Revolutionary Love

Jesus came to Earth to preach a revolutionary and universal understanding of love.  He said it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles; not comes from the body as the majority of Jewish sects believed in the 1st century CE.  He preached that we must love everyone, including our enemy, and our neighbor.  I did an exegesis of Galatians and discovered that the verse has a universal meaning: we are to love everyone, no exceptions.

This is what Jesus taught.  I will admit loving everyone, especially the worst of people, is hard, but we must do it as the Lord Jesus commands it.  This type of love is revolutionary even for today’s standards and in today’s divisive times.  We must love the most conservative Republican and the most liberal Democrat as the same.  We must love the bigot and the tree huger.

However, we must not be the bigot ourselves.  Jesus’ love is universal.  You must love everyone, and that includes yourself.  Do not hate anyone.  You must love the undocumented, the migrant, the atheist, the LGBT community, the fellow Christian, those of other faiths, and anyone not mentioned.  Jesus did not insert a period.  In the United Church of Christ, we are known as the “comma people” because our motto is “never place a period where God has put a comma.”  Love is hard, but wonderful too.  It is bigger than one individual and it surpasses the population of this world.

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Universal Salvation

Universal Salvation

To begin, universal salvation is the belief that everyone goes to Heaven after death.  I believe in universal salvation.  The reason being, why would a deity be so cruel as to send all of his / her creation to Hell (actually, the word is Hades used in the Bible, the ancient Greek Underworld) for any reason.  Yes, we have free will (or do we?  That is a debate for another time).

Indeed, according to legend, on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter), Jesus is said to have visited Hades and liberated all the souls to Heaven.  The Catholic and Anglican traditions hold this belief to this day.  For Protestants, it is a mixed bag: some believe this story, while others simply don’t believe it.

Roman Catholics also believe in Purgatory, a place between Heaven and Hell, and a place where one may repent for one’s sins until they have achieved liberation and go to Heaven.  I can accept this, but I don’t believe anyone goes to a fiery Hell or to Hades in the Afterlife.  Throughout the New Testament, Jesus preaches the Kingdom of God is full of love and we must all love one another.  If one is sent to a fiery Hell, then it rather moots the point that God is all loving; for a loving God would not send his/her children to burn for eternity: it is beyond cruel.  Keep in mind, this is my opinion and I would not force my views on anyone.

Indeed, while in seminary, I received a few odd stares when I stated I believe in universal salvation.  It is nothing to be ashamed about in any way.

Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice

“He has told you, o mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and walk humbly with your God” – Micah 6:8

“Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with the gates burned.  Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we may no longer suffer disgrace” – Nehemiah 2:17

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those that hate you, bless those that curse you, pray for those that abuse you.  If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes your coat, do not withhold even your shirt.”  – Luke 6:27-29

Micah said to do justice (not avenge); Nehemiah said lets rebuild the gates (not attack those who tore them down); Jesus said love your enemy and let them take more away from you (not fight to get it back).  The Bible, when read appropriately and in context, teaches great lessons.

Yesterday, my church, North Congregational UCC and several other churches had a large rally in Columbus, OH for restorative justice be put in place in our community.  Indeed, I think it should go further – statewide and nationwide.  Restorative justice is a way of reforming and redeeming the prisoner without putting him or her in a physical jail or prison and suffer the negating consequences as a result of a mistake that put him or her in that situation.  For example, non-violent offenders should not have to suffer a prison sentence, but instead, do community service and help the offended party in some way.  Another way is that a person who murders another human being should not be given the death party, but life in prison instead.

In case you missed the point, Jesus made it very clear: love your enemy!  If they take something from you, give them more to take away!  I wrote an earlier article about Jesus’ revolutionary teaching of love and it applies here too.  Love.  Love.  Love.  Restore.  Restore.  Restore.

Bless the Broken

“To heal the helpless heart and bless the broken” – Karen Clark Sheard, “God is Here” song.

“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” – Matthew 5:5.

Jesus Christ often spoke of the poor, the last, and the meek as people in His Kingdom of God.  He said if you want to be in his kingdom, or as my church refers to it – the kin-dom, then the last shall be first.  In Luke’s Gospel, he said it was better to be poor rather than rich.  Jesus said the meek shall inherit the earth.  In my interpretation, this means, if you follow Jesus’ teachings, and are humble, and even perceived as weak by others, then you shall become a leader in this world.

One of my favorite hymns, cited above, “God is Here,” Karen Sheard states God heals “the helpless heart and bless the broken.”  She continues to write in the hymn, “lay down the burdens you have carried; for in this sanctuary, God is here.”  None of us are perfect.  We are all flawed.  We have all made mistakes.  I’m sure many of us have some regrets about our life.  So, do as the song says, “lay down the burdens you have carried” – you can do this easy – pray, speak aloud, or simply to think to God about the burdens you are carrying, and God is here to comfort you in this broken time; or broken life.

God may not take your burdens away, but She will be there with you, and ease your burden.  The Apostle Paul often spoke of “carrying our own cross;” sometimes the cross is your burdens, your problems, your insecurities, and your sin.  Jesus wants to make your burden light.  *Notice: I am a member of the United Church of Christ and we view God as “Mother and Father,” and so I will interchange between She and He when referring to God.*  The song/hymn of “God is Here” continues to say “He is here.  He is here.  He is here.  God is here.”

The UCC (United Church of Christ) is a Reformed tradition and considered the most liberal of Christian denominations.  Thus, I do not say you need “to be saved,” because, in my view, everyone is already saved.  I believe in universal salvation (in other words, everyone goes to Heaven).  However, it might help, to find a church and become a member and learn about the teachings of Jesus Christ.  It might make you a better person.  Like I said earlier, you don’t have to be perfect; just be you and let God worry about the rest.  God blesses the broken.  God is here.

— Josh Spencer

6/22/2017

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