Love or Sin

 

 

Since I insist on talking about politics and religion all the time, I get a fair amount of blow back. From the religious Right, it generally takes the form of reminding me that “real” Christians  like themselves are warned in scripture “about people like me.”

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1Jn 4: 1-6)

I often laugh at this, for I of course would often be of a mind to recite the same or similar verses as to them if I were of such a mind.

For truly I am of the opinion that many on the right say a good deal that is false and not “of the spirit.”

As I listened to James 2: 1-5 this morning, I heard reference to this, though I admit it is not what people usually think of when they read or hear it.

My brothers and sisters, show no partiality
as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes
comes into your assembly,
and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in,
and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes
and say, “Sit here, please, ”
while you say to the poor one, “Stand there, ” or “Sit at my feet, ”
have you not made distinctions among yourselves
and become judges with evil designs?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.
Did not God choose those who are poor in the world
to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom
that he promised to those who love him?

There are plenty of teachings in scripture which deal with the dangers of wealth and more so the dangers of paying too much homage to it. We are, contrary to the Republican Party’s claims against the Democrats, not a people who begrudge the wealthy their riches, we are more likely to be star-struck by those who live “above” us.

But as I said, I saw something different here. The one with golden rings and fine clothing, I would suggest, may be the one with the flowery language who encourages us to believe the snake oil he or she is selling. Such a person may tell us things that make us feel good, and I would argue, often have ready-made excuses for why your life isn’t what you wish it were.

Beware, my beloved of those who remove your own burden of responsibility by attempting to shift it to someone one (ones) else, whom you can blame. And beware all the more when those “others” are declared to be wanting in faith and God’s grace.

I would argue that those speakers are most assuredly the false prophets.

How often has it been that the poorest, most ill-educated often has the greatest wisdom? How often do we hear words that thrill us to the heart from people of very different faiths. Who does not nod in agreement at the words that come from say a Thich Nhat Hanh? Or a Dalai Lama?

Jesus, you remember was the poorest of itinerant preachers. He spoke about things that were definitely not kosher if you will, when it comes to the standard Jewish teaching.  That is why so many who were learned and “cultured” dismissed him as some radical troublemaker. He didn’t preach against the Pharisees so much as he admonished them to their faces when they attacked him with their sly questions. To his sheep, he told them the simple lessons of God’s love and how they could enter the kingdom.

Throughout the scriptures we are advised to avoid those who hearts are not on God, but who claim they speak for God.

The trouble is, it is very hard for any of us mere mortals to know who is and who is not teaching falsely. Some think it easy, but that is only because they are blinded by their own arrogance. You see, they think that there is but one interpretation of scripture, and they surely have it. Thus when someone sees it different–bingo you have identified a false teacher.

Of course, most of us can see the fallacy in such reasoning and such judgment. Most of us know that the ineffable is well, to a great extent unknowable by us. We do our best to understand, but as Augustine often said, most of what we decide is true about God is probably not.

I know of only one guiding principle, and it is I admit based nearly entirely upon my own theological beliefs. I believe that God is love, pure and simple and that all that God is is a constant reaffirmation of that fact and an attempt to bring it forth in the world through us, his creation. Anything that separates any of us from God, is in my mind, not from God. Any who preach this, who preach that some are “others” and must conform to their way of thinking in order to be saved, is probably speaking from ego rather than grace.

Is the message Love or Sin? Sin, it seems to me, is in the act of keeping God’s children from God and from each other.

But that is my opinion.

Reach for love my friend and God be with you.

Amen

 

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Tim Wolfe
    Sep 10, 2012 @ 05:55:55

    So beautifully said, Sherry! Actually, your “love test” couldn’t be more theologically sound–straight from Jesus: “By this shall they know you’re My disciples if you love one another.”

    Many people (like the Pharisees in last Sunday’s “dirty hands” text) try to create a loophole, reasoning that the ultimate form of love is condemnation, as that will spare those of us they don’t agree with from eternal damnation. This is clearly a case of the student presuming to surpass the Teacher, as it is Jesus Whom God sent into the world to give us eternal life. They don’t need to “save” anybody. They just need to love. Anything but pure, unconditional love–especially the attempt to alter another’s eternal fate–overreaches and thus falls woefully short.

    Trying the spirits is exactly as you say–an assessment measured by pure love, not condemnation or divisiveness disguised as love. This is a sobering realization for many, one they’re reluctant to accept.

    So good, Sherry! Thank you!

    Blessings, dear friend,
    Tim

    Reply

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