All these fireworks reminded me of one New Year’s Eve many years ago – soon after we moved into our current home – from a very small sleepy village to a large sprawling town.
Wouldn’t it be fun, we thought, to share our small budget-box of fireworks with our new neighbours? To set them off at the front of the house rather than in our back-garden? Our house had a patch of grass bigger enough to easily park a car easily between the road and our boundary line – the only house in the street to have such a space.
So on the stroke of midnight we lit the touch-paper and … all took fright as a cacophony of shock-and-awe erupted all around us! Display-sized gunpowder-filled sky-high ear-blasting-flashing everywhere!
It was like being a warzone!
Our wee box of budget goodies didn’t make any mark at all on the proceedings! Even so – we set ours off – simply to be part of the show. But the fun was in being part of everyone else’s fun rather than theirs in ours.
That moment stuck with me as I was taught to save people for God.
To take what they hadn’t got (and I had) to them in their lives and living. To preach a life eternal I had and they did not. A living beyond the grave far more important than the one being lived right here and now. To teach a saving that (read the small print) comes with many contractual obligations. So that this “gift” can become over time like being stuck with an unwanted timeshare – a millstone around my neck.
Because I think this taught gift of godly “love” too often misses the reality of Love itself.
And just as our wee budget box of fireworks that year was so much less than the mega-sized ones of our neighbours – so too with church-taught-love I think. Love that is taught as unachievable has to remain so much less than Love That Is. For love that is taught and remains unachievable remains just an obligation and not Love at all. Remains an obligation to be switched on and off to meet the requirement of the obligation.
But love that is … ? Love that doesn’t even know it is “love” … ? A living that is love? I have learned THAT Love is so much closer to I Am . So much more than anything taught or fulfilled as an unachievable religious-faith obligation.
The bible has lots of words. So many it is so often remains a wordy debating forum. An ology-creator. A prove this-and-that academic debate. A go-to for the correct answer. Just as I was taught with the difficult questions – that when I understood the bible enough – then I would have my answers. Instead I have learned that THAT is like looking in my small box of fireworks – when all around me is the spectacle and reality of Love that is for no reason at all.
No reason at all. Isn’t that the definition of love without condition?
Isn’t “no reason at all” found in life and living and community – and less in the bible and this verse or that? Isn’t Love instinctive, hard-wired, and like breathing: unable to stop or choose when? And just as I have come away from reading the bible every day – come away from having to believe this or that (so long as it can be endorsed by the bible) – come away from the obligation of attending church every Sunday – as I have unlearned much of what I was taught as a young church-going Christian …
I have found so much more.
God lives still right now as Love. I think “God” always did, always does, and always will. I think that is all the bible – any sacred text – can teach us. The rest is my choice: to become Love – or keep love as a theological contractual obligation – keep it a test to be passed or failed.
I know there are many unchurched-unbelievers who are Love much more than many I have met inside the big doors and walls. Inside the verses of the bible that believers still fight over. Away from the straitjacket of religious-denominational-required-mindset. And yes, there are many – many – who believe and attend church who are of the same Love as those who don’t and won’t. It’s just that I see less and less distinction. See less and less difference between those who are Love and believe and those who are Love and don’t believe. Of all faiths, religions, all no-faith, no-religion mindsets.
Which is why I think Love is – or is not. And I think that is all the bible has to teach. And that is why I also think it is down to each of us what we do with that. We have a choice that isn’t just “free-will” in this sad world of (no choice) “sin”. It is whether we become love itself or choose to make “love” a religious duty-obligation – to carry the cross of sacrifice to a God.
(who we have made conditional)