Theology made simple
Jesus repeated Hebrew law when he taught to love your neighbor. He took it further in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) when he said to also love your enemy.
Saint Paul, for all he’s accused of being full of law and of not being Jesus summed up Jesus whole teaching in one verse:
Galatians 5:14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
One of my favorite passages in the epistles is from Saint John:
1 John 4: 16-21 NIV
16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
Keep that in mind, “God is love.”
Now let’s try a little thought experiment. First let’s take Paul’s famous “Love chapter,” read at a lot of weddings and on Christian Valentine’s Day cards. It’s so well known, lots of non Christians are familiar with it. Only let’s replace the word “love” every time it occurs with the word “God.” This will tell us about God’s character and personality.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV 4 God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. 5 God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. 6 God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Interesting, huh? I know, it may be easier to use the name Jesus instead of God because many of us imagine Gad the Father as stern and just and someone who enforces law. But remember, Jesus teaches that God’s greatest commandment is to love, even to pray for those that persecute us. And of course John says that God IS love and Paul says that love is patient, kind, doesn’t envy, etc. So….
Okay, one more. There’s a big movement going around in fundamentalist, or at least Evangelical, Christian-nationalist circles that says that we’re supposed to fight a big culture war for God and thereby dominate everyone else (non Evangelicals). They even talk about seven areas to “take dominion” and compare them to the seven hills around the city of Rome: family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business, and government.
First off, as a devout follower of Jesus who’s studied the Bible for many years, I could’ve sworn that all authority in heaven and earth belongs to Jesus, not to me or us. In fact, in Philippians chapter 2, Paul makes it pretty clear that in spite of being entitled to all authority, Jesus instead chooses humility and that we should follow that example. In other words, Christianity is supposed to be love, not power, kindness, not control. Mercy should triumph over judgment (James 2:13).
If you don’t get that love is supreme, I’m not sure you really get Jesus.
One last thought experiment. Let’s take a passage that the dominionists like to use, only where we replaced the word love in 1 Corinthians 13, let’s replace the word “God” in 2 Corinthians 10, after all love isn’t just God’s name, it’s really who God is.
2 Corinthians 10:5-8 NIV5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of love, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to love. 6 And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.7 You are judging by appearances. If anyone is confident that they belong to love, they should consider again that we belong to love just as much as they do. 8 So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the love gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, plenty of people claim to believe in Jesus, but do they believe what Jesus believes? I for one believe in love.
Leave the Church Empty on Easter
Don’t risk your or the public health during a pandemic to worship. Plenty of churches are posting opportunities to worship online.
Some, like mine are (weather permitting) trying drive-in (window closed, following state guidelines). Anyone telling you govt. guidelines preventing worship violates your rights is irresponsible, after money, or political- not genuinely religious.
Yes, that includes people named “Rev.” Falwell, Graham, or “Sen.” Paul. No, I’m not liberal for saying that- they’re charlatans for telling you to risk lives. They’re not being persecuted, they’re promoting themselves, not Jesus.
Don’t believe me- see what Jesus said about it Himself:
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
“But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Yes fellowship, community & corporate worship are important parts of being Christian, but being denied these things at this time is not persecution.
Perhaps this epidemic will challenge more of us to pray and read the Bible on our own & develop personal relationships with God instead of leaving religion to one hour, one day a week. And perhaps it will encourage us to talk about our faith, pray, and worship together as couples or small nuclear families as Martin Luther & Deitrich Bonhoeffer both encouraged. Then once we do resume corporate worship together in a few weeks or months, we’ll have a deeper appreciation for God & our beliefs and our church communities will be more authentic, more vulnerable and more fervent.
Isn’t this time giving you more bv appreciation for Early believers who gathered in homes, boats, beaches, hillsides, graveyards, sewers & catacombs?
Jesus doesn’t need a building. He needs you.
“…like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 2:5