Christianity As A Love Story
This is my manifesto. It’s a work in progress, not complete yet much like its author. This is only a first rough draft, but I post it as a way of saying who I am and how I view God, the world, and my role in it.
I begin with Love.
Love starts with God and everyone who loves is a child of God. Those who do not love cannot know God, because God is love. God is the creator, sustainer, and source of love. Love is a gift from God for everyone. God showed his love among us: He sent his Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. We ought to show love to everyone. It’s by our love that we will be known as followers of Jesus. If we claim to love God yet hate a brother or sister, we are a liar. Anyone who does not love their brother and sister, who they see cannot love God, who is not seen. God’s command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (See 1John 4:7-12, 20-21)
God loves me as I am, but loves me way too much to leave me that way. He loves each of us with this awesome personal love. This transforming personal love is the heart and soul of the universe. I am with Brennan Manning when he writes, “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” There are days when I am assaulted by the love of God. I will be walking down the street, browsing at the city library, writing my blogs, or talking with someone and this overwhelming sense of being loved by God will smack me between the eyes. Sometimes I must stop and just revel in the goodness inherent in the universe. In these times the sure saving knowledge that the universe is conspiring for my good or to put it in more biblical language God is good and with God all things are possible.
I know some find a loving God a stumbling block. There are bad things that happen in this life and I am by no means ignoring or glossing over these instances. I am very well aware of them and since becoming a Christian I have dropped my overly optimistic stance and become more realistic about life. Life can be hard, for others it is much harder, yet my experience has informed me that the heart and soul of the universe is of being loved personally by the Creator and Lord of all that is, was, and will be.
It was in the reading of the Gospel of John, especially John 10:10 that I was graced with faith in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. In this gospel in general and this verse, in particular I was given a glimpse at what this life is meant to be. We are meant to live our lives to the fullest, experiencing all that life has to offer, and sharing it with one another. Life is a miracle and living it fully is a truly beautiful thing. Knowing God’s love, I know that I am not as I ought to be, but I am determined to becoming the me that I want to be, the me that God created me to be. It is through God’s love that I have a chance at accomplishing this.
Seeing Christianity as one big love story is realizing that God is the father in the parable of the prodigal son and when he sees me turn to him, he is filled with compassion for him; he runs to me, throws his arms around me and kisses me. I say ‘I have sinned against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But God is not concerned over the past and says ‘Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ Celebration begins. (Luke 15:20-22)
God runs after us and in our turning back to God and accepting his unconditional and limitless love and grace, we are welcomed into the feast of the Father. Our response in faith to God’s work is our returning and to our incredible surprise, we find not a judgmental god but a loving father who throws a party to welcome us back instead of making us drop through impossible hoops.
There was a time I didn’t know the love of God. Before I encountered Jesus and his gospel, my life was troubled with guilt, fear, shame, and despair. My central preoccupation growing up was that I was wrong and I could do nothing about it. I had to try though, because no one was going to do it for me. The amazing fact that confronted me was that Jesus did it all on the cross for me and all of creation. The sure and saving knowledge that God loves me as I am, but way too much to leave me that way has changed everything about me and how I see the world. My growing awareness of being loved and accepted for who I am is not from anything I can or could ever do, but is a response in faith to the God of love and His gospel of grace.
I begin with Love, but that is only the beginning. From there I am called to become the me I ought to be, the me that God created me to be and that us where discipleship begins.
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