Unconditional Love Requires Radical Forgiveness

BOOK REVIEW- I’ve only just started reading ‘Unconditional’ by Brian Zahnd and I have to say Wow. Zahnd gets to the very core of Jesus’ ministry; love & forgiveness. In the first couple of chapters he discusses stories from holocaust survivors Simon Wiesenthal (‘Sunflowers’), Corrie Ten Boom (‘The Hiding Place’), and Deitrich Bonhoffer (‘The Cost of Discipleship’).

7784363This book is from years ago, but here is a YouTube message he gave at Word of Life church in St. Joseph, Missouri a few months ago where he shares the same thing- Jesus’s call for His followers to share radical, infinite forgiveness. Matthew 5:44 Christianity is the only Christianity that can really change the world.

I began following Zahnd on Twitter and reading articles and blogs he’d written a few months ago and the longer I do the more Scriptural I find his theology and the more Christ-centered and love and grace based I find his opinions.

Zahn is the rare antidote for so much of American evangelicalism- neither the legalism, fear and anger of some hypocritical Pharisee types nor the shallow materialistic empty promises of those preaching nothing but blessing and triumph. This is authentic discipleship. Depth of meaning, sincere hope that isn’t based on or dependent on works-righteousness, but at the same time demands change, commitment and real repentance.

He’ll challenge your thinking and your assumptions.

I want my Christian friends who are prepared to put Jesus ahead of all other political, social and philosophical world views to give him a read. They may just find that the Jesus of the Bible and the early church of the New Testament aren’t what Western society would lead us to believe.

I want my friends who are thinkers, readers, skeptics and searchers to give him a read. They may just find that Jesus and the early church are not as far from the likes of Dostoyevsky, ‎Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Wiesenthal , MLK, Ghandi and others as American evangelicalism would lead us to believe.

And I want those of my friends languishing in limbo who feel like “the Church” doesn’t want them because they’re too worldly but that “the World” also doesn’t want them because they’re too “religious” to give Zahd a read, because they might just find that they aren’t as alone or isolated as they may have been feeling.

His newest book out is actually ‘Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God,‘ which I wanted to read first, but I couldn’t find it in the major Christian bookstore where I looked and I’ll be honest, I was too cheap to order it online- so, when I looked for it at 1/2 Price Books, I found ‘Unconditional’ instead. I’m glad I did. I look forward to reading ‘Sinners’ next, even if I have to pay full price.

 

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Cap’n Sam Asks; How do we ‘Form a more perfect union?’

Got a question for ya; Who are “We the people?” Who’s government is it? Who IS the government? Was it the 55 rich white guys at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787? Is it the people we’ve voted for who represent us in Washington D.C.? Is it the people who are hired to work in all to government agencies and departments and bureaus in national, state and local governments? Or is it you? Is it me? Is it us, U-S? If it is, what’s that mean? Are you prepared to govern? What do we need to be equipped to govern our America? 75 years later in his Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln called for a new birth of freedom so that government “OF the people, BY the people and FOR the people might not perish from this Earth.” What if it does? What would life be like? What’s it mean for life to be of, by, and for the people? I’ll as you again; who are “We the people?” What’s that mean to you? What’s it mean for all of us? I dunno, you tell me. YOU tell me.

POEM; Our Issue

I think I know what our issue is
at least I have an idea

To you, America is a noun

To me, America is a verb

To you, America is an INTERJECTION!

We were always taught that America is a conjunction,

But I’ve come to see it as a question,

I wonder if it shouldn’t be a preposition

I guess that’s our other problem;

I listen, read, consider, discuss, and then write

But you just watch and then shout.

I try to listen to you, but get so tired of the shouting
that I seek shelter in my reading

On rare occasion, you tell me that you want to listen to me,
but then it turned out that you were just looking for something new to shout about.

I know I could be wrong,
no doubt you’re ready to shout that I am,
but anyway- that’s what I’m beginning to think the problem might be.

Don’t miss the main point; Re-read the important stuff if you have to

FAITH TALK

I try to read through the Bible about once a year and it really all boils down to a few things. I’ve read the law and the prophets and the psalms and the proverbs in the old testament and I’ve read the gospels and the acts of the apostles and the epistles in the new testament and it all seems to come down to these:

Faith, Hope, and Love

Of course, the greatest of these is love. God is love, there is no fear in love. The whole of the law and the prophets is summed up in love the Lord your God with all your hear and all your soul and all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. The greatest commandment is to love one another.

But still, people who call themselves Christian demand, compete for and cheat to gain and maintain control (showing a lack of faith). They use fear as a tool to get leverage and to motivate, and they seem to be motivated by jealousy, defensiveness and anger- all showing their lack of hope.  And they behave and talk as if they’re motivated by hate. Even if/when they claim not to be, their actions and words convince other people that they are.

Now I don’t read Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic, and I realize that whether I like it or not, many people seem to interpret Scripture very differently than I do. I’m only human and I pray that if I’m way off base, God will correct my thinking, but I guess my suspicion is that most people who throw around the Bible to support their political, social or philosophical positions haven’t spent a lot of time reading it, let alone asking God’s Spirit to truly work on their hearts or change their character to be much like Jesus’.

You’re right- I’m not an ordained minister, I don’t have a ThD or a PhD or a DivD or RelD, or whatever expert degree in Biblical history, literature or doctrinal studies to make me the ultimate expert. I’m not God. I’m just another sinner like everybody else.

If you really want some credentials, I’ve taken undergraduate college-level religion and theology courses, been taught about at least basic level hermeneutics and exegesis and was given a diploma granting me permission to teach religion classes to 7-12th graders in Lutheran schools. I’ve taught adult (not very well) and youth (not very well attended) Bible studies and helped my wife teach junior high Sunday School classes. I’ve served as an elder at two congregations and on the church council at one.

None of that makes me any holier than the next schmoe or more better, smarter, or the definitive expert on God’s Word- but even a numb-skull jerk like me can tell you that if your religion tells you to hate people, hurt people or deny them the same legal/social/economic/political rights as you, then there’s something very wrong with your religion.

May I suggest that either you’re not listening, you’re not willing to surrender and let God be God (and give up being god yourself) or you’re not bothering to read God’s Word as often or as deeply as you say you do (or as you think you do).

Ask yourself something. If God gave YOU your rights, your property, your money, your lifestyle, your position in life- what makes you think He hasn’t given those same rights to other people? Or don’t you think of all other people as people?

Which brings me to my next line of thought.

CIVICS 101

I end up reading through a lot of other things pretty much every year because I teach Civics. The Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Federalist Papers, the Bill of Rights and the rest of the Constitutional Amendments, our state constitution (Iowa,) a number of laws, treaties, Presidential speeches (including the Gettysburg Address)  and number of letters and speeches from other noted historical figures like Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

And guess what?

It really all boils down to a few things:

Liberty and Justice for ALL

Some read the Pledge of Allegiance and focus on the flag, the republic for which it stands or on God, but I stick on last three words because I’ve noticed a pattern where these three concepts (at least in synonym form) keep showing up in document after document.

The Mayflower Compact doesn’t address freedom (liberty) and it certainly didn’t offer rights or equality to women, natives or other non-whites, but it does say that the signers would offer all DUE obedience to any JUST laws meant for the GENERAL good of the colony. That certainly seems to cover justice and all.

I teach my Civics classes that at the core of the Declaration of Independence is that King George III and Parliament had broken the social contract (been unjust) to the colonists, therefore Congress believed that they were justified in separating from the mother country.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created EQUAL and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable RIGHTS… to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, whenever any government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it…”

The three principles there are equality, rights, and justice (social-contract), or if you reverse the order; liberty (rights and freedoms), and justice for all (equality).

The Preamble to the Constitution implies and assumes equality when it begins “We the people.” The “blessings of liberty” means the right to partake in participatory, representative-democracy. Establishing justice is the first goal meant to help us form our more perfect unity.

The First Amendment describes our most fundamental rights (including religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.  Other amendments cover many other rights and liberties and the Fourteenth Amendment in particular emphasizes the equal nature that justice is supposed to take.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address reminds us that America is supposed to be “dedicated to the proposition that ALL men are created equal” (as the Declaration says). Yet most people seem to miss that that proposition is the “great task remaining before us” to which Lincoln urges us to find increased devotion toward.

I contend, in fact, that his closing about “government of the people, by the people and for the people” embodies these same three concepts. It is OF the people because ALL people are created equal- there isn’t supposed to be a ruling class like in an aristocracy, oligarchy or plutocracy. It is BY the people because we all have a RIGHT (the LIBERTY) to participate- if not to run, then to vote, to speak up and speak out, to assemble and petition.

And this is the “creed” in his “I have a dream” speech that MLK imagines the United States rising up and finally living out. Keeping the contract that promised equal rights, because we’re ALL created equal and endowed by God with the same rights.

Liberty and justice for ALL.

I don’t see these three the least bit incompatible with faith, hope, and especially love. Bottom line; If you don’t believe ALL human beings are equal and therefore entitled to justice, equal rights, equal opportunities, equal dignity, equal respect and fair treatment- well, you’re not doing “America” right.

I recommend reading some of the documents that formed this great experiment in participatory government. You don’t have to be a History Major or take a graduate course in political science. The Declaration, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address are all a Google-search away, for free. There are free versions available on many app for your phone. Look for whenever you see those three concepts of equality, rights and social-contract, AKA liberty, and justice for ALL.

If you STILL can’t see what I see, if you STILL don’t find that governments exist to protect rights and we have rights because we’re all created equal- if you still aren’t humbled or inspired toward altruism, compassion and community- if you’re still convinced that America is for only a chosen, exceptional few and government’s only role is to protect the privileges and property of those few- well, then, may I recommend that you start reading the Bible and look for the core message THERE.

End of sermon (rant/plea/manifesto- whatever you want to call it.

 

 

From Saul to Paul

itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/nomad-podcast/id301419170

Fascinating interview. Saul’s conversion to Paul wast just from persecuted to apostle, it was from law-to-gospel, from zealous fundamentalist to humble servant-leader. From controlling to connecting, from the idolatry of identity to being dedicated to the ministry of reconciliation.

Zen at the lake

3 Core Principles found in the Declaration of Independence

New Podcast