People do not change. …except….


People do not change. They almost never can.
Though some people have their eyes opened.
Then others say, “Oh, how you have changed!”
Yet nothing has really changed, except a blind person can see.

People do not change. They almost never can.
Though some people who were lost, get found.
Then others say, “Oh, how you have changed!”
Yet nothing has really changed, except a lost person is found.

People do not change. They almost never can.
Though some people are raised from the dead.
Then others say, “Oh, how you have changed!”
Yet nothing has really changed, except a dead person is alive again.

Amazing grace!

© Paul Dordal, 2016


The Apology That Leads to True Freedom (Reflection)

freedom-allSaint Justin, in his First Apology, warned of the demonic forces which attempt to enslave the world. The follower of Jesus, however, Justin Martyr says, is empowered to be free from the demons of sexism, capitalism, racism, nationalism, and imperialism (First Apology, 14). Justin’s list of systems of oppression put a social justice frame around the apostolic, but often obscure, teachings of Saint Paul who said, “We fight these demons, these powers and principalities, not with the military weapons of the world, but with the nonviolent, but powerful and living Word of God” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

The liberating teachings of Christ and his prophets and their repudiation of the demonic systems of domination and oppression today need to be preached again, primarily to the Church and then to the world. Unfortunately, the tremendous good which the Church does is often overshadowed by its succumbing to evil and being complicit with the injustices of abuse of power, seeking prestige, and the acquiring of vast amounts of wealth and property. These injustices require a constant critique of the Church. Thankfully, the Church is Holy and cannot be fully overtaken by Satan and the demons (Matthew 16:18). Nevertheless, it can surely benefit from a critique from within and hopefully grow in holiness.

There are three, but not just three, primary ways in which the Church has regularly become complicit with the demons and principalities.  It has often desired power, prestige, and property. Through its hierarchy, its pomp, and its acquired wealth, the Church has been infiltrated and  controlled by demonic powers. The first step in exorcising the Church of these worldly influences is to recognize this possession and to name the demons (Mark 5:9).  Thus, naming the world in love, as Paulo Freire espoused, we are able to expose the oppressor and to transform ourselves and them as well.

Upon naming these demons of abuse of power, of prestige, and of property, the Church is now able to be dispossessed of these possessions.  Go and sell all, Jesus says to the Church, and give to the poor, and then come follow me (Luke 12:33; 18:22). The Church by supporting and participating in hierarchical and patriarchal systems, by seeking societal standing and reputation, and by the purchasing and ownership of lavish properties has been knowingly and unknowingly used throughout history by Satan to contribute to the oppression of God’s good earth and her very good people.

What now shall the Church do? Apologize? St. Paul says there is a false sorrow that leads to spiritual death, but only a godly sorrow marked by repentance which leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).

No, it is time for the Church to repent, to change, to be set free by dispossessing itself of its institutional power, prestige, and property.  And then to present to the world, as Saint Lawrence did, the only true treasure of the Church: its agape people.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

A New Flat Earth Society? (Reflection)

flat earthFor millennia top-down hierarchy has been thought to be the natural or innate way in which humans organize society. Animal societies seem to indicate that social hierarchies are part of the innate structure of the animal world. To this day most human societies are organized around hierarchies (i.e., Government, Businesses, Religions, etc.).  Yet, is the spiritual and intellectual evolution of the human animal beginning to call into question the innateness of hierarchical social organization? Why is that more and more people are calling for a flatter way to organize human society, a more equal way to facilitate community life? I am meeting many people who have had “aha” moments because they have come to realize how unjust hierarchies inherently can be.

Hierarchies, by their design, simply can’t work to build an equal and peaceful society. Hierarchies, no matter how well intentioned, quickly devolve into relationships of division, mistrust, and injustice. Hierarchies, to be just, will work only when those at to the top, who have most of the power and resources, voluntarily distribute an equalizing amount of power and resources down to those who have less.  But this rarely happens, as can easily be seen from the great disparity of wealth and power throughout history and especially in our current times. Furthermore, inherent to hierarchy is the stratification of relationships, so that those who are on the bottom are often oppressed by those above; those on the bottom often feel left out, left behind, and left alone.

Yet, Jesus says to us today, as he did two thousand years ago, “It mustn’t be this way among you. Those who want to be at the top or who wish to organize life around hierarchies must forsake these ideas and become servants to all” (Mt 20:26).  Jesus is saying that the cycle of oppression and injustice will not end by bringing those on the lower tiers of the hierarchies up a few rungs or even by empowering the strongest of those on the bottom to reach the top.  The cycle only can end when those with power forsake their power and deconstruct the hierarchies so that equality and freedom can be achieved for all (Lk 12:33). Jesus’ prophetic call is the repudiation of oppressive hierarchical power (Mt 23:9-11).

There are some who believe that those on the top of hierarchies cannot be negotiated with, that only violence can be used to bring down corrupt hierarchical powers. Admittedly, many people with exorbitant amounts of money, power, and resources do not seem very eager to voluntarily divest themselves that the poor and the oppressed will be lifted up. But history shows us that when a violent revolution overthrows an unjust hierarchy, they are quickly replaced with a new unjust hierarchy. So, what can those who believe in a Gospel of nonviolence do?  Thankfully, history also shows that nonviolent resistance and action can be used to topple unjust structures of hierarchy, often to more long lasting and positive effect.  Though we could cite myriad examples from local nonviolent resistors, the more well-known examples of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Aung San Suu Kyi are proof that nonviolence is not only the right method but nonviolence also works.

A couple of months ago, while in morning prayer, I read in One Bread, One Body, a Roman Catholic devotional, that Jesus was a militant (June 13, 2016).  I was surprised to read this coming from such a conventional Catholic publication.  But it was Jesus’ militant nonviolent stance which the writer was alluding to. Jesus was militantly nonviolent; he called the world to peaceful conversion, not destruction.  And we are called to follow Jesus, to love our enemies by being militantly nonviolent, to call all to conversion to become peacemakers— to wage peace, not war.

As peacemakers, we vigorously wage peace, where others wage violence; we grow love, where others sow hatred; we seek to build bridges, where others build walls; and, like Jesus we are called to confront the hierarchical powers and sacrifice all so that others may truly live.

To bring down the hierarchies of this world, to bring about a new flat earth society, means using nonviolent means to ensure that all are free and equal.  This is the Gospel of nonviolence—the proclamation of a new way of living— the process of bringing the Commonweal of Love to earth as it is in heaven.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

Christendumb (Reflection)

The DeserterAfter just a few hundred years, as the Church grew rapidly despite intense persecution and without any political power, Christianity suffered its greatest blow to its credibility and viability as a movement of God’s authentic people.  In 313 the Church went to bed with Emperor Constantine and became part of the Kingdom powers of this world. The late Phyllis Tickle, encouraged by a new movement of authentic Christian faith in the 21st century, remembered this situation all too well.  “[T]here is no question that Constantine’s preempting of Christianity in the fourth century was the great pivot point by means of which Christianity became a dominant institution” (2008: 161). This pivot point is commonly known as the beginning of Christendom (Christian + Kingdom), which I believe should be known as the era of Christendumb.

Why is it dumb for Christianity to be a kingdom? Didn’t Jesus announce and proclaim the Kingdom of God come to earth (Mt 3:2, 6:10)? No, not in the way we commonly understand kingdoms. Jesus was using the vernacular of his day to make his point, but he was not promoting developing a Christian kingdom, like the kingdoms of his, or even our, day.  Jesus when asked if he was a king replied, “My kingdom is not from this world” (Jn 18:36a, NET). What Jesus was actually proclaiming was what I am now calling the Commonweal of Love.

To put it simply, Jesus’s kingdom is not a kingdom at all, because it is not about power.  Kingdom’s, nations, empires, like the United States, are power-based domination systems.  The era of Christendumb was all about power, and even when the Reformation came, other denominations, Lutheran, Anglican, etc. went to bed with or were the state powers of their time.  They were, and still are, (de)domination systems meant to control others.

One of the scariest things about Donald Trump (his rhetoric is fascist, plain and simple) is that he claims that he will give Christianity power again if elected.  Religious leaders like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr. have sidled up to Trump in the hope that they too will have power. The response of all Christians to Trump and all denominational authorities should be resoundingly, “We don’t want your power, nor do we need it.”

To put it more clearly, if Christians were to have power then they could fight and kill just like the immoral nations of this world, especially the United States.  But Jesus said, “If my kingdom belonged to this world, my servants would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders.  But as it is, my kingdom is not from here” (Jn 18:36b, NET).  Jesus does not call us to have power, lest we fall into the temptation of the world towards domination and oppression.  St. Paul also proclaimed the strangeness of our commonweal of love and the pacifist attitude of Christians who live an alternative (anarchist) lifestyle: “For though we live as human beings, we do not wage war according to human standards, for the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God …” (2 Co 10:3-5a, NET). Our weapons are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Ga 5:22-23a, NET).

Christian should have no interest in the powers – the States, Empires, Nations, and Denominations of this world.  They are abstract objects, no-things; they are like deceptive idols (see Habakkuk 2:18 and 1 Corinthians 12:2).  Christians are inaugurating the new commonweal of love because “our citizenship is in heaven…” (Ph 3:20a, NET).

Mohammed Bamyeh said, “… the fundamental starting point in a consistent anarchist conception [is a] … duty toward humanity” (2009: 30).  “Fundamental to anarchist thought therefore is apprehending human reality in a non-abstract manner.  This perhaps is why anarchy has historically been oriented to local community, where human bonds are both experienced in everyday life and negotiated there as well.  Anarchists therefore do not belong to nations” (2009: 37).

That our citizenship is in heaven, i.e. the “kingdom” of God as Jesus preached it, is the real lived out, commonweal of love. The commonweal of love is experienced in the local “places” of relationships wrought in the Kairos time of the immediate reality of our lives.  Christians, like anarchists, do not belong to nations; we belong to Christ and the world, where we live and breathe as a no-nation under God.

Bamyeh, A. Mohammed (2009). Anarchy as Order.  The History and Future of Civic Humanity. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishing.

Tickle, Phyllis (2008). The Great Emergence.  How Christianity is Changing and Why. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

Intervening in Uncle Sam’s Addiction to War (Essay)

Over twenty years ago I took my last drink.  I didn’t do it on my own; I couldn’t do it on my own.  There had to be an intervention. I didn’t even want to acknowledge that I was an addict. Although it has been a blessing to be sober for all these years, it is still hard work.  Every day I have to humble myself and admit that I am an addict to ward off the possibility of taking another drink or drug.  I have to be accountable to several people in my family and my recovery group. Additionally, I regularly engage in specific behaviors (steps) to help me stay free from my addiction.

As a recovering addict I am keenly aware when I see an active addict. I know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of addictions. And as I look at the United States, I have come to the extremely sad conclusion that this country, that my Uncle Sam, is severely addicted to war. Just as I had to first admit my addiction to become free, so too, we as a country have to admit our addiction to war.  And just as I had to cease from my own addictive behaviors, take a personal moral inventory, and make amends to all I had wronged, so too, we as a nation have to take these steps as well.

222 out of 239So, what were the symptoms I recognized with the U.S.’s addiction to war?  First, I saw that the country could not go long without falling back into its addiction.  Of course, the U.S.’s latest war has been going on now for over 15 years, but the real sign of the acute nature of America’s war addiction is that the U.S. has been at war for 222 out of its 239 years of existence.  Amazingly, the U.S. has been at war for 93% of its life.[i]

Another symptom of the U.S.’s addiction to war is the amount of money it spends on its Tax Papers Per Houraddiction.  Every hour of every day, taxpayers are spending $8,360,000 to feed their country’s war habit.  And over the last 15 years, American taxpayers have spent more than $1,700,000,000,000 on Uncle Sam’s addiction to war.[ii]

Imagine having an alcohol or drug habit where more than fifty cents of every dollar you earned was spent on your drug of choice.  Surely, you would be considered an addict in desperate need of an intervention and recovery plan.  Of course, because of the exorbitant amount of money an addict spends on his or her habit, they are often severely malnourished, under-educated, extremely sick and often without adequate healthcare. Addicts are always in danger of losing their homes and their behavior negatively impacts the environment around them. Isn’t this also what is happening because of the U.S.’s 2015 Discretionary Spendingaddiction to war?  The percentage of tax dollars spent on war in 2015 was 54% of the total budget or $598.5 billion dollars.[iii] And because American’s allow their government to spend so much of their hard earned money on war, there is precious little left for the basic needs of food, housing, education, and healthcare for the most at risk citizens.

Our addiction to war has gotten so severe since we “won” World War II, like so many alcoholics and addicts, the U.S. has left ripples of death and destruction in its wake.   Since
1945 more than 160,000 Americans have died in over seventy-five U.S. wars and military interventions in over fifty foreign nations. Maybe more tragic, more than 20 million people from other countries have died in U.S. wars and military interventions.[iv] We need to make amends to all those we have wronged, to the vets who fought iDeaths Since WWIIn these wars and the millions of innocent civilians who were immorally killed by our country. We need to admit that we were wrong, and humbly ask that our defects of national character be removed so that we can become peacemakers not warmongers.

The United States has active duty military troops stationed in nearly 150 countries around the world, which is the most in the history of our nation.[v]  Our addiction to war is so
acute it could be easily thought that we were not only homicidal but suicidal as well.  Furthermore, we are no longer only addicts, but the U.S. is also the leading pusher of the drugs (weapons) of war. Last year we sold almost $30,000,000,000 in weapons to over 75 countries around the world.[vi] How much longer can we sustain this habit before we crash and burn and take everyone around us down with us?

Steps to Recovery from War Addiction
Isn’t it time for an intervention with our addicted Uncle Sam, and also call to responsibility all of his relatives, the citizens of the United States, who are enabling Sam’s addictive behaviors? Before this country overdoses on war and destroys our planet, each of us has to surrender and become part of the U.S. recovery process from war and violence.  So, what is the first step?

First, we will admit we are addicted to war or at least we were connected to someone (the U.S.) who is addicted to war.  Now, some of you reading this are in denial; you don’t want to admit there is a problem.  I know you are afraid; so was I. Taking my first step in actual sobriety was hard, and so was my first step in becoming a peacemaker (especially as a war veteran).

Second, we will acknowledge that we as a nation are responsible for so much of the conflict and injustice in the world, and we will humbly seek repentance and forgiveness. This includes seriously making amends and reparations to all we have harmed.

Third, we will reach out to other peacemakers, because we know we cannot become peacemakers without the help of others.  We can begin our own recovery process from our Steps Picaddiction to war by joining a local peace group. If you need help finding one, I would be more than happy to help you. However, if you simply GOOGLE “Peace Groups in my Zip Code,” I am sure you will be able to find a group meeting near you.

Fourth, we can contact our local congressperson and tell him or her that we will not be supporting war anymore, and that we will be watching them to see if they are going to be part of the problem or part of the solution.

Fifth, we can tell our family and friends that we are now working a peace recovery plan, and we will not be joining in their codependent behavior of supporting war. We will use social media to carry the message of peace to all the war addicts and violence lovers we know and care about.  Hopefully, others will join us in our new freedom from addiction to war.

Finally, we will need to celebrate.  It is hard work to be in recovery.  We need to encourage one another to stay the course, to take the work of peacemaking one day at a time and find joy in the process.  We will need courage to do the things we can to bring peace to our world and wisdom to work smart and not grow weary in doing the good that we are called to do. For me that means reaching up to my higher power and saying, “Thy will be done, thy peace come upon earth as it is in heaven.”

(c) Paul Dordal, July 11, 2016








Jesus Saves? (Reflection)

jesus-savesYears ago there was a woman who called into a Christian music radio station and excitedly told the D.J. that her daughter was listening to the station and “got saved.” The station played the recording of that call-in over and over again. Every time I heard it I asked myself, What did she get saved from? How did she get saved by listening to music? Now that she is saved, does she know why Jesus saved her? With deeper reflection, we must all ask what does it even mean to be saved?

Why did Jesus save you and me? In my experience with the Church’s doctrinal teaching, theologians seem to focus too much on the how of being saved; who’s in out, who’s out; and how it happens. But since we cannot know for sure how one is saved, thus who is and who is not saved, what is really gained from focusing so much on the how? The why question seems eminently answerable; the how question will always be an enigma.

I believe Jesus saved me so I could be in a deep, abiding relationship with God. This relation with our Creator through Christ is the only lasting satiation of the existential angst that we all experience because of our finite separation from an infinite God. By Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection we are all given intimate access to God as we open ourselves up to transcendent mystery.

Additionally, Jesus shows us, through his incarnational relationship to and with humanity, what it is to be in abiding, loving intersubjectivity with all creation. This includes primarily human relationships of love and compassion, but also the ecological connections we have as individuals with the whole world.

So, simply, we are saved to be one with God and with each other through Christ in an ongoing process of sanctification. Nevertheless, this pietistic understanding of faith is only half the story. Though we are ultimately saved on earth for eternal life with Christ in beatific union in heaven, we are also, and maybe more importantly, since we all live in the here and now, saved by Jesus so that we can abide with him as he brings heaven to earth through our Christian witness.

Thus, we are not saved just so we can go to heaven when we die; we are saved by Jesus so that heaven can come to and through us on earth as we live in Christ.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

Trinitarian “Intensionality” (Reflection)

TrinitySundayYesterday was Trinity Sunday on the liturgical calendar. I enjoy preaching on this Sunday because the Trinity is one of the most misunderstood core doctrines of the Church. Unfortunately, some also believe the Trinity to be an irrelevant doctrine. When I personally reflect on the doctrine of the Trinity I am blessed with mysterious insights and comforting assurances of the reality of God. But I also understand that doctrinal preaching is not the most well-received sermon style. So, I endeavor to make preaching doctrine not merely informational but transformational as well.

I attended a conference on Friday that was addressing race relations in the Church. I had a sense while listening to the conference speakers that the issue of divisions between the races is an area where the doctrine of the Trinity could have direct relevance for Christians. So in my sermon yesterday I used race relationships to help the attenders at chapel to understand the Trinity. I won’t rehearse my sermon here, but I do want to share briefly with you some reflections on how I came to my own understanding of how the Trinity intersects with race relations.

One of the eminent speakers at the conference I attended repeatedly used the term “being intentional” in her remarks about how to address racial divides in the Church. As I heard her speak, I believe the Holy Spirit gave me the word “in-tensional” to reflect on.

As I reflected on the word “in-tensional” I was reminded of an article I read a while back on Ego Development by Dr. Susanne Cook-Grueter, an expert in the area of personal development. She believes that individuals who are psychologically mature have developed an ability to discern and live comfortably in the tension between polar opposites (polarities). She notes that mature individuals are able to discern between seemingly value-laden (good/bad; wrong/right) and value-neutral (tall/short; boy/girl) polarities. Cook-Grueter said, “Since ego development theory is about meaning making, how we deal and work with polarities becomes a significant dimension to focus on in the context of enhancing our self-awareness and facilitating development.”

So what does this have to do with the Trinity? Well, first of all our language is not capable of understanding how three can be one or one can be three. Thus, believing in the Trinity has the potential of becoming polarizing. You see, the Trinity is a mathematical conundrum, but a paradoxical truth nevertheless. If we think of paradoxes as polarities (we value them as right/wrong), then there is no way we can live in the tension of those two poles (One God cannot be Three Persons/One God can be Three Persons). Hence for me the Trinity as a Mystery is not a tension to be solved, but a grace to be lived in. This is what I believe was the basis of my neologism of “intensionality.”

St. Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female–for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Ga 3:28, NET). Here the apostle is addressing the issue of tensions and polarities. This is not to say that a person’s Jewishness/Greekness or Blackness/Whiteness is obliterated because of his or her being in Christ. St. Paul is saying that the tension of the polarities is absorbed in the Trinitarian understanding of Christ, who exists in perfect tension with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The two can become one (or three as in the Trinity)! For all those interested in identity politics this may be a way to move towards integration out of the endless polarizations of divisive identity constructs: race, gender, ethnicities, diseases, etc.

Race relations are tense; they are in tension. The way forward is to sit in the tension of our differences—to be intentional and “intensional.” The way forward is to look to the doctrine of Trinity as our example of mystical and practical integration.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

Progress? (Reflection)

ProgressI remarked recently to my boss that when I was younger and studying Western history in middle and high school, I used to imagine myself living in other eras. The age of the Greek philosophers, the age of Christ, the age of scholasticism, and the age of the Renaissance were all eras of incredible human progress. I thought then, How amazing it must have been to live in those periods of history. But then I said to my boss, I have recently come to realize that we are living today in what might clearly be the most amazing era of history. I now imagine people in the future looking back on our era and saying, “Now, that was an amazing time to be alive!”

Philosophers and pundits have argued for centuries about what constitutes real human progress. Some have claimed that much “progress” has come at too great a price due to the loss of human life, and that history’s “golden ages” are wrongly glorified because they ignore the immense suffering of the majority of people alive during those times. Thus, progress seems to be best studied as a two-sided coin. Progress for one group of people could mean death for another group. For example, in our era the same planes that help humans fly have dropped bombs on innocents below. The same inventions like asbestos, lead-based products, and certain medicines that seemed so promising wound up killing millions of unsuspecting people. The same fuels that heat our homes, propel our cars and mass transit are also destroying the very environment we need to survive. The progress of the last century has been nothing less than remarkable, but the light that shines from that progress also casts a dark shadow that is too often ignored.

Progress in the West over the last 150 years, especially in the sciences and technology, has been nothing less than astounding. Because of the sciences we have travelled into space, seen cures for many diseases, and scientific advances will continue to astonish us even more in the future. Technology has provided new ways to make food more abundant, and the World-Wide-Web makes just about every bit of information and knowledge available at the fingertips for just about every person on earth. I could go on for pages describing the wonderfully helpful ways science, and her offspring technology, have made our lives better. It truly is an amazingly time to be alive, and hopeful too.

Yet, over the last century, as our world, especially in the West, has undergone seismic societal changes marked by undeniable technological progress, there have been prophetic voices that have challenged us to be very careful about how we understand this progress. These voices are not simply naysayers, modern-day Luddites, or what leadership experts call “laggards” on the change adoption curve. Like the prophets of old who called the people back to their gods, these voices are calling us back to our true humanity. They seek to remind us that science and technology too often work from premises that over mechanize humanity, thus dehumanizing us in the name of so-called progress. And though humans are indeed the learning species, science is too often dismissive of the notion that to be human is not to know everything, but to continually learn how to live in the mystery of paradox; that to learn is not to solve faith’s enigmas, but to seek joy-filled understanding within the tension of endless polarities; that true learning often comes from being critical, which I call the ability to unlearn untruth.

Unfortunately, science has become in many ways the new fundamentalism, with its uncompromising mantra that science will discover all that there is to be known, asking everyone to bow down at the altar of the laboratory or be excommunicated from the ostensible civilized world. Sadly, the beaker, the computer, and the pie chart are touted as providing all we need to know; these have become the new idols we are being called to worship. But the questions that will never be answered by science or technology is “Why we are here? How do I make sense of my life?” We will always need philosophers, theologians, and artists, who do not see humans as machines but beautiful creatures. Most of all we will need prophets, who say to the world, “Unless I see more love, I will never believe in the world’s (scientific & technological) progress.”

© Paul Dordal, 2016

This Is Eternal Life (Reflection)

eternal_life_titleFor many Protestant Christians (and Catholic and Orthodox Christians too), there is a clear and necessary connection that John 3:3 (“Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.'”) has with John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”).

Yet, there is another verse in John that is not always connected to the aforementioned two which will have a powerful impact for Christians who desire to live an abundant life today, and not just see this life as a way-station for the next. John 17:3 says, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ….”

Eternal life is living life in deep communion with God and Jesus through the Holy Spirit; not simply knowing where you are going to live when you die.  By connecting necessarily all three of the above verses together, the Christian will realize that eternal life, and the kingdom of God, has begun in their lives today.  This life is not a way-station for the next.  This today-eternal life is the critical part of really being born again, because it shows forth that God’s will can be done on earth as it is heaven. It shows how heaven has indeed come to earth in Jesus.  It emphasizes that Christ is really human and divine, and that we are like him in our resurrected life.

(c) Paul Dordal, 2016

Grace Revisited (Reflection)

graceIn Christianity, grace is often defined as the unmerited favor of God in Christ. This definition is connected to the notion that the relationship between God and humans is irreparably estranged because of humanity’s intrinsically deficient sin-nature and God’s perfect holiness.  And this definition, almost exclusively, is related to the soteriological view that God must “save” us in order that we can to go to a place after death called heaven. So, grace then is the gift of salvation (life after death) given to those who don’t deserve it. Yet, in order to receive this gift, one must “repent” of his or her sins and acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord and Savior of his or her life.

But God’s grace is so much more than that, isn’t it?  Isn’t God’s grace more of an experiential reality, rather than an intellectual or metaphysical one? Isn’t God’s grace more than an it? I want to feel God’s grace, to experience God’s grace, to be familiar with God’s grace; not just think about “it.”  Theologian Karl Rahner has rightfully expanded the definition of God’s grace as God’s self-communication to all humanity. That is, God is giving and has historically, since time immemorial, been giving grace, God’s self, as a gift to anyone who wanted to receive God in myriad ways.

When I experience God’s grace, I am experiencing so much more than the assurance of what will happen to me when I die.  Though God’s grace is greater and more amazing than I can ever express with words, I believe the more real or experiential aspects of my relationship to God in Christ are founded on three immediate realities of grace:  Grace as acceptance, grace as forgiveness, and grace as love.

God’s grace accepts me for who I am.  I am God’s son.  There is nothing I can do to change that, enhance it, or undo it.  And because I am God’s fully accepted son, I no longer have to succumb to shame—a shame that often tries to tell me that I am not good enough or that I am somehow deficient in my God-imaged humanity.  So, I apply the Gospel of grace to myself, and because I can accept myself, I can accept others as well.

God’s grace completely and always forgives, because I so often know not what I do. My sins, through Christ, are wiped away—past, present, and future.  Since, I often think and act selfishly, because I am self-deceived or I allow others to deceive me, I rely on the reality of God’s ever-present grace of forgiveness. And this forgiveness allows me to have a clear conscience and not wallow in guilt. As I appropriate God’s forgiveness, I walk in self-forgiveness.  And because I can forgive myself, I can forgive others.

God’s grace also fills me with unimaginable love, and this love brings me into the deepest intimate relationship with God.  I will never be alone; I will never be empty; I will never not be satisfied as I drink from the well of God’s never ending love.  God’s grace as love makes real relationship possible, and ultimately compels me to love myself, to care for my own being.  And because I can love myself, I can love others.

Three scriptures jump out to me: “Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory” (Ro 15:7, NLT).  “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ep 4:32, NLT). “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (Jn 13:34, NLT).  Christ accepts you and me; Christ forgives you and me; Christ loves you and me. Period.  Exclamation point!

In revisiting grace in the here and now, and not just for the future, helps me and should help you to experience the reality that “… now is the time of God’s grace, now is the day of salvation” (2 Co 6:2b).

© Paul Dordal, 2016