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One of the things that impacts me greatly when I read the gospel accounts is the way Jesus dialogued with those around him.  I use the word dialogue specifically here in contrast to the word monologue which is almost exclusively what we see and hear in our present religious settings.

What I see is that  Jesus asked a lot of questions and engaged intimately and personally with people in many different ways that suggests to me that he was more than just interested in their individual world view but that he even respected it and asked them for clarity on their way of seeing things.

In the gospel of John he goes into quite some detail about the intent of God in his being there and what this was really all about.  In it all there is rich evidence of what I see as God’s desire to engage with us as friends and not as slaves or even servants.  To my mind there is far less emphasis on a heavy, top-down relationship where mankind needs to cower and tip-toe around an angry, hostile, difficult to please master.   Instead I see a completely different picture, that of a great creator of all things, a supreme intelligence, wanting to enter in and explore a mutual relationship that is based on dialogue, friendship, agreement, even open and flexible negotiation.

What also stands out for me is that this was not as a result of any request on our side, prayerful or other.  As far as I can make out there is no record of anyone asking God to make it easier or to relax with all the heavy commandments and tough expectations.  Sure, some prophets lamented quite passionately from time to time but not a lot is recorded as saying, “Hey God, what’s your problem?” “Give us a break will you?”  … “What’s with all these impossible demands?”  “Cut us some slack here – we’re only human after all!”  Instead it appears overwhelmingly so that God’s kindness and open handed acceptance is an entirely unprovoked initiative from God himself.   In fact, even to this day there is more evidence to point to the fact that we still expect a bolt of burning sulphur like anger to descend on our heads at any moment … and this is what we tend to preach.  Yet this kindness, acceptance, unmerited embracing, … it’s all God’s idea.  Even salvation itself is penned as being for God’s sake, not exclusively ours.

Doesn’t that surprise you?  It totally caught the religious intelligentsia in Jesus’ day with their pants down and even with our sense of present time revelation and the ‘new testament’ of unmerited grace and forgiveness I think it still catches us as well.  I see this strange initiative of God as pointing quite convincingly to a desired relationship based on mutual respect and trust and as I said, this comes from God and not us.  For me this is amazing.  Talk about signs and wonders … this is BOTH!

And I don’t see God making a brazen demand for total conformity to a stronger, exacting, legalistically demanding, higher conduct but almost directly the opposite.   To me it presents a picture of the almighty creator descending down to what is obviously a lower order of life specifically to engage and not even exclusively on what is a higher demanding standard, but almost a mutual interaction, a dialogue not a monologue.   For me it’s sort of like, “Listen guys,  we got a huge problem here, sure, but I have a solution … and here’s what I have done about it …”   And if any changes are needing to be made it is God himself who makes it happen before we even know we could or should ask for it.

Equally strangely to me is that we seem to demand these ‘changes’ of ourselves and especially of others, it’s not God who makes these demands.  I mean, the offer was made to us before we even knew we were in need and we were accepted while still unimaginably smelly so why after being accepted with such open handed embrace would there need to be changes made in order to be more accepted?  Yet we expect people to conform to this kind of  stuff.  In fact we demand it.  Stuff like – don’t do this, stop doing that, start doing that, start doing the other thing, think this way and not that way, etc.   It looks to me like this solution we’ve been presented with in scripture is clearly a call for intimacy of a kind that is even in this so-called ‘enlightened’ day strikingly unusual.

“Terms and conditions apply!” – I hear this everyday in the media, but I struggle to see it in the sacred texts.  Yet it is heard from the pulpit all the time and is transferred through social censure and religious internal politics.  In fact, the way it reads to me is that if there are any terms and conditions they are met before we even know they are needing to be met.  As a consequence it really impacts me severely just seeing and experiencing the hierarchical and formal nature of even the most so called ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ of modern church systems.

The way I understand it the offer is to all, even the most anti-whatever, including the worst of the worst.   People who are so off, and I mean OFF! … WAY off – are freely accepted – totally embraced by this crazy, extravagant, generous, open hearted, open handed God.  But with us, if someone has even a slightly different idea on what or who God is or even a slightly different way they do something, they are cut off and rejected, even publicly insulted and humiliated, muscled out to the peripheral courts of the untouchable heathens – those blemishes in the community, the black sheep of the flock.
I cannot help but conclude for myself that this could very easily suggest that we have possibly not ever really understood anything of the intent and practical outworking of Jesus’ words on the matter even though we brandish about the term “The Father’s Heart” with great abandon.

I wonder what might happen if the penny dropped one day?

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5 Comments

  1. This is all very thought provoking and challenging.

  2. Nail on the head…

  3. Good stuff.

  4. I don’t think the penny will drop until we see Him face to face. Didn’t Jesus warn us things weren’t going to go like we expected on that Day?

  5. It is always a pleasure to engage in your thoughts, it was great to read your words that rang like Notre Dame in my soul. I am beginning to feel and believe that there is a new move of the Spirit, one that will remember tradition with a wink but move into a new dawn of freedom and understanding of the only God that exists and loves us beyond our wildest comprehension. Thankyou again for your wonderful inspiring visions. Bro Keith


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