How long until this person hates me?

I make no apologies for my Christian faith. I do believe in Jesus.

Historically, I believe he was an actual person who lived on this earth with revolutionary ideas and truth claims. As I’ve tested them, I’ve found them to be quite true. But I never met the man. I never looked into his eyes or heard his voice or smelled the fish on his breath or shook his calloused hands. Like most people, I’m a “Virtual” disciple, and as such I am far more acquainted with his work that transcends time-his cosmic work. So while I believe in a personal Jesus, it is the work of the cosmic Christ or his spirit, the function of the messianic story, that I’m most aware, for there is nothing else now to know if a person is to know Jesus.

I love the fellowship that comes when people who have different experiences with the cosmic work of Christ come together and share stories. I get to live vicariously through a very different story being told by someone else about how Jesus turned everything upside down for them. It’s so fascinating to me to here all the ways a person connects.

I’ve learned that literally anything, and any path is used by Christ to help a person gain a higher consciousness and awareness of who God is and how his/her love for that person knows no bounds and has no limits.

But sometimes I’ll meet a Christian that I just know will hate me.

For these people, the fluid work of Christ has been frozen and fixed within their doctrine. They are exactly like I used to be. It’s as though God brings a version of myself back from ten years ago back around to remind me of where I’ve been.  Once humility is replaced with certainty, a person develops a blood lust for doctrinal precision. It starts out with the greatest sincerity and always ends in an elitist disposition. It’s a dark prison of fundamentalism, that convinces the captive of their right standing.

The worst offenders are usually those with either too little or too much theological training. It seems both extremes make a person very needy for the approval of peers, thus they really tote whatever party line is given to them.

We usually get along just fine until they learn that I don’t participate in a local church somewhere. Their default mode is instantly that I must have some sort of deficiency. In their mind there can’t possibly be a richer way to participate in God’s family than the Sunday big show.

If we get to eschatology and then learn that i don’t believe that Jesus is coming back at any moment with a giant can of whoop ass then a blank confusion comes over their face. Most have never heard of the amazing hope of post-millenianism and how that dove tails into integral theory.

And usually its all over by the time they learn that I am pro gay marriage and that I actually believe the Shama which says that the Lord is one. Most Christians are just not that monotheistic, and are less conscious of what that actually means.

Their common conclusion is that I just don’t know the bible or must not see it as an authoritative voice of God. I’m a heretic. Again this is another assumption that stems from their dualistic thinking. (I wonder if they understand just how much faith they are putting in Plato rather than Jesus). Nonetheless, I didn’t get these conclusions from NOT reading my bible, but I got them from actually reading it.

A lot.

In fact I’ve read it cover to cover nearly forty times. I’ve studied the original languages and I did so because I love it. The end result is that now I actually have a skill to see what I couldn’t before and a hunger to learn what I can’t see now. This means my beliefs are changing. Thank God.

I could of course argue and fight and throw down chapter and verse and engage in a bible battle, but that is a war that is never won. I would rather love this person and pray that they are somehow drawn to the Jesus that is on display in my life. I will teach all comers the word as I have learned it but I will never use it a weapon.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it. How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.”  Matt 23:37

I guess they will have to hate me. Just as I used to hate others. Until that work that Christ is doing in them and me is finally complete and that hate turns to an immense love. That must be why we will one day have an tremendous celebration. I look forward to it.

Hell and Pubes in the Urinal.

We are all used to sermons depicting hell as an eternal destination for evil doers or those who don’t accept Jesus into their hearts.  It is perhaps the greatest and most powerful fear tactic in the arsenal of religion. The fear of hell causes people to make all kinds of life changes-and I suppose that is its right purpose. Fear of hell is what causes people to reject new ideas or new applications of the bible. Fear of hell keeps many returning to the church delivery system with their checkbooks.

But what can be learned about hell? What do I think hell will be like? Well the answer will also tell us a lot about what we think heaven will be like as well.

First, I don’t see hell as a destination somewhere beneath the surface of the earth. Based on my reading of scripture, hell is more of a trajectory that is based upon key aspects of the human heart, than it is a zip code for evil doers.

Perhaps a story can clarify things.

A 16 year old girl has just begun working at her first job in a fast food establishment. She earns minimum wage and has a jerk of a boss. She is asked to clean the public restrooms, wash dishes, take out trash, clean out the grease trap, and a host of other jobs.  While cleaning the restroom, she is consumed with disgust. She can’t believe how people are such pigs. Urine and feces are in places they should not be. Pubic hairs, toilet paper and loogies are all markings of those who not only have bad hygiene habits but also show no regard for decency.

This teen can’t take another day of this. She feels degraded by this work. She feels in her heart that she is better than this. And while many of us would conclude that this job is a living hell, for this girl, the truth is that the hell emerging in her heart through this job is far more detrimental.

You see, her pride is keeping her from seeing that she too contributes to the messes in public restrooms. While she wants a better life, she opts not to remain in the school of humility where she would learn service, pride in doing a good job, and the dignity of all work. Instead she concludes that if she steals an Xbox she can make more in one hour than she could in an entire week.

Stealing proves to be risky, but thrilling. It also gives her a better wage than she is qualified to earn. She has found a shortcut so she thinks. But now she lives on the lookout. She cannot invest in people for fear that they will find her out. People are now suspect and she keeps herself at a distance. Distrust replaces true friendship. Taking replaces giving. She grows a callous over her sense of wrong by telling herself that the stores from which she steals can easily afford it. Lies fill the void where truth should reside. She becomes more prideful, more arrogant, more hardened, more alone.

Fast forward now to the day of her death. Does she now face some big judgement seat followed by a sentence to hell? I don’t think so. I think the trajectory of her heart continues unfettered. Her pride, her devaluing of others, her dishonesty are all traits that she values in her self and they are also the things she desires in an eternal home. She has what she wants.

For this person, looking back from the vantage point of eternity, she cannot see a single day where she was not ever in hell. The truth is that she is mostly right. Except for that one day, where she was faced with the choice of going back to work at the fast-food restaurant. That moment, was the great white throne of judgement. That was the moment to gain humility or retreat into pride. She went after the good thing of human thriving by choosing the short cut. In the end it didn’t get her there.

While she was alive, she had many opportunities to learn humility. She hated it. Her pride couldn’t allow it. Life provides so many chances to hit the “reset” button, it is full of chances. But going back was too hard. It seemed impossible though it wasn’t at all. Now, how could she ever be happy in an afterlife that is defined by this very thing? Her greatest desire is now being fulfilled, she is the byproduct of her misguided wanter.But then aren’t we all?

I believe that even now she can find humility even in the darkest of eternities. I believe it’s possible, but perhaps unlikely. It would require the callouses to be ripped off and eternity may not be so rich in abrasion as earth. Perhaps these callouses are the parts of us that are burnt off, leaving the true soul free to return to humility. Perhaps her Hell is that very same urinal and all she needs is to capture the right heart to serve. I believe the invitation of grace and humility is still a beacon that goes out to every person everywhere and at all times and never ceases. That is the definition of grace and love of our enemies. But I do believe if we miss our moment here and now, that signal grows dimmer each moment, but it never diminishes beyond our ability to hear it. We just learn to ignore it. Hell becomes the pride that keeps us from responding to the eternal invitation to deep Love. The gates are always open (Revelation 21:25)

Heaven is the same. Each moment things that are loosed in heaven are loosed on earth. Humility is the gateway. Being a disciple is the disposition and trajectory of the heart, not a subscription to a particular religion. The challenges, suffering, struggle, pain and hardships along the way are all required schoolteachers who help us move into either eternity. For those in heaven, they look back through all the suffering and pain and humiliation (for this is the messianic path they followed) and they will all agree that there was never a day that they were not in heaven.

And they will celebrate the pubic hair in the urinal.