I’ve got friends on both sides of the polarizing divide in our country, some who think religious conservatives are some of the worst people on the planet and some who think it is impossible for Democrats to believe in God. I’ve been questioned by people on both of those sides as to how I could write such a “great” book as He Loves Me and then follow it up with something as carnal as A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation.
Many seem to think God only loves the “home team” they are on and holds in contempt those on the “away team,” as they see it. The truth is, God’s love extends to us all. There is not one taste of Father’s love for me that has also not been extended to every other human on the planet. I believe a Father’s love is not the reward we receive for holding the right beliefs or following the right political agenda. Father’s love is the starting line of a glorious adventure of transformation that will allow us not only to live more freely in God’s reality, but also to love other people who need to find the starting line themselves.
The secret is, those two are not separate books about different things, but two books about the same thing. It is love we receive and then love we freely give away in the world. I loved how one lady discovered that and wrote me last week to tell me about it:
I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated the God Journey podcast last Tuesday with Vince Coakley (The Dangers of Dogma). I’m from the South and I found the conversation between the two of you so engaging for me personally, and so fitting for our nation as a whole at such a time as this!
As I was thinking back on your conversation and reflecting on the notes I took, I was struck by your statement about people who “ran up to the end of their answers and were willing to go beyond them”. I immediately thought, “That’s me. He’s talking about me!” I love having these words to help me articulate what I have experienced. And then you said something about finding the answers “beyond the ones I used to think were all I needed”. Again, I thought, “Yes, that’s what happened to me. That’s how I experienced that part of my journey towards authenticity.”
Then, I had one of those rare but profound moments when two concepts; or in this case, lessons learned from two seemingly different realms of experience suddenly converge as if they were intricately woven together all along.
I realized that what caused me to run up to the end of my answers was my desire to see my belief system through the eyes of my out-group as I wrote about in my first email to you several weeks ago. I knew that the answers that I had always leaned on were not going to stand up to the cynical doubts that drove the questions of three people in my life who all perceive Christians as hypocritical colonizers.
The more I thought about it, I saw that for me, and I’m guessing many others, there is a connection between the message of He Loves Me and the challenge presented in A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation:
When my heart began to truly be free to live in God’s affection, I began to be more aware of a deeper love, a wider grace, and a more sincere desire to forgive. All of the sudden, I found myself loving those who represent my out-group in much the same way God loves me.
I mentioned in my first email to you that I read He Loves Me six years ago for the first time. I have been rereading it recently these last few weeks. Your words from p. 183 in Ch. 21 resonate with me so clearly now; much more so now than they did six years ago at the very beginning of my journey:
“Once we experience love as God defines it we will not be able to keep from sharing it with others as it has been shared with us. Where God is generous with you, you can be generous with others. Where God affirms your worth in him, you won’t seek a substitute from others. Where you know God overlooks your flaws, you’ll overlook them in others.”
“Instead of despising people who are broken by sin you will be touched by the depth of bondage that holds them captive. You will also see better how the Father responds to them and then you will know how you can as well.”
So it became clear to me in the past couple of days that not only am I free now that I have stepped outside of the boundary of religious obligation, but I am truly free to love others in ways that I was powerless to do before. While I had recognized that my friendships with these three people inspired me to take a hard look at my values and beliefs from their perspectives, I now see that my new ability to begin living loved two and half years ago primed me for engaging with each of these individuals in the first place in ways I was previously not prepared to do. I was not conscious of it when each relationship took root, but I can see it now looking back.
That. Is. So. Cool.
Jesus said it best, “Love others as I have loved you… by this all men will know that you are my disciples.” Without that love, no attempt to defend what’s true will matter.
Remember, loving someone doesn’t mean you’re required to agree with them, only that you’re willing to understand them.
Try it, and you’ll soon discover how you can love someone who sees the world very differently than you. It may even drive them a bit nuts!
Special Programming Notes:
This Sunday, May 17, at 1:00 pm PDT we are doing another God Journey After-Show, for those who want to discuss the content of the last two podcasts about viewing the Bible as a Treasure Map to explore, not a Moral Code to Follow. If you’d like to be in on the discussion, please listen to the two most-recent podcasts and sign-up for the After-Show and let Wayne know what your interest is in this discussion. If you just want to stream it live or watch it later, view it here.
This Tuesday at 2:00 we are having another Language of Healing Live, where the co-authors will be discussing the recent shooting of a black man in Georgia and how our culture can discuss difficult issues like that without polarizing into two mutually exclusive camps. This episode of Live! will be hosted by Gil Michel, of South Bend, IN. You can stream it live at The Language of Healing Discussion Group.