Tag Archives: John 3.16

Nobody’s Perfect

no-one-is-perfect-that-why-pencils-have-erasersThere are so many of us who are striving for perfection.  We want to be the best, be on top, be number one, be the fan or family favorite.  No matter our position, we are all hoping that we are better– better than we were yesterday, better than our parents were to us, better than history has been or time can tell.

We come to fill in the gap, to build the bridge, to lend a helping hand.  We try to be what others were not for us; we hope to give what we did not receive.  We live our lives not only trying to make a difference but to make up the difference.  We could not save ourselves so we try to save others.  I could argue that proximity should have made our self- salvation more feasible but the reality is that we cannot save ourselves.  There is nothing in us that allows us to be personal saviors or unspotted sacrifices.

And the social construct of race only adds to the confusion and causes us to misplace our confidence somewhere in the flesh.  Race tells us that social perfection is possible, that there are a people who are born socially pure and who can do no wrong.  In fact, they come bearing gifts and to lend a helping hand to those less fortunate than themselves.  The social coloring of their skin tells them that they are to make up the difference and to bring change.

It is the old argument of race in post- modern language, that there are persons who were born better than others.  Race is a theory that suggests that people are born on ladder, a “Great Chain of Being.”  And this lie has bound us for centuries.

But, Christ is the only Savior, the only example of perfection and he came to deliver the world, to set the captive child, woman and man, rural farmer and city executive, conservative and progressive, the elitist and commoner, the rich person and the beggar free (Luke 4.18; John 3.16).  It was through his life and ministry that we learned that nobody’s perfect but that all have fallen short not of the race but  the glory of God (Romans 3.23).

 

 

Proving Love

urlLove is believed to be the most overused word in our vocabulary. We love to say it. We love how it makes us feel. We want to be in the presence of love, to feel loved, to receive love. We want things to love and people to love us. Thinking that this love cannot hurt us, we fall into it— no safety net, no escape plan, no strings attached.

Love. Love. Love. We say it a lot. But, I am starting to believe that while it is overused, it is not overworked. No, love is not employed as often as it is spoken. No clocked in overtime, here. In fact, I think that it is easier said than done.

For love is both a practice and the Presence. It is a verb, an action word and it is a Person because “God is Love,” the One who “lives, moves and has His being” in love (cf. First John 4.8; Acts 17.28).

Love is not just said; it is done. Love is just not spoken; it is proven: “God proved his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5.8).

It is not just talk. It is not just a word. It is a promise, a commitment. It may leave our lips but it should stick to us, ask something of us. There should be an action on our part that accompanies its profession: “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son” (John 3.16).

Everything that God does is from love. In fact, God is the very address of love. I would go so far as to say that if he, she or it does not lead us right back to God that one might have strayed, gotten lost, missed Love. Wrong turn. Wrong house. Wrong person.

And is He really the Love that we are talking about, the Love that we are seeking to find ourselves in, this capital L, Love? Or is it something smaller, easier to believe, manage and say?

A Race-less Meditation

Our world relies mostly on the external for interpretation, meaning and understanding.  We know what we see and we believe it when we see it.  We judge a person based on appearance; we look them over and surmise that we have them all figured out when all we have done is ascribe to them the meaning that we feel they deserve.  We give them the words that we have left and they usually are much and no better than we are.

It all comes down to appearance.   We can dress for success and it doesn’t matter what is really going on inside of us so long as we can “look the part.”  But, what part do we play with race and what role is race playing in our understanding of life, the way in which we view ourselves, our neighbor and our God?  And how can the external, the physical, the body, the flesh, the socially constructed (that is, race) give meaning to what is spiritual, to what is divine, to what is mysterious, to what is unseen, to what is hidden inside of us?

Does everything happen in your life for a reason and is that reason always race?  If you hold this to be true, then this meditation is for you.  You have so much faith in race; I want you to at least pretend that you can live without it, that there is something more to you than your external appearance, that Someone knows you better.

Say these words with me:

I am not who race says that I am; I am who God says that I am: a child of God not a color of race, a son/ a daughter of God not a socially colored skin.

I am always a human being not a racial being.  I can never be reduced to anything less– with or without my permission.

I am not a stereotype; I am a new creature in Christ Jesus, sacred and God’s beloved (Second Corinthians 5.17).

I am not what persons have done to me but my worth is proven by what God has done for me (cf. John 3.16; Romans 5.8)

I belong to God, a member of His royal priesthood and holy nation (First Peter 2.9).  I am not a member of a race; I am a member of the Body of Christ.

I am at home with God who made us all not with people who “look like me.”

God includes all of “us”; there is no “them.”  There is no fight within or without.

I am race-less.  Amen.

This is how race loves us

If we love persons according to race, if our love is racially prescribed and motivated, a love that is demonstrated according to the social coloring of skin, then we do not love as God loves.  We do not love with the love of Christ.  I would go so far as to say that we do not love at all for God is love and the doctrines of race are a supreme expression of hatred.  If you love persons according to the social construct of race, then the love of God is not in you.  If you must hate someone else in order to love yourself then your self- love and with it, your self- understanding are forfeited.  Hate is neither the source nor the progenitor of love.

“For God so loved the world that He gave” (John 3.16).  This love is for all of the world.  It is not separated or categorized but God’s gives each of us God’s undivided love.  God’s love gives to us what we need, delivers us before we even know what ensnares us, catches us before we are even aware that we are falling.  And we all need this love for it is a love that is expressed because of the good that God desires for all of humanity to experience.  It is given because God knows that it is the best love for us.  This love does not take away our self- esteem in order to promote itself but wanting the very best for us, gives of itself.  God’s Son was given, a part of God’s self sacrificed so that we might have the opportunity to live in fellowship with God.

God’s love is unconditional.  There are no stipulations to discern, no fine print to read, no contracts to sign as this is a love covenant.  We are loved by God before we know that we are to love God.  Thus, we cannot do anything to earn it or to gain more of it.  Besides, our love for God does not begin with us but is in response to as we love God because God first loved us (I John 4.19).

But, this is not how race loves us.  The love of race is hierarchical, divisive, unjust, self- serving, self- promoting and biased.  Race need not know us to judge whether or not we are to be loved; race need only look at the social coloring of our skin.  And the love of race is predetermined.  It only loves those who are socially colored white.  It does not love all of the world’s inhabitants.  Consequently, gaining the love of race makes us proud and likewise, arrogant as we begin to think of ourselves more highly than we should (Romans 12.3).

The love of race is also not without conditions as you must look, sound, act and believe this way or that. In order to be loved by race, you must be socially colored white. Race loves us based on the texture of our hair, the size of our nose and lips, the shape of our eyes and the sound of our voice.  The love that race has for socially colored white people is non- transferrable to other socially colored groups so socially colored white people cannot be the friends or neighbors or spouses of socially colored brown/ black/ red/ yellow/ beige people.  We cannot be compassionate or empathetic or undertanding toward one another.  This is just the way that the racialized life goes.

The love of race is not comparable to or synonymous with the love of God.  For race so loves socially colored white people that race gives social privileges and favors to them only.  Race sacrifices the presence of other people groups for one social color.  The love of race does not give but take away.   It is for this reason that the love of race does not bring us together but drives us a part as race has an obvious favorite; however, there is no favoritism with God (Romans 2.11).

Sadly, the prize that we strive for is whiteness; this is the high calling (cp. Philippians 3.12-14).  And if we are drawn to this, then we have become infatuated with or perhaps, have fallen in love with race.  Today, I ask God to give us the courage to walk away from race, the strength to sever our relationship despite its social benefits.  I ask that God would overwhelm us with the presence of God’s love in order that we might draw others into this love relationship with God.  Amen.

Filling in the cracks

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.  I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

~ Ephesians 3.14-19, NRSV

For all of persons’ disagreements with the apostle Paul, we cannot discount this very powerful prayer that is recorded in the letter to the church at Ephesus.  It is a conversation with God that should be shared with all believers as Paul repositions us, reminding us that no matter what we call ourselves or the names that others have given us, no matter our lineage or its legacy, we take our name from God who is our Creator.  No name is greater or lesser, more valuable or worthy of scorn because ultimately, we have the same name.  And it is a name that we did not create and thus, can take no credit for.

Paul prays for the reader and so he is praying for us more than two thousand years later.  It is a prayer that is based not on his strength or ours but is rendered because of the goodness of God.  He asks for this power in our inner being because we need it.  While it is true that we live in a pluralist society where all faiths attempt to dwell peaceably, we, as Christians, must submit our inner beings to one divine authority.

We must make a decision, choose each day whom we will serve and we cannot serve two masters (Joshua 24.15; Matthew 6.24).  We must not live as if we should apologize for the declarations of Christ.  He said, “I am the Way” and we don’t have to defend or prove it.  We need only believe it.  The problem lies in the fact that we really don’t.  Our inner beings and likewise, our witness as disciples of Jesus Christ has been weakened by compromise and hypocrisy.  We are doubleminded, no longer fully persuaded by the promises of God and this is why we need to be strengthened (James 1.8; Romans 4.21).

Paul prays that Christ live in our hearts, the place often associated with love and its symbol.  He says that we are being rooted in love and grounded in love. Paul says that we are being fixed in love, founded in love, built upon love.  Love will be the source of our stability and our foundation.

And we need the power to understand this love.  It is not enough to have this love or to know who the God of love is but we need to be able to comprehend its vastness in order to appreciate it.  Do we know the breadth and length and height and depth of this love?  It is oxymoronical in its existence in that it is a knowing that surpasses our own knowledge.  We cannot come to know this love on our own or a part from the revelation of Jesus Christ as it certainly not revealed to us through race, which attempts to limit God’s love to those we want to see and touch, to those who live in our community and country, to those who are on the same rung of the social and economic ladder.

So, if we have received Christ as our Lord and personal Savior, why are we not known by and for our love as his disciples?  Why is it so hard to love others, even believers, those who we believe to be in the family of God?  Why can’t we come together to express our love for God in worship and in service?  Perhaps, it is a matter of fullness.

It seems that after more than 2,000 years, the Church is not filled with the presence, power and agency of God.  We practice God’s presence when it best suits and benefits us.  We trust in God’s power when our own attempts have failed.  We serve only those that we choose though participating in the ministry of Christ.  These truths have cracked the vessel and has weakened the presence, power and agency of God within us.  Race and its progeny have broken our spiritual fellowship and created cracks.  But, it is my prayer that God will fill us in and fill us up.  Amen.