After living outside the U.S. for eight months now, my family and I have become pretty good at weekly/monthly calls or FaceTimeing. Apparently living thousands of miles away can bring people even closer (or at least help them to forget how lame my humor is). Nevertheless, we’ve become quite accustomed to calling each other for check-ins. We talk about the latest episode of our favorite TV series, the recent accomplishments of my young nephews, the town news, and if nothing else, there’s always the weather.
A couple of days ago, however, I was surprised when a couple of my family members asked me very intricate theology questions (the kind of questions which one would usually want to deflect by asking, “well what do you think about that?”). But since they’re my family, I can’t get off the hook that easily.
“Why would God threaten to kill Moses in Exodus 4? Does it matter if these miracles really happened? If you don’t have to take everything literally, what are the fundamentals–what does a Christian have to believe?”
Perhaps you’ve wondered these questions yourself, I certainly have. After all, coming across strange events in the Bible isn’t uncommon. What I’ve realized is that all of these questions come down to the way in which we each see God: is God loving, or is God angry; does God forgive or does God punish? When you think of God what is the first adjective which comes to mind?
For me, 1 John 4:16 always comes to mind (and perhaps you’re tired of me repeating it). “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” To live in God, then, means to live in love. But what does this mean practically; how does this answer the previous questions?
Though it may seem like a cheesy cop-out, we must live in love. In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote, “Love does no harm to a neighbor, therefore love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.” (Rom. 13:10) This means that when we think about business, sex, family, money, career goals, our relationships with others, our sexuality, our gender–when we think about every aspect of our lives and the lives of others, we must approach them all through a hermeneutical lens of love. Are we respecting the other person’s/people’s humanity? Are we seeing them as objects to be used by us/issues to be resolved for us? Or, do we see God in them?
When we approach every area of our lives, and each person/peoples we interact with, we can do a simple self test:
1) Are we affirming of their humanity? 2) Are we respectful of their full humanity and identity? 3) Are we committed to loving and caring for them during this interaction–and afterwards?
Yes, being a Christian means we believe that God created the world (but who knows in how many days/years/millennia); that God lived in communion with us through the person of Jesus; that Jesus died and rose again to show that love can overcome even the power of death; and that Jesus ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us as our comforter and sustainer. But this doesn’t mean we will be “condemned/punished” if we fail to adhere to every historical law in the Bible, or that we should reject other ways to encounter God. God is greater than any rule book, time period, or religion. Christianity should be liberating, both for ourselves, and for others. If we feel like we’re drowning in the minutia of religious laws, we’re probably missing the point.
So as my family and I continue to explore God, and as you continue on your journey as well, perhaps this rambling blog post will have posited one useful tidbit in your mind: When we live in love we live in God, and God lives in all of us.