I am a convert to Christianity. My mother was an atheist until someone explained you have to know everything there is in order to know what there isn't. In other words, you have to be God to say there is no God. So she converted to my father's brand of agnosticism, with the notion of leaving the things of God to God and the things of people to people. Atheist Sigmund Freud observed that humans seek only pleasure without pain. He said, 'This runs against the course of the universe' Freud (cf. Civilization and It's Discontents). Freud further noted that love does not conform to this pleasure principle. 'When you love someone you expose yourself to great pain, along with great pleasure.' Where I am going with this is that we are all sick with hedonistic selfishness. Love is the answer. However, religious practice often tends to help solidify our sickness, not mend it.
I relate to the commercial that shows a child drinking orange juice through a straw as the sun rises. He stops sucking the orange juice and the sun goes down. He returns to suck and the sun comes up. My grandiose self-centered approach to life has truly sucked.Today, I am seeking God's comfort apart from my sucking efforts to do things to make God present. I have been playing God, while seeking God, and that just sucks.
I thought about Ananias and Sapphira this last week (see Acts 4:32 to 5:11). Barnabus, who was living in Jerusalem at the time, sold a home and gave all the proceeds to be distributed as needed to Jesus' disciples. I imagine this was greatly appreciated. Ananias and his wife evidently wanted the same appreciation, but they contrived to get it. They pretended to give all the money from the sale of the house. The house was theirs. There was no pressure to donate. At that time, the whole group of believers were unusually united, and held everything in common. More than most families. Ananias and Sapphira wanted to purchase and cajole the affection of others. This reminds me of the 10 bridesmaids waiting for the groom to come to the wedding party (cf. Matthew 25). All wanted to party, but half of them didn't prepare their hearts in love.
I don't see a different God between the Old and New Testaments. I see a greatly enhanced and clarified picture of God's love in the person of Jesus Christ. I don't believe in a God who motivates by fear. On the other hand, God cannot continue to sustain that which is cancerous to love. Jesus explained that He did not come into the world to condemn it, but to save it. People condemn themselves, choosing the darkness of self-absorption rather than the light of love (cf. John 3:17-21). Many people won't choose love, but rather devise something of their own that made them feel like love. And then justify their confidence in their right loving relationship with God on what they had fabricated. There is a fire of God's presence that burns filth from the lives of those who lovingly walk in the light. The same fire consumes darkness and those who continue to choose that path. We choose our fate. God asks us to choose love.
"I want to serve God!!!" Is this a manipulation on my part, or is it an expression of my commitment to receiving and acting on God's love? It is too frequent that I look for God to serve me as a deserved response to my religious behavior toward Him. I try to serve or stroke God in the right way so He will get enough endorphins and good feelings and pump goodness into my life. (Does that sound masturbatory?) By trying to manipulate God, I make Him subservient to me. I manipulate others in like manner. This is not love. I don't need religion to help me be manipulative. I'm already there. I do need love to heal me and guide me in a new way of relating. This is the message of love I read from Genesis to Revelations. I don't read God as vindictive, retaliatory, partial or condemning. I find Him totally accepting of my decisions, and the consequences that go with them. I truly find that God is Love. As per 1 Corinthians 13, Love is not coercive or manipulative or selfish. Love suffers long and is kind. Love bears all things and hopes all things and never fails. For me, I am on a path of learning to be loved and to love. I have a ways to go, and I can't teach what I don't receive or allow myself to learn. May we walk in Love together...
I remember on my first birthday, my mother was complaining about how my father was not with us at the time. She continued to share her discontent with me regarding my father as I grew up. I remember my father at age 2 sharing with me his dreams and his heart. They wanted to be there for me, but they often treated me as if I were there for them. They were not bad people. Where they ran away from their pain they couldn't be present to themselves or anyone. Not really present. At age 7 I took responsibility for my father to ensure that he would not be depressed or angry. It was my way of working to create a presence that otherwise wasn't as I desired.
It says in Hebrews 11:6 that those who come to God must believe that He is and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. The reality is that God is not lost. As with Adam and Eve, He is asking us where we are. He knows where we are, but we have little idea. Our fears regarding our condition have caused us to hide. We do not want to be exposed as we are. We are often truly unaware of where we are. When we accept the cross of His presence, it is our pain, our history of missing the mark, and our anguish we face and walk through with Him. I have been so alone in my life and I have wanted to cause others to be with me. I can let this happen, but I cannot make this happen. God help me to let You be with me.
I see love residing at the cross, where Jesus came to be with me. That is where I and every other human truly reside. It is my choice whether I will be the one to accept the presence of love in the place of my greatest pain and anguish, or whether I will reject it. The place of my greatest pain is where I don't want God or anyone else to be around me. I want to wall it off, as though that would make it go away. One thief crucified with Him chose to make fun of Jesus and told Him that if He were God He would get off the cross. That is what most people want, to avoid the pain and to have God take it all away. They often won't accept the presence of a God who is in pain with them. Who lovingly walks through the valley of the shadow of death with them. Who nurtures them in the presence, not the absence, of their enemies. The anointing of His Spirit and the overflowing cup of his grace, and the accompanying goodness and mercy, only occur with us in the valley of the shadow of death (where we currently reside) in the presence of our enemies. Although everything inside of me cries out to control this and in some way avoid it, I find that God is willing to walk with me through it and comfort me with His presence in my great pain. I find that I fear no evil because He is with me. Perfect love casts out all fear, not by removing the source of our fear or the things that cause us anxiety, but by being with us and walking us through those circumstances and experiences. His name is Immanuel. He is God with us. With me. I am passionate about this because I want it for myself, and I need help to let Him be with me. I need to let go and be in fellowship and in family with others in Christ.