“Forgiveness is about being a freedom fighter…”

Forgiveness, Quote

“I really believe that when someone else does us harm, we’re connected to that mistreatment like a chain. Because forgiveness is nothing less than an act of fidelity to an evil-combating campaign. So it’s not an act of niceness. It’s not being a doormat. It really to me is more badass than that. Maybe retaliation, or holding on to anger, about the harm done to me doesn’t actually combat evil. Maybe it feeds it.

Because in the end, if we’re not careful, we can actually absorb the worst of our enemy, and on some level, even start to become them. So what if forgiveness, rather than being like a pansy way of saying, it’s OK, is actually a way of wielding bolt-cutters and snapping the chain that links us? Like it is saying, what you did was so not OK that I refuse to be connected to it anymore.

Forgiveness is about being a freedom fighter, and free people are dangerous people. Free people aren’t controlled by the past. Free people laugh more than others. Free people see beauty where others do not. Free people are not easily offended. Free people are unafraid to speak truth to stupid. Free people are not chained to resentments.

That’s worth fighting for. There really is a light that shines in the darkness, and that the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it.”

Nadia Bolz-Weber

The importance of the Trinity

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“The life of God—precisely because God is triune—does not belong God alone. God who dwells in inaccessible light and eternal glory comes to us in the face of Christ and the activity of the Holy Spirit. Because of God’s outreach to the creature, God is said to be essentially relational, alive as passionate love. Divine life is therefore also our life. The heart of the Christian life is to be united with the God of Jesus Christ by means of communion with one another.

The doctrine of the Trinity is ultimately therefore a teaching not about the abstract nature of God, nor about God in isolation from everything other than God, but a teaching about God’s life with us and our life with each other.”

Catherine Mawry LaCungna, God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life

Why Give?

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Why Give?

God doesn’t need our money. What he’s truly after is us. Yet, how we use money is a very accurate indicator of where our heart is and what we value. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Giving is an act of worship and an act of commitment; to

God doesn’t need our money. What he’s truly after is us. Yet, how we use money is a very accurate indicator of where our heart is and what we value. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Giving is an act of worship and an act of commitment; to the the community of believers, and those in need.

 

How Much Should I Give?

God has made us stewards, not owners. Everything we have belongs to God. So when we give something to God, we give him only what he has first given to us. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). When God created humans, He placed them in a position of managing the earth, not owning it (Genesis 2:15). This means the question is not, “how much of my money do I give God?” but “How much of God’s money to I keep?”

Still wondering how much should you give? A good starting point is to give 10% of your income. If that sounds like a sacrifice… Good, it should be. If it doesn’t, consider giving more.

As C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities [giving habits] do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities (giving) expenditure excludes them.”

 

How Should I Give?

You should give cheerfully, sacrificially, and regularly and in response to God’s love. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:7-8, “Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver. God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work.”

 

What Is An Example Of Scriptural Giving?

Acts 4:32-35 “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”

The paradoxical necessity of humiliation in exaltation

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Christ’s path to being lifted up (quite literally on the cross and from the grave) was through the means of being made less—taking on the form of a servant, becoming human, and humbling himself by becoming obedient to death by crucifixion. 

Likewise, our glorification necessitates we experience humiliation. The story of our freedom and salvation is not the story of our strength or greatness. It is the story of grace; a free and unmerited gift.  Therefore, if it is not by our strength or merit then we have no control over it. Pride and ego thus experience humiliation. If it is not by our by force or might, but through a crucified God, then human wisdom experiences humiliation.

“The way to Christ is first through humility, second through humility, and third through humility. If humility does not precede and accompany and follow every good work we do, if it is not before us to focus on, it it is not beside us to lean upon, if it is not behind us to fence us in, pride will wrench from our hand any good deed we do at the very moment we do it.” St. Augustine

The stone rejected by the builders is now the main foundation stone!” Psalm 118:22

“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed. But it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

Reframing Penal Substitutionary Atonement

Atonement, Quote

“…by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” Romans 8:3

“Here is a point that must be noted most carefully. Paul does not say that God punished Jesus. He declares that God punished Sin in the flesh of Jesus. Now, to be sure, the crucifixion was no less terrible an event because, with theological hindsight, the apostle could see that what was being punished was Sin itself rather than Jesus himself. The physical, mental, and spiritual agony that Jesus went through on that terrible day was not alleviated in any way. But theologically speaking—and with regard to the implications that run through many aspects of church life, teaching, and practice—it makes all the difference. 

The death of Jesus, seen in this light, is certainly penal. It has to do with the punishment on Sin—not, to say it again, on Jesus—but it is punishment nonetheless. Equally, it is certainly substitutionary: God condemned Sin (in the flesh of the Messiah), and therefore sinners who are ‘in the Messiah’ are not condemned. The one dies, and the many do not. All those narrative fragments we saw in Luke and John come into their own.”

N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began

Does God need to punish?

Atonement

Retributive punishment might be a deterrent, as punishment is by nature punitive. It might also make a victim feel better to know that the offender was punished. Yet, punishment seldom equals the actual loss occurred by a crime. Seizing a thefts assets might help replay his victims, but in the case of capital offense, the punishment of one person does not repay or restore heath and lost life.

Thus, when we are tempted to say or believe, “God needs to punish and kill” in order to forgive or provide us life, it’s like suggesting that killing an innocent person will bring your murdered family member back to life.

Real justice—true and greater justice—cannot be answered with death. It can only be answered with life. Real justice is not focused on ending the life of the violent, but with ending the cycle of violence and death. Retribution is not the path to life, redemption is.

So…Does God need to punish? No. Not to provide life.

 

*Related post: FORGIVENESS AS JUSTICE

 

A problem when speaking of the atonement

Atonement

The problem with much atonement theology is that the conversation begins and is twisted around ‘God’s need’ (e.g. payment, punishment, blood sacrifice) and not about what God provides (e.g. cleansing, forgiveness, healing, redemption).

Starting with what God needs renders him passive. He is not passive. He is active in the story of history. He sends. He provides. He saves.

From the opening pages of Scripture when the first humans sinned, God acted. When the humans felt for the first time naked and ashamed, God came to them and provided for their need. When he looked upon the dark power they had unleashed into the world he promised one would be sent to crush it.

Sin may hold us back from God, but it does not hold God back from us. From the Garden to the incarnation and beyond God is a seeking, sending, and saving God.

…and our need is not to escape God, but Sin, Satan, and Death.

 

Introduction to the Psalms (songs and prayers)

Biblical Studies

Although many of the Psalms were written early in ancient Israel’s life, the composition of the book we know as Psalms was Post-Exilic (539BCE). This means it is a book compiled BY and FOR a people living and returning from exile.

…a people estranged from their homes

…defeated by unjust powers

…a people who have lost everything

…cut-off from their God, identity, and purpose

 

Psalms are the songs and prayers of the people. It’s worship book for the formation and nourishment of hope and faith in desperate times. But not hope in some general sense… storied hope. Hope rooted in the storied promise of the representative sent by God to rescue his people from exile… one to deal with the evil and injustice in the world and restore creation: The Messiah. Thus, the Psalms were seen as ABOUT or BY the Messiah (Savior/King).

Jesus himself taught that all Scripture was about him (Luke 24:44-45), and quoted from the Psalms most frequently.

When you read a psalm, where do you imagine Jesus signing and praying that psalm?

Forgiveness isn’t weakness

Forgiveness, Quote

“Resurrection is the result of death’s defeat; forgiveness, the result of sin’s defeat. Those who learn to forgive discover that they are not only offering healing to others. They are receiving it in themselves. Resurrection is happening inside them. The wrong done to them is not permitted to twist their lives out of shape. Forgiveness isn’t weakness. It was and is a great strength. Resurrection and forgiveness together are vital for understanding the extraordinary and large-scale result of the victory won on the cross. The nations of the world were now set free to worship the one true God.”

― NT Wright, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion

Community

Quote
“Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite ideal of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate with ourselves.
 
….Christian [community] is not an ideal which we must realized; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.”
 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together