To be clear…

My faith doesn’t allow me to escape the demands of today nor the trials of life. My faith allows me to deal with those demands and trials with the hope and trust that the demands/trials are not God and do not have the last word. To walk this path is not a quest for certainty as much as it is a journey of love, decency, and wholeness–it’s a journey that refuses the idolatrous temptation to equate God with certainty, power, or security. I can’t walk this journey like you walk it. And you can’t walk it like I walk it. But somehow, we can walk this journey together. This is what I believe.

But I also believe this. The power to harm and separate and kill is real. Confusing love and God with power, identity, wealth, fear, and nation is real. And because that kind of confusion is real, many of us don’t walk this journey together. Some of us won’t walk this journey together, not because we don’t love but because of what we love. I don’t love being right more than I love right relationship (Justice). I don’t love a doctrinal position or a quasi-religious document more than a love a human being. And I will never love a nation, church, or group—more than I love God. And the thing about God is that I know less about God than anything in this world of mine.

I am never immune to worshiping an idol because there are other things I love besides God. But the insight of Jesus is precisely that. Jesus discloses that God knows that we love multiple things and so God reveals to us that the love of God, neighbor, and self—this tripartite love—is the most important thing we can do. And it’s the love of neighbor that animates and balances the love of God and love of self. Even for those who don’t believe in a god, I can assure you, we all believe in something that is ultimate… we can’t escape the ultimate/transcendent anymore than we can escape the mundane. But it’s never the love of ultimates that’s a problem. We have a problem loving our neighbors.

Human beings from time immemorial seek to put a statute of limitations on who our neighbors are. But I think the Christian Scriptures give us a mosaic—not without contradiction—of how holistic this love is when it comes to neighbors.

Matthew’s gospel says the Law and Prophets (Torah and Nevi’im)—Scripture itself is dependent upon the love of God and neighbor. Yet too many folk think that the love of God and neighbor are dependent upon Scripture. This may seem radical, but it’s not if we sit with it. If we need Scripture to love God and neighbor then we are lost already. Literacy is not a precondition to love. (It always strikes me that so many churches put their understanding of the Bible as their first article of faith, as if faith depends on literacy. But that’s just me.)

Mark tells us that loving God and neighbor is more important than our rituals and sacrifices; Jesus says those who understand this are not far from the Kingdom of God. I always found that interesting. Those who understand the love command are close to where God chills.

In Luke, we see that love calls us out of a narrow group identity markers by giving us the Good Samaritan, but beyond that IMPORTANT point—Luke’s Jesus demonstrates clearly that love without compassionate kindness is wack. “Who is my neighbor?” Err’body. “How can I exhibit neighborly love?” Be compassionate and kind, even to strangers. (Remember, you were once a stranger to God and in the land of Egypt. I think that sounds familiar…)

And the writer(s) in the Johannine Community tell us that the world will know that we are disciples of Jesus if we love one another and that those who claim they love God but hate a brother or sister are liars. The statement, “you cannot love God whom you have not seen if you don’t love your brother and sister you see everyday…” that there… that there is ICE COLD.

John’s gospel and community has a lot of inter-group conflict and each gospel on its own doesn’t paint a full picture concerning the love command… but I’m from the south. We make gumbo. We mix eggs, cheese, and sausage in our grits. We mix two packs of Kool Aid along with copious amounts of sugar to make a drank. That’s what I just did there with those biblical passages. And it sho’ taste good. Just take some effort to make. The best dishes are made when the recipe allows for improvisation. And y’all know the best recipes are never written down.

Damn. I think said something.

The best recipes are never written down.

Whatever happens, for those who come to my blog, please know that most of my posts will be written from this vantage point. But more than writing posts–when I teach in the classroom, when I preach in a pulpit, when I talk to my daughters and young people, and on those inevitable days where I will publicly protest with others–this is the faith I have.

I don’t know if I’m woke; I don’t claim to be a revolutionary. But I will not bow down to or worship weapons, books, literacy, wealth, fear, hatred, nation, identities, persons, or brute force. I acknowledge the presence of these realities and even their ability to “get things done.” Some might even be helpful. But I will not worship them. Everyday, I shall endeavor to hope for, trust in, and love a God of love who calls us to justice, mercy, and love.

Peace be with y’all.

Faith, hope, and love

©️ M. J. Sales 2020

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