaeus is introduced, and most churches spend little time on his tale. The Eastern church puts it at the very beginning of the pre-Lenten season, in fact, if the season is shortened because of the proximity to Christmas, the story is dropped entirely. Luke tells us three things about Zacchaeus, that he is a tax collector, that he is very wealthy, and that he is “short in stature”.

To be a tax collector (a Publican) in ancient Rome you had to be wealthy, very wealth. The reason is that the tax collector would buy the right to collect taxes for a particular region, the cost of this right is the estimated value of those taxes. If he collected more than the estimate that was his profit, if he collected less then it was his loss. Rome didn’t care because they go their money upfront, so the empire was assured of the money it wanted. To be sure, this was no the Jericho of OT times, that city had been nearly destroyed by the Persians, the new Jericho was built in the pre-Herodian era, under the rule of Alexander the Great, as a lush garden outside the royal estates. The people who lived there were neither wealthy nor influential, but they serviced the needs of those who lived and visited the estates. That made tax collection difficult, Rome expected much, but the people had little. To get the money Zacchaeus spent for his position he probably had to tax the wealthy of the city more than their fair share to make up for those who didn’t, or couldn’t, pay the tax. Add to that the Jewish people weren’t thrilled with the idea of paying Roman taxes at all, and Zacchaeus was both unpopular and ostracized from the Jewish community.

Now, let’s add to this the other thing that Luke tells us: “(RSV) he was small of stature”. According to archeological studied of 1st C skeletons in the region the average Jewish person was about 5′ 1″, to be so short that it would be worth noting in the story it is entirely possible he would be considered either a dwarf or a little person by today’s standards. This would make his life difficult, both physically and emotionally. Anyone who falls outside the “norms” are usually treated poorly by the “normal” people, especially in their youth (kids can be especially cruel).

To have grown up with some anger towards those who made his life miserable would not be unexpected, and to seek revenge in some way would be understandable. The best way for him to do this would have been through the taxation system by exaggerating the taxes a person owed. Did he do this? The people certainly thought so with their remark, “(RSV) He (Jesus) has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner (Zacchaeus).” Zacchaeus’ response can be seen two ways, a promised atonement of a wrong knowingly committed, or a claim that he never, intentionally, defrauded anyone and was, in fact, a good Jew, “(RSV) “Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

Lent is a time for reflection, and the entire pre-Lenten season in the Eastern church is a time to prepare for that reflection by showing us the different ways in which we fall short of a perfect Christian life, along with how we should, ideally, respond in different situations. Zacchaeus, the Publican and the Pharisee, the Prodigal Son, the Final Judgement, and Forgiveness, form the five weeks prior to the start of Great Lent. The purpose of Zacchaeus is to show us how we treat and judge other people, especially those who are different than us, whether in appearance or perceived behavior. Do we prejudge people we see/meet for the first time? Are we guilty of bullying (physically, emotionally, or, these days, on social media)? Do we dislike/hate others because of what we perceive them to be? Have we wronged anyone through our own prejudices? This is the time to make things right.

abc_2020_3_120504_wgdisabled-childrenreligioes3race-starts-early-ethnic-minority-students_308

bwcgroup_

Why are we here?

jesus-comforting-mary-of-bethanyThis is a question that has stumped scholars for thousands of years. I would like to offer an answer from an unexpected source, (more…)

Love Conquers All

Jesus asked that we love each other with the same love that he showed to us. Love demands two things: acceptance and forgiveness.

apologizingIf we are unwilling to accept that others may see/feel/believe different that we do then how can we truly love them? God accepts that we are different from each other, he made each of us as we were when we were born, and into the families into which we were born. He did not make us clones of each other, but made each of us different, and incomplete. With all due respect to Simon and Garfunkel, we were not made to be islands, but to need each other. Man needs woman, the hunter needs the gatherer, the warrior needs the diplomat, the liberal needs the conservative, and vice-versa. The Christian needs the Jew, the Muslim, and, yes, even the Hindu and Native American. It is only by seeing God in his Infinite Diversity that we can see God in everyone we encounter. And it is only by seeing God in others that we can accept each other fully.

forgiveness

Forgiveness is the other thing that love demands. We all make mistakes, it’s part of being human. Anyone who claims to not make mistakes has just made another. From Eve to Adam, down through the ages, man has made mistakes, but God has continued to love us. But you can’t forgive them unless you first love them, then accept that it is because of your differences that probably caused the disagreement in the first place. True forgiveness requires that we put the offense behind us, and not bring it up again. We cannot forget that it happened, but we can leave it in the past.

Acceptance and forgiveness aren’t easy, but for a Christian they are necessary. God forgave mankind for abandoning his will, then accepted that it was because of our free will that it happened. Jesus was the sign of that forgiveness, and our promised eternity with him is the sign of his acceptance.

Love, acceptance, and forgiveness. All are required of Christians, and all are the signs that we truly are followers of Christ.

John 13:35 (RSV) By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Will people know you are a Christian?

Love thy neighbor

love thy neighbor 3Do you have a Christian love for your neighbor? We all know the story of the Good Samaritan, and how to identify who your neighbor is: the one who treats you with love and compassion. But is that what it really means? Are we just to love those who love us back? (more…)

Birth of our Lord and Savior

nativity_icxc_005Today the world, like it or not, remembers the birth of Jesus some 2000 years ago. Remembers, though not necessarily celebrates. In rememberance of the Gift given to the world of God’s son we present gift to our loved ones. When I was young (and Moses was trying to tread water in the Nile) we gave gifts we felt expressed our feelings towards the other person. These days we give gifts that advertisers tell us we should give, and if we don’t give that Helzberg diamond then we really don’t love her. (more…)

Afterlife – Life on Earth

holyfamilyBirth, in the Eastern Church, is a Trinitarian event. Man provides the sperm, woman the egg, and God the Immortal Soul. From the time of conception all three are present in the woman’s womb. For this reason abortion is not permitted in the Eastern Church for it is not just a life that is being rejected, but the gift of the Immortal Soul from God.

If a life ends before Baptism can be performed the soul still goes through the process as Christians, they will just have a harder time of it without the benefit of Baptism and Confession. All must repent of unconfessed sins at their personal judgement. More on that later.

We are all sinners, it’s in our nature and nothing can be done to change it. God realized this and provided for us a way to reach Him regardless of what we have done…repentance. We show our repentance though Baptism and confession of our sins, either here or in the afterlife. Jesus’ purpose on earth was not to create Christianity, it was to teach us how to live, how to love God, and how to love and treat each other. It is by going against these teachings that we sin; it is by realizing that we have sinned, that we regret it wholeheartedly, and that we ask God to forgive us, that our sins are erradicated, now and forever.

At some point in time we will die, die to this world. Our lungs will cease to breath, our heart will cease to pump, our cells will cease their reproductive processes, eventually to decay into their base components, returning to the matter from which our parents created us…all but our eternal soul. Our soul cannot perish in this world for it is not of this world. It contains no matter, no atoms, no mesons, no quarks. It was created by God and implanted into our mortal bodies. It cannot die because it is the energy of life itself, not belonging to this universe, or to any universe. It was created outside of space and time, and it is to there that it must return.

It is that process of returning whence it originated that we will cover in the next installment.

 

As always, please feel free to ask questions.

Weathering the Storms

2209464-bigthumbnailLife is full of storms that we all have to weather, some are easier than others. Paul had a literal storm to weather, but in any case storms can bring into question the strength of our faith, and were we seek and find comfort.

Over the past two years I have had what seems like a never ending sea of storms, one after the other. Things started off with the onset of arthritis in my right hand (and the realization that I am allergic to every arthritis medication), that was soon followed by a bout of plantar fasciitis. The hardest thing any parent has to deal with happened last year when my son passed away at the young age of 34. Next came a sprained tendon in me left arm, which I am still dealing with (the arthritis and sprain have kept me from posting much as typing is not easy). In January of this year I started having severe back pains, which turned out to be massive kidney stones. The kidney stone required two operations to completely remove, with the end result of inflaming my prostate to the point that it now requires an operation to get it back to functioning properly (awaiting word on when that will occur).

Medications I have been on to deal with the pain have had me dealing with the side effect of depression. The most severe cases have passed, though I still have times where I have trouble convincing myself to get up to do anything. Doesn’t help that I have some restrictions on my activities (haven’t been able to hike for better than 9 months now).

I am not looking for sympathy, I write this to simply point out how the storms of life can hit us.

The hardest thing has been not being able to attend church services, it has been 4 months now since I have attended liturgy. Our faith is what we turn to when the going gets tough, we seek the words of consolation from Scripture, from others attending, and from the words of our priest/pastor/rabbi. It’s difficult when those resources are not available to us, so we turn to other sources of comfort and consolation. I have found, and rely upon, that replacement here on the blogs I follow. Most specifically they include:

Don Merritt’s The Life Post

Church Set Free, featuring Paulfg and Br. Francis-Claire

But, most especially, the short Christian motivations from Dr. K. L. Register. Through the months many of her posts feel like they have been directed specifically to me as they have fitted my mood and needs like the proverbial glove.

To be sure, my storms are no worse than many, perhaps you, have had, and far less than those others have experienced. I spent 30+ years working with disabled youth in one way or another, and it is amazing how children handle problems that bring adults to the very edge. Wheelchairs, mental acuity. obstacles our society places before them (and refuses to remove), yet they continue on with nary a bad word for anyone. Their love of us “normals”, their close (and unwavering) relationship with God (in whatever form they relate to Him in), has been an inspiration to me through the years. Next time you find yourself with nothing to do check out a local Miracle Field or Special Olympics event and just watch in awe as they deal with their problems, then ask yourself if you would have similar strength and still have a smile and hug to share with those around them…even strangers.

My faith has seen me though the hard times of the last two years, and I hope will see me through that which is still down the road. I write this now because the different operations I have ahead of me may preclude my return to the blogging world as anything more than a follower of other’s blogs. Again, do not feel sorry for me, nor look at this as an request for sympathy, I write this as an encouragement when storms come into your lives, seek out the Lord through the encouragement of Scripture and the writings of others. Let their words lift you out of the depression that hard times impose upon us, know that God has more planned for you in both this life an the next. Allow him to work through you, and your problems, to act as an encouragement to others.

God Bless.

%d bloggers like this: