The God we’ve been presenting people with is just too small and too stingy for a big hearted person to trust or to love back.Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ
In my life, I have been certain of very few things. I rarely know where we should eat, am never fully convinced by any particular political party, and still cannot decide if coronavirus should keep me from living my life. Nothing appears black or white to me, but always in the grey in-between.
Seeing the grey is a beautiful gift when opposing sides meet, unable to see where their goals align. It enables me and people like me to find the ever-present commonality. I love passionate people dearly because they are the ones who make change in our world, but I’m not sorry I’m not one of them. Somebody needs to show up and find the unifying notes in the dissent. They always exist. They must if we are all children of the very same God. God doesn’t and won’t choose favorites among his children. We know this to be true because we, as parents, also find this choice impossible.
It may take time to dig deep enough to find common beliefs, but they are there. Somewhere there is a glimmer of light we are all willing to follow that leads us towards God. Often, though, we don’t want to do the work. We want to be sure and right so we jump towards the certain because the unknown is too frightening to grasp.
In our Lenten read, “The Universal Christ,” Richard Rohr points out that God is here for every thing and that he sent Jesus to help us find our way home. He states, “Instead of saying that God came into the world through Jesus, maybe it would be better to say that Jesus came out of an already Christ-soaked world. Christ has been with us from the very beginning.” Christ has always been here even though Jesus only showed up about 2000 years ago.
Separating Jesus from the Christ is a challenging thought. We are so accustomed to thinking about them as one and the same because they are. But if we have a triune God, the Christ was with God and with us at all times, even before Jesus showed up. (Side note – I LOVE the triune God — it’s not often we get to think of our guides in life as relationship, but it’s all of the reasons I love Christianity.)
In Genesis, “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3) In the Gospel of John, Jesus claims, “I am the Light of the world.” (John 8:12) God created light in the very beginning and then he became light for us, sending Jesus as the lamp to guide us home.
One of my biggest struggles with Christianity has always been the narrow version of God presented. Scripture expands God. Nature expands God. Humanity expands God. But when people get ahold of something beautiful, they try to protect it. We circle in, keeping to our own and holding the beauty close to keep it safe. We shrink God into something we can comprehend, but in doing this, we create walls, blocking access to others of the God we know and shutting out the God we do not yet know.
The first time I was told that my friend who was not a Christian would be excluded from heaven, I outright rejected the idea. For once, I was certain. That absolutely could not be true. Why would God choose me over her? In fairness, God gets to do what God wants, but I knew I could not stay with a God who would reject the beauty of my friend simply because she was not sitting next to me in church. There had to be more that we did not yet understand. One of my favorite ideas in Rohr’s book is that there is always room for uncertainty in our faith. God is always more than we can comprehend.
The gift of light is what leads us towards that comprehension. God created light. Jesus says he is light. And then Jesus tells us, “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) So God is light, Jesus is light, and we are light. Together, in partnership, we chase the darkness away. Our light is what helps others to see. Others’ light is what helps us to see. When we build walls, in life or in our hearts, we block out that light, protecting ourselves when the brightness becomes too much to bear and closing our life to the fullness of God.
If you’re reading The Universal Christ, or even if you’re not, what do you think?
Can you suspend what you know for even a moment to believe that God’s light lives in and emanates from every thing? Are you willing to take on the responsibility of being light for others? Are you willing to accept the light that others bring? What will help us break down the walls to let the light through?
Share some thoughts in the comments and join us as we continue to read our Lenten book: The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr.