Nothing Else Matters (Reflection)

Nothing20Else20MattersFaith (God)
At the foundation of our lives is our faith, whether we are aware of it or not. Now, faith is not just a simple belief in something or someone; faith is where we place our hope, trust, our dependence. As small children, our faith was in our parents, who provide everything for us. As we got older, and more independent, we begin to adjust our faith dependency to other people or even things: teachers, friends, religions, political systems/figures, intellect, science, money, self-image, etcetera.  But, if we are honest, we soon come to realize that our parents or other people or things or systems or intellect are not 100% worthy of our trust. These people, things, etc., are very fallible and sometimes (or oftentimes) harmful or unhealthy.

However, if we were fortunate to have been brought up in a healthy, nurturing family system that emphasized a truly loving, gracious God as foundational or we later discovered a truly loving, gracious God (without being constrained to a strict dogmatic religious construct) our faith may be said to be based on the eternal spiritual foundation of love. This is what St. John discovered when he said, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). Thus, what matters, first and foremost, is expressing our faith in love as the meaning and purpose of our lives: “When we are in Christ, being religious or not doesn’t mean anything. What matters most is faith expressing itself through love” (Gal 5:6).

Family (Jesus)
Moving forward from this eternally existent foundation of faith as the crux of what matters in life, we practice faith expressing itself in love in our present lives to our fellow beings. We live and love out of the “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27) This is filial love, the love of other not as other but as an extension of our very own humanity—our family. The Christ that is in me is the Christ that is in you. We are indeed all brothers and sisters in Christ.

Our view of the world then becomes this: there are no borders, or nations, or religions, or politics, or any constructs that can separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus. We are all interconnected by a Divine Reality. When we move beyond the dualistic belief that there is a material reality separate from the spiritual reality, and instead move towards an integrated spiritual/material reality, the barriers that separate us are broken down. As I said in my last post, the dividing veil has been torn in two. We were blind, but now we see through the veil (or the pall), and the indwelling Christ compels us to love the world.

Future (Holy Spirit)
Therefore, we recognize that to live in the here and now as faith expressing itself in love means that we are being called to co-create another world—a just world—a Society or Commonweal of Love—the eternal City of God. The divided world we are now living in needs reconciliation (re-integration), and the movement towards our preferable future is no less than a social revolution. Prior to being able to co-create this world means, of course, destroying the idolatrous world of harmful dualistic beliefs, systems, and structures which are not life-giving, but life-destroying. Our call, especially as those who name the Name of Christ, is to become revolutionaries who struggle, yes even with those who do not name the Name of Christ, but who understand the struggle and need to co-create God’s Commonweal of Love.

So, nothing else matters except our eternal God-given faith in Christ expressing itself in love to our family (the whole world) and participating with the Spirit in the co-creation of the eternal City of God.

© Paul Dordal, 2017

For or Against? Being Good News to the World (Reflection)

ForOrAgainstJesus came bringing the Good News (the Gospel) of salvation to the world, and charged his followers to do the same (Mk 1:14; 16:15). Yet, there has been much talk recently about the presentation of Christianity as unattractive, especially in America – as often not being Good News, but bad news of condemnation of people who are not Christians.

Christians are frequently, but unfortunately, known, by unbelievers and some believers alike, for the bad they are against rather than the good they are for.  There is a hypocrisy here that is without question, as the focus of some Christians is to create “scapegoats” of the “bad people” in the society, while these same Christians view themselves as the “good people.”

My wife, Martha, reminded me of how often, growing up, she heard Romans 1:18-32 used in the pulpit to condemn homosexuality (vv 26-28), while completely ignoring the sins committed by just about everyone in the congregation (vv 29-31). Hence, Christian traditionalists are routinely judged for their unbalanced stance against:  homosexual marriage, divorce, abortion, pre-marital sex, alcohol consumption, evolution, and the list can go on and on.

It seems to me that too often the political, religious, and/or social conversations which take place in the United States start from a polemic of for or against.  This makes the conversation over contentious issues often more a diatribe, rather than a dialogue that will help promote spiritual growth and mutuality. Interestingly, for those who are accused of being against something, those same people can usually make an anti-statement read like a pro-statement.  For instance, most theologically conservative Christians are anti-abortion, but refer to themselves as pro-life. Thus, perspective comes into play when making the statement that someone may be more negative than positive. But let’s not be naïve here and simply use semantics to make ourselves out to be the good guys and the other the bad guys.

Fortunately, there are many Christians who would like the (religious, social, and political) public square conversations to become more positive and dialogical.  What would it be like for Christians to be known more for what they are truly for rather than against (and I am not talking attitudinally, like being more loving or compassionate)?   I believe if Christians would shift the emphasis of the conversation from the overly sensual moral issues of our day to the more justice oriented teachings of Jesus, we would find more allies and have a greater opportunity to witness for the life-changing Gospel of Christ.

Jesus said, “Whoever is not against you is for you” (Lk 9:50, NET).  We have more allies for the faith than we sometimes think.  Conversely, if we believe that the world is against us, then we will assume a posture of being on the defensive, condemning the “bad people,” rather than being proactive by finding what Christians have in common with others of different or no faith.

I believe there are three Gospel imperatives which Jesus clearly taught which can be areas where more traditional Christians could find excellent ground for collaboration with progressive Christians and non-Christians (and atheists), and which will foster God’s Kingdom advance in the world.  Unfortunately, there are many Christians who are unaware of or simply disregard Jesus’ clear teachings in these areas, so it is important to note that this blog post is written not to the world, but to the Christian who is either ignorant of or ignoring important Biblical truths proclaimed by Christ.

First, and foremost, Christians should be known for peace.  I find it almost impossible to understand how Christians have historically twisted the clear non-violence teachings of Christ in order to support wars and oppression of all kinds.  Jesus said, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Mt 5:39, NET). Christians are clearly called to be pro-peace (Mt 5:9), which would also be understood as firmly against the use of violence (anti-war).   We ought to always stand for peace and against war in all situations.  We should be for the development of the capacities of people and vehemently against the arms trade which brings so much death.  Since many Christians erroneously see patriotism as a biblical imperative, Christians have, sadly, not been united in this area.  It is high time for Christian leaders, especially Orthodox, Evangelical and Catholic ones, to clearly join the chorus of the peace-promoting Christian groups (Mennonites, Quakers, many Mainline Protestants, Red-Letter Christians, and others).

Second, American Christians ought to be known for justice.  This would mean that Christians would be against practices like the death penalty, the use of torture, the slave trade, institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia, and anything that diminishes the inherent dignity of humans (with as much fervor as they are opposed to abortion). Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” (Mt. 5:6,NET).   Christians who are justice seekers are not happy or satisfied because of what they get, but what they give to others.  Justice oriented Christians see Jesus in the poor, the marginalized (people of color, women, homosexuals, etc.), and those are very different from them.  This leads to third imperative in our day: the love of the immigrant.

American Christians have a clear scriptural duty to be for the alien.  Ironically, most American citizens who are Christians are either immigrants or the children or grandchildren of immigrants.  Have we forgotten what God said to the Israelites, “So you must love the resident foreigner because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Dt 19:19, NET)?  Borders are meant to divide and nation-states were constructed to separate, but Christ wants to bring all people into global citizenship in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus said, “people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and take their places at the banquet table in the kingdom of God” (Lk 13:29, NET). Our being for the alien is not just an advocacy, but a love of those different from us.  “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the [oppressors] do the same, don’t they? And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the [unbelievers] do the same, don’t they?” (Mt 5:46-47, NET).

Clearly, we have Gospel mandates that are just (and maybe more) important than some of the social issues that many conservative Christians overemphasize.  Can we seek a balance between the either/or and for/against polemics for which we are often responsible?  Jesus boiled down our mission to love of God and neighbor.  And just who is my neighbor: those who I might think are my enemies; people who are differently situated than me; and; people from other lands who would like to dwell in community with me.

© Paul Dordal, 2015