What church often does is put words to the theory of Christ. What church needs to do is give shape to the experience of grace. Experience without words is meaningless. Words without experience are powerless.
This is a tension in the way we work and learn; not one to be resolved but one to name and lean into.
If I could convince everyone in the world of just one thing it would be this – before we are anything else we are loved, we are accepted, we are enough.
Quite often it is argued that truth is either objectively and always true or truth is relativistic, fuzzy, and can’t be trusted. For Christian theology, a claim like Jesus is Lord or God is love is usually thought to be the former kind of absolute, objective ‘Truth’ on which everything else is built. The problem with this either/or approach to truth is the fact that humans are inherently relational, story telling, community first creatures. The dichotomy of objectivity vs relativity presumes a form of intellectual individuality that has never existed and, if it did exist, would undercut the very heart of the gospel message. Truth is not grounded in the ability of the human mind to get the words right in arguments. Truth is grounded in the love of God that sets the world right in relationship. Therefore, I’d argue truth is not objective or relativistic – truth is relativtastic.
Some say that knowledge or intent or consequence or deontology is what matters in determining how moral our actions are.
In the Christian life what matters is that we are already loved, accepted, and enough in the arms of the Lord. Any particular action is an embodiment of that reality or a detriment to it. What matters first and foremost is the unbreakable love of God and only then does our response come into play, not as a pelagian demarcation of ‘morality vs sin’ but as a witness to God’s love or a breaking thereof. That we seem so intent on defining sin without understanding the community that sin breaks is perhaps the single greatest failure of the church today.
The point of the gospel is not to not sin. The point is to love with the love of Christ.
Punitive punishment in response to crime is perhaps the most compelling solution offered by a story of fear. It is also the least effective solution in the context of real life. Solutions that treat people as the problem only cause shame and cement brokenness, at best preventing further overt acts of harm. If we are to seek after the life that really is life, we must treat people as the point; we must put the vast majority of our effort into responses that empower, heal, educate, restore, equip, and otherwise bring to light the gifts of our greatest and most unique asset: us. Decentering the story of fear that has gripped us as a nation and a denomination may be the single most difficult but essential step toward ending the destructive cycles we seem so intent on perpetuating.
Emotion and rationality are not different things that can be pitted against one another. Emotion is the raw material, rationality is the process by which we shape emotion into something tangible and meaningful. One can have emotion without rationality but no one can have rationality without emotion. To think otherwise is like saying you could build a sandcastle without sand. Sand is still sand even if unformed, but the process of building a castle is nothing if there is no material with which to build. Likewise, building with intentionality may lead to something more beautiful than raw sand, but the beauty of the castle always resides within the sand no matter the skill of the builder.
Disciples are formed and defined more through habits and behaviors than through beliefs and decisions. The shape of a life is capable of giving witness to the life God empowers. The content of a sentence is not. The practices that create and heal relationship are capable of embodying God’s love. The unpredictable, uncontrollable, and unknowable consequences of a choice are not.
The problem with labels is that they are both entirely insufficient to capture the reality of life and at the same time entirely necessary for us to say anything meaningful about the world.