What It Means to Be Christian Part 9: Divine Love in Action Rev Dr Durrell Watkins What it means to be Christian. Obviously, to be Christian means to follow the way of Jesus…in fact, the first Jesus movements were called Followers of the Way. But what does it mean to follow the way of Jesus? […]
What It Means to Be Christian
Part 9: Divine Love in Action
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
What it means to be Christian. Obviously, to be Christian means to follow the way of Jesus…in fact, the first Jesus movements were called Followers of the Way. But what does it mean to follow the way of Jesus?
#1. To follow Jesus is to be on a Journey of Faith…not static, but an on-going journey of learning, growing, and moving forward.
#2. To follow Jesus is to affirm that God is…not to reduce God to an idol or a dogma or an image, but to trust that God can be searched, experienced, loved, trusted, but never fully known. We try to explain our various experiences of the divine, but we must remember that the explanation is not the actual experience, and whatever we’ve experienced is not the totally of God.
#3. To follow Jesus is to understand that salvation is about this life…salvation is healing, liberation, and wholeness for the life we have now, not fire insurance for a possible future existence. It is in God that we live and move and have our being, in this experience of life and in whatever might be next.
#4. To follow Jesus is to seek for Truth in the bible while understanding that truth and fact are not necessarily the same thing. Something can be true without being factual. Biblical stories can be true whether or not they ever happened or even could happen.
#5. To follow Jesus is to understand Why Golgotha Matters. It matters because it failed. It wasn’t God’s plan that someone be tortured to death. Countless people were crucified before Jesus was; two others were crucified the very day he was. Crucifixion wasn’t noble, it was horrific. But it didn’t end the life-changing power of Jesus’ message nor did it end the movement he inspired. Golgotha shows that there is life beyond heartache, peace beyond pain, and hope beyond horror…that’s the truth of Resurrection.
#6. To follow Jesus is to know that biblical faith challenges the status quo. To follow Jesus is to care about the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, the poor, the gay or lesbian person, the elderly, the hungry, the sick, the transgender person, and it is to try to transform systems that keep people in the margins. To follow Jesus is to work for justice and equality for all people.
#7. To follow Jesus is to transform lives by the power of justice-love. Our work is love based, not fear based, and it is from an understanding that divine Love embraces everyone; it leaves no one out for any reason.
#8. To follow Jesus is to be part of a peace-movement. Certainly spirituality is meant to help us cultivate inner peace, but Jesus wanted his followers to not only have inner peace but to share it. That’s the allegory of Jesus calming the seas. He faces the storm and says, “Peace; be still.” He shared the peace he had with those who were experiencing a stormy time. We want inner peace, we want to share that peace, and that will ultimately lead to working for peace among nations. The prophetic movement that inspired Jesus calls for swords to beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks; that is, religion should enhance and enrich life, not provide the drumbeat for war. In fact, the prophetic tradition that Jesus embraces dreams of a time when we will not even train for war anymore (Isaiah 2.4).
#9. Finally, to follow Jesus is to be the hands of God, as Jesus was, sharing hope and healing with our world; to follow Jesus is to be divine love in action.
When I was a child, I learned pretty early to be afraid of God. I now believe that there’s not a spot where God is not; we are never separate from divine life. Divine Love, if it is love at all, will NEVER let us go.
Our fundamentalist detractors will tell us that God loves us BUT God will punish us if we disobey God’s rules, and oddly enough, they seem to be the keepers and communicators of God’s rules, and what is more fascinating is that God’s rules suspiciously support all their prejudices. Ain’t that nice work if you can get it?
They will tell us that God loves us so much that God will kick us in the keister if we don’t follow the rules so that we will, out of fear, follow those rules so that God can then accept us. Tragically, that is what they are selling as “love.” In therapeutic circles it’s called abuse and the cycle of violence.
Do what Daddy says so Daddy won’t get mad and smack you up, and as long as Daddy is happy, Daddy will do nice things for you. But if you don’t do what Daddy says, then you’ll get slapped around to make you comply with the rules, and if that doesn’t work, after a while Daddy will just write you off. A more dysfunctional set up could hardly be imagined, and yet this is what far too many people are presenting as the love of God. I don’t even like Father and Mother language for God, because it infantilizes us and reminds far too many of us of unhealthy dynamics that weren’t life enhancing. I need God to be more than a parent, even a good one.
God isn’t angry Daddy, or vicious Mommy. God is love and love is unconditional and everlasting. When you hear hate the sin BUT love the sinner, you are hearing something that is unbiblical, unreasonable, and unloving (and usually it is directed toward same-gender loving people, as if love could ever be sinful if, indeed, God is love!). You can’t judge someone to be a sinner and then say you love them.
Oh, I’ve made mistakes, bad choices, but I was never those mistakes. I am not a sinner. I am a perfect divine being who didn’t know that for a long time and who forgets it even still and who therefore falls short of my divine potential sometimes, but I am no sinner, and neither are you.
We are children of God, made in the image and likeness of God, part of the creation that God calls very good, and we say that with no caveats or buts. If you have a voice in your head saying, “God loves you, but…” I challenge you right now to get off your but.
God is love. PERIOD. Love is unconditional. PERIOD. I am part and parcel of God. PERIOD. No buts, just hope and healing and hallelujah!
There is a woman in India, a Hindu guru who people call Amma. She became known for her generosity and compassion. As a child her job was to gather scraps for the livestock her family raised. But she noticed that while she was feeding goats, a lot of her neighbors didn’t have enough to eat. So not only would she feed the goats, she would take food out of her family’s home and give it away to neighbors. She got in so much trouble. Her family had a home and food to eat, but they weren’t wealthy and didn’t’ think they could just feed all the neighbors all the time; but Amma thought as long as they had food, they had food to share.
She also developed a habit of hugging people. Just hugging people. When people were hurting or sad, she felt such compassion for them that she just wanted to comfort them; so she would hug them. That habit has stayed with her throughout her life, and people travel to India just to be hugged by Amma. Just to feel compassion, kindness, love. How love starved is our world that people would travel across time zones and continents for a hug from a stranger?
Last year Amma was part of an interfaith group that included Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and Muslims that signed a declaration calling for an end to modern forms of slavery. She supports various charities in 40 countries that provide health care, education, food and housing for people in need. And while teaching and raising money for charity and speaking out against injustice, she still conducts a world famous ministry of hugging.
Amma is not a Christian, but Amma’s life and ministry is one that Jesus would praise. Indeed, her ministry is much more like Jesus’ than that of many who claim to “believe in” him. It’s easy to have an opinion, even a strong opinion about Jesus; but to touch and the untouchable and love the unlovable and care about the hurting…well, that takes a bit more effort.
Amma is just trying to be divine love in action, as will those of us who wish to follow Jesus.
Following Jesus isn’t about how much water we use for baptism, if any.
Following Jesus isn’t about literalizing bible stories or feeling superior to non-Christians or being afraid of afterlife punishments.
Following Jesus is about learning to become divine love in action. Oh, most of us won’t succeed at that all the time; but we can get better. The world needs us to get at least a little better at sharing love.
That’s why we value our partnership with SunServe as they offer counseling and adult day care and youth support groups.
That’s why we collect food for local food banks.
That’s why we offer positive, uplifting entertainment to bring people together for low prices or love offerings only.
That’s why we shout from the roof tops week in and week out, YOU ARE GOD’S MIRACLE AND NOT GOD’S MISTAKE!
That’s why we affirm the sacred value of all people.
That’s why we ask you to support this ministry faithfully with time, talent and treasure.
That’s why we made an offering to Mother Emanuel AME Church when their members were attacked.
That’s why we have teams that walk for AIDS services.
That’s why we make at least one offering a year to the Global Justice Institute.
That’s why we share our property with the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida, with 12 step groups, with another worshiping community.
That’s why we share our message in person, in print, and via the Internet.
That’s why we confront racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and homophobia.
That’s why we stand with women against the colonization of women’s bodies and support women in making their own health care decisions.
That’s why we minister to people in Assisting Living Facilities, pray for people daily, and visit people in hospitals.
It’s why most of these services are offered for free or for love offerings or for fees far below so-called market value.
We’re just trying to offer human demonstrations of divine love, because that’s what it means to follow Jesus; that’s what it means to be Christian. And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2015
Divine Love will never let me go.
Love is healing every area of my life.
And I am willing to be divine Love in action.
God, through me, is blessing others.
And so it is.