Last year, I published a book. It was a message very near and dear to my heart. It was a long time in gestation. Labor and delivery was difficult and nearly killed me. And now it’s out there. Sometimes, I wish I could bring it back. But the toothpaste is out of the tube.
I wasn’t sure what might happen after publishing. Fame? Martyrdom? Apologies? Explanations? It might have been martyrdom if I had lived in 16th century Geneva. But thankfully neither Christendom nor Orthodoxy are owned or enforced by any one centralized body. They are, rather, like artwork that is appreciated by billions. We don’t live in that world anymore. (That could be a book title). We don’t live in a world that needs thought police or belief police. I know totalitarian places on earth have that and it is a shame. Thoughts and Beliefs (another book title) are neutral, like imagination. They are meant to be tools that propel us to action—to love the earth and the people around us—not litmus tests for who’s in and who’s out. Help us, God.
Today, if you don’t like the style of worship or preaching at a church, you can go across the street and find something more suitable. And if your town doesn’t offer enough brands of Christian goods and services, you could potentially move somewhere in the world to worship God with people who have exactly your preferences and beliefs. (I can hear my daughter’s voice: Boring.) We have to open our eyes. Don’t agree with homosexuality? Fine. But you can’t deny that there are gay men and women that love Jesus and actually meet together to worship Him. Think there’s only one way to interpret the work of the cross? Tell that to the billion other Christians in the world who don’t agree with you. What’s that? You wouldn’t consider them true Christians. Really? Ok, then. Where do you draw the line? And are you the judge to decide where the line is? Have you been appointed bouncer at the door and have authority with John Piper to farewell those you deem have left acceptable belief codes or lifestyle?
Will you usher people out the door—people who have lifted hands and hearts to heaven to thank Jesus for loving them right where they were at? People struggling with God’s help to bring resonance to their lives in a world that has been fractured more by black and white rules than by colors-and-shades thinking. (Nuance is the language of the spirit!)
No. Today, we must let go of the idea that we can control this thing. And we must wake up to the fact that this world is a gift to us. Every single day. This Now place is meant to be drunk deeply, embraced like a lover. Drink the deep kiss of life. It delights the Father to grant you the keys to his kingdom. If it delights him, it should delight us. He’s given us his roadster and there’s a highway stretched out in front of us. So, throw the top down and open the throttle. It’s a wild and beautiful ride that is meant to please and excite you until your dying day.
Few of us have excuse. We know what love is. It is growing harder in this world to hide from love. It chases us down. In every corner, in every alley, in every ditch, refugee camp, prison, hovel, brothel, corner office, grocery store. It waits for us at home. It compels us to go somewhere and do something big. It makes us believe in ourselves and do strange and inefficient things. Life is a poem to be savored, not a riddle to be solved or worse yet, a question to be answered. And love is the scheme, the rhyme, the imagery and the danger.
So, do not live one more day as a judge. Get drunk with the abundance of divine love. Wield the paintbrush and the eye of an artist. Swing the quill with the playfulness of a poet. Combine passion and oration to stir the souls of men, women and children. Be free to be playful or serious when the rhythm of love demand either. We don’t play the flute or sing the dirge for Love to respond. It’s the other way around.
So, what was my book about? In a word: Calvinism. I was trying to dislodge the last tendrils of that dark and old religion from my reading of Scripture and from the beauty of God in Jesus. Did it work? Yet to be seen. I did get some pushback and emailed concerns. I didn’t lose thousands of followers like Rob Bell after releasing “Love Wins” in 2011. But, I never really had thousands of followers to lose. Grace and peace to all you beautiful poets!