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The Law of Love – Part 4 of 4

July 27, 2013

The future?

I believe that, in spite of whatever problems we encountered, at the heart of the LL, there lays a precious kernel and a promise for the future of Christianity. As David said:

each age or generation of the church has taken another step or some new step toward such freedom from the harsh restrictions of the law to the total freedom of love through the grace of God; from material symbolisms and mechanized ceremonialism to spiritual realities and total spiritual liberty”.

The LL does hold the premise of such a reality, liberty and destiny. Even the world, to a degree is moving in that same direction. Though painfully and with plenty of setbacks, it nonetheless struggles towards freedom, fairness, equality of sexes, human rights, the liberty and dignity of all human beings, against slavery and oppression,.

All this can be summed up in one word, Love, which we believe is the source of all being. The world yearns for it, but only sees its fleeting shadows, as the moving of a wind than cannot be constrained. It dreams, it writes, it sings and talks of it, hoping to take hold of its inspiration, but it’s only met by frustration and disappointment. It sees the goal but cannot reach it, because of its own greed and the constant struggle for survival.

In this lays the kernel of Christianity, in a life of love that rose above human circumstance and loved in spite of them; in a love that broke the chains of self, of the survival mode, and gave us power to break free. It’s our traditions which then turned Jesus into a religion, not He. He merely opened a way, he was that way, and that way is what will lead us on, past religion and traditions.

Many have already abandoned the traditional church mode, for it no longer meets their needs. They have new questions that beg for new answers, which religion is not equipped to answer. They have also claimed greater sexual liberty, and if we think that we had troubles with it, well it’s nothing, compared to what the liberated “Christian” West is having.

In any case, today’s emancipated societies have demanded greater freedom in all forms, from oppressive politics, bigoted religion and power-serving morality. They wish to go past these narrow confines and create a better world. Indeed there have been great advances, great improvements, but also great sorrows. More liberty, more education and better living conditions, haven’t necessarily delivered more happiness. With it we’ve also gotten more heartbreaks, more broken families, more loneliness and the new plague of depression.

As always, humanity longs for truth and for God, but Christianity is too committed to past forms and ideas to be a viable option for today. The waning influence of Christianity, in the West, is partly caused by its incompatibility to modern lifestyles. The idea that Christianity is dated, though often an excuse, has some validity. If nothing else, it shows how unappealing it has become.

While, in the past, Christianity did show tremendous adaptability, today it is so cluttered by the debris of former adaptations, that it appears more as an archeological site than a livable structure. While Greek, Roman and Jewish cultures impacted its theology, ethics and morality, these ancient cultures have long disappeared, and so has their appeal. Promoting these notions as “inerrant” dogmas makes religious institutions increasingly irrelevant.

The Law of Love, at its core, is so simple that it cuts through all cultural assimilations and conditioning. It presents a Christianity that is current and free from historical encrustations. Its basic principle can be applied to all human conditions, not as a legal system for all, but as a spiritual compass, yet with endless practical applications. “Love God and love others”, meaning “make the connection, receive from the primary source and share with others”, is its message. As David put it “you only need two laws now: Love God & love others!–God’s only law is Love!” (Mat.22:37-39).

In today’s society there is sex before marriage, divorce, birth control, separated people dating each-other and a host of complex problems related to complex relationships that are outside of traditional “Christian” models. The inadequacy of Christian institutions in dealing with such a reality is masked by their reactionary stance. All that some can do is point an accusing finger, while extolling the virtues of celibacy, virginity and the “good old religion”.

Apart for the highly touted cases of those seeking security in tradition, and the older the better, most people will not go for it. The past will not return and the world will continue to move forward, for that’s how God and humanity want it. To evoke apocalyptic scenarios and credit demonic influences for modernity and its problems, is to take God out of the picture and make him into a lesser god.

I believe there is progression in history and in religion as well. I believe God is still in control, that His plan hasn’t been foiled and that He has something new to say, today. In its over 2000 years of history Christianity has gotten into a ditch from which it must get out, and I believe it will.

Already I see the signs of it happening. A number of writers, theologians and Christian leaders have taken up the idea of a new Christianity, more or less centered on the principle of the Law of Love. Hard questions are being asked and challenging answers are emerging. New ways of thinking church are also emerging, with much being discarded and much being rediscovered.

There is ferment all-over and I believe it’s contributing to a new reformation, but a quiet one. This time there is no Martin Luther challenging the Pope, for Christianity is fragmented and different. Actually, there isn’t even an intent to reform it but, more simply, the desire to walk away from its ageing structures and start all over. While holding on to their faith, many are embarking on a journey of personal discovery, finding spiritual nourishment, fellowship, truth, and a new concept of church.

Traditional churches are sounding the alarm bells, because millions of people are walking out. From their perspective these are lost souls, lost to atheism, new age and the devil’s darkness. The truth is that people can no longer be controlled by the mere politics of fear, as in the pasts. New factors have emerged that make the religious and social equation much more complex. Generally speaking, people are dumping all that doesn’t ring true anymore, including centuries of religious clutter and the fallout of past religious wars. Some says that, in the process, they are throwing out the baby with the dirty bath water, but is this really the case? Can Jesus really be thrown out? I don’t think so. I believe that it is only dirty water that is being thrown out and, if there is no faith left after that, it is because there was none to begin with. Real faith can stand the test.

It reminds me of something I read the other day:

The problem with the church is that most of our clergy do not want to embrace new learning because they are not sure that their own faith will survive the process. Frequently, they blame their own reticence on what they presume are the fears of the lay people they serve. I see no reason why lay people cannot learn anything that I have learned. I think we clergy regularly insult the intelligence of the people we serve. I am also convinced that any God who can be killed by new knowledge or new insights ought to be killed, for clearly such a God is a human creation. Imagine the idiocy of anyone feeling that he or she must protect God from new human knowledge!

Truth does not die in the confrontation with new knowledge but it dies when we act as if truth can be captured inside the time warped and time bound concepts of any human form. The human perception of truth is never the same as truth and that perception is never static. There is no such thing as an inerrant Bible or an infallible pope! A living religion must always be interacting with unfolding truth”. (John Shelby Spong)

So the real Jesus’ experience cannot and will not be lost. People may be walking away from organized religion, but those who have Jesus will not lose Him, rather they will hold on to Him all the more – they will even come to know Him better, once that the crutches and artificial supports are removed, and will begin to grow again, to branch out with Him, and do that which their former institution said it couldn’t be done.

The LL is the common kernel of this new phenomenon and the list of books, websites and other material published on it, is increasing by the day. To be clear, the LL does not do away with sin, grace and redemption. It is not easy-believing, but upholds an even higher standard than mere religious legalism. It asks for more, but it does not impose unrelated useless standards, like rituals, diets, observances, doctrines, etc. The LL only asks that everything be judged by the standpoint of love. Anything unloving, even if religiously sanctioned, is sin. Anything loving, even if religiously heretical, is godly. The fruits tell what it is, if love or something else.

The LL adapts to every person and situation; it does not impose a prepackaged dated morality, from other times and cultures, but takes the person where it’s at, no matter what a mess he’s made of his life and turns it around, right there and then, in the very situation he’s in. It will give a spiritual compass, God’s presence and assistance to anyone asking for it, without prior conditioning, conversion and indoctrination in some old tradition.

Right now, millions of “Christians” the world over, think that they are too bad for God, that they could never live up to His expectation, that they have done too many things for which the churches said they will go to hell. They think that they cannot be part of the body of Christ, because they are banned from the Eucharist, they are not saved, not really born again, not really believing the right way, or have lost their salvation because they sinned against the Holy Ghost, turned their back on God or done some awful thing, which only they know about. So many live in fear for themselves or their loved ones, having been told that they will never see them again because they died in sin, immorality, drugs or suicidal. Without repentance and baptism, or for the wrong baptism, they fear that they will burn in eternal flames, with the rest of humanity.

This is reality for millions of Christians the world over, and is the reason why so many are walking away. The very thing that used to keep them from leaving church, fear, is what is driving them away now. Though they have nothing against Jesus, still, they want nothing more to do with the fearful environment created by those who claim to be His. Those who have never been Christian, for these same reasons will never consider Christianity a viable option. Christianity, as it was, is becoming a closed culture with a defensive apologetic mentality, appealing mainly to those who already belong to it.

Its main mission is mostly that of containing losses, but it is a doomed and defensive warfare, with no gospel for today and no vision for the future. They still preach the same old stuffy sermons, with the same old trinkets and theatrics. Come to us for tradition, they say, for miracles, for emotional highs, for culture and intellectuality, for this and for that. Most of it is not the good news and it is not Jesus, but it is the rubble of a system that was.

God, instead, is a liberator, the God of freedom and unconditional love, and not of religious binding. In this was Christianity’s original appeal, in its iconoclastic difference from religious systems, which is why the Romans called them atheists, and it’s also why the disenfranchised and the oppressed felt attracted to it. Today, to be a veritable option for the world and its people, Christianity must reclaim its liberating power. To do that, however, it must rid itself of its own chains.

Liberal-Progressive Christianity has championed some of these causes, including that of the Law of Love, but its attention has often been diverted by the narrow interests of vocal minorities. Some of its exponents have focused on core issues, but the debate between liberals and fundamentalists has been dominated by inconsequential matters. The dialogue, between Christian institutions, has failed to produce any real alternative or renewal. While the world needs the good news in today’s language, most churches still squabble about doctrines that are centuries, if not thousands of years old.

As ineffective as individualism is made out to be, yet it seems to be the only viable option, and the good news seems to be moving in that direction. The time for big Christian institutions seems to be over, which makes it appears as if Christianity is dying, but is it so? Maybe it’s a rebirth, because Christ is first of all a personal Saviour, and only derivatively a social one. Come to think of it, that is how Christianity first spread, from person to person and without political and institutional backing. Could it be that big religion and big religious institutions are not part of tomorrow’s Christianity?

Years ago a catchy phrase became very popular with some Christians, and many wore jewelry carrying its acronym “W.W.J.D.”. It stood for “What Would Jesus Do?”. It was a step in the right direction, towards removing some of the clutter and getting down to the heart of it all. It was like saying “if you are confused about what it means to be a Christian, just ask yourself what Jesus would do, if he were in your place”. It was a step towards bringing Christianity up to date, but I would take it even a step further. Since the name of Jesus has been so abused for so long, even invoked as a cause for war, torture and genocide, I would further eliminate any possible misunderstanding by using another name for God, the Father whom Jesus revealed; I would ask, “what would Love Do?”, and that’s the heart of the Law of Love.

“…every one that loves is born of God, and knows God. He that loves not knows not God; because God is love. …None has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 Joh 4:7-12)

(End of part 4 of 4)

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