Does Jesus really love me?

 

I’ve just finished reading this book by Jeff Chu, subtitled ‘A gay Christian’s pilgrimage in search of God in America’. In his search to answer his question Jeff set out on a journey across America to meet a whole range of people and visit churches from MCC LA to Westboro Baptist. Thanks to his literary style I found the book engrossing. It isn’t one of those books where I’ve highlighted many passages, but his personal analysis and reflection and the people he interviews and quotes focused my awareness on some of the critical issues I deal with every day as Director of Changing Attitude England. Here are the ones I did underline:

Henri Nouwen – The Road to Daybreak

“Much church discussion today focuses on the morality of human behaviour ….” This focus on morality diverts attention from “the life of the heart,” a term he uses for one’s relationship with God. “The heart is much deeper and wider than our affections. It is before and beyond the distinctions between sorrow and joy, anger and lust, fear and love. It is the place where all is one in God, the place where we truly belong.”

“Nouwen gently diagnoses a problem of locus and focus. His words crystallise for me the distraction of ego, of the need for validation on the human plane, and how that can avert our gaze from the divine.”

Nouwen: “God’s unlimited love allows us to be deeply involved with the suffering of the word without being swallowed up by it.”

Scripture – Highlands Church, Colorado

“None of us reads Scripture as it has always been read – that is impossible. We all impose our cultural constructs, our individual lenses, our biases and prejudices and wants and desires.”

“Highlands is less its theological position on homosexuality than its stance on humanity. While remaining committed to deep and constant engagement with the Bible, it encourages people not just to come to services but to bring their whole selves, not just their sacred stances but also their profane fears and insecurities. They are called to do what is uncommon in the church: question boldly, without fear and in confidence.”

The Church

“As a whole, it’s an institution that has shown itself to be incapable of dealing with who we are and where we are – and a church that is ill-equipped for honesty is not a church worthy of Jesus of the Bible. What I never found was unity in what Jesus taught. What I encountered was more often cowardice. I found pastors to be more sheep than shepherd.”

The Language of Love

“We don’t know how to speak with one another anymore. We think we speak the same language, yet we find it nearly impossible to communicate – not to mention commune – with one another. Forget about salvation or sin. Let’s talk about love. What could be simpler or more essential? God is love! For God so loved the world! The greatest of these is love! And yet there is no word that is more complicated, more confusing, more divisive, more multiply defined.

People and Grace

We must personify grace. A Nashville interviewee said: “It’s not my responsibility or my job to push people out of God’s story or tell them there’s something they have to overcome to be part of it. They are part of God’s story – as they are.”

God

“We have taken a God of many names and hand-selected our favourite few. A vast and mysterious yet intimate and personal God has been reduced into something small and manageable and comprehensible.”

“I have come to value scepticism more than ever as a key part of faith. It’s important because it can bring clarity.”

“My God isn’t simply the God I believe in but the God I want to believe in and need to believe in. A God of unimaginable grace, a God of patience, a God of justice, a God of unconditional love, a God whose wisdom and mercy are incomprehensible to our feeble minds.”

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