The Kingdom’s Common Sense

November 20th, 2020 by JDVaughn No comments »

Jesus and the Reign of God

The Kingdom’s “Common Sense”
Friday,  November 20, 2020

My friend and colleague Brian McLaren has thought deeply and practically about what Jesus means when he speaks of the “Kingdom of God.” He views it as synonymous with the Gospel itself.

Jesus proposed a radical alternative—a profoundly new framing story that he called good news. News, of course, means a story—a story of something that has happened or is happening that you should know about. Good news, then would mean a story that you should know about because it brings hope, healing, joy, and opportunity. . . .

The term kingdom of God, which is at the heart and center of Jesus’ message in word and deed, becomes positively incandescent in this kind of framing. As a member of a little colonized nation with a framing story that refuses to be tamed by the Roman imperial narrative, Jesus bursts on the scene with this scandalous message: The time has come! Rethink everything! A radically new kind of empire is available—the empire of God has arrived! . . . Open your minds and hearts like children to see things freshly in this new way, follow me and my words, and enter this new way of living. At every point, the essence of his kingdom teaching subverts the “common sense” of the Roman Empire and all its predecessors and successors:

Don’t get revenge when wronged, but seek reconciliation.

Don’t repay violence with violence, but seek creative and transforming nonviolent alternatives.

Don’t focus on external conformity to moral codes, but on internal transformation in love.

Don’t love insiders and hate or fear outsiders, but welcome outsiders into a new “us,” a new “we,” a new humanity that celebrates diversity in the context of love for all, justice for all, and mutual respect for all.

Don’t have anxiety about money or security or pleasure at the center of your life, but trust yourself to the care of God.

Don’t live for wealth, but for the living God who loves all people, including your enemies.

Don’t hate your enemies or competitors, but love them and do to them not as they have done to you—and not before they do to you—but as you wish they would do for you. . . . The phrase “kingdom of God” on Jesus’ lips, then, means almost the opposite of what an American like me might assume, living in the richest, most powerful nation on earth. To a citizen of Western civilization like me, kingdom language suggests order, stability, government, policy, domination, control, maybe even vengeance on rebels and threats of banishment for the uncooperative. But on Jesus’ lips, those words describe Caesar’s kingdom: God’s kingdom turns all of those associations upside down. Order becomes opportunity, stability melts into movement and change, status-quo government gives way to a revolution of community and neighborliness, policy bows to love, domination descends to service and sacrifice, control morphs into influence and inspiration, and vengeance and threats are transformed into forgiveness and blessing.

Jesus and the Reign of God

November 19th, 2020 by Dave No comments »


The Kingdom as Consciousness

Wednesday,  November 18, 2020

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul offers a puzzling injunction to the new Christians. He writes, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Jesus Christ” (2:5). CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault explores how developing this kind of “Christ-consciousness” is the key to understanding Jesus’s teaching on the “Kingdom of Heaven.”

How do we put on the mind of Christ? How do we see through his eyes? How do we feel through his heart? How do we learn to respond to the world with that same wholeness and healing love? That’s what Christian orthodoxy really is all about. It’s not about right belief; it’s about right practice. . . .

Jesus uses one particular phrase repeatedly: “the Kingdom of Heaven.” You can easily confirm this yourself by a quick browse through the gospels; the words jump out at you from everywhere. . . .

So what do we take it to be? . . . [Jesus] says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you” (that is, here) and “at hand” (that is, now). It’s not later, but lighter—some more subtle quality or dimension of experience accessible to you right in the moment. You don’t die into it; you awaken into it. . . .

The Kingdom of Heaven is really a metaphor for a state of consciousness; it is not a place you go to, but a place you come from. It is a whole new way of looking at the world, a transformed awareness that literally turns this world into a different place. . . The hallmark of this awareness is that it sees no separation—not between God and humans, not between humans and other humans. And these are indeed Jesus’s two core teachings, underlying everything he says and does. . . .

When Jesus talks about this Oneness . . . . what he more has in mind is a complete, mutual indwelling: I am in God, God is in you, you are in God, we are in each other. His most beautiful symbol for this is in the teaching in John 15 where he says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Abide in me as I in you” [see John 15:4–5]. A few verses later he says, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love” [John 15:9]. . . . There is no separation between humans and God because of this mutual interabiding which expresses the indivisible reality of divine love. . . .

No separation between human and human is an equally powerful notion—and equally challenging. One of the most familiar of Jesus’s teachings is “Love your neighbor as yourself” [Matthew 22:39] . . . as a continuation of your very own being. It’s a complete seeing that your neighbor is you. There are not two individuals out there . . . there are simply two cells of the one great Life.

Story from Our Community:
Clink, / This AND that. / My heart. / Mercy. / Now. / I am still, empty.
—Teresa B., written while sipping tea the morning after the U.S. election.

The Reign of God as Community
Thursday,  November 19, 2020

The world has suffered much from the various forms of Christian colonialism. Yet the Reign of God is an alternative to domination systems and all “isms.” Jesus teaches that right relationship (i.e., love) is the ultimate and daily criterion. If a social order allows and encourages strong connectedness between people and creation, people and each other, people and God, then you have a truly sacred culture: the Reign of God. It is not a world without pain or mystery, but simply a world where we are connected and in communion with all things.

The Kingdom is about union and communion, which means that it is also about mercy, forgiveness, nonviolence, letting go, solidarity, service, and lives of love, patience, and simplicity. Who can doubt that this is the sum and substance of Jesus’ teaching? In the Reign of God, the very motive for rivalry, greed, and violence has been destroyed. We know we are all part of God’s Beloved Community.

Author, activist, and community organizer Lisa Sharon Harper describes it in this way:

Evidence of the presence of the Kingdom of God is thick wherever and whenever people stand on the promise of God that there is more to this world—more to this life—than what we see. There is more than the getting over, getting by, or getting mine. There is more than the brokenness, the destruction, and the despair that threaten to wash over us like the waters of the deep. There is a vision of a world where God cuts through the chaos, where God speaks and there is light. There is a vision where there is protection and where love is binding every relationship together.[1]

Jesus did not come to impose Christendom like an imperial system. Every description he offers of God’s Reign—of love, relationship, non-judgment, and forgiveness, where the last shall be first and the first shall be last—shows that imposition is an impossibility! Wherever we have tried to force Christianity on people, the long-term results have been disastrous. The Gospel flourishes in the realm of true freedom.

But it is a freedom we must choose for ourselves. It is almost impossible to turn away from what seems like the only game in town (political, economic, or religious), unless we have glimpsed a more attractive alternative. It is hard to imagine it, much less imitate it, unless we see someone else do it first. Jesus is that icon of the more attractive alternative, a living parable. Jesus has forever changed our human imagination, and we are now both burdened and gladdened by the new possibility. There is good news to counter the deadening bad news, but one first has to be turned away from a conventional way of understanding.

I do not think that Jesus ever expected that the whole world would become formally Christian, but his truth about right relationship and his proclamation of the power of powerlessness will save the world from self-destruction.

Center for Action and Contemplation

November 17th, 2020 by Dave No comments »

Dear Dave,

I returned last week from an eight-day silent retreat. With all that has happened this year, I found the time in stillness even more necessary than usual. Periods of extended silence offer us the opportunity to step out of the world of dualism and opposition and into the world of nondual oneness. Both of these worlds exist, but most of us live only experiencing the world where separateness dominates. It’s no wonder we have the problems that we have! I believe only the contemplative mind can allow transformation at the deepest levels and help us rest in the awareness of God’s loving presence. This is why I started the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) years ago and why I am so committed to this work today.

2020 has been an unprecedented year, unlike anything I have seen in my 77 years — and we are not out of the woods yet. Where we go from herewill write the story of this chapter of history. I’m convinced that the root of our divisions can only be overcome by a unitive consciousness at every level: personal, relational, social, political, cultural, and spiritual. This is the unique and central job of healthy religion (re-ligio = to re-ligament or bind together).

Only together can we participate in the unity of the Spirit as we learn to relate to each other out of compassion and love. When action and contemplation are united, our lives and actions begin to heal our suffering world by their very presence. Jesus is the perfect example of how the inner revolution of prayer is deeply connected to the outer transformation of social structures and social consciousness. Our hope lies in the fact that contemplation will change the society that we live in, just as it has changed us!

We thank you for being part of this community. I hope our work has been helpful in your life during this challenging year and we are so grateful for your partnership in making it possible.

Twice a year we pause the Daily Meditations to ask for your support. This year we do so in profound respect of the needs and struggles in our larger community, and we trust your discernment about the right way to help.

For those of you who have been impacted by our work and are financially able, please consider donating. Your support is what enables us to share this message with people around the world. Every donation is received with gratitude and appreciation.

Please take a moment to read our Executive Director Michael’s note below about how you can help and the publication we’d like to share.

Tomorrow the Daily Meditations will continue exploring Jesus and the Reign of God.

May it be so.

Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M.

Dear Friends,

We have asked ourselves many times this year: “what is ours to do?” Amid the constellation of social challenges, we shifted much of our work to keep up with the changing realities in the world. I sincerely hope that our efforts to make the transformational and healing impact of the contemplative path accessible have been helpful for you.

Father Richard founded the CAC in 1987 because he saw a deep need for the integration of both Action and Contemplation. That founding message was the theme of our Daily Meditations this year because we believe there is more need for it today than ever before. We have seen our reader community expand significantly in recent months as thousands of people are searching for trustworthy guidance during these difficult times.

Thank you for being part of our community and one of the partners that makes all of this possible. Our organization is not funded by any denomination, endowment, or large foundation; we are supported by thousands of small donations from people like you.

Please consider making a one-time donation or a recurring gift. Your support allows us to keep our work free and accessible for more people around the world. If you are able, please consider making your donation a monthly one. Monthly support helps create the stability we need to share this message in a broader and more inclusive way.

In gratitude for an online donation of any size, we will send you a free digital version of our current edition of ONEING: Order, Disorder, Reorder.

For the first time, this edition includes contributions from all five of CAC’s core faculty. We invite you to experience the writings of our faculty as they walk through the ancient, transformational pattern of Order, Disorder, and Reorder, in a way that is strikingly applicable to our current moment.

Now more than ever, we honor the needs in all of our communities, and we trust your discernment on how best to help. Thank you for any support you can offer our work as we look to expand our vision and mission for years to come.

We are grateful to be partners together and we deeply appreciate any support you are able to continue providing to the CAC.

Onwards together,

Michael Poffenberger, CAC Executive Director

Michael Poffenberger
Executive Director, Center for Action and Contemplation

The Kingdom is like a Mustard Seed

November 16th, 2020 by JDVaughn No comments »

The Kingdom Is like a Mustard Seed
Monday,  November 16, 2020

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed which a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air can come and shelter in its branches. —Matthew 13:31–32

The Reign of God is Jesus’ message, but he never describes it literally. He walks around it and keeps giving different images of the Real. For example, the mustard seed is very small and insignificant, and the kingdom is “like” that. Pliny the Elder, a contemporary of Jesus, wrote an encyclopedic book called Natural History, in which he describes all the plants that were known in the Mediterranean world. He says two main things about the mustard plant: it’s medicinal, and it’s a weed that cannot be stopped:

Mustard . . .  with its pungent taste and fiery effect is extremely beneficial for the health. It grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand when it has once been sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once. [1]

The two images on which Jesus is building in this parable of the mustard seed are a therapeutic image of life and healing, and a fast-growing weed. What a strange thing for Jesus to say: “I’m planting a weed in the world!” Jesus’ teachings of nonviolence and simplicity are planted and they’re going to flourish, even wildly so. The old world is over.

The virtue for living in the in-between times Jesus calls “faith.” He is talking about the grace and the freedom to live God’s dream for the world now—while not rejecting the world as it is. That’s a mighty tension that is not easily resolved.

There are always two worlds. The world as it is usually operates on power, ego, and success. The world as it could be operates out of love. One is founded on dominative power, and the other is a continual call to right relationship and reciprocal power. The secret of this Kingdom life is discovering how we can live in both worlds simultaneously.

The Reign of God
Sunday,  November 15, 2020

Jesus announced, lived, and inaugurated for history a new social order. He called it the Reign or Kingdom of God and it became the guiding image of his entire ministry. The Reign of God is the subject of Jesus’ inaugural address (see Mark 1:15, Matthew 4:17, and Luke 4:14–30), his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7), and the majority of his parables. Once this guiding vision of God’s will became clear to Jesus, which seems to have happened when he was about thirty and alone in the desert, everything else came into perspective. In fact, Matthew’s Gospel says, “From then onwards” (4:17), Jesus began to preach.

In order to explain this concept, it may be helpful to first say what it is not: the “Kingdom” is not synonymous with heaven. Many Christians have mistakenly thought that the Reign of God is “eternal life,” or where we go after we die. That idea is disproven by Jesus’ own prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

“Thy Kingdom come” means very clearly that God’s realm is something that enters into this world, or, as Jesus puts it, “is close at hand” (Matthew 10:7). We shouldn’t project it into another world. What we discover in the New Testament, especially in Matthew’s Gospel, is that the Kingdom of God is a new world order, a new age, a promised hope begun in the teaching and ministry of Jesus—and continued in us.

I think of the Kingdom of God as the Really Real (with two capital Rs). That experience of the Really Real—the “Kingdom” experience—is the heart of Jesus’ teaching. It’s Reality with a capital R, the very bottom line, the pattern-that-connects. It’s the goal of all true religion, the experience of the Absolute, the Eternal, what is.

God gives us just enough tastes of God’s realm to believe in it and to want it more than anything. In the parables, Jesus never says the Kingdom is totally now or totally later. It’s always now-and-not-yet. When we live inside the Really Real, we live in a “threshold space” between this world and the next. We learn how to live between heaven and earth, one foot in both worlds, holding them precious together.

We only have the first fruits of the Kingdom in this world, but we experience enough to know that it’s the only thing that will ever satisfy us. Once we have had the truth, half-truths do not satisfy us anymore. In its light, everything else is relative, even our own life.

God, the Lover of Life

November 13th, 2020 by JDVaughn No comments »

The Transforming Power of Love

God, the Lover of Life
Friday,  November 13, 2020

Love is who you are. When you don’t live according to love, you are outside of being. You’re not being real. When you love, you are acting according to your deepest being, your deepest truth. You are operating according to your dignity. —Richard Rohr 

Drawing from my many years of teaching, I can honestly say that the most powerful, most needed, and most essential teaching is always about love. Love is our foundation and our destiny. It is where we come from and where we’re headed. As St. Paul famously says, “So faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

My hope, whenever I speak or write, is to help clear away the impediments to receiving, allowing, trusting, and participating in a foundational love. God’s love is planted inside each of us as the Holy Spirit who, according to Jesus, “will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (John 14:26). Love is who you are. All I can do is remind you of what you already know deep within your True Self and invite you to live connected to this Source.

The first letter of John reminds us “God is love, and whoever remains in love, remains in God and God in her or him” (1 John 4:16). The creation story in Genesis says that we were created in the very “image and likeness” of God—who is love (Genesis 1:26; see also Genesis 9:6). Out of the Trinity’s generative, loving relationship, creation takes form, mirroring its Creator.

If we are truly created in the “image and likeness of God”—then our family of origin is divine. We were created by a loving God to be love in the world. Our core is original blessing, not original sin. Our starting point is positive and, as it is written in the first chapter of the Bible, it is “very good” (Genesis 1:31). We do have a good place to go home. If the beginning is right, the rest is made considerably easier, because we know and can trust the clear direction of our life’s tangent.

We must all overcome the illusion of separateness. It is the primary task of religion to communicate not worthiness but union, to reconnect people to their original identity “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). God’s job description is to draw us back into primal and intimate relationship.

May we pray together:

God, lover of life, lover of these lives,
God, lover of our souls, lover of our bodies, lover of all that exists . . .
In fact, it is your love that keeps it all alive . . .
May we live in this love.
May we never doubt this love.
May we know that we are love,
That we were created for love,
That we are a reflection of you,
That you love yourself in us and therefore we are perfectly lovable.

May we never doubt this deep and abiding and perfect goodness.

We are because you are.

The Transforming Power of Love

November 12th, 2020 by Dave No comments »


Revolutionary Love
Thursday,  November 12, 2020

Is this the darkness of the tomb, or of the womb? I don’t know. All I know is that the only way we will endure is if each of us shows up to the labor. —Valarie Kaur

In this liminal space we find ourselves in now, Sikh activist, civil rights attorney, and author Valarie Kaur believes that “revolutionary love is the call of our times.” She brings the fullness of her faith and her humanity to answer the questions so many of us are asking. I think you will find her insights quite compelling:

If you cringe when people say that love is the answer, I do, too. The problem is not with love but with the way we talk about it. We mostly talk about love as a flood of emotion. But feelings alone are too fickle and fluid [RR—too based in the false self, I would also say] to sustain political action. Social reformers through history led entire nonviolent movements anchored in love as an ethic. Time and again, people gave their bodies and breath for one another, not only in the face of fire hoses and firing squads, but also in the quieter venues of their daily lives. Black feminists like bell hooks have long envisioned a world where the love ethic is a foundation for all arenas of our society. I believe we can reclaim love as a force for justice for a new time.

Here is my offering:

“Love” is more than a feeling. Love is a form of sweet labor: fierce, bloody, imperfect, and life-giving—a choice we make over and over again. If love is sweet labor, love can be taught, modeled, and practiced. This labor engages all our emotions. Joy is the gift of love. Grief is the price of love. Anger protects that which is loved. And when we think we have reached our limit, wonder is the act that returns us to love.

“Revolutionary love” is the choice to enter into wonder and labor for others, for our opponents, and for ourselves in order to transform the world around us. It is not a formal code or prescription but an orientation to life that is personal and political and rooted in joy. Loving only ourselves is escapism; loving only our opponents is self-loathing; loving only others is ineffective. All three practices together make love revolutionary, and revolutionary love can only be practiced in community.

Revolutions do not happen only in grand moments in public view but also in small pockets of people coming together to inhabit a new way of being. We birth the beloved community by becoming the beloved community. . . . When a critical mass of people practice together, in community and as part of movements for justice, I believe we can begin to create the world we want, here and now.

Richard again: Perhaps a nondual response to Kaur’s question above is that moments of felt darkness are both a tomb and a womb. We must die to the old before the truly new can be born.

A Love Ethic

November 11th, 2020 by JDVaughn No comments »

The Transforming Power of Love

A Love Ethic
Wednesday,  November 11, 2020

Because of my background, my language about love is often biblical, theological, psychological, and personal. While these are necessary and helpful frames, they certainly aren’t the only ones we should use. bell hooks (sic), a Black feminist scholar and activist, suggests how truly living by a “love ethic” could bring about much needed societal change.

Culturally, all spheres of American life—politics, religion, the workplace, domestic households, intimate relations—should and could have as their foundation a love ethic. The underlying values of a culture and its ethics shape and inform the way we speak and act. A love ethic presupposes that everyone has the right to be free, to live fully and well. . . . Individuals who choose to love can and do alter our lives in ways that honor the primacy of a love ethic. We do this by choosing to work with individuals we admire and respect; by committing to give our all to relationships; by embracing a global vision wherein we see our lives and our fate as intimately connected to those of everyone else on the planet.

Commitment to a love ethic transforms our lives by offering us a different set of values to live by. In large and small ways, we make choices based on a belief that honesty, openness, and personal integrity need to be expressed in public and private decisions. . . . Living by a love ethic we learn to value loyalty and a commitment to sustained bonds over material advancement. While careers and making money remain important agendas, they never take precedence over valuing and nurturing human life and well-being. . . .

Embracing a love ethic means that we utilize all the dimensions of love—“care, commitment, trust, responsibility, respect, and knowledge”—in our everyday lives. We can successfully do this only by cultivating awareness. Being aware enables us to critically examine our actions to see what is needed so that we can give care, be responsible, show respect, and indicate a willingness to learn. . . .

Domination cannot exist in any social situation where a love ethic prevails. . . . When love is present the desire to dominate and exercise power cannot rule the day. All the great social movements for freedom and justice in our society have promoted a love ethic. Concern for the collective good of our nation, city, or neighbor rooted in the values of love makes us all seek to nurture and protect that good. If all public policy was created in the spirit of love, we would not have to worry about unemployment, homelessness, schools failing to teach children, or addiction. . . .

To live our lives based on the principles of a love ethic (showing care, respect, knowledge, integrity, and the will to cooperate), we have to be courageous. Learning how to face our fears is one way we embrace love. Our fear may not go away, but it will not stand in the way.

The Transforming Power of Love

November 10th, 2020 by Dave No comments »


Love Is Our Deepest Identity
Tuesday,  November 10, 2020

Behold, there are only three things that will last: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love. —1 Corinthians 13:13

To talk about love is to talk about what Plato calls “holy madness.” Jung even refused to include love in any of his classic categories—it finally defied his psychological descriptions. Perhaps that is why love has so many false meanings in our minds and emotions. Perhaps that is why Jesus never defined love, but instead made it a command. We must love, each of us absolutely must enter into this unnamable mystery if we are to know God and know our own self!

Love alone is sufficient unto itself. It is its own end, its own merit, its own satisfaction. It seeks no cause beyond itself and needs no fruit outside of itself. Its fruit is its use. Love is our deepest identity and what we are created in and for. To love someone “in God” is to love them for their own sake and not for what they do for us. Only a transformed consciousness sees another person as another self, as one who is also loved by Christ, and not as an object separate from ourselves on which we generously bestow favors. If we have not yet loved or if love wears us out, is it partly because other people are seen as tasks or commitments or threats, instead of as extensions of our own suffering and loneliness? Are they not in truth extensions of the suffering and loneliness of God?

When we live out of this truth of love, instead of the lie and human emotion of fear, we will at last begin to live. Love is always letting go of a fear. In the world of modern psychologizing, we have become very proficient at justifying our fears and avoiding simple love. The world will always teach us fear. Jesus will always command us to love. And when we seek the spiritual good of another, we at last forget our fears and ourselves.

Divine love or charity has nothing to do with feelings of “liking” one another. One key biblical word for love, agape, is not based on the myth of romantic love or good feelings about one another. It is a love grounded in God that allows us to honestly desire and seek the other’s spiritual growth. This faith, this love, this Holy Mystery—of which we are only a small part—can only be awakened and absorbed by the silent gaze of prayer. Those who contemplate who they are in God’s ecstatic love will be transformed as they look and listen and find and share. This God, like a Seductress, does not allow Herself to be known apart from love. We know God by loving God. And I think that it is actually more important to know that we love God than to know that God loves us, although the two movements are finally the same.

Love Your Enemies

November 9th, 2020 by JDVaughn No comments »

The Transforming Power of Love

Love Your Enemies
Monday,  November 9, 2020

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say unto you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. —Matthew 5:43–45

In the United States few public figures have spoken more plainly and powerfully about Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies than the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This was not an abstract theological question for Dr. King. He wrestled practically and at great cost with how to love his enemies, both through prayer and through nonviolent direct action. This passage is an excerpt from King’s sermon “Loving Your Enemies.”

When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. . . .

Probably no admonition of Jesus has been more difficult to follow than the command to “love your enemies.” Some people have sincerely felt that its actual practice is not possible. It is easy, they say, to love those who love you, but how can one love those who openly and insidiously seek to defeat you? . . .

This command of Jesus challenges us with new urgency. Upheaval after upheaval has reminded us that modern humanity is traveling along a road called hate, in a journey that will bring us to destruction. . . . Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love one’s enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival. Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of our world. Jesus is not an impractical idealist: he is the practical realist.

I am certain that Jesus understood the difficulty inherent in the act of loving one’s enemy. He never joined the ranks of those who talk glibly about the easiness of the moral life. He realized that every genuine expression of love grows out of a consistent and total surrender to God. So when Jesus said “Love your enemy,” he was not unmindful of its stringent qualities. Yet he meant every word of it. Our responsibility as Christians is to discover the meaning of this command and seek passionately to live it out in our daily lives. . . .

When Jesus bids us to love our enemies, he is speaking of neither eros [romantic love] nor philia [reciprocal love of friends]; he is speaking of agape, understanding and creative, redemptive goodwill for all people. Only by following this way and responding with this type of love are we able to be children of our Father who is in Heaven.

Richard again: This is a timely reminder to Christians around the world. We must ask ourselves “What would it mean to seek to embody love as ‘creative, redemptive goodwill’ on behalf of all living things?”

The Transforming Power of Love

A Commandment to Love
Sunday,  November 8, 2020

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. —1 John 4:7–8

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. . . . This I command you: love one another. —John 15:12–14, 17

Love is perhaps the last thing anyone wants to be reminded of in these days following the election in the United States. Yet our resistance to love is precisely why we need to talk about it! We have strayed so far from love; and yet, love is the essence of who we are, and how we are called to treat one another.

“Whoever loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). Unfortunately, many Christians think, “If I read the Bible, I’m born of God; or if I go to church, I know God; or if I obey the commandments, I know God.” Yet the writer of 1 John says it’s simply about loving. Note that the converse is true also: “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). In the Gospel of John, Jesus takes this to its logical conclusion. He does not say, “There is no greater love than to love God.” Instead he says, “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends” (John 15:13). As biblical scholar Allen Dwight Callahan writes of this passage, “Jesus has loved his followers so that they may love each other. Love calls for love in turn. Love makes love imperative.” [1]

The beginning and end of everything is love. Only inside of this mystery of the exchange of love can we know God. If we stay outside of that mystery, we cannot know God.

When most of us hear the word “commandment,” we likely think of the Ten Commandments; that is not what Jesus is referring to here. He speaks of a “new” commandment surpassing and summing up the “ten” of the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 20:1–17; Deuteronomy 5:6–21): “This is my commandment: Love one another” (John 15:17). He also says that the entire law and the prophets are summed up in the two great commandments: to love God and to love one another (see Matthew 22:36–40). Perhaps we don’t want to hear these commandments because we can never live up to them through our own efforts. We’d like to whittle this down to a little commandment, like “Come to church on Sunday,” so that we could feel we have obeyed the commandment and accomplished love. But who of us can say that we have fully loved yet? We are all beginners. We are all starting anew every day, in utter reliance on the mercy, grace, and compassion of God. This is a good example of “the tragic gap” that faith always allows and fills.

For the Good of the World

November 6th, 2020 by JDVaughn No comments »

Public Virtue

For the Good of the World
Friday,  November 6, 2020

God is the ultimate nonviolent one, so we dare not accept any theory of salvation—much less socialization, economics, or politics—that is based on violence, exclusion, social pressure, or moral coercion. When we do, these are legitimated as a proper way of life. God saves by loving and including, not by excluding or punishing.

So what does it really mean to follow Jesus? I believe we are invited to gaze upon the image of the crucified Jesus to soften our hearts toward all suffering, to help us see how we ourselves have been “bitten” by hatred and violence, and to know that God’s heart has always been softened toward us. In turning our gaze to this divine truth, we gain compassion toward ourselves and all others who suffer. It largely happens on the psychic and unconscious level, but that is exactly where all of our hurts and our will to violence lie. A transformative religion must touch us at this primitive, brainstem level, or it is not transformative at all.

History is continually graced with people who have been transformed in this way and somehow learned to act beyond and outside their self-interest for the good of the world. They are exemplars of public virtue. We recall Nelson Mandela, Corazon Aquino,  John Lewis, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Add to them Etty Hillesum, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Óscar Romero, César Chávez, and many others. These inspiring figures gave us strong evidence that the mind of Christ still inhabits the world. Most of us are fortunate to have crossed paths with many lesser-known persons who exhibit the same presence.

Following Jesus is a vocation to share the fate of God for the life of the world.

To allow what God for some reason allows—and uses: the imperfect everything, including me!

And to suffer ever so slightly what God suffers eternally.

Often, this has little to do with believing the “right” things about God—beyond the fact that God is love itself.

Those who agree to carry and love what God loves—which is both the good and the bad—and to pay the price for its reconciliation within themselves, these are the followers of Jesus Christ. They are the leaven, the salt, the remnant, the mustard seed that God uses to transform the world. To maintain this mind and heart over the long haul is true Gospel spirituality. I have no doubt that it takes many daily decisions and many surrenders. It is aided by seeking out like-minded people. Such grace and freedom are never lone achievements. Saints are those who wake up while in this world, instead of waiting for the next one. Francis of Assisi, William Wilberforce, Thérèse of Lisieux, and Harriet Tubman did not feel superior to anyone else; they just knew they had been let in on a big divine secret, and they wanted to do their part in revealing it to those who knew nothing about it