If Christianity is to be a force for good in the world by helping to heal our deep psychic, personal brokenness, to restore estranged relationships often marked by betrayal and contempt, to transform us into more loving, compassionate persons who care for others, then Western Christianity, and American Christianity in particular, must undergo a new reformation.
Does God want persons who are simply forgiven? Or does God want persons who are not only forgiven, but are quick to forgive others, because they have a forgiving heart? Does God want persons who believe theories, or does God want persons who return God’s love and love others as they love themselves?
What if more of us believed in and trusted in a more loving, gracious, inclusive God? What if more of us focused on this life rather than the afterlife and understood salvation in terms of healing, wholeness, reconciliation and liberation from the life diminishing forces that possess us and oppress us, so that we are free to truly love God and love others?
There is nothing wrong with worshiping and serving God in a particular house, in a particular tradition. But when we start thinking that our house is the only house where God can dwell, then we severely limit our understanding and experience of God.
As preachers and stories go, we tend to pick them up all over and sometimes forget where we got them. I can’t recall the source, but one of my favorite Christmas stories is about a little church that traditionally had…
American Christianity is no different than any other religion in this way: There are healthy, potentially life enriching versions of religious faith, and there are unhealthy, potentially life diminishing versions as well.
All the judgment parables in Matthew (as well as all the judgment texts in Mark and Luke) have to do with fruits — the consequences of our faith, rather than the content of our faith. Does that scare you? It shouldn’t.
My challenge to all ministers reading this piece is this: Face your fears, put in the work, and teach your people how to read scripture critically. The spiritual health and transformation of the sheep in your flock depend on it.
What we read in these stories are perspectives of faith by people of faith who were every bit as fallible, flawed and finite in understanding as we are.