Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I John 4: Test the Spirits

To see a contemporary example of the kind of thing that John was talking about - check out Oprah's interview with her guru, Eckhart Tolle. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CI9YPT2Sae8) It is just the same kind of philosophy that was beginning to affect the young churches of the first century.

John insists that "the universal consciousness" has a name and a face: Jesus, the Christ. And a pattern - righteousness, the way Jesus walked. And an outcome: self-sacrificing love that shows up in tangible care for people with bodies.

It is pleasant to talk about "universal consciousness" and "awareness." But the Spirit of Jesus points to Jesus, his way and the people he loves.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

See What Kind of Love...

I have been thinking all week about another word to use for love to help me get a better grasp on it. I think of partnership, intimacy, union, and friendship, trying to walk around the word and get more of the facets... see what kind of love...

Everything in our lives with Christ is a function of that relationship. Joined with Jesus, we are God's children. In chapter 3 John describes some of the outworkings of that relationship ... becoming more like Him, living in a way that is consistent with the way our Father is, loyalty to his purposes (if He is out to destroy the works of the devil, how can we promote them?) and loving our brothers more than ourselves - as He did.

When Dan and Rachel were married, Roger, in his best man toast, said, "Rachel, I welcome you into my heart. I will love you like I love my own sister." I have often thought of that as a good description of love - "welcome you into my heart". When you welcome someone into your heart, what touches them, touches you. Your life intersects with theirs. God has welcomed us into his heart. If we are there - staying there, abiding there, - it shows up in our lives, in our love.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What Not To Love

One more thing on 1 John 2 before we move on to chapter 3. John tells us what to love - God and people - and what not to love. The Message puts it well: "Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him."

"The world" used in this way refers to the whole system that tries to run things apart from God: what is valued, what is avoided, how people look for life apart from God. Loving those ways keep us from loving God - and also keep us from loving people. Other people become a means to our ends.

This is more subtle than it first appears. It is easy to think that we are not "worldly" because we are not chasing fame, fashion and fortune. (And if we do, I got news for you - we're losing...). But it is easy for others to be props on our stage, and not to see them, not to value them for themselves.

The next chapter begins with maybe my favorite verse in the book " See what kind of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God - and that is what we are!" Let that simmer in your mind and heart for a while ... See what kind of love ... What kind of love is it?

Monday, November 2, 2009

I read a blog by a young man who had been an avid Christian in his teens - and now is an avid atheist. Puzzled by how otherwise intelligent people (like his parents, for whom I stopped to pray) could believe in God, he was at a family wedding when he had an ah-ha moment.

All the people there had based their lives on faith in Christ - the way they think and live and all of their family and friends were centered on faith in Christ. They couldn't think "rationally" because they would have to go against their whole community! He alone, in his opinion, had had the courage and intellectual honesty to do so. (He is so very young...)

Of course I disagree with his conclusion - that community commitment keeps people believing in God - because it fails to account for the very many whose commitment to Christ costs them their family, friends and even their lives. But he has a point.
John wrote his letter "that you may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship is with God the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ." The more I read this letter, the more I see that that is the whole crux.

Fellowship - unity - partnership with God has 3 irreducible elements, and John goes around and around them through the whole book. Fellowship with God involves truth to believe, a way to live and a community to love. It involves the whole person, what we think, how we live, what we love. Pretty simple, really, but believers generally get tripped up on one of the other of those! At the end of his life, John has the heart of the matter.

For me, our young atheist is partly right. Part of what keeps me faithful to Christ and to his truth is ... well, you! When I feel weak or doubting, I don't have to carry it all myself. I just join in with the community of faith, with others who are more knowledgeable, more faithful, more intimate with God than I am. I need people like Laura T. at church who loves Jesus and follows him in the midst of big challenges. (Thank you Laura!)I need them - I need you - and they need me. That is part of what it means to be in "fellowship."

I will continue to think and read and pray about this ... I hope you will too!