By Dr. Russ,
My attempt to address the questions, “Where is God and What does God want from us,” is inspired by an Op Ed article in the New York Times by David Brooks on January 28, 2014. Brooks begins by noting that many secular people describe the devoutly faithful, Jewish, Christian or other, as “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” “old fashioned” and “out of touch.” I am a devoutly faithful Christian seeking understanding through theology. I agree with the conclusion of the secular people who are in essence saying, “If God is out of touch, judgmental, hypocritical, and old fashioned”, then God is dead. If God is dead, God doesn’t want anything of us and we are left to do it on our own. Perhaps this is why Brooks titles his article, “Alone, Yet Not Alone.”
So, Where is God? I agree, God is dead if God occupies the space of judgment, non-acceptance, and rejection of others based on gender, sexual orientation, race, social class, or any other discriminating factor. God is dead if God rejects and condemns sinners. But, this is not the God I know. The God I know is alive and with me in a loving and accepting relationship each and every moment of my life.
So, Where is God? God is alive and dwelling amongst us, dwelling within us if only we open our hearts and see God within us. According to Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement . . . to get up in the morning and look at the world that takes nothing for granted . . . to be spiritual is to be amazed.” In my view, the optimist gets out of bed every morning gazing around and proclaiming that life is amazing!
So, Where is God? The Disciples saw God up close and personal as they walked with Jesus throughout the Holy Lands proclaiming and sharing the Good News. The Good News not that God was going to save a few “Holy Men” of high status in the Jewish culture, but that God was here for the oppressed, the downtrodden, the prostitutes and tax collectors. God just didn’t take the form of a human, but became fully human so we could see then and now, close up, by example where God is and what God wants from us. God is with the last of us as much as with the first. God is a forgiving God who reconciled all humankind to God in the death of his only Son on the Cross.
So, What does God want from us? God sacrificed God’s only Son so that we could live; live in the light of Christ’s resurrection. Yes, I know these words sound good, but you have heard them before over and over and their meaning has been lost. Let’s begin with sacrifice. How many parents would not give up their own life so their child could live? Would leap in front of a speeding car while pushing their child out of the way? Would gladly give up a kidney, lung, or liver to save their child? That is what God did for us; God in Jesus died for us so we could live.
So, What does God want from us? Let’s start with love. How does God get us to love God? Can love be ordered or commanded? Can God get us to love God by threatening us with judgment day, hell and damnation? How absurd for God to say, “You must love me or you will burn in hell? Such a God would be abusive in the worst sense of the word. Yes, some men order their wives or girlfriends to love them with the threat of a gun or a fist? So, God loves us, and God wants us to love God back, but God can’t make us love God because that would be hypocritical. Love must be voluntary and come from the heart.
So, Where is God? God is patiently waiting for us to love God back. God has forgiven us. God has reconciled us to God at the Cross. God is standing with open arms waiting for us to love back. Reconciliation means God has offered atonement, meaning “at-one-ment” with God and all humanity. Reconciliation is the offer to restore and heal our wounds and sinful nature, to grow in human perfection, though our acceptance of God’s love. But, to be honest and true love, the love must be voluntary on our part.
So, Where is God? God is there for us, will never leave or reject us.
So, What does God want from us? God wants us to grow in the light of God’s love, but only if we freely submit and become obedient to this love. What does it mean to freely choose to obey? Let’s start with an analogy to parenting. If parents develop a truly loving relationship with their child, then the child chooses to obey not because they fear losing the love, but because they want to honor that love with their obedience. The love commands obedience, not by force but by devotion.
So, What does God want from us? God wants us to be devoted to him in loving relationship just as the virtuoso violinist is in love with the pursuit of perfection of her craft. There is nothing more joyful to the virtuoso then to get better and better in pursuit of perfection of her craft. The virtuoso is obedient to the demands of this pursuit not because they are forced to, but because there is nothing they would rather do. In the same way, when we freely choose to accept God’s love we are seeking virtuoso status in the love of God. We no longer live in judgment, hypocrisy, fear, out of touch with our fellow human beings. Instead we delight in following in Christ’s example to work for the restoration and healing of all our fellow brothers and sisters in the entire human race.
So, What does God want us to do? Healing does not mean that the gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgendered humans must heal from this, so called sin, but rather through the love we live out in Christ we accept them as God’s gift, love them for who they are, without condemnation or rejection. As we accept and love them we are healed and restored in God’s love and they are healed from the wounds of rejection, condemnation and alienation from a judgmental society, who’s God is dead. Instead they live in the love of God that is within every one of us, a God that was resurrected as Christ to bring “new life.” This same kind of love is meant for all of God’s children regardless of whether they are cognitively impaired, suffering from dementia, sick, poor, criminals, or victims.
So, Where is God and What does God want us to do? God can be found inside each and everyone of us as unconditional love that calls us to a relationship that is so wonderful we see no choice but to honor that love with our obedience and devotion; to honor that relationship by loving God back. David Brooks quotes St. Augustine’s answer to the question: What do I love when I love my God:”
“Yet there is a light I love, and a food, and a kind of embrace when I love my God – a light, voice, odor, food,embrace, of my innerness, where my soul is floodlit by light which space cannot contain, where there is sound that time cannot seize, where there is perfume that no breeze can disperse, where there is a taste for food no amount of eating can lesson, and where there is a bond of union that no satiety can part. That is what I love when I love my God.”
Who wouldn’t choose to be where this God is and to freely choose to stay in this loving light in faithful, loving and devout obedience to carrying out God’s love in the example of Jesus Christ here on earth. The Kingdom has come!!!!