Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Eve!

Merry Christmas from the Rule Family. This is a blast-from-the-past photo that I just got of my family when I was... I dont know, around 6 years old. I am the cute kid in the front right. Enjoy this and the rest of the post.
So this isnt really my thoughts on Christmas or Christmas Eve but it is Christmas Eve here in Rome right now (12:46 as I begin this). For todays freebee, check out this video on you tube You may not enjoy it but I thought it was beautiful and thought the idea was really cool, like the music was a journey through memory.

In other news, here is something I wrote a little while ago. I didnt post it when I wrote it because I was still hoping to hear from and see if they would post it (they still havent told me yes or no, just that they would read it and get back to me). So here it is for you, my few faithful. Much Love. Merry Christmas. Christ is born.

God Loves That Guy

“God loves that guy.”

These four simple words have been hitting me with all the subtlety of a baseball bat to the head for the last twenty-four hours.

“God loves that guy.” The chorus to a song off a new CD by Andy Gullahorn was the catalyst to something that had been bothering for a couple days. Let me explain by starting from the beginning.

It usually takes me a while to pick up when God is speaking to me, so it often takes a couple swings for his truth to sink in. The first swing was a book I am reading, “The Divine Conspiracy” by Dallas Willard, which is rocking my boat on some assumptions I have had for quite some time about living the Christian life. There are no new truths revealed in the book, just old truths told in a new way. In a part I recently read, he says

“In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he gives an awesome list of those who, continuing in their evil, cannot “inherit the kingdom,”: “fornicators idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, active homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers” (6:10). Then he adds, “And such were some of you, but you were cleansed, made hold and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

If I, as a recovering sinner myself, accept Jesus’ good news, I can go to the mass murderer and say, “You can be blessed in the kingdom of the heavens. There is forgiveness that knows no limits. To the pederast and the perpetrator of incest. To the worshiper of Satan. To those who rob the aged and weak. To the cheat and the liar, the bloodsucker and the vengeful: Blessed! Blessed! Blessed! As they flee into the arms of The Kingdom Among Us.”

This didn’t really sink in on me. I guess it is “Christian theology” that I have always heard, that everyone can be forgiven. So I read it, thought “cool” and kept reading. Granted, this blessing comes with the condition to “flee into the arms of The Kingdom Among Us,” but of course it is available for all who turn from their own ways. That is what I have always been taught.

The second swing was the recent shooting in a church in Colorado. Here is Rome, Italy, I can be out of the loop of American happenings so the first I heard of the shootings was in email from a friend. He sent an article on the woman who took the shooter down and who saved the day. And he added some angry (albeit sarcastic, I later learned) words for the gunman at the end of his email.

It upset me. I thought, “How can he not forgive this guy if Jesus offered forgiveness to the very men who nailed him to the cross.” So I sat in my own self-righteous tower and stewed over how to best respond to my friend, how to “correct him.” I am sure the part of me that I usually keep hidden was saying, “If only my friend could learn the true meaning of God’s love. If only he could learn to forgive as Christ forgave, like I have learned.”

Then I listened to the song by Andy Gullahorn. And he wrote about a suicide bomber. The family deserter. And followed each story by “God loves that guy.” Simple words yet I couldn’t shake them.

And it became personal. What if that suicide bomber killed my brothers, my parents? What if that guy that deserted his family was my dad? What if that shooter had been in my church, killed my best friends? I stopped all the theorizing about “God loves the rapist and the murderer” and made it personal. Would I still want God to love that guy?

And the sad truth was, I probably wouldn’t. I talked to a friend who doesn’t believe in God earlier this week about forgiveness and boldly told him, “I would try to forgive anyone for anything.” Later, I talked with my Christian friends about how I would punch a guy in the face for trying to inappropriately touch a friend of mine on the bus. No, God doesn’t ever condone sin, yet God offers forgiveness to the sinner if they will turn.

“God loves that guy.”

I still can’t shake it. And my bastion of self-righteousness is beginning to crumble. God loves that guy. And I… well I have a hard loving people. Yet I am called to do that. If I call myself a Christian, a follower of Jesus, then I am forced to pay attention when he says, “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matt 6:15)”

If I refuse to forgive, I refuse to acknowledge my need for forgiveness. My common need for a savior. Because according to the standards set by Jesus, I am “that guy.” I am a liar, a thief (stole from my sister in elementary school), a cheat (tests in high school), an adulterer (Matt 5:26 doesn’t let me off the hook easy), a murderer (Matt 5:21-22). How can I refuse forgiveness when I myself am in desperate need?

Forgiveness isn’t natural. Yet it is to what we are called (Ephesians 4:32).

“God loves that guy.” God loves me. Simple, childlike though it may be, there is probably more profound truth to the old song “Yes, Jesus Loves Me” than I will ever know. I want to learn to love like that.

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