Is This What We Wanted to Hear?

Once again, our author tells us: “This is Christ speaking.” And as before, we have to decide whether this really sounds like Christ–to consider what his words mean and whether they match our understanding of Christ’s nature. However we may decide, this should clarify our understanding of what “Christ” means.

“Since you are neither hot nor cold…”–This sounds like Jesus speaking in a royal capacity, but I have not been able to find it in the gospels, not even Luke, even by searching online. I could imagine him saying it in his earthly life, pleading for human support and never receiving what was needed–but the saying, despite the word “lukewarm,” simply isn’t in there.

So. Christ or Accuser? Do these spirits resemble each another that much?–or do they simply express one divine nature in different ways?–Or maybe we’re prone to confuse two fundamentally different spirits?

We like love that refuses to condemn us–but we don’t remain content with indiscriminate love. It sounds too much like “blind” love, the sort we typically send back, marked “Addresee unknown, not here–Return to sender.”

This speaker says “I reprove and train those I love.” That’s a scarey sort of love. It isn’t just the potential S&M sound of it we fear; this sort of love could give us a chisel and a big block of marble and tell us: “Go for it!”

Coming from earthly parents, such expectations can aim a kid up the wrong mountain, make him run off to sea instead. What if our statue of “David” comes out like Donald Duck?

Churches hold up divine virtues for our inspiration; then they bring out refreshments and send us home. Friends meetings do it silently–but we have our refreshments and return home much like the others. If we read our history, we learn that Friends were supposed to be different from the world’s churches. But I meet God-connected people from a wide variety of religions, while a whole lot of Friends are merely churchgoers, and content to remain that way. (I’ve recently written at length on all that–and as a friend suggested, broken it into several parts; see

This (for whatever church) is what it means to think “[you’ve] made a fortune” and still be wretchedly poor in the kind of wealth that matters. This church is the wretched one (as Sweet’s commentary puts it): “because of your claim to be rich… not that riches in themselves disqualify, but in biblical idiom ‘rich’ connotes trusting in riches; ‘poor’ connotes trusting in God.” (Only that trust would make the true wealth possible.)

We seem to trust in letter-writing, organizing skill, and the [tacit] Testimony of Prudence. Not the same thing.

Denial, nonjudgementalism, and charitable thinking are epidemic among us. We’re afraid that the Spirit, if it ever broke loose, might march us through the thistles and who knows what? So we sit and wait for God (but only for an hour) and go home relieved. Neither hot nor cold.

All we lack is “Christ,” who remains willing, even eager, to come to us. The “evangelicals” are right, you know, except that we (and they) get hung up on the word “Christ” rather than on the reality called “Christ.” We’re all somewhat afraid, I think, of what that reality might reveal and demand of us.

What does it mean, to “open that door.” Who opens, from inside or out, and whose place is this, anyway? Have I really opened it?–or does this really mean: “Keep opening it.”


4 responses

  1. “This speaker says “I reprove and train those I love.”: Absolutely. People think unconditional love means just accepting all your flaws. The one who really loves me wants me to work on them. I once loved an alcoholic enough to put him in jail; he later thanked me for it.I couldn’t agree with you more about the wretched state of the church: full of luke warm people or worse. What to do? We should love the church enough to denounce the many false expressions of it.

  2. To me, unconditional love isn’t love that wants you to change, but is love that accepts and likes you as you are. These readings are making me depressed 🙂

  3. To me, unconditional love isn’t love that wants you to change, but is love that accepts and likes you as you are. Firstly, I think the notion of unconditional love has done at least as much dmagae as it has supposedly healed. Human beings being the broken, finite critters that we are have no choice but to have limits on our love. And when the finger points, and says, you don’t REALLY love me! when those human limits get crossed — well, I think an unnecessary hurt is done. Shame is a power game.Secondly, I think acceptance is not the same as like. I might put more conditions on my “like” than my acceptance. I love my mother (I also love my wife). I accept things about both of them, I do not particularly like.

  4. “Love” has got to recognize you in the first place.One-size-fits-all love tells you something about the one who loves, but the lovee doesn’t get to take it personal. And sometimes (from a human would-be lover) it says that the “lover’s” ego is more tied up in being “loving” than their heart is.”Love” is “truth” or it isn’t anything real. (& vice versa.) Truth sees where a person has grown a little crooked, could do better than he has without violence to his nature, is deceiving himself about his actual condition.Seeing all this, love continues. It doesn’t think about being “unconditional” or not.

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